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Sector news, 4 - 10 January 2015

'The next twelve months will be critical for the future of colleges' TES, 9 January 2015

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, wrote an opinion piece for the TES about the uncertainties of the coming year with the general election due, and then the new government settling in. Some things were certain though, and they included a shortage of money for education. He said the demographic bulge in primary education would work its way through to secondary, but this must not be funded by plundering funding for 16-18 year olds. He said there was light at the end of the tunnel, and that was by creating a more skilled workforce at the technician level short of full degree level but beyond basic skills. Colleges were the solution to help generate a recovery that was sustainable and with benefits which were widely shared.

Funding boost to bring Stem experts to further education TES, 7 January 2015

A groundbreaking scheme to encourage people from industry to teach in the further education sector has been given extra funding to expand. The Teach Too programme, run by the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), allows people working in industry to pass on their expertise and help to develop the vocational curriculum for FE colleges and other training providers while still remaining employed. It has now been announced that a further £580,000 would be provided by the Education and Training Foundation for a second phase to help support colleges and training providers' work with employers. This will have a specific focus on vocational science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) programmes, with organisers particularly keen to develop a specialist maths strand, a key government priority.

School receptionists 'giving careers advice', MPs warn BBC, 7 January 2015

Secondary schools in England are using teaching assistants and receptionists to give pupils careers advice, MPs warned as members of the Commons Education Committee questioned Education Secretary Nicky Morgan over a lack of adequate advice for youngsters. The MPs said the minister's failure to have mandatory standards for careers advice was to blame for poor provision. The cross-party committee of MPs said the current situation was not working. Unison research found in June that 83 per cent of schools did not employ any professional careers advisers. Responsibility for providing careers services was switched to schools in September 2012. The National Careers Service was launched at the same time to offer guidance by website and phone, but it does not provide young people with face-to-face advisers. In December, Ms Morgan announced the creation of a new independent careers and enterprise company for schools to target careers education and advice at children aged 12 to 18.

MPs grill Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on ‘careers company’ plans FE Week, 7 January 2015

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan faced a grilling from MPs over plans for a new business-led careers advice company. While appearing in front of the House of Commons Education Select Committee to answer questions about the quality of careers advice in England she was asked about the new company, how it would improve careers advice, who it would be accountable to and how its role would differ from the National Careers Service. FE Week said that in many instances, Ms Morgan deflected questions about the new company and claimed changes to careers advice would take time, promising “steady improvements”.

Ensuring new skills policies don't threaten improvements in quality FE, 8 January 2015

In this article, Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, looked at the findings in the Ofsted annual report and said the coming year will be another challenging one where providers will be expected to deliver more for less. He said evidence from reports like the Ofsted one should be used when developing policies for the future.

EXCLUSIVE: SFA hits providers with shock funding clawback warning FE Week, january 9 2015

More than 700 colleges and independent learning providers have been warned by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) that they face a shock clawback on 2013/14 funding after it “identified some provision that has been incorrectly claimed,” FE Week revealed. Una Bennett, deputy director for funding systems for the SFA, wrote to providers with the warning before Christmas — and after the SFA’s own auditors signed off provider accounts last autumn. In correspondence leaked to FE Week she said the final value of individual providers’ overpayments would be calculated and the repayment then discussed. The problem claims included apprenticeships which did not meet the minimum duration criteria, and learners aged 24 and over studying at level two and below where full funding had been claimed but data had not been submitted identifying the learner as eligible. Julian Gravatt, Association of Colleges assistant chief executive, said the biggest problem for colleges would be they would not know yet how much the SFA will request as repayment.