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AoC new report: Coordination, not competition is the way forward for post -16 education

David Hughes, Chief Executive, AoC

@AoC_info has released a new report impact of competition on the post-16 education system. 

Association of Colleges has today released a report which was a study on sufficiency, efficiency, and effectiveness of Post-16 provision outlining the impact of competition on the post-16 education system. It argues that competition has had a negative effect on choice, quality and the delivery of specialist courses, and that collaboration and coordination through a placed-based approach would better meet the needs of students and employers

Addressing insufficiency, inefficiency, inequity, and poor quality is crucial to achieving a post – 16 education and skills system that works for those who need it. Getting the right skilled people into emerging economies and creating strong, well-resourced colleges with clear missions will support local and regional demand and needs as the country rebuilds. 

The report sets out a set of recommendations for reform that will be vital to the future success of the people, places and businesses colleges serve:

  • Area co-ordination of provision to support sufficiency, efficiency, quality and equality. Through a single post-16 commissioning and regulatory process which applies to all providers to end siloed regulation. With clear conditions for funding, market entry and continued market presence based on strong local co-ordination.
  • Investing in anchor institutions as hubs for specialist or ‘minority’ provision. That allows providers which have the track record and capacity to deliver specialist or ‘minority’ programmes successfully and efficiently to have ‘first call’ on investment.
  • A rules-based framework coordinated by the Department for Education that includes: target minimum and average class sizes for all providers, subject level viability models based on cohort size, ringfencing of 16-19 funding for 16-19 learners and a requirement for providers to engage with area coordination, with a duty to establish network strategies. 

AoC’s Chief Executive, David Hughes said: 
“Government has long been wedded to a market-type approach to further education and training, but our analysis shows that it does not deliver on student choice, specialist provision and high quality. The current model has not worked, with a proliferation of smaller providers keeping average provider size down, offering less choice and delivering worse outcomes. 

“In line with the recommendations from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, this report argues that the post-16 system would benefit from strong leading institutions and clearer accountabilities. 

“The recommendations aim to get the balance right between open market and planning – ensuring clear and robust accountabilities, setting rules and mechanisms, but at the same time allowing regional education and training economies to evolve in response to changing local demands. Ultimately, greater coordination will lead to greater stability and strong institutions that provide what people, places and businesses need most.” 

In response to the new report from AoC on the need for coordination between colleges, Amanda Melton CBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Nelson and Colne College Group, and member of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, said:

“We have known for too long that the current overly-competitive post-16 education and skills system is not creating the right regulatory and accountability environment for English colleges to thrive and strategically support people, employers and communities. This new report from AoC gives us evidence to show that coordination is the way forward. As we face a mountain to climb in economic recovery from COVID, we have to make sure the system works for those who need it.

“The recommendations on accountabilities in this new report must be considered seriously. The anticipated FE White Paper is our chance to reset the post-16 education and skills system.”

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