Programmes of Study and Core Learning Aims for Post-16

What is a programme of study?

Programmes of study can be used by Post-16 institutions to record their year 12 and year 13 student's courses and which course is their Main Programme (also known as a Core aim in Arbor). 

Please note that if you do not have a post-16 provision, you should not use this area of Arbor.

This information is recorded and output in the School Census, so it's important to set up:

  • All your programmes of study
  • Set the learning hours for each year the programme instance runs
  • No more than 1 core learning aim per student, per Programme Aim Type - so a student could have 1 Core Aim in a 16 to 19 study programme, and one in a T level study programme
  • Enrolment into at least one programme for the prior year (if year 13)

If you don't set up your programmes as shown below, you'll encounter many errors in your census. We've detailed what these errors are, as well as how to resolve them here

Please make sure you set up your programmes for the last academic year, as the Census collects programme information for the current academic year and last academic year. If you don't, you'll get errors like the one below.



How long will it take?

  • Add a programme - 1 minute
  • Add programme instances - 2 minutes
  • Link to a course - 1 minute
  • Enrol students - 5 minutes
  • Set Core Aims - 15 minutes (depending on how many students you have)
  • Book in some time to mark students with the right completion statuses when they finish a programme


You'll need the Academic Structure: Administer permission to set up new programmes. If you don't have this permission you can ask your office team to assign it to you.


How should we manage these programme types?

Retaking the year

For students who are repeating Year 13, the DfE advises: If the student has not completed
their programme on time, then we consider the student to be taking longer than
expected to complete rather than retaking. As such, in Arbor you would extend their current instance rather than adding them to another programme instance. See Point 90 in their Funding regulations for post-16 provision guidance.


Please see our guidance here: T-levels


Setting up Programmes of Study

Step 1 - Add the programme

Go to School > School Structure > Programmes of Study and click +Add to add a new programme.

Choose the name of the Programme, an optional short name and whether the Programme is a Traineeship. Click Add Programme.

Top Tip: If the programme is a traineeship for only some of the students, we'd recommend setting up two separate programmes.



You will then be able to add programme instances. An instance is a time period within which a Programme is delivered. Click +Add to add an Instance.



In the slide over, add the details of the programme instance:

  • Planned dates - Make sure the planned start and end date span two years if the programme is two years long. Make sure the planned end date is on or before July 31st.
  • Core Aim - If all the students taking the programme have it as their Core Aim, tick this box. We recommend not ticking this box and instead setting Core Aims for each individual student instead (see this section)
  • Planned Learning Hours - Add in the planned learning hours for the first year the programme is running (you'll be able to add in additional year's hours once the instance has been created)

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For the Linked Qualification Award section, select the qualification from the Linked qualification award drop-down. Can't select it? Set up the qualification in the Examinations section - see how to do this here.

If either the basedata for a qualification hasn't yet been released, or if the programme of study is a KS4 Qualification, you'll need to instead put in a placeholder name and reference:

  • The first part of the award reference is the QAN code.
  • The second part after the / is the Subject Classification Code (SCC or Discount Code).
    • The SCC must be one listed here: Generic QAN Data
    • It must be the right one for Key Stage 5. For example, for GCSE English the Exam Awarding Organisation publishes FK2B as the SCC. However, the correct SCC to use in Programmes is 5030. For further details, please see page 64 of School census 2023 to 2024: technical information

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You must set up an instance for each cohort of your students. For example, if your Year 12s study maths for two years, your programme instance must span a two-year period. When that year group become year 13s, you would set up another programme instance for your new year 12s.



Clicking into a programme instance, you'll see that if the programme runs for two years, you'll need to fill in the learning hours for the second year.

If you don't see the second year here, it means you haven't yet created the next academic year. You can either wait to fill the hours in when the year is created, or create the year by following step 1 in this article



Add in the hours for the second year, then click Save Changes. The hours are usually the same each year but can be different.


Step 2 - Link the programme to a course

In the programme instance, click +Add in the Courses section.



Choose a course from your timetable to link the programme to.


Step 3 - Enrol the students

In the programme instance, you'll see a table for enrolled students. Enrol students by clicking +Add.

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Select whether to select the students to enrol, or automatically add students from particular classes.

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If selecting particular students, select the students to enrol in the programme. Top Tip: Search for a course name to add the whole course at once.

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If selecting to enrol students from a course, you can use the Student Groups selector to filter down the list of courses by year. You can then select the courses in the Courses box. All students in the courses selected will be added to the programme.

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Add further details in the slide over:

  • For the core aim box, if all the students you're enrolling have the programme as their Core Aim, tick this box. We recommend not ticking this box and instead setting Core Aims for each individual student instead (see this section)
  • For planned learning hours, if the number of hours for the students you're enrolling is the same as what you've already set for the programme instance, you can leave this box blank. If the number of hours is different for these students then you can add a new number of hours here. If you have a two-year programme and have set up the next year you'll see a box for each year. 
  • For Programme Aim Type, we've by default set this to 16 to 19 study programme, but you can change this to T level or T level transition programme if needed.



You can then see the table of enrolled students.

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Editing whether a Programme is a Core Aim

It is possible to select that every programme is a student's Core Aim. It is up to the school to make sure only one option is selected for each student per Programme Aim Type for Census purposes.

Only vocational courses should be set as Core Aims - boxes for A Level courses should be left unticked for all students. 

From the Programmes area

Go to Students > Enrolments > Programmes of Study and select the Programme and then the Programme Instance.

In bulk

Tick all the boxes next to the students you would like to toggle this feature for and click the Bulk action button to select Set as Core Aim.

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You can then click a student to see this setting in the slide over. You can also use the same action to unset Core Aims in bulk.


Per student

Click the student you would like to toggle this feature for. Click the orange Edit button.



Tick or untick the box then click Save Changes.




From the student profile

Go to the Enrolment section of the student's profile and scroll down to see their enrolment into Programmes. You can add any enrolments if needed by clicking +Add. You can click into the enrolment and click Edit to mark it as the Core Aim.



From the Bulk Update Programmes of Study page

Go to Students > All Students > Bulk Update > Bulk Update Programmes of Study.

In bulk
  • Students tab - Individual students' enrolment into each programme.
  • Courses tab - Individual students' enrolment into each course linked to a programme. This will default to the current academic year, and the lowest year group set up on your site that is Year 12 or higher. If there is no year 12 or higher, it will default to the lowest year group at your school.
  • Programme Instances tab - Shows the programmes running in the academic year selected. Click one to go to the instance, where you can edit as shown in the From the Programmes area above.

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The Students tab has tick boxes to enable you to manage data in bulk.

This will default to the current academic year, and the lowest year group set up on your site that is Year 12 or higher. If there is no year 12 or higher, it will default to the lowest year group at your school.

Click into the filters to select a different year, student group, and whether to include students with no or multiple core aims set.

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You can use the bulk actions to set a programme as a student's core aim.

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Per student

Click on a student, and click Edit

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Tick or untick the Core Aim box, then click Save Changes.

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Ending a programme for a student by completion, withdrawal or transferring

When students leave a course, or your school, you must also end their enrolment into the Programme of Study. Go to either: 

  • Students > Enrolments > Programmes of Study and select the Programme and then the Programme Instance.
  • Students > All Students > Bulk Update > Bulk Update Programmes of Study > Students Tab.
Completing a Programme

If your students have finished their programme, you need to put that they have completed the programme of study.

Tick the students then click Bulk action button to select Bulk Complete.

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Add in the completion date (if this is different from the planned end date of the programme instance).

The students will then show as completed with their actual end date.


Change programme status from Completed to Continuing

If a student will be continuing a Programme of Study, you can change their programme completion status back by removing the end date. You can do this by either:

  • Clicking on the student, remove the End Date then click Save Changes.
  • Use the Bulk Actions to Bulk Update Actual End Date. Remove the date, then click Bulk Update.
Withdrawing a student from a programme (and course)

Tick the students then click the Bulk action button to select Bulk Withdraw.

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In the slide over, add in the date, the reason and then click Bulk Withdraw.



If any students are enrolled in the course the programme is linked to, you can choose what to do with the student's enrolment into the course:

  • Withdraw from programme only - students will be withdrawn from the programme but will remain enrolled in the course and class registers.
  • Withdraw from both - students will be removed from both with the end date for the programme withdrawal applied to the course as the last day the student will appear in class registers.

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You can also do this by clicking on their name and clicking Withdraw.


Transferring a student

To transfer a student, click the student's name and click Transfer.



In the slide over, select the transfer reason and add a note if needed.

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Choose the new programme and instance to transfer them to.

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Select the current course.

To select a new course to transfer them to, you need to have made sure to select a Programme in the section further up in the slide over. This box will then show any course the student is not already enrolled into.

Add a start date and click Transfer. Their enrolment into the programme and course will be ended the day before they begin the enrolment into their new programme and course.

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Top Tip: There are a few reasons why you might not be able to transfer them to a new course alongside the programme.

  • The student is not enrolled in the course linked to the programme you are transferring from
  • They are already enrolled in the new course. You can check a student's enrolment from their profile.
  • One or both of the programmes don't have a course linked.

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Updating or removing the start and end dates

You can click into an individual student to amend these.

You can update these in bulk by selecting the students and using the Bulk action button to change the Planned Start Date, Planned End Date or Actual End Date.

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In the slide over, select the new date to apply and click Bulk update.

Top Tip: Delete the values in the date field to remove the date.

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  • Planned End dates for Post-16 learning aims should never be 31 Aug. Learning aims for an academic year are collected by DfE from 1st Aug so any that go beyond 1st Aug are picked up for the following academic year. Learning aim end (and planned end dates) should be no later than 31st July.

  • Hi Jackie, you're absolutely right - the planned end dates should be the 31st July or earlier. Great tip! 


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