A NEW course exploring all aspects of modern agriculture has been launched at a Yorkshire Dales school.

Sixth form pupils choosing the BTEC National Diploma in Agriculture at Sedbergh School will open up a new route into studying Veterinary Science, Environmental Science and Engineering.

Those on the course, which begins in September; will also spend one day a week based at Newton Rigg College in Penrith.

The campus benefits from facilities including a £2m dairy unit, two farms, a herd of 30 Aberdeen Angus cows, three sheep flocks totalling 1,000 ewes and land including crops, raised peat bogs and wildflower meadows.

Newton Rigg is the fastest growing land-based college in the country and the only one to have its own hill farm and moorland. It is also The National Centre for the Uplands, funded by the Prince's Countryside Trust.

Principal Wes Johnson said: "The course explores all aspects of modern agriculture and ways of addressing the challenges of 21st Century farming.

“The agriculture industry needs at least 86,000 new employees in the sector by 2021 according to the LANTRA (Land and Training) Skills Sector Council. We work closely with industry to help shape the most appropriate courses as we strive to provide students with the best possible chance of progression in the future."

Sedbergh School headmaster Andrew Fleck said: “The combination of practical and academic subjects provides an ideal platform for pupils to progress to higher education, in particular in vocational and practical courses.

“Pupils who combine A Levels with our new BTEC in Agriculture will have a wider range of skills, a broader knowledge base and a greater understanding of the agriculture industries.”

The development of the course comes as Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, said there had been an 80 per cent increase since 2008 in the number of pupils entering university holding BTEC qualifications.

The diploma will give pupils 90 UCAS credits, the equivalent to one A Level.