New report critical of government’s education divide

The government’s departmental split over education responsibility has been branded “damaging and artificial” in a new report from the 157 Group.

The division of arrangements for those aged 18 and under, and those aged 19 and above, “risks separating planning for apprenticeships from that for other routes.”

Effective Transitions from School to Work: The Key Role of FE Colleges recommends the divide between the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills respectively, comes to end.

It also describes the split in funding for education, between the Education Funding Agency and the Skills Funding Agency, as “unhelpful”.

“Although colleges work hard in practice to minimise the significance of artificial barriers imposed by age, it is not helpful that provision for young adults is split between two departments of state and two government agencies, particularly when the latter appear to be adopting different operating principles,” says the report.

It adds: “We call for a unified approach and a single line of responsibility for all forms of education and training for young people from the ages of 14 to 24.”

The report goes on to highlight, with the use of case studies, how FE colleges had developed such an approach, with a “coherent and inclusive system that bridges the worlds of employment and education.”

Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, said: “FE colleges are already taking advantage of the new freedoms and initiatives recently introduced by the government to help build inclusive and responsive local systems.

“As large but flexible and dynamic institutions, colleges are well placed to exercise local leadership, respond rapidly to business and community needs, and help young people succeed in making the transition from school to work.

“Colleges could be even more effective, however, if instead of the artificial divide at 19 there were an overarching strategy for provision for 14 to 24-year-olds, with the college role being clearly articulated and promoted by the government.”

The report also calls for a review of arrangements for financial support, including child benefit, jobseeker’s allowance and learner support funds and recommends more clarity about the circumstances in which FE colleges might receive an allocation of funding for pupils aged between 14 and 16.

Marilyn Hawkins, chair of the 157 Group, said: “To secure effective progression and minimise the duplication of resources, it is important that colleges should be involved in any development of new schools with a vocational or technical specialism.

“Colleges also have a central role to play in supporting apprenticeships at all levels, and having them funded and managed through an agency focused on adult skills rather than on the development of young people does not make sense. Nor is it helpful that provision for young adults is split between two departments of state and two government agencies.”

Visit www.157group.co.uk to read the report in full.