Ofsted report finds 16-19 education provision lacking

Ofsted have today issued criticism about the education provision for hundreds of thousands of young people in England. There are currently nearly 1.18 million 16 to 24 year olds classified as NEET – “not in education, employment or training” – and Ofsted’s annual report has condemned current provisions.

Ofsted, the school’s watchdog, said “too many learners were not progressing from their prior attainment to a higher level of study to meet educational and career aspirations.” They called for education providers and industry to work together to ensure that education and training leads to employment.

The survey report evaluates how well further education and skills providers for young people aged 16-19 have implemented the major changes that came into force from August 2013. These include:

  • raising the participation age
  • changing 16-19 funding arrangements
  • introducing the 16-19 study programmes

The 16-19 study programmes are intended to provide a clear structure designed to ensure that every student has a “challenging, individualised learning programme”, which is tailored to their future career plans. The Ofsted survey did not find much evidence that they have been fully implemented – there were a few changes made but these were highly variable in their nature and success.

It was found that too many providers were not progressing their students or using work experience effectively to develop their students. They also found that not all local authorities were effectively tracking the destinations of learners aged 16+, especially those who dropped out or changed programme.

This latest report from Ofsted has a number of warnings:

  • programmes are too often not meeting the needs of the learners enrolled on them
  • there is a significant amount of English and Mathematics teaching which is not good enough
  • too few students are progressing on to an apprenticeship, employment or higher education
  • there is too much weak careers guidance, which do not give young people a clear idea of the options available to them

Participation age is being raised to 18, but if the quality of the provision is not high, then this alone is not good enough – it simply delays the inevitable: young people adding to the NEET statistics at age 18 instead of 16.

A spokeswoman from the Department for Education said:

The number of young people NEET is at its lowest level since records began. And it is encouraging that this report by Ofsted shows our plan for post-16 education is already having a positive impact just two terms after coming into effect.

The report shows positive early signs that schools and colleges are entering young people for more rigorous qualifications. In fact, the latest figures show that the numbers of those over the age of 17 taking GCSEs in English and maths are rising, giving thousands more the vital knowledge and skills demanded by employers.
Helen Robinson