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, the government is:

  • reforming the funding and content of 16 to18 provision through the introduction of study programmes
  • 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) - a new measure that will allow young people aspiring to a vocational career a high-quality alternative to the A level route
  • reforming 16 to19 vocational qualifications, expanding the provision of work experience and allowing colleges to enroll 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 (16-18 year olds) and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (19 year olds and over).

In March 2011, an independent review of further education, the Review of vocational education made a number of 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 substantial 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.

We will shortly publish an update on ‘New challenges, new chances’. This will explain the progress we have made in reforming the further education and skills system. We have already published a number of reports and plans on aspects of the system, including:

On 12 September 2013 we launched a consultation on changing to the accountability arrangements for providers of 16 to 19 education and training in England. We are seeking the views of all types of providers, parents and students on reforming performance tables and raising minimum standards in order to improve the quality of further education and training. The consultation will close on 20 November 2013.

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.

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