The demand for secondary school places will reach further education in a few years, as all 16 year olds must remain in education or training until the age of 18. Recent and upcoming developments such as the introduction of T levels, the increase of young people above the age of 16 with an EHCP, and changes to GCSE and A Level examinations, will affect where students decide to study and, thus, where demand is likely to be greatest in the future. Local government is committed to remaining responsive to these developments.
Since 2014, it has been compulsory for students leaving year 11 to remain in education or training until the age of 18. This policy, referred to as Raising the Participation Age (RPA), represents the government’s recognition of the importance of continued education after the age of 16. The introduction of RPA has not only increased demand for places in schools but also in colleges and other training providers as young people’s choices include both academic and technical learning post-16. As with pre-16 education, local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure that there are sufficient places available in the local area for post-16 students.
Shifting demand for places
Education post-16 is more varied than the school system for children up to the age of 16. At the end of year 11, young people can choose whether to attend a school, a general further education college, a sixthform college, a training provider or start an apprenticeship. There are several recent and upcoming developments that will affect the pattern of demand. Local councils ensure that they are aware of, and responsive to, the implications of these changes.
The emphasis that the government is placing on technical education post-16 and, in particular, the introduction of T Levels, will significantly impact on demand for further education places in the coming years. T Levels are vocational qualifications which will be offered as an alternative to academic qualifications such as A Levels, alongside existing options including apprenticeships. T Level programmes are aligned to specific technical pathways – such as construction, digital, or childcare and education – and combine study in an further education institution with an industry placement of at least three months. The roll out of T Levels will place significant capital demands on providers, and the government recently announced a £38 million capital fund for the first providers offering T Levels in 2020. Local government would like to work with central government to ensure that capital funding meets costs in the coming years and incentivises providers to offer T Level programmes.
The introduction of a transition period for students who are not ready to access a Level 3 course or employment at the age of 16 is fundamental to the proposals for T Levels. This will also affect demand for further education places, as more young people will be given the opportunity to remain in education for a further year (or more).