Introduction

 

On 10 April 2018, the government launched their consultation on performance reporting for FE college groups and multi-site colleges, which applies to institutions within the FE sector – including sixth-form colleges.

The consultation focusses on strengthening public reporting on performance for colleges, and seeks views on achievement rates, progress measures, learner destinations and outcomes; however, it does not propose any changes to the actual measures themselves or the allocation of funding.

 

Why are views being sought?

 

The increase in complex delivery models of FE is the main reason behind the consultation – as an estimate, there are now fewer than 50 single college/single site corporations, as many now have a complex model with multiple delivery sites and colleges.

Due to this change in structure, there are implications on the effectiveness of the performance reporting system:

  • Limited official performance information available for learners
  • Weakened local accountability
  • Weakened incentives on corporations to address areas of provision that require improvement
  • Increased difficulty to identify priorities for targeted support
  • Increased difficulty for corporations to compete with other post-16 providers, including sixth-forms

 

Policy objectives

 

The document states that the three main policy objectives are: to improve information for learners, to strengthen local accountability and to support quality improvement.

To ensure the government meets these objectives, it aims to adequately control any perceived impact – e.g. ensuring that changes do not undermine the primary accountability for performance. Amongst other things, the government wants to ensure the system is applied fairly and generates reliable performance data, whilst ensuring that new reporting requirements are not excessive.

The consultation asks whether colleges agree that these are the right policy objectives.

Achieving the policy objectives

To achieve the policy objectives, the government is seeking views on two different approaches – it highlights that, in both cases, the approach would supplement, rather than replace, the existing performance reporting system. The first proposal looks at colleges that are part of a group and reporting between colleges, whilst the second considers multi-site colleges and reporting within colleges.

 

Colleges that are part of a group

 

An increasing number of college groups has led to inconsistency between the availability of public information, as there is no public performance information reported at college level, just group level – this results in an uneven picture of the information available about certain colleges.

To address these problems, the government is proposing that for all groups, performance should be reported at college level as well as at group level – meaning that publicly available information is accessible for all colleges, regardless of whether they are part of a group or not.

Sub-brands

In the example provided within the consultation document, the government also discusses sub-brands – meaning the requirement for separate reporting would only apply at an institutional level and would not apply to another provision within a college, where this is clearly part of the same institution. For example, an engineering centre that is part of a single institution would not therefore be subject to separate reporting arrangements.

Constraints

To prevent institutions changing their approach frequently – i.e. switching between a single college or college group – the government intends to implement constraints on the ability to change college identities, other than in exceptional circumstances, within an initial period of three years. The government believes that this approach would ensure the negative impact on available information for learners is reduced.

The government is seeking views on six different areas – these are:

  • Whether colleges agree that performance should be reported at college level as well as at group level, for all groups
  • Whether the definition of a college, in order to clarify separate reporting arrangements, is clear enough for it to be consistently applied, and if any other factors need to be considered
  • Whether separate reporting requirements should not apply to sub-brands where they are clearly part of a single college
  • The perceived impact that separate reporting requirements for colleges that are part of groups may have on decisions by corporations, e.g. on how they are organised, and what the unintended consequences might be
  • Whether colleges agree that for an initial period, there should be constraints on the ability of corporations to change their identities, other than in exceptional circumstances

 

Multi-site colleges

 

A number of colleges and sixth forms have more than one delivery site – in comparison to colleges that are part of a group, multi-site colleges operate under a single college identity. Currently, the data that is available about these colleges reflects provision on more than one site – for this reason, it is not transparent information for learners.

To combat this, the government proposes that performance reporting would be introduced at delivery site level – in addition to corporation and college level (where applicable). This would apply to all multi-site colleges, including those that are part of groups, and would be specific to on-site provision only.

The options

The government has outlined four different options – these are explained in further detail in the consultation document, alongside the advantages and disadvantages of each, but a brief overview of these is provided below:

  • Option A – separate performance reporting is introduced for all delivery sites.
  • Option B – separate performance reporting is introduced for delivery sites over a certain size, based on an established threshold of learners, e.g. over 500 learners.
  • Option C – separate performance reporting is introduced for delivery sites based on geographical distance or travel time from other delivery sites within the college.
  • Option D –  separate performance reporting is introduced for some delivery sites based on curriculum provision.

The government is seeking views on six different areas – these are:

  • Whether colleges agree with the proposed additional reporting requirements for multi-site colleges at delivery site level
  • Whether any of the options listed above should be ruled out
  • Whether any of the options listed above are preferred or would be the best overall approach
  • If option B was implemented, what the threshold of learners should be to require delivery-site reporting arrangements
  • If option C was implemented, what the minimum distance threshold should be – whether this should be 5km, 10km or 15km, and how it should be calculated
  • Whether colleges have any other suggested options for performance reporting for delivery sites within multi-site colleges

 

Implementation

 

Once the outcome of the consultation is determined, the government will review relevant timescales, considering the timing of the outcome and the next steps needed to implement the proposals, before establishing when the proposals must be implemented by. The government’s preferred approach would be to phase changes in progressively, starting from 2018/2019.

The consultation asks whether, subject to the outcome of the consultation, colleges have any comments on the approach to implementing the proposals.

 

Implications for inspection and intervention

 

The proposals outlined in the consultation would provide additional performance information that may be used for an Ofsted inspection and for intervention methods. Any implications to inspection arising from the proposals of the consultation will be considered as part of Ofsted’s review of their inspection framework.

The consultation asks whether colleges have any other comments on their proposals, including any unintended consequences, that have not already been mentioned in previous responses to other questions.

 

Next steps

 

Views on the changes to performance reporting can be submitted here – the consultation closes on 10 June 2018.

 

Bibliography

Views on the changes to performance reporting can be submitted here – the consultation closes on 10 June 2018.

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