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Sector news, 15 - 28 March 2015

ETF English and maths review finds Functional Skills ‘not broken’ FE Week, 25 March 2015

The system of Functional Skills qualifications is “not broken, but could be improved,” according to the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) review of non-GCSE English and maths, out today. The review aimed to examine the perception and value of non-GCSE English and maths qualifications among employers. It focussed on Functional Skills, despite a number of other alternatives to GCSEs, because they “have been designed to meet the needs of employers.” It painted a largely positive picture of Functional Skills, and said they should not be seen as a stepping stone to help learners achieve GCSE, but as “an alternative route … a qualification in its own right with the key purpose of satisfying employer requirements”.

What’s putting young people off teaching? Guardian, 19 March 2015

This article looks at the number of incentives to persuade young graduates to go into teaching, plus advertising campaigns, against the fact that there were still 2,000 teacher training places left unfilled in 2013-14. It looks at the profession’s image problem, and what would-be and new teachers should know.

Budget confirms 2017 roll-out of apprenticeship vouchers as FE sector braces for more cuts FE Week, 18 March 2015

New “digital apprenticeship vouchers” will be introduced in 2017, the government confirmed today as sector bodies raised concerns about the impact further departmental cuts might have on FE. Documents released to go with George Osborne’s budget revealed more detail to the voucher policy, which has essentially brought to an end a two-year apprenticeship funding reform saga in which employers were expected to be handed government money to pay for training. The Budget documents confirmed that the vouchers would be in place by 2017, and would give employers “purchasing power,” but actual government cash to pay for training will go straight to providers — just like the current system — and not into employers’ hands first.

How do we make maths and English work for all?, 25 March 2015

In this article, Professor Ed Sallis, chair of the steering group for ‘Making maths and English work for all’, the Education and Training Foundation’s review in to what employers and learners need from non-GCSE maths and English qualifications, write about the scope of the review, and what people were asked about their needs. He said the major piece of information the ETF needed to know was whether employers knew about and understood Functional Skills. The survey found 47% of employers knew about Functional Skills, higher than expected, and that of those people 87% like them, though felt they could be improved. He said the review confirmed the policy of trying to get as many people to achieve maths and English at GCSE as possible, but also saw the point of functional skills in their own right.

London School of Economics to host new Centre for Vocational Education Research FE Week, 24 March 2015

A new £3m project aimed at researching new ideas for FE will be based at the London School of Economics (LSE). Skills Minister Nick Boles will today announce that a new Centre for Vocational Education Research (CVER) will be led by Dr Sandra McNally from the LSE and based at its Centre for Economic Performance. The team at the centre will investigate, research and analyse potential new ideas for skills provision in England. Speaking at the launch later this morning, Mr Boles is expected to say: “A skilled workforce, able to meet the needs of employers and industries, is vital to our continued economic growth.” In its research, the centre will try to address how vocational education affects prosperity, productivity, profitability and economic growth, how to improve the amount of high quality provision and how the costs and benefits of vocational education influence individuals’ participation decisions.

Colleges say 'swathe of cuts' threatens adult education BBC news, 25 March 2015

Adult education in England "will not exist by 2020" if government cuts continue, the Association of Colleges warned. It said 190,000 adult education places will go next year, as funding is cut by 24 per cent. Courses for health, public services and care, and information and communication technology (ICT) could be hardest hit. The government concedes total funding has been reduced but says it has prioritised apprenticeships and subjects including English and maths. The AoC, which represents 336 institutions in England, said the number of adult students on Level 3 courses, including BTecs and NVQs fell by almost 18 per cent between 2013-14. AoC chief executive Martin Doel said the potential loss of provision threatens the future prospects of the millions of people who may need to retrain to continue working past retirement age, and unemployed people. Prof Ewart Keep, from Oxford University's department of education, says the AoC's analysis is "alarming, but realistic".