25 November 2016
Response to Public Bill Committee
ASCL broadly supports this part of the Bill and welcomes the government’s new focus on technical qualifications as outlined in their Skills Plan which adopts the recommendations of the Sainsbury Review. However, ASCL is concerned about the transfer of responsibility for regulating the validity of vocational qualifications throughout their lifecycle from Ofqual to the newly formed Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE).
In practice this would mean that technical qualifications for young people below the age of 19 would no longer be regulated by Ofqual but be regulated by IfATE. ASCL has concerns that this may mean that young people are awarded new, less rigorous and less consistent qualifications that may lack the credibility, currency and brand awareness of existing vocational qualifications (such as the BTEC Applied General). This could seriously hinder students’ progression routes into employment and/or Higher Education. To some extent this happened with the ill-fated Diploma qualification which has resulted in approximately 40,000 young people, now in their 20s, having a qualification that the vast majority of present day employers do not understand or recognise.
However, we have much greater concerns about Part 2 of the Bill, which creates an insolvency regime for FE and Sixth Form Colleges. It is worth noting that ASCL members include senior leaders in the great majority of sixth form colleges (SFCs) and, via the Principals’’ Professional Council (PPC), Further Education Colleges (FECs).
ASCL/PPC remains unpersuaded that these proposals are necessary. The consultation took place over a short period of time during the summer vacation and many issues have not been adequately addressed.