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Sector news, 7 - 13 September 2014

Ofsted criticises colleges for poor record helping ‘Neets’ Guardian, 10 September 2014

Lorna Fitzjohn, Ofsted’s national director for further education and skills, wrote in the Guardian before giving Ofsted’s annual lecture on further education. She said more needed to be done by colleges to implement study programme requirements and that colleges’ had a poor record on hleping ‘neets’. The quality of teaching in English and maths was not good enough, careers guidance was weak and local authorities were not tracking progress effectively. She said the fact it was not known whether 40,000 16-17-year-olds are in education, training or unemployment was shocking and that it was poor that people fell through the cracks. Local employers needed to be brought into the fold and given a greater role in supporting vocational education.

GCSE failure as Wilshaw sounds alarm bells FE Week, 12 September 2014

Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw has told of his shock at GCSE English and maths attainment levels and teaching quality — and just days later figures for 2012/13 revealed nearly half of 16 to 18-year-olds without at least grade C in GCSE English or maths failed to repeat or even study alternative qualifications at the same or lower levels. The chief inspector warned that “alarm bells” should be ringing over 16 to 19 study programmes, which were launched last year — after the period of the Department for Education figures — and requiring learners without grade C in GCSE English or maths to keep working towards the achievement. Sir Michael expressed fears that young people were not “well served” by study programmes. He also said the potential impact of not preparing young people for the world of work, and said a poor attitude to punctuality and a “lackadaisical” attitude could stem from poor employability skills teaching.

Inspectors to take closer look at under fire study programmes FE Week, 12 September 2014

In an exclusive interview with FE Week, Lorna Fitzjohn said study programmes will be central to inspections as Ofstedn looked to challenge a slow response to the initiative. She said providers should expect to see their ratings fall if they had not made enough changes to the curriculum to meet government requirements.

Britain has one of highest rates of university participation - yet literacy remains low The Independent, 10 September 2014

The Independent reported that a major international study had revealed that the drive to send more British people to university has failed to produce a rise in literacy and numeracy skills. Britain now has one of the highest rates of university participation in the world – yet only one in four of those students reach the highest levels of literacy, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The one in four figure for UK students with the highest standards in literacy compared to 37 per cent in Finland and Japan, 36 per cent in the Netherlands, 34 per cent in Sweden and 32 per cent in Australia. Professor Steve West, chairman of the University Alliance, made up of universities specialising in science, technology, design and the professions, said that it “shared the report’s concerns that the increase in university education had not led to better-skilled graduates”.

FE Week produced a couple of stories about MPs’ adult literacy and numeracy report:

Departmental collaboration and high-profile campaign needed to address adult literacy and numeracy issue, say MPs

Sector responds to MPs’ adult numeracy and literacy report

National Careers Council calls for investment fund, better website and subsidies but covers old ground amid ‘insufficient careers progress’ FE Week, 10 September 2014

A careers investment fund, an improved National Careers Service (NCS) website and free or subsidised access to advice are among the recommendations of the National Careers Council (NCC) as it identified “insufficient progress” with reforms since its previous annual report. As well as re-iterating its call for an employer-led government advisory board on careers, for which Skills Minister Nick Boles today announced a recruitment drive, the NCC set out three further recommendations in its report, 15 months after its previous one entitled An Aspirational Nation: Creating a culture change in careers provision. The first new recommendation in its new report, Taking Action: Achieving a Culture Change in Careers Provision, is that the government should provide free or subsidised access to independent and impartial career development professionals.

ETF passes £20m contracts milestone FE Week, 12 September 2014

The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has broken through the milestone of £20m in sector contracts. It gave out a total of £23,364,323 to 77 different organisations, from charities and unions to universities and private training providers, between its official launch in August last year and the beginning of last month. The three biggest-earning contractors, Tribal Education Ltd, the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), were awarded contracts worth almost £9m between them for various services. David Russell, ETF chief executive, told FE Week: “An English enhancement programme is about to start which will enable 1,400 teachers to teach at GCSE level. This will impact thousands more learners. This stands out as it provides practical support to a sector under pressure to respond to the new GCSE requirements. Regional leads across the country will put organisations in touch with the support available to them.” Last November, the ETF, which is owned by the AoC, AELP and the Association of Adult Education and Training Organisations, said it was handing back £7m of its £18m budget to BIS due to an underspend. ETF got an £18m budget for 2014-15 and is set to get a reduced figure of £10m next year.