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Sector news, 4 - 10 May 2014

Poll: nearly 50% of year 10 students feel addicted to the internet Guardian, 9 May 2014

The Guardian reported on a poll of 14-15 year olds who feel they are addicted to the internet, with more than three quarters also saying they took a web-enabled laptop, phone or tablet to bed at night. The study of more than 2,200 students in nine schools in England and Scotland found they were communicating with friends using social media, or watching videos or films. The survey was carried out on behalf of Tablets for Schools, a charity led by technology industry groups which campaigns for increased use of iPad-like devices in education. The group has now issued an advice guide for pupils and schools, advising internet devices be switched off before bed and during study times, with set times allocated for online activity.

Academics Anonymous: student feedback is a waste of everyone's time Guardian, 9 May 2014

In this article on the Guardian’s Higher Education Network blog, the writer who teaches social science in a university says collecting feedback on courses benefits neither staff nor students, and is often biased, sexist or simply unrealistic. She says students are asked to fill in feedback forms eight times a year, the first after 10 weeks of classes. But response rates were low unless it was compulsory, and students are sometimes asked to comment on a course they barely attended.

Employers call for apprenticeship control — but what did key FE players think? FE Week, 9 May 2014

More than 30 employer bodies joined forces to call for greater control over apprenticeships just days after a technical consultation on proposed reforms
that drew more than 1,200 responses, closed. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), Nestle and Crossrail were among those behind a letter published in The Telegraph on May 5 in support of reform put forward in a two-month technical consultation.

Fewer than two applications for every traineeship vacancy FE Week, 9 May 2014

Official figures showing fewer than two applications for each traineeship vacancy have sparked concern about a “general lack of awareness” of the government’s new flagship youth unemployment scheme. A freedom of information (FOI) request from FE Week showed just 4,160 online applications were made for 3,480 traineeship vacancies in the eight months since the programme’s launch in August 2013. It is likely the headcount was actually lower as the system shows the number of applications, and people could have made more than one application. A spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said: “A general lack of awareness about traineeships is part of the issue, which is why in tandem with the new statutory guidance for schools on careers advice, it’s important that more local employers and providers can get into schools to explain the benefits of the new programme.”

Dame Ruth in fine fettle for leadership role return FE Week, 8 May 2014

Dame Ruth Silver, formerly chair of LSIS, is making her FE and skills return with a new sector leadership thinktank funded by money left over from the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS). The Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) has a budget of up to £5.5m from LSIS. Dame Ruth said although many LSIS functions transferred to the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), LSIS board members had identified the need for a thinktank. She said there had been an assumption that the LSIS work, staff and money would transfer to the ETF, but as it had difficulty recruiting a permanent chief executive and chair, and because it was thought it would only have two years of funding, the money could not be transferred. According to an FETL policy paper, among its possible “distinctive activities” were sponsorship of an annual lecture on FE leadership; and the funding of an academic chair at a university to bring “stature to the sector”. It would also “promote and disseminate” a body of knowledge about leadership theory and practice in the FE sector. Dame Ruth said FETL’s work would start with an invitation in September to those who wanted to carry out research, with a sub-board dishing out fellowships, grants and bursaries.

How colleges are using local industry research to boost economic prospects Guardian, 7 May 2014

This article by Janet Murray, looks at how FE colleges are commissioning economic research into local industry, which isn’t cheap, but they say the return on investment is worth it as their findings help them attract more students. Newcastle College is using findings from its recent economic impact report to highlight the benefits of vocational education to prospective students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Colleges triumph in the fight for undergraduates TES, 9 May 2014

Colleges are outperforming universities in recruiting part-time undergraduate students despite a “dramatic” drop in part-time learners, new figures reveal. Although the number of part-time students taking degree-level qualifications in colleges and universities has almost halved since 2010, further education providers appear to be weathering the storm better than their counterparts in higher education. But whereas universities reported a 38 per cent drop in part-time student numbers between 2010-11 and 2012-13, colleges experienced a drop of just 15 per cent. The figures also suggest a significant migration from less prestigious universities to the FE sector. Nick Davy, higher education policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said part-time enrolments in FE could be faring better than in HE because provision was “bespoke” and developed in partnership with local employers.

£50 million basic skills funding boost leaves sector 'surprised' TES, 9 May 2014

FE providers have expressed surprise after it emerged £50 million was made available to help working adults improve their basic English and maths skills. The cash, from the European Social Fund (ESF), is intended to help some of the 7.4 million adults in the workforce who have not yet achieved a level 2 qualification, equivalent to an A*-C at GCSE. Colleges, training providers and consortia were invited to bid in February and were expecting to hear back from the Skills Funding Agency, which is administering the cash, this week. However, some bodies were unaware the funding had been made available. The adult skills budget, which funds all non-academic education for those 19 and over, faces a cut of a fifth between now and 2015-16. This extra funding targets those aged 19 or over who work for a minimum of eight hours a week, but the ESF is particularly keen that it reaches women, people with disabilities, those aged 50 or over and ethnic minorities. Extra funding is also available for employers with fewer than 250 full-time employees to release staff to undertake English and maths qualifications during work time. The money has to be spent by June 2015.

Apprenticeship funding reforms 'could cost places', employers warn TES, 05 May 2014

Proposed reforms to apprenticeship funding could lead to fewer opportunities for young people, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has said. The government has consulted on two final options for funding apprenticeships through employers in future; either through the pay-as-you-earn system or through a new system of credits. But the AELP claims fewer employers will offer apprenticeship places if the reforms go ahead, because of bureaucratic and costly barriers to the programme.