Guidance

Review of end of year 16 to 19 study programmes data for 2015 to 2016

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

Introduction

For the third year, we have undertaken a comprehensive review of end year data supplied by providers funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to deliver study programmes to young people. Previous reviews were undertaken for the academic years 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015. This review now focuses on the 2015 to 2016 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 impact intended on the delivery of study programmes in the vast majority of institutions.

Purpose

The purpose of this factsheet is to present the main findings from the 2015 to 2016 review and to highlight important actions for institutions delivering 16 to 19 provision.

Findings

Our findings again show that the National Funding Formula is having a positive impact on the delivery of study programmes for the vast majority of 16 to 18 year olds.

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

An increased number of students studied vocational substantial Level 2 and 3 qualifications (as per the DFE performance tables, or external work experience. The proportion of students with a Level 2, Level 3 or work experience as a core aim increased over a 3-year period between the 2013 to 2014 and 2015 to 2016 academic years.

There was also an increase in the proportion of employability, enrichment and pastoral (EEP) hours provided to students and a rise in the number of students with an external work experience aim as well as an increase in the number of students undertaking a traineeship.

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 in line with that provided in most institutions, we have classified this as non-standard delivery. We have not set any thresholds to identify standard or non-standard delivery and if a study programme has been classified as non-standard this does not mean it is not a valid study programme. It does however give us cause to look further into the delivery pattern. The study programme guidance 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 have contacted these institutions to understand these reasons better. We have investigated three areas of delivery in particular:

  • where students have more than one core aim across the academic year, recorded in end year data returns
  • where more than 10% of students or more than 100 students have a core aim that was a vocational qualification whilst on a predominantly academic programme
  • where the proportion of re-takes (excluding maths and English retakes) is over 50% and above 50 retakes

For each institution where the review identified apparent non-standard delivery in one or more of these three areas, 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:

  • misunderstanding guidance or inputting errors made whilst recording student data
  • study programmes tailored and delivered to meet individual diverse student needs and characteristics

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

Next steps

Action for Providers

We advise all institutions/providers delivering study programmes (including Traineeships) to 16 to 18 year olds to self-assess themselves against the criteria we have used for this review to ensure the study programmes they are delivering are in line with study programme guidance.

Where non-standard delivery is identified, we advise institutions/providers to ensure themselves this is to tailor provision to individual diverse student needs.

We also advise that institutions/providers use the explanations we have prepared to ensure they do fully understand both the study programme guidance and the funding guidance and to conduct a thorough check of data returns to minimise the number of common errors.

Actions for the ESFA

We will carry out a similar review of 2016 to 2017 academic year against the core principles of study programmes, and will again publish the key findings early 2019.

We will continue testing the areas of our guidance where there are apparent misunderstandings to ensure it meets customer needs. We will also ensure the guidance is 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 listed 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 2015 to 31 July 2016).

We have reviewed end year data and have identified providers that have more than 5% of students with more than one core aim in the academic year and have more than 10 students recorded in Individualised Learner Record (ILR) R14.

Where more than 10% of students or more than 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 qualification hours. If the majority of planned qualification 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 the proportion of re-takes (excluding maths and English retakes) is over 50% and above 50 retakes

Other than retaking maths & English as part of the condition of funding (if students have not attained grade A*to C or 9 to 4 GCSE or equivalent) retakes of the same qualification are not generally eligible for funding. Where there are exceptional circumstances outside the control of the student or provider, such as a period of long-term sickness, or good educational reasons then the re-take delivery hours for individual students may be included in the funded study programme.

Where 10% of all full time students’ study programmes are delivered in 6 months or less, and there has been a year on year proportional increase

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 and will decide whether to apply a funding cap to such provision in future accordingly.

Where there are no employability, enrichment and pastoral (EEP) hours recorded

All students are expected to take part in other meaningful non-qualification (also known as EEP) activity alongside work experience. This should take account of their needs and career plans, as well as preparation for adult life more generally. Examples of EEP are in the 16 to 19 Study Programme Guidance, page 17 to 18.

Where EEP hours are more that 80% of total planned hours and where there are more than 10 students

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 9 to 4 or A* to C GCSE in these subjects as well as substantial qualifications.

Where the proportion of students finishing just after the 6-week qualifying period was more than 10% and there was a year on year increase

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 proportion of students finishing just after the 2-week qualifying period was more than 30% and there was a year on year increase

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 there is a decrease in learning aims between R14 when compared to R10 and this is a decrease of more than 500 aims

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 ILR.

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. 

Important clarifications on the 16 to 19 study programmes following the review of end of year data up to 2015 to 2016 academic year

Following the review of end of year 16 to 19 study programmes data up to 2015 to 2016, we have identified that several areas need to be clarified to all institutions that are ESFA-funded to deliver study programmes to 16 to 18 year olds:

Recording EEP / work-experience hours

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

The work placements guidance for the capacity and delivery fund (CDF) states that the CDF funding is additional to the mainstream allocation and that as such, the work placement hours delivered through CDF must not be included in the planned hours recorded for the study programme.

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

All study programmes must be challenging to the young person with modular delivery only being offered if this supports the specific needs of the student. The 16 to 19 study programme guidance mentions that 16 to 19 study programmes are designed to provide students with a structured and challenging learning programme that supports their development and progression in line with their career plans.

Please also note that the funding guidance states the following (paragraph 73, page 22): Students who are only recruited to start short study programmes should only have the planned hours recorded on data returns for those associated planned short programmes. Institutions may plan programmes for students with the intention of starting the student on a small or nested qualification in a particular subject and progressing them onto a larger qualification only if they are successful in the smaller one. In such cases, the planned hours for the programme must only include the hours for the smaller or nested qualification. When the institution is sure that the student will progress onto the larger qualification, the planned hours may be updated to include the additional delivery. This advice applies equally whether or not there is any gap between a student initial short study programme and their longer study programme.

Progressions in courses offered

All study programmes should offer a programme that is at a higher level than the students’ prior attainment. A study programme at the same level will only be acceptable in exceptional circumstances, and if so, clear evidence and rationale should be recorded and provided if requested to any funding auditor.

Recording vocational core aims 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.

Apportionment of planned hours across 2 years

Planned hours for 2-year programmes must be apportioned over two 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.

Retakes

Retakes and resits hours should not be included in the funded study programme hours except:

  • where students retake maths & English as part of the condition of funding (if students have not attained grade A*to C or 9 to 4 GCSE or equivalent)
  • where there are exceptional circumstances outside the control of the student or institution, such as a period of long term sickness, or good educational reasons

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Published 9 May 2018