A major review / a major opportunity
Kent County Council is taking the lead in developing a collaborative action plan to help young people achieve their goals after they leave school by providing better pathways to post-16 education, skills and training.
This follows an in-depth review into the post-16 offer in the county, commissioned by KCC to develop a deeper and shared understanding of the issues facing both young people and education, skills and training providers.
At the review publication event, attended by representatives from schools, colleges, training providers and KCC, there was clear focus on identifying a shared understanding of how to respond to the eight principal recommendations. There was unanimous support for the creation of a 16+ Strategic Leadership Board to make sure all parties are involved in the joint working to deliver these recommendations and oversee the sector’s future strategic development.
The review was conducted mostly during 2021 with the guidance and support of a Steering Group of key sector wide representation. It explored the offer available to young people aged 16 to 19 and the effectiveness of careers and education advice offered. It also looked at the experience young people have when moving into16-19 provision and the impact of COVID-19.
Students, their parents, schools, colleges and training providers were among the many people who took part in the interviews, surveys and consultation work of the review, which found that:
· * there is uneven support for students when transitioning into further education, skills and training;
· * careers education, information, advice and guidance does not always cover all options and could be more effective;
· * qualification reform and size of sixth forms may restrict choice and opportunities;
· * apprenticeship shortages for 16-19 year-olds are linked to the issues faced by employers and wider support;
· * there are concerns about the mental health issues faced by students;
· * access affects the choices post-16 provision students are able to make
* developing high aspirations is important, particularly for certain groups.
The review also found that national qualification reforms threatened the future of many schools’ post-16 qualifications offers, particularly around the potential for the withdrawal of national funding to schools for International Baccalaureate and BTEC qualifications.
To address these issues, the review made a series of principal recommendations, including the need for the sector in Kent to collaborate and make a concerted effort to jointly improve outcomes from 16+provision, and to raise young people’s aspirations through better careers education, information, advice and guidance.
Further recommendations include the development of an ‘area offer’ to include consideration of all education, skills and training providers, and to take further steps to support young people’s mental health. In addition, the review recommends that the sector takes the opportunity to learn lessons from the COVID-19 lockdowns and not simply assume everything should or will return to ‘normal’.
Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council, said: “This is a major review and a major opportunity for all the partners and providers that make up Kent’s post-16 sector to come together to make sure our young people have equal chances to get the education, skills and training they need to thrive in the world.
“The review has allowed KCC to understand, support and provide direction to the post-16 sector in the county.
“No single organisation has the resources or power to drive the changes that need to be made – it must be a collaboration across the sector. The review has brought us as a sector together and provided a clear picture of what needs to be done and we need to sustain this spirit of collaboration as we now begin to implement the recommendations.”
Shellina Prendergast, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: “The findings from the review offer a unique and up-to-date insight into the challenges and experiences of young people and post-16 providers.
“I have been very encouraged by the participation in the review and the response to the findings, conclusion and recommendations. There is a clear desire and commitment across the sector to look afresh at post-16 provision and collaborate to improve the offer and experience for young people, making Kent a county that works for all 16- to 19-year-olds.”
Christine McInnes, Kent County Council’s Director of Education, added: “This review comes at a point of major change being driven at a national level, with qualification reforms affecting the way education is delivered, a skills white paper which increases the role of employers in further education and a new education white paper which aims to improve the quality in schools.
“We need to act now, and the review gives us a clear plan of what we, as a sector, need to do. We will be setting up the Strategic Board by the end of the summer, which will have responsibility for developing an action plan that will enable us collectively to implement the review’s recommendations.”
Pathways for All – Review of education and training provision for young people aged 16-19 in Kent is available here: https://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/college-sixth-form-employment-and-training/kent-16-to-19-review-pathways-for-all