Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Colleges Are Set to Challenge Schools for Share of 14-16 Market: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Colleges Are Set to Challenge Schools for Share of 14-16 Market: Fe News

Article excerpt

Move hailed as 'most important structural change' in decades.

Colleges will be able to compete with schools for students aged between 14 and 16 under new rules that have been hailed by principals as one of the most significant changes in FE for decades.

The Department for Education was due to reveal this week how colleges will be able to recruit students directly at 14, offering a college ethos and vocational options to younger students.

"It's the most important structural change in FE in my career. It's a massive step forward," said Middlesbrough College principal Mike Hopkins, who is co-chair of the implementation group for the policy and has more than 30 years' experience in the sector.

"For some young people, at 14 college will offer better learning opportunities than schools. They will be able to access vocational courses alongside academic programmes."

Under the recommendations drawn up by the group, colleges would not recruit through the local authority admissions system but would enrol younger students in the same way as they do over-16s.

Colleges would also have a different funding system, because there are no national funding rates for under-16s. Instead, the Education Funding Agency said it intends to adapt the 16-19 funding formula. Sample figures suggest that colleges would receive between Pounds 4,060 and Pounds 5,210 per student, depending on levels of deprivation. The Pounds 900 pupil premium would also be available, but colleges would be responsible for identifying students who qualify because their family income is below Pounds 16,190.

Because schools' funding varies so much depending on area, colleges could fare much better than schools in some areas and much worse in others. And because schools are paid according to the financial year, colleges would not receive funding for the students they recruit until the following April.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said competition between schools and colleges at 14 as well as at 16 would be "a potential area of major tension". It comes on top of increased competition as a result of the opening of free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools, as well as academy expansion.

"We are already seeing major difficulties where surplus places are being created in schools, making them unviable and reducing the quality of provision in an area," he said. …

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