1 January marked the start of a new year, but 2 January might just have signalled the beginning of a new era.
It was the date on which a new legal duty came into force, requiring schools to open their doors to colleges and training providers, and allow them to inform students about all the options available.
This change is thanks to the so-called “Baker Clause”, inserted by former education secretary Lord Baker into the Technical and Further Education Act 2017. It goes to the heart of one of the most acrimonious hidden disputes in the education system. That is, between schools – often keen to retain students (and funding) for their own sixth forms – and FE providers, which, as a result, are all too often denied access.
With T levels on the way and a target of creating 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020, the government has finally taken firm action.
But is it firm enough? Sam Parrett, principal of London South East Colleges, has her doubts. “I am sceptical about the fact that no mechanism to enforce this legislation will be in place,” she writes (see article opposite). “What exactly will happen to schools that refuse to let their local college or technical school in?”
The act does stipulate that the education secretary can “make provision” about access to pupils. But how often is Justine Greening going to intervene at an individual school?
Ultimately, it appears that the Baker clause’s success will rely on the carrot rather than the stick.