Press release

More teenagers free to enrol at further education colleges to study vocational qualifications

Details about a new scheme to allow 14- to 16-year-olds into further education (FE) colleges.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Further education (FE) colleges will be able to enrol 14- to 16-year-olds who wish to study high-quality vocational qualifications from September 2013, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock announced today (Monday).

FE colleges will be able to set up their own ‘14 to 16 centres’. The new centres will offer a combination of high-quality vocational and academic subjects and aim to attract students of all abilities who want early access to practical and technical education.

Currently, 14- to 16-year-olds can only attend FE colleges if they are released by their school, or if special arrangements are made with a local authority. This new freedom will allow FE colleges to enrol pupils directly and receive Government funding.

The decision is a response to the recommendation from Professor Alison Wolf in her review of vocational education. Professor Wolf found that for some young people, following a vocational route at 14 resulted in them doing better in the core academic subjects as well. She felt that an FE college, with its links to employers, workshops and equipment, can be the best place to do that.

Only FE colleges which meet certain criteria will be able to enrol and receive Government funding for 14- to 16-year-olds from next year. Colleges must:

  • Have been rated good or above at their last Ofsted inspection. If a college was rated as satisfactory, and their last inspection was a number of years ago, they will have to show evidence of improved performance over the past four years.
  • Conduct an assessment of their capability and readiness using the ‘readiness to open checklist’ published by the Government today.
  • Have their finances in good order.

Colleges must also have a dedicated space for students to go to for advice, tuition and some teaching although they will be able to use all college facilities. A senior member of the teaching staff will be responsible for the centre and ensuring the students receive the education and support they need.

Like all new education provision, the colleges will be subject to Ofsted inspection within two years of opening. The ‘14 to 16 centre’ will be inspected under Ofsted’s schools framework rather than the post-16 framework.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said:

We’re reforming education so it’s rigorous and stretching. So, to ensure every child has the option of high-quality, specialised vocational courses, as well as the critical academic core, we’ll allow good and improving colleges to take on pupils from the age of 14 so they can be taught by specialists. Whether a child is academic or vocational minded, they deserve the chance of excellent education that meets their needs.

Professor Alison Wolf said:

One of my major concerns in my review for the government, was that as many young people as possible should have access to high-quality specialist vocational courses - which means courses taught by vocational specialists.

The new freedom for colleges to enrol 14- and 15-year-olds directly should greatly increase the numbers who have such access. It complements previous changes in the rules governing who can teach in schools and I am delighted that my recommendations in this area have been adopted.

Notes to editors

Further information, including the ‘readiness to open’ checklist and the Skills Minister’s letter to the College Implementation Group can be found on the information about the new 14 to 16 provision pages of the Department for Education’s website.

Alison Wolf’s review of vocational education can also be accessed on the Department for Education’s website.

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Published 10 December 2012