Policy and drivers in action

Your organisational vision will to some extent be moulded by policy and international, national and regional drivers. Policy changes and drivers are actively shaping the English and maths challenges and opportunities facing your senior leadership teams, your staff and your learners. You will know them only too well.

 Q: Which drivers are shaping your behaviours?  


This short video highlights some of the policy changes that have had a significant impact on the further education and skills sector in England. This flowchart was developed by the AoC to explain 16-19 funding requirements for maths and English to help providers ensure their provision complied with the Conditions of Funding for maths and English.

These policy changes provide opportunities, alongside fresh and significant challenges for the sector. The raising of the participation age and the requirement to undertake English/maths GCSEs to grade A*-C or 4-9 (2016) and thereafter 5-9 has inevitably increased cohort sizes, requiring providers to develop their workforce, their capacity and to potentially redesign their programmes. This impacts every college or organisation where young people study, between the ages of 16 and 19, although to different degrees.

Accountability measures 

In October 2014 the government introduced the first in a series of publications detailing their new initiative ‘Headline Accountability Measures’ which will measure each learner’s progress, attainment, progress in English and maths, retention and destination. They have been introduced to “place a greater emphasis on progress and progression alongside attainment, ensuring students make progress from their starting points and that every young person leaves education capable of getting a place at university, an apprenticeship or a good job.”

Two key points in relation to English and maths present organisations with challenges.

  • The measure for distance travelled for maths and English and the stretching targets expected – for example those learners with grade E are expected to achieve level 2 functional skills or GCSE grade D.
  • The measure for progression at the end of a learner’s course. If a learner’s maths and/or English qualifications prevent them from progressing to the next level this will impact on the progression measure.

A briefing note detailing the 16-19 Accountability Headlines from 2016 can be accessed here.

In March 2016 BIS/ DfE published a brief on Implementing the Further Education and Skills Reform Programme for FE governors and leaders. This publication summarises all the policy briefs across a wide range of issues affecting the sector including apprenticeships, traineeships, area reviews, devolution, maths and English, FE workforce strategy, 16-19 technical education and special educational needs and disabilities. The key message for English and maths is that these subjects remain a priority for the government. It is a short and informative read.


The government is committed to reaching 3 million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020 and increasing the number of higher and higher degree  apprenticeships. Trailblazers involving employers are designing the new apprenticeship standards. It is intended the UK-wide levy for all public and private sector employers will help fund the increase in quantity and quality of apprenticeships training in England. The independent employer-led Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfA) will be fully operational by April 2017. It will be responsible for:

  • setting quality criteria for the development of apprenticeship standards and assessment plans;
  • reviewing, approving or rejecting apprenticeship standards and assessment plans;
  • determining the maximum level of Government funding available for standards; and
  • quality assuring some end point assessments.


In August 2013, the government introduced traineeships for young people who wished to get an apprenticeship or other employment but lack the basic skills and experience that employers are looking for. From February 2016 the requirement for providers to be  graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted was removed, putting traineeships on par with the rest of FE provision and increasing provider capacity.

English and maths

New apprenticeships, starting with those developed by Trailblazers, will have a stronger focus on English and maths. Employers developing standards will be able to specify a higher level of English and/or maths achievement where this is needed for particular occupations or sectors. Currently apprentices can meet the English and maths requirements through Functional Skills or GCSE qualifications.

Wolf Report

Many of the policy changes described above were in response to the 27 recommendations made in the independent review of vocational education, carried out by Professor Alison Wolf in 2011. The final progress report detailing the Government’s actions on each of Professor Wolf’s recommendations was published in February 2015.


Download a PDF version of these questions here.