Ofsted critical of foundation learning

An Ofsted investigation into foundation learning has pointed towards a host of problems with the scheme just weeks before the replacement 16 to 19 study programmes are introduced.

The education watchdog uncovered “poor” attendance and “little or no” work placement, along with “low” progression rates.

Its report, Lessons from the Foundation Learning Provision for the new 16 to 19 Study Programmes, also said the scheme’s “overall judgment profile . . . was lower than that for e2e [Entry to Employment]”, which it replaced in August 2010.

The report added: “Progression rates into full-time education or training, an apprenticeship or employment for the total numbers of leavers in the sample for 2010/11 and 2011/12 were low at an average of 50 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively.”

Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s director of learning and skills, said: “It is important for the government and the sector to learn lessons from previous programmes highlighted in this report, which will aid the development of the 16 to 19 study programmes.”

The 13-page report further highlighted “insufficient integration of functional skills” as among the “weaker aspects” of foundation learning, which was designed to help 14 to 18-year-olds work towards to level two qualifications.

There was also “insufficient impartial advice and guidance on progression routes”.

Mr Coffey said the number of learners going on into full-time education or training, an apprenticeship or employment had been too low.

“To break this pattern, providers must make use of best practice in understanding why some providers are succeeding where others fall short,” he said.

The 16 to 19 study programmes, which will include traineeships and A-levels, are expected to be in place from August to replace foundation learning, which ends next month.

Professor Alison Wolf’s government-commissioned Review of Vocational Education found nearly 1,300 qualifications in the foundation learning “catalogue”, many of which were “very small”.

She said: “Employers value either a few familiar qualifications or ‘real’ experience.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Alison Wolf was highly critical of foundation learning provision . . .  because students end up taking numerous low-level qualifications that do not help them progress.

“That is why we are ending provision next month and establishing new study programmes from September.

She added: “We are also publishing new data to record the destinations of students the year after the end of key stage four and after taking A-levels or other level three qualifications.”

However, the Ofsted report — published on Friday, May 31 — also contained plaudits for foundation learning.

The education watchdog had looked at evidence from 59 providers — not including colleges — delivering the scheme to 16 to 18-year-olds and said it had resulted in “a very large number of learners improving their personal and social skills”.