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Sector news, 3 - 7 December 2012

State school pupils face unfair fight for university places, charity warns Guardian, 7 December 2012

State school pupils too often face an unfair fight to get into top universities because of the system of using personal statements of achievements to distinguish between those with equal academic attainment, a leading education charity has warned. The Sutton Trust is urging Ucas to revise the system, arguing that private school students tend to submit more carefully-crafted statements and also have a more privileged set of experiences about which to write, including work experience at blue chip employers.

Michael Gove warned by exams watchdog to rethink EBaccGuardian, 5 December 2012

The exams watchdog Ofqual has warned Michael Gove that his plans to replace GCSEs with an English baccalaureate qualification are effectively unworkable, and is urging him to make changes. The comments by Glenys Stacey, chief regulator of Ofqual, come in a letter sent to the education secretary last month and released by Ofqual after MPs quizzed Gove on Wednesday morning. It follows CBI criticism of the changes, and also complaints from artists that the arts would suffer.

Employers should lead new apprenticeship system, review findsTES, 7 December 2012

Employers should be put in charge of almost all aspects of apprenticeships through a new system of funding, qualification design and assessment, the Richard review has recommended to the government. Entrepreneur Doug Richard was commissioned by the government to investigate how to improve employer engagement in apprenticeships. He proposed that funding should go directly to companies through a system of tax credits, much like an existing system for subsidising research and development investment. Employers would be able to commission whatever training they chose from a list of approved suppliers, but would only receive the full payment if apprentices completed an external assessment at the end of training. Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, whose members deliver most apprenticeships, said he supports the idea of employers taking control of apprenticeships, but most apprentice employers and training providers are small businesses and neither side would have the cash flow to wait and claim funding via the tax system.

Governors told: 'Focus on teaching not finance'TES, 7 December 2012

Governors need to concentrate more on what goes on in the classroom and less on the balance sheet if FE colleges are to live up to Ofsted targets on teaching and learning, according to a report by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS). The call comes after Sir Michael Wilshaw used his first annual report as chief inspector to strongly criticise colleges for failing to provide outstanding teaching and learning. But Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive at the Association of Colleges, warned that colleges have to focus on the bottom line because of how funding arrangements are set up.

Business guru praises local scheme with global reachTES, 7 December 2012

The president of an elite university for business leaders has said that the entrepreneurship movement in FE colleges in England could transform education on "a global scale". Len Schlesinger, president of Babson College in the US, said that the Gazelle Group was "lighting fires all around the world". The group comprises 19 FE colleges committed to offering students real-world business experience as they learn.

Colleges are set to challenge schools for share of 14-16 marketTES, 7 December 2012

Colleges will be able to compete with schools for students aged between 14 and 16 under new rules that have been hailed by principals as one of the most significant changes in FE for decades. The Department for Education was due to reveal this week how colleges will be able to recruit students directly at 14, offering a college ethos and vocational options to younger students. Under the recommendations drawn up by the group, colleges would not recruit through the local authority admissions system but would enrol younger students in the same way as they do over-16s. Colleges would also have a different funding system, because there are no national funding rates for under-16s.