Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Collaboration is the key for 14–19 year olds

Schools, colleges and employers working in partnership are key to widening options for 14–19 year olds and successfully introducing the new Diplomas, according to a report published today by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

The report, Implementation of 14–19 reforms, including the introduction of Diplomas, reveals that Her Majesty’s Inspectors found a mixed picture, but with positive features, at this relatively early stage in the Diploma programmes. Progress in introducing the main subject learning in the Diplomas was good or better in 14 courses and satisfactory in the remaining 11 courses they observed. Other elements of the Diploma, and particularly the functional skills of English, mathematics and ICT, need to improve.

Inspectors also found that the flexible application of a variety of strategies by 14-–19 partnership organisations had reduced the number of 14–19 year olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) in 19 of the 23 areas visited.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: 'These reforms provide a wider range of options for young people and it is important they are implemented properly. Inspectors found a mixed picture but the introduction of the diploma programmes is still at a relatively early stage. It is particularly encouraging to see schools, colleges, training providers and local authorities working together to meet the needs of those who otherwise might not succeed at school. I hope others will learn from the good practice found in the report.'

The Diplomas, which were introduced in September 2008 and combine theoretical study with practical learning, are the most substantial element of the 14-19 reforms. The largest component of the Diploma – the principal learning - is the specialist subject content, such as engineering or creative & media. However, students must also complete functional skills (English, mathematics and ICT), a project, 10 days' work experience, and a unit of additional or specialised learning intended to complement or extend the specialist subject work.

Two thirds of the specialist subject teaching on the Diploma courses was good, often drawing on good links with local employers. Students benefited from specialist vocational teaching and high quality resources, while staff valued the professional development entailed in planning and teaching jointly with colleagues from other institutions, as school and colleges work in consortia to offer the courses together.

However, there were important elements of the Diplomas that need to improve. At the time of the survey, almost half the consortia visited had not established an effective, co-ordinated approach to teaching the functional skills and so the quality of teaching and learning varied considerably. Many students did not appreciate that these skills formed an integral part of the Diploma. Also the additional and specialised learning element of the Diplomas was underdeveloped in almost all the consortia visited.

The key recommendations from the report are for the 14–19 partnerships and Diploma consortia to put in place rigorous procedures to assure the quality of collaborative provision, co-ordinate their approaches to functional skills, and link this work more closely to the principal learning in Diploma courses, and develop a more coherent range of additional and specialised learning options for Diploma students.

Notes for Editors

  1. The report, Implementation of 14–19 reforms, including the introduction of Diplomas, can be found on the Ofsted website www.ofsted.gov.uk/publications/080267.
  2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It rates council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
  3. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6899 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 08456 404040 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.
  4. The report, Implementation of 14–19 reforms, including the introduction of Diplomas, is based on visits to 23 14–19 consortia between September 2008 and March 2009. They varied in size from those made up of several schools and a local further education college to others that included all the schools and colleges in a local authority. The consortia were in a variety of urban, suburban and rural areas. In each consortium, Her Majesty’s Inspectors and Additional Inspectors visited a sample of schools and colleges and, where they were involved, work-based learning organisations and local authority skills centres. In total, 44 secondary and special schools, 22 further education and sixth form colleges, and 13 employers or work-based training providers were visited. Visits were also made to eight local authority skills or learning centres.

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