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Ofsted chief: ‘Arts courses promote unrealistic career prospects for young people’

Ofsted's Amanda Spielman Ofsted's Amanda Spielman
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Further education colleges offering arts courses are knowingly giving young people “false hope” about their future because of poor job prospects in the sector, the head of Ofsted has claimed.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, told the Association of Colleges’ annual conference that rather than sell the value of skills learned on arts courses, adverts often list potential jobs that are unlikely to be available for the vast majority of students.

She said: “Arts and media does stand out as the area where there is greatest mismatch between the numbers of students taking the courses and the employment prospects at the end. There is a point up to which courses that engage learners have value, but ultimately there have to be viable prospects at the end.”

Spielman said that despite the “relatively poor prospects” of arts and media courses, at least three further education colleges in a survey by Ofsted reported these courses as having the most applicants.

“This suggests that there are far more students taking these subjects than there are career opportunities. And, these colleges risk giving false hope to students. It raises the question: are they putting the financial imperative of headcount in the classroom ahead of the best interests of the young people taking up their courses? If that’s the case, this isn’t acceptable,” she said.

Spielman was discussing Ofsted’s research into level two study programmes in the UK. These rank below AS and A levels, which are classed as level three, and include BTEC diploma courses, often used at performing arts colleges.

She also called for more funding for courses intended for 16 to 18-year-olds.

“There are colleges where significant staffing cuts have been made, where teaching hours have been reduced, and where the curriculum offer has been narrowed, reducing enrichment or tutorial time, or by offering fewer courses,” she said.

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