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Improving Student Performance – How English Further Education Colleges Can Improve Student Retention and Achievement 

“Further education colleges, with the support of the Funding Council and the Department, have done well over the past five years to increase the proportion of students who achieve their qualifications. In particular we were pleased to see that the number of colleges with overall achievement rates below 50 per cent has reduced dramatically.

“Overall success rates remain disappointing, however, and the gap between the best and worst performing colleges is still too wide. Poorer performing colleges need to adopt the good practices of the best if they are to help the Government meet the National Learning Targets2.”

The further education sector provides a wide range of education and training opportunities to people from school leaving-age upwards. There are some 400 further education colleges in England, enabling 3.8 million students to study for some 17,000 different qualifications from about 480 awarding bodies, at a cost to the public purse of some £3 billion.

The Department for Education and Employment is responsible for determining the overall policy for further education and the Further Education Funding Council is responsible for implementing it. From April 2001 a new Learning and Skills Council will replace the Further Education Funding Council and Training and Enterprise Councils. (Training and Enterprise Councils are private sector companies which manage local training and enterprise activities under a performance-based contract with the Secretary of State for Employment).

1 Success rates are the number of qualification aims achieved as a proportion of those started, even though students may subsequently have dropped them. Achievement rates do not take account of qualifications started but not completed.

The National Learning Targets represent the Government’s aim of making a substantial improvement in participation and achievement in education and training at every level

‘ National Vocational Qualifications

” General National Vocational Qualifications

The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office employing some 750 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

Published:
2 Mar 2001

Educating and Training the Future Health Professional Workforce for England

“Educating and training increased numbers of nursing, midwifery and other health professional students is a key way of overcoming the shortage of such staff in the NHS. The NHS and higher education institutions must continue working together to improve value for money, to ensure more students complete courses, to reduce the constraints on providing practical experience, and to invest in new capacity where needed. Healthcare professionals provide much of the service that patients need and expect, and a cost effective world class education and training system must be the foundation for delivering this.”

Sir Andrew Foster, the Controller of the Audit Commission, said today:

“Healthcare staff are the lifeblood of the NHS. Developing their skills and abilities is vital both to the quality of patient care and the modernisation of the NHS. We need to actively manage and plan for the training of our nurses, therapists and other staff. Everyone, from front-line staff to trust board members, must show commitment to a culture which values and expects training and learning.”

The Audit Commission’s Hidden Talents report focuses on the existing healthcare workforce and looks at how trusts can get the best value from their training and development activities. The National Audit Office’s report to Parliament, Educating and Training the Future Health Professional Workforce for England, reviews the effectiveness of arrangements between the NHS and higher education institutions for educating and training pre-registration health professional students.

The detailed findings of the two reports are set out in the attached annexes.

Published:
1 Mar 2001

Education Action Zones: Meeting the Challenge – The Lessons Identified From Auditing the First 25 Zones

“I am glad that we are able to provide positive assurance about the way that the Department for Education and Employment handled the establishment of these new charitable bodies. Innovation such as the action zones programme carries risks and the department has taken the right steps to mitigate the financial risks in particular.

“The wider lessons learned from the establishment of the zones can be applied to other government programmes involving the setting up of innovative new bodies.”

Published:
26 Jan 2001

Supporting Innovation: Managing Risk in Government Departments

“This report aims to stimulate and encourage good practice in risk management. There are inevitable risks associated with new ways of working as departments strive to improve and modernise the delivery of public services for the benefit of citizens and businesses. Properly managed, risk taking and innovation can lead to improved value for money for taxpayers.”

Published:
17 Aug 2000

National Savings: Public-Private Partnership with Siemens Business Services

“This is one of the most remarkable PFI deals we have seen because it has resulted in the transfer to private sector employment of all but some 130 staff of an entire Government department. The number of staff employed on National Savings work will fall but the deal has been structured in such a way that SBS is incentivised to find alternative work for its new employees. There are a number of lessons that other Government departments can learn from this partnership, particularly how National Savings procured the deal and the framework established to manage the partnership with SBS.”

Published:
25 May 2000

Managing Finances in English Further Education Colleges

“My report shows that the financial state of the sector is improving but there are still too many colleges in poor financial health. Governors and managers can make a vital contribution to their colleges’ financial condition and the best practice I have identified should help colleges with problems to overcome their difficulties effectively.”

David Melville, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) said:

“We welcome Sir John Bourn’s report and the recommendations for improving colleges’ financial health. We would like colleges to make more use of benchmarking comparisons to identify the means and scope for financial improvement. We will be actively promoting groups of colleges as ‘benchmarking families’ in the future. Through this initiative we will continue to put colleges into contact with others with a similar profile leading to the useful sharing of knowledge and consequent improvements in performance. However, the success of this initiative depends on reliable and prompt data from colleges.

“We will be working with Further Education Development Agency to develop a standard course-costing model together with common financial and management information systems.”

Published:
4 May 2000

Inland Revenue EDS Strategic Partnership: Award of New Work

“Partnerships like the one between the Inland Revenue and EDS, rely on trust and understanding between two organisations, qualities which are particularly important as requirements change and develop. Management of the risks associated with new work is therefore a challenging area for value for money. Much has already been achieved, and the Department must ensure that it retains the capability to manage the relationship and keep its options open for the future.”

Published:
29 Mar 2000

Scottish Enterprise: Skillseekers Training for Young People

Scottish Enterprise’s Skillseekers programme had made considerable progress in delivering Vocational Qualifications for young people at reducing unit cost. There are, however, a number of ways that Scottish Enterprise and Local Enterprise Companies (LECs) can build on their successes, Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, reported to the Scottish Parliament today. Skillseekers … Read more

Published:
1 Mar 2000

Government on the Web

“The advent of the Internet and World Wide Web challenges all departments to reconsider how they communicate with citizens and organise their business procedures. It offers the potential to achieve very significant improvements in the quality of their services and important financial savings”.

Published:
15 Dec 1999