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Sector news, 21 June - 4 July 2015

Further education colleges can be a lifeline for many of Britain’s young adults Guardian, 22 June 2015

In this article, educationalists supported the arguments in John Harris’s recent article (Sector News, 7-20 June) which asked “who’ll train the care workers when the colleges are gone?”, and drew attention to the increasingly yawning gap between political rhetoric and policy reality on the future of the country’s vocational education.

Skilled workers 'may vanish' if further education budget cuts continue Guardian, 24 June 2015

Britain’s supply of skilled workers may “vanish into history” if looming budget cuts in further education and the unchecked expansion of universities are allowed to continue, according to the architect of the government’s vocational education plans. Professor Alison Wolf, a respected labour market expert and author of the Wolf review of vocational education, said the further education sector that provides the bulk of the UK’s post-secondary training faces possible collapse and the loss of a valuable source of technicians and mechanics. Wolf was publishing a report which argued that “unstable, inefficient, untenable and unjust” funding is destroying education provision for school-leavers outside of universities.

FE Week reported the same report under this headline:

Government’s 3m apprenticeships target ‘largely unfunded’ — and rest of FE will pay, warns post-16 policy adviser Wolf

Government must support lifelong learning if it wants to boost productivity Guardian, 24 June 2015

Cuts to adult education budgets are decimating services for the vulnerable and leaving people without the opportunity to develop basic skills, this article by Ian Nash argued. He said further education had turned many people’s lives around, and asks how the proposed funding cuts can be achieved without reducing frontline provision.

Numeracy crisis threatens to hold back UK in global data race Guardian, 25 June 2015

In the Guardian, Sally Weale reported that the government has been urged to tackle a numeracy crisis in the UK, which experts are warning threatens to hold the country back in the face of a global data revolution. There needs to be a dramatic improvement in the population’s grasp of basic numeracy and statistics if the UK is to keep up with its neighbours and make the most of the potential offered by “big data”, says a report by the British Academy. It calls for a transformation in the UK’s approach to building numeracy, statistics and data analysis skills to ensure that students, consumers and workers are as fluent with numbers as they are with words. The report calls on the government to improve the quality of quantitative skills teaching in schools and colleges, with particular focus on teacher recruitment and the quality of teaching skills.

New Government but same old story FE News, 22 June 2015

In this article, Nick Isles, deputy principal and chief executive of Milton Keynes College wrote that “cuts will be the leitmotif of the next three years for FE”. He said dealing with them when about 100 colleges are already in some sort of financial difficulties would test the ingenuity of the sector like never before. He said BiS have sent out a research paper entitled Current Models of Collaboration – Post 14 Further Education, which analyses 18 providers to show successful mergers, federations and partnerships, and suggests integration may be the way forward. The author finds the evidence for the success of mergers is not always there, and the FE college of the future needs more of the same things as the FE college of today; strong values based leaders, a sense of mission to serve its communities, the ability to innovate and staff skilled and motivated enough to want to do it.

Four in 10 students say university not good value - survey BBC, 22 June 2015

Four in 10 of the first students to pay higher fees do not believe their courses have been good value for money, BBC Radio 5 live reported after carrying out a survey. Just over half said their university course had been good value and about 8 per cent were undecided. The survey of 1,004 final-year students showed 46 per cent would do the same course again. Universities UK said the last national student survey found 86 per cent of students were satisfied with their course. Many arts courses can have as little as eight hours class time a week, but science courses, where students expressed a greater degree of satisfaction, tended to have more teaching time as well as access to laboratories and specialist equipment.

Government U-turn on new childcare apprenticeships hailed a victory for employers FE Week, 1 July 2015

A government U-turn today on GCSE English and maths entry requirements for new childcare apprenticeships launching in August has been hailed a victory for sector employers. The Department for Education (DfE) had been planning to require would-be learners to have the qualifications at grade C or above to be able to start the Early Years Educator (Eye) level three Trailblazer apprenticeship. But the policy, which had led to fears that potential learners would be put off the sector, was today rejected by Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah, who said it made more sense to have an exit standard rather than a barrier to entry. People would be able to study their maths and English GCSEs alongside their childcare apprenticeship training. Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, welcomed the move. He also asked for functional skills to be included as a high-quality alternative to GCSEs as numeracy and literacy were the real need for childcare employees.