Further education and 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.
  • identifying the best vocational qualifications as either ‘tech level’ or ‘applied general’, and asking employers and universities to endorse them, so young people know what courses have the best job prospects
  • reforming 16 to 19 vocational qualifications, introducing the Technical Baccalaureate (TechBacc) measure, and expanding the provision of work experience and allowing colleges to enrol 14 to 16 year-olds
  • reforming the vocational qualifications system to make qualifications rigorous and responsive to the needs of employers and learners
  • providing better careers advice through the National Careers Service
  • freeing colleges from central government control and making FE teacher training more professional
  • 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
  • introducing a new traineeships programme to support young people to develop skills for employment, including apprenticeships
  • improving apprenticeships and putting employers in control of them
  • encouraging greater employer ownership to improve engineering skills in smaller companies
  • setting up national colleges led by employers, to train people for careers where there are higher-level skills shortages, like high speed rail engineering or digital technology
  • making adult skills provision responsive to the needs of local economies by devolving skills capital funding to Local Enterprise Partnerships - and doing deals with Greater Manchester, Sheffield City Region, West Yorkshire and London to give them the lead in local skills provision


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 November 2010 we published ‘Skills for sustainable growth’, which sets out the national skills strategy for England

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

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

The government carried out a public consultation on how to reform the FE and skills system - New challenges, new chances: next steps in implementing the further education reform programme.

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

In April 2013, we published Rigour and responsiveness in skills. This explained the achievements 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