DfE figures reveal the FE sector winners and losers in vocational and A-level provision

Greenhead Sixth Form College has come out on top again in this year’s league tables for schools and colleges, according to government figures released on Thursday (January 21).

It boasted the highest average point score among sixth form colleges (SFCs) both per full time vocational student and full time A-level student, in the latest Department for Education (DfE) figures.

Greenhead’s success was emphasised by the fact that the SFC also topped the tables for average point scores in 2013/14.

Principal Anton McGrath said: “We are once again delighted to be at the top of the table for both our academic and vocational work. It is testament to the hard work of the staff and the students.”

Providers were assessed on a range of measures — including average point score per student, where each grade is given a numerical value and an average taken across the cohort.

Among general FE colleges (GFEs) and tertiary colleges, Riverside College gained the highest average point score per vocational student, while Colchester Institute achieved the best score per A-level student.

A spokesperson at Riverside College said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been ranked as the number one FE college in the country for the achievements of our vocational students.”

In contrast, Derwentside College and Doncaster College both found themselves at the bottom of the tables for the second year running.

Derwentside had the lowest average point score per vocational student, while Doncaster was lowest for average point score per A-level student. Both colleges results had dropped lower than their scores last year. The two colleges were also bottom of the tables for value-added score, with Derwentside lowest for vocational and Doncaster for A-levels. Derwentside was lowest for vocational value-added score last year and its score has not changed.

a level voc table
Click on image for DfE source


Karen Redhead, principal and chief executive, Derwentside College, said: “Derwentside College is not a typical GFE college as we focus extensively on apprenticeships and getting young people into jobs.

“Frustratingly, of the 270 or so young people who studied with us at Level 3 last year, these league tables only count 24 of them.

“We run qualifications that our employers tell us they really value. Sadly these qualifications do not always count in the league tables which still tend to favour academic programmes.”

Among SFCs, Gateway Sixth Form College and John Ruskin College held the lowest average point scores for vocational students and A-level students, respectively.

Naz Leivas-Mistry, vice principal for quality at Gateway College, said: “Gateway Sixth Form College offers a broad curriculum of vocational and academic qualifications from entry level one to advanced level three for a range of learners. The vocational elements represent a relatively small fraction of the overall offer and when viewed as a whole, the college success rates exceed national rates.”

A spokesperson for John Ruskin College said: “The information about the point score is based on a very small cohort of learners. John Ruskin College is a mainly vocational college with high success rates and excellent value added data.

“We introduced A-levels as a pilot in 2013/14 with a very small cohort of four learners who completed the full A-level in 2014/15 and all passed.”

In terms of value-added scores, Runshaw College came top for vocational students for the second year in a row and Harlow College was highest for A-level students.

Michelle Brabner, deputy principal for vocational courses at Runshaw, said: “These results are a testament to the hard work and dedication of all our staff and students.”

Karen Spencer, principal of Harlow College, said: “Outcomes like this are only achieved by the hard work of our students, the high expectations of our staff, and the support of parents and carers.”

Among the SFCs, the successful stories were Stockton Sixth Form College with the best value added score for vocational learners, and Rochdale Sixth Form College for A-levels.

Julian Appleyard, principal at Rochdale SFC, said: “This is the third year in a row the college has topped the performance tables, we are delighted.”

Stockton SFC principal Joanna Bailey said: “Over recent years we have refined our curriculum and increased the number of vocational courses … so it is particularly gratifying to have achieved such outstanding results.”

At the lower end were The Sixth Form College Farnborough for vocational, and St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College, which saw its second year as the provider with the lowest value-added score for A-levels.

James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association, said: “Parents and students should look beyond the headlines of today’s performance tables to understand how their local school or college has fared this year.

“These headline results mask the performance of institutions in the non-selective state sector – where the vast majority of young people are actually educated.”

Colchester Institute, Doncaster College, The Sixth Form College Farnborough and St Francis Xavier Sixth Form College were yet to comment. The Association of Colleges declined to comment.

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  1. LRoding

    Laudable as Colchester Institute’s performance at A level is, having only 7 A level students in the table does somewhat diminish the statistical significance of the score……

    If FE week is going to play this sort of league table game! it would be taken more seriously were the data to be used with a bit of common sense.

  2. Vince Scannella

    Stupidly and irresponsibly the DFE attributes results from OTHER institutions to the main college that a student attends – an utterly ridiculous situation which they have admitted to us for 2 years but not rectified. For the sake of accuracy, the vocational courses that The Sixth Form College, Farnborough actually offers have results which are excellent, significantly positive under Alis and an Alps 4 overall although most courses are 3. Thanks DFE for yet another incompetent foray into the tricky realms of professionalism and accuracy!

  3. Andrew Osborn

    .. And once again FE week ignores UTCs in its FE figures. Central Bedfordshire UTC achieved a value added score of 1.43 in its vocational provision. Would be nice to see that mentioned somewhere!