As trailed by this speech last year, yesterday saw the launch of the DfE’s plans to set up a nationwide course database for all Post 16 courses. They envisage that this will be a UCAS style, by Local Authority area, one stop shop for KS4 students to research all of the Post 16 routes available in that region. It will run alongside the current Apprenticeship.GOV site.
The operational guide describes the process that Post 16 providers will have to go through to upload all of their course information to the main database and the timeline they hope to stick to deliver the site(s).
This could be a good thing and in use next academic year. There has been a definite push of Post 16 providers recently who (mindful of the costs) have done away with all written promotional material such as prospectuses and application forms and solely relied on their own websites so most schools are used to dealing with their students accessing course information and applying through online methods alongside traditional prospectuses and forms. That doesn’t mean though that there isn’t a few questions:
1) What does this mean for services already available in this area such as UCAS Progress? When Clegg first announced the idea they were quick to raise their hand in concern but it now looks like a fruitless protest. If the state does this right (always a big if), I can’t imagine Post 16 providers bothering to upload their course data to multiple IAG sites.
2) That timeline could cause issues. Clegg’s February 2014 speech says that the ultimate user websites for young people will be designed and maintained by Local Authorities
Your local authority will be responsible for providing that site, based on the latest information available from schools, colleges and employers
while the Operational Guide concentrates only on the input data. If LA’s do have to set up a site to use this data, the timeline doesn’t leave them much wriggle room depending on how far advanced their existing online IAG offer is.
3) Also on the timeline, Post 16 providers having to upload their Sept 2016 courses by Sept 2015 might cause a bit of head scratching with the changes to the A Level curriculum and the uncertainty over the AS/A Level decoupling that heavily relies on the outcome of the forthcoming election. A Level providers are taking different approaches to the change from Sept 2015, will they all know what they want to do in Sept 2016 by this summer? I’m by no means an expert on the submission of course data to the SFA/EFA that is already a mainstay of the requirements of Post 16 providers, but this is another duty at a time of lots of curriculum and qualification change.
Many years back I helped with the early incarnations of a local area prospectus that was canceled so am wary of big! new! shiny! I.T projects but, with some time behind it and the protocols of the data entry worked through a few times, the resulting course directories have the potential to be a useful addition to any school’s IAG toolkit and will no doubt will be mentioned as a core offer in any future DfE Careers guidance.