July 2015

The know zone

  • Sixth sense
    As timetables are tweaked in readiness for the new sixth-form provision in September, schools and colleges should ensure that their 16-19 study programmes will meet tight new financial and curriculum standards, says Kevin Gilmartin. More
  • Know your numbers
    Pay progression data can reveal hidden – possibly discriminatory – trends, so it is vital to study it carefully, says Sara Ford. More
  • Making allowances?
    Pay rises could push you over the tax relief limit and into trouble with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) so check your position, warns Stephen Casey. More
  • Experience counts
    Devising your school or college’s continuing professional development (CPD) programme can seem a daunting prospect. Do you plan for your own staff to deliver, invite a facilitator in to do the work or send staff out on external courses? What are the pros and cons of each approach and which provides the best value for money? More
  • A tidal change
    The Royal Merchant Navy Education Foundation (RMNEF) is a British educational charity that officers support for the natural or adopted children of Merchant Navy seafarers and professional sea-going fishers, and of crew members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI’s) lifeboats. More
  • Extra daylight, extra opportunist thefts
    The warm summer evenings mean that everyone can look forward to spending more time outdoors. More
  • Question time
    What is the one big issue that you would like Secretary of State Nicky Morgan to tackle in this Parliament and why? What is the one burning issue that is affecting you and your school or college? Here, ASCL members share their views… 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
  • Reflected glory?
    The head is an ambassador for the school. However, there are – to put it mildly – some dangers in over-identification between the needs of the school and its leader’s desires, according to Chris Pyle. More
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As timetables are tweaked in readiness for the new sixth-form provision in September, schools and colleges should ensure that their 16-19 study programmes will meet tight new financial and curriculum standards, says Kevin Gilmartin.

Sixth sense

While schools and academies should have a good idea of projected sixth-form enrolments, option blocks and numbers of planned groups, there will be less certainty and more crystal-ball gazing in colleges as to how many students will actually enrol and what subjects they’ll want to do.  Into this scenario imagine the head posing the following question to Toni, the timetabler-come- miracle worker.

"Great effort, Toni. I particularly like the conditionally formatted, colour-coded cells this year but does it offer clear evidence of transformational step-change in our curriculum?”

The head reminds Toni that this formed the basis of the underlying key criticism from Ofsted back in its September review of the early implementation of 16-19 study programmes and not to heed it will have very serious consequences in terms of inspection judgements as many schools and post-16 institutions have found out this year.

In addition, not to heed the recently updated guidance from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) could have even more disastrous consequences …of the financial kind. So what makes up a high-quality study programme that ensures that the institution maximises income?


For most institutions with full-time students the magical minimum 540 planned hours is the starting point. Breaking them down into planned learning (qualification hours) and planned employment, enrichment and pastoral (EEP) (non-qualification hours) is the next step. Considering how this will be easily evidenced for each individual student is necessary for when the funding auditors come knocking.

Most colleges with their years of individualised learner record (ILR) experience and teams of data officers will be used to producing such detailed information. Most management information systems will pull a timetable off very easily but how will they cope with the EEP hours? You will need a supporting system – Excel spreadsheet or similar – that holds each individual student record and then you need to get those records signed off by the students.

The next step is the identification of the core aim to determine whether the programme is academic or vocational. Going back and changing the core aim is not allowed once the funding qualifying period (usually six weeks for full-time students) has passed.

Maths and English

Arguably, the most common reason recently for Ofsted downgrading schools and colleges is not only the quality of the maths and English but the low attendance rates on these programmes. It is being seen as an unofficial limiting judgement in inspection and for institutions with large numbers in this category, it is not enough just to plan these hours without having a clear intervention policy for non-attendance.

Don’t counts

We all know the benefits of the lunchtime revision classes or extra-curricular activities after school, as well as acknowledging the staff goodwill in these situations, but they fall into the ‘outside of the normal working day’ categories – so they will not be funded.

A final check that students are not doing retakes or resits should be undertaken as well unless there are ‘compelling’ reasons outside of the control of the institution. This usually means medical or domestic issues and evidence from an appropriate agency should ideally be attached to the student’s signed individual study programme record.

Time spent on work experience organised by a parent, the volunteering work not organised by the school or the part-time job found by the student themselves won’t count either as funded hours.


If you are sure that you have your financial bases covered then you can move on to the activities that define the spirit of the study programme – stretching activities that build teamwork, employability, leadership and problem-solving skills.

Despite the lack of funding, this will be judged in the new common inspection framework under the area of ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’. In readiness for this, do your study programmes include meaningful work experience for all students (ideally) and for vocational students (as a minimum)? Do they show the added-value non-qualification activities that support the student goals?

Do they provide the opportunity to gain informal certificates such as the Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) Award? Is information and guidance about relevant careers built into the study programme? As a holistic programme then does it answer the head’s initial question: “Is the study programme offering transformational change compared to what was on offer a year or so ago?”

Final check

As the meeting with Toni comes to a close, the head should perhaps offer some last advice: “Remember your alphabet… PQRST.”

P - 

Planned hours – organised by the institution in advance

Q - 

Quality assured – somebody is evaluating what goes on in the provision and taking student feedback into account

R - 

Relevant to prior attainment – a higher level of study representing challenge and progression

S - 

Supervised – the student isn’t just left to get on with it without some form of monitoring or registration

T - 

Timetabled – it appears on an individual timetable/programme signed by the student with the total hours equalling more than 540 and available for auditors on request

As the academic year unfolds it should be enough that the ‘significant majority of students are attending the significant majority of their planned programme’. Enjoy the summer break and let’s hope the students turn up in September!

Kevin Gilmartin is ASCL Colleges Specialist