Fostering High Quality Vocational Further Education in Wales

This report from the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) provides expert advice on what constitutes quality in Further Education (FE).  We worked with Professor David James from Cardiff University and Professor Lorna Unwin OBE of University College London to undertake an evidence review on this topic. In order to provide the most relevant recommendations the experts explored the existing literature as well as interviewing a number of key stakeholders within the FE sector in Wales.

The report found that there has been a steady decrease in the number of overall post 16 learners since 2005/6 although work based learning provision is on the increase. Most respondents who had been interviewed felt that the FE sector is now at its optimum size in terms of the number of institutions.  There was a strong wish for consolidation rather than further reformulation of the current arrangements. Some argued that a further reduction in the number of institutions would jeopardise the capacity of colleges to serve their communities and main stakeholders.

Seven determinants of quality were identified as the key to high quality vocational education:

  • The connectivity and the nature of relationships between provision, workplaces, occupations and sectors;
  • Dual professionalism and the backgrounds and dispositions of teachers;
  • A moderate reliance on structures and vertical accountability;
  • Vocational knowledge and the effectiveness and value of learning;
  • Acknowledging the different legitimate meanings of learning;
  • Maximising learner voice; and
  • The place of vocational options in a local ecology.

The full report provides more details about these determinants of quality and the importance of effective Continuing Professional Development within the FE sector to achieve them. The report also makes a number of recommendations that would help ensure that these determinants of quality are effectively enacted in Wales, these include:

  • Providing greater incentives for the building and maintenance of high connectivity between colleges and other stakeholders, especially employers;
  • The generation, maintenance and management of links to industry and other settings becomes a regular feature of staff development events within and between colleges;
  • That colleges do more to directly involve elected or appointed student representatives in their negotiations and engagements with employers, community groups and other stakeholders; and
  • That the Welsh Government works with local authorities to examine more closely the quality of school-based vocational provision, especially if this appears to duplicate that available in nearby FE colleges.