The lowdown on new rules for insolvency, plus level 3 and below changes, explained by Anne Milton

I thought it would be helpful to highlight two important areas that colleges and further education providers should be aware of.

Firstly, I know that every college principal, finance director and governor will already be aware by now that new insolvency legislation came into force on January 31, and also that arrangements for exceptional financial support and the restructuring facility have come to an end.

I will keep banging the drum for the FE sector because you are all doing amazing work helping people of all ages and backgrounds to progress and get the skills they need to get great jobs. I am very aware that finances are challenging, and it is possible that some colleges will find themselves with more serious problems. The earlier we know about a problem, the more likely it is that we can help. Therefore, colleges should talk to their ESFA territorial team contact as soon as possible, to get the support that is needed.

We recognise that the introduction of insolvency is a big change, so we have developed a new “one-stop” policy document – College Oversight: Support and Intervention Policy

This sets out how we will work with colleges to identify issues early on, before they become serious, to make sure colleges are aware of the support available from the ESFA and FE Commissioner, and, where problems persist, outline how we will intervene. In extreme cases it details how the insolvency regime will work in practice. So I urge you all, if you have not already done so, please take a look!

The second thing I want to mention is our review of qualifications at level 3 and below. We have made great progress to improve the quality of technical education and training. We will be starting to roll out new T-levels from September next year and have worked with leading firms to create new high-quality apprenticeships standards.

I will keep banging the drum for the FE sector

Alongside A -levels, T-levels and apprenticeships will be the gold standard choice for students after they complete their GCSEs, but if a student chooses another qualification at level 3 or below, we want to make sure they are equally high-quality.

The current system at level 3 and below is complex and confusing, with over 12,000 courses available, often with multiple qualifications in the same subject areas. At the moment, if a young person wants to study history or geography after GCSEs, they know they can take an A-level, which is understood and trusted by parents, universities and employers.

But if a student wants to study an engineering qualification after GCSEs, there are over 200 options to choose from. It’s very hard for young people to know which will give them the best chance of getting the skills they need and for employers to know which qualifications they should be looking for.

We know that many of these qualifications are well recognised and valued; however, there are also many that we have been told offer little value to students or employers.

To help streamline and boost the quality of education, earlier this month, we launched the first of a two-part consultation reviewing qualifications at level 3 and below – excluding A-levels and GCSEs. The aim of the review is to make sure that every single qualification is high quality, necessary and has a clear purpose.

It’s clear a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not going to work. We want to take the time to get these changes right and listen carefully to everyone’s views. We are consulting in two stages – firstly, we are looking at the principles that should guide the review, before moving to publish detailed proposals for change in the second-stage consultation later this year.

Please take part in the consultation. Your views are really important and will help make sure we get these changes right.