Further education delivering educational success for all
ONE in five sixth forms are not financially sustainable and fail to genuinely meet the learner or wider economic needs, a colleges body has said.
Colleges NI said there were many schools that had fewer than 100 pupils in their sixth forms.
This was not value for money, the body said, adding that there was an urgent need to reform the education system.
It was responding to a new research report - the Survey of Further Education College Leavers - which looked at the 2015/16 academic year.
That survey found almost half of further education (FE) college leavers were in employment six months after achieving their qualification.
Colleges NI promotes, supports and represents the north's six FE colleges and their 80,000-plus students.
The body said FE played a significant role in addressing educational underachievement, supporting business needs as well as enabling people to get employment and better jobs.
The statistics, it said, demonstrated the important role that regional colleges played in supporting the economy and transforming lives.
More than 84 per cent of those leaving FE colleges progress on to positive outcomes in terms of studying at a higher level or within work.
In a statement, Colleges NI said the challenge facing the entire education system at post primary, FE and HE was real.
It was one that required an Executive in place to facilitate "a meaningful engagement with all stakeholders to develop plans for a coherent and efficient education system that delivers the future skills needed of our economy".
The Department for the Economy was having to invest more than £50 million pounds annually to support the work of the regional colleges "in addressing the significant educational underachievement from compulsory education in the post-primary sector".
More than one third of pupils leave school without five or more GCSEs at grade A*-C including English and mathematics.
"FE colleges are the primary means of redressing this issue," Colleges NI said.
"This duplication of funding required to achieve could be used elsewhere within the FE sector to support the expansion of higher level skills. Colleges working in partnership with the post primary sector support the delivery of basic literacy and numeracy skills as well as supporting the delivery of a wide range of professional and technical courses at Key Stage 4 and post GCSE."
Schools are facing a significant funding gap, according to the Education Authority.
College NI said it should be noted, however, that 83 per cent of post-primary schools now offer sixth form, but on average 14 per cent of pupils were dropping out following one year of AS-levels.
"This represents 2,464 wasted years in education, many then turning to FE provision," Colleges NI said.
"Furthermore, over one fifth of sixth form provision in NI schools has less than 100 pupils, which is neither financially sustainable, value for money nor genuinely meeting the learner or wider economic needs.
"Professional and technical qualifications education must be valued by all if we are to address the future economic needs of Northern. This requires some hard choices and a rethink on the prioritisation and use of limited resources across our education system."