From education to employment

16-19 Study Programmes ‘Freedoms and Flexibilities’

But what will high quality non–qualification provision really look like?

From September 2013 all post-16 providers will introduce 16-19 Study Programmes; this coincides with the Raising of the Participation Age (RPA) and a revised funding methodology. The overall move to fixed level funding will require post-16 providers to be creative with their curriculum. The expectation, from the EFA, is that funding will service an average of 600glh. The increased freedoms and flexibilities that come with 16-19 Study Programmes will allow for more innovative teaching and support the drive for greater breadth, thereby ensuring that personal social and employability skills are developed to sustain the learner to their destination. As Alison Wolf indicated “study programmes provide an opportunity to create a personalised curriculum for learners”.

One key freedom of the study programmes is the capacity to increase the amount of non-qualification provision with the responsibility to ensure that such activity is accounted for through auditing (with accountability shifting more towards glh). The formative assessment mechanisms for recording progress in well-designed non-qualification materials, such as ASDAN’s, can also support providers in addressing necessary inspection criteria (see below).  At the same time non-qualification outcomes and activities can assist the teaching and learning of the core or substantial qualification within the study programme for learners at any level. Recent research by the Education Employer Task Force shows that the most successful academic students benefit hugely from Work Experience placements to support UCAS applications.

Additional opportunities for freedom and flexibility come with the Traineeship where less qualification time and more non-qualification provision such as personal development, work-readiness and work experience would seem appropriate.  Colleagues working with SEND learners already have considerable freedom and flexibility to use non-qualification outcomes in order to demonstrate the development of communication and number skills through life skills and employability contexts.

What is Ofsted looking for?

A new post-16 inspection framework was introduced in September 2012 and the following.  Sir Michael Wilshaw has made clear that Ofsted will focus on the “…attainment and progress of learners with progress being at the heart of judgement. ”Inspectors will make a judgement on outcomes for learners by evaluating the extent to which:

Learners develop personal, social and employability skills

Learners progress to courses leading to higher-level qualifications and into jobs that meet local and national needs

The big question, surely, is how you evaluate the extent to which skills – be they personal, social, employability, Communication or Number – are developed if the provision is non-qualification? The likely hood is that more hours will be available for ‘enrichment’, additionally provision, value added – call it what you like. However, with increasing scrutiny and accountability now embedded in the sector (and recent tumble in Ofsted grades for colleges) should this provision be seen as a soft touch as it might have been in the past or is there really a place for what some are calling ‘compulsory enrichment’. At the end of the day enrichment programmes will need to be attractive to learners, inspection compliant, and cost effective.  ASDAN education has, for 30 years, been developing and accrediting personal social and employability skills throughout the UK and increasingly in countries across the world.  This well-established provision offers post-16 centres options towards building a balanced curriculum for all learners, whether they are at Entry 1 or aiming for University. ASDAN programmes are structured to help centres and learners demonstrate auditable guided learning hours and individual progress. So what sort of enrichment might be on offer in the future?

  • Personal Finance Education, Leadership, Sport and Adventure

  • Careers Education, IAG and HE applications

  • Work Experience, International Awareness and Work Related

  • Lifeskills, Independent Living and Travel

  • Volunteering and Community Action

There are many other things that could be considered and technology will have a role to play in all of, but until colleges get some feedback on whether or not something is deemed suitable be it via Ofsted or an audit. The safe option might be a non-qualification accredited programme, before more adventurist provision is embarked upon. However, in terms of evaluating, unfortunately I can only answer this with more questions: “How can distance travelled be demonstrated without some form of assessment?”  “What kind of test is fit for purpose methodology for personal, social and employability skills?” And “Doesn’t this rather undermine the point of non-qualification provision?”  Either the inspectorate have to allow considerably more lee-way for professional interpretation than they have in the past or we will find ourselves clinging to qualification outcomes which are costly and don’t respond to the DfE drive for the more enriching parts of the curriculum to become less formal.  It’s almost as if we’ve been caught in a paradox…

Dean O Donoghue is national development co-ordinator for ASDAN Education, a charitable social enterprise with awarding body status

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