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Sector news, 17 - 23 August 2014

Young people with disabilities campaign for the right to learn Guardian, 19 August 2014

In this article Andy Merriman writes about post-16 education for those with physical learning disabilities and how what is available is often a postcode lottery. His own daughter, who has Down’s syndrome, has trained at a residential catering college and hopes to be a waitress, and recently attended a demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament to highlight the need for educational equality for people with disabilities.

Free tablet computers and £900 cash on offer in scramble to woo students The Independent, 17 August 2014

The Independent has reported on the inducements being offered to students to sign up by universities as competition to fill places hots up, with more places available. The University of East London is offering students a package worth £1,200, including a tablet computer and £900 to spend on books and travel. Those with three E grade passes can join foundation degrees which can lead to a full degree at the end of the course, and those going straight on to a full degree need three Cs. Universities were allowed to recruit an extra 30,000 students this year. This has led to the country’s most selective institutions including the Russell Group universities trying to recruit students who did better than expected, and tempt them away from universities with lower entry qualifications. Other students who missed out on their grades are being told the offer is still open. The University of West London is offering students with at least two B grades and a C a fee-waiver worth £8,500 for their first year. The University of Greenwich is offering a £2,500-a-year bursary for three years for candidates achieving at least ABB grades.

Bid to encourage students into traditional subjects 'could have backfired' The Telegraph, 17 August 2014

A bid to encourage teenagers to study traditional academic subjects may have backfired and resulted in fewer youngsters taking GCSEs in the separate sciences, experts have said. Exam entries for biology, chemistry and physics have fallen this year, after years of increases. This decline could be an ''unintended consequence'' of the English Baccalaureate, introduced by the government in 201, which recognises youngsters who gain at least a C grade in a range of academic subjects at GCSE, according to Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment research at Buckingham University. But the Department for Education insisted that there were no evidence of this. Prof Smithers warned there could be a knock-on effect with A level science subjects.

Government U-turn over GCSE entry requirement for early years educator apprenticeship FE Week, 20 August 2014

The government has backed down on its GCSE entry requirement plans for early years educator apprenticeships. It had been planning to make grade C or above English and maths a requirement for course starts from next month, rejecting Functional Skills qualifications, but the GCSE requirement has now been changed to completion of the course. The move has been welcomed within the sector, in which fears had emerged the GCSE requirement for entry might have put many learners off.

New ad campaign tells youngsters to ‘get in’ to apprenticeships and ‘go far’ FE Week, 20 August 2014

The government and top employers have today launched a “Get In, Go Far” TV advertising campaign for apprenticeships as teenagers up and down the country prepare to collect their GCSE results tomorrow. The adverts show apprentices taking selfie photographs in their places of work and talking about their experiences, and will be shown on posters, in print media, on YouTube and on TV. The launch coincides with the publication of details of more than 40 new employer-designed apprenticeships in sectors including engineering, hospitality and the legal profession.

Concerns emerge providers are claiming 24+ funding they’re not entitled to FE Week, 21 August 2014

Concerns have emerged at the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) that FE and skills providers may have been claiming funding they weren’t entitled to. AN SFA spokesperson told FE Week that there had been a number of cases identified where providers had claimed full funding for a learner but it was not clear from the data that the learner had an entitlement to full funding. There had been funding claims for below level three, where most provision is co-funded.

Stratford-upon-Avon principal pledges brighter future after critical report TES, 19 August 2014

The principal of a struggling college subject to a critical report by the FE commissioner said she is “hopeful” the college has turned itself around. Nicola Mannock, made the comments following a report that was published this week in which the colleges' troubleshooter, Dr David Collins, called into the question the future of Stratford-Upon-Avon College. The commissioner was sent in to the college in May after its financial health was declared to be “inadequate” by the Skills Funding Agency. It had deficit budgets for the past five years and at one point was £1.5 million in the red. The TES reported that Ms Mannock said restructuring had put the college in a more positive position. The college has cut 40 staff posts to save £1.2 million, and now has an operating surplus budget. The governing body had been criticised for a lack of expertise in key areas, but now seven governors had resigned, the clerk retired, and Ms Mannock said a new board was being appointed and would be up and running by September.

Cutbacks mean migrants are unable to find English classes Independent, 18 August 2014

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants in England are unable to get professional help learning English because of government cuts, according to a study of census data and course registrations. At the last census, 850,000 migrants living in England identified themselves as being unable to speak English well, or at all in many cases. But only 150,000 are registered in classes where English is taught to people for whom it is not their first language – meaning that as many as 700,000 are being “left voiceless”, the report called On Speaking Terms warns. Think tank Demos has discovered through Freedom of Information requests that government backing for ESOL courses has been cut by more than 40 per cent in five years. Demos said making it easier for migrants to learn the language could save money as it increased their chances of finding work and contributing to the economy. But the system makes it hard for those who have found work to continue studying, as when they begin earning they cease to be entitled to free classes.