HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman

The Stage, theatre newspaper and website, recently published a poll asking readers whether or not they agreed with Amanda Spielman’s statement which they reported as 'arts courses promote unrealistic career prospects to potential students'.

Amanda, and other Ofsted leaders and HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspectors), have often said that creative and practical subjects are valuable in their own right.

These are subjects that are too often being squeezed out of school curriculums. However, their report on level 2 study programmes showed that college leaders themselves recognised that the proportion of students going from vocational arts and media courses into jobs in that industry was low.

Despite this recognition, Ofsted found colleges advertising these courses as having extremely good career prospects, offering false hope to students. In some colleges, these are the most popular courses available. The level of mismatch is very clear, and has been acknowledged by the Association of Colleges chief executive.

That misinformation is doing a disservice to students who take those courses. Colleges should collaborate with local employers to design and deliver courses that are set up for available jobs.

The creative industries are a key part of the UK economy, and vital for the cultural life of our country. Not only that, but students of the arts learn valuable knowledge and skills that they can take into whatever career they choose.

Level 2 Study Programmes Report: College Students With Unrealised Potential Deserve Better.

Colleges must work more effectively with local employers to help unlock the unrealised potential of young people taking level 2 study programmes, said HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman in her recent speech

Addressing delegates at the Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference in Birmingham, she said that many of the 170,000 young people doing level 2 study programmes are facing narrow options and limited flexibility. 

Ms Spielman’s comments come as Ofsted publishes a major report on the curriculum available to students taking level 2 study programmes at further education colleges. Often these young people do not have five good GCSEs and there are gaps in their understanding of English and maths.

The report says that these young people’s life-long employability depends on the ability of teachers to redirect their education into a course that stimulates and motivates them, and which offers the prospect of further study, training or work.

However, it finds that for too long they have been seen by policy makers as “other people’s children” and, as a result, their needs have not always been met.

In her speech to the AoC, HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said the report found that the colleges that were thinking most deeply about curriculum did three important things:

  1. Collaborate with local employers to design and deliver curricula that set up leaders for good local jobs
  2. Recognise the importance of personal, social and employability skills
  3. Evaluate the benefits of their study programmes by properly tracking destinations and feed that back into curriculum design.

The report also outlines concern about the number of courses on offer that do not lead to good local jobs.

Ofsted found that many colleges collected little data about learners’ destinations. But those colleges that did were able to give Ofsted a view about which courses had the best and worst employment prospects.

Art and media courses were seen by students as having the least chance of leading to a job, but at least three colleges surveyed by Ofsted reported these courses as having the most applicants.

HM Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman, said: 

"Arts and media does stand out as the area where there is greatest mismatch between the numbers of students taking the courses and their future employment in the industry. There is a point up to which courses that engage learners have value but ultimately there have to be viable prospects at the end.

"Yet even with the poor prospects, course adverts often listed potential jobs in the arts which are, in reality, unlikely to be available to the vast majority of learners but underplay the value of other skills these courses develop.

“These colleges risk giving false hope to students. It raises the question: are they putting the financial imperative of headcount in the classroom ahead of the best interests of the young people taking up their courses. If so, this isn’t acceptable."

Ofsted has already announced that there will be a stronger emphasis on the curriculum in the new Education Inspection Framework, which will take effect in September 2019. There will also be a new judgement for ‘quality of education’. This will replace the current ‘outcomes for pupils’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ judgements with a broader, single judgement.

The Chief Inspector used her speech to the Association of Colleges to outline how these plans will relate to the further education and skills sector.

ScreenSkills response to comments by Amanda Spielman about FE courses

Seetha Kumar100x100In response to comments by Amanda Spielman about Arts and Media courses offering false hope to students, Seetha Kumar, Chief Executive of ScreenSkills, the industry-led skills body for UK screen, said:

“We know there are some courses that do not prepare young people for working in the creative industries. One of the reasons that ScreenSkills – the industry-led skills body for UK screen - runs the Tick accreditation scheme is to identify those courses identified by screen industries professionals as relevant to actually working in film and television.

"The Tick is firmly established in higher education and we are making strong efforts to make it work for FE colleges, too. Tick-accredited courses create pathways in to film and television which is particularly important if we want to open up the screen industries to people without contacts and to build a more inclusive workforce.”

BFI response to comments by Amanda Spielman about Arts and Media FE courses

leigh adams 100x100Leigh Adams, Director Education, BFI, said: 

"We agree with Amanda Spielman’s comments about the value of the transferable skills that arts and media courses develop for student’s future careers, however we must challenge her statement that there are limited career opportunities for FE students in relation to screen industries.

"The screen industry  is the fastest growing sector in the UK, contributing almost £8 billion to the wider economy as well as ensuring the UK remains internationally competitive and one of the world’s most exciting creative hubs. Film, high-end TV, animation, VR and interactive media production is booming in the UK, and the BFI, together with Screen Skills and the screen industries, are currently collaborating on a major five year skills drive to meet this continued growth.

"In fact, latest Work Foundation research evidences the need for 10,000 new entrants to our sector over the next 5 years, representing 30,000 new job opportunities. A major part of our skills strategy is to encourage people from all backgrounds to join our industry and we are working hard to ensure equality of opportunity for everyone. Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is not only the right way forward but an economic imperative if our sector is to continue to succeed.

"That is why Amanda Spielman’s comments around giving ‘false hope’ to students are inaccurate and unhelpful – job prospects across the screen sectors are more than ‘viable’ they are very real."

Ms Spielman continued:

“Inspectors will still judge the progress that learners are making from their starting points, but will evaluate this in terms of how they have developed new knowledge, skills and behaviours rather than the amount of progress they have made towards achieving a component of a qualification. 

“In the new framework inspectors will want to make sure that learners are developing a deep understanding of the subject and that this is embedded in their long term memory. Inspectors will want to see that learners are able to recall information and have the skills to complete tasks routinely, rather than simply for a one-off assessment or test.

“We want to send a clear message that teaching to the test to achieve high achievement rates is not good practice, and there is no need to continually assess learners to predict likely achievement grades. That time is far better spent making sure learners accumulate all the required knowledge, skills and behaviours.”

As a result, this report recommends that colleges should:

  • Engage actively with employers, who should co-design and implement aspects of the curriculum and assess learners
  • Review their current minimum requirements for level 2 and level 3 study programmes to make sure that they are appropriate
  • Ensure that teachers are up to date with the practices and jobs available in their industry
  • Arrange work experience so that they are relevant to learners’ programmes of study
  • Give clearer feedback to learners on their progress
  • Not focus too much on qualification outcomes
  • Evaluate whether level 2 learners improve their progression into careers by progressing to a level 3 study programme.

Ofsted also recommends that the Department for Education should provide guidance to colleges about the information they should publish on their websites about student destinations, and evaluate the impact of the policy requiring students to re-sit their English and mathematics GCSE.

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