Another college exits 14-16 provision as its ‘original mission’ fades

The college said growing student numbers led to the provision moving away from its 'original mission'

The college said growing student numbers led to the provision moving away from its 'original mission'

Another further education college has officially exited 14-16 provision this week. 

Hugh Baird College will close its doors to 14-16 students this summer because growth in young student numbers has “led to the provision moving away from its original mission”. 

It follows a growing number of colleges which have deemed the provision is not financially viable – and have closed their direct entry 14-16 provision.

The college, which is based in Bootle, Liverpool, took the decision to suspend its 14-16 provision last year, FE Week understands. The final cohort is in the process of wrapping up their studies this year, and the college will not run any 14-16 provision from September 2023.

The college was officially removed from the Department for Education’s list of colleges intending to enroll 14–16-year-olds on Tuesday. There are now 13 colleges on the list, down from 19 in 2017/19.

A spokesperson for Hugh Baird College said it had told stakeholders last year of its intention to stop its 14-16 provision. 

Hugh Baird’s provision for 14-16-year-old education nearly quadrupled from 2014/15 when its first, 56-strong group began studying, to 2021/22 when it had 203 students on its 14-16 programme. That then slid to 92 students in 2022/23, according to a Freedom of Information request FE Week submitted earlier this year. 

Now, the college will stop the provision entirely from the next academic year following some “significant reflection and evaluation”.

“The original intent of this provision was to offer an alternative to completing year 10/11 in high school for students who wanted to study vocational qualifications alongside core GCSE subjects,” they said.

“Enrolment numbers have increased year-on-year, and the review identified that this growth has led to the provision moving away from its original mission.  

“Having considered a range of options on the way forward, including continuing to run the provision with reduced numbers, we concluded that we would not recruit a new year 10 cohort in September 2022.”

The college declined to elaborate on why it decided to close the programme.

“The college continues to work closely with schools to provide opportunities to Year 10 and 11 pupils to experience further education through its school links programme,” the spokesperson said.

The coalition government launched 14-16 provision back in 2012 as a response to the Wolf Review, with the aim of helping those for whom a vocational route into work was more appropriate.

An FE Week investigation this year revealed that 12,860 students have been taught through direct entry, across 27 general FE and sixth form colleges. 

College funding for 14-16 teaching is the same as 16-to-19-year-old-students, but the younger students get 25 taught hours a week (as at a school) compared to 16 or 17 hours usually offered on 16-plus college courses. 

The need for a separate site also means that 14-16 teaching requires a lot of resources from colleges.

Alan McKenna, deputy director of SEND, an inclusive provision at Leeds City College, said earlier this year that funding is the “number one reason” why colleges have pulled out of 14-16 provision because “until you get to a certain size, I don’t think you can do it at a profit, or even break even”.

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