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Sector news, 25 - 31 January 2015

‘Colleges that don’t engage with businesses will fail’ Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw tells MP FE Week, 28 January 2015

Colleges risk failing their Ofsted inspections if they are not engaging effectively with employers, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned. In questions from the House of Commons Education Select Committee on Ofsted’s annual report in December he warned that inspectors were going to be “more critical” of poor employer engagement by colleges, and said colleges risked an inadequate rating.

Ofqual issues four-point improvement plan for Functional Skills FE Week, 27 January 2015

Ofqual has issued a four-point improvement plan for awarding organisations (AOs) in a bid to make Functional Skills qualifications “more valid and more reliable”. The qualifications watchdog today published the report on its review, launched last year, of level two English and maths Functional Skills, which concluded that they “need to be improved”. The report said AOs had already responded “positively” to findings that action needed to be taken to improve the quality of assessment materials and reduce the risk of malpractice and maladministration. The report also said AOs needed to strengthen standard-setting procedures and evaluate better how far qualifications were meeting user needs. It is planned the majority of improvements will be in place by the summer.

Leadership and management questioned in new ETF survey results FE Week, 26 January 2015

Approval of FE sector leadership and management has declined since last year, according to the results of an Education and Training Foundation (ETF) survey released today. The survey revealed that 44 per cent of the 255 respondents thought the standard of leadership and management in the sector was good or very good, while 22 per cent rated it as bad or very bad. In a survey conducted in February 52 per cent gave a positive response, while 7 per cent gave the negative answer. The survey report said there may be a difference because there was a higher proportion of teachers and trainers in this year’s sample, as 58 per cent of principals and chief executives praised leadership and management. More people are also now aware of the ETF, with the proportion rising from 78 per cent to 90 per cent. But there was still a low level of awareness of some of the ETF’s programmes.

Review of non-GCSE English and maths kicks off FE Week, 26 January 2015

The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has launched a review of teaching and accreditation of maths and English for learners unable to reach D grade GCSE. The review, Making maths and English work for all, is chaired by former Highlands College principal Professor Ed Sallis and is expected to close on February 24 with the findings due out the following month. It will look at how non-GCSE maths and English qualifications are understood by employers, how well they meet their needs, and how they might become validated qualifications with large scale recognition across the population. From August learners who get a D in English and maths at GCSE will have to retake to try to get a better grade, while those who get an E or below can try for alternative qualifications in the hope of getting a C grade equivalent.

Call for more powers to track 16 to 18s FE Week, 26 January 2015

Local authorities “need more legal powers to ensure partners share vital information” in tracking the education and training status of 16 to 18-year-olds, it has been claimed. Local Government Association children and young people board chair Coun David Simmonds criticised a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report that showed up to 20 per cent of young people’s activity was unknown among some local authorities. The PAC also found the proportion of Neets was at its lowest since records began, though there were still 148,000 at the end of 2013.

Ten pc online course content edict ‘more of a vague target’ FE Week, 23 January 2015

The government will not be enforcing a recommendation from the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag) that 10 per cent of all course content should be delivered online, Skills Minister Nick Boles has revealed. Speaking at the Bett technology trade show he said he was not planning to be “prescriptive” in following up Feltag recommendations. The group called for a minimum of 10 per cent online delivery by 2015/16 to be mandated through funding in its report, published in March last year, but Mr Boles said this was more of a “vague target”. Instead, Mr Boles said, he would be focussing on the targets to improve broadband infrastructure in college, and would be developing a forum for sharing best learning technology practice.

Gazelle group in need of reforms to meet full potential, report finds TES, 27 January 2015

The Gazelle College Group needs structural reform and a clearer purpose if it is to realise its full potential, according to a new report. The entrepreneurial-focused group was set up in 2012 to offer students real-world business experience as they learned, and has grown to encompass 23 colleges across the UK. An independent impact analysis, commissioned by the group and carried out by the Policy Consortium, found that while the group has had a positive impact, its structure needs to be revamped to make it work more effectively. Ofsted data released by the TES previously suggested that colleges belonging to the group, who pay £30,000 a year plus VAT for membership were underperforming compared with the sector as a whole.