Ofsted should inspect on FE collaboration, says AoC

Competition in post-16 education negatively affects choice, quality and delivery of specialist courses, says the Association of Colleges
8th December 2020, 12:01am
Kate Parker

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Ofsted should inspect on FE collaboration, says AoC

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/secondary/ofsted-should-inspect-fe-collaboration-says-aoc
Ofsted Should Inspect On Fe Collaboration, Says Aoc

The Department for Education should introduce a framework that requires collaboration in the post-16 education system - and Ofsted should inspect providers against it, the Association of Colleges has said. 

In a report released today, The impact of competition in post-16 education and training, the AoC argues that competition in post-16 education negatively affects the choice, quality and delivery of specialist courses.

The AoC recommends a "rules-based framework" that includes a target minimum and average class sizes for all providers, subject level viability models based on cohort size and ring-fenced funding for 16-19 learners.

It also suggests that the DfE requires providers to engage with area coordination and says it should use its powers to review and consolidate the most inefficient providers. 


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'Offering less choice and delivering worse outcomes'

David Hughes, AoC's chief executive, said that the government had been "long wedded" to a market-type approach to further education and training.

He said: "Our analysis shows that it does not deliver on student choice, specialist provision and high quality. The current model has not worked, with a proliferation of smaller providers keeping average provider size down, offering less choice and delivering worse outcomes. 

"In line with the recommendations from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, this report argues that the post-16 system would benefit from strong leading institutions and clearer accountabilities. 

"The recommendations aim to get the balance right between open market and planning - ensuring clear and robust accountabilities, setting rules and mechanisms, but at the same time allowing regional education and training economies to evolve in response to changing local demands.

"Ultimately, greater coordination will lead to greater stability and strong institutions that provide what people, places and businesses need most." 

Other recommendations include introducing a single post-16 commissioning and regulatory process which applied to all providers "to end siloed regulation", and investment in "anchor institutions" as hubs for specialist provision. 

Restricting learner choice

Speaking at the AoC's FE summit in November, shadow education secretary Kate Green said that the market-led competitive model of further education was not serving the needs of learners. 

However, at the time, Jane Hickie, managing director of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said that "the statute book has no place" in trying to restrict learner choice.

She said: "A great deal of collaboration already goes on at local level and long may it continue. What the FE and skills system must be about is employer and learner choice and the statute book has no place in trying to restrict that choice. University choices aren't restricted and nearly all parents have a choice over schools within their catchment areas. Therefore why should local employers and learners be treated any differently for FE and skills?

"We know why the report refers to 'nugatory competition' but the meaning of nugatory is worthless or unimportant. Policymakers should remember, however, that independent training providers don't receive grant funding and only get paid for what they deliver, and they deliver what their employers and learners believe is the best provision for them locally."

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