DfE plans first ever FE workforce survey exclusively for non-colleges

The government has revealed plans for its first ever FE workforce survey exclusively for non-colleges to better understand the challenges they face, including new policy areas such as T-levels.

A tender was launched by the Department for Education on Monday, which seeks a contractor to design, test and deliver a “nationally representative” survey of teaching staff and leaders in independent training providers, sixth form colleges, local authorities, and adult learning providers.

It follows the department’s inaugural college staff survey that was published in November.

It may prove challenging to draw many meaningful conclusions from the data

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, had mixed views on the proposal.

“Anything that gives us more information about the workforce is a good thing,” he told FE Week.

“However, it is an incredibly diverse workforce, responding to multiple sectors, areas and need. It may therefore prove challenging to draw many meaningful conclusions from the data.

“Having read the tender, the DfE should also be careful to use the language of the work based FE sector, such as assessors and trainers as opposed to ‘teachers’.”

The Education and Training Foundation already conducts an annual FE workforce survey, so it appears the DfE will duplicate this work with its own research.

The ETF’s, however, does not usually attract a high number of responses – in the most recent survey, for 2016/17, just 198 providers across the whole FE sector participated, and 175 took part the year before.

The DfE’s tender document states that “all approximately 1,000 FE providers (787 ITPs, 91 SFCs and 141 LAs) are in scope” for their new non-college staff survey.

This number, however, excludes subcontractors – including those on the Register of Training Organisations without a direct Education and Skills Funding Agency contract.

Explaining why this new workforce survey is needed, the DfE’s tender document says: “More than 1,000 ITPs, SFCs and LAs receive ESFA funding, but are under-represented in the Staff Individualised Record managed by the Education and Training Foundation.

“Whilst the SIR is the best available source of workforce data available to the sector, less than 10 per cent of ITPs responded, along with 11 per cent of Sixth Form Colleges.

“Similarly, the department’s call for evidence attracted relatively few responses from these parts of the sector. As a result we know relatively little about their workforces and the challenges they face.

Anything that gives us more information about the workforce is a good thing

“Their representative bodies are important here but many do not have the resources to provide representative, robust data on their members.”

The DfE said that with the upcoming introduction of T-levels, it is “even more important to understand the composition and characteristics of the FE workforce, and the challenges staff and providers face”.

The survey will “complement” the college staff survey, and will inform areas including the “pressures and challenges that the teachers and leaders may face which affect their abilities to teach/lead”, the “background, skills and experiences of teachers and leaders”, as well as the “working patterns” of staff.

Potential contractors are asked to “consider and propose methodologies they believe would be suitable for this project that would yield high response rates and deliver robust data within the timescales and budget”.

The mainstage survey is expected to take place this year with results available by December.