The government could cut the number of general FE and sixth form colleges in England in a bid to bring “greater efficiency” to the sector, an official document has revealed.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published its report Reviewing post-16 education and training institutions, which sets out plans for a national programme of area-based reviews.

The document expresses the “need” to move towards “fewer, often larger, more resilient and efficient providers”.

It continues: “We expect this to enable greater specialisation, creating institutions that are genuine centres of expertise, able to support progression up to a high level in professional and technical disciplines, while also supporting institutions that achieve excellence in teaching essential basic skills – such as English and maths.

“This will need to be done while maintaining broad universal access to high quality education and training from age 16 upwards for students of all abilities including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

“We know from experience of structure and prospects appraisals and early area based reviews that restructuring can help to improve opportunities and outcomes for students and secure operational and financial efficiencies.

“We are therefore announcing that the Departments for Education and Business, Innovation and Skills will facilitate a programme of area-based reviews to review 16+ provision in every area, and do so quickly.”

The first area review will be launched in Birmingham this month, with guidance on the reviews themselves expected to be published in August.

The first wave of reviews will then begin in September, with five further waves beginning every three months until December 2016.

Email to let the government know your opinion on the reviews process.