RESEARCH. Prior Qualifications of Adult Learners in Further Education. IFF Research Ltd. Research Report RR677

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1 RESEARCH Prior Qualifications of Adult Learners in Further Education IFF Research Ltd Research Report RR677

2 Research Report No 677 Prior Qualifications of Adult Learners in Further Education IFF Research Ltd The views expressed in this report are the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department for Education and Skills. IFF Research Ltd 2005 ISBN

3 2

4 TABLE OF CONTENTS 1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY... 1 First full level 2 learning...1 Reasons for learning...2 Information, advice and guidance...3 Fees...4 Likelihood of further learning INTRODUCTION... 6 Background...6 Aims and objectives...7 Methodology...7 Profile of the achieved sample...9 Determining the level and width of the current qualification...10 Determining the level of the highest prior qualification THE PROFILE OF ADULT FE LEARNERS Current learning level...12 Learning institution and learning status...13 Gender, age, and ethnicity...13 Working status, benefits and income PRIOR LEARNING AND THE DEGREE OF PROGRESSION Prior qualifications and comparisons with the LFS...16 Highest prior qualification level by current level - proportions...18 Highest prior level by current level numbers of learners...19 Profile / characteristics of first full level 2 learners (November snapshot)...23 i

5 5 REASONS FOR EMBARKING ON FE LEARNING Reasons for starting their current / recent course (all learners)...27 Reasons for study specifically among level 2 learners...30 Reasons for learning (by sub-group)...32 Reason for timing of the recent / current course REASONS FOR STUDYING AT THE LEVEL CHOSEN Why decided on the level of the current / recent course...35 The role played by information, advice or guidance FEES Whether paid course fees and the amount paid...43 The amount prepared to pay LIKELIHOOD OF FURTHER LEARNING The anticipated level of further higher learning...56 Interest in future study at the same or a lower level...57 APPENDICES A) Quotas...59 B) An analysis of sample outcomes and response rates by respondent type...60 C) The Individualised Learner Record (ILR)...62 D) Classification of level by qualifications...63 E) The LFS classification system...64 F) Other qualifications: a comparison of the survey against LFS...66 G) Callback exercise...70 H) Questionnaire...72 ii

6 Prior Qualifications of Adult Learners Research report prepared for DfES by IFF Research Ltd July Executive Summary 1.1 This report discusses the findings of a survey conducted from February to April 2004 involving 8,988 telephone interviews with adults (aged 19 plus) undertaking LSC-funded FE learning in November The main aim of the survey was to inform, develop and monitor current and future initiatives supporting the DfES/LSC target to increase the number of adults qualified to (full) level Integral to these initiatives is the ability to measure the extent to which current adult learners are progressing in terms of the level at which they are studying, and estimating numbers undertaking their first full level 2 qualification. First full level 2 learning 1.3 FE colleges offer very many different courses, beyond the familiar NVQs, that are notionally at levels 1 to 5. Often courses are only short, requiring relatively few guided learning hours, and are labelled within this report as thin. Throughout this report qualifications are described both in terms of their level and fullness (also known as width) and progression is measured in terms of achievement of full qualifications only. 1.4 Additionally, classification as a full level 2 (and level 3) requires the course to have received accreditation by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). This follows the definition of full level 2 learning recently agreed by LSC/DfES and employed both when publishing statistics on full level 2 learners 1, and in determining eligibility for fee remission as part of the Level 2 Entitlement (L2E). 1 Further Education, Work-based Learning for Young People and Adult and Community Learning - Learner Numbers in England: 2003/2004 [Prepared and published by the Learning and Skills Council in consultation with DfES statisticians] 1

7 1.5 The survey estimates that 39% of full level 2 learners in FE in 2003/04 were working towards a first full level 2 qualification. Another 21% of full level 3 learners did not already have a level 2 or higher qualification and so, if successful, would pass the level 2 threshold. 1.6 Of the 3.1 million adult FE learners in 2003/04, 162,000 were undertaking a full level 2 qualification, of which it is estimated 59,000 learners were working towards first full level 2 qualifications. These figures are based on the numbers definitely progressing i.e. where it was possible to assign a specific level given what learners said about their prior qualifications. The actual figure will be slightly higher as some of those whose prior qualification is uncertain will also be working towards a first full level 2 (and is reflected in the estimate in paragraph 1.5). 1.7 In addition, there were some 24,000 learners undertaking a full level 3 qualification who either had no prior qualifications or whose prior qualifications were definitely below level Hence in total the survey estimates that in 2003/04 there were some 83,000 adult FE learners who, if successful, would pass the level 2 threshold for the first time. 1.9 Compared with full level 2 learners in general, those studying for their first full level 2 were particularly likely to:! Be female and to be working part-time! Have O levels and GCSEs at grade A*-C as their previous highest qualification Reasons for learning 1.10 In terms of reasons given for undertaking their current or recent study, personal interest in the subject and the course was deemed important for nearly everyone, indeed this was a key reason for over two thirds (68%). Following this in importance were a number of factors relating to work and careers (55% cited any job / career reason as key) Many are embarking on their current learning as a precursor to further study. Two in five said that at least part of the reason for undertaking their current / recent course was that they needed it to get on to another course (one in five said this was key). This was a particularly important factor for year olds, non-white respondents and those on level 3 courses. 2

8 1.12 In addition to following a personal interest, first full level 2 learners are characterised by work or career motivations. As many as 64% said gaining new skills was a key reason for starting their course (compared with 42% among all learners) and 60% saw the potential for career development as key (37% among all learners). This suggests an emphasis on the role of learning in developing job and career prospects as a hook to attract lower qualified adults into level 2 learning, as well as the personal interest factor cited more universally by learners Gaining qualifications because of legislative requirements also plays an important role for those undertaking their first full level 2 qualification. While one in eight of all adult FE learners say this was a key reason, among those undertaking their first full level 2 qualification almost one in three said this was a key motivation for embarking on their study. This does suggest the importance of targeting employers in various sectors particularly affected by legislative requirements for qualifications among its staff, (health, care, teaching, construction, catering etc) Age is a key determinant influencing reasons for study. The under 45s are heavily influenced by career and job reasons while for older learners personal interest is the key motivation. Results clearly show that people are attracted to learning for a variety of reasons and these vary according to the stage they are at in their working life. Any initiatives to promote learning need to take this into account. Information, advice and guidance 1.15 A slight minority of adult learners (45%) said they obtained information, advice or guidance about what course would be appropriate for them. The following groups were more likely to receive information, advice or guidance about the appropriateness of their course:! Those on higher level courses and those on full other, level 2 or level 3 courses.! Those on full time courses, those aged and those studying at General Further Education Colleges (these three factors are interrelated)! Those studying for work related reasons 3

9 1.16 Most learners felt that they were studying at the right level, slightly more so if they had received information, advice and guidance prior to their course (94% versus 90%). Indeed, 57% of those who received advice and guidance said it influenced their level of study completely or a lot, with 87% saying it played some role However, the tendency is that those who seek out advice and guidance are already relatively highly qualified. For full level 2 learners, in particular, this meant that of those without a prior full level 2 (and thus potential progressors) just 49% received guidance on the appropriateness of the course versus 59% of those already qualified to level 2. Whilst it is not possible to say whether it would lead to more people studying for a first full level 2, these results do suggest that advice and guidance does need to be better targeted to those with no or low prior qualifications. Fees 1.18 Just under half of learners (47%) contributed towards the cost of their course. Most of these said they paid all of the fees (36% of all learners). This compares to 87% of learners overall who say they are prepared to pay something towards the cost Of the 59,000 learners doing their first full level 2, 20% paid all of their fees and 12% paid some (representing a total of 19,000 learners in 2003/04). This indicates the potential size of the deadweight those who currently pay fees but would have them remitted under the entitlement Among those undertaking their first full level 2 qualification 82% said they would have been prepared to pay towards the cost of their course (32% actually did). Of those who said they would not pay the vast majority (96%) did not currently pay anyway. Overall, this shows that prior to the introduction of Level 2 Entitlement (L2E) most of those undertaking their first full level 2 were prepared to pay at least part of the fees themselves LSC will reduce the subsidy for adults outside of priority areas from 75% to 72.5% in September 2005 (an increase of 10% for those paying full fees). When learners paying full fees were asked what they would be prepared to pay, just 33% said at least 10% higher that they did pay, falling to 25% amongst full level 2 learners who paid full fees and who are not eligible for the L2E. At face value this suggests increased fees will mean significantly fewer self-funded learners. In reality prediction is very difficult for two reasons: first, because people often cannot accurately anticipate their behaviour; secondly, respondents had a tendency to say they would be prepared to pay the same amount as they actually paid. 4

10 Likelihood of further learning 1.22 Almost half of learners thought it definite (26%) or very likely (21%) that they will undertake future higher level study. In addition over a quarter (28%) thought this quite likely The likelihood of future higher level study among learners undertaking courses below full level 2 who do not have a qualification at this level is only slightly lower than average (42% say it is definite or very likely compared to 47% among all learners). Thus interest in further higher level study is still high among these learners, and this is evidence that funding of courses below full level 2 can be the springboard for many not qualified to this level going on to study higher level courses It is also encouraging from a policy perspective that those undertaking their first full level 2 qualifications are as likely to expect to undertake higher level study in the future as learners in general, hence for the majority of these learners their first full level 2 qualification is by no means the end of the learning road for them The potential numbers of FE learners that might progress to a full level 2 can be estimated using survey results. They showed that of the 732,000 adult learners without a current level 2 qualification in 2003/04 and who were on lower level (level 1, thin level 2 or other ) courses, 167,000 learners thought further study at a higher level was definite (and a further 131,000 very likely ). Of course the survey can only report on intent to undertake further higher level study and it should be recognised that people s stated intentions usually overestimate what actually happens in practice. Indeed, in reality the total numbers of learners who undertake their first full level 2 qualification each year in FE is in the region of 60,000 to 70, Overall just over a third of learners (34%) think it at least quite likely that they will pursue further study at the same or a lower level than their current level of study. 5

11 2 Introduction Background 2.1 In June 2003 the DfES published a Skills Strategy White Paper called 21 st Century Skills Realising our Potential which specified a number of policies designed to increase skills. These included the introduction of a new entitlement to free learning for adults studying their first full level 2 qualification, and the introduction of adult learning grants for full-time learners studying their first full level 2 qualification (and including first full level 3 for those aged 18-30). 2.2 To help develop and monitor future policies and initiatives in this area and to help understand the critical issue of what policy initiatives might increase the proportion of the population with a level 2 qualification, the DfES commissioned this research project to build up its knowledge and evidence base about prior qualifications of adult learners. Although some information is available on prior qualification levels through such means as the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Learning and Skills Council s Individualised Learner Record (ILR), neither are detailed or robust enough to allow accurate measurement of the numbers of learners in FE who have achieved different qualification levels. 2.3 Broadly, the ILR provides very comprehensive information on the courses and levels of LSC-funded provision that learners are currently undertaking. However, information on the ILR on the learner s prior qualifications is very incomplete. Indeed on the ILR database of adult learners on provision in November 2003, three quarters had no information on prior qualifications, or the level of the qualification was not known. The LFS asks about qualifications achieved as well as about any current learning activity. The estimates that the LFS derives for the number of current learners is very different for that shown on the ILR. There are other issues in regard to the LFS, including the high level of proxy answers. Both the LFS and the ILR are discussed in more detail in the Appendix. 6

12 Aims and objectives 2.4 The main aims of the research study were: To collect information about the prior qualifications of current adult (aged 19 plus) learners enrolled on LSC-funded FE, in particular the level and type of these prior qualifications To produce robust estimates on the proportion of adult learners who are currently studying qualifications at a higher, lower or same level as their previous highest qualification To examine differences by age of learner, type of qualification and length of time since achievement To identify the key reasons behind the current learning being undertaken, given the prior qualifications of the learners, and to understand why people are not progressing To identify financial circumstances of adult learners in FE, including information on incomes and benefits. Methodology 2.5 The study involved 8,988 interviews with FE learners aged 19 plus undertaking LSC-funded provision in November The sample of adult FE learners for the survey was drawn from the ILR. Those included in the sample for the research were those: where the ILR indicated that they were aged 19 plus who were enrolled on FE provision in November 2003 who had not indicated that they were unwilling to be re-contacted for survey work for whom a telephone number was supplied. 7

13 2.7 Interviews were conducted by telephone. The questionnaire used for the survey took on average 17 minutes to conduct a copy of the final questionnaire is appended. The questionnaire was piloted prior to the main stage of fieldwork (for which 63 interviews were conducted), and revisions were made following this piloting work in agreement with the DfES. 2.8 Quotas were set for the profile of the final achieved sample to ensure that key groups were covered in sufficient numbers. In particular because of the interest in level 2 learners this group was oversampled. The quotas were set on the following criteria: qualification level of the course they were on in November 2003 (level 1, 2, 3 and then 4/5 combined), as well as the width of level 2 and 3 qualifications 2 age full time v. part time provision institution type (General Further Education College v. other) Quotas for qualification level were interlocked with full time v. part time provision and institution type, while those for age and the width of level 2 and 3 qualifications were free standing. Further details about the quotas are appended. 2.9 Because the sampling process intentionally oversampled various subgroups of particular interest, the survey results were weighted to ensure they were representative of the adult FE learning population. To this end, at the analysis stage results were grossed up to the full profile of adult FE learners on the ILR in November 2003, a total of some 1.55m learners The main stage of fieldwork took place from 23 rd February to 22 nd April 2004, with the vast majority of the work conducted on weekday evenings and at weekends. Interviews were conducted from IFF s call centre in London. All interviewers working on the study were personally briefed by the research team. 2 Quotas were set for current level 2 and level 3 learning by whether this was a thin or a fat qualification. Fat equates to a qualification with the same width as an NVQ (i.e. having the same approximate duration) but is broader than the notion of a full level 2 or 3, since full also brings in whether the course has received QCA accreditation. 8

14 2.11 It is important to note that the results from the study represent a snapshot of the picture at a particular point in time (i.e. among adult learners on LSC-funded FE provision in November 2003) and nothing can strictly implied about, for example, the number of learners over the course of a year doing their first full level 2 or who are studying at a higher level than their previous higher qualification. That said, within one part of chapter 4 and elsewhere where we report total numbers of learners, we have multiplied up the snapshot survey results to the number of full year adult learners across the whole of 2003/04 to give an indication of the full year picture. This has been done within each level and width. This clearly relies on the assumption that, within learning aim types, the profile and characteristics of the November-snapshot learners reflects that of learners across the full year. Table 2.1: Number of learners November 2003 and full year comparisons, by current / recent course November 2003 Snapshot Full year Level 1 657,000 1,398,000 Thin level 2 330, ,000 Full level 2 111, ,000 Thin level 3 227, ,000 Full level 3 105, ,000 Level 4/5 51,000 70,000 Other 3 77, ,000 Profile of the achieved sample 2.12 The following table shows the number of interviews achieved against the variables on which quotas were set 4. The second column of data shows the proportion of interviews undertaken by each of these criteria. The final columns show the profile of learners once the grossing up process was undertaken. This indicates the oversampling of level 2 learners they represent around a quarter of all adult learners, although 44% of all interviews were undertaken with these learners. 3 Other are cases where the ILR does not state the level of the qualification being studied. 4 Other than as already noted, (see footnote on the previous page), quotas for width of level 2 and level 3 qualifications were based on fat and not-fat rather than full and thin as used throughout the report. 9

15 Table 2.2: Sample profile Number of interviews Proportion of final achieved sample Proportion of the weighted sample (i.e. once results grossed up) Snapshot Full year Nov /4 % % % Qualification level of current / recent course Level 1 1, Thin level 2 2, Full level 2 1, Thin level 3 1, Full level Level 4/ Other GFEC 7, Non-GFEC 1, Full time course 1, Part time course 7, , , Base: 8,988 8,988 1,557,385 3,124,564 Determining the level and width of the current qualification 2.13 The level and width of a learner s qualification aim was taken directly from the ILR. Where a learner had one aim this was a straightforward process but when a learner had multiple aims various measures had to be taken to assign learner an accurate level and width. This included:! Where a qualification could be thin or full depending on the number studied, the width was adjusted accordingly (e.g. 5 individual GCSEs each a 20% width were changed to a 100% width i.e. in this case a full qualification)! The qualification selected for each learner was based on the fattest qualification as opposed to the highest. For example, if a learner was studying 1 AS level (25% level 3) and an NVQ level 2 (100% level 2) then the NVQ was selected. 5 Other are cases where the ILR does not state the level of the qualification being studied. 10

16 Determining the level of the highest prior qualification 2.14 This study provided the opportunity to collect more detailed information on qualifications held than is possible within the time constraints of the LFS. Later in the report we discuss the differences in the results using information available through the two approaches. However, as the LFS is used for monitoring the PSA target on level 2 achievement it is more appropriate to use its classification system for determining the level of the highest prior qualification in this report The main difference between the LFS classification and what is possible through this study is that, for this research, information about learners other qualifications, such as how long it took them to achieve it, what age they were when they achieved it, if there were entry requirements needed to start that qualification and also the respondent s own assessment of the level were collected and used to assign all these other highest qualifications to a specific level. This is in contrast to the LFS method of randomly assigning a set proportion of these other qualifications to levels 1, 2 and 3. 6 Key elements of the LFS classification system are outlined in the appendices 11

17 3 The profile of adult FE learners 3.1 In this chapter we briefly look at the profile of adult learners (as with all other data presented within this report other than where base sizes are shown on tables and charts, this is weighted data). We look both at their FE learning situation (the level of their current / recent course, the institution type and whether they were still in learning at the time of interview) and demographic factors, such as age, gender, ethnicity and working status. All figures in the chapter are based on the profile of learners in the November 2003 snapshot. Current learning level 3.2 The ILR provides basic demographic data on the sample which gives a picture of the main differences between learners at different levels. 3.3 Just over two in five learners (42%) were currently / recently studying on a level 1 course. Older learners (aged 60 plus) were particularly likely to be studying at level 1 (68%). 3.4 Just over a quarter of adult learners (28%) were on level 2 courses, this more likely to be thin (21%) than full level 2 qualifications (7%). Table 3.1: Level of current study (November 2003 snapshot) % Level 1 42 Level Thin level Full level 2 7 Level Thin level Full level 3 7 Level 4/5 3 Other (i.e. level not specified on the ILR) 5 Base: all learners 8,988 12

18 Learning institution and learning status 3.5 The vast majority of adult learners were on part time courses (87%) and studying at a General Further Education College (81%). Those aged split almost evenly between those on full time (52%) and part time courses (48%). 3.6 Lower level courses are more likely to be studied at non-gfec institutions (55% of learners at non-gfec institutions were working towards level 1 qualifications, compared with 39% at GFECs). 3.7 Overall just over two thirds of the sample were still on their course that they were registered on in November 2003 at the time of the interview (conducted mainly in March / April 2004). Overall 12% of the sample of adult learners indicated that they left the course without completing it. This varied very little either by demographic factors such as age or gender, or by the level of the course or by their prior qualification level. Gender, age, and ethnicity 3.8 A majority (67%) of adult FE learners were female. Among the youngest learners aged there was an even split by gender. Among all the other age categories used in the analysis the majority were female, this being highest among learners aged (72%). 3.9 Information on ethnicity on the ILR is not complete, and for 7% of our sample this information was not available (demographic information was taken from the ILR rather than being re-asked during the interview). Overall, 83% were white and 11% were non-white (5% Asian, 4% Black and 2% other) The proportion of non-whites varied by the age of the learner. Among those aged there are 3.5 white learners for every non-white learner. Among those aged there are 13 white learners for every non-white learner, and among those aged 60 plus this ratio rises to 21:1. 13

19 3.11 There is a broad spread by age among adult learners: around one in six are aged under 25, and one in nine are aged 60 plus. Age is a key determinant of various learning characteristics, in particular: Whether the learner is on full time or part time provision (52% of 19-20s are full time compared with 1% of those aged 60 plus) Whether they are studying at a General FE College (GFEC) or not (92% of learners aged 19-20s are studying at a GFEC compared with 66% of those aged 60 plus). The level of the current qualification (differences are shown in table 3.2) The demographic profile of adult learners split by the level of their current course is summarised in the following table. Table 3.2: Demographic profile of adult FE learners, by level of current course Level of current / recent course All Level 1 Thin 2 Full 2 Thin 3 Full 3 4/5 Other learners % % % % % % % % Male Female * 1 11 White Non-white Not stated Base: all

20 Working status, benefits and income 3.13 Almost two thirds of the sample (64%) were working at the time of interview, with two in five (39%) working full time. Among the remainder most were retired (11% of all adult learners), looking after the family (6%), unemployed and looking for work (5%) or in full time education (5%) Differences on working status by demographic factors were as follows: Male learners were slightly more likely to be working (67% compared with 63% among women) but much more likely to be working full time (54% v 32%). Non-white learners were less likely than average to be working (49%), despite there being a relatively low proportion aged 60 plus. A higher than average proportion described themselves as unemployed and looking for work (14%), looking after the family (11%) or in full time education (10%) There were significant differences in working status by level of highest prior qualification. In particular among those with no previous qualifications only two in five were working (40%). This is in part explained by the fact that this group had an older age profile than average (21% were over 60). There was also a higher proportion describing themselves as incapable of work due to illness or disability (10% v 4% overall) Just over a quarter (27%) of our sample were receiving benefits/credits. This varied very widely by demographic and other factors, being much higher among: Those not working (47%) Part time employees compared to full time employees (24% v 12%) Non-whites (42%) we have already seen that more nonwhite learners compared with white learners were not working, hence this ties in with the first bullet point Those aged (38%), this explained by the high proportion of this age group mentioning tax credits Those on full-time provision (40%) Those with no prior qualifications (37%) or prior qualifications below level 2 (39%). 15

21 4 Prior learning and the degree of progression 4.1 A central aim of the survey was to measure the extent to which current adult learners are progressing in terms of the level at which they are studying, and to provide estimates for the size of the population that are undertaking their first full level 2 and level 3 qualifications. Results on these measures are presented in the current chapter. We also discuss the profile of those undertaking their first full level 2 compared with full level 2 learners generally, something that may assist targeting and communication which seeks to encourage those without full level 2 qualifications to study at this level. This profiling is presented both in terms of demographic characteristics and also the types of course they are undertaking. 4.2 First we look at survey results for prior qualifications from which the information on progression is based, and compare findings with those of the LFS. Prior qualifications and comparisons with the LFS 4.3 A comparison of data from the LFS on prior qualification levels of FE learners for Winter 2003, and the same results from the current survey for the same time period, is shown on table 4.1. To ensure comparability, both sets of figures are based on all FE learners aged for women and for men (i.e. excluding those who are past retirement age) 7. Table 4.1: Prior qualification levels of current FE learners aged 19-59/64 LFS (Winter 2003) All % Current full level 2 % Survey findings All % Current full level 2 % Prior: None Below level Level Level Level 4 / learners from the survey have been excluded on this basis, leaving a base of 8,241. It should be noted that it is only for this comparison against LFS estimates that FE learners above retirement age have been excluded. Figures shown in table 4.2 and subsequent tables are based on all 8,988 learners surveyed. 16

22 4.4 The survey estimates there to be a higher proportion of current adult FE learners with prior level 4 or 5 qualifications than reported by the LFS (31% v 24%) and fewer with prior highest qualifications at below level 2 ( below level 2 does not include those with no prior qualifications), 2 or level 3 qualifications. 4.5 Specifically among those currently studying for a full level 2 qualification, the survey results are similar to the LFS, though the survey found slightly more with no qualifications (12% compared with 7% on the LFS) and slightly fewer with a prior qualification below level 2 (27% compared with 30% on the LFS) These differences clearly affect estimates of the degree of progression derived from the current survey and the LFS. For example, the survey estimates that two in five (39%) of those undertaking a full level 2 qualification were undertaking their first full level 2, more than the 37% shown by the LFS. 8 We might expect some differences between this survey and the LFS as the current learning aims here are taken directly from the ILR whereas for the LFS they are self reported. 17

23 Highest prior qualification level by current level - proportions 4.7 Table 4.2 below summarises results showing the highest prior qualification level of learners for each current learning level. Results are presented as horizontal percentages and should be read across the page. Table 4.2: Current qualification level by level of highest prior qualification 9 Level of highest prior qualification Horizontal % s Base None Below /5 Current level: Level 1 1,867 % Thin level 2 2,859 % Full level 2 1,127 % Thin level 3 1,704 % Full level % Thin level 4/5 189 % Full level 4/5 307 % Thin other 273 % Full other 113 % Prior qualification levels vary widely by the level of the current course. For example, over half of learners undertaking level 4/5 courses already have qualifications at level 4/5 compared with a quarter to a third having a prior level 4 or 5 for most other current learning levels. Similarly those undertaking level 1 and thin other courses are much more likely to have no prior qualifications than those undertaking higher level courses. 4.9 Over a quarter (29%) of those undertaking level 1 courses had previously attained level 4 or 5 qualifications. These are often older learners interested in study for interest and personal development Within level 2 and level 3 learning, those undertaking thin qualifications tend to have much higher prior qualifications than those studying towards full qualifications. For example, among those undertaking thin level 2 qualifications 56% already have a level 3 or higher, compared with 32% among full level 2 learners. 9 Where the level of highest prior qualification was any of the following, these have been assigned to a level in a pre-determined manner as described in paragraph 2.15: other ; trade apprenticeship; CSYS; or O levels, A levels or AS levels where the respondent could not remember the number achieved. 18

24 4.11 Two in five (39%) of those undertaking a full level 2 qualification were undertaking their first full level It is important to note that this group only forms part of the total number of learners who, if successful, would cross the level 2 threshold. A second important group are those learners currently studying for a full level 3 qualification who did not have any prior qualification as high as level 2. In this report these learners have been termed level 3 jumpers. Just over a fifth (21%) of all those currently studying for a full level 3 qualification are level 3 jumpers. Highest prior level by current level numbers of learners 4.12 Table 4.3 shows the number of adult learners studying for each specific qualification aim (i.e. level and width) by the level of their highest prior qualification. Figures shown are for the full year (2003/4) i.e. survey results for the November 2003 snapshot have been grossed up to full year estimates. Again it is worth re-iterating that, because we have multiplied the number of learners within each level and width by a simple weighting factor, we are relying on the assumption that, within learning aim types, the profile and characteristics of the November-snapshot learners reflects that of learners across the full year The following colour key has been used:! The group of grey cells outlined with a black line show learners whose highest qualification prior to their current qualification was at a lower level (i.e. progressors ). For example, there were just over 250,000 learners studying for a level 1 qualification in 2003/2004 who did not have any prior qualifications and who were thus progressing.! Cells in black show the number of learners who were studying at the same level as their previous highest qualification ( static learners),! Those in light grey show the number of learners who were studying at a lower level then their highest prior qualification ( regressors 11 ).! There are a number of specific scenarios where it is difficult to confidently state whether a learner is progressing, static or regressing. These are coloured dark grey. Further details on which learners are included in these four categories can be found later in the chapter. 10 Again, this figure is based on the LFS approach of assigning prior qualifications where the level is unclear in a predetermined manner (see footnote to table 4.2). 11 This is not intended to have any negative connotation - there can be many good reasons for studying for a qualification at a lower level to your previous highest, including if it is in a new subject area or if is aimed at updating skills or qualifications. 19

25 Table 4.3: Numbers of learners studying at each qualification aim by highest prior qualification level (full year figures) Current level and width Prior qualifications: Thin/Full 1 Thin 2 Full 2 Thin 3 Full 3 Thin 4/5 Full 4/5 Thin other Full other Total None 250,884 44,508 20,190 12,272 6, , ,812 Below level 2 236,396 92,025 38,737 45,269 17,875 1,702 2,708 43, ,496 Level 2 191, ,281 42,003 64,517 40,104 2,748 5,388 58, ,475 Level 3 154, ,201 24,467 66,182 31,728 6,314 9,789 55,713 1, ,665 Level 4/5 410, ,958 23, ,303 21,652 16,857 21, ,817 1, ,795 Trade Apprenticeship 35,039 12,500 4,040 6,088 2, , ,262 CSYS 1, ,198 A level unknown level 6, , ,754 AS level unknown level O level unknown level , ,826 Other 109,460 28,079 8,608 9,269 3, , ,585 Total 1,398, , , , ,568 28,347 41, ,709 4,983 3,124,564 Base: all 1,867 2,859 1,127 1, ,988 Key: Progressing Static Regressing Can t say / Unsure 20

26 4.14 By looking at the relationship between current and prior highest qualification level, we can derive survey estimates on learners progression status. When looking at specific qualification aims there have been a number of general rules that have been applied for determining whether a learner is progressing, studying at the same level or regressing. These are: Progression: learners who have no prior qualification and learners who are moving to a higher level full qualification. Static: learners studying the same level of full qualification as their highest prior qualification (except if they are currently studying for a full level 1 and their highest prior qualification is below level 2 see below for an explanation of this) Regressing: learners whose qualification aim is at a lower level than their prior qualification and learners currently studying for a thin level 2, 3 or 4/5 qualification who have the equivalent prior qualification level It is not possible to assign a progression status to all learners and hence there are a number of learners for whom we classify progression status as Can t say / unsure. This includes the following learners: Those who are currently studying a qualification that is categorised as level other on the ILR (unless they also have no prior qualifications). As these other qualifications cover a range of levels we can make no assumptions as to these learners progression status 13. Those whose highest prior qualification was an other qualification, i.e. a qualification that was not one off a set LFS list of qualifications and thus, to be consistent with the LFS, had to be assigned to a level in a pre-determined manner as outlined in appendix E. Using a pre-determined proportioning of level would clearly be artificial to use in an analysis of progression status. Hence in essence the use of the term progressors in this report refers to definite progressors. 12 These learners have been defined as regressors because the prior qualification can be considered a full qualification using the LFS classification system whereas the current aim is thin. 13 Furthermore, the LSC do not include these individuals when working out how many new level 2 s or level 3 s etc. they are delivering. 21

27 Those who are currently studying for either a level 2 or level 3 qualification and whose highest prior qualification was a Trade Apprenticeship, CSYS or A levels (unknown level). As these qualifications can be either at level 2 or 3 we can make no assumption as to these learners progression status Those whose highest prior qualification was either AS levels (unknown level) or O levels (unknown level). As AS levels can be at levels 1, 2 or 3 then a learners progression status is unknown if their current qualification is at one of these levels. As O levels can be at either level 1 or 2 then again a learner s progression status is unknown if their current qualification is at these levels (although they will be progressing if they are currently studying for a full level 3 qualification) Learners currently studying a thin qualification whose prior qualification is at a seemingly lower level (unless they have no prior qualifications). Because of their disparate and sometimes ambiguous nature, thin qualifications on the ILR essentially tend to be treated as others by the LFS and therefore, as discussed above, we can make no assumption on their progression status Learners who are currently studying for a full level 1 and whose highest prior qualification is below level 2. Qualifications that LFS classify as below level 2 incorporate a wide range of qualification types. Because of this, it is difficult to draw definite conclusions about progression status and therefore these learners have been assigned into the can t say / unsure category There is a fairly clear pattern by level of qualification currently / recently being studied, such that the higher the level of the (full) qualification the more likely people are to be progressing. Hence while overall 18% of those on level 1 courses are progressing, this rises to over a third of those on full level 2 courses (36%) and a half (51%) for full level 3 courses A key aim of the study is to assess the number of learners progressing, particularly the number undertaking their first full level 2 qualification. This information is summarised in table 4.4 based on learner numbers for the full year 2003/ As already noted, these are the numbers of learners who are definitely progressing. There are likely to be sub-sets within the can t say / unsure group that are also progressing but we cannot estimate the relative size of this group. 22

28 Table 4.4: Survey estimates of the number of adult learners definitely progressing (full year ) Number of learners Current level unspecified but no prior qualifications 64,000 Undertaking a level 1 qualification and progressing 251,000 Undertaking a thin level 2 qualification and progressing 45,000 Undertaking a full level 2 qualification and progressing (A) 59,000 Undertaking a full level 3 qualification and progressing from either no prior qualification or below level 2 (level 3 jumpers) (B) 24,000 Undertaking first full level 2 qualification (A + B) 83,000 Undertaking a thin level 3 qualification and progressing 12,000 Undertaking a full level 3 qualification and progressing (i.e. first full level 3) 64,000 Undertaking a level 4/5 qualification and progressing 19,000 Base: all Figures rounded to the nearest thousand million 4.19 The survey estimates that of the 3.1 million adult FE learners in 2003 / 04 falling within the scope of the study, 83,000 were undertaking their first full level 2 qualification, this split between those undertaking a full level 2 qualification (59,000) and level 3 jumpers (24,000). We examine the profile of these learners in the following section and compare them to other full level 2 learners 14. Profile / characteristics of first full level 2 learners (November snapshot) 4.20 The following table compares the profile of those undertaking their first full level 2 qualification with full level 2 learners in general, showing both level 3 jumpers and those undertaking a full level 2 course and progressing. (We also profile but do not comment on the 64,000 learners studying for their first full level 3 qualification (37% of which are level 3 jumpers), and compare this group to all those studying for a full level 3 qualification). 14 There are a small number of learners who are currently studying for a full level 4/5 qualification who either claimed not to have any qualifications or said their highest qualification was below level 2. Given that this level of jumping of levels seems intuitively unlikely, they have not been included in the survey estimates. 23

29 Table 4.5: Profile of first full level 2 and 3 learners All 1 st full L2 Full L2 1 st full L2 (excl. L3 jumper) L3 jumper All full L2 1 st full L3 Full L3 All full L3 All learners % % % % % % % Gender Male Female Age * * 11 Ethnicity White Non-white Institution type GFEC Non GFEC Mode of study Full-time Part-time Receives benefits Working Status Full-time Part-time Not working Base , , Compared to their counterparts who already have a level 2 qualification, first full level 2 learners are more likely to be: Female Working part-time 24

30 4.22 In terms of their actual prior qualifications, first level 2 learners were particularly to have attained O levels or GCSEs at grades A*-C as their highest prior qualification (41% compared with 25% among all full level 2 learners)) or CSEs (20% compared with 8% among all full level 2 learners). Approaching a third (31%) of first level 2 learners had no qualifications prior to their current course Over four fifths (83%) of those undertaking their first full level 2 were studying an NVQ (88% of those currently studying at level 2 and 73% of level 3 jumpers). Other qualifications being studied by a small proportion of first full level 2 learners were as follows: Unspecified certificates 15-4% (6% amongst those currently studying for full level 2 qualification) Edexcel National Diploma (new syllabus) - 4% (10% amongst level 3 jumpers) National Certificates 16 3% (8% amongst level 3 jumpers) 4.24 Clearly of interest from a policy perspective are whether there are level 2 qualifications which have a disproportionate share of learners without a prior level 2 qualification. These qualifications may represent those that are most attractive to learners without level 2s and could be promoted and supported to encourage more of the population to achieve full level 2 qualifications. Base sizes limit the potential for this analysis, though for the main full level 2 qualification being studied, NVQs, the proportion studying at level 2 for the first time (36%) was slightly lower than across all other full level 2 qualifications (38%) Aimcode 16 on the ILR. 16 Aimcode 30 on the ILR. 17 Other full level 2 qualifications (taken from variable aimtype on the ILR) comprise GCSEs (unweighted base of 2), GNVQ precursors (5), GNVQ/AVCE (22) and other (99). This compares to 999 FE learners taking a level 2 NVQ.. 25

31 4.25 In a similar way, it is of interest which subjects are particularly likely to be studied by those doing their first full level 2 qualifications. These are shown below in table 4.6 which also shows those subjects taken amongst all those undertaking full level 2 qualifications for comparative purposes 18. Table 4.6: Subject of first full level 2 qualification undertaken All 1 st full L2 1 st full L2 (but not L3 jumper) L3 jumpers All full L2 % % % % Community and residential care Early years/nursery nursing (but not teacher training) Hairdressing and beauty Construction crafts Mechanical, aeronautical and general engineering Administration Mechanical services Hospitality and catering Manufacturing Performing Arts 2 * 4 * Health studies Other subjects Unspecified Base Compared to full level 2 learners in general, those undertaking their first such qualification are particularly likely to be studying in the area of early years or, to a lesser degree, community and residential care. 18 Taken from LAD Sub-program Area (variable a_subprg ) on the ILR. 19 Subjects studied by 1% or less of those doing thie first full level 2 qualification have been grouped together as other subjects 26

32 5 Reasons for embarking on FE learning 5.1 In this chapter we examine the reasons that people gave for undertaking their current or recent study. We consider such issues as the extent to which courses were undertaken for work and career reasons as opposed to being simply for personal interest, and why they chose to embark on the study at the time they did. This seeks to throw light on the following interrelated issues: What reasons do learners have for studying their current / recent qualifications, particularly in relation to their level of prior qualifications, and with a focus on those studying their first full level 2 qualification? Why are those people studying their first full level 2 qualification doing so now rather than before or at some time in the future? Reasons for starting their current / recent course (all learners) 5.2 For nearly everyone, personal interest in the subject and the course was important, indeed this was a key reason for over two thirds (68%). Following this in importance are a number of factors relating to work and careers. Almost three in five were looking to gain new skills for work (and two in five said this was key), and well over half were looking to develop their career. A significant minority were motivated either by the desire to change job (40% said this played a part in their decision to embark on the course) or to change the type of work they were doing (33%). Around two in five hoped it would provide them more satisfaction in their existing job. Overall two in three adult learners (64%) mention the course helping them with some aspect of their job and career as playing a role in their deciding to undertake their current / recent course. 5.3 The following chart summarises this information, and shows the main responses given to the prompted question about their reasons for studying their current / recent course. We show those statements where at least 10% said the factor was a key reason, and for simplicity show just the proportion answering that this was a key reason or part of the reason. 27

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