In a new report published by Ofsted, entitled ‘Implementation of 14-19 reforms: an evaluation of progress’, Ofsted have released findings based on visits to 16 local authority areas between April 2007 and March 2008.

Significant reforms to education and training for 14–19-year-olds were first outlined in a report entitled ‘14–19 Education and Skills’, published in 2005. The Government’s intention with the reforms has been to provide young people with a mix of learning which motivates, interests and challenges them, and which provides them with the knowledge and skills required to succeed in education, work and life.

The reforms also involve changes in qualifications and the curriculum, intended to make available a comprehensive set of learning routes better suited to young people’s individual needs, with four key pathways:
  • New Diplomas, to be introduced from September 2008

  • Reformed and strengthened general qualifications (GCSE and A level)

  • Apprenticeships

  • A new Foundation Learning Tier of lower level (entry level and level 1) qualifications.

Inspectors visited schools, colleges and work-based learning organisations to assess the strategies’ success in raising achievement in education and training; the range and accessibility of the curriculum; the quality of information and guidance available to young people; and the effectiveness of leadership in taking forward the 14–19 agenda.

Key findings in the report were generally positive - revealing that overall progress in implementing the reforms, including preparations for the new Diplomas, was “satisfactory” or “better” in 15 of the 16 local authority areas visited, and was “good” in 12 of them. Collaboration between schools and colleges was also deemed effective in providing a broad range of new and redeveloped courses, especially in Key Stage 4. Strategies had a positive impact in raising achievement, and a strong emphasis on educational and social inclusion was evident, in the implementation of a tailored curriculum, designed to better prepare particular groups for further study and employment – including vulnerable young people and those at risk of disengaging from education. The quality of guidance provided to young people was deemed “good”, with a special mention for the valued support offered by the Connexions service.

Additionally, nearly three quarters of the local authorities visited had effective online 14–19 prospectuses available to young people. Although the reforms’ aim was to establish a coherent pattern of provision across the 14–19 age range, the report reveals that there is still a discontinuity and therefore a weakness at age 16. In particular, progression routes on vocational programmes from age 14 to 19 were at times unclear. Vocational qualifications, other than GCSEs, were frequently not offered to all young people.

Recommendations suggested by Ofsted in the report include that partnerships should: clarify and promote the learning pathways available to all young people across the age range from 14 to 19, to ensure continuity and progression in their education and training. Partnerships are also advised to ensure that all young people receive impartial advice about the full range of 14–19 options available to them, especially those on vocational courses.

By Ryan Daff

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