On the 8th September 2015 the Government issued guidance designed to help local stakeholders carry out reviews of post 16+ education provision. Published by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and aimed at FE and sixth form colleges, Reviewing post-16 education and training institutions: guidance on area reviews sets out a national framework designed to ensure that a consistent approach is taken to the process.
How will the review work?
Each review covers a specific geographical area. Not all providers in those areas are included in the reviews, with school sixth forms a notable absence. Responsibility for deciding whether to accept their recommendations will lie with the governing bodies of the institutions involved. The initiative relies on the cooperation of those under review and appeals to other post-16 education providers to work collaboratively to influence the shape of education and training at a local level.
A coordinated effort
The guidance acts as a ‘road map’ for the steering groups who will conduct the reviews and draws their attention to the need for change in the sector. It envisages a coordinated effort amongst LEPs, local authorities, governing bodies, employers and college commissioners as well as national funding agencies. Each review will start with an assessment of the economic and educational needs of the area and the implications for post-16 education and training provision. Direction is given on the approach to be taken and the phases of review required, with guidance on the scope and purpose of the initiative provided. Reports are to be completed by March 2017.
There is an emphasis on the need for:
- greater specialisation;
- closer links between education providers and local industry;
- a reflection of each area’s economic and educational needs; and
- the identification of those institutions that are both financially viable and offer maximum value for public investment.
Mergers and closures
The guidance makes clear the need for rationalisation amongst providers and leaves little room for doubt that the reviews will lead to mergers and closures. In setting the context for the reviews, Nick Boles MP, Minister for Skills, cites the national productivity challenge and the need to create high quality routes to employment for young people. The reviews are pitched as an opportunity for local stakeholders to influence the direction of education and training, but the need to move towards fewer, larger and more efficient colleges and the strong emphasis on the difficult economic conditions faced by the sector is a clear influence upon the authors.
For a detailed review of this guidance please view or download our Helping understand Post-16 education and training institutions: area based reviews PDF.
Please contact Tony McPhillips on 0191 211 7908 or email [email protected] or any one from our Education team for help or advice in this area.