Richard Taunton Launches New Esports Programme


Richard Taunton Sixth Form College is offering young people a head start in the fast growing-world of Esports by launching a new course this autumn.

The BTEC Level 2 Esports and IT course, aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds, will give them a grounding in the competitive video games industry, which now attracts more than 1.2 million players and online spectators in the UK alone.

An Esports match pits two teams of players against each other over a number of different online games, with the winners being decided by best of three or five. They take place via a secure server and are overseen by the British Esports Federation. It is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

IT and Esports lecturer Martin Birch-Foster says students won’t just be playing games – they are developing transferable skills that can lead to Level 3 courses and then university, apprenticeships and jobs in the IT sector.

The course has already been hugely popular at Richard Taunton’s sister college in Gosport, St Vincent, where dozens of students have gained qualifications since it launched two years ago.

“Some parents were unsure about the course at first but we’ve been able to show them that when you break down the units of what they are learning, the playing games side is very little,” said Mr Birch Foster.

“Otherwise it’s a business, media, sport and IT course. We spoke to some universities and they said they would take people from our Esports course on to sport, IT, business and media degree courses.”

Students will study in a purpose-built classroom on gaming PCs with reclining chairs and light-up keyboards. “It’s an environment they feel comfortable in,” said Mr Birch-Foster.

Health and wellbeing will be a major part of the ten-unit course. “Students will be learning about fitness, healthy eating and looking after themselves, just like any other athletes,” said Mr Birch-Foster.

Fizzy drinks and sweets are banned and students are encouraged to bring in oat bars and other healthy snacks. Teachers will even pass on recipes to make their own at home. “We want to help them make the right choices and we want to get rid of the stigma that people are going to be playing games 24/7, consuming energy drinks and not going to sleep,” said Mr Birch-Foster.

The college will have its own Esports team, to be named by the students at the start of term, which will play against other colleges and schools across the country.

The Esports industry is worth more than £1 billion worldwide and is set to quadruple in the next ten years. “We want to solidify our position within the South West as the number one for Esports. Students are choosing to come here for this course so we need to keep them engaged and wanting to do so.”