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Sector news, 5 - 9 November 2012

Unison urges colleges to count the cost of living TES, 9 November 2012

Although colleges have been announcing hundreds of redundancies recently, there has been some good news for FE employees. Public sector union Unison revealed that 58 per cent of colleges have agreed to pay all employees the living wage. About 1,000 workers have seen their pay rise to the living wage of £8.30 an hour in London and £7.20 in the rest of the UK. These figures have been calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy as being the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs, and are significantly higher than the minimum wage that employers are legally obliged to offer - £6.19 an hour for over-21s.

Train as an apprentice - but don't expect pay TES, 9 November, 2012

Employers are failing to pay thousands of apprentices the minimum wage, demanding unpaid overtime and even, in some cases, failing to pay them at all. Unionlearn, the education and skills body for the Trades Union Congress (TUC), will next week launch a campaign at The Skills Show aimed at teaching apprentices about their rights and employers about their duty to pay the minimum wage. Research by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) shows that 20 per cent of apprentices reported being paid less than the apprenticeship minimum wage and 5 per cent received no pay at all. The TES also found that even apprenticeships promoted through the National Apprenticeships Service (NAS) online matching system explicitly advertise rates of pay below the minimum.

Hands-off' government gets ticked off by MPs TES, 9 November 2012

The government's "hands-off" approach to apprenticeships has allowed some training providers to rake in huge profits and failed to ensure that employers are paying their way, according to a major report released this week. The criticisms come from an investigation into apprenticeships by the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee of MPs. The committee also argued that some employers failed to investigate substantially in their apprentices, instead relying on government funding under the guise of offering “in-kind” contributions. The report calls on the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to produce a "robust methodology for valuing employers' in-kind contributions in the future". It also asks the government to define an "overarching strategy and clear purpose for the apprenticeship programme".

Sitting A-levels in January to end in attempt to curb 'resit culture' Guardian, 9 November 2012

The first stage in a planned shakeup of A levels will end the option of taking exams again in January in an attempt to curb the "resit culture" where pupils sit papers on the assumption that they will get another chance, the exams watchdog has said. Ofqual said pupils in England starting A level and AS level courses from September will only be able to sit exams in June. This is the first part of a wider proposed change to the system of pre-university qualifications, which could eventually see them take on many of the characteristics of the international baccalaureate (IB) system. Other proposals, such as more involvement from universities in the design of the qualifications, and broader changes to the structure of the exams, are still being considered.