Press release

New tables will give parents and young people the full facts on performance of colleges and school sixth-forms

Underperformance will be tackled - with the government stepping in to turn around the weakest providers.

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

Student giving a presentation

Radically reformed performance tables for colleges and school sixth-forms will provide a raft of new information so young people can make the right choices for their futures.

Schools Minister David Laws said today that the new tables will show how colleges and sixth-forms were performing across a range of indicators.

This will mean the 1.6 million young people in post-16 education each year will be able to make informed choices about the qualifications and courses they take and the institutions they attend, he added.

Ambitious new minimum standards will also mean that underperforming colleges and sixth-forms will be highlighted and held to account.

Those that fail to meet the standards required will face intervention from the government.

A new measure will also show how well post-16 providers do in helping young people get a C or better in English and maths. As of this academic year, all young people who go into post-16 education without a grade C in those subjects must continue to study them until they get a C or better.

The overhaul - set out in a consultation launched today on accountability for providers of 16 to 19 education - will:

  • raise standards - the new tables will shine a light on the performance of all colleges and school sixth-forms. Those which fall below the new minimum standards - which will focus on attainment and progress of students - face intervention
  • provide clear, reliable information for young people. This will help them make well-informed choices based on the quality of courses and the performance of school sixth-forms and colleges. It will also drive further improvement through the system
  • ensure colleges and school sixth-forms help pupils who do not have GCSEs at C or better in English or maths, to achieve them
  • identify colleges who are especially strong or weak in particular areas. Results in different types of level 3 qualifications (those aimed at 16- to 19-year-olds) will be published separately - with unique columns for A levels and all academic courses (including A levels), and then 2 further columns for vocational qualifications, showing new tech levels and applied general qualifications

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is clear that the best education systems in the world are characterised by strong accountability systems which highlight the performance of all providers and which give clear information to parents and young people.

David Laws said:

To build a stronger economy and a fairer society it is vital we raise standards so all our colleges and sixth-forms perform to a high level. We are already seeing how both primary and secondary schools have responded to the challenge we set them - and we expect these new accountability measures in the post-16 sector to have an equally positive impact.

It is high time that parents and young people were given the full picture of performance in all schools and colleges so they can make the choices that are best for them.

Professor Alison Wolf, whose 2011 review of vocational education paved the way for the reforms to the system, said:

I am delighted that new accountability measures recognise the varied nature of young people’s post-16 studies. They will provide detailed and meaningful information on what schools and colleges are doing, and help students to choose programmes which are good and right for them.

Changes to the 16 to 19 education system

The government has already undertaken significant reform of 16 to 19 education and training by:

  • introducing study programmes based on challenging academic and vocational qualifications
  • changing the funding system so that it is per pupil not per qualification - this removes any perverse incentive to enter young people for small, short courses of limited value to a young person’s prospects
  • introducing tech level and applied general qualifications so there are 3 clear study routes. Students will be able to take a mix of qualifications from any of the 3 routes
  • requiring all students without GCSEs at C or better in English or maths at the end of secondary school to continue to work towards achieving those qualifications
  • continuing with strong intervention in maintained schools through sponsored academies, including those with sixth-forms


There will be 5 key measures in new 16 to 19 performance tables to hold schools and colleges to account. These will be on attainment, destinations, completion, progress, and combined attainment and completion.

Additional measures will show how well school sixth-forms and colleges do in helping their poorer students get good qualifications (a pupil premium measure) and what proportion of students achieve the new TechBacc (a performance measure which is achieved if a young person gets a good maths qualification at a higher level than GCSE, the extended project and a high-quality, graded vocational qualification).

Notes to editors

Download the consultation document on 16-19 accountability. The consultation will run for 10 weeks.

Professor Alison Wolf CBE is the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College London, and specialises in the relationship between education and the labour market. She has a particular interest in training and skills policy, universities, and the medical workforce. The latter is particularly appropriate to the chair she holds, established in memory of an influential government adviser on medical management. She has been a specialist adviser to the select committee on education and skills.

Download Professor Wolf’s review.

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Published 12 September 2013