Issue 98 | September 2019

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Firstly, from all of us at Click, we hope you have had a good and restful summer break and would like to wish you all a successful and rewarding new academic year.


You will probably be aware of the main changes in ministerial responsibility affecting the FE sector in England, but in the unlikely event that you may not be, below is a brief recap.

  • Gavin Williamson is the new education secretary, replacing Damian Hinds as the fifth education secretary to be appointed in five years. To the surprise of many, Mr Williamson announced that he will personally take on responsibility for the apprenticeships and skills brief, with support from Kemi Badenhoch, the new Children’s Minister. A spokesperson for the DfE said, ‘Further education and skills will be a priority for this government and the Education Secretary taking the lead for this vital work is a reflection of that commitment’. However, the decision has been criticised by the University and Colleges Union (UCU) who have argued that this places further education in an unfavourable position compared to the schools and university sectors each of which has their own dedicated minister.
  • Kemi Badenoch, who first became an MP in 2017, is the new Children’s’ Minister replacing Nahdim Zahawi who has moved to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). It has recently been announced that Ms Badenoch is to go on maternity leave and her support role to Mr Williamson in respect of FE and Skills will now be taken over by…
  • Michelle Donelan, a government whip and a former House of Commons Education Select Committee member. It is presently unclear if Ms Donelan will stay on as a junior minister once Ms Badenoch returns from maternity leave.
  • Lord Agnew has retained his ministerial role for schools but has been given further responsibilities in respect of FE and Skills. These include oversight of the FE Commissioner’s office and responsibility for a new ‘college financial warning and intervention system’. He will also lead on the government’s careers strategy, and safeguarding in schools and colleges. Lord Agnew has had a controversial past which, amongst other things, includes imposing cost cutting consultants on schools.
  • Chris Skidmore is the Minister for Universities in England, taking over from Jo Johnson, the Prime Minister’s brother, who resigned the post (again).
  • Nick Gibb retains his post as schools minister with responsibility for standards.

More information on DfE education ministers in post at the time of writing (although this could, and probably will, change again) can be found around halfway down the DfE website page at:


Again, this will be old news for many readers but is probably worth recapping. The new prime minister, Boris Johnson, has said that more funding for the FE and Skills sector will be ‘a priority for his government’. Following this, Sajid Javed, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced a funding boost of £400 million for students aged 16-18 in FE and sixth form colleges, school sixth forms in England, and other 16-18 FE providers, including independent training providers (ITPs). The cash will be made available with effect from August 2020. In addition to this, an extra £100 million has been allocated to help cover increases in pensions costs in colleges in 2020/21. The one-year funding package includes:

  • £190 million to fund a 4.7% increase in the overall unweighted base rate for full-time students aged 16-18. (Funding for 16 and 17 year olds on full time courses in England has remained at £4,000 per full-time student per year since 2013, and at £3,300 for 18-year-olds since 2014). The rate will increase to £4,188 per student per year for all full-time students in England aged 16, 17 and 18 year olds with high needs from August 2020. For students aged 18 without high needs, the funding only increases to £3,455. Students aged 16, 17 and 18 on T-Level  course will be funded at the same rate for each T-Level funding band. Although welcome, the increase is less than the £4,760 called for by the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) and the £5,000 called for by the Association of Colleges (AoC).
  • £120 million to help deliver ‘expensive but crucial’ subjects such as engineering.
  • £35 million extra for students re-sitting GCSE mathematics and English who are on Level 3 courses.
  • £25 million extra for the delivery of T-Levels.
  • £10 million for the Advanced Mathematics Premium (AMP), which will add £600 to college budgets for every additional student who takes an A-Level or AS- Level mathematics course.
  • £20 million to help the FE sector recruit and retain teachers and leaders, and to provide more support for the teaching of T-Levels.
  • £10 million extra for teaching English to those who speak it as a second language (ESOL).

Commenting on the funding boost, a spokesperson for the University and Colleges Union (UCU) said that the increase would ‘do little to reverse the cuts of over £3 billion in real terms that have blighted the sector over the last decade’. And the Education Policy Institute (EPI) says that despite the one-off increase of 4.7% in 16-18 funding in 2020/21, funding for 16-18 full-time students in real terms has fallen by 18% between 2010/11 and 2018/19. In addition, almost no extra funding is being made available for adult learners. The government has also announced that funding is to be made available for starting salaries for new teachers in schools to be increased by around £6,000 per year to £30,000 by 2022/23 (along with funding to cover an employer pension contribution of 23.6%). However, no additional funding is being earmarked to allow for increases in FE teacher pay, which will presumably have to be met from within any increase in funding allocated to colleges. Further details of the Chancellor’s proposals can be found at:


At their recent annual party conference in Bournemouth, the Liberal Democrats passed a several motions affecting 16-18 and adult education. These include the following:

  • A future Liberal Democrat government would give FE colleges an extra £1 billion of funding per year to ‘end the deficit in FE funding and to give colleges funding parity with schools’.
  • The pupil premium would be extended to students up to the age of 19.
  • The policy of compulsory re-sits in GCSE English and mathematics as a ‘condition of funding’ for FE study for students who had not obtained a Grade 4 in GCSE mathematics and/or English would be abandoned. Students could instead take a numeracy or literacy course more suited to their needs.
  • Sixth form and FE colleges would be reimbursed for the VAT they pay in respect of delivering courses.
  • A universal tax-free Personal Education and Skills Account (PESA) of £9,000 for adults in England would be introduced to help pay for the training they need to improve their skills or change career.

The Liberal Democrats would introduce further reforms, including abolishing Key Stage 2 SATs, replacing Ofsted, overhauling league tables, and taking future curriculum reforms out of the hands of politicians. However, no mention was made of scrapping HE tuition fees in England or reversing the threefold increase in fees that the party voted for when they were in coalition government with the Conservatives. More information on Liberal Democrat education policies can be found at:


Motions passed at the recent Labour Party conference in Brighton include the following:

  • Ofsted would be abolished. Angela Raynor, the Shadow Education Minister said that Ofsted was ‘no longer fit for purpose’ adding that, ‘in too many cases, Ofsted’s grades reflect the affluence of a school’s intake and the social class of its pupils, not the performance of the school’. The current Ofsted inspection regime would be replaced by a two-stage inspection system, the first comprised of regular ‘health checks’ run by local authorities and, if there were concerns, a second stage comprised of more in-depth visits from full-time, trained HMIs (Her Majesty’s Inspectors). Teachers’ unions have welcomed the proposals, whilst former Ofsted chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw, described them as ‘bonkers’.
  • Private schools would be abolished. This would be achieved by withdrawing their charitable status and all other public subsidies and tax privileges, including business rate exemptions. Endowments, investments and properties held by private schools would be taken from them and allocated to state schools. The Social Mobility Commission (which Labour would rename the Social Justice Commission) would be tasked with integrating private schools into the state sector. While this process was going on universities would be required to admit the same proportion of private school students as in the wider population (around 7%). The move is thought likely to sit uncomfortably with a number of key Labour figures, (such as Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott and Shadow Attorney General, Dame Shami Chakrabarti) who have paid for their children to attend private schools.
  • Academisation of existing schools and the opening of new academies and free schools will cease. All publicly funded schools would be brought back under the local authority control through new ‘reformed’ and democratically accountable local education committees with stakeholder representation.
  • The outsourcing of education services will cease and the newly empowered local education committees will be appropriately funded to become the ‘default providers’ of education services.

No mention was made of bringing colleges back into local authority control (although some think that this may have been an oversight). Neither was there any mention of Labour’s 2017 manifesto commitment to abolish tuition fees. However, in other motions Labour has repeated its promise to abolish zero-hours contracts and to introduce a 4-day (32 hour) week.


Labour says that it intends to reform higher education admissions by scrapping offers based on predicted grades. This is because the current system, where college and sixth form student applications are made in the January before students take their examinations, is thought to penalise disadvantaged students and those from minority backgrounds. Launching the proposal, Angela Raynor, the Shadow Education Minister, argued that a post-qualification admissions system would help constrain the sharp increase in unconditional offers and ‘end the stress of clearing’. However, a similar proposal was made in 2012 but was abandoned after a UCAS review found ‘insurmountable problems’, including the fact that students from the four countries of the UK sit their examinations at different times of the year. Against this, the Sutton Trust has argued that the current system favours students from public schools and that poorer students are more likely to have their grades under-predicted than wealthier students.


Labour’s Independent Lifelong Learning Commission has published an interim report which outlines the challenges faced in the wake of government adult education funding cuts of almost 50% in real terms since 2009/10, and a fall in the numbers of adults participating in FE from 4.7 million in 2004/5 to 1.5 million in 2017/18. The report calls the current adult learning sector a ‘disjointed framework in which provision is driven by funding’ and although it does not make any policy recommendations, it does call for a ‘radical new direction’ for lifelong learning. This includes:

  • Considering the use of for tax credits to help lever more employer involvement in the training of their employees.
  • Developing an integrated FE and HE system.
  • Exploring the introduction of a universal entitlement to learning supported by appropriate funding and infrastructure and the establishment of a new national information, advice and guidance service, to help adults to understand their learning entitlements and options for progression.

A copy of the interim report can be found at:


Research carried out by the Learning and Work Institute (LWI) and part funded by the DfE, has found adult participation in education has fallen to a record low. The research findings, based on a survey of 5,314 adults, were published earlier this month (September). The research was published at almost the same time as the Chancellor allocated £400 million extra for 16-18 education but virtually nothing for older learners. The LWI 2018 Adult Participation in Learning Survey reveals that, amongst other things:

  • Only 35% of the adults surveyed said that they had participated in any form of learning during the previous three years. This is the lowest participation rate recorded in the survey’s 22 year history.
  • Adults in lower social class grades, older adults and those with fewer years of initial education are all significantly under-represented in learning. There are also considerable national and regional variations across the UK.
  • Adults living in more deprived areas are much less likely to participate in learning.
  • Participation among self-employed workers surveyed has dropped by 6%, and for the unemployed and those not seeking work, by 5%.
  • Participation among 35-44-year-olds surveyed has dropped by 7%.
  • The greatest single barrier to engaging adults in learning was associated with work and other time pressures, followed closely by situational barriers such as cost and caring responsibilities. 12% of adults surveyed said that they would be more likely to take up learning if it were cheaper and 12% said they would be more likely to take up learning if they could learn at home.
  • 39% of adults surveyed anticipate that they will need to learn new skills for their work or career within the next three years but 22% said that they did not know where to go for information and advice on this.

The LWI report makes some recommendations for the National Retraining Scheme (NRS) These include helping adults to recognise the need to develop their skills, helping those with no job security or progression opportunities to consider retraining for roles in different industries, and ensuring information about the opportunities available through the NRS are widely promoted and accessible to all. A copy of the LWI 2018 Adult Participation in Learning Survey can be accessed at:


The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfS) has published its 2019 Annual Report on Education Spending in England. The report, which was commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation, also provides an estimate of the costs of implementing the recommendations of the Auger Review. The report says that:

  • FE has faced the largest budget cuts in recent years. Between 2010/11 and 2018/19, spending per student in 16-18 colleges fell by 12% in real terms. Even after the increased funding above, FE spending per 16-18-year-old will only be around 13% greater in real terms than it was thirty years ago.
  • Fully reversing cuts since 2010/11 would cost a further £1.1 billion over and above existing plans. This increases to about £1.4 billion to ensure that spending on T-Levels is additional to an unchanged level of spending per student.
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS) projections say that the number of young people in FE and school sixth forms is likely to grow by around 6% between 2019 and 2022 and another £300 million is needed on top of current spending plans to avoid cuts in per-student funding. The report adds that as a result of recent re-organisations and mergers it is unclear whether colleges and sixth forms are well placed to accommodate these rising student numbers
  • Total spending in real terms on adult education (excluding apprenticeships) has fallen by nearly two-thirds since 2004/5. Current spending on adult education and training is increasingly focused on apprenticeships with 54% of the £5.3 billion education budget in 2018/19 being spent on adult apprenticeships.

The report also provides estimates of the costs of implementing the following Auger Review recommendations:

  • ‘Individuals taking Level 4 and 5 qualifications should be entitled to the same tuition fee and maintenance loans as undergraduates’ and ‘annual HE fees should be reduced to £7,500’. The IfS estimates that annual cost of these two recommendations will be between £0.3 billion and £0.6 billion.‘Level 2 and 3 courses should be fully funded for all’. (At the moment, full funding is only available for first Level 2 courses for individuals under 24 or the unemployed, and Level 3 courses for individuals under 24). ‘The funding rate for ‘economically valuable’ adult education courses should be increased’. The IfS estimates that the annual cost of these two recommendations would be around £0.5 billion
  • ‘Cuts to the funding rate for full time18-year-olds in FE should be reversed’. The IfS estimates that the annual cost of this is £0.2 billion.
  • Around £1 billion extra capital investment is needed to improve the infrastructure in colleges, particularly given the introduction of T-Levels and the growing post-16 student population.

The IFS does not provide any estimate of the cost of increasing FE teacher salaries. Instead it refers to the Review’s comments that say, ‘Over the past decade, there have been significant cuts to teachers’ pay in 16-18 colleges, particularly in FE colleges, which are now around 17% lower than in secondary schools. This is likely to make it extremely challenging for FE colleges to attract high-quality teachers’. A copy of the IfS report can be accessed at:


Around 14% of colleges (around 1 in 7) are thought to be unable to meet their current financial obligations and to be able respond to future adverse circumstances. This is up from last year when the figure stood at around 12%, adding to concerns about the financial viability of many colleges. College financial health gradings are determined by the ESFA, based on a scoring system which considers solvency (the ratio between current assets and current liabilities), performance (surplus/deficit as a percentage of income) and borrowing (expressed as a percentage of income). These three elements are then combined to arrive at a financial health score that reflects Ofsted grades. Colleges graded ‘outstanding’ by the ESFA for their financial health have ‘very robust’ finances, are well placed to meet their financial obligations and can cope with future adverse circumstances’. Those graded as being in ‘good’ financial health have ‘sufficiently robust finances to meet their financial obligations and to respond successfully to most future adverse circumstances’. Colleges graded as ‘requires improvement’ have ‘sufficient resources’ to meet current financial obligations, but may have ‘limited capacity to respond to future adverse circumstances’. Colleges graded as ‘inadequate’ are deemed to have ‘insufficient resources to meet their financial obligations and to respond to effectively adverse future circumstances’. The most recently published accounts (2017/18) show that of the 258 colleges for which data is available (some of which have since merged), 37 were graded ‘inadequate’ for their financial health, 58 ‘required improvement’, 92 were ‘good’ and 71 were ‘outstanding’. Headline figures in respect of 2017/18 college accounts can be found at:

Meanwhile, the National Audit Office (NAO) has announced that it intends to conduct a further review of the ‘financial sustainability’ of the college sector. (The previous one was held in 2015).


The DfE has announced that it intends to conduct a review into how it monitors the management of college finances. The review will be chaired by Dame Mary Ney, who has served as the Chief Executive of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and as a government appointed commissioner to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. The terms of reference for the review include an evaluation of the way DfE exercises its oversight of colleges’ finances and financial management, and how the ESFA and the FE Commissioner’s team identify and act on adverse financial issues in colleges. The review panel is tasked with recommending changes that will improve the DfE’s response to colleges in financial difficulty and reduce the risk of such problems occurring in the first place. The review findings are expected to be published later this year. More information can be found at:


A letter sent by the ESFA to colleges and other training providers this month says that they will now be given a notice period of two-weeks of an impending financial assurance audit visit, which can also now take place any time of the year. FE providers will also now be given between 3 and 5 days to present sample individual learner files, whereas previously they were given between 5 and 10 days. In addition, whilst audits have only been used to cover the previous year’s data and to determine any clawback from that year, this now been extended to include data from three years’ previously. Meanwhile, the ESFA continues to recruit auditors to join its new ‘Market Oversight Unit’. A copy of the ESFA letter can be found at:


At present, it is the ESFA that makes judgements on the financial health of FE providers. However, in the past, arriving at a judgement on the financial health and management of FE providers was an integral part of the inspection process and was carried out by a provider financial assurance (PFA) team that worked alongside Ofsted inspectors. This was dropped from Ofsted’s remit, but in the wake of Ofsted judgements that have sometimes embarrassingly rated a provider good or outstanding for leadership, management and governance at the same time as the provider was in severe financial difficulties, there have been calls for Ofsted to be given a more proactive role in factoring a judgement on the provider’s financial management into the final leadership, management and governance grade and the overall effectiveness grade. In response, the DfE has announced that, in future, it intends to work with Ofsted to ensure that all inspection reports will also include a rating for financial management. This is not yet part the new Ofsted inspection framework which came into effect earlier this month (September) and it is, at present unclear, when and how this function will be included in Ofsted’s inspection remit. Neither is it clear at this stage whether the ESFA will continue to make financial health judgements that will be incorporated into Ofsted grades, or whether Ofsted will make its own judgements on a provider’s financial health.


The exemption from inspection for ‘outstanding’ providers was introduced in 2011 by former education secretary Michael Gove. These providers would only be re-inspected if safeguarding issues or concerns over achievement rates came to light. However, a NAO report published in 2018 said that the exemption has led to many colleges and schools not being inspected for more than a decade. In October last year, Ofsted Chief Inspector for England, Amanda Spielman, warned members of the PAC that the exemption had left the inspectorate with ‘real blind spots as to the quality of education and safeguarding’ in these schools and colleges. In response, the DfE has announced that subject to consultation and parliamentary approval, the exemption will be removed by September next year.


Increasing numbers of colleges are finding themselves the victims cyber fraud, including such things as phishing scams where genuine-looking invoices are sent to colleges by fraudsters to try to trick finance staff into paying money into a fictitious account which is quickly cleared out and then closed. Some colleges are thought to have lost considerable sums of money as a result of such scams. To help colleges avoid internet fraud the ESFA has issued advice and guidance which includes such things as ‘strategic questions’ colleges should ask themselves to help identify the cyber risks they face, and the National Cyber Security

Centre’s ‘10 steps to cyber security’. However, the ESFA has also warned colleges that it is their responsibility ‘to be aware of the risk of fraud, theft and irregularity and address it by putting in place proportionate controls’. A copy of the ESFA guidance can be found at:


The DfE has appointed a new deputy and two new advisers to join the team of the FE Commissioner. Martin Sims (formerly principal of Salford City College) joins five other Deputy Commissioners. Laraine Smith (formerly principal of Uxbridge College) and Nigel Duncan (previously principal of Fareham College) and join nine other FE Advisers. Two FE Adviser posts still remain vacant.


The first of these is entitled ‘Area Reviews: End of Programme Report’, which provides an assessment of the extent to which area review recommendations have been implemented. The report says that that of a total of 376 recommendations, 71% are completed, 13% are progressing, and 13% are ‘not progressing’. 68 area review recommendations were for colleges to merge. Of these 57 mergers had been completed. In addition, of the 54 sixth form colleges that were recommended to explore becoming an academy, 23 did so. A copy of the report can be accessed at:

The second report is entitled ‘The Impact of College Mergers in Further Education’. The report provides an evaluation of mergers following area reviews and analyses whether they have produce the desired results. The hypothesis is that mergers should increase surpluses, reduce the proportion of income spent on staff, increase income to asset ratios, reduce debt ratios and improve student achievement. However, on average, the report shows no significant improvement in respect of these indicators and in many cases has resulted in lower surpluses, higher staff costs and lower student achievement. This has led some observers to conclude that bigger is not necessarily better, bigger is just bigger. A copy of this report can be found at:


Following concerns expressed by the NAO and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) about non-compliance with the rules on apprenticeship ‘off-the-job’ training, the ESFA has announced that a mandatory ‘off-the-Job training actual hours’ data field will added to the Individual Learner Record (ILR) from 2020/21. This, says the ESFA, is in order to provide evidence that the required 20% off-the-job training is being delivered. It is, at present, unclear whether the actual hours field will need to be updated by providers every month, or whether the data will only need to be provided at the end of an apprentice’s programme. Details of the ESFA’s new data field requirements can be found at:


An Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) survey of 235 apprenticeship training providers has revealed that around 75% are unable to meet the demands of small and medium sized employers (SMEs) for apprenticeship training. This, says the AELP, is because the apprenticeship levy is running out of cash. (SMEs do not pay the apprenticeship levy and have to rely on any funding left over after levy-paying employers have first taken back their entitlement). The AELP says that some providers have stopped recruiting apprentices altogether for both new and existing client SME employers. The AELP goes on to say that a 25% increase in the availability of levy funding is needed to meet current demand by SMEs for apprentices. Commenting on this, a DfE spokesperson said that large businesses are now allowed to transfer up to 25% of their levy funds to smaller employers. Meanwhile, both the NAO and the AELP have warned that large employers are increasingly developing more expensive standards at higher levels and that this is disproportionately reducing the amount of funding available for less expensive lower level apprenticeships. This, in turn, has led the AELP to call on the DfE to cease to provide public funding for Level 6 and Level 7 apprenticeships. More information can be found at:


Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has published a new report entitled ‘Learning on the Job: Improving the Apprenticeship Levy’, which calls on the government to address any shortage of apprenticeship funding by providing an annual £100 million ‘top-up’ to the apprenticeship levy. The CBI says that the cash injection is needed because financial pressures are calling into question the financial viability of the whole apprenticeship system. Jonathan Slater, the DfE Permanent Secretary has hinted that one solution to the levy funding shortage might be to increase the levy rate and for more businesses to be brought in scope of paying the levy. This caused the CBI to swiftly call on the government to commit to maintaining the current apprenticeship levy limits (0.5% of payroll above £3 million) for the at least duration of the next parliament. A copy of the CBI report can be accessed at:


In their 2017 manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to discount public transport for apprentices, but until recently have given no sign honouring the commitment. However, the DfE and Department for Transport now say they are preparing a joint proposal for discounted public transport, including bus and train travel, for apprentices, and in the meantime have agreed that they will provide a half price rail card for apprentices aged 16 and 17 with effect from this month (September). They also say that they will continue to work together to support other forms of discounted travel for apprentices.


Ofqual has produced a guide to results, standards and grade boundaries for the 2019 AS and A-Level results in England. The key points include the following:

  • Reformed A-Levels were awarded for the first time in 19 more subjects this summer bringing the total number of reformed subjects to 44. The new A levels are linear qualifications but have not been designed to be more demanding.
  • Overall results in England are slightly lower at grade A and above compared to last year (25.2% in 2019 compared with 26.2% in 2018). While the number of 18-year-olds taking A-Levels in England decreased by around 0.3% in 2019, the overall 18-year-old cohort has decreased by just under 3%. This suggests that proportionally more 18-year-olds have taken A-Levels in 2019.
  • Entries for reformed AS qualifications in England dropped by over 50% in 2019 compared to 2018

A copy of the Ofqual guide and more information on all 2019 A-Level and AS-Level results can be found at:


The proportion of GCSE re-sit students who achieved a grade 4 pass has fallen in both English and maths. Figures published by the DfE for students aged 17 and over in England show that the pass rate in English fell by 2.7% to 30.3% and the pass rate for mathematics fell by 1.4% to 21.2% (see table below). Put another way, this means that for re-sit candidates aged 17 and over, fewer than a quarter achieved a pass at grade 4 or better in mathematics and fewer than a third achieved a pass at grade 4 or better in English.

GCSE English Number sat Grade 4/C or above pass % point shift
2019 151,752 30.3 -2.7
2018 148,894 33.0
GCSE Mathematics
2019 169,402 21.2 -1.4
2018 160,519 22.6

Further information on 2019 GCSE results in all subjects for all ages in England can be found at:


Meanwhile, research published this month by the Children’s Commission for England shows that last year of 98,799 children in England who left education at age 18, almost one in five (18%) left without achieving five GCSEs A*-C. This is a 24% rise in the number of children leaving education without a full Level 2 attainment compared with 3 years ago. Also, of 28,225 children who received free school meals (FSM), more than one in three (37%) left without any substantive qualifications. Since 2015, the rate of children receiving FSM leaving education without Level 2 attainment has risen at almost 3 times the rate of non-FSM children. Children with Special Education Needs (SEN) have been the worst affected with almost half (45%) not reaching Level 2 attainment by the time they leave education. The research also shows the attainment gap between children living in the least deprived and most deprived areas of England is widening. More information can be found at:

And the Education Policy Institute (EPI) ‘2019 Annual Report on Education in England’ says that the segregation of disadvantaged pupils from their advantaged peers in post-16 education continues to rise. The report says that once they leave secondary school, disadvantaged pupils are more likely to choose a further education college, employment or become NEET (not in employment, education or training), compared with advantaged pupils, who are more likely to choose a school sixth form, a sixth form college or an apprenticeship. A copy of EPI report is available at:


The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has confirmed its allocation of points to T-Levels and their equivalence to A-Levels These are given in the table below.

UCAS Tariff points T-Level overall grade A-Level equivalence
168 Distinction* A*A*A*
144 Distinction AAA
120 Merit BBB
96 Pass (C or above core grade) CCC
72 Pass (D or E core grade) DDD

The DfE has also confirmed that T-Level certificates will show:

  • An overall grade, shown as pass, merit, distinction or distinction*.
  • A separate grade for the core component, shown as A* to E.
  • A separate grade for each occupational specialism studied, shown as pass, merit or distinction.
  • A statement that the minimum requirements for maths and English qualifications have been met.
  • A statement that the industry placement has been successfully completed.
  • A statement that any other additional mandatory requirements have been met.

Overall T-Level grades will be based on the grades achieved in the core component and occupational specialism. Students can study more than one occupational specialism and, if they do, an aggregate across all those specialisms will be used. Students who have achieved an A* in the core component and a distinction in their occupational specialism will be awarded a T-Level distinction*. At the other extreme, students who don’t achieve a pass will receive a T-Level statement of achievement on which the elements that the student has completed satisfactorily (see table above) will be listed, but will not include an overall T-level grade. A statement of achievement will not be awarded any UCAS points.


In an effort to raise awareness of T-Levels, amongst other things, the DfE has awarded a £250,000 contract to the public relations firm Havas Worldwide London Ltd to design the T-levels logo. However, with only 12 months to go before the first T-Levels are scheduled to be taught the campaign appears to be faltering. Recent research commissioned by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) involving a survey of 824 parents with children aged 11-18 in England has revealed that 57% of parents had never heard of T-Levels, 29% knew ‘something’ about them, while only 11% said they knew ‘a lot’ about them. In addition, a DfE YouTube video, which explains what T-Levels are, was published by the DfE last year has only had just over 11,000 views to date, while a similar video launched last month has only had 970 views. Looking on the bright side, after being given a short description of T-Levels, 72% of parents said that they thought T-Levels would help prepare young people with the skills needed for the workforce. Alongside this, 59% of parents said that they thought an apprenticeship would give young people a better chance of securing a good job than going to university, with 51% saying that they would prefer their child to apply for an apprenticeship rather than apply for a place at university.


Provisional statistics for 2019 (covering around 80% of final results) have been released by the awarding body Pearson. The provisional data shows that more than 246,000 students completed a Level 3 BTEC qualification in 2019, which is around 5,000 more than in 2018. The increase comes at a time when the DfE’s review of post-16 qualifications has resulted in a decision to cease to fund many post-16 qualifications in support of the government’s apparent objective to have just three post-16 study routes (A-Levels, T-Levels and Apprenticeships). Meanwhile, around 78,000 of the BTECs completed this year were the new reformed version which include external examinations, a massive increase of 77.3% on 2018. The provisional data also showed that business studies (at 15% of the cohort) was the most popular subject, followed by sport (14%) and health and social care (13%). In addition, 6% of all BTEC students were adults aged 19+. Final figures will be released by Pearson next month (October). Meanwhile, data made available by Universities UK (UUK) shows that in the period between 2008 and 2018, the number of higher education entrants with BTEC qualifications more than doubled.


The National College for Creative Industries (NCCI), one of the five government flagship national colleges has resolved (subject to DfE approval) to dissolve itself on 31 January 2020, with the reason cited being a failure to recruit enough students. The college was set up in 2016 with £5.5 million of government funding, and despite further government cash injections the NCCI has decided to hand over its apprenticeship provision to an independent training provider and its classroom-based courses and premises to a local FE college. A spokesperson for NCCI said that a Company Limited by Guarantee will be formed which will deliver former NCCI provision through its preferred partners. The spokesperson added that the NCCI vision will continue to be promoted and strengthened and the new company, NCCI Ltd, will continue developing new curriculum at higher levels to address sector needs. Meanwhile, the National College for High Speed Rail has required a further government cash injection of £4.55 million to maintain its ‘going concern’ status and is seeking to change its name to the National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure in order broaden its offering. The National Colleges for Digital Skills and Nuclear both remain open, but the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas has not yet commenced operations.


After closing down the option in March, the DfE has now confirmed that sixth-form colleges will again be allowed to convert to academy status and has re-issued guidance on the process involved. The DfE has also confirmed that it will provide a support grant of £25,000 to each sixth form college wishing to convert. Under the conversion rules that applied during the area reviews, sixth form colleges were allowed to convert to a stand-alone academy, but the new guidance states that sixth-form colleges wishing to become academies should form a multi-academy trust (MAT) with other schools, academies, free schools or colleges, or join an existing MAT. The DfE has also announced that a further 30 free schools are to be established to help accommodate England’s rapidly increasing school population. A copy of the DfE guidance on academisation can be found at:

  • Tuition fees: Universities Minister for England, Chris Skidmore, has confirmed that tuition fees will be frozen and maintenance loans will be increased for students starting HE courses in 2020/21.
  • Applications: The latest UCAS figures for the 2019 application cycle, which analyses acceptance numbers as of 28 days after A-Level results day, show 33.8% of all UK 18 year olds had been placed on university courses. This is a new record for this point in the cycle, and exceeds the final end of cycle figure (33.0%) from 2018. The number of UK 18 year olds accepted is 239,460. This represents a 1% increase on 2018.
  • International students: A record 40,720 international students from outside the EU have been accepted (a 6% increase), while the number of EU students accepted (30,350) is similar to 2018. A new high of 65,810 students have so far used Clearing to secure their place at university or college, up nearly 10% on the equivalent date in 2018. A total of 495,620 students now have a confirmed place on a full-time HE course. More information on 2019 applications can be found on the UCAS interactive dashboard at:
  • Unconditional offers: Almost 2 in 5 students (38%) received at least one unconditional offer this year, compared to a third (34%) last year and just 1% six years ago. The total number of unconditional offers made to 18-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this year was 75,845, almost 8% of all offers. This is up on last year’s 67,915 (7.1% of all offers) and considerably higher than the 2,985 (0.4% of all offers) made in 2013. The new regulator for universities, the Office for Students (OfS) has been tasked by the DfE with investigating this and taking appropriate action.
  • Real cost of student loans in England: This month, Britain’s budget deficit increased by almost £12 billion as a result of an earlier ruling by the ONS that the government should accept the real cost to public finances of student loans, and in particular the cost of loans that are unlikely to be repaid.
  • Grade inflation. The total number of undergraduate degrees awarded has increased fivefold since 1994, while the proportion of first class honours degrees awarded has quadrupled from 7% to 29% over the same period. For every student awarded a first class honours degree in the 1994, there are nearly 20 now. The proportion of students awarded a ‘good’ honours degree (first or upper-second) now stands at 79%. The numbers of students on masters’ degrees has increased tenfold. A fascinating article covering these and other factors entitled The Great University Con: How the British degree lost its value’ was recently published in the New Statesman and really is worth a read. A copy can be found at:

A group of FE students were overheard talking in the college canteen during enrolment…

‘They’re making me retake the Level 2 motor vehicle course I did last year just to punish me for something I didn’t do’.

‘What didn’t you do?’.

‘Turn up regularly at my classes and do most of my course assignments’.

‘Well, they weren’t going to let me enrol on my catering course at all’.

‘Why was that?’.

‘I was in trouble for being disrespectful to my tutor. He asked me why I called the vegetable soup I was making golden soup. I told him that it was because it contained 24 carrots. But they really had it in for me when my catering tutor said that onions were the only food that could make you cry. So, to prove him wrong I threw a coconut at his head’.

‘Same with me. Last year my motor vehicle tutor told me off for drinking brake fluid. He said it was dangerous but I told him that I could stop easily’.

‘I had to send in copies of my GCSE results. The person behind the counter at the post office said that the envelope was overweight and that I needed to put another stamp on it. I ask you, how on earth was this going to make it any lighter?’.

‘I’ve just enrolled on a sports studies course. To improve my fitness, I joined a gym but two months since then I’ve not noticed any improvement whatsoever. Tomorrow I’m going there in person to find out what’s going on’.

‘During my student support assessment, I told them that I had a phobia about using lifts and escalators. When they asked me if I needed any help with this, I said no, I’ll be taking steps to avoid them’.

‘When I was being interviewed for my music course the tutor asked me if I was able to perform under pressure. I said I didn’t know that one, but I could have a fair crack at Bohemian Rhapsody’.

‘I applied for an apprenticeship before coming to college. They told me that the wage rate was £3.90 an hour, but that this would increase to £6.15 an hour in a year’s time. They asked me when I would like to start so I said, “In a year’s time”’.

Alan Birks – September 2019

As usual, the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those held by Click.
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