The government’s area review of further education in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has been confirmed as taking place from January 2016. The review will encompass the training and education carried out by Stoke-on-Trent College, City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, Newcastle-under-Lyme College, Stafford College, South Staffordshire College and Burton & South Derbyshire College.
The colleges say the review brings with it a positive opportunity for education and training providers in the county to take a fresh look at what is delivered in the area and how this can be improved even further to meet the needs of employers and individuals. It will enable a greater focus on technical and specialist delivery.
Sarah Robinson, chief executive of Stoke College, speaking on behalf of all the colleges, said the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire colleges are taking a proactive approach to the area review, having already met to discuss the impact, and are also working with the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council to prepare for the review in January.
“This proactive approach aims to further enhance Further Education provision across Staffordshire for both young people and adults, by ensuring that the colleges have the infrastructure to continue to meet the needs of the local economy by providing the skills and qualifications that are needed to successfully progress to Higher Education and that businesses in the region are seeking,” she said.
LEP chairman David Frost CBE said the review presented the chance to look at post-16 education strategically across the whole of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and seek to ensure that youngsters throughout the area could access the best learning and skills opportunities to get their careers off to a flying start.
“We have a strong and balanced economy, one that is constantly evolving to meet global challenges,” he said. “If our businesses are to continue to compete they will need to employ increasingly skilled staff.
“FE Colleges have a key role in developing these skills, particularly for young people. The Review gives us an opportunity to ensure that the FE Colleges are equipping our young people with the skills needed for the modern world of work.
“It will also allow us to identify if there are gaps in the training and skills development necessary to meet business needs, so that we can then ensure that we provide the facilities to fill those gaps and develop those skills. This is something that our LEP is already very much involved in with the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering skills hubs that are already up and running around our area.”
Ben Adams, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Learning and Skills, welcomed the review announcement, saying: “We want people in Staffordshire to have the best possible chances of a fulfilling career so it’s vital that our colleges and training providers offer a choice of high quality academic, professional and technical courses.
“The county’s economy has grown very quickly and skills shortages are beginning to develop. This review looks for providers of post-16 education and training to work together to develop the financial stability and organisational flexibility to provide the necessary range of education and training for students to fill these gaps.
“Staffordshire is already the home of a national skills pilot scheme which aims to ensure that the courses and training offered by colleges meet the needs of local employers so the review is a great opportunity to build on that.
“It’s essential that students in Staffordshire who want apprenticeships, who want to take advantage of the skilled jobs being created on their doorstep in engineering, science, technology and health sciences can learn the necessary skills.”
A Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesman said: “We welcome the review of post-16 education provision as part of planning for our city’s future, linked with growth and investment and the targets of the LEP. Stoke-on-Trent’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the country, and just last week we successfully achieved Enterprise Zone status for our Ceramic Valley which is a tremendous boost for business growth in the city. The need for learning and skills, and a technically talented workforce is more important than ever.
“We are working closely with our partners, businesses and education providers across the city and county to ensure we get the best outcomes to meet the needs of young people and adults.”
The review announced by the government today will be led by a steering group made up of Regional Schools Commissioners appointed by the Department for Education, plus chairs of governors, the Local Enterprise Partnership, local authorities, and FE and Sixth Form College commissioners.
The Stoke and Staffordshire area review is one of a second wave announced today. Reviews are already under way in areas including Greater Manchester, and Birmingham and Solihull.
The reviews start by assessing the economic and educational needs of the area, and the implications for post-16 education and training provision, including sixth form colleges, further education colleges and independent providers.
The reviews will then focus on the current structure of further education and sixth form colleges, although there will be opportunities for other institutions, including schools and independent providers, to opt in to this stage of the analysis.
Following the summer budget and the Productivity Plan, the Government has introduced a review of post-16 education and training institutions across England. The aim is to ensure that local areas have a professional and technical education system delivered by strong institutions that are resilient and efficient.
The reviews started in September 2015 and are taking place over an 18 month period right across England, each taking about three to four months from start to recommendations. While the focus is on general FE and Sixth Form Colleges, the review will take into account evidence on all post 16 provision as well as the economic needs of an area.
Details of the review can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reviewing-post-16-education-and-training-institutions-list-of-area-reviews/reviewing-post-16-education-and-training-institutions-details-of-the-area-reviews