Skills bill: how colleges should review their provision

The government has published draft guidance on how institutions might review provision for local skills needs

Kate Parker

Here is how colleges might soon have to review their provision

The governing bodies of further education providers may soon have to regularly review how well they are meeting local needs, new draft guidance issued by the government reveals today.

The draft guidance sets out how governing bodies of sixth-form colleges, general FE colleges and designated institutions would have to act to comply with the new Skills and Post-16 Education Bill that is currently making its way through Parliament and will introduce employer-led local skills improvement plans. Under the new legislation, governing bodies will have to consider those plans when making decisions on provision. 

Need to know: The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill

The skills bill: What the House of Lords had to say

Skills for Jobs White Paper: What does it propose?

The draft guidance, published today, says: 

  • Governing bodies must undertake regular reviews of how well the education or training provided by the college meets local needs, in particular local employment needs.
  • Governing bodies should undertake a review at least once every three years.
  • In reviewing provision within a local area, governing bodies are expected to collaborate with other governing bodies also serving that area.
  • Governing bodies are required to publish the outcome of their reviews on their websites.
  • Governing bodies must consider what actions they and other providers can take to best meet local needs, in particular local employment needs, including changes to the structures through which provision is delivered.
  • The responsibility for the curriculum offer continues to rest with individual governing bodies. In order to respond to local needs, the guidance says the governing bodies should develop strong partner relationships with Chambers of Commerce and other employer bodies, use local economic strategies when planning curriculum priorities, and work to build strong partnerships with individual employers to support high quality curriculum delivery. They should also provide high-quality careers education, information, advice and guidance for both current and potential learners.

The guidance says that colleges should publish the reviews on the college website within three months of completion. The new legislation will then require them to consider what actions should be taken to better meet local needs. It adds: “In considering the actions, the governing body should take into account any relevant findings or recommendations from recent Ofsted inspection reports, and (for colleges in intervention) FE commissioner recommended actions.

Agreed actions derived from the reviews should be integrated into existing curriculum, estates and financial planning processes, it goes on to say. “Governing bodies should engage at an early stage with ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) and the FE commissioner if any of the agreed actions following on from the review could lead to structural changes. 

“The review conclusions, and actions being taken forward following the review, will be part of the ongoing ESFA and FE commissioner discussions with governing bodies, including as part of annual strategic conversations.”

The guidance provides governing bodies with the following questions to consider while undertaking the review:

  • What is the relevant local area for the purposes of the review?
  • What is the impact of current offer from colleges in the area?
  • How have local employment needs changed/how will they change? 
  • How well does the current post-16 curriculum offer for technical education in the local area align with any local skills improvement plans? 
  • How well does the current post-16 curriculum offer support the local authority’s responsibilities in relation to Neets (not in education, employment or training)? 
  • How well are the needs of learners with special educational needs and disabilities being met? 
  • What is the careers impact of the current offer from colleges in the area, what do the career guidance providers tell us? 
  • How well are we, as a single college and as a collection of colleges, currently meeting local needs, in particular local employment needs. What are the key messages from feedback from key stakeholders and users? 
  • Are there gaps in the curriculum offer or current/forecast undersupply of provision? 
  • To what extent does the current provision in the area represent a sustainable approach to meeting local needs, in particular local employment needs?
  • How does the quality of provision in an area impact on the capacity of governing bodies and their colleges to meet local needs, in particular local employment needs? 
  • How does financial resilience impact on capacity to meet local needs, in particular local employment needs? 
  • Where might changes to the structure of local provision help improve the way in which local needs, in particular local employment needs are met?

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “The latest draft guidance from DfE confirms that governing bodies have flexibility in how they carry out reviews of colleges provision to take account of local skills plans and other developments while providing a number of suggestions for what should be covered. We think it is right to locate responsibility at the college level and we will continue to encourage DfE to simplify the complex, backward looking and sometimes judgemental oversight arrangements to make it easier for governing bodies to do what is expected of them.”


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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a schools and colleges content producer.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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