August 2018

The know zone

  • Summer term blues...
    'Common knowledge' has it that teachers not only spend a large proportion of the year on holiday but also have a full half-term to recharge their batteries in preparation for that big six-week 'sit-off'. If only it were that simple, says one head... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • What's your favourite book?
    With the end of the summer term in sight, bringing with it a chance, hopefully, for you to unwind and maybe read a book or two, we asked what you enjoy reading. Fiction or non-fiction, novel or biography, here are a few suggestions from ASCL members and staff. More
  • Ready for transition?
    Kevin Gilmartin examines the proposed 'transition year' for 16 year-olds. More
  • Time for reflection
    Self-evaluation is almost always a useful process, but as with most leadership activities, the trick is to ensure the cost/benefit ratio works in your favour, says Stephen Rollett. More
  • Hub of expertise
    A new website, supported by ASCL, offers schools and colleges a valuable chance to share best practice and resources on special educational needs and disability (SEND). Anna Cole highlights the details. More
  • New starting point
    As the pace picks up on plans to introduce the controversial new Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA), Julie McCulloch looks at how the assessment will work and how it will be used. More
Bookmark and Share

Kevin Gilmartin examines the proposed ‘transition year’ for 16 year-olds.

Ready for transition?

The ‘transition year’ was one of the key proposals in the Sainsbury Review. But what might it entail? Who is it for? And what, if anything, should schools and colleges be doing about preparing for it?

What exactly is the transition year?

It is over two years since the Independent Panel on Technical Education, chaired by Lord Sainsbury, reported on far-reaching plans to “improve the technical education system in England”. The panel proposed a new approach to 16 to 19 education based around two “equally valuable” options for young people – academic or technical programmes. The technical option – T levels – was “to prepare our young people for jobs of the future and for increasing automation in our economy”. For those individuals not yet ready to access the technical education route at age 16, a “flexible transition year” was proposed to help them to prepare for further study or employment (although the ‘year’ could be one term, six months or even two years if this was more suitable).

What should it cover?

The key objective should be a sharp focus on basic skills and on equipping individuals with the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to progress. There was an expectation that English and maths would be offered to all those without GCSE A*–C, but, beyond this, the content of the transition year should reflect both the individual’s needs and their longer-term aspirations.

Entry requirements and qualifications?

It was recommended that “colleges and training providers should set their own entry requirements” – as they are “best placed to identify students who would benefit from a transition year”. Schools were not expected to be delivering T levels so were not originally mentioned in discussions. However, it now seems likely that a small number of schools may well run T levels, either on their own or in partnership with their local FE college. Therefore, it seems logical that schools will offer transition years, whether or not they actually run T level courses as well.

With progression being the key outcome, what was more important than qualifications was “to reduce the number of young people who ‘churn’ between different level one qualifications or who end up as NEETs [Not in Education, Employment or Training]”. Therefore, a national qualification attesting to the completion of the transition year was considered unnecessary. Instead, the expectation was that schools and colleges would issue their own certificate on successful completion.

How many young people could be involved?

While in school sixth forms and sixth form colleges the vast majority of students are studying at level three, this is not the case in FE colleges where there are more students studying below level three. In 2016/17, there were approximately 120,000 entry/ foundation level students, 200,000 level one and 430,000 level two. These exceed the 620,000 level three students and perhaps therein lies a dilemma. Original thinking was that the transition year would assist those at level two to progress to level three. However, if the progression year is for all pre-level three students, then the scale and content of the transition year is of a bigger dimension altogether, including the involvement of specialist services (such as those for special educational needs and disability (SEND) students) at entry/foundation level.

Where are we now?

The truth is not very far. The first three T level routes are starting in September 2020. The transition year was supposed to start at the same time as T levels. If this is to happen then much more consultation and guidance is needed. It also needs to be fully funded for three or even four years – the present 17.5% funding reduction for 19 year-olds would make even less sense than it does now. However, if the sector is allowed to get on and develop these programmes (and many providers already do something similar in their 16–19 study programmes) then the transition year will be welcomed. ASCL, in the past, has called for ‘intelligent accountability’ – the lack of mandated qualifications for the transition year is therefore to be welcomed. Perhaps the government at last will trust the sector to deliver. Give us the funding as well and we surely will.

Kevin Gilmartin
ASCL Post-16 and Colleges Specialist