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Sector news, 27 October - 2 November 2013

Government publishes its ‘radical and far-reaching’ apprenticeship plan FE Week, 28 October 2013

The government this morning confirmed in an implementation plan that it would put apprenticeship design in England in the hands of employers. This comes at a difficult time after a major training provider collapsed last week, the latest government figures showing apprentices starts and success rates falling, and employers increasingly paying below the legal minimum wage. Out of 131 Ofsted inspections last year, no independent training provider received the top grade. The decision follows the Richard Review last year and the consultation which followed it. In the future apprenticeship completions will be graded as pass, merit or distinction, the 12-month minimum duration will apply without exception, English and maths requirements will be gradually stepped up and a National Apprenticeship Council run by young people will be created to spread peer to peer messages. Katja Hall, chief policy director at the Confederation of British Industry, said the test of the new system was whether it was simple, worked for firms of all sizes and put funding into the hands of business.

Foundation appoints permanent chief executive FE Week, 28 October 2013

A policy director at the Department for Education (DfE) will become the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) first permanent chief executive. FE Week said David Russell will take the top job at the ETF after nine years in the senior civil service, where he is currently responsible for vocational education reform and closing attainment gaps. Mr Russell is also a governor at Central Sussex College. Mr Russell’s appointment to replace Mr Davies permanently comes as Paul Mullins was named the new ETF chair, replacing interim chair David Hughes. Mr Mullins, a mergers and acquisitions adviser for 25 years at Schroders, Citigroup, Bank of America and DC Advisory, has been chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) sponsored Industrial Development Advisory Board since January 2012.

Is paying for a degree money well spent? Daily Telegraph, 28 October 2013

The consumer watchdog the Office for Fair Trading is to check that universities offer value for money, with tuition fees not at £9,000 a year. It launched the review last week, calling for information from students, institutions, employers and regulators. The OFT said it was particularly interested in how universities competed to offer students value for money, including how they set fees and how much students earned after graduating. It will also ask if students have enough information to decide what and where to study, whether universities meet expectations and how students can complain. OFT project director Tony Donaldson said: "The aim is to ensure that universities face the right incentives to deliver the best-quality and most relevant education to students." The move has the potential to spark a longer process including a full market study, which could lead to enforcement action against universities. A report in May from consumer group Which? and the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) found big variations in teaching time, with some students receiving twice as much teaching as those studying the same subject elsewhere. Which? welcomed the study.

Tougher apprenticeships planned to cut unemployment Daily Telegraph, 28 October 2013

Training schemes for school-leavers will be toughened up with new industry standards under proposals designed to make British apprenticeships the best in the world, according to David Cameron. In a series of changes, he will announce that future apprentices will need to demonstrate competence through more rigorous academic assessments, including increased English and maths requirements. The changes come amid a surge in the number of school leavers considering apprenticeship schemes particularly after a sharp hike in university tuition fees. Previous figures have shown that the average apprenticeship post now receives 11 applications each. In plumbing and events management the number rises well above 30.

Nobody wants their research impact to be graded 'considerable' in the REF Guardian, 28 October 2013

In this article Jonathan Wolff, professor of philosophy at University College London and dean of arts and humanities discusses the perils and worries of academics who are shortly to have their published work judged as part of the Research Excellence Framework, with opportunities for more funding in the future at stake.

Private tutoring is damaging our pupils, says headmaster Independent, November 2 2013

Children's education is being damaged by the growth in private tutoring, a leading headmaster will warn next week. Sebastian Hepher, headmaster of Eaton Square school, a prep and pre-prep school in Belgravia, west London, will tell the Independent Schools Fair it can "further exhaust" tired pupils at the end of the day, overloading them with work so they neglect their homework, and ultimately it can lead to them obtaining worse exam results. There has been a surge in private tutoring, with up to 40 per cent of pupils using it in London, and 25 per cent nationwide. Helpher has written to parents at his school warning them of the dangers. Tutors can also teach methods and practices which confuse pupils who have been taught different things at school.

GCSE shake-up to see pupils studying more poetry and maths as part of 'more demanding' curriculum Independent, November 1 2013

In this article Richard Garner looks at the new syllabus for GCSE English, to be introduced in schools from September 2015, which will include a bigger emphasis on pre-20th century authors and Romantic poets than at present. All students will have to study at least one 19th century novel, which should see a revival of authors like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, and at least five different poets from 1789 onwards, including the Romantic poets. Shakespeare retains his role as the sole compulsory writer to be studied, with pupils having to study at least one of his plays. The new syllabus replaces a less rigid requirement where pupils were told they only had to study novels from “different cultures and traditions”, which led to the majority choosing 21st century writers. Another new innovation will be testing pupils on “unseen” texts which ministers think will give a truer picture of candidates’ reading and analytical skills. In maths, pupils will need an extra lesson a week to fit the syllabus in as students must learn key formulae by heart, such as the quadratic formula, sine and cosine rules and the formula for the area of a triangle. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the union agreed qualifications need to be rigorous, but “making them harder, more narrowly focussed, and more challenging will not benefit the majority of pupils.”

Apprenticeships make up just half a per cent of FE loan applications FE Week, October 31 2013

Figures released this morning show just 239 loans for apprenticeships have been applied for since the scheme began — 162 in September. The figures are dramatically below government forecasts, in which around 25,000 applications for apprenticeship loans were expected this academic year, by the end of July 2014. A department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesperson told FE Week the take up of the loans was being monitored, but that apprentices did not typically begin their role with the academic year, so applications could increase. David Hughes, chief executive of NIACE, said: “This week the Government announced ambitious plans for the future of Apprenticeships, but these figures show that action is needed now to rescue the programme for adults over the age of 24.”

Rejection for family learning plan proposal FE Week, October 31 2013

The Department for Education (DfE) has rejected calls by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) for a huge expansion in family learning to be paid for with Pupil Premium cash. A Niace report spelling out the benefits for disadvantaged children, parents and carers of rolling out extra family learning schemes across the country was unveiled last month at PricewaterhouseCoopers, in London. Niace chief executive David Hughes said at the time he was disappointed that no representatives from the DfE attended. The DfE has now said the Pupil Premium which is increasing to £2.5 bn a year is funding for children who need it the most and is separate from measures to support adult and family learning.

SFA notice at City Coventry College remains despite ‘progress’ FE Week, October 31 2013

The Skills Funding Agency will not remove City College Coventry’s Notice of Concern, despite Ofsted ruling it had made “reasonable progress” since its damning grade four inspection result. The college received inadequate ratings across the board when it was inspected in March, but a monitoring visit carried out last month by the education watchdog found the college had begun to turn around. However the Notice of Concern will remain and an agency spokesperson said: “The notice requires that the overall effectiveness of the college, its leadership and management must be judged grade three or better at the time of re-inspection by Ofsted.” Full re-inspections usually take place from a year to 15 months after the original inspection. The monitoring visit noted that stronger leadership and governance had played a role in the college’s improvement.

AoC stands firm over unqualified lecturers FE Week, October 31 2013

The Association of Colleges (AoC) maintained its support for allowing member colleges to recruit unqualified lecturers, despite some college principals and other senior leaders joining a campaign to reverse the government policy. The Further Education Teachers’ (England) Regulations 2007 requirement for teaching qualifications was scrapped under legislation published by the government in August. The AoC told FE Week it was standing by the reforms, despite widespread criticism from politicians and sector. The AoC said it was appropriate the type and level of qualification for different staff should be determined by the college, and like universities they could be trusted to appoint the right staff and support their professional development to meet the changing needs of learners. Deregulation was heavily criticised in a letter sent by senior FE figures to the Daily Telegraph, ahead of a debate in the House of Commons over whether teachers should be qualified.

Ofqual announce detail of new math and English GCSEs FE Week, November 1 2013

Ofqual has published full details of the new maths and English GCSEs which will be introduced from 2015. The qualifications watchdog confirmed there will be a new grading scale that uses the numbers 1 to 9 to identify levels of performance, with 9 being the top level. Maths, English language and English literature will all be assessed by exams, without coursework. There will be no tiering of papers for English language and literature, but higher and lower level papers will be retained for maths. Most exams will only be sat in the summer, apart from limited cases with English language and maths where students who were 16 on the preceding August 31 will be able to take them in November.

Maths and English FE Week, November 1 2013

FE week produced a free 16-page special on maths and English education and policy in FE, sponsored by Tribal, which is made available to download on its website. The supplement includes reports on the new GCSEs and FE teaching enhancement programmes, followed by a comparison of the merits of traditional and technology-driven teaching, GCSEs and functional skills qualifications and comment pieces from experts.

Is Britain closing its doors to overseas academics? Guardian, 28 October 2013

In this article Harriet Swain looks at several cases where eminent academics from overseas have been denied short-term entry visas to the UK, costing British conference organisers money and causing them embarrassment and inconvenience. In the case of an 81-year-old Algerian academic who the authorities said there was insufficient evidence he did not plan to settle in the UK, the academics who were hosting him at a conference in the UK say it has harmed their research as they had hoped he would broker visas for them to go to hard-to-reach fortress sites in the Sahara. There were also other examples of visas being turned down. The Home Office said it was keen to encourage academic visits, but rules must be obeyed. If an individual did not meet the requirements the application would be turned down.