Stop comparing apples and oranges – why league tables are not the only measure of success for young people

Tuesday, 30 January 2018 11:31

As part of its wide vocational and academic offering, The Academy at Newbury College offers young people in year 10 and 11 (14-16 year olds) the opportunity to study GCSEs alongside a vocational programme. The students, some of whom have opted to leave mainstream school or have up to this point been educated at home, take up to five GCSEs or equivalent in subjects including Maths, English and Science. The two-year programme offers students the opportunity to study their key stage 4 education in a different environment with a focus on vocational skills, it also offers post-16 progression to Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) and 3 (A-level equivalent) vocational courses and apprenticeships.

In response to the publication of the government’s new Progress 8 data last week, where some schools and colleges were listed as ‘below and well below average', the Further Education sector has highlighted the importance of the role it plays in the education of young people and how a direct comparison does not do the sector justice.

“Progress 8 data is based on school models where students have taken eight GCSEs. The module excludes vocational subjects and functional skills programmes,” explains Dr Anne Murdoch, Principal and CEO of Newbury College. “Our biggest challenge is that the Progress 8 accountability measures reflect a broad curriculum and a diverse cohort. Our students, a much smaller cohort (only 33 were involved in the year used for the recently published statistics) spend two years on this direct-entry programme and take a variety of vocational, GCSE and functional skills qualifications, and plenty of them do very well, going on to study A levels/BTECs and then progress to university or into meaningful employment.

“To this end, we (and the wider FE sector) are disappointed that the measures compare direct-entry FE provisions with the mainstream offering. The AOC has asked the Government to reconsider this strategy, as we, like many other FE colleges, provide an important service to students who may have experienced an alternative education, or have had a disruption to their education of some kind or have barriers to learning. The ethos of what we offer to students in the Progress 8 measure is a programme to help them stay in education – the value of which should not be underestimated."

Bryony Petersen and Gabriel Stirling both attended Newbury College’s pre-16 programme. Bryony is now studying at Northampton University for her paramedic degree and Gabriel is at Queen Mary's College in Basingstoke studying towards a career in politics. Read their case studies here. In May 2017, Newbury College was graded a ‘good’ college.

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