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Sector news, 27 July - 2 August

Pressure mounts for answers over Warwickshire College principal Mariane Cavalli’s departure FE Week, 30 July 2014

FE Week reported on the latest episode in the story of the departure of Warwickshire College principal Mariane Cavalli. The college is under increasing pressure to explain her departure, after it was announced she would not be returning, a few weeks after she temporarily stepped down at the end of June. The University and College Union (UCU) wants the severance package being offered to Ms Cavalli to be revealed along with details about the reasons behind her departure. Ms Cavalli was one of five founding college principals of the Gazelle Colleges Group, and each college has paid more than £530,000 to the organisation, FE Week said. A college spokesperson said any details of severance pay and international visits would be in the college’s annual report and financial statement which would become public in December.

What can FE and skills expect of Nick Boles? FE Week, 30 July 2014

FE Week reporter Freddie Whittaker looked into the past of Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles, who was made Skills Minister a fortnight ago, but who had not given a public interview on his brief. He said Boles was Oxford-educated, founded the right-wing Policy Exchange thinktank and ran it for five years, but some people who worked with him found him sympathetic and willing to compromise, a side of him not represented in news stories about high-profile clashes.

Union questions move to keep ‘supportive’ Gazelle report out of public domain FE Week, 25 July 2014

FE Week reported that a decision to keep an allegedly positive report about the under-fire Gazelle Colleges Group private has been questioned by the University and College Union. A UCU spokesperson said they were puzzled as to why college had given it so much money and how they had benefitted. The Education and Training Foundation, which recently awarded the Gazelle Foundation a £1m learning technology contract, and Gazelle, refused to hand out the report by the ETF on Gazelle’s leadership development.

Five ways colleges can use digital technology to improve communication Guardian, 30 July 2014

This article, by Cheryl Pennington, assistant principal for teaching and learning at Reading College, looked at how college can use online tools to boost student numbers through marketing and promotion, student learning, drive recruitment and support staff development.

Lessons from America: why colleges must collaborate rather than compete Guardian, 27 July 2014

Nick Isles, deputy principal of Milton Keynes College and author of The Good Work Guide, wrote this article in the Guardian after reflecting on what UK further education can learn from the US, after a visit to America to learn how education institutions are tackling the challenges of globalisation. He said he was impressed with how colleges in Chicago grouped together to run a centralised process for analysing the future labour market. He also found community colleges with world class facilities, and said FE colleges should be more demanding of communities and LEPs here to help secure the resources needed.

Apprenticeships: funding concerns remain despite government statement TES, 1 August 2014

A government statement answering questions on apprenticeship funding reform has failed to put to rest concerns from the FE sector, the TES said. Ministers issued a two page questions and answers document this week to address some of the issues raised in a recent consultation about putting apprenticeship funding in the hands of employers. However, Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said concerns still remain. He said it did not address the main issue of moving to a funding system that would really engage employers by letting them chose direct funding as an employer/provider, or working with a provider of their choice who would draw down the funding. The government intends to respond to the consultation in the autumn.

Tough new visa rules will harm FE colleges, claims AoC TES, 29 July 2014

Strict new rules being imposed on educational institutions sponsoring students from outside the European Union will harm FE colleges more than universities, it has been claimed. The government announced that from November, tougher rules will be introduced for universities and colleges who sponsor international students to study in the UK as part of a wider crackdown on immigration abuse. Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the measure would hit colleges harder than universities as entry clearance officers are often unfamiliar with further education colleges and the type of courses they offer, which meant people hoping to study at an FE college were sometimes refused entry to the UK.

A-level reforms based on 'shaky evidence', say academics Daily Telegraph, 1 August 2014

One in five students could have their chances to fulfil their potential on a degree course damaged following reforms to AS-levels, according to academics at the University of Bristol. From 2015, A-levels will be wholly assessed through end-of-course exams taken after two years of sixth-form. AS-levels will still be stand-alone courses, but results will no longer count towards the final A level, which will change how universities make conditional offers to applicants. Research commissioned by David Laws, the schools minister, found that degree performance could be predicted to a similar level of accuracy via GCSE grades, instead of AS levels. But new research by academics from the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol has said that research was based on “shaky” data, and they concluded that 18.5 per cent of students who did better in AS levels than GCSEs might not have received a university place offer based on GCSE performance only. A Department for Education spokesperson said returning A-levels to single exams “will make sure students gain a deeper understanding of a subject and put an end to the test treadmill in sixth form – something many teachers and universities dislike.”

‘Bloated’ exam system faces slimming regime TES, 1 August 2014

England’s exams regulator Ofqual has started a major overhaul of vocational qualifications that could lead to them becoming more closely aligned to the needs of employers, with some qualifications redeveloped or scrapped. Last week, Ofqual launched a consultation about improving the way the qualifications are regulated, saying that a set of rules described by some awarding bodies as a “straitjacket” could be dropped altogether. The regulator is also seeking opinions on how vocational qualifications are accredited and the number of learning hours they contain. Ofqual is proposing to remove the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), which sets out detailed rules about how vocational qualifications should be designed, and feels they focus too much on design and structure, and not enough on standards and quality. City & Guilds welcomed the proposals as a “great step forward” for vocational education. But Robert Gray, head of pre-employment skills at adult education body Niace, said the QCF was internationally recognised as the world’s most advanced qualification framework, and “it is disappointing that criticism has led to Ofqual losing confidence in its ability to stand by the QCF design rules”. The consultation closes on 16 October.