New data revealing what happened to adult learners after taking part in further education was published for the first time today.
The experimental data focuses on the destination and progression of adults in FE in 2010/11, and shows whether they moved into employment or further learning the following year.
It reveals that of the total 1.5 million post-19 adult learners on publicly-funded skills or apprenticeship courses, 72 per cent had a “sustained positive outcome”, either into employment or learning.
Historically, success in the FE sector has been measured by the number of learners completing and achieving qualifications.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which published the data, said the new approach will help people understand the real-life benefits of qualifications and training.
Skills minister Nick Boles said it was an important step in “recalibrating” the way success is thought of in FE. “Simply gaining a qualification is not the reason learners enter education and therefore should not be the sole measure by which we determine success,” he said.
“Instead we need to look at where education leads - whether that’s employment or further study.
“We need to be scrutinising not only how well further education providers deliver learning, but also what that learning achieves. By using a more holistic measure of success, we are working to incentivise providers to stretch and challenge students.”
The government is launching a consultation on how outcome-based success measures can be used in future.
It wants students, employers and those working within the FE sector to share their views on how the measures should be calculated and presented to make sure they are useful for all.
The Association of Colleges said success could rarely be summed up in a single measure, particularly as colleges serve such a diverse range of students, but anything that helps students make more informed decisions was worthwhile.
Joy Mercer, director of education policy at the AoC, said the data is also useful to colleges, who currently have to spend time and money finding out what happens to their students.
“However, the government must be careful not to confuse helpful data on which courses can lead to better employment prospects, with expecting colleges to have direct responsibility for job success,” she said.
“Some colleges are operating in the most deprived areas where jobs are scarce, and the government must accept that there are a whole range of local stakeholders, in particular Local Enterprise Partnerships, who also play a key role in creating new employment opportunities.”
David Hughes, chief executive of adult education body Niace, said the publication of the data was “an impressive move” from Bis that would reveal the real value and impact of FE.
“The new measures recognise that qualifications are not always the principal aim of learners but often their motivation is for work and progression to further learning,” he said.
“We need a debate about which datasets are the most important and how we use them. For instance we must exercise caution when comparing providers because of the variations in subject mix, learner populations and demographics and the job markets they are operating in.”
The consultation runs until October 10.