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In the News

Government decides to retain Applied General qualifications

A serious blow has potentially been dealt to plans for a rigid post-16 divide between academic and vocational education, after it emerged the government is retaining Applied General qualifications. The Department for Education had privately briefed stakeholders on the decision, and confirmed it to FE Week this afternoon. Retaining AGs, for example BTECs that lead to university in creative industries, will be viewed by many as a blow to the academic and vocational divide at 16 concept, introduced through Lord Sainsbury’s influential review that inspired the subsequent new skills plan last summer. The apparent change of heart over AGs, which had been widely tipped for the chop, will be welcomed by awarding organisations that provide BTECS. Rebecca Grayson, OCR head of vocational products, said: “OCR welcomes this latest DfE announcement. “AG qualifications, such as Cambridge Technicals, give learners the option of a broader post-16 programme of study, equipping them with the relevant knowledge and skills that they need to succeed in higher education and beyond.” Rod Bristow, president of Pearson in the UK, said: “We are pleased by the support that BTEC and other AG qualifications have received from schools, colleges, universities, employers and Government.  “BTEC AG qualifications provide a broad...

Exclusive: DfE will scrap forced resits for GCSE English and maths

The government will make a major u-turn over the much-derided condition of funding rule, FE Week can reveal. From August 2015 all 16 to 18-year-old students with a GCSE grade D have had to study and resit the GCSE as part of the condition of funding, rather than a functional skills qualification at level two. But once this policy has been scrapped, no student will be forced to resit GCSE English and maths. The latest revelation follows scathing criticism of the policy from Ofsted in December, and publication of a letter from education secretary Justine Greening to Neil Carmichael, chair of the Education Select Committee, advising on changes to the numeric GCSE grading system. The letter revealed very little new, but FE Week has been told by multiple sources that the current policy to force some students to resit GCSEs will be scrapped – so all students can study functional skills, as was the case before 2015. Although not mentioned in the letter, this will be confirmed in the funding guidance for 2017/18, due for publication shortly. It comes just a few weeks after the government finally confirmed another u-turn on the requirements for early years educator apprenticeships. Currently early years learners must achieve at least...

Breaking: SFA and EFA merger confirmed and Lauener retiring

The Skills and Education Funding Agencies are merging and Peter Lauener is stepping down as boss of both, the government has just confirmed. The moves, which FE Week exclusively revealed would be happening back on March 3, have been announced online by the Department for Education. The new, single body – to be called the Education and Skills Funding Agency – will sit within the DfE and begin to operate from April. Current chief executive of both agencies, Mr Lauener (pictured above), has announced that he intends to retire following the merger and plans to recruit a successor at the new agency are under way. He will also stand aside as shadow chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships, once a permanent replacement has been found. A DfE spokesperson said: “Mr Lauener will carry on as chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency until a permanent replacement has been recruited and is in place.” Education Secretary Justine Greening said: “Creating the Education and Skills Funding Agency will mean we are able to provide a more joined-up approach to funding and regulation of schools, colleges and other providers, with improved accountability and better service. “We will be working closely with...

Ofqual should not have double standards

One thing an assessment regulator should definitely not have is double standards; it undermines the core of their existence. We’ve just emerged from a lively FE week Annual Apprenticeship Conference with much debate and concern about the disruption that the current process will cause without providing any significant benefit to the employer, learner, quality or apprenticeship numbers. The thing that rocked me the most at AAC was the attitude of Ofqual. If the statements made by the Chief Regulator are the genuine views of the Ofqual, then I am very disappointed. The thing that rocked me the most at AAC was the attitude of Ofqual I am hoping it was just a misunderstanding of the issues. However I started to doubt it when reading an interview with the Chief Regulator on Friday in which there was no mention of anything other than academic qualifications. She talks about not really knowing about the 2012 English GCSE crisis until being in the role. Having lived through it and sat in front of four select committees, I have the scars of the assessment sector being challenged.  There are two areas of concern I have and when I reflect on my experience at OCR...