FE COLLEGES AND 14-16 YEAR OLDS
Might FE colleges help educate 14-19 year olds
Most FE colleges currently work with 14- to 16-year-olds on a part-time basis.
The Association of Colleges (AoC) argues that all colleges should be able to admit young people full-time, a view echoed in the Liberal Democrats’ election manifesto. The 157 group, which represents 27 of the most influential colleges in England, has also said 14-year-olds should have the opportunity to attend college full-time if they wish
John Ruderman, who co-ordinates the 14-16 provision at City of Bristol College, thinks it could work. He told the Guardian a couple of weeks ago that “Young people who think they’ve outgrown or can’t deal with the ‘strictness’ of school often become disruptive, disaffected or simply switch off. College can be good for that kind of student.” But there is a precondition. According to Ruderman, giving all 14- to 16-year-olds the opportunity to study at college full-time could only work if students had access to impartial careers advice and guidance, which many in the sector feel has been lacking under the last r government, whose Connexions service has focused resources on the most disadvantaged young people. The Tories have also criticised the quality of careers advice on offer and want a universal service that is professional , independent and impartial, something that David Willetts the Higher Education and Skills Minister is particularly keen on. The advice in schools is seen to be too inconsistent.
“A radical rethink of the whole system” would also be needed, Ruderman says. Under current 14-16 partnerships between schools and colleges, the student remains on the school roll. If young people were given the option to attend college full-time, this could have a devastating effect on school roll numbers and – crucially – funding.” Quite.
Schools currently have a finacicial incentive to advise pupils to stay on, whether it is in their interests or not. So much for impartial advice.