The Department of Education has today published the final area reviews report.
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "The publication of the final area review reports marks the formal end of a two year national stocktake involving every college in the country. The experience has been variable and there have been some problems on the way, but colleges have used the exercise to consider their future strategies. There have been 33 college mergers since the programme started and four sixth form college academy conversions. We expect to see another 15-20 mergers and 10-15 conversions in the next 18 months. Colleges are funding the majority of the up-front costs of these structural changes themselves. Unlike academy conversion and re-brokering, which costs the Department for Education £120 million a year in grants, all that is available for college restructuring is a small grant and a restructuring loan.
"Area reviews are now complete but colleges still operate in an area where the rules and policies change at short notice, where funding is still being cut in real-terms, where margins and reserves are often alarmingly low and where competition often benefits no one. Because of this, some individual institutions will still get into difficulty. AoC is working with government to improve the monitoring, intervention and support regime and to create an environment in which colleges have the best chances to be viable and continue to improve.
"While area reviews have been carried out on post-16 provision in colleges, new school sixth forms have continued to be opened. The Department for Education approved 200 new sixth forms in the last 10 years without reviewing the effectiveness of this policy. We believe the Government should carry out targeted reviews of post-16 provision in schools as they have done for colleges through post-16 area reviews. There are lessons we are happy to share with other parts of the education system."