Funding is the key to the open door

I read with interest the article in FE Focus (February 2) referring to the Learning and Skills Network's report on the funding of 14-16 vocational provision in FE colleges.

After a successful pilot, this year sees 14-to 16-year-olds undertaking the Association of Accounting Technicians' level 2 NVQ in accounting at colleges across the country.

This innovative programme has proved popular with students and was enthusiastically endorsed by Beverley Hughes, the minister for children and young people, when she visited North Trafford College.

So far we have been fortunate that colleges and schools have shown a commitment to continue the course. In Trafford, for example, a strong partnership between schools, FE and the local authority that is committed to providing vocational options for 14-to 16-year-olds means our course is secure for the moment; but for how much longer? Vocational education in FE is not a cheap option. For good reason class sizes tend to be smaller and there is a very real funding gap, as the research has identified, which the Government must address.

Providing opportunities for 14-to 16-year-olds to study for vocational qualifications outside the school setting has been widely recognised to be very successful in improving motivation and increasing achievement. Our experience bears this out. We have also shown that offering an established level 2 qualification with a recognised career pathway can attract high achieving students to vocational study.

The Government has been right to encourage the FE sector to open its doors to 14-to 16-year-olds, but success may be at risk if the issue of funding is not resolved.

Jane Scott Paul Chief Executive Association of Accounting Technicians London EC1

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