Area Reviews - Background and Policy Context
In July 2015, The Government produced a Review of post-16 education and training institutions. This document set out the policy context and intentions for improving the post-16 education sector as a critical element to the national strategy of raising productivity and economic growth.
In addition to the expansion of the Apprenticeship programme, two major planks of reform were identified as critical to achieving Government objectives:
• Clear, high quality professional and technical routes to employment, alongside robust academic routes, which allow individuals to progress to high level skills valued by employers; and
• Better responsiveness to local employer needs and economic priorities, for instance through local commissioning of adult provision, which will help give the sector the agility to meet changing skills requirements in the years ahead, building on the agreements with Greater Manchester, London and Sheffield.
These objectives can only be delivered by strong institutions, which have the high status and specialism required to deliver credible routes to employment, either directly or via further study. These need to include a new network of prestigious Institutes of Technology and National Colleges to deliver high standard provision at levels 3, 4 and 5.
Government identified that, while there were many excellent further education (FE) colleges in local areas, substantial change was required in order to deliver these objectives and while maintaining tight fiscal discipline. The work of the FE and Sixth Form College Commissioners identified there is significant scope for greater efficiency in the sector, in a way that frees up resources to deliver high quality education and training which supports economic growth.
Area reviews were established as the route for this major reform of post-16 education and training institutions. These reviews seek to addresses the significant financial pressures on institutions in the context of a declining 16-19 population and the need to maintain very tight fiscal discipline in order to tackle the national deficit.
The reviews seek a move towards fewer, often larger, more resilient and efficient providers. They should also enable greater specialisation, creating institutions that are genuine centres of expertise, able to support progression up to a high level in professional and technical disciplines, while also supporting institutions that achieve excellence in teaching essential basic skills – such as English and maths.
Implementation of area reviews across the SELEP area
The aim of the area reviews is to ensure the right capacity to meet the needs of students and employers in each area, provided by institutions which are financially stable and able to deliver high quality provision.
Reviews in the SELEP area have been undertaken on the following geographical basis:
Sussex area review, covering East Sussex and West Sussex is now complete with the final report available here
Essex area review covering Essex, Southend and Thurrock, due to complete by April 2017 (report to be added when available)
Kent area review covering Kent and Medway, due to complete by April 2017 (report to be added when available)
Government provided guidance in the form of a national framework and governance expectations for area reviews, more details can be found here
Each area review report provides a range of recommendations for each area and these are owned and implemented by the local steering groups, see the links to each area above for more details on specific activity.