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Sector news, 1 - 6 December 2014

Second wave of maths upskilling courses planned for FE teachers FE Week, 1 December 2014

FE Week reported that the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) is going to run a second wave of training courses aimed at increasing the number of maths GCSE teachers in FE. The ETF and ACETT members, including WMCETT, launched the maths enhancement programme last year to increase the number of FE tutors capable of teaching the subject at GCSE, and more than 2,200 people took the course. Sue Southwood, ETF programme manager for workforce development, said a contract had now been agreed with a consortium of partners led by Tribal Education to develop phase two of the maths programme, with a view to offering courses from early next year. The second phase is being called the ‘maths pipeline’ course, and will be offered to people who completed the first MEP but still don’t feel confident enough to teach GCSE maths, other Functional Skills teachers who want to teach maths GCSE, vocational training teachers who use maths already, and current GCSE maths teachers who need support getting up to speed with teaching the new syllabus.

Introduction of new maths A-levels put back a year TES, 1 December 2014

Ministers have agreed to delay the introduction of new maths A-levels by a further year after concerns were raised by the exams regulator, universities and headteachers. The decision to put back first teaching of the courses until September 2017 follows worries that the previous 2016 date would have left the first batch of pupils under-prepared for the new qualifications.They would have taken the existing maths GCSE, which is scheduled to be replaced by a new tougher version coming into schools in September. 2015. The Association of School and College Leaders has backed the call by the A-Level Content Advisory Board to delay the implementation of the new A level, and Ofqual had written to ministers warning that the current maths GCSE did not have the “building blocks” needed to prepare pupils for the problem-solving content in the new maths A-level. School reform minister Nick Gibb has now accepted delaying the course until September 2017.

AELP concerns over Labour’s apprenticeship policy FE Week, 1 December 2014

The Labour Party has been urged by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) to scrap its policy that apprenticeships should start from at least level three and last a minimum of two years. Labour claims the move would improve the apprenticeship “brand”, but the AELP said the changes would stop employers taking on an apprentice where they only had level two positions available. It proposed that apprenticeships be level three or above and last a minimum of two years for level three (equivalent to A-level) and three years for level four (university level). However at the moment two thirds of all apprenticeships are at level two so it would be expected to lead to a fall in numbers if introduced suddenly.

£142m contractor top-slicing ‘extortionate’ 40 pc FE Week, 1 December 2014

The country’s biggest Skills Funding Agency (SFA) contractor is charging management fees up to an “extortionate” 40 per cent of contract values, it has been revealed. Learndirect, with a current allocation of £142m and 70 subcontractors including colleges, charities and independent learning providers, was easily the biggest SFA provider this year — and lists the range of fees it charges subcontractors on its website. A spokesperson for Learndirect, a formerly public-owned company that reportedly made a gross profit last year of just over £22m, told FE Week its fees included central services such as IT and marketing along with performance monitoring, and were often less than the 40 per cent maximum.

Top tips for surviving a teaching observation Guardian, 1 December 2014

The Guardian ran this article which offers tips from a number of people including a senior education lecturer and a newly-qualified tutor on how best to approach the observation.

'Teacher supply is failing,' warns Institute of Education director 2 December 2014

The government-imposed shift to school-based teacher training “simply does not work”, according to the head of a leading teacher training institution. The TES reported that Professor Chris Husbands, director of the University of London's Institute of Education (IoE), has claimed that new government figures on teacher recruitment make for “grim reading”. Less than half (44 per cent) of design and technology places were filled, while targets in maths (88 per cent), languages (79 per cent) and physics (67 per cent) were also missed. The statistics also revealed that just 61 per cent of School Direct places were filled this year, compared to 90 per cent of university places. In a blog for the IoE, Professor Husbands accused the Department for Education of putting the “glossiest of positive spins” on the figures.