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Sector news, 19 July - 1 August 2015

Colleges face axe in government’s streamlined vision of post-16 education TES, 20 July 2015

Major reform of post-16 education and training institutions in England is needed to deal with the “significant” financial pressures they face, according to a new government paper published today. The 10-page paper, Reviewing post-16 Education and Training Institutions, says there will need to be “fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers” in future. It says this will allow greater specialisation, creating institutions that are “genuine centres of expertise” that can support
progression up to a high level in professional and technical disciplines. The document also announces that the Department for Education and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will start a programme of area-based reviews of 16-plus provision, “and do so quickly”. The paper says that although there are already “many excellent” FE colleges, “substantial change is required” to achieve the government’s objectives of creating high quality routes to employment and responding better to local employer needs while maintaining tight fiscal discipline.

Colleges' financial health is 'declining rapidly', says National Audit Office TES, 20 July 2015

Some 70 FE colleges could be rated financially inadequate by the end of the financial year, according to a new report published today by the National Audit Office (NAO). It highlights the rapidly declining financial health of FE colleges since 2010-11, when just 12 colleges were assessed as being financially inadequate. In 2013-14 this had risen to 29. Depending on funding levels and colleges’ ability to reduce costs, this could rise to about 70 by 2015-16, the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) predicts. The report says the situation reveals “fundamental structural problems” in the sector, which might require decisions at regional or sector-wide level.

Early years education sector sees latest DfE U-turn on GCSE entry requirement FE Week, 31 July 2015

The government revealed it had changed its mind on another aspect of early years education (EYE) requirements, by dropping the GCSE entry requirement for level three classroom provision. The Department for Education (DfE) is going to allow learners who do not have grade C or above in English and maths to start and achieve standalone, non-apprenticeship, level three EYE qualifications. It had already carried out a U-turn on a GCSE entry requirement for the current level three EYE apprenticeships in August last year — just a month before it was set to introduce the rule. The new ruling will not put in place an exit requirement of a GCSE in entry years, but instead will see providers required to ““support learners who need to achieve English and maths GCSEs at grade C or above” for standalone level three EYE qualifications. Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) employers will still be required to maintain a certain percentage of level three EYE-qualified staff who have English and maths GCSEs.

Employers free to call anything they want an ‘apprenticeship’ — despite government plans for new laws to protect the brand FE Week, 30 July 2015

Employers have escaped the reach of a government clampdown on misue of the word apprenticeship, FE Week reported. Companies who run their own unfunded courses and label them ‘apprenticeships’ will continue to be able to deliver such programmes in less than a year without fear of a proposed Magistrates’ Court prosecution and fine. Even firms that run internal ‘apprenticeship’ programmes with government funding not specifically for the official scheme will remain free from strict rules that apply to BIS-funded apprenticeship provision — such as the 12-month minimum duration. However, colleges and independent learning providers would be subject to the legislation put forward in a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) consultation launched yesterday, prompting a warning that the employers’ exemption could place the interests of learners at risk.

Benefit claimants taking up further education rise by 35 per cent in five years, figures show The Telegraph, 20 July 2015

The number of benefit claimants taking up further education has risen by 35 per cent in the past five years, according to government figures. Official numbers show that 650,000 claimants took up training last year compared with 480,000 in 2009/2010. The number of claimants improving their English and Maths skills also jumped by more than a third from 180,000 in 2012/13 to 240,000 in 2013/14, figures published by the Departments for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) revealed. This is the third year in a row that both both sets of figures have seen a rise. Tom Stannard, deputy chief executive of adult learning body Niace, told the Times Educational Supplement that the growth was “encouraging”, and said returning to learning would help claimants build the confidence they needed to start or restart their careers. However, he expressed concern over “significant” cuts to further education provision, would mean fewer learning opportunities.