Ofsted warns against “low level arts and media” courses


Some colleges are still directing too many students to “superficially appealing” arts and media courses that may not offer good long-term career prospects, the Ofsted chief inspector has warned.

In today’s launch of the annual inspection report for 2018-19, Amanda Spielman stressed the importance of thinking “strategically” about the skills needed by the economy.

She expressed concern that colleges are placing too many students on “low-level arts and media qualifications”. This was an issue Ms Spielman previously raised at the Association of Colleges’ annual conference in 2018, when she warned that colleges risk giving students’ false hope ‘by offering a large number of places. for courses related to sectors offering few employment opportunities.

In her speech at today’s event in Westminster, she also discussed the imbalance in the learning offered, adding that there was “clearly room for greater targeting of government funding in post-16 education of all kinds”.

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“Now, more than ever, we need to think strategically about skills and how the higher education sector is funded and encouraged to deliver the right courses of the right quality,” Ms. Spielman said.

“I’m not happy that some colleges are directing too many of their students to superficially attractive courses that fill their rosters and attract funding – whether or not they open doors for students who take them.”

“This doesn’t mean that the courses that young people take have no value. But flooding a local labor market with young people with, for example, low-level arts and media skills as the strong growth in demand for green energy workers will lead to too many underemployed and dissatisfied young people. , and wind turbines left idle.

“We need to focus more clearly on matching skills to opportunities. “

Community-based EF providers that the government wants to “improve” could play a key role, Ms. Spielman said.

“What better way to go to the next level than radically improving the quality of vocational and qualifying education in our cities? But it also means tackling the small minority of universities that have underperformed or have been “stuck” for years. “

“Distorted” learning

Ms Spielman also raised concerns that the apprenticeship program is “warped… out of shape”, with too many apprentices following health care and management programs.

“The quality of the courses is still sometimes too low and the proportion of [independent learning providers] rated “good” or “excellent” has declined this year, for the third year in a row. This has to change, ”she said.

“Learning can be transformative for young people. And yet, one in five of all new levy-funded apprenticeships are higher-level and degree-granting, and often aimed at people who are already doing the work or who don’t need the perk that an excellent Entry level learning can provide.

“Meanwhile, there are more than twice as many apprentices in trade and retail than in the priority areas of construction and engineering.

“Government and providers need to consider what can be done to restore the balance between learning. The critical 16-19 age group needs to be better supported and decisions need to be made on how to reverse the decline in the number of school leavers taking an apprenticeship. “


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