Further education colleges are giving students 'false hope', Ofsted chief says

Posted on: 2018-11-21 18:15:00

Ms Spielman said that further education colleges have been neglected as they have been regarded as providing for “other people’s children”
Ms Spielman said that further education colleges have been neglected as they have been regarded as providing for “other people’s children”

Amanda Spielman suggested that colleges, which provide largely vocational courses for 16 to18-year-olds, are putting the “financial imperative of headcount” ahead of the what is best for young people.

Addressing delegates at the Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference in Birmingham on Wednesday, she said that arts and media courses stand out as having the “greatest mismatch” between the numbers of students enrolling and the number of jobs in the industry.  

“There is a point up to which courses that engage learners have value but ultimately there have to be viable prospects at the end,” she said.

"Yet even with the poor prospects, course adverts often listed potential jobs in the arts which are, in reality, unlikely to be available to the vast majority of learners but underplay the value of other skills these courses develop.

“These colleges risk giving false hope to students. It raises the question: are they putting the financial imperative of headcount in the classroom ahead of the best interests of the young people taking up their courses. If so, this isn’t acceptable."

Each year, around 170,000 young people study at further education colleges, the majority of whom will not have achieved five good GCSEs.

This compares with around 900,000 16-18-year-olds who study for A-levels or other academic qualification.

Ms Spielman said that for too long, the quality of education delivered by further education colleges has been neglected since they have been regarded as providing for “other people’s children”.

She urged further education colleges to work more closely with local businesses, who could play a role in designing courses to ensure that youngsters have the right skills for the workplace.

Colleges should also arrange work experience for students, to maximise their chances of finding a job when the finish.

Kirsti Lord, deputy chief executive of the AoC, said she welcomed Ms Spielman’s challenge but added that ministers must invest more in the sector.   

“Colleges have experienced a decade of constant cuts and endless reforms, including a GCSE maths and English re-sits policy that does not address the root causes of issues or allow colleges to tailor their support so that they can help every student to achieve,” she said.

By Camilla Turner, Education Editor
Source: The Telegraph

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