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Learners set to lose out as direct entry is withdrawn

Blog posted by: Rachel Hopkins, Marketing Officer, Tuesday 20 February 2018.

Learners could be set to suffer as a result of colleges withdrawing their provision for 14-16 year olds, also known as “direct entry”.  Pupils seeking an establishment which offers technical alternatives to GCSEs, could find that their local college is no longer catering for their age group.

FE Week recently reported that 2 large college groups are withdrawing their direct entry solutions in a bid to save their reputations. The accountability measures that are applied to Key Stage 4 pupils, known as Progress 8, have been found to have a negative impact on their overall average. Data released by the department for Education show that all but one college are underperforming against the government floor standard of –0.5. Colleges are arguing that this data is misleading as these learners are an extremely small proportion of their overall learner population.

The withdrawal of direct entry is extremely to disheartening as colleges often provide routes into education for pupils who may face barriers that make access or engagement with mainstream education difficult. This pushes the age at which some pupils may engage with technical alternatives from 14 to 16, by which time the pupil may have already disengaged with education entirely.

With colleges feeling unfairly penalised and some moving to withdrawing provision from their offering, the pupils who are losing out are those who may have found their strength in technical education, had it been available to them.

Furthermore, with the potential for Ebacc subjects to be made compulsory by the government, this further reduces the opportunity for schools to provide technical education within their curriculum and would leave little time for pupils who take 7 or fewer GCSEs (23.2 % in 2016) to explore the offering at their local college.

At NCFE, we encourage schools and colleges taking the initiative to provide viable alternatives to pupils, from the age of 14. There is no one size fits all when it comes to education for learners with different levels of ability. What works for one learner, may not work for another. The same rationale should be employed when establishing performance measures across different educational providers. What works for schools, does not necessarily work for colleges and it is the learner who will suffer as a consequence. 


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