Head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw has called for 16-19 year olds to be educated in schools and not in further education (FE) institutions.
In a meeting of the education sub-committee [2 March], Sir Michael told MPs that ‘the FE sector is in a mess’ and that vulnerable learners should continue in a ‘school-based environment’.
He said: “My view – and it’s a bit of a policy thing this, but never mind I’m going to say it – is that 16-19 [learning] should be done in a school-based environment, not in an FE institution. Often you talk to lots of head teachers and they’ll say their weakest and most vulnerable youngsters, who need a secure and small environment, or an environment that they know well, head off to an FE institution, which is a large, amorphous, 10,000-sized institution on a number of campuses, and do badly. They get lost, [they] drop out,"
He added: "The FE sector is in a mess, that’s why the government is reviewing it at the moment and is considering radical proposals for restructuring. It’s not very good; our view at Ofsted [is] that youngsters who don’t do well at 16 often don’t do well two years later, particularly in English and maths where results are pretty poor, and we see all sorts of stuff that is going on in the FE sector that isn’t good."
In response to Sir Michael’s comments, James Glendenning, CEO of Greater Merseyside Learning Providers’ Federation (GMLPF) says: “It’s no surprise that Sir Michael Wilshaw has called for all 16-19 year olds to be educated in schools and not in FE institutions, given his recent criticism of the sector – criticism which has used personal anecdotes and opinions instead of relying on facts. Not only are his comments unsupported but they are also extremely unhelpful at the time when we should be looking for solutions for the country’s young people."
GMLPF is one of the largest networks of its kind in the country, a non-profit organisation that champions and supports nearly 70 Merseyside skills and education providers.
James adds: “Of course the FE sector faces challenges, but so does the education system as a whole. To smear FE colleges once again proves that Wilshaw has no faith in the sector and is out of touch with today’s youth. I’ve worked alongside young people who don’t take to the ‘school-based environment’ that Wilshaw suggests, they find it too restrictive and it doesn’t always fit their needs as a learner. Surely we should be promoting diversity in education and cater to students of all needs and abilities.
“GMLPF work with many FE institutions in the Liverpool City Region which offer a comprehensive curriculum ranging from academic, vocational and apprenticeships. For Wilshaw to suggest that the curriculum in FE colleges is ‘irrelevant’ to the local workplace and national employment needs is ridiculous. Skills development and hands on learning is at the heart of the FE sector and it continues to provide excellent provision for young people, something which was hastily missing from Wilshaw’s speech.”
"The FE sector faces challenges, but so does the education system as a whole. To smear FE colleges once again proves that Wilshaw has no faith in the sector and is out of touch with todays youth."
James Glendenning, CEO of GMLPF
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