“Educational Excellence Everywhere” is the alliterative title of the new schools White Paper – but does this stretch as far as the FE sector?
Not necessarily. The document does not mention "further education" once by name. But, reading between the lines, some elements of the wide-ranging proposals from education secretary Nick Morgan (pictured) could have major implications for FE providers – not least plans to strengthen the struggling university technical college (UTC) movement, and a major change to Ofsted inspections.
Here are some of the main points of interest:
“Ofsted will consult on removing the separate graded judgments on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment to help clarify that the focus of inspection is on outcomes and to reduce burdens on schools and teachers.” While the report does not state that this will also apply to FE, the move to a common inspection framework last September makes it highly likely that any decision to stop separately grading the quality of teaching would also apply to FE inspections. But when asked by TES an Ofsted spokesman said: “We will be discussing this issue with the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills before embarking on any consultation.”
“We are committed to ensuring there is a UTC within reach of every city so that increasing numbers of young people can benefit from this type of technical education. We will strengthen the programme through reforms to help UTCs with pupil recruitment and improve their educational and financial viability, including: targeting future UTC locations in areas without such provision within reach; flexibilities in admission arrangements; and an expectation that all UTCs should be part of strong partnerships with high-performing secondary schools, such as MATs.” After a series of high-profile UTC failures and closures, the White Paper serves as a reminder that the programme pioneered by Lord Baker is here to stay.
New performance measures
“For 16-19 providers, we will introduce new headline performance measures from this year. These will look at the progress (including specifically in English and maths for students who have not already achieved a good pass at GCSE), attainment and retention of students. We are also working with HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions to improve the data we publish on students’ destinations after leaving education. This will show how well schools and colleges set pupils up to succeed and whether they are guiding them to make the right choices.” As colleges have been forced to lay on extra provision to allow students to resit their GCSEs in English and maths, any measure which would evaluate progression of post-16 learners would have to be carefully designed to ensure colleges would not be penalised for their learners' prior attainment in school.
“Later this year, we will publish a strategy for improved careers provision for young people, setting the direction for work to transform the quality of the careers education, advice and guidance offered to young people, including further funding for the Careers & Enterprise Company to continue the excellent work it has started.” Moves thus far to address the deficiencies in careers advice have failed to make any significant impact. Providers will be hoping for better.
Special educational needs and disability
“As well as improving initial teacher training… we will invest in supporting professionals in schools and colleges to achieve better outcomes for pupils with SEND, including by ensuring that they have access to training and support on specific impairments such as autism or dyslexia, and to improve our evidence base and develop our understanding of how we can best support them.”
The Education Endowment Foundation’s remit will be expanded to take in “preventing poor outcomes post-16”. Whether this will cover school sixth-forms and colleges is not clear, but in any case it could result in more research to inform pedagogical practice for 16-19 education.
“We will also relax restrictions on school sixth-form admissions to align them more closely with other post-16 provision by removing them from the scope of the [Admissions] Code, whilst retaining certain key requirements including the assured route of transition between Year 11 and Year 12 for students at the school.” While FE providers would not be directly affected, any move to increase the flexibility for school sixth-forms in terms of admissions procedures would be worthy of close scrutiny.
“Launch an innovation fund to test new approaches to support pupils who move directly from [alternative provision] to post-16 education, exploring opportunities for social impact bonds and other innovative funding models.”