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A Quiet Response to a Very Big Announcement

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This week, a couple of working days after its self-imposed deadline, the Department for Education finally made the announcement that colleges would be able to recruit 14- and 15-year-olds directly, as predicted in Friday's TES.

Beyond the details proposed by the principals on the implementation group and laid out in our magazine story, FE minister Matthew Hancock said colleges would have to be rated good by Ofsted or be able to show they were improving, and would be expected to set up dedicated 14 to 16 centres.

But the announcement appears something of a damp squib and attracted surprisingly little attention for what Middlesbrough College principal Mike Hopkins, co-chair of the implementation group, has described as one of the biggest changes in education for 30 years.

Press releases were sent out on Sunday with an embargo for Monday, according to a DfE spokesperson. But some journalists did not receive it until Monday afternoon. Many others did not receive it at all. It is still not published on the DfE website, even though that was updated on Tuesday.

As a result, with one exception, the national media hasn't covered the development at all. That's a particular shame, because if college recruitment is going to make a difference, the message that they have new options needs to go out to parents and students, not just education professionals.

Introducing competition at 14 between schools, University Technical Colleges, FE and sixth form colleges is controversial, but the way to resolve that isn't to pretend that it hasn't happened. It would be a shame if the DfE itself was adopting the same code of silence that some schools already use to protect their numbers at 16.

For more from the FE Focus news blog, please visit www.tes.co.uk/fefocus