English schools could face a barrage of new competition, as almost 300 colleges are to be permitted to start teaching school-age pupils in a move designed to improve the teaching of technical subjects to young people. This is from the FT…
Matthew Hancock, skills minister, has confirmed that further education colleges, which are the spine of the British system for delivering practical and work-focused training for adults, will be allowed to “start enrolling 14 to 16 year-olds from next September, should they wish to do so.”
In a letter sent to two college principals, he confirmed that 283 sixth form and FE colleges deemed to offer “satisfactory” provision or better will be able to take 14 year-olds, not just 16 year-olds as at present, so long as they have a designated principal and space for them.
This follows the recommendations of a government review into technical education, published last year. The report said that: “colleges will generally be far better placed to provide vocational options for 14-16 year olds, and not just 16-18 year olds, than schools will.”
Mr Hancock’s letter noted that colleges “can already be involved in the education of 14 to 16 year-olds” through sponsoring schools or offering individual classes to pupils enrolled in conventional schools.
But the shift could be significant: if funding attached to 14-16 students is sufficient to attract colleges, the plan could rapidly catch up with the “free schools” programme, under which 79 private groups have set up new state schools.
Colleges can, unlike schools, borrow freely to build new facilities and lay on new courses. They can also be big: in 2010-11, Newcastle College Group had 70,000 learners and total income of £156m. Some have spare buildings that could be used as school sites.