Distinguishing marks

BIS has published its proposals to create a Chartered Status Scheme for Further Education Institutions.  Initially targeted at publicly funded colleges and training providers, the aim of the scheme is to create a set of “testing but achievable” criteria which assess a provider’s contribution in a range of spheres including:

·         Quality;

·         Meeting the needs of the learner;

·         Meeting the needs of the employer;

·         Meeting the needs of the community;

·         The provision of open and transparent data.

Generally speaking the intention is to assess these criteria by reference to existing assessments, such as Ofsted ratings or Matrix accreditation. For those criteria where there is no pre-existing assessment, it is felt that there are relatively simple methods of measurement to put in place. These include, for example, having a provider’s programme of community engagement activity endorsed by the relevant LEP.

It is proposed that there will be three different types of chartered status: chartered college, chartered community college and chartered training provider. The last is self-explanatory; the distinction between the first two is less clear but apparently hinges on the degree of responsiveness to the community. Chartered status will confer the right to use a charter mark. The aim is that eventually, all those providers who are funded by the SFA will be awarded it. This does rather beg the question of how it can help learners and employers “to make improved choices about where to train and learn” (one of its intended benefits): if everyone has it, how can it form the basis on which to make a choice?

In due course the scheme may be extended to fully privately funded education institutions as another means by which the UKBA can distinguish legitimate providers who wish to recruit international students.

Initially the scheme will be administered by the Secretary of State advised by an expert panel. However, responsibility will in due course shift to the FE Guild.

Chartered status would be awarded for a period of 4 or 5 years, but could be removed early if there was evidence that the provider no longer met one of the eligibility criteria. In these cases there would be an assessment by the expert panel to decide if revocation was appropriate.

The aims of the scheme are to:

·         enhance the status and reputation of the FE sector;

·         highlight where providers are being responsive to employers and communities;

·         measure and demonstrate increased quality;

·         help learners and the UKBA to recognise legitimate FE providers.

The last aim is potentially problematic. What of those providers who currently have HTS but are not able to attain the chartered standard yet? Are they not legitimate FE providers? We are also aware of some FE providers who have good or even outstanding Ofsted inspections who have lost their HTS and face revocation of their Tier 4 sponsorship licence. In future would this trigger the revocation of chartered status, which would damage reputation in the eyes of “home” stakeholders also?  What need is there for further evidence of legitimacy beyond educational oversight and HTS anyway? These are issues that will no doubt be addressed in comments responding to the proposals which need to be submitted by 16 January 2013. 

Smita Jamdar
Partner and Head of Education
For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP
DD: 0800 763 1332
M:  07909 925946
F: 0800 763 1732
International DD: +44 870 763 1332
E: smita.jamdar@sghmartineau.com
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