Improving the quality of further education and skills training


The further education (FE) system – the colleges and training providers that teach vocational qualifications and skills – needs to guarantee students high quality teaching and courses to help students into jobs or university and create the skilled workforce employers need.


To improve quality and efficiency in FE and skills training, we are:

  • reforming the funding and content of 16 to 19 provision through the introduction of study programmes
  • making sure that students who haven’t achieved at least a C in maths and English GCSEs continue studying qualifications in these subjects, as set out in the conditions of post 16 funding
  • introducing a new funding system based on student loans: it’s for people aged 24+, studying at levels 3 and 4, or for advanced and higher apprenticeships
  • freeing colleges from central government control
  • improving apprenticeships
  • making FE teacher training more professional
  • providing better careers advice
  • introducing a new traineeships programme to support young people to develop skills for employment, including apprenticeships
  • introducing the Technical Baccalaureate (TechBacc) measure
  • reforming 16 to 19 vocational qualifications, expanding the provision of work experience and allowing colleges to enrol 14 to 16 year-olds
  • identifying the best vocational qualifications as either ‘tech level’ or ‘applied general’ qualifications and ask employers and universities to endorse them, so young people know which courses have the best job prospects


Responsibility for funding post 16 learning in England is shared between the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

In March 2011, an independent review of education for 14 to 19 year olds, the Review of vocational education made many recommendations including that we:

  • move to ‘per-student’ funding instead of ‘per-qualification’ funding, to make institutions more accountable to learners
  • improve the quality of apprenticeships
  • expand the teaching of useful vocational qualifications and the teaching of English and mathematics
  • extend the provision of work experience

The government then carried out a public consultation to invite opinions on these recommendations New challenges, new chances: next steps in implementing the further education reform programme.

We also consulted on study programmes for 16 to 19 year-olds.

Using the responses to the consultation, the government published its plans, in December 2011, for the FE sector in New challenges, new chances: further education system and skills reform plan. In July 2012, we published our plans in relation to 16 to 18 provision.

In April 2013 we published an update on ‘New challenges, new chances’ called Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills. This explained the achievement we have made in reforming the further education and skills system. We have also published several reports and plans on aspects of the system, including:

DfE launched a consultation on changing accountability arrangements for providers of 16 to 19 education and training in England in September 2013. The response, published in March 2014, announced:

  • more rigorous minimum standards
  • clearer and more comprehensive performance information about schools and colleges
  • a set of headline measures giving a clear overview of the performance of a school or college in academic and vocational programmes compared with other institutions nationally

Bills and legislation

The Education Act 2011 makes it easier for colleges to make their own decisions. It means that FE colleges can now borrow money without needing permission from the government. Colleges can also change the way they govern themselves, and those rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted no longer have to face routine inspections.

Who we’re working with