AoC reveals 14 per cent Level 1 learner drop

Colleges have revealed a 14 per cent drop in Level 1 learners, new figures from the Association of Colleges (AoC) have revealed.

Although the AoC’s data arrives from only a sample of colleges – 116, which is around one-third of its membership – it mirrors figures in their October survey and is also likely to be similar to an updated version due in January.

The new recruitment report, which was issued as the government announced record numbers of 16-24 year-olds considered NEET yesterday, gives an initial snapshot of recruitment within the sector in the 2011/12 academic year.

It is based, the AoC say, on “anonymised Individualised Learned Records submitted to the MiDES data server immediately prior” to November 11, which is around three weeks prior to the official submission to the Data Service.

Key Findings: 16-18 year old

  •  16-18 year old learner numbers in the sample declined by three per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12. However, the recruitment pattern, the AoC say, was “quite varied” across the country with more than 36 per cent of colleges reporting an increase in enrolment numbers and around 64 per cent a decline.
  • The was a significant variation in recruitment patterns between different regions with the South East seeing the smallest decline and Greater London and the Eastern Region seeing the largest falls.
  • 16-18 year old learner numbers fell sharply in the most deprived areas in the country with declines of between five per cent and six per cent.
  • The fall in male learner numbers was greater than the fall in female learners.
  • Subject areas which saw the largest declines included Information and Communications Technology, Leisure Travel and Tourism and Art, Media & Publishing. Learner numbers fell only slightly in Health, Public Services & Care, Engineering and Business.
  • Level 1 learner numbers declined by more than 14 per cent and Level 2 learner numbers by around four per cent. Entry Level learner numbers increased, whilst Level 3 learner numbers remained fairly static.

Key Findings: Adult

  •  Adult learner numbers in the sample declined by 12 per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12. However, the recruitment pattern, the AoC say, was again “quite varied” across the country with more than 21 per cent of colleges reporting increases in enrolment numbers and around 79 per cent a decline.
  • Theew was a significant variation in recruitment patterns between different regions with the South East seeing the largest decline and the North West seeing the smallest fall.
  • Adult learner numbers fell sharply in the least deprived areas in the country with declines of more than 20 per cent in the most affluent wards.
  • Subject areas that saw the largest declines included Art, Media & Publishing, Engineering and Construction.
  • The largest decline in learner numbers was at Level 3, but declines occurred at all levels.

Martin Doel, AoC chief executive, said: “These (NEET) figures add weight to the results of our October survey of colleges and a new set of interim enrolment figures collected from colleges – both of which suggest there has been a fall in the number of students leaving school with low levels of qualifications starting at college this year.

“The new enrolment figures show a 14 per cent drop in Level One (basic skills and pre-GCSE course) students among member colleges.

“Sadly, if these young people are not studying at college they are likely to become NEETs; most schools do not provide the types of courses they need, and work-based learning routes are also likely to be closed to them.”

However, Mr Doel, said it is “not clear yet exactly” what is behind the rise in NEETs for some age groups and the fall in enrolmemts.

But he added: “Local authority transport cuts, the loss of the Connexions service and the Education Maintenance Allowance, together with worries on higher education costs and the general economic situation, may play a part in young people’s decisions but there does need to be more research on causes and effects.

“In the meantime, we would want to continue our dialogue with government about how to mitigate the impact of any unintended consequences of policy and funding changes on students and their families.”