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Sector news, 7 - 20 June 2015

DfE resit policy leads to GCSE campus chaos FE Week, 8 June 2015

Colleges readying themselves for an impending Department for Education (DfE) policy have witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of English and maths GCSE exams that has left many struggling to accommodate learners. One college even saw gridlock on nearby roads with bumper learner numbers on June 2, and they also had to resort to using its principal’s office to host exams. Elsewhere, principals have hired external venues or partially suspended classes to provide rooms for exams. The increase in candidates was caused by a DfE post-16 funding policy, due from August, requiring learners with GCSE grade D in English or maths to resit, alongside taking their other studies. Many colleges piloted the requirement this year — and found themselves overwhelmed not just by booming GCSE numbers, but also clashes with the A-level and vocational exam timetable. It has left colleges pleading with awarding organisations to change timetables for next year with separate English and maths GCSE days. A spokesperson for the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which oversees the organisation of GCSE timetables, said: “In 2016 GCSE English/English Language will not be timetabled at the same time as any other GCSE or AS examination. For one of the GCSE maths timetable slots this has been possible in 2016 and further work will be taken on GCSE maths timetable slots in 2017 following the introduction of new linear specifications.”

Teach First warns recruitment crisis is ‘worse than 2002’ TES, 12 June 2015

The country’s largest provider of new teachers is warning that schools are facing the worst recruitment crisis this century. Teach First says that demand from schools for its teachers is “more than double” what it was this time last year, suggesting that school leaders are struggling to fill vacancies. Education secretary Nicky Morgan acknowledged the problem this week, saying: “I am very conscious we have to look at the [teacher supply] pipeline. There will always be a role for teachers coming in from overseas…that brings a vibrancy. It’s also about tackling issues like workload, obviously.”

Chartered status body for FE finally arrives FE Week, 12 June 2015

The Privy Council today announced that the Queen had approved the grant of a Royal Charter to the Institution for Further Education in a first for the sector. The Institution for Further Education, set up in 2013 by Lord Lingfield to pave the way for a new chartered membership organisation for colleges and training providers in the FE sector, has been granted its Royal Charter. The institution will be devoted to developing the potential, reputation and standing of the further education sector. Its mission will be to bring together the best training providers across the sector and collectively to promote, recognise and celebrate their professionalism and success.

Further education learners and staff to take the cuts protest to MPs’ front door at Parliament FE Week, 15 June 2015

FE staff and students are set to lobby politicians directly tomorrow afternoon as they take the fight against swingeing sector funding cuts to Parliament. The mass lobby of Parliament in protest against Adult Skills Budget cuts has been organised by the University and College Union (UCU). The lobby event follows news in March that funding for Adult Learning would be cut by up to 24 per cent in 2014/15, and an announcement this month that both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education would each be facing cuts of £450m — with FE budgets specifically earmarked for savings.

UTCs team to ‘work with’ Boles on programme FE Week, 25 June 2015

The organisation behind Lord Baker’s university technical colleges (UTCs) has said it will be “working with” Skills Minister Nick Boles as he looks into the performance of the project as it comes under growing criticism. Officials at the Baker Dearing Trust look set for difficult questions from Mr Boles with UTCs suffering much-publicised recruitment issues. Among those to have struggled to recruit have been Walsall’s inadequate-rated Black Country UTC and Hackney UTC — both of which are set for closure at the end of the academic year. Mr Boles pledged to “look at the programme” to consider whether it was “as successful as it can possibly be” before opening any more UTCs as questions were asked in Parliament in the wake of the decision to close the Black Country UTC.

Let’s work together on 16 to 19s, FE leaders tell local councils FE Week, 15 June 2015

FE sector leaders have said they are keen to work with local authorities on improving 16 to 19 participation and careers advice after a survey revealed councils were struggling with their duties in the face of government cuts. The Association of Colleges (AoC), 157 Group and Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) called for partnership working after a Local Government Association (LGA) survey of 87 member councils revealed concerns over their ability to meet statutory duties to improve participation. Councils were criticised by Parliament’s public accounts committee last year after a National Audit Office report showed disparities between local authority areas in terms of the tracking of those considered not in education, employment or training (Neet).

Further education provides a lifeline. But try telling the government that Guardian, 18 June 2015

In this article John Harris looked at the impact of financial cuts on sixth form colleges and FE colleges, and the likely impact on the life chances of young people, and the longer term impact on the economy of the lost contribution from the potential workforce. (also see Sector News 21 June - 4 July).

'Half of would-be nursery staff to be blocked from entry because of grades', report says Daily Telegraph, 10 June 2015

Four in ten would-be nursery staff will be blocked from entry under new government rules as providers warn of a looming crisis for places. Recent government changes stipulate new apprentices and highly-skilled childcare students must have at least a grade C in GSCE English and maths to take up employment at level 3, which is the better standard of early education children receive. However, a new survey by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) with 424 responses from 8,400 nursery staff has revealed 43 per cent of nurseries are unable to find apprentices as a result. The figures emerged as parents and businesses expressed concerns of an over-emphasis on grades rather than on the level of care. There are also fears about filling staff places as the government increases the amount of free care from 14 to 30 hours a week for three and four year olds.

Government 16 to 19 policy ‘requires improvement’ say three quarters of local authorities FE Week, 9 June 2015

Three quarters of councils think government policy on 16 to 19-year-olds “requires improvement,” a Local Government Association (LGA) survey has revealed. The results of the LGA’s survey of 87 councils have also prompted concerns over government careers policy and the ability of local authorities to tackle a lack of participation among young people in the face of funding cuts. The survey revealed that 95 per cent said the government’s decision to modify its influence over schools and FE colleges had “restricted” councils’ capacity to deliver on their statutory duties. Concerns about government policy on school careers advice were also revealed, with 44 per cent rating it as inadequate, and 45 per cent claiming it required improvement.

CBI head calls for GCSEs to be scrapped BBC, June 19 2015

The director general of the CBI says a date must be set in the next five years to scrap GCSEs and introduce an exam system with equal status for vocational subjects. John Cridland says England's exam system is narrow and out of date, in a speech at the annual Festival of Education at Wellington College. He proposes a system in which the most important exams would be A-levels, including both academic and vocational subjects, taken at the age of 18. Ministers are pushing for all pupils to take a core group of academic GCSEs. Mr Cridland also said the lack of good quality careers education remains a major problem, and he argues that businesses should play a bigger part in making links between school and employment.