Colleges forced by budget cuts to promote ‘popular low-value courses’ Ofsted says


A lack of government funding for sixth forms and colleges is prompting principals to prioritise courses just to get “bums on seats” rather than helping pupils’ future prospects, Ofsted says.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, has said that real-terms cuts to post-16 funding have affected “quality” in the system and the overall student experience.
Some colleges are pushing popular courses, such as level two arts and media courses, to boost student numbers and pupil funding, rather than courses which will lead to a job, the watchdog says.

Speaking at the launch of the new inspection framework, Ms Spielman said that “getting the fees” by promoting “low-level” courses is taking priority among some colleges amid funding constraints.

“It is clearly an intense market for colleges as there is a lot of movement at age 16,” she added.

Ofsted’s proposed new framework will mark down colleges and school sixth forms that have a limited range of courses on offer, as the focus will shift to the curriculum rather than exam results.

In her speech to the Sixth Form Colleges Association on Wednesday, Ms Spielman said: “One other thing that I hope will flow from this new approach is that integrity will be properly rewarded. That inspection will recognise the importance of doing the right thing by young people.”
Recent analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed that funding per student in sixth forms has fallen by more than a fifth (21 per cent) per student since 2010-11.

January 2019

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