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Sector news, 28 September - 4 October 2014

A-level 'turbulence' may lead to more university entrance exams Telegraph, 29 September 2014

Rising numbers of universities will be forced to introduce their own admissions exams because of chaos caused by a shake-up of A-levels, according to headmasters. More students may be required to sit aptitude tests as part of the selection process amid confusion over a reform of the traditional school leaving exam in 2017, it was claimed. The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) admitted that the shift would favour independent school pupils who are often better prepared for entrance exams than their peers in the state system. Under the reforms, new A-level courses will phased in over two years and the balance of coursework and written exams will be changed. AS-levels - currently sat at the end of the first 12-months of the two-year course - will also be abolished in their current form. But HMC, which represents 260 leading fee-paying schools, said the sheer scale of the "turbulence" would make it difficult for universities to accurately select candidates.

Exclusive: Skills Minister hints at scrapping cash contributions plan FE Week, 2 October 2014

Plans to introduce mandatory employer cash contributions for apprenticeships could be scrapped, Skills Minister Nick Boles has indicated. In this, his first interview with FE Week since his appointment in July, Mr Boles said that while routing funding through employers was “non-negotiable,” he hinted that the cash contribution element of the proposals might not be introduced if it risked putting employers off hiring apprentices. Prime Minister David Cameron has tasked Mr Boles with creating 1m more apprenticeships in the next Parliament, taking the total to 3m by 2020. Among those to have warned that the introduction of cash contributions could hit apprenticeship uptake are the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP). The National Audit Office (NAO) has also said the number of 16 to 18 apprenticeship starts could fall if employers were made to pay.

Businesses key to improving careers advice, Education Secretary tells party conference FE Week, 30 September 2014

Businesses should work more closely with schools on improving careers advice, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said today. Despite claims by Skills Minister Nick Boles that careers advice would feature prominently, Ms Morgan’s speech to the Conservative Party conference contained no policy announcement on the subject. Instead, she said that careers, “for too long overlooked in schools”, were now essential. She also said work experience should be made something of value. Ms Morgan pledged to reduce the burden on teachers, but stopped short of announcing any policy to do so, instead promising to speak to teachers and unions.

What good are three million more apprenticeships, if the quality of training suffers? Guardian, 2 October 2014

In this article Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, members of which train about 75 per cent of England’s apprentices, said Labour and the Conservatives were promising more apprenticeship places, but a narrow focus on meeting targets would doom the scheme to failure. He said it would be a mistake for politicians to promote apprenticeships and university as the only two options for young people, especially when there were other routes such as the traineeship scheme. There also needed to be a simplified funding system, and more investment in companies to generate growth. An all-age, all-level and all-sector apprenticeship programme should also be retained to ensure older people who wanted to retrain in a new career had the opportunity to do so.

Colleges must stop delivering irrelevant courses with poor careers advice Guardian, 28 September 2014

Professor Sa’ad Medhat, chief executive of NEF: The Innovation Institute, argued in this article that the further education sector was short changing a whole generation by following outdated syllabuses and focusing on skills that do not meet national requirements. He said the widening gap between industry expectations and educational provision was most visible across, STEM sectors. He said as well as numeracy and literacy skills, young people also needed the ability to apply logic, to problem solve and to work independently. Professor Medhat also criticised college curriculums, tutors’ lack of exposure to industry and poor careers advice for students. The qualifications system which can take up to two years to change was at the root of the problem, as were varied sources of funding. Employability skills should be embedded into every part of the curriculum.