Colleges are the natural home for young people who have had alternative learning experiences pre-16, to re-integrate these young people into mainstream education or work they must be funded appropriately, says AoC.
AoC conducted its own research to demonstrate the role general further education colleges play in re-engaging those students with disrupted Key Stage 4 learning. The majority of pre-16 students no longer in school for a host of reasons may be educated in alternative settings such as Pupil Referral Units and alterative provision free schools or at home. However, there is currently no post-16 Alternative Provision. The main bulk of these students progress into general further education colleges if they are not already placed there straight from school.
Taking evidence from colleges across England, we found that an increasing number of students were finding themselves in pre-16 alternative provision. Therefore, colleges are facing severe challenges in meeting their needs post-16 as current funding gaps between alternative provision and college means a drop of on average of £6,000 per pupil.
With the issue of excluded and off-rolled children dominating public and policy discussion in recent months, it is crucial that these students are supported to transition back into mainstream education. Further education colleges are the ideal place for this to happen with a real focus on personal and social development. However, with funding disparities and the increasingly multi-dimensional and complex nature of students’ needs the capacity and capability of college staff is under severe strain.
AoC has set out its vision for high-quality post-16 provision and makes the following recommendations:
- Additional funding to bring post-16 provision in line with funding rates for pre-16 alternative provision.
- Formulation of agreed guidance or protocols regarding information sharing between pre and post-16 providers.
- A fully funded third year for all students (not just those progressing to T Levels) who need some kind of transition provision at the start of their FE experience.
- An Individual Learning Record (ILR) that identifies students who were out of school during KS4 to help track funding and progress.
Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes said:
“To properly support students who have been educated during key stage 4 in non-school settings, colleges must be given the proper funding and resources to help them to succeed. Current funding is simply lacking meaning that their needs cannot be fully met and causes colleges undue strain.
"We know there are growing challenges for colleges supporting the rising number of young people who were not at school during their GCSE years due to off-rolling, home schooling or exclusion. Their needs can be complex and while colleges offer safe, positive and transformative educational experiences for these young people they need sufficient funding to keep up with the demand. here is real risk of colleges not being able to offer this bespoke support to all those who need it. When colleges enrol under 16 year olds, they are funded at a lower rate than schools.
"College leaders and staff providing this sort of provision are clear that lack of transition information also leads to difficulties. To allow colleges to have the best chance of meeting their needs, which are sometimes combined with mental health and behavioural issues there needs to be joined up sharing of data and for local authorities to undertake education, health and care plans when requested.
"With the right resources, colleges can help young people turn their lives around and prevent them from becoming NEET and / or taking the wrong path to crime or drugs. Colleges give young people a chance to re-stabilise their lives, transition back into mainstream education and develop a positive attitude to learning and work. We hope that the recommendations are listened to in full so that every child who has suffered from disrupted learning has the chance to get on and succeed in life.”