Memorandum submitted by the Learning and Skills Council
FLEXIBLE STARTS ACROSS THE FURTHER EDUCATION SECTOR
1 The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) works closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) on developing and taking forward its strategy to reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
2 A large number of independent and voluntary sector organisations specialise in working with disaffected and disengaged young people, particularly through delivery of Entry to Employment (E2E) and Foundation Learning programmes. Those organisations - such as Rathbone, Barnardo's and NACRO - play a major role in reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training. We would be happy to provide case studies of their work, if that would be helpful to the Committee.
3 The challenge is to embed that good practice across the learning and skills sector. This memorandum is provided to complement the submission from the DCSF by giving examples of how, across England, further education (FE) colleges are providing young people with flexible start dates to programmes of study, which are essential to enable young people to re-engage quickly in learning where, for example, they feel they have made the wrong choice of programme or if they lose their job.
4 Over the autumn and spring terms of 2008/09, we collected examples from each region of existing and emerging good practice of FE colleges offering flexible starts for young people. It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list of examples.
Examples by of flexible provision in FE colleges
5 The programme aims to engage those young people who have 'dropped out' of learning at 17, either because of an unsuitable programme, or because the course was only intended to be for one year, but the young person does not feel they have a clear progression route.
6 The process involves an initial meeting, with support, a referral to the relevant programme for the individual young person, and then advice on potential progression routes.
7 Learners can access programmes at Levels 1, 2 and 3. The co-ordinator has also provided for negotiation with course managers on late/alternative start dates on existing programmes.
8 The college has started to offer construction multiskills provision which is roll-on, roll-off (every 5 weeks)
9 An exciting and innovative range of provision related to Music Technology and new Media with progression routes through Level 2 and 3 into HE. The college has developed a highly successful strategy to run a flexible start programme. Learners can join programmes almost any time through the year and are initially enrolled on a progression award at entry level, level 1 or level 2. This programme enables the learner to undertake short programmes of personal development and learn about the basics of the industry while they wait for the start of a full time programme. The main programmes start in September, January and April.
10 The college currently delivers in over 20 refuges and hostels for the homeless. Around a third of the learners at any one time will be in 16-18 age group and almost all will have very low levels of prior attainment. The roll-on roll-off provision is heavily biased towards literacy and numeracy, but learners also study NOCN progression awards which cover employability skills, personal development and a variety of short vocational options. Learners progress into employment or into FE vocational courses when they have the confidence and skills to do so.
11 The college has an excellent local reputation for its E2E programmes, in particular the willingness to engage with the most hard to reach learners in the NEET group. These programmes run all year round and monthly start options are available throughout the year. Progression rates into FE and employment have been consistently over 60%. Alongside this the college also runs a flexible 'E4E' programme through FE 16-18 funding, which is qualification based and suitable for learners with higher attainment levels than those on E2E. These programmes have a strong vocational element and prepare learners for FT vocational study.
12 In a number of other areas of the college offer starts outside of the normal September enrolment period. Both construction and motor vehicle enrolments continue throughout October-December as well as January full-time programmes being offered. ESOL learners can join programmes at any time up to Easter, this is especially helpful for 16-18 year olds who need to improve their English language skills prior to starting a vocational programme.
13 The college has operated a Choices+ programme in a variety of formats over the last four years. It was devised initially for those learners who had withdrawn from College courses during the first term and who were in danger of becoming NEET. It provided the opportunity for learners to continue in full-time education and to prepare them for a transition to alternative courses of study at the next available intake date. 30 learners joined Choices+ in January 2008 and of these 28 stayed and completed their studies. 21 of this cohort have progressed further to enrol on full time FE courses at the college. 18 studying at a higher level. A further 30 learners were enrolled on Choices + in January 2009 and 15 learners were enrolled on Choices+2 in February 2009. The vocational areas involved are Business, IT, Hair and Beauty, Sport, Childcare, Health and Social Care, Construction and Engineering.
14 In 2006-07, working with Connexions the college recruited 100 learners over two cohorts, one in January/ February 07 and one in April 07. Curriculum was developed around the learners and included hairdressing, ICT, photography, construction, motor vehicle, catering, progression awards and key skills. In some cases learners followed one pathway, in others they selected more than one.
15 The college is involved in the Foundation Learning pilot and has grown its entry, level 1 and level 2 portfolio, offering multiple entry points during the year. The college has also increased capacity in the area of the Princes Trust, with plans to enter the E2E market.
16 Bespoke rolling courses in a range of subject areas are in place specifically in support of NEET referrals. The courses run in six week blocks throughout the year with students on the programme for 12 weeks. Students can mix and match and more across courses with flexibility if they try an area and find it isn't for them. The College works directly with local Connexions to recruit for these courses, and the LSC supports this through flexibilities granted in the 16-18 FE budget. Students also undertake units towards full programmes in readiness for progression. The programme has been running since January 2007 with over 300 young people involved to date. The programmes have proven very successful to date with a progression rate of 70%+.
17 Foundation Degree in 'Sport, Coaching & Fitness' and its future Foundation Degrees in 'Public & Community Services' and 'The Outdoor and Adventure Industry' have full and part-time options. Rather than being delivered separately, students wishing to study part-time can 'infill' on already existing full-time courses by selecting the units to study each term. The only requirement is that they complete all 12 units within a 4 year time limit. This also means students can begin study at any time during the year as long as it coincides with the start of a new unit
18 The college strives to give learners greater flexibility by offering tailor-made programmes which meet the needs of employers and employees. For example, students employed in the Care sector have responded positively to a variety of delivery models which fit learning around their shift work. Assessors from the college work flexible hours during early mornings or late evenings to ensure students are assessed in the workplace at a time that is convenient for them
19 Enrolment is available throughout the year on many of its programmes, including: NVQ Management, Health & Social Care, Early Years, Supporting Teaching & Learning, Information Technology Qualification (ITQ), Customer Service, and Business Administration. Delivery models include different modes of attendance from short intensive courses
20 Roll-on, roll-off enrolment is offered throughout the year in areas such as: Information Technology, Skills For Life, and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). On demand testing is available to enable students to progress at their own pace and achieve as soon as they are at the appropriate standard.
21 The college allows late starts to accommodate those who are working over the summer months - this particularly affects those who work in family run land-based businesses where the family needs their sons/daughters to assist with harvest, etc.
22 The college offers a late induction (at the beginning of October) so that late enrolments are not disadvantaged
23 The college offers early induction to LLDD learners in the Access Unit. This happens in the 1st week of September when all the college staff are in but before the main bulk of students arrives. This enables a personalised induction and the learners to get used to the college campus. These learners then have a 2 week break whilst the main enrolment & induction takes place. Research has shown that theses learners are more likely to remain with the college in the first weeks if this process is followed.
24 Use of an 'on demand' flexible assessment system for full and part time Hairdressing students allows students to map their learning and assessment to suit their individual needs. The on demand system is supported by an assessment 'hot line' (direct phone line/number) allowing staff to respond to students quickly, undertaking timely and flexible assessments. This has contributed to improved achievement rates and student satisfaction.
25 Roll-on roll-off provision is offered in Skills for Life programmes with on demand testing to enable learners to achieve when they are ready. In addition, many Supported Learning programmes provide opportunities for learners to enrol throughout the year, after appropriate initial guidance and assessment.
26 A January starts mini guide was produced and the programmes were promoted through local advertising and direct mail through Connexions
27 January starts events were held and were supported by Connexions and college staff. Students were able to be interviewed and offered places on the day. The events were very well attended and successful. 79 learners were recruited to the January start programme (over 50% more than the planned number).
28 Discrete courses were taken up in the following:
· Introductory Certificate in Health and Social Care;
· Level 1 Diploma in Construction (trowel operations);
· First Certificate in Art and Design;
· First Certificate in Engineering;
· Level 2 course in Frontline Training (Customer Service, Airline and Tourism mix);
· NVQ 1 Hairdressing.
29 'January starts' project. The college has worked closely with Connexions to develop this project, which is aimed at learners who may have dropped out of a course they started in September or those who didn't start a course in September but are now ready to. 30 learners have joined existing college courses with extensive pastoral and curriculum support. Courses include Construction, Engineering, Motor Vehicle and Hair and Beauty. Learners also receive support on employability skills and key skills.
30 During the period 1 January to 10 March the college recruited 127 young people and plan to recruit again in May. The aim of the provision is progression to mainstream in September.
The college has achieved this recruitment via:
· special open days held in January at the college and also in outreach centres such as the library;
· transport laid on to and from these venues;
· invitations to open day sent to all NEET via Connexions;
· staff attending open days wore informal clothing to help overcome barriers;
· courses very practical with vocational tasters, and including days out to add interest;
· strong focus on confidence building and raising aspirations;
· extra mentoring and support offered;
· training for staff in dealing with challenging behaviour.
31 The college has developed several full time curriculum opportunities for learner to join the college during the year. The college runs construction courses in all trade areas with start dates every 12 weeks for both 16-18 and adults. These are full-time courses (450 GLH) and learners have the opportunity to progress through from level 2 to 3 and also to complete their NVQ if appropriate. The College has also introduced beauty courses which follow the same lines of delivery. .
32 The college also has flexible starts dates for the majority of its part time curriculum:
· Skills for Life provision
· Adult Community Provision
· Roll-on roll-off IT courses
· VRQs in Sport
· Event Management
· Beauty courses
33 Responsiveness of the provision was highlighted in the recent Ofsted inspection as being a key strength of the college. The college has:
· re engineered its curriculum to include more entry and level 1 provision in response Connexions' information about what young people want;
· worked with Connexions on the Get Sorted IAG events in September and November to target young people who are still undecided;
· run open days and launched a January starts prospectus in November targeting 150 16-18 year olds who were then enrolled in December to reduce attrition. This resulted in 300+ enrolments.
34 Colleagues in the LSC's South East region have recently published a report of research to evaluate flexible delivery focused on engaging those young people who are NEET. The report has a particular focus on flexible starts. The following is the link to the report: