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Sector news, 26 April - 9 May 2015

PwC recruiters say A-level results unfairly aid private school pupils Guardian, 3 May 2015

The international accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has decided to ditch A-level results when looking at recruiting graduates because of the unfair advantage given to independent school pupils. It is one of the largest recruiters of graduates in the country, and said it would “miss out on key talent from disadvantaged backgrounds” unless it stopped using A-levels and similar exams as part of its graduate recruitment efforts. It would no longer use the Ucas tariff, which converts A level grades into a points total, as a requirement for its graduate programme after finding that one in three of its graduate recruits had been privately educated. The move is a recognition that exam results can be distorted by school type and follows long-standing evidence that state-educated students outperform their peers from private schools in terms of final university degree.

FE Commissioner launches city-wide review looking at merging Nottingham’s two biggest colleges FE Weel, 1 May 2015

An article by Paul Offord in FE Week revealed that the FE Commissioner has launched a city-wide review of vocational education in Nottingham which is looking at merging the city’s two biggest colleges. It follows grade three Ofsted inspection results for both colleges over the last year and the revelation, reported in FE Week on April 20, that New College Nottingham (NCN) plans for a multimillion pound campus revamp had to be saved by £12m funding from the local authority and Skills Funding Agency (SFA) It is thought that this is the first is the first time that the FE Commissioner has used his ‘area based review’ powers, as he normally only investigates single colleges.

Education and Training Foundation workforce survey highlights Functional Skills teacher recruitment problem FE Week, 29 April 2015

FE Week reported that a third of work-based learning providers are finding it difficult to recruit Functional Skills (FS) teachers, a survey by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) found. The ETF’s annual workforce survey is based on responses from 186 work-based learning providers, showing that 16 per cent of respondents found it “very difficult” to recruit FS teaching staff in 2013/14, while 18 per cent found it “quite difficult”. The survey also shows an apparent decline in the proportion of FE staff who had a relevant teaching qualification. Providers reported that, on average, 61 per cent of their teaching staff held relevant teaching qualifications in 2013/14, compared to 80 per cent in 2012/13 and 83 per cent in 2011/12.

Recruitment at 14 ‘difficult’ as UTCs’ capacity runs as low as 12.2pc FE Week, 27 April 2015

Six out of 30 University Technical Colleges (UTCs) are operating at up to just a third full — with two running at no more than 14 per cent capacity, FE Week reported. The two — Central Bedfordshire UTC and Wigan UTC — did not recruit any learners into Year 10 in 2014/15, according to data released under the Freedom of Information Act. It comes just a week after Black Country UTC, in Walsall, followed Hackney UTC in announcing it was closing due to problems in attracting learners. They both have current Ofsted grade three ratings. UTCs were the brainchild of former Conservative Education Secretary Lord Baker, chair of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, and a spokesperson for the trust defended the recruitment figures saying that attracting learners “at age 14 is difficult”.

Event aims to boost female tech skills FE Week, 27 April 2015

Greater collaboration between FE and business could help to encourage more women into digital industries, according to a report published by the Women in Technology project. The findings of the report, produced by Coralesce with funding from the Education and Training Foundation, were revealed at the Women in Technology conference. The Women in Technology Project Research Report 2015 called for a “two-way” street, “with industry and education working together” to level the playing field between women and men in the technology sector. Careers advice was also important, plus interventions at the nursery and primary level.

Concern grows that FE quality mark has ‘stalled’ FE Week, 27 April 2015

Concern is growing in the FE sector that plans for an FE Chartered Status quality mark have “stalled” with no mention of the scheme in party manifestos and little in the way of news on its progress. Plans, originally drawn up by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), for the Royal seal of approval to be granted to high-achieving FE institutions were revealed in July 2012. It was almost another year before the appointment of Tory peer Lord Lingfield as chair of the Institution for Further Education (IFE), a not-for profit company set up to launch the quality mark. An FE Week survey on the mark was carried out in May 2014 unveiling concern it could simply “sink without trace,” while further meetings were set to take place the following month. But the launch is yet to take place, and it is understood that an IFE petition for Chartered Status is yet to be considered by a special Privy Council committee, while IFE chief executive Ed Quilty told FE Week he “would not expect to see any further movement on this until the other side of the general election”. A BIS spokesperson said: “We are satisfied with current progress in this matter.”

Apprenticeships 'obsession' risks damaging other skills policies, AoC warns TES, 5 May 2015

Politicians’ “obsession” with apprenticeships risks undermining other further education and skills policies, a leading sector figure has warned. Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said adult learners and young people with other skills needs risked becoming “lost” after the election if any of the three main parties were to implement their apprenticeship plans. He told the TES that apprenticeships had a real role, but other education and skills needs were short on solutions, and he said more thought and attention also needed to be given to adult further education. Mr Gravatt’s concerns were echoed by Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).

Proportion of teaching staff in FE is growing, new data shows TES, 29 April 2015

The proportion of teaching staff in the FE and skills workforce is growing in all areas, according to new data. The Education and Training Foundation’s annual data set revealing the characteristics of the FE workforce for 2013-14 showed that across colleges, work-based learning providers and adult and community learning providers, teaching staff are increasing as a percentage. Some 53 per cent of staff in work-based learning providers are now teaching staff, up from 51 per cent in 2012-13 and 48 per cent in 2011-12.Teachers remain the largest occupational group within general FE colleges, representing 44.1 per cent of full time equivalent staff, an increase from 43.5 per cent in 2012-13. The proportion of technical staff has decreased from 6.9 per cent to 6.2 per cent, and the proportion of managers has decreased from 8.9 per cent to 7.6 per cent.