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Sector news, 15 - 28 July 2013

 Utterly Wrong! Academics deride league tables that guide Michael Groves’ reforms The Independent, 19 July 2013

The world's most influential education league tables used by Michael Gove as a reason for "whole system reform" of the sector have been derided as "useless and meaningless" by two academic studies. The Education Secretary often uses Britain’s position in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rankings of 15-year-olds in science, maths and reading ability to justify policies, but Dr Hugh Morrison, a mathematician from Queens University, Belfast, said that the model used to calculate the triennial rankings is "utterly wrong" because it contains a "profound" conceptual error that confuses objective and subjective probability. Professor Svend Kreiner, a statistician from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, also said the Pisa model is fundamentally flawed and in a paper published this summer he challenges Pisa's reliability and shows how results fluctuate significantly according to which test questions are used.

Less than three per cent of colleges will recruit 14 to 15 year-oldsFE Week, 17 July 2013

Only seven colleges will be taking up the opportunity, for the first time, to directly enrol full-time 14 and 15 year olds in September, the Education Funding Agency told FE Week today. Of 283 colleges which meet the criteria laid out by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, only 2.5 per cent are planning to recruit those youngsters. The agency said it would publish a list of the colleges on its website before the end of the month. Colleges which take on 14 and 15-year olds are required to provide a dedicated area for them within the college estate, as well as separate 14 to 16 leadership.

Traineeship restrictions for 19 to 24 year-olds will ‘add confusion and complexity’FE Week, 17 July 2013

A revised framework for traineeships has revealed a programme more restrictive for 19 to 24 year-olds than 16 to 19 year olds. The updated Traineeships Framework for Delivery document, published by the government yesterday, says “for 19-24 year olds, the programme will be available only for those who have not yet achieved their first full level two qualification”— equivalent to five GCSEs grade A* to C. However “for 16-19 year olds, providers will have flexibility to work with young people who have level two qualifications but not level three.” The restriction has come as a surprise to the sector, and Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers told FE Week said he was please the Traineeships had been extended to the older age group, but having a different eligibility for different age groups “is adding complexity to the system”. A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) spokesperson said 16-19 year olds with a level two qualification were more likely to need this kind of provision than 19-24 year olds as they would have had less opportunities to gain experience in the labour market, but both departments would keep the traineeships policy under review.

Report finds youth employment schemes ‘inadequate’FE Week, 17 July 2013

There are three times as many young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) as there are apprenticeship placements for under-25s, a report has revealed. The report, by the Institute for Public Policy Research, showed that one in seven under-25s was classed as NEET, totaling more than a million young people, and called for the government to make employment the central focus of UK economic policy, targeting an employment rate of 80 per cent.

Report on college governance calls for diversity assessmentsFE Week, 11 July 2013

A review of college governance by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has called for yearly diversity assessments. The Review of Further Education and Sixth Form College Governance recommends that assessments of governing board composition, size and diversity feature in colleges’ annual reports. The Association of Colleges (AoC) has been tasked with providing good practice examples of such reports for the country’s 8,000 further education and sixth form college governors.

New apprenticeship application figures reveal just one in ten under 19-year-olds are successful FE Week, 15 July 2013

Junior Shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt has called on the government to boost 16 to 18-year-old apprenticeship hopefuls after government figures revealed for the first time that in the first nine months of 2012/13 there were 788,640 applications and just 86,700 starts, which was 11 per cent. The figures are based on usage of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) website, where providers must advertise vacancies, and further show that of the 1.2m total number of applications, 63 per cent came from under 19s. Despite that, the age group have claimed just 26 per cent of apprenticeship starts in 2012/13.

Bath University to cut its PGCE course. The reason: School Direct Guardian, 22 July 2013

A leading university is proposing to close its "outstanding" postgraduate certificate in education course amid fears over a lack of government support for higher education-based provision.Bath would be the first major university provider to stop offering PGCEs, as ministers emphasise the School Direct model of teacher education, where schools take the lead in recruiting and training future staff. The news seems to bear out concerns in higher education that Michael Gove's enthusiasm for School Direct as his preferred route, seemingly backed by Sir Michael Wilshaw at Ofsted, would see universities pulling out of teacher education.

White pupils 'less likely to apply for university than other ethnic groups' Guardian, 23 July 2013

White teenagers are less likely to apply to university than youngsters from any other ethnic group, according to research by Ucas. Fewer than three in 10 white 18-year-olds have applied to start a degree course this autumn, but applications from black pupils have increased significantly since 2006. Young women are also nearly a third more likely to apply than men this year. Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said the gap between rich and poor was closing, as ‘disadvantaged groups are applying at record levels’.

Russell Group universities prepare to do battle for top students Guardian, 23 July 2013

Elite institutions will enter Clearing for the first time this August, after new admissions rules left universities with unfilled places in 2012. Some of the 24 Russell Group institutions had hundreds of places unfilled last year and are taking action to stop it happening again, with some including the University of Sheffield running a Clearing campaign for the first time. The problem last year came from the government’s decision to relax student number controls and allow them the freedom to offer places to unlimited numbers of high-achieving candidates, which coincided with the biggest fall in top A level results for 20 years. One admissions officer told the Education Guardian that some Russell Group universities had ended up calling candidates they had rejected in the first round of Ucas applications to offer them places. Leeds, Warwick, Manchester, Queen Mary, University of London, and Southampton said they were likely to have places available in Clearing this year but wouldn't be drawn on estimated numbers. University College London, Exeter and Bristol all said they still did not expect to be in Clearing this year.