Checking the small print for FE College Study Programmes

A seemingly massive change to 16-19 education is due to arrive with the new term in September. The outcomes of Alison Wolf’s recommendations for students starting this stage of their education will have seen Further Education Colleges and Sixth Forms working hard over the past 12 months to finalise their plans for Study Programmes.

http://www.education.gov.uk/childrenandyoungpeople/youngpeople/qandlearning/programmes

This will see students study an approved set of substantial qualifications, for longer hours, with options for work experience and employability skill learning and if appropriate, a continuation of English & Maths study until required levels are met.

What this will look like in reality has been illuminated by a number of case studies collected by the Association of Colleges

http://www.aoc.co.uk/en/policy-and-advice/14-19/study-programmes.cfm

and some of the work here should make Careers practitioners hearts sing as it puts solid Career and Employability learning closer to the heart of this period of education.

Such fantastic work and such fundamental changes to the structure of their provision would surely be something these Colleges would be eager to promote to their potential customer base right?

Barking & Dagenham College

All students will work towards an employability qualification and, where relevant, English & Maths qualifications. All students will undertake a minimum of 36 hours work experience and complete a log of their learning activities which will be an online log from 13/14

Their prospectus

http://www.barkingdagenhamcollege.ac.uk/en/Getting-on-a-course/order-a-course-guide.cfm

(online version on the right of the page)

makes no mention of these substantial parts of a student’s learning at all (but you get a free breakfast!).

Middlesbrough College

All students will study 34 hours of the “Skills 21” programme consisting of employability, enterprise and personal development learning. This programme will be delivered by a dedicated tutor team.

In their prospectus

http://www.mbro.ac.uk/Home/PDF/FTguide13.pdf

some of the course pages indicate that a work placement must be undertaken as part of the course and, on page 7, there is one sentence saying “there is a strong focus on enterprise activities.”

Bolton College

Plans for all students to continue their English & Maths learning offering progression from their GCSE results. In some subject areas and for students with different qualification levels this will taught in stand alone sessions, but for others such as Level 3 students. this will be folded into the subject curriculum.

Their prospectus

http://www.boltoncollege.ac.uk/sites/boltoncollege.ac.uk/files/user_uploads/aspire/2012/index.html

clearly states on page 11 that English & Maths are part of the study programme for all students aged 16-19.

Just from these 3 examples from the case studies we can see the different approaches the FE sector has been taking to informing potential students about what they would exactly be studying should they enrol.

Those of us advising young people about their Post 16 options rely heavily on Prospectuses to inform conversations with both students and parents. The detail included in them about Study Programmes and the impact these courses will have on a potential learners experience of the College are at the nub where marketing meets IAG. I would wager that most College marketing teams are wary of including too much detail for fear of “putting off” potential applicants who would balk at the prospect of further English & Maths study or extra work on top of their chosen course and skim over it in promotion material.

Perhaps, over the next few years, Colleges will be more comfortable with how the programmes will run in practice and so more willing to sing their praises as part of their marketing efforts. In the meantime, school careers advisers will be left telling slightly skeptical learners and parents that, yes, if you don’t get your ‘C’ in your GCSE English, you will have to retake it no matter what course you do at College.

In the meantime, a vacuum of clear information leaves learners stepping into a Post 16 course which might include surprises for some of them.

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