Exclusive: Colleges given green light to recruit full-time 14 and 15 year olds

FE Week can exclusively reveal that the Minister for Skills (above) has written to two members of the 14-16 College Implementation Group, confirming that “from next September we will now make full time 14-16 enrolment available as a new avenue” for FE and sixth form colleges.

Matthew Hancock made this landmark decision in his letter dated 6 December, which was addressed to Mike Hopkins, principal of Middlesbrough College, and Tony Medhurst, principal of Harrow College, and seen by FE Week.

Mr Hancock writes: “As you know, I am keen to ensure the best possible provision for young people that meets their needs. In some cases that means enrolling them in FE colleges full-time from the age of 14, as set out by Alison Wolf.

At present 283 colleges meet these criteria and will, therefore, be able to establish 14-16 provision and start enrolling full-time 14-16 year olds from next September”

With reference to the work of the 14-16 College Implementation Group the Minister continues: “I am delighted with your overall findings and that existing powers under section 18 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, and the application of the post-16 funding methodology will make it practically possible for FE colleges to enrol 14 and 15 year olds directly”

The Minister’s letter also includes three quality criteria (see below) “which FE and sixth form colleges will need to meet to receive funding for enrolling full time 14-16 year olds.”

“At present 283 colleges meet these criteria and will, therefore, be able to establish 14-16 provision and start enrolling full-time 14-16 year olds from next September, should they wish to do so, provided that they have assessed that they are able to meet all the legal requirements, and address any other issues, in so enrolling 14-16 year olds,” he writes.

Quality and funding arrangements for FE colleges enrolling full time 14 and 15 year olds from September 2013

  1. Colleges must be rated by Ofsted as ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’ or ‘Satisfactory’with improving results as measured by performance data.
  2. There must be a dedicated 14-16 area within the College estate
  3. There must be separate 14-16 leadership

Inspection: And colleges will be subject to Ofsted inspection (schools’ framwork) within 2 years of the 14-16 centre opening.

FE Week understands that further details are being worked through by government officials, the Education Funding Agency and Ofsted, and are likely to be published next week.


10-12-12: The Department for Education have supplied FE Week with a copy of the Readiness to Open Self-Assessment : Click here to download

11-12-12: In response to a request for the names of the 283 colleges referred to in the letter, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We won’t be releasing the names of colleges. The EFA will determine whether the funding conditions have been met based on the information that is current at that time and that will change as new inspection, performance and financial compliance data emerges.”

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  1. Mike Hopkins

    This is a major and historic step forward for young people and FE. It extends choice for students and is a major vote of confidence in the sector, following so swiftly after the ill informed comments of Lord Baker.

  2. Lynne Sedgmore

    I agree Mike, FE colleges have so so much to offer to 14 year olds, indeed many are already doing so, but with this new support from BIs we can do even more, high five

  3. Karen Porter

    Will be very interested to see the parameters imposed around the concept off “College Estate”. Interesting wording in light of the discussion and commentary around FE Capital budgets!!

  4. Mike and Lynne – historic day. Thanks for all your hard work, Mike, on our collective behalf. We must all see this as a great opportunity to provide excellent, high quality,employer engaged, vocational learning opportunities for young people. And in a Gazelle College they’ll get practice in entrepreneurship too!

    • Terri Meacock

      I think this should be extended to FE providers who are already taking 14 – 16 year old pupils who have varying problems who require a caring environment where their individual needs can be given priority.

  5. Steve Halstead

    Could be a major step forward for apprenticeships, get a decent level one in full-time before entering/progressing to Intermediate apprenticeships and help timely framework completetions if function skills are delivered in that time.

  6. George Layfield

    I’m all for this, however; we are talking about a very vulnerable age group who should, if done right, will benefit enormously.

    Sadly experience shows that we have a number (some would say a significant number) of unscrupulous providers/organisations could use these same youngsters as collateral for quick profit.

    Please let us NOT emulate the dreadful, cynical, apprenticeship fiasco.

    Mike and Lynn, this is a major win! – you’ve both got FE at heart, please watch this like hawks and let us make a fabulous success of it and keep the fraudsters away from this incredibly vulnerable group of students.

  7. Asha Khemka

    This is of course a long awaited and welcomed outcome. Leadership of our communities is an important part of our role in colleges. Working collectively to offer young people the right choice for them will be critical in this process. If as a result of enrolling 14 year old in our colleges will reduce number of Not in Education or Training then that is the prize.

  8. FE Lecturer

    I notice that the conditions require “There must be a dedicated 14-16 area within the College estate” and “There must be separate 14-16 leadership”. There is no requirement for dedicated staff so this means existing lecturers might well have to cope with teaching children. Some of us already teach both FE and HE.

    I dread the idea of having a timetable that includes teaching children, teaching FE students and teaching higher education students; this is too much to expect of one lecturer. I also already teach at two different sites, I don’t want to teach at three. How can I be expected to achieve high quality under these circumstances?

    As is usually the case, no thought has been given to the practicalities of teaching these students or the effect on lecturers who have to do the job rather than talk about it. No doubt most of the people giving positive comments here don’t do any teaching.

    • Lynne Sedgmore

      Really important to hear the lecturer perspective and voice in this thread, and to understand the practical implication, possibilities and barriers which I know Principals are immediately thinking through.

    • Karen Porter

      For most FE lecturers the PGCE qualification had options, FE or secondary. It is unlikely that lecturers have the qualification to teach both. That doesn’t mean the skill set isn’t there. There is a considerable need for workforce development. I am confident that Colleges will consider this before competing to offer 14-16 places

      • Since 1 April 2012, further education teachers who have been awarded QTLS by the Institute for Learning (IfL) and are members of the IfL are recognised as qualified teachers in schools. In the last review of professional formation, IfL confirmed the 10,000th holder of QTLS. So 10,000 who have the equivalent of both.

  9. Mike Hopkins

    The terms of reference for the implementation group only embraces FE and Sixth Form Colleges;
    The lecturers remarks are pertinent and college managers will have to ensure high quality provision if the potential opportunities for colleges are to be realised. Having worked in the sector for32 years, I am sure that they will.
    I suspect that during the next decade or two, that much 14-16 provision will not be delivered any longer is schools as the offer made to this group diversifies.
    Great thanks are indeed due to Professor Wolf for her insightful, balanced and progressive review, as well as to officials and politicians in both DFE and BIS. There is political risk in this announcement as reflected in the fact that even during the last few weeks, it has been touch and go.
    Finally and personally, many thanks for the kind words. I feel very privileged to have been involved in this work with Tony Medhurst, co-Chair and the wider group. I hope that this announcement results in a large and important expansion of choice for young people at 14.

  10. Vernice Halligan

    Fantastic news for learners! This opens up options for so many young people. FE colleges have been successfully delivering part-time provision for 14-16 learners for some time so there is already established good practice for the sector to learn from. Well done to all involved in making this happen.

  11. My initial response is more muted than much of what is written above. My concerns are:
    1. Safeguarding for this cohort: this reform adds a new challenge to FE Colleges
    2. It provides schools with an excellent way of “dumping” their least able pupils on their local FE Colleges
    3. Those schools with sixth forms who already actively put up barriers to their pupils accessing information about FE options (see AoC survey) won’t change their ways
    4. The whole IAG issue remains a major challenge
    5. We need to consider whether the whole question of developing alternative pathways that commence at age 14 for all pupils, as Lord Baker has suggested, is being addressed, or sidestepped by this proposal

  12. C J Perrin

    Think it’s fantastic idea. Been working with 14-16 for the last twelve years in a FE, it is a challenge but at the same time we need to help these young people who are dumped in FE placement from secondary schooling without any ongoing support. We must also remember that the right staff need to be employed to address the holistic background of 14-16 students and not just the symptom.

  13. Kevin Pearson

    Colleges must be rated by Ofsted as ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’ or ‘Satisfactory’with improving results as measured by performance data.

    Thought ‘Satisfactory’ no longer existed!

  14. Jan (FE Lecturer)

    I am very pleased but concerend. Having been a curriculm leader for 14/16 programs, there needs to be more clarification on who actually is responsible for the learners? I had so many problems with schools when running the courses. They gave very little learner information, did not seem to be concerned when we flagged up behaviour or safeguarding issues and were only interested in the 6 weekly tracking/monitoring document I used to send through with the retention data. If this is to become the responsibility of the colleges then that is fine as long as sufficient training/knowledge in legislation and policy is given so that colleges can do their jobs to the high standards they are known for.

  15. mandy broadley

    I have just heard about this and sounds a great idea. I have a daughter who is fifteen next month since starting high school and at primary school we have had endless meetings with school, shes got some problems and I am sure college full time would benefit her. How do I get some more details on how it works?