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Sector news, 18 - 22 March 2013

Anti-European sentiment 'turning children off learning languages' Guardian, 20 March 2013

Anti-European sentiment is turning teenagers off modern foreign languages it is thought, following a report published by the CfBT Education trust, which shows that entries for A-level French and German fell by more than half between 1996-2012. There has also been a decline in students taking those subjects at GCSE, although entries for GCSE Spanish and other foreign languages continue to rise. Language specialist Teresa Tinsley said there was an "erroneous" view that languages such as French and German are no longer useful when, in fact, they are still needed in the workplace.

Undergraduate drop-out rate falls to 7.4%Guardian, 22 March 2013

The number of students dropping out of university has fallen steeply, figures show, as it is thought young people are trying to protect themselves from a highly-competitive jobs market. The most recent statistics, from 2010-11, show that 7.4 per cent of full-time undergraduates leave their degrees within a year of starting their courses – down from 8.6 per cent the year before. There are huge differences though, from 1.3 per cent at Cambridge, and 1.7 per cent at Exeter, to 16.6 per cent at London Metropolitan and 23 per cent at the University of West Scotland.

Massive rise in disruptive behaviour, warn teachersObserver, 24 March 2013

Teachers have warned that disruptive behaviour in classrooms has escalated sharply in recent years, as funding cuts to local services have left schools struggling to cope. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) carried out a survey which found that the vast majority of staff had recorded a rise in the number of children with emotional, behavioural or mental health problems. Many examples of challenging behaviour were given ranging from violent assault defamatory campaigns on social media. The ATL, which has 160,000 members in the UK, said aggressive cuts to the traditional safety net of local services have left schools dealing with complex behavioural and mental health problems on their own. Earlier this month it emerged that two-thirds of local authorities have cut their budgets for children and young people's mental health services since the coalition government came to power in 2010.

SFA to reprimand 'second-level subcontractors' TES, 22 March 2013

The TES reports that more than a dozen training providers are to be spoken to by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) for engaging in the controversial practice of ‘second-level subcontracting’, that is subcontracting from a subcontractor, without the agency’s permission. In the past two years more than 1,000 providers have received government money indirectly, with lead contractors siphoning off a portion of the funding in administration fees. The SFA has given approval to only four cases for second level subcontracting so far in 2012-13, but was aware of 12 more organisations who were doing that without asking for permission.

Part-time degrees are in 'dramatic decline' TES, 22 March 2013

The number of part-time students on degree-level courses in FE colleges has fallen by nearly 20 per cent, a “massive reduction” that came after the introduction of higher tuition fees, experts have warned. Overall participation in higher education by part-time students fell by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2012, as fees went up to a maximum of £9,000 last September, according to figures released last week by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce). The real figure for colleges may be even higher than the 20 per cent identified by Hefce, as this does not include places that are franchised from a university rather than directly funded. The funding council has said the collapse in numbers of part-time students needed “immediate attention”. The sharp drop in part-time study has also contributed to a fall in mature student applications of more than 7 per cent. Hefce found last year that colleges reported that mature students in particular were reluctant to take on student loans.

Government rejects call to localise entire skills budget TES, 22 March 2013

A radical proposal to transfer control of the entire skills budget to a local level, made by Lord Heseltine, has been rejected by the government in order to protect national funding of apprenticeships. Some of the remaining £2.2 billion of adult FE funding could still be transferred to local enterprise partnerships (LEPs). But the government’s response to the Heseltine review said that it will continue to hand control of funding to employers and individuals, using direct employer funding and the loans system currently available for over- 24s on level 3 courses. The future of the Skills Funding Agency will be determined in the spending review this summer, when the Treasury announces how much of its budget is to be devolved. Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges, admitted that colleges will have even less certainty over their budgets than before if funding increasingly becomes a matter of tendering for contracts from employers and LEPs, and recruiting loan-funded learners.