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Sector news, 12 - 18 October 2014

College tutors can't do in 36 weeks what teachers fail to achieve in 11 years Guardian, 15 October 2014

An anonymous blogger called The Secret College Tutor (a Midlands FE teacher and advanced practitioner) wrote an article in the Guardian which said Ofsted was right that English and maths teaching in colleges could be better but said they needed to look beyond the data to see why this was happening. In the most recent GCSE results in the FE sector only 6.5 per cent of learners achieved a grade C or more in English and only 7 per cent in maths. The blogger points out these results are by people retaking subjects they struggled with for years at school, and are often at college to learn a trade with little interest in redoing their GCSEs. Many of the people teaching English and maths in FE don’t have a grade C themselves and haven’t been properly trained to deliver these subjects. Upskilling and redoing GCSEs often has to be done in a tutor’s own time.

New policy behind rise in gcse resitters at college FE Wweek, 13 October 2014

Learners are turning to FE after being refused entry to school sixth forms following a change in government policy, sector leaders have suggested. Under the new study programmes, learners aged 16 to 19 have to continue to study English and maths if they fail to get a C grade at GCSE when at school. The Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) said there has been a 14.6 per cent increase in enrolments of learners without a maths GCSE grade C or above at its member colleges and the 157 Group said some of its membership had reported learners being turned away from their school sixth forms. James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the SFCA, said the 14.6 per cent rise was astonishing given that there was a national 4.8 per cent increase in the proportion of young people gaining A* to C in GCSE maths this summer. He said the survey suggested new funding conditions may have made many school and academy sixth forms more selective.

Childcare sector calls for return of Functional Skills as entry option FE Week, 13 October 2014

Childcare qualification providers have called for Functional Skills to be reinstated as entry requirements for early years educator (EYE) qualifications after Skills Minister Nick Boles showed his support for the qualifications. The government said in February it would only fund EYE apprentices who had gained at least a grade C in GCSE maths and English, rejecting Functional Skills. But Mr Boles said he wanted to make Functional Skills “legitimate, valid, respected [and] admired” and pledged an Ofqual review into how they could improve. Currently, all publicly-funded learners over 19 need the GCSEs to do a level three EYE qualification and all apprentices will have to from September next year. Learners without the qualification have to complete them by the time they finish the course.

Adult skills budget going on ‘wrong sort of IT’ FE Week, 17 October 2014

Further education colleges have a vital role to play in bringing digital skills qualifications up to date to boost computer literacy, a group of Lords has heard. The House of Lords digital skills committee heard the adult skills budget (ASB) was being spent on the “wrong sort of IT” from a panel of expert witnesses. The committee, chaired by Lady Morgan of Huyton, is taking evidence on the digital capability of the nation. Karen Price, chief executive e-skills UK, the sector skills council for business and information technology, told the committee the FE sector needed to offer short, focussed IT courses for those who wanted digital skills for their job but were not necessarily digital specialists. But she said colleges’ provision was driven by where they could access funding, and the qualifications included were very out of date.

Reform warning as apprenticeships plummet FE Week, 17 October 2014

Apprenticeship funding reforms have been thrust back into the spotlight after government figures indicated the programme was heading for the second consecutive annual drop in the number of starts. Provisional data shows that in 2013/14 the number of all-age apprenticeship starts was 432,400, a 13 per cent fall from the comparable figures for 2012/13. Although the number of 16 to 18-year-olds starting apprenticeships rose 5 per cent to 117,800 since last year, the number of 19 to 24-year-olds fell 3 per cent to 156,900. And the number of 25 + apprenticeships — the largest apprentice age group — tumbled from 222,200 to 157,700, a drop of 29 per cent. The government figures, published in the Statistical First Release (SFR) also suggest the number of people starting apprenticeships has dropped for the second year running. Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said that mandatory cash contributions from employers could also have a negative effect.