Simpler, fairer funding system for post-16 education and English and maths for all
Schools Minister Nick Gibb has set out proposals to overhaul post-16 education, with the recommendation that the complex funding system should be simplified and all students aged 16 to 19 without a grade C or better in GCSE English and maths should continue to study those subjects.
The consultation document 'Study programmes for 16 - 19 year olds' launched by the Department for Education and the Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) states that 'for those who need more intensive support to move towards achieving a C grade GCSE providers are best placed to determine what will meet their needs and enable them to progress. Based on level of rigour, assessment arrangements, skills taught and views of employers, the qualifications that we recommend to providers are: functional skills and free standing maths qualifications.'
The overall recommendations are:
- The complex funding system should be simplified and made fairer so it works in favour of students. Schools and colleges will be funded on a per student basis rather than per qualification.
- All students aged 16 to 19 without a grade C or better in GCSE English and maths should continue to study those subjects. This year's annual skills survey from the CBI found that more than two-fifths of employers were not satisfied with the basic literacy of school and college leavers.
- More than a third were unhappy with levels of numeracy.
The reforms follow recommendations made by Professor Alison Wolf in her review of vocational education. She said more than 300,000 16- to 19-year-olds were on courses which did not benefit them.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:
"The current funding system is plagued by perverse incentives that have diverted some students towards weaker qualifications. Every student should be taking courses which give them the best chance of succeeding in life. The current system incentivises schools and colleges to load too many students with low-quality, small or easy qualifications, often in random combinations, that employers do not value. These reforms will ensure young people are given the information they need to take the courses that benefit them, and that all courses available broaden rather than narrow their options. It is time the system was fairer and simpler - and worked in favour of young people."
"Too many young people are dropping English and maths before they have secured a good grounding. These vital subjects are critical to the economy and as a country we need all our young people to be fluent and comfortable in these basic skills."
The proposed 16-19 funding formula would see schools and colleges paid on a per student basis. Currently further education colleges, sixth-form colleges and school sixth forms are paid by the number of qualifications a student takes. Professor Wolf said this meant some schools or colleges maximised income by "piling up" young people with low-quality qualifications which did not offer progression.
The existing "success payments" system would also be amended to discourage providers from placing students on courses that are easy to pass but which do not lead to skilled employment or further education. The funding for disadvantaged students would be adapted so that it aligns with the principles of the pre-16 pupil premium.
Programme of study
The consultation sets out the characteristics of high-quality study programmes for 16- to 19-year-old students.
It says programmes:
- Should not be wholly occupational and should include at least one qualification of substantial size which offers progression either into university or into skilled employment.
- Should consist of tutorial time and high-quality work experience where appropriate.
- Should include compulsory English and maths for students who do not have a good GCSE (grade C or better) in these subjects. Around one-fifth of young people get a "near miss" (a D grade) each year in each subject - they will be given extra help to re-take their GCSE at the first opportunity. Others will be given more intensive help over a longer period (and will possibly take other qualifications as stepping stones to the GCSE). Some, for whom GCSE success is further off, will take other qualifications. The remainder will continue studying the subjects even if they do not gain qualifications.
The chairman of the YPLA, Les Walton, said: "Our stakeholders have been calling for these reforms for a number of years and I am delighted that through our work with the Department we are able to present these proposals to the wider sector. The system can be fairer, more simple and transparent. It will require all partners to work differently and it is vitally important that we do this to ensure the best futures for all our young people."
The Department for Education is also seeking views on the provision of high-quality work experience for those aged 16 to 19, and on the proposed removal of the duty on schools to provide work-related learning for 14- to 16-year-olds. Professor Wolf said in her report that "the blanket requirement to give all KS4 pupils 'work experience'... has served its time". She said it was expensive and too often did not involve going to a workplace. Schools providing high-quality experience would still be able to provide it.
Professor Wolf said:
"The Government's proposals recognise that maths and English are the most important vocational as well as the most important academic skills of all, and critical to young people's success in life. The proposed funding reforms should enable innovation and responsiveness to local needs and demand and I look forward to watching new high-quality programmes for 16- to 19-year-olds develop in the years ahead."
A revised funding formula would support the policy objectives of:
- Raising the age for compulsory participation in education.
- Eliminating the attainment gap between young people from poorer and more affluent backgrounds.
- Removing any undue incentives that funding may exert over the curriculum.
English and maths
Section 2 of the consultation document concerns 16-19 maths and English provision, and states:
'Professor Wolf's report stressed the importance of all young people studying English and maths, and particularly achieving A*-C in GCSE English and maths. As part of the implementation of Professor Wolf's recommendations, in the short term we will set out a clear expectation that English and maths must be part of a study programme for those students who have not achieved A*-C in GCSE in these subjects. It is important that providers support as many of their students as possible to achieve at least a C at GCSE as it is the GCSE that offers the best employment prospects and opportunities for progression.
In addition, the Secretary of State has signalled his ambition for the vast majority of 16-19 year olds to be studying maths within 10 years.
Q4: In line with this ambition for all to be studying maths post-16 in the next decade, we would be interested to know what you feel could be done to encourage more young people who have already achieved GCSE A*-C to study maths. What would this provision look like?
It is clear that providers will need to adapt their English and maths offer depending on the needs of students. For example: some young people will need an immediate, focused intervention to turn a near miss into a GCSE pass at the first opportunity Some may require more intensive help over a longer period (and possibly taking other qualifications en route to act as stepping stones to the GCSE). Some, for whom GCSE success is a long way off, might be better served by taking other qualifications or programmes.
For those who need more intensive support to move towards achieving a C grade GCSE providers are best placed to determine what will meet their needs and enable them to progress. Based on level of rigour, assessment arrangements, skills taught and views of employers, the qualifications that we recommend to providers are: functional skills and free standing maths qualifications.'
The consultations close on January 4.