Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Disappointing Choices: Fe Comment

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Disappointing Choices: Fe Comment

Article excerpt

With the unveiling of the FE Choices website, intended to offer clear information to would-be students and employers about colleges and training providers, now is a good time to examine the progress made towards transparency.

Michael Davis, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), got in trouble when he suggested that colleges were dragging their feet on the issue. Many people thought that colleges provide more than enough information as it is: so they do, but it is not presented to potential students in a transparent, comparable form. We have yet to create the Gocompare.com of FE.

And we are still waiting: FE Choices is not up to the job. There are frustrating gaps in the data. Take Newcastle College's private provider, Intraining Group, which is rated "outstanding" by Ofsted and receives Pounds 25 million from the Skills Funding Agency. FE Choices records that there is "not enough data to report a score" across all measures.

Similarly, if you want to know what the taxpayer gets from giving Pounds 10 million to McDonald's, you won't find it on FE Choices. Since it only trains its own staff, McDonald's does not report anything about whether its students improved their learning or progressed at work. So if you want independent information about whether applying for a McJob will lead to a dead-end in burger flipping or, as the company wants you to believe, a lifelong journey in learning, you won't find it here.

Some of this may be down to the difficulty of choosing measures that are applicable across such a diverse area of education as FE. …

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