The Government today announced further moves to free up colleges and schools and remove bureaucracy from the education system.

School and college leaders welcomed the decisions made by Schools Minister Nick Gibb, who said:

  • schools and colleges would be allowed to choose how many, and which, Diploma lines of learning they offered
  • the development of the Extended Diploma would be stopped
  • routine Ofsted inspections of sixth form colleges rated “outstanding” would end – meaning 40 per cent of colleges would be exempt
  • sixth form colleges would no longer be forced to do “surveys of learner views”
  • plans to introduce in-year adjustments to 16-19 budgets would be dropped, giving greater certainty to institutions.

On Diplomas, Nick Gibb said:

We want schools and colleges to have greater choice over the qualifications they offer – they know what’s best for their students.

We want students to be able to sit the qualification that is right for them, whether Diplomas, the International Baccalaureate, A levels and GCSEs, or iGCSEs, not to be told by Government what they can and cannot take.

That is why we are removing the unnecessary bureaucracy and cost associated with the requirement that every school offers access to every Diploma line, and why we are stopping development of the extended Diploma.

That does not mean young people presently studying for a Diploma, or who plan to start one in the future, should think again, and I want to reassure them. We want to see how Diplomas work, and learn from them to improve the quality of vocational education in this country.

It is not the role of Government to make sweeping assumptions from the centre about what is best for them, and to introduce unnecessary bureaucracy.

He added:

The Diploma entitlement forces schools and colleges to offer all lines of learning, and so adds extra layers of complexity and red tape to the whole process, with a great deal of work required on curriculum planning and timetabling.

Ending it will free schools and colleges to offer the lines of learning they want and that they know will meet the needs of their students. It will allow them to specialise in certain lines if they wish, and it will make it is easier for some centres to provide Diplomas.

We are stopping the development of the Extended Diploma because it would be an unnecessary burden on schools and colleges, with no clear benefit for young people, who already have the flexibility to take additional qualifications alongside their Diploma.

On freedoms granted to sixth form colleges, Nick Gibb said:

We will work to ensure that those sixth form colleges rated outstanding will no longer be subject to routine Ofsted inspections as long as their performance does not drop, putting them in line with the proposals already announced on outstanding further education colleges and schools.

We will also bring an end to the prescription on sixth form colleges to do ‘surveys of learner views’ – it will now be at the discretion of individual colleges as to whether they undertake them.

I will also simplify the 16 to 19 allocations process to schools and colleges, by working with the Young People’s Learning Agency, local authorities and sixth form colleges to strip away bureaucracy.

As an immediate step, that will include asking the YPLA not to implement ‘in-year’ funding adjustments in the sector, which will make a real difference to colleges in the reduction of bureaucracy - and in providing greater certainty.

These measures are only part of a longer running programme of red-tape reduction. As such, I hope I continually hear from the Sixth Form Colleges Forum, and its members, as to exactly where we can make improvements in the future.

David Igoe, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Forum (SFCF), said:

The SFCF welcomes today's announcements and in particular the early indications of the Government's commitment to simplification and reducing bureaucracy.

These proposals are the first step in freeing up colleges, enabling principals and teaching staff to focus on their core purpose of teaching and learning. We look forward to working with the Government in identifying further areas where burdens can be removed.

Dr John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said:

Removing the entitlement to all 14 diploma lines is a sensible, welcome decision. ASCL strongly supports Diplomas but believes their complex structure can be simplified and this is a move in the right direction.

It remains the case that schools and colleges will need to continue to work together in order to offer a good range of courses for 14-19 year olds.

However, heads and principals will be relieved that there is no longer a requirement to offer every Diploma at three levels in every area.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said:

AoC is pleased to see that the Government is committed to supporting Diplomas as part of a rich mix of qualifications providing choice for young people. Colleges have invested significant time and resources in the development of their Diploma offer and 98 per cent of colleges are planning to offer Diplomas from this September. Colleges have the breadth of experience to offer whole Diplomas and AoC believes that Colleges could become local Diploma hubs serving the needs of their educational communities.

We welcome the freedom from Ofsted inspections for outstanding colleges and, indeed, the general freedoms from constraint that will allow colleges to flourish.

The Government has already indicated an end to Ofsted inspections for outstanding schools, along with those in general further education settings. Earlier this month it announced that maintained schools could now choose whether or not their students take the iGCSE, and said development of the academic Diplomas, due to be introduced in September 2011, would stop immediately, saving around £1.77m instantly, with further savings in future years.

Notes to editors:

1. The Diploma

There will be fourteen Diploma subjects available from September 2010. Each Diploma subject is available at Foundation (level 1), Higher (level 2) and Advanced (level 3). Young people wanting a smaller programme of study at Level 3 can choose to take a Progression Diploma.

2. The Diploma Entitlement

The previous Government’s policy was for there to be a statutory entitlement to the Diploma from 2013 for young people – all 14-16 year olds would have an entitlement to study a Diploma line out of a choice of the first 14, and all 16-18 year olds would have an entitlement out of a choice of the full 17 Diplomas (this included the three Phase 4 Diplomas, which the Government announced on 7 June would be stopped).
Removing the entitlement means that provision of the Diploma will be left to local areas to decide through balancing capacity and demand.

3. The Extended Diploma
The Extended Diploma, which was being developed by QCDA, was announced in March 2008 by the previous Government and was due to be introduced in September 2011. Stopping its development will save £1.3m.

4. Sixth form colleges
According to Ofsted, 81 per cent of sixth form colleges are currently rated “outstanding” or “good”.
Sixth form colleges, along with general FE colleges and training providers have been required to undertake surveys of learner views as a condition of funding from the Learning and Skills Council. The Government has also decided not to introduce in-year adjustments.