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Tertiary Colleges

Tertiary Colleges provide the solution to the dilemma facing many young people today as they ponder their future - Tertiary colleges are a single establishment meeting educational and skills needs for all young people, their communities, and local employers.

Tertiary colleges were originally defined as educational establishments which combined the functions of a further education college and a sixth form college, offering further education through a full range of courses, both vocational and academic, primarily to the 16-19 age group.  In a pure tertiary model, schools within a given area do not operate sixth forms, but instead young people progress to a single local institution that provides both their 16-19 education and adult learning for the wider community.

Tertiary Colleges offer, within one institution, readily accessible pathways of progression from foundation level to level 3 qualifications and beyond, across a wide range of subjects and skills sectors. They promote personalised programmes for young people and adults alike, enabling individuals to combine academic and vocational studies. The breadth of offer and the opportunity for individuals to fulfil their potential by moving from lower to higher levels of programmes are key characteristics of Tertiary Colleges.

In addition to their considerable portfolio of 16-19 provision, Tertiary Colleges are important providers of adult education and training. They play a major role in developing employer responsive provision, working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships, business and industry, to meet their demands and local, regional and sometimes national skills needs; they successfully deliver Apprenticeships and traineeships and have been key in supporting individuals and businesses through the recession.

There are currently 20 colleges across England who are members of the Tertiary Colleges Group, among them a high number of the most successful colleges in the country \u2013 almost two thirds of whom have Outstanding Grade 1 Ofsted reports.

The group includes colleges who meet the formal definition, as well as those that support the general principles and values of the tertiary system.  Colleges in the group provide all or a significant majority of the education and training for 16-19 year-olds within their local authority area (where all or most of the publicly funded schools focus on 11-16 provision). All of them have a wide range of 16-19 provision.

Purpose and Aims of the Tertiary Colleges Group

The Group was formed in 2007 in order to recognise and promote the unique role of Tertiary Colleges and their place in the further education system, particularly to Government and other key stakeholders.  It still does this today by ensuring that Tertiary Colleges are appropriately represented in policy formulation and consultations, giving a Tertiary College perspective in the development of major Government initiatives. The group believes strongly in the value of the tertiary system and also aspires to support and champion the role of tertiary colleges in their communities, including promoting a better public understanding of the benefits of such a system.  

What does the group do? 

Recently, the Group's activities include sharing best practice on the Ofsted inspection framework, with the increased focus on study programmes, student progress, English and maths, as well as the need for outstanding teaching, learning and assessment.   The group is represented on the Education and Skills Funding Agency Advisory Forum, and has been involved in a DfE pilot project looking at online learner feedback.The group meets biannually and held its Spring Conference in London in March 2017, with speakers from the Institute for Apprenticeships and the DfE.

The heart of the community

Tertiary Colleges are therefore at the heart of their local community and play a key role in providing outstanding academic and vocational provision, improving skills, developing economic prosperity and promoting social cohesion. Our members are committed to inclusion, widening participation and to high achievement for all students. Tertiary Colleges are key to the delivery of the plans of both the Department for Education, and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.They achieve high standards of performance in A-level provision, and in applied and vocational programmes, including apprenticeships. They have high staying on rates and achievement post-16, and well developed strategic relationships with their Local Authority.  This spans economic development and community partnerships as well as education and training collaborations, and means that tertiary colleges are central to the future of their local community.

For more information about the work of the Tertiary Colleges Group, please contact: Chris Webb, Principal and Chief Executive of Barnsley College, and Chair of the Tertiary Colleges Group, at chris.webb@barnsley.ac.uk or on 01226 216128.