“It is not only a national scandal but a moral outrage that we have allowed the education system to systematically fail the poorest children in the country.”
The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission
114.We already have discussed the recent focus on increasing university participation. This has in many ways been positive. It has given some young people the opportunity to attend university when previously it would have been out of their reach. However, it has also made worse a significant inequality in how vocational and academic routes are compared to one another.
“During my time at secondary school … The message was “do your A-Levels, then progress onto University”, as though that was the only route!”
115. Technical and vocational qualifications can improve job outcomes for young people. Not least because they can provide substantial experience of the workplace. Our evidence showed that they are also vital for economic growth. For instance, Nacro said: “Quality provision that provides choice, realistic job opportunities and career development enables local economies to grow and individuals to progress.” Research for the Government in 2011 calculated that a positive financial return was estimated for most qualifications, with particularly high returns associated with Level 3 qualifications. The net value of benefits for vocational qualification at Level 3 was between £21,000 and £49,000 for City and Guilds. Government research in 2013 suggested that below Level 2 learning which began in 2005/06 made a total return of around £638 million to public budgets over the four years 2007/08 to 2010/11. We note that below Level 2 learning is not all vocational.
116.Many of our witnesses said, however, that there is an overemphasis on academic routes, and other routes are seen as second-rate. For instance, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) suggests: “ … attitudes to vocational education have not kept up with the pace of structural change, it remains the poor relation of academic attainment” The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development agreed, and said this is in part due to “ … employers’ attitudes towards vocational education”. It is also due to a more widespread attitude and culture which includes students, parents, teachers and society as a whole.
117.This preference to take routes other than vocational education was shown by our visit to a secondary school in London. Most students in years 10 and 11 spoke about going to university. Almost none spoke about studying vocational courses or taking an apprenticeship. Our online survey also showed most respondents connected the notion of courses to going to university.
118.This is not a new issue. Mr Clegg said “there is the perennial British problem of this almost unspoken snobbery in favour of academic qualifications rather than vocational qualifications.”
119.Our witnesses pointed to examples of good practice in other countries. Systems elsewhere fall under two broad methods: a dual approach or a mainstream approach.
120.A dual system is one where a decision is taken early on by a young person to follow either a vocational or an academic route. A mainstream system is one where there is a core curriculum followed with no division between academic and vocational education. It is important to recognise here that in both systems all students will complete general ‘core’ education as well as the vocational parts.
Switzerland is an example of a country with a dual system. The academic and vocational routes are well-understood by students, teachers, employers and parents. At the age of 15/16, students will either apply for an apprenticeship or sit an exam for entry into a general education school. To inform this decision, careers guidance begins in the early years of secondary education.
The vocational route consists of work-based learning in a company with one or two days per week spent at a local vocational college (a dual-track apprenticeship). A full apprenticeship lasts three or four years (depending on the complexity of the occupation) and leads to a federal diploma. Employers’ associations (who actually take the lead in defining the content of each apprenticeship framework) are very active in the system. Education providers define the education part of the framework.
Nearly two-thirds of students leaving compulsory education in Switzerland opt for an apprenticeship in one of approximately 230 professions in vocational and educational training.
Germany is another example of a dual system. Roughly 60 per cent of young people take vocational programmes at upper secondary level, representing 90 per cent of those without a higher education entrance qualification.
Post-secondary vocational education and training (VET) is designed for those seeking to achieve state recognised higher vocational qualifications above upper-secondary (16-18) level.
First, there are advanced vocational examinations regulated by the federal Vocational Training Actand in some cases also by the individual chamber regulations of the chambers of crafts and trades and of the chambers of industry and commerce. Second, there are trade and technical schools.
The Edge Foundation highlighted the mainstream system in Nashville, Tennessee. An initial year of work experience and careers education is followed up by participation in a programme of lessons alongside the core curriculum in a chosen industry. The students will have industry placements (“externships”), and teachers and employers work together to prepare work-related projects for them. There is a city-wide business partnership (the Pencil Foundation) which brokers the relationship between schools and businesses, and the success of the programmes is assessed by the District Superintendent and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. Yet in general the USA has the same problems as England.
121.Professor Green talked about the successes of countries with a dual system: “They get higher graduation rates at upper-secondary: they have people staying on longer than we do and they get more people getting a proper Level 3 qualification, which is really the necessary passport into the labour market now.”
122.Many of our witnesses suggested that, within the UK, best practice was to be found in Scotland. Professor Ewart Keep said “A model of how you might proceed is what Scotland is doing currently. Scotland had a major inquiry under Sir Ian Wood … looking at young people and how they enter the workforce and how the young workforce might be better developed.”(See Box 11 below)
The 2013 Wood Commission led to the publication of a Youth Employment Strategy and a seven year implementation programme designed to deliver the recommendations. There was a commitment of £12 million for 2014–15 and £16.6 million in the 2015–16 draft budget to support implementation.The measures designed to tackle youth unemployment are based on the principles of early intervention and cross-sector collaboration. There is a transition planning process for 16-year-olds moving on from compulsory education, and for 16–19 year-old NEETs.
The process is thorough, and involves early assessment of need; a rationale for the route being taken; that there is labour market demand for the learning; and that the learning is accredited. Colleges prioritise 16–19 year-olds, and students are tracked and monitored through thorough data collection and sharing; all involved are compliant with legislation. There is also a recognition for tailored advice and longer timescales if needed by the young person.
123.The Sutton Trust warned that it would be almost impossible to change England’s culture [of preference for academic routes]. But suggested “We may not be able to impose this culture overnight, but we can learn from what other countries do right.” Professor Gregg agreed.
124.A number of witnesses identified similarities between countries where strong vocational routes were in place. For instance, Professor Green said that successful countries:
“have fairly standardised systems … have relatively intensive provision: three years in which about 30 hours a week on average are spent in classroom instruction, compared with the 15 hours or so which a typical full-time student in FE in Britain gets. They have relatively simple, slim-lined and transparent qualification systems—not nearly as many and as complex a system of qualifications as we have—and the qualifications tend to be better understood.”
125.We note that even in countries marked as successful, vocational education often does not have equal status to academic education.
126.The degree of participation in vocational education versus higher education is lower in the United Kingdom than in many other countries. Claire Keane, an economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) told us that “across the OECD, on average around 50 per cent of students take the vocational route. In the UK it is only 30 per cent. The UK has one of the lowest rates across the OECD of those engaged in vocational training. In Germany, it is closer to 75 per cent.”
127.We therefore wanted to understand whether Government policies incentivise schools and colleges to promote all types of routes to work as equal. We also wanted to look at whether any Government policies make people less willing to promote certain routes. We discuss incentives for employers in Chapter 8.
128.In England, parents and those with parental responsibility can say which schools they would prefer their children and those in their care to go to. In order to be able to choose, information is published on schools’ performance. Data is published about pupils’ performance in GCSEs (and equivalent exams) at age 16 and A-Levels (and equivalents) at age 18. This data is used to create league tables. The tables are easy to understand, and although they are not the only measure of a school’s success, are widely discussed in the media and believed to show how good a school is. League tables of this sort are no longer published in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales.
129.This data and a school’s Ofsted rating (more on which in Chapter 5) play an important role in a parent or carer’s decision on which school they would like their children to go to. As a result, they are critically important to a school’s popularity and so affect schools’ behaviour.
130.From 2015 onwards, only a pupil’s first attempt at a qualification is included in the tables. The list of qualifications has been reduced and the number of non-GCSE qualifications is limited to two.
131.Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR) told us that the current performance tables incentivise schools to focus on academic results, especially A*-C at GCSE. A number of our witnesses said this meant that performance tables particularly disadvantage middle attainers. Telford and Wrekin Council explained the problem:
“As a result of the performance measures, schools have been under increasing pressure to focus on outcomes and results. There appears to have been a focus on the ‘high achievers’ to maximise on their outcomes, and if a student is ‘borderline’ C at GCSE, a focus here to support to achieve the C.”
132.Ofsted told us this focus affects social mobility for those in the middle: “ … for those who do not achieve five good GCSEs including English and mathematics, the education and learning paths available to them are less clear. This makes it difficult for them to transition into meaningful and valued employment.”
133.This focus on a specific type of academic performance can dishearten young people. Professor Roberts told us “it is demotivating from age 12 to age 16 to be aiming for a D. It means that you have failed. If you allow so many young people to be in that situation, they will be demotivated and they just will not learn.” The 2004 Tomlinson report (see paragraphs 90–92) found that many 14 year olds were de-motivated by the overly academic curriculum of current GCSEs and wanted subjects where they could ‘learn by doing’.
134.In addition, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation told us that attainment at school on its own is not enough to achieve social mobility. They said this is illustrated by the situation of young people across a range of ethnic minority groups. (see Box 12 below)
“Young people from many ethnic minority groups have achieved greatly improved educational outcomes over the last few years. For example, in 2005/06 only 33.6 per cent of Black pupils in England achieved five or more A*-Cs (including English and Maths) at GCSE; in 2012/13 this had improved to 58.1 per cent. Over the same period, the proportion of Bangladeshi pupils receiving five or more A*-Cs (including English and Maths) rose from 39 per cent to 64 per cent.
“Children from the Indian and Chinese groups have outperformed those from other ethnicities for the last decade. In higher education, all ethnic minority groups other than Black Caribbean people are on average more likely to have degrees than White groups (Brynin and Longhi, 2015).
However, these improvements in education have not been followed by a similar change in employment outcomes. In 2014, the unemployment rate for ethnic minority young people (aged 16–24) was 28.6 per cent, compared to 15.5 per cent for majority White young people. This gap has barely changed since 2009. Unemployment rates are particularly high for young Pakistani and Bangladeshi (31.4 per cent) and Black people (36 per cent). When ethnic minority young people are in work they are more likely to be paid below the voluntary Living Wage.”
135.From 2016, the Government will introduce new ‘Progress 8’ and ‘Attainment 8’ measures. Progress 8 data shows the progress a pupil makes across eight subjects in Key Stages 3 and 4 (school years 7–11). It also compares students who start at the same level. Attainment 8 data shows a pupil’s average attainment across the eight subjects. A pupil’s predicted Attainment 8 grades will be compared with their actual results. The difference is calculated, and that is their Progress 8 score, that is actual as distinct from predicted progress. The scores for all pupils will be brought together to show a school’s average performance and will measure the degree to which the school over the five years of Key Stages 3 and 4 (age 11–14 and 14–16) has succeeded in improving performance for those young people more than expected. This will replace measuring a school’s performance based on the achievement of five A*-C grades. The Government hopes that this will incentivise schools “to offer a broad and balanced curriculum”.
136.From 2017, the Progress 8 performance measure will allow for up to three non-GCSE qualifications that develop technical and practical skills, which would not otherwise be gained in general education. The recognition of technical subjects in school performance measures has varied since the 1980s. When they contributed to meeting targets set for schools, this provided an incentive to include the provision of such subjects, but the Wolf Report criticised the quality of what was offered. When they did not contribute to meeting targets, schools were not incentivised to focus on the provision of such subjects. The new performance measure’s impact on the behaviour of schools remains to be seen but it could be a positive step for a wider, more diverse curriculum.
137.The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is another school performance measure. “It allows people to see how many pupils get a grade C or above in the core academic subjects at Key Stage 4 in any government-funded school.”New Economy warned that “the E-Baccalaureate will undermine any strength the Wolf recommendations had” as it becomes harder for young people to move into vocational education as vocational qualifications will be measured differently under Progress 8. Julia Maunder, the headteacher of Thomas Keble School also warned that the E-Baccalaureate is not suitable for preparing the very weak for post-16 pathways.Other witnesses told us that the E-Baccalaureate has led to the decline in the take up of practical subjects, and in vocational topics.
138.The way schools and colleges are funded is also a significant influence on how they behave, and how they advise their pupils.
139.Schools, and colleges, in England are funded on a per-pupil basis. This means that a state-funded secondary school receives around £4,500 per annum for each pupil aged 14–16 (see Table 2). There is therefore a financial incentive for schools to retain their own pupils. The British Chambers of Commerce told us: “the per pupil school funding system favours encouraging pupils down the A-Level route as it is a source of funding for the school, if it has a sixth form”.
140.We wanted to find out whether the existing funding structure supports academic and non-academic routes equally. In particular, we tried to find out whether the funding structure promotes opportunities for those in the middle.
141.More young people aged 16–18 study at further education colleges than any other type of provider (see Box 13 below).
Many schools offer further education post-16 qualifications such as A-Levels, the International Baccalaureate or Scottish Highers (for students aged 16–18), and vocational qualifications such as NVQs and SVQs.
Sixth form colleges mainly cater for students aged 16–18 and specialise in academic courses to prepare students for higher education.
Further education colleges offer courses and qualifications in a wide range of vocational and academic subjects at many levels. Some specialise in particular industry sectors such as art and design, catering, engineering or finance. Further education colleges often have links with companies, so that students studying vocational courses can combine classroom learning with work experience.
Provisional figures for 2014 (as of 15 January 2015) show that there were 1,389,500 full-time learners and 82,400 part-time learners aged 16-18.Of these:
142.Part of the problem is inequality of funding. Schools and colleges receive £500 less per year for students aged 16 and 17, than for students aged 14–16. (See Table 2 below). They receive £1,200 less for students aged 18–19. This has been a gradual change, with a significant effect. The coalition Government reduced the 16–19 year-old budget by 13.6 per cent in real terms between 2010–11 and 2014–15.
143.The Department for Education funds the education of children aged 3–16 and young people aged 16–19. The Education Funding Agency (EFA) manages the money.
144.Funding for pupils aged over 18 is now a further £700 less than for those aged 16 and 17. When this change came into effect, the Government said: “Ministers have decided to make the savings required in 2014/15 by reducing the participation requirements for full-time 18-year-olds, as defined by their age at the start of the academic year … This means the funding rate for full-time 18-year-old students in 2014/15 will be 17.5 per cent below the rate for full-time 16- and 17-year-olds.”
145.The reason given for this was that “Most 18-year-olds will already have benefited from two years of post-16 education and will not therefore need as much non-qualification provision within their study programmes as 16- and 17-year-olds. Fewer than one in five of 16- to 18- year-olds funded by the EFA are aged 18 at the start of the academic year, although clearly this will vary by institution.”
146.We know that two years is not enough time for some young people to acquire the necessary qualifications (see paragraphs 251 and 257). This reduction in funding at age 18 impacts the provision of courses for those who need the most help—young people who leave school with limited qualifications and who may need more time to catch up. Malcolm Trobe explained:
“A lot of those youngsters are on what I would call a standard three-year programme from 16 through to 19. For example, they might do a Level 2 BTEC following on from their GCSEs but then move on to a Level 3 BTEC, which will take them a further two years.”
147.As we discuss in paragraphs 260–265, it is crucial, for those young people who can, to achieve a Level 3 qualification that commands some recognition and respect as preparation for skilled work. They need the time and financial support in the system to be able to do so.
148.Some young people will go to university at the age of 18. Most will remain at further education colleges. Yet there is a big difference in funding between colleges and universities. The funding system is complex, and difficult to navigate.
149.The Department for Business, Industry and Skills funds people from age 19 through the Skills Funding Agency (SFA). This ‘adult skills budget’ includes funding for all learners aged 19 and over in England, who do not study at a university. Those under 19 pay no fees towards any courses. Students over age 24 who start a Level 3 or 4 course are eligible for an Advanced Learning Loan. Students who start a Level 3 course over the age of 19 currently have to pay 50 per cent. The Autumn Statement announced that they will now be eligible for a loan.
150.Universities are funded by direct payments from Government for teaching and through student loans—which the Government supports and subsidises.
151.Universities get more money per student than further education colleges get per student from the adult skills budget, whether the student is studying at higher education level or not. Professor Baroness Wolf previously analysed the adult skills budget and learner numbers from 2012. She explained that since 2012, no clear data is available from which to calculate the number of full-time equivalent students. She estimated: “funding per full-time college student [was] about £2,150 a year in 2012. In contrast, the teaching of ‘home’ university undergraduates is currently funded at about £8,400 per student”. This is about £6,000 difference per person each year between those who study higher education courses at university, and those who study further education courses at colleges. The adult skills budget has reduced significantly since 2009/2010 when compared with other education budgets.
152.Funding for young people aged over 19 is calculated by the type of course studied.
16 and 17
Calculated to be £2,150 per full time student in 2012.
153.Universities and further education colleges all offer higher education courses. In England, universities can charge home students up to £9,000 a year. Around three quarters of all universities charged the full amount in 2015–16. The average fee was £8,844 per year. Further education colleges charged less—on average £6,561 for each year. So further education colleges have less money to work with for higher education courses than universities.
154.The Learning Revolution Trust highlighted the different budgets for colleges and universities: “In 2013/14 2.9 million people attended further education colleges compared to 1.9 million at UK universities, but colleges were run on an annual budget of £4 billion, less than a seventh of universities annual budget of £30 billion.”
155.In February 2015 the previous Government announced adult skills funding for 2015–16 would be 11 per cent lower than the previous year. The Skills Funding Agency explained this meant: “the total skills budget that we have available for allocation for the 2015–2016 funding year will be around 17 per cent less than in 2014 to 2015”. The Government made apprenticeship funding a priority. The Skills Funding Agency said this meant funding for other types of adult skills courses “could reduce by around 24 per cent.” Although the adult skills budget was protected in the Autumn statement, this was for funding over the 5 years from 2016–17 and the cuts for 2015–16 still went through.
156.In July 2015 the Government announced another reduction. Non-apprenticeship funding was reduced by a further 3.9 per cent for the 2015 to 2016 year.
157.Some young people will start a two year qualification at age 17. They may do a one year Level 2 course for a year post-16 because of low GCSE grades) then do a 2 year Level 3 course. Or they may start A-Levels and then either drop out or fail after one year, and start again on a vocational course for two years. This means, because of their age, they will be dealt with by two different Government departments and their agencies.
158.We tried to find out who would be responsible for funding these courses for their duration.
159.We asked our witnesses about where third year funding comes from. They said: “If they [the young person] have started and they are 19, it is SFA and they have to pay 50 per cent.” They also told us that “if they do one year at school and then do two years at college, if they start below the age of 18, it is EFA funding.” Finally we were also told that “it depends on the course. If they are on a year’s course and they are 18, fine, but if it is the second year and they are 19, they have to pay … That comes out of adult education and they have to pay 50 per cent of the fees.” But our witnesses were not certain of the rules. Under the changes introduced in the Autumn statement, 19 to 23 year olds studying at Levels 3 and 4 will be able to get tuition fee loans, as will those aged over 19 at Levels 5 and 6.
160.The Funding Rules say:
“Learners previously funded by the EFA [Education Funding Agency], who we become responsible for funding if they continue their learning aim or programme in the next funding year after their 19th birthday, will be eligible for funding from us for those continued learning aims. Where this applies we will use the EFA’s funding method, but the funding will be paid from the adult skills budget.
“We will only fund a continuing learner at a provider with whom we have a funding agreement in place.”
161.We are concerned that these rules do not provide clarity.
162.Those from lower down the social ladder are much more likely to go to further education colleges than other in their age group. Those in further education colleges are more likely to study vocational courses. Further education colleges are therefore in a prime position to drive social mobility. As Professor Orr explained:
“The Government should ensure that in every town and city there is an institution which is well established, focused on vocational education and training, and has a remit for social mobility. Fortunately for government, these institutions exist and they are called further education colleges.”
163.In addition, there are now more young people who stay in education and training after 16. This is in large part because of the Government’s changes to the participation age (as well as there being an increase before that). From September 2013, young people had to stay in full-time education or training for a full academic year after Year 11. From 2015, they have to continue learning until their 18th birthday. There is a huge opportunity for the Government to make “those two extra years …count.”
164.The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission warned in 2015, however, that “… as currently constituted, FE all too often leads to a lower occupational status and lower-paying jobs.” Research in 2015 found that the post-16 system in England and Northern Ireland actually increased skills inequalities. Ensuring young people have the right support and encouragement—and helping their families to provide this where possible—will be essential if previous failure is not to be repeated.
165.Our own witnesses concluded that differences in funding meant further education colleges were expected to provide courses to more people with less money. They said the recent changes affected the quality of further education provision. Reduced funding meant insufficient skills and resource (such as enough teachers) to deliver courses. Spencer Thompson told us: “Because of the difficult funding environment at the moment for 16–19 education, we may see some rationalisation and specialisation in the sector.” This means that colleges will begin to limit what qualifications they offer. This will limit the opportunities available to young people.
166.Pat Brennan-Barrett, Principal of Northampton College, told us young people study the same study programmes in the same class despite the amount of funding received “because in colleges you do not go up by age, you go up by ability.”
167.This means that reduced funding for one age group impacts the provision for all students. Ms Brennan-Barrett explained:
“Generally if you have a cut, whether it is the SFA [Skills Funding Agency] or the EFA [Education Funding Agency], it does not really matter, because the college still has to have an estates programme, catering provision, lighting and an HR department. They are just getting smaller and smaller, or you share them with other colleges. The overall impact is that you have a reduced budget and it is much harder to make ends meet, so you are thinking constantly … ’Can we afford that? Can we not afford it?’”
168.Funding reductions affect further education colleges and sixth form colleges more than schools who offer 11–16 as well as post-16 education. They have only the lower rate of post-16 funding. Professor Baroness Wolf explained: “If you are way less well-funded than other parts of the system, and you do not have 11 to 16 money to send across to your 16 to 19 provision, the risk is that you get caught in this downward spiral”.
169.As it stands, there is a complex market of training providers. Schools, sixth form colleges and further education colleges can sub-contract some services to independent training providers. Apprenticeship funding in particular is often paid to sub-contractors. Because this is a commercial arrangement it is unknown how much adult skills funding goes to non-college providers. It could be as much as 30 per cent of the available budget.
170.The whole system is about to change radically. Current contracts with independent training providers expire at the end of 2016/17. From 2017/18 FE Colleges and independent training providers (ITPs) will have to compete for Skills Funding Agency (SFA) contracts. This is due to changes to European Union law. The change is not expected to apply to apprenticeships, as the Government plans to introduce the levy on large employers from April 2017. The Government says “It will be for employers to choose their own provider of apprenticeship training when we move into the levy system.”
171.Baroness Professor Wolf of Dulwich proposed a levy in 2015 for all employers which she proposed would be a “fund, with its own trustees, supported by a small, hypothecated payroll tax”. Her proposal was based on the idea that employers are in a better position to reflect the needs of the labour market and that a fund would allow for increased spending on apprenticeships to ensure that they are of sufficient quality.
172.On 8 July 2015, the Rt Hon George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that an apprenticeship levy would be introduced. The Government proposed that large employers which offer apprenticeships will pay into a fund, which would be controlled by employers in order to support the Government’s target of creating three million more apprenticeships by 2020. Employers will be able to offset their own expenditure on apprenticeships against the levy, allowing them to “get back more than they put in.”
173.On 25 November 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave more details on the operation of the levy when he made his Autumn Statement. From April 2017, employers will have to pay 0.5 per cent of their pay roll costs towards the levy. Employers will have a £15,000 allowance to offset this against, which means only employers with a £3 million annual payroll will be subject to the levy. It is estimated that 98 per cent of employers in the United Kingdom will not therefore be affected by the levy. It is also estimated that the levy will raise £3 billion annually, which the Chancellor has indicated will be invested in seeking to achieve the three million apprenticeship starts target.
174.The proposed system is that the money paid to the Government via the levy will be paid back in vouchers of an equivalent worth to the employer. The employer can then use the vouchers to pay training providers, who can exchange the vouchers for money from the Government. The underlying logic is that the quality of apprenticeships will be improved by giving employers control of the training they purchase.
175.It is not clear how the levy will work and in particular whether it will be collected centrally and then paid back to employers to cover the apprenticeships they provide. But what is clear is that colleges and independent training providers will have to market themselves to employers as potential providers of training.
176.We welcome and appreciate the logic underpinning the levy. However, we share the concerns of our witnesses. In evidence to us, Professor Baroness Wolf said:
“I think they made a mistake. I do not understand why it is being paid only by larger employers. That is not normal. If you look at other countries which have apprenticeship taxes, it is a proportion of payroll and applies to everyone. If only the larger employers are paying, the larger employers will definitely be the ones who want to get the benefits.”
Professor Keep said:
“I fear that the likely outcome, particularly because the levy is tied to the 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020 target—it is the only way it could be funded—is that quality will get traded for quantity.”
177.Claire Crawford and Andrew Battarbee told us money for further education colleges and apprenticeships funding is vulnerable to political change. For instance, the Government protected adult skills funding in cash terms in the 2015 autumn spending review. But there is no guarantee it will be protected in future.
178.In Scotland, reduced funding for the further education sector has seen the number of full-time equivalent students at Scotland’s colleges decrease by one per cent between 2011–12 and 2012–13 (from 133,199 to 131,421).
179.We asked the Skills Minister, Nick Boles MP, about this. He agreed that it was a matter of priority:
“If you have constrained resources, on which bit of a life of education would you focus those resources? As a Government, indeed in combination with the Liberal Democrats in the coalition, we took the painful decision, backed up by a lot of academic evidence, that the most impact is had earlier. Of course you are right that the institutions are often trying to make up for a lot of the failures of before. Our responsibility is to fix the stuff that is happening before so that those institutions are not having to pick up so many failures.”
180.Because alternatives to academic education are not funded equally to academic routes, providers have to do more with less. Quality is compromised, and further education courses are seen as less effective than other parts of the education system. They are then not seen as a priority by the Government and are not funded equally to other routes. Mr Clegg agreed: “what does make a massive difference is a centrally driven, clearly expressed ambition from the top … ”
181.Mr Boles said that, if further education colleges and schools were to be funded equally, that would mean reducing the funding for schools. Other witnesses suggested that this was not necessarily the case. A number of ways might be found that would increase the budget for further education colleges, but would not cost more for the public purse.
182. For instance, apprenticeship training could be provided by further education colleges. Professor Baroness Wolf suggested that “colleges should very clearly be the places where apprenticeship training takes place … I would stop all these hundreds and thousands of small providers coming in and coming out. It does not work. It does not have the stability and you cannot control quality that way. It would make much clearer what one of the major purposes of FE colleges was.”
183.Reducing the competition between providers would increase incentives for good quality career education, information, advice and guidance. This would lead to less inappropriate advice and less drop-out. This might go some way towards reducing the cost of post-16 learning aims which are not completed. Several of our witnesses said that sixth form colleges, further education colleges, and independent training providers all compete for the same young people. A young person who completed our survey said:
“I think that other providers of qualifications and training should have been allowed to come into school to tell us about alternatives, e.g. apprenticeships, but the school see them as competition - trying to take away their best pupils at 16!”
184.Professors Fuller and Unwin, and the LGA, told us this competition causes confusion about the status and content of qualifications. This can mean that learners are misinformed. In fact, those who study further education courses are 12 times less likely to complete their course than those who study A-Levels. This leads to waste and is bad for the economy and society. For example, the cost of post-16 learning courses which were not completed was about £814 million in 2012/13. This represented around 12 per cent of the funding allocated to provision for 16–18 year-olds. This is a significant amount of money. It could potentially be better spent elsewhere.
185.In the summer of 2015 the Government announced a series of reviews of both further education and sixth form Colleges (but not significantly of sixth forms in schools and academies). Matthew Coffey told us there was “a real opportunity with the area reviews.” There is an opportunity to define the major purposes of further education colleges as one of the main drivers of social mobility, as stated by Professor Baroness Wolf and Professor Kevin Orr above.
186.Our witnesses from the Association of Colleges and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers agreed with this assessment. Pat Brennan-Barrett, the Principal of Northampton College said the review “needs a broader mission. It needs to look at the social needs and the demands for learning.” Matthew Trobe said the reviews “should be focused on what the function is of further education and, therefore, you need the vision to drive this.”
187.But as pointed out by Mr Trobe, the outcome of the reviews is almost predetermined. When it announced the reviews, the Government said: “We will need to move towards fewer, often larger, more resilient and efficient providers.” By July 2015 five further education and sixth form colleges facing “significant financial challenges” announced that they were “actively considering” collaboration plans.
188.Ms Brennan-Barrett warned that collaboration could mean learners would have to travel further to get to college. She suggested this would disadvantage lower and middle attaining students as “Level 1 and 2 students will not travel… They may not have the money to travel.” Sam Monaghan told us: “We need to look at the financial support to those young people to equip them and to enable them to engage but also to sustain that placement and that work … When you have none, it becomes another deterrent to engaging or becomes another reason for saying, “Why bother?”.”
189.In addition, the reviews emphasise how they will improve higher level provision. Broad provision for post-16 will just be maintained:
“We expect this to enable greater specialisation, creating institutions that are genuine centres of expertise, able to support progression up to a high level in professional and technical disciplines, while also supporting institutions that achieve excellence in teaching essential basic skills–such as English and maths. This will need to be done while maintaining broad universal access to high quality education and training from age 16 upwards for students of all abilities including those with special educational needs and disabilities.”
190.Social mobility and life chances is one of the Government’s main priorities, yet it seems largely ignored in the context of the reviews. Our concern was shared by Pat Brennan-Barrett who told us there was “a danger, particularly as we are now looking at social mobility within this forum, we are going to throw the baby out with the bath water with Level 1 and Level 2.” Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications cannot be dismissed. If Level 3 qualifications were the only ones available, many young people would be significantly disadvantaged. Nacro explained: “Low level vocational education provides important entry into qualifications and can reconnect young learners to education and training.”
191.In addition, the reviews are only looking at further education colleges and sixth form colleges, not sixth form provision in schools or independent providers. This seems to be an error given the issues outlined above.
192.As they stand the area reviews of post-16 education and training institutions move away from Kevin Orr’s vision of further education colleges as engines of social mobility. The idea behind the reviews is that a group of colleges covering a given area share facilities and specialisations. This could pose problems for young people who live in more rural areas where distances between colleges are more substantial and travelling to college is therefore more difficult and costly.
193.There is a culture of inequality between vocational and academic routes to work. The culture pervades the system and the incentives to everyone involved. In England, the education system focuses on academic achievement of a particular kind. That is five GCSEs at grade A*-C and then A-Level. Such a focus means only the half of young people who attain this high level are served by the system.
194.Government policies, funding, and incentives all support this focus on academic achievement. Current funding for schools and performance tables incentivise the promotion of academic routes that help meet targets. As a result, few young people see vocational routes as a positive option.
195.Investment in all young people has significant long-term economic value. Recent Government policy has protected schools and university funding but the same is not true for post-16 institutions who provide for the majority of young people who do not go into higher education. Intermediate routes to employment for middle attainers—who are already underserved—are restricted further by this discrimination. Lack of investment increases the risk of these young people becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) or of moving into low level jobs with little or no opportunities for progression. There is a need for greater clarity on how funding works.
196.Schools and colleges receive between £500 and £1,200 less per year for students aged 16 and over, than for students aged 16 and under. Schools and sixth form colleges only cater to students up to age 18, and further education colleges to students over 18. Therefore these stark funding differences underpin a system of inequality.
197.The inequality between vocational and academic education has had a significant impact on the overlooked majority of young people on whom our inquiry has focused. It is a long-standing and deep-rooted issue that will not be overcome easily or soon. Clarity and understanding, and promotion of alternatives to higher education, could however begin to destigmatise vocational education and training. Therefore independent, impartial and robust information, careers advice and guidance are vital.
185 (The Rt Hon Alan Milburn)
186 See report of survey results:
187 Written evidence from The Edge Foundation (); Nacro (); The Sutton Trust (); YMCA England (); UKCES (); Aspire Group (); Future Advice Skills Employment Ltd (); Federation of Small Businesses ()
188 See, for example, written evidence from Hertfordshire County Council (): “Work experience forms a key component of a Study Programme or the main learning aim for students who are not taking substantial qualifications at Level 2 or 3.”
189 Nacro campaigns for social justice, focusing on crime prevention and reduction, and works with vulnerable people to address social exclusion, inequality of opportunity and deprivation.
190 Written evidence from Nacro ()
191 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, A Disaggregated Analysis of the Long Run Impact of Vocational Qualifications, BIS Research Paper Number 106 (2013): [accessed 22 March 2016]
192 Based on the up-front costs of supporting qualification attainment and the change in tax revenues associated with qualification attainment.
193 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Evaluation of the Impact of Learning Below Level 2, BIS Research Paper Number 150, (October 2013): [accessed 22 March 2016]
194 Written evidence from the Welsh Government (); Telford and Wrekin Council (); AoC (); Telford and Wrekin Council (); Pret A Manger (); Future Advice Skills Employment Ltd (); Develop (); Prof Alison Fuller and Prof Lorna Unwin (); Young Women’s Trust (); Careers South West (); Ofsted (); Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (); ThinkForward (); Aspire Group (); Capp (); CET (); The Sutton Trust (); City Year UK (); Inclusion Trust (); MiddletonMurray (); City & Guilds (); Cascaid (); The Big Academy (); The Edge Foundation (); National Foundation for Educational Research (); Nacro (); Association of Teachers and Lecturers (); Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (); National Union of Students (); Trades Union Congress (); Federation of Small Businesses (); ICAEW (); The Chartered Insurance Institute (); Institution of Mechanical Engineers (); Prof Ann Hodgson and Prof Ken Spours (); Social Policy and Research Centre, Middlesex University (); Matteo Calogiuri (); Fair Train (); EY Foundation ()
195 Written evidence from the National Foundation for Educational Research ()
196 Written evidence from CIPD ()
197 See Appendix 5.
198 See report of survey results:
199 (The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP)
200 Written evidence from State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, Swiss Confederation ()
201 This is known as Fortbildungsgänge nach dem Berufsbildungsgesetz.
202 This is known as Fortbildungsgänge nach Ordnung der Handwerksund Industrie- und Handelskammern.
203 This is known as Fachschulen.
204 See for example Mary Alice McCarthy, ‘Flipping the Paradigm: Training-based Pathways to Bachelor’s Degrees and Beyond’ (November 2015) : [accessed 22 March 2016]
205 (Prof Andy Green)
206 See, for example, (Moira McKerracher); (Prof Ewart Keep); (Anne Spackman)
207 (Prof Ewart Keep)
208 Written evidence from the Scottish Government ()
211 Written evidence from the Sutton Trust ()
212 (Prof Paul Gregg)
213 (Prof Andy Green)
214 See for instance, Prof Baroness Wolf, Review of Vocational Education - the Wolf Report, (2011): [accessed 22 March 2016] “Not all qualifications, can be seen as completely identical in prestige, or content: that is true among academic qualifications just as it true among vocational ones. And every country on earth has a status hierarchy for school and university level options. But there is no reason why vocational awards for 14-19 year olds should not figure among the sub-set which enjoy high esteem.”
215 (Claire Keane)
216 The system of school choice favours parents who are higher up the social ladder. This is because of the informational advantage gained by social networks and their own experiences. It gives them three advantages. First, they can make a better judgement of school quality. Second, they know of more schools to select from. Third, they can estimate the chance of acceptance among different schools. See Allen, R; Burgess, S; McKenna, L, School performance and parental choice of school: secondary data analysis, January 2014 (produced for the Department for Education).
217 This includes the English Baccalaureate and the Technical Baccalaureate.
218 Written evidence from OCR ()
219 See written evidence from London Councils (); MiddletonMurray (); Pret A Manger ()
220 Written evidence from Telford and Wrekin Council ()
221 Written evidence from Ofsted ()
222 (Prof Ken Roberts)
223 14–19 Curriculum and Qualifications Reform: Final Report of the Working Group on 14–19 Reform (October 2004): [accessed 22 March 2016]
224 Written evidence from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation ()
226 Written evidence from HM Government ()
227 Department for Education, Policy paper: English Baccalaureate (EBacc), (12 February 2016): [accessed 22 March 2016]
228 Written evidence from New Economy (on behalf of Greater Manchester Combined Authority) ()
229 A coeducational secondary school with academy status, located in Eastcombe, Gloucestershire.
230 Written evidence from Julia Maunder, Headteacher of Thomas Keble School (an annex to evidence from ASDAN) ()
231 Written evidence from The Edge Foundation (); Association of Teachers and Lecturers (); Prof Ann Hodgson and Prof Ken Spours ()
232 £4,502 for each pupil in Key Stage 4 for the year 2015/16. Department for Education and Education Funding Agency, Fairer schools funding: arrangements for 2015 to 2016, (July 2014): [accessed 22 March 2016]. The current funding formula varies from local authority to local authority and is based on spending levels of that authority in year. To remedy this the coalition Government allocated an additional £350m to the least fairly funded areas by setting minimum funding levels that every local area should attract for its pupils and schools in 2015–16. Department for Education, Fairer schools funding, Arrangement for 2015 to 2015 (July 2014): [accessed 22 March 2016]
233 Written evidence from British Chambers of Commerce ()
234 HM Government, ‘Table B13: Participation in education of 16-18 year-olds by institution type, England, 1985 onwards’: [accessed 22 March 2016]
235 HM Government, ‘Table B13: Participation in education of 16-18 year-olds by institution type, England, 1985 onwards’: [accessed 22 March 2016]
236 Excludes independent special schools.
237 Includes all pupils in independent schools - assumed to live in the same LA as the school.
238 Also includes some other further education delivered through commercial, charitable, and local authority providers.
239 Written evidence from AoC ()
240 Luke Sibieta, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Schools Spending (March 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
241 Since 2014 funding for learners aged 18 is £700 per year lower than for those aged 16 and 17.
242 Education Funding Agency, Letter 10 December 2013: [accessed 22 March 2016]
243 “Ministers have decided that their policy priorities for this budget are to support the increased participation age for 16- and 17-year-olds, maintain additional funding for disadvantaged students, and as far as possible, maintain the national funding rate per student…the funding rate for full-time 18-year-old students in 2014/15 will be 17.5 per cent below the rate for full-time 16- and 17-year-olds.” Education Funding Agency, Funding for academic year 2014 to 2015 for students aged 16 to 19 and high needs students aged 16 to 25 (December 2013): [accessed 22 March 2016]
244 Written evidence from Learning Revolution Trust ()
245 (Malcolm Trobe)
246 Or at a prison.
247 HM Government, ‘24+ Advanced Learning Loans’: [accessed 22 March 2016]
248 HM Treasury, Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015: [accessed 22 March 2016]
249 Prof Baroness Wolf, Kings College London, Heading for the precipice, Can further and higher education funding policies be sustained? (June 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
250 Most universities provide non-higher education courses such as foundation degrees.
251 “Not including HEFCE funds for research, but including teaching grant for lab-based subjects, or at £6,000 for alternative providers” Prof Baroness Wolf, Kings College London, Heading for the precipice: Can further and higher education funding policies be sustained? (June 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
252 Department for Education, Fairer schools funding, Arrangements for 2015 to 2015 (July 2014): [accessed 22 March 2016]. Education Funding Agency, Funding guidance for young people Academic Year 2015 to 16 (June 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
253 On average.
254 Prof Baroness Wolf said: “since 2012, no clear data is available from which to calculate full-time and part-time numbers, as opposed to totals, let alone calculate the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students…There is no evidence from which to conclude whether there has, or has not, been a major change in the pattern of part-timers’ participation, nor do we know whether the part-time/full-time balance has shifted in recent years. However, the trend needs to be interpreted with care: total learner numbers may, or may not, stand in a constant relationship to total ‘learning time’…This would imply funding per full-time college student of about £2,150 a year in 2012”
255 Office for Fair Access, Access agreements 2016–17: [accessed 23 March 2016]
256 Written evidence from Learning Revolution Trust ()
257 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Skills Funding Agency (SFA), Priorities and Funding for the 2015 to 2016 financial year, (February 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
258 Skills Funding Agency, Allocations for the Funding Year 2015 to 2016, (February 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
259 Skills Funding Agency, Funding Allocations 2015 to 2016: [accessed 22 March 2016]
260 (Pat Brennan-Barrett)
261 (Malcolm Trobe)
262 (Pat Brennan-Barrett)
263 See footnote to (Malcolm Trobe)
264 Skills Funding Agency, SFA Funding Rules: 2015 to 2016, (February 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
265 Skills Funding Agency, SFA Funding Rules: 2015 to 2016, (February 2015), paragraphs 83 and 84: [accessed 22 March 2016]
266 Office for National Statistics, NS-SEC 5-7 on the National Statistics Socio-economic classification, where 1 is high and 8 is low: [accessed 22 March 2016]
267 Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, State of the Nation 2015: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain, (December 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]; The Sutton Trust, Background to Success (November 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
268 (Prof Kevin Orr)
269 FE and skills adult participation by level.
270 “The UK is still behind many developed countries in the proportion staying in education and training. The UK’s participation rate at age 17 (87 per cent) was below the average participation rate of 34 OECD countries (90 per cent) in 2012. In contrast, 100 per cent of 17-year-olds are enrolled in secondary or tertiary education in Belgium and participation is almost universal in Hungary, Sweden, the Netherlands and Greece. Although the UK rates are much higher than countries such as Mexico (53 per cent) and Turkey (61 per cent), our participation rate places us joint 26th out of the 34 OECD countries.” Written evidence from HM Government ()
271 (Moira McKerracher)
272 Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission: State of the Nation 2015: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain (December 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
273 Andy Green and Nicola Pensiero, Policy Briefing: the effects of upper secondary education and training systems on skills inequality, (LLAKES, UCL Institute of Education, March 2015) p. 7
274 Written evidence from ASDAN (); AoC (); Learning Revolution Trust (); National Union of Students ()
275 Written evidence from ASDAN (); Association of Teachers and Lecturers (); Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and Youth Connexions Hertfordshire ()
276 (Spencer Thompson)
277 (Pat Brennan-Barrett)
278 (Pat Brennan-Barrett)
279 (Prof Baroness Wolf of Dulwich)
280 Prof Baroness Wolf, Kings College London, Heading for the precipice, Can further and higher education funding policies be sustained? (June 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
281 Nick Boles MP, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, ‘Skills Funding Agency (SFA) priorities and funding for the 2016 to 2017 financial year’, (15 December 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
282 A levy is a way of collecting money.
283 Prof Baroness Wolf of Dulwich for the Social Market Foundation, Fixing a Broken Training System: The case for an apprenticeship levy, (2 July 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
284 HC Deb, 8 July 2015,
285 Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Apprenticeship Levy, Employer owned apprenticeships training (August 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
286 HC Deb, 25 November 2015,
287 (Prof Baroness Wolf of Dulwich)
288 (Prof Ewart Keep)
289 (Dr Claire Crawford); (Andrew Battarbee)
290 HM Treasury and the Rt Hon Chancellor George Osborne MP, Chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 speech, (25 November 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
291 The Scottish Government, ‘High Level Summary of Statistics Trend Last update: March 2014, Further and Higher Education Students at Scotland’s Colleges’: [accessed 22 March 2016]
292 (Nick Boles MP)
293 (The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP)
294 (Prof Baroness Wolf of Dulwich)
295 (Prof Baroness Wolf of Dulwich)
296 (Maggie Walker); (Malcolm Trobe); (Pat Brennan-Barrett); (Yolande Burgess); (Prof Baroness Wolf of Dulwich)
297 Written evidence from the LGA (); AoC (); Prof Alison Fuller and Prof Lorna Unwin ()
298 White British male, 19–24, attended non-selective state school in Leicester. See report of survey results:
299 Written evidence from Prof Alison Fuller and Prof Lorna Unwin (); LGA ()
300 Written evidence from emfec ()
301 Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, State of the Nation 2015: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain: [accessed 22 March 2016]
302 Written evidence from Prof Alison Fuller and Prof Lorna Unwin ()
303 Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion and The Local Government Association, Achievement and retention in post 16 education (February 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
304 House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, (Thirteenth Report, Session 2015–16, HC 414)
305 (Matthew Coffey)
306 (Pat Brennan-Barrett)
307 (Malcolm Trobe)
309 Five colleges announce ‘collaboration’ plans after pioneering area review, FE Week (21 July 2015): [accessed 22 March 2016]
310 (Pat Brennan-Barrett)
311 (Sam Monaghan)
312 HM Government, Reviewing post-16 Education and Training Institutions: [accessed 22 March 2016]
313 (Pat Brennan-Barrett)
314 Nacro has been repositioning itself as a champion of social justice which continues to put crime prevention and reduction at its core.
315 Written evidence from Nacro ()