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Colleges are central institutions for the country

03 March 2016

Last week the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan MP, spoke to college leaders at a special event in London – the first time she has addressed an Association of Colleges meeting. During the speech she highlighted that “further education and sixth form colleges are central institutions to the education of young people: preparing them for adult life and developing the skills for a more prosperous nation.” It was pleasing to hear her speak of colleges in such terms, and shows the recognition that Government has for the work colleges do in transforming the lives of so many young people. That’s why it has been so disappointing that Sir Michael Wilshaw has chosen to suggest that 16 to 19-year-olds should be taught in schools rather than colleges. The comments were made at the Education Select Committee yesterday, where he was appearing as the HM Chief Inspector of Ofsted. While he may have prefaced what he said by stating these were his private and personal thoughts, it was wrong for him to do so in such a public setting. The comments themselves are unhelpful, unsubstantiated and are overwhelmingly at odds with the findings of his own inspectors. While the comments are not the position of Ofsted, there is a conflict when asked to give evidence in an official capacity and using it as a forum to provide personal opinions. This is especially the case when these comments are without justification. Further education colleges provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people. They provide the 844,000 16 to 18-year-olds who choose to study or undertake apprenticeships in colleges with valuable employability skills, helping to develop their career opportunities and strengthen the local, regional and national economy. Neither schools nor UTCs have the capacity to make this provision as well as colleges. Martin Doel is the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges