Destinations: "Raising Participation and the Use of Data"

Learning Plus UK & the IoE are holding a number of seminars throughout 2013 concerning the changes to Post-16 provision. In the first in a series of reports on these seminars, we would like you to contribute your thoughts. Please email us with your feedback on these reports to:

Destinations: "Raising participation and the use of data"
A research seminar, held jointly by the Institute of Education and Learning Plus UK
Monday 28 January 2013, 17.30 – 19.00

Chair: Dr Tina Isaacs, Academic Director of the Centre for Post-14 Research and Innovation, Institute of Education
Speaker: Linda Rose, Team Leader for 16-19 Accountability within the Inspections and Accountability Quality Team, Department for Education

The research seminar titled ‘Destinations: raising participation and the use of data’ was held jointly by the Institute of Education and Learning Plus UK on Monday 28 January 2013. The event attracted more than 40 people from across the Post-16 sector. Its main aim was to raise issues about the introduction of Raising Participation Age and to demonstrate how data can serve as a useful tool to support the implementation of the policy.

Dr Tina Isaacs served as the Chair, and her questions and comments accompanied the presentation of Linda Rose. Linda Rose talked about the use of data in education in connection with the upcoming reforms in the 16-19 education sector, including changes in the study programmes, A levels, vocational qualifications, and performance tables. She also touched upon the subjects of the DfE’s experimental data on destination measures and the new interim minimum standards for schools and colleges for 16- to 18-year-olds.

The changes in the study programmes are aimed at supporting students’ progression to employment or higher education. The revised study programmes will include a mix of qualification-driven and non-qualification activity:

-          A levels and/or at least one qualification of substantial size

-          Support activity such as tutorial time, study skills, extra-curricular enrichment and, personal and social development

-          Work experience

-          English and maths for those who have not achieved GCSE A*-C at age 16

The Government’s changes to A levels are intended to provide “a broad and rounded education” to young people who follow post-16 academic programmes so that they can keep their options open about future study and employment. The current modular course will be replaced by a two-year linear course with an exam at the end. AS levels will become standalone exams in their own right and will probably include only half of A levels’ content, but will stay as they also play an important part for HE providers.  The Russell Group of Universities will lead the work of reforming A levels, involving other HEIs.

The DfE consultation on vocational qualifications was launched on 7 March 2013. The Government aims to increase the quality of vocational qualifications so that they are recognised as rigorous and appropriate. There will also be a specific emphasis on vocational courses for specific skill shortage areas.

Furthermore, the DfE will also change the way data is reported in the performance tables to separate A level results from other advanced level academic and vocational qualifications from A levels. The tables published in January also include the percentages of students achieving AAB in facilitating subjects.  Valued added information will be published on 14 February 2013.

Destination measures will be published in June covering students in schools and colleges.  If the data is robust enough the measures will include employment destinations alongside education, apprenticeship and work based learning destinations.

New interim minimum standards for all 16 to 18 education providers have been introduced.  The DfE are currently refining the methodology which will calculate a vocational and academic minimum standard that providers need to meet.  Providers will need to ensure that 40% of their students achieve the number of points per entry set to the lowest fifth of providers nationally. In 2010/11 the lowest fifth percentile was 197 points for vocational courses and 174 points for academic qualifications.  The methodology will be finalised by the end of February and providers will be informed of their results by April.

Linda Rose finished by stressing the importance of use of data by Post-16 providers. Ofsted recognise that the best-rated schools and colleges make a very good use of their data to target their work and interventions.  Analyses such as those provided by Learning Plus UK, give providers the opportunity to understand their performance and support their improvement.

There were a number of key points raised by the audience:

  • In terms of Raising the Participation Age: what constituted employment?  Would unpaid interns be included as ‘employed’?
  • What would happen to students who followed a programme with both academic and vocational courses?
  • Wouldn’t the AS level wither once it was decoupled from A level?

Concern was expressed about the possibility of students being ‘pushed’ into courses which they didn’t want to do with academic students being directed to academic courses even if they would like to study a vocational route.  Moreover, some providers might go for courses which are cheaper to run and thereby limit the opportunities for young people. 

Linda Rose responded by explaining that the DfE aims to increase the quality of vocational courses so that they have a rigour similar to the new A levels.  The minimum standards required of all post-16 providers would also compare like with like and recognise that vocational and academic courses are different whilst establishing a benchmark for performance.  The separation of A levels, other academic qualifications and vocational qualifications in the new Performance Tables would bring greater transparency and rigour to the system.  Linda Rose confirmed that higher education and employers would continue to value vocational qualifications, particularly with the emphasis on high quality courses.

The audience also raised perceptions of A levels and E-Bacc against vocational courses.  Concern was expressed that the Government’s emphasis on these two would limit the range of courses available and could have implications for the value attached to vocational qualifications.  There was a danger that lower achieving young people would not consider A levels an appropriate route.  Moreover some students currently take a range of A levels and vocational qualifications and providers may end up funnelling students into only A level or vocational options. 

Following a question, Linda Rose clarified that the Raising Participation Age would continue to be rolled out with a responsibility for local authorities to track young people and ensure they were in education or training.  There would not at first, be penalties for young people who did not remain in education or training.  However this was contained in the legislation so could be introduced later.  The Government’s emphasis was to support young people in staying in education and in getting jobs with training.  The Government was keen to equip young people for the global jobs market and the changes to A levels and vocational qualifications was intended to support this.

Finally Linda Rose confirmed the Government’s commitment to the importance of English and Maths and the need for young people to achieve GCSEs in both.  Young people would continue to study these two subjects until they had achieved GCSE level.

Click here to see the slides from Linda Rose's presentation.

The next seminar will take place in April 2013. The exact date and venue of the event will be announce here once it is confirmed