Centres of Vocational Excellence contribute significantly to 14-16 development

The achievement of 14 to 16 year olds on vocational courses provided in collaboration with Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) is good, and many pupils progress to further study or training, according to a new report published today by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

The purpose of CoVEs is to develop high quality vocational provision and training to meet the current and future needs of the local area. Many are based at colleges and offer vocational courses to 14-16 year olds from local schools. Today’s report found that they were able to provide a wider range of good quality courses and more specialist equipment to students than would be possible in their schools.

The contribution made by Centres of Vocational Excellence to the development of vocational work in schools, found that retention and progression rates were high in the 24 CoVEs surveyed. Large numbers of young people moved on to post-16 provision, either at the college where they studied or another local college, or into related training.

Where CoVES had worked with schools to provide vocational courses, they had contributed significantly to the quality and range of experience available to young people and increased their motivation, attendance and career aspirations as a result.

However,the reportalso found that there are barriers to the further development of this effective support for school-based students that included uncertainty over future funding and the reluctance of some schools to develop links with other providers.

CoVEs cooperated well with partner schools to provide well focused and effective staff development for teachers in schools and colleges. However, much more training and awareness-raising is needed to prepare for the new 14 to 19 diplomas in 2008.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, Christine Gilbert, said:

“Schools have found that the attendance, motivation, self-esteem and career aspirations of 14 to 16 year olds have improved as a result of them taking vocational courses run with centres of vocational excellence which has often had a knock-on effect for a great many in improving their attendance in other lessons.

“The positive working between schools and colleges is helping to offer different and more varied opportunities to young people which means many are going on to further study or training.”

The lack of clarity about future funding was considered to be a potential barrier for further developing a more collaborative 14 to 19 vocational curriculum. Currently, many colleges subsidise their work with schools. Schools which contributed to the funding were also concerned about the sustainability of the work, in spite of the benefits. A further concern was the lack of clear strategies for funding additional learning support where several different providers were involved in delivering courses.

As a result of their vocational knowledge and experience, all the colleges visited had taken a leading role in either preparing or supporting the submissions for the specialist diplomas in their areas. Where colleges had CoVEs with relevant specialisms, the CoVE was almost always leading the development of that particular diploma line.

All the colleges visited had well established programmes for learners aged 14 to 16 who attended college to study, in nearly all cases, at levels 1 and 2. Schools and colleges had designed these programmes together to match their curriculum offering more closely to the needs of their learners by providing more appropriate vocational education and training.

The CoVEs complemented the curriculum provision of their local schools and, in most cases, offered vocational opportunities that would not be otherwise available. This was particularly true where specialist facilities were needed, for example, in engineering, construction and digital media. They were also able to offer curriculum extension activities.

However, despite the good links between schools and colleges some schools did not wish to participate in joint developments. Some preferred to wait and see how diplomas developed, while others, mainly with sixth form provision, had been reluctant to take part in joint working. However, where local authorities had taken a strong lead in promoting joint working, collaboration and developments were successful.

The report recommends that colleges should promote the benefits that CoVEs can bring more widely to the schools in their area and involve local authorities in this work. It also recommends that colleges and schools should undertake more systematic joint staff development to prepare for the diplomas; with the support of the local authority, plan for sufficient harmonisation of timetables to maximise students’ access to collaborative provision; and develop links between CoVEs and specialist schools with related vocational specialisms.

The Department for Education and Skills, the Learning and Skills Council, local authorities, schools and colleges should review the funding of link programmes to ensure that these are sustainable in the future and that funding is equitable for those involved.

Related links

Notes for Editors

1. The report, The contribution made by Centres of Vocational Excellence to the development of vocational work in schools , is available on the Ofsted website, www.ofsted.gov.uk today.

2. This report is based on a small-scale survey. Inspectors visited CoVEs in vocational areas including hospitality, engineering, construction, health and social care and information and communication technology in 24 further education colleges between October and December 2006.

3. The colleges chosen for the survey were involved in providing vocational courses for students from local schools and were working on developing the forthcoming development of the new 14 to 19 diplomas.

4. From 1 April 2007 a new single inspectorate for children and learners came into being. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) has the responsibility for the inspection of adult learning and training - work formerly undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate; the regulation and inspection of children's social care - work formerly undertaken by the Commission for Social Care Inspection; the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service - work formerly undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration; and the existing regulatory and inspection activities of Ofsted.