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Sector news, 15 - 26 April 2013

Guild given ministerial green light FE Wweek, 15 April 2013

Plans for a new FE body to support the sector have been given the go-ahead. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed funding, excluding VAT, of £18.8m for August to April next year and the same figure again for 2014-15 to develop the FE Guild. David Hughes, independent chair of the guild’s development steering group and chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said the sector now had a “unique opportunity” to “shape” the organisation which will provide training and set professional standards across the sector. The Guild will provide a real one stop focus for leadership, management and governance.”

Providers shocked as funding is radically cutTES, 19 April 2013

FE providers will miss out on millions of pounds they had expected to receive in funding for 16-19 provision, with some experiencing a drop in their allocations of as much as 50 per cent, TES has learned. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said dozens of its members had received allocations from the Education Funding Agency (EFA) that were at least 20-30 per cent lower than anticipated. The AELP has warned that this could jeopardise the raising of the participation age to 17 this summer in some areas. The new pre-apprenticeship traineeship programme could also be affected. A DfE spokeswoman said that the funding reforms will ensure that “every young person is able to undertake high-quality study, which will lead to better education and employment opportunities.” The new system funded per student instead of per qualification so it would free up providers to deliver courses which met the individual needs of all young people.

Skills cash goes unused by half of employersTES, 19 April 2013

A major initiative to give employers a greater role in skills training has been cast into doubt after it emerged that fewer than half of firms have so far provided evidence of recruiting any trainees. The government announced almost 18 months ago it was giving funding directly to employers proposing innovative training projects. In response to a parliamentary question, ministers said that of the 37 projects approved in September only 17 have started to claim funding. A further 11 have a contract in place, and some projects may have started to deliver training but have not yet made a funding claim. Three employers have withdrawn, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) told TES. Simon Perryman, executive director of the UKCES, said the pilot, which has just closed its second round of bidding, is on schedule and they were very pleased with the projects so far. Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the government should be wary of transferring more of the adult skills budget into schemes such as the employer ownership pilots.

New D&T curriculum axed over 'dumbing down' fearsTelegraph, 20 April 2013

Ministers are to scrap the draft design and technology syllabus just two months after it was published amid claims that the document prioritised “life skills” over rigorous disciplines such as engineering. The Department for Education will review subject requirements – with input from industry leaders – after admitting that the version drawn up earlier this year was “dumbed down”. The draft document sets out the core knowledge that all five- to 14-year-olds in England should master at each stage of their education. But the D&T curriculum was criticised after it emerged that pupils would be expected to receive lessons in sewing and knitting, cultivating plants for “decorative displays”, bike maintenance and extensive cookery classes. Sir James Dyson, the inventor and entrepreneur, accused the Government of “diluting” the subject “with puff pastry and topiary”, while the Confederation of British Industry said the curriculum was “out of step with the needs of the modern economy”. In response, the Government is now believed to be reviewing the document to make sure it focuses more on engineering and computer aided-design.

Cash-strapped colleges 'axing courses to save money'Telegraph, 24 April 2013

Colleges and school sixth-forms are preparing to cut "less popular" A-level subjects such as foreign languages and further maths to plug a huge funding gap, head teachers’ leaders warn today. Institutions educating 16- to 19-year-olds are also being forced to increase class sizes and cut back on extra-curricular activities because of concerns they can no longer afford to maintain provision at existing levels, they claim. In a letter to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, six organisations representing heads and college principals call on the Government to address a “growing disparity” in funding for teenagers’ education. They say funding will fall be three per cent in 2013-14.

Adult education: do your researchTelegraph, 25 April 2013

This article looks at the factors to consider when thinking of investing in education as a mature student, saying that as the retirement age continues upwards we are all being encouraged to acquire new skills over the course of a longer working life. There has been a 40 per cent fall in the number of part-time students since the introduction of fees up to £9,000 a year, and a fall in full-time students over the age of 20. But Niall Sclater, director of learning and teaching at the Open University, says there is still a case for studying for a degree, as according to the Office for National Statistics graduates earn an average of £12,000 a year more than non-graduates, while non-graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed. Damian Brown, head of accredited learning at BT, says education can be a good solution for someone unable to get a job, but it is important to know what you aim to achieve.

College does the job for the unemployed, survey finds TES, 26 April 2013

Top-performing colleges are helping unemployed students into sustainable jobs at a rate nearly 10 times that reported by the government’s Work Programme, a survey has found. According to Association of Colleges (AoC) research, nearly a quarter of colleges reported that 30 per cent or more of their unemployed students entered long-term jobs at the end of their course. An evaluation of the first phase of the Work Programme found that on average 3.5 per cent of clients had found sustainable employment. The figure was lower than expected if there had been no intervention at all. Only 4 per cent of colleges reported employment rates of less than 5 per cent. Joy Mercer, director of policy at the AoC, said that over the past two years, colleges had transformed their working relationship with job centres, resulting in a higher number of referrals and students who were more likely to complete their courses.