Review of end of year 16 to 19 study programmes data for 2014 to 2015

An outline of the delivery patterns that are outside standard delivery.


For the second year, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of end year data provided by institutions funded by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) to deliver study programmes to young people. A first review was undertaken for the 2013 to 2014 academic year and this second review now focuses on the 2014 to 2015 academic year.

These reviews are to ensure public funding is for provision that meets the core principles of study programmes as detailed in DfE guidance, 16 to 19 study programmes. This helps ensure students receive high quality education that meets their needs and aspirations. In both reviews, we have found that the funding formula has had the planned impact intended on the delivery of study programmes with the vast majority of institutions.

Presented below are the main findings from the 2014 to 2015 review.


Our data review shows there has been an increase in the proportion of students in the full time funding bands and a decrease in the proportion of students in all the part time funding bands. There has also been an increase in the proportion of students participating in work experience, as part of their study programme.

More students are studying Level 2, Level 3 qualifications or work experience with the proportion of students with a Level 2, Level 3 or work experience increasing over a 3 year period between the 2012 to 2013 and 2014 to 2015 academic years.

The proportion of students studying and achieving maths and English GCSE or stepping stone qualifications (graded below GCSE C in English or maths in their previous year of study) continues to increase year on year from 2012 to 2013 academic year to the 2014 to 2015 academic year.

Review of non-standard delivery of study programmes

As part of the review of the study programme, we have reviewed delivery patterns across all institutions. Where delivery is not what we consider to be the same as what is provided in most institutions, we have classified this as non-standard delivery in this review. We have not set any thresholds to identify standard or non-standard delivery and because a study programme has been classified as non-standard does not mean it is not a valid study programme.

The study programme gives certain flexibilities to institutions to enable them to address students’ needs. There are therefore various reasons why institutions deliver study programmes in a non-standard way and we contacted these institutions to better understand these reasons.

For each institution where the review identified apparent non-standard delivery, we provided an individual report to show the institutions own results from the review. We asked these institutions to complete and return the report with their rationale for their method of delivery.

Please note for institutions returning data via the school census, some of the criteria was not applicable.

Reasons for the delivery patterns being non-standard

Following a review of all comments we received from the institutions we contacted, the main reasons of non-standard delivery were:

  • lack of an understanding of what can and can’t be delivered within the scope of EFA funding
  • misunderstanding guidance or inputting errors made whilst recording student data
  • study programmes tailored and delivered to meet individual diverse student needs and characteristics (this includes specific provision offered to maintain student engagement in learning, particularly for students who were disengaged from education, employment or training or at risk of becoming so).

We have identified some of the most common misunderstandings referred to by the institutions we contacted for non-standard delivery and have made some clarifications.

Next steps

We will carry out a similar review of 2015 to 2016 academic year data returns against the core principles of study programmes, and will again publish the key findings later in 2017.

We will continue testing the areas of our guidance where there are apparent misunderstandings to ensure this meets customer needs and aligned to changes in policy.

List of delivery patterns reviewed across all institutions

The areas of the funding formula where the delivery appears to be non-standard are below. Please note that the thresholds have not been set against expected delivery just to identify outliers.

These are:

Where students have more than one core aim across the academic year, recorded in end year data returns

In the vast majority of cases, it is expected that a student will have only one core aim for their study programme. However, there are limited circumstances where it is in the best interest of the student to have more than one core aim within the funding year (1 August 2013 to 31 July 2014).

We have reviewed end year data and have identified institutions that have more than 5% of students with more than one core aim in the academic year.

Where one or more student (s) are recorded with a work experience aim in the 500+ hour band and work experience is not recorded as the core aim

The core aim is the principal or most important activity in the study programme and it will usually be the component with the largest number of planned hours. For study programmes where the work experience is greater than 500 hours in the academic year we would expect this to be recorded as the core aim.

Where over 100 students have a core aim that was a vocational qualification whilst on a predominantly academic programme

Where the student is studying both academic and vocational qualifications, their core aim is determined by the core purpose of the study programme, and this will normally reflect the majority of the planned hours. If the majority of planned hours are for the vocational qualification, then the core aim is vocational. If the majority of planned hours are academic in the mixed programme, then the core aim is academic.

We would therefore not expect students enrolled on a predominantly academic programme to have a vocational qualification as a core aim.

Where 80% or more students were not enrolled on a Level 2, Level 3 or work experience aim as their core aim

All 16 to 19 students should be given the opportunity to follow a study programme that:

  • provides progression to a level higher than that of their prior attainment
  • includes qualification(s) that are of sufficient size and rigor to stretch the student and that are clearly linked to suitable progression opportunities in training, employment or higher levels of education

All providers should ensure their curriculum offer enables students to take qualifications and activities that do prepare them for their next steps in line with the core principle of study programmes of enabling progression to the next level of education or employment.

Where students have no employability, enrichment and pastoral (EEP) planned hours in their study programme.

All study programmes should include other activities unrelated to qualifications to develop the character, skills, attitudes and confidence that support progression.

We would expect that in the majority of cases, study programmes, (including academic study programmes) include other planned and organised enrichment activity, such as tutorials, work to develop study skills, leadership, teamwork or self-management skills and activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or volunteering. The review has identified those students that have no EEP hours. We have identified where 0% of total planned hours is EEP.

Where 90% or more of the overall students planned hours were attributed to employability, enrichment and pastoral hours (EEP)

The study programme should include qualification(s) of sufficient size and rigor to stretch the student, clearly linked to suitable progression opportunities in training, employment or higher levels of education, or work experience and reflecting the student’s prior attainment. They should include maths and English for students who have not achieved grade A*-C GCSE in these subjects as well as substantial qualifications. We have identified where more than 90 % of total planned hours within an institution is EEP.

Where either more than 100 students or 20% of the students within the institution studied a compressed programme of 540 hours or more in 6 months

A full time study programme is defined as 540 planned hours or greater and we would expect that only in exceptional circumstances would a full time study programme be delivered in less than an academic year.

In some cases, where this best meets the assessed needs of the student and/or is strictly necessary to prepare them for their progression outcome, institutions will plan compressed programmes to allow students to complete a significant number of hours in a short period. These programmes will be funded at the standard funding rate based on the planned hours.

We would expect such compressed delivery to lead to excellent results, as demonstrated through qualification success rates and positive destinations. We would not expect this to lead to a student funded for more than one full-time programme in an academic year. We will monitor the delivery and value for money of compressed programmes during 2014 to 2015 and will decide whether to apply a funding cap to such provision in future accordingly.

We have identified where there are either 100 students or 20% of students recorded as being on a full time programme delivered in less than 6 months.

Where 70% or more of students finished just after the 2 week qualifying period (applies to study programmes of less than 24 weeks)

For information, ‘just after’ is defined as students with an actual end date within 1 month after their qualifying period ends. For students with a 2 week qualifying period, this is within 44 days of their earliest start date (14 days + 30 days)

Where 20% or more students finished just after the 6 week qualifying period (applies for study programmes of more than 24 weeks)

For information, just after is defined as students with an actual end date within 1 month after their qualifying period ends. For students with a 6 weeks qualifying period, this is within 72 days of their earliest start date (42 days + 30 days).

Where the average number of learning aims per student is 6 or over

Funding for study programmes is now allocated per student, not on a per qualification basis. As study programmes should include qualification(s) that are of sufficient size and rigor to stretch the student and that are clearly linked to suitable progression opportunities in training, employment or higher levels of education. The study programme must be tailored to each student, have clear study and/or employment goals reflecting the student’s prior attainment, and include substantial qualifications or work experience.

We expect students to enter fewer (but more challenging) qualifications, and have identified where the average number of aims is 6 or more.

Where a decrease of 500 or more learning aims between 2014 to 2015 R10 and R14

We have identified at an institution level where there has been a decrease in learning aims of 500 or more between the 2 data returns. This will apply to institutions that return the Individualised Learner Record (ILR).

Important clarifications on the 16 to 19 study programmes following the review of end of year data for 2014 to 2015

Following the review of end of year 16 to 19 study programmes data for 2014 to 2015, we have identified that several areas need to be clarified to all EFA-funded institutions:

Recording EEP / work-experience hours

All work-experience hours that are an essential part of the qualification hours (i.e. when work-experience is a requirement to achieve a qualification) must be recorded within the qualification hours and not as EEP hours.

Recording multiple core aims and/or high number of learning aims

All study programme must be challenging to the young person with modular delivery only being offered if this supports the specific needs of the student.

Progressions in courses offered

All study programmes should offer a programme that is at a higher level than their prior attainment (only in exceptional circumstances this will not be the case and if so, clear evidence and rationale should be provided if necessary to any funding auditor).

Recording vocational core aims whilst on a predominantly academic programme

If a young person is on a predominantly academic programme, the core aim must be an academic qualification, even if one vocational qualification offered is larger than each individual academic qualifications.

Apportionment of planned hours across 2 years

Planned hours for 2-year programmes must be apportioned over 2 funding periods. The hours entered must be realistic and deliverable to each individual student and for the academic year in question. Institutions must ensure that this can be evidenced if necessary to any funding auditor.

Condition of funding

Institutions must take account of the student’s prior attainment level before enrolling them onto an English and/or maths stepping stone or GCSE qualification.

If you have any questions, please contact

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Published 16 February 2017