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Sector news, 8 - 12 October 2012

Adult participation drops to record low TES, 12 October 2012

A long-delayed government survey of adult learners has found that participation has fallen to its lowest level since records began 15 years ago and could fall further due to the impact of the fees and loans system next year. The National Adult Learner Survey (NALS) was carried out in 2010 but has only now been published, quietly. The proportion of adults involved in learning fell from 80 per cent to 69 per cent over the five years, the lowest level recorded in the NALS series. The survey also did an exercise with adults which showed they were “relatively insensitive” to course costs up to £2,000 but expense over that had a “significant impact” on the decision to study. It warned over the introduction of loans for adults taking level 3 qualifications – most for over 25s are expected to cost more than £3,000 and as much as £11,000. Chief executive of NIACE David Hughes said the results were extremely worrying.

Financial health is improving despite cuts TES, 12 October 2012

College finances are the healthiest they have been since the global economic crisis began, despite funding cuts, the chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), Kim Thorneywork, has revealed. She said there were fewer colleges in poor financial health than two years ago because they had “responded to policy, restructured and got themselves in the right place for the future.” She believed that most colleges made cuts early so they would be less likely to need further restructuring despite more funding reductions ahead. Ms Thorneywork said she would be adopting more of a collaborative approach with colleges and training providers, including testing out new funding rules and processes with volunteers before extending them to everyone. Staff at K College in Kent went on strike this week in a dispute over how to reduce at £11 budget deficit.

Contest to run FE Guild becomes a two-horse race TES, 12 October 2012

This article examines the competition to establish the FE Guild. Two of the largest employers’ associations, the Association of Colleges, and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), supported by the Institute for Learning, has been seen as the clear favourite to run the proposed body, which will take responsibility for professional standards in the sector. This was seen as the firm favourite, but the TES has learned that another bid has been submitted by Chris Banks, the ex-Coca-Cola executive who served as chairman of the former Learning and Skills Council (LSC). It has backing from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the British Chambers of Commerce, and is known as the Independent College Partnership (ICP). Mr Banks was at the helm of the LSC when the capital funding crisis of 2009 saw 144 college building projects stopped part way when it was discovered that billions of expected funding would not materialise. Just 13 were completed.

GCSE row: headteachers claim 'gross injustice' as 45,000 pupils opt to resit Guardian, 11 October 2012

Headteachers have said it was a "gross injustice" that tens of thousands of students would have to resit GCSE English next month after a scandal that was not their fault. About one in 14 students – more than 45,000 – who took the qualification in the summer have opted to re-take exams, according to figures obtained by the BBC. The figures came as an alliance of schools, pupils, professional bodies and councils announced they would submit a legal challenge over the debacle to the high court in the next week.