Yesterday, the DfE published a whole raft of statistics about the destinations of KS4 and KS5 pupils in 2016/17. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/destinations-of-ks4-and-ks5-pupils-2017 The raising of the learning leaving age to 18 has been one of the relative success stories of the past decade. However, it has literally come at a price as other data now clearly shows. While the rest of the school sector has suffered at the lower end of government cutbacks, post-16 education has really been badly affected.
There are other financial consequences as well. Families that receive free transport for children up to the age of 16 suddenly find, outside of London, that they must pay for the same seat on the school bus if their offspring enters into the sixth form. That is an anomaly that I have long campaigned to see abolished, especially as some councils are now extending the rule to pupils with SEN.
Government now has data on some 99% of the cohort in 2016/17. Generally, the higher your success rate at KS4 the more likely you are to stay in a school environment, if one is available. Less academic success, greater disadvantage and lower level SEN, without the support of a ‘Statement’ or EHCP means a greater chance of switching from a school into a Further Education College at Sixteen. In some parts of the country, most notably the urban areas in some areas of the North West, the situation is more complicated because of the present of Sixth Form Colleges. In those areas, the legacy of the introduction of comprehensive education some forty years ago still drive where students are education post-16.
Overall, some 86% of young people remained within the education sphere rather than training or employment locations after the age of sixteen. Some 5% of young people didn’t sustain their original choice post-16 for at last two terms. This percentage has remained relatively stable for the past few years, falling from 9% in 2010/11.
Apprenticeships and employment remain at about eight per cent of sixteen year olds. The recovery in the economy and pressure of local labour markets in parts of the South don’t seem to have significantly increased the percentage directly entering employment at sixteen. Indeed, with the fall in the cohort, actual numbers will have reduced and that may be a concern to some employers.
Should the difference between school and FE be so marked by perceived ability pre-16? Of those categorised as have low attainment at KS2, 58% ended up in general FE with only 13% in school sixth forms and six per cent in Sixth Form Colleges. By contrast, of those shown as high achievers at KS2, 60% remained in school sixth forms; 18% went on to Sixth Form Colleges and only 15% proceeded into general further education settings. Middle achievers were somewhere in between these two sets of figures.
As someone that entered sixth form with 5 ‘O’ levels, not including English, but who gained high grades at ‘A’ level, I worry about too much segregation at sixteen. Whatever the academic merits of specialisation of institution, is it the right approach socially for the future of society?