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In the News

Levy launch overshadowed by horror story

On the eve of the apprenticeship reforms being implemented the government might have expected the sector to be apprehensive, but excited. Yet the ESFA clearly bit off more than it could chew when tendering for non-levy allocations. The tender pause and subcontracting rule extension presented a welcome offer of stability until December. Any pretence of stability is now in tatters, as providers receive allocations, which they claim force them to dump their subcontractors. Nobody predicted this horror story about cuts to allocations, nor a failed 11th hour attempt at stability. The government can choose to ignore providers going bust, as their MPs seek re-election. But after 8 June the new government will have to cope with a lot of angry small employers being turned away by apprenticeship providers. It’s one thing to put employers in the driving seat, but without fuel nobody is going anywhere.  

Ofsted watch: Concern over weak governance at Manchester provider

Concerns over governance were raised in the first ever Ofsted report on Manchester-based Impact College, an independent training provider given a ‘requires improvement’ rating. That report, published April 26 and based on an inspection in mid-March, found that governance was “weak” and the “self-assessment process is not rigorous enough”. It noted that learners’ starting points were not “clearly identified and used to plan individual learning”, nor did tutors “routinely set targets” to develop learners’ skills. “Too much assignment work is not written in the learners’ own words; when learners use their own words, the standard is much lower,” it also found. A mostly quiet week for FE, also included a damning report into Bolton University Technical College, which has finally seen the official light of day more than three weeks after the 14 to 19 technical institution published it on its own website. No full inspection reports for general FE colleges were published, and just one for a sixth form college. Christ the King SFC in south London held onto its grade two rating, in a report published April 26, based on an inspection in early March. A “very high proportion” of A-level learners achieved their qualifications and progressed onto higher...

‘Golden hello’ maths teacher recruitment drive flops

A major government scheme that aimed to recruit more than 500 specialist maths teachers at colleges has accepted just 13 participants in its first year, FE Week can reveal. Former skills minister Matthew Hancock announced in February 2014 that up to £20 million would be made available to encourage the “brightest and the best” to teach maths in FE. This involved two key recruitment schemes, including a golden hello – which would award a bonus of £7,500 to graduates who taught maths in FE, provided they had been working at a college for two years. The government said at the time that this bonus could even rise to £10,000 if the teacher trained and supported learners with special educational needs. Officials expected this incentive would draw hundreds of new specialist maths teachers into FE by September 2015. However, just 13 teachers were recruited in its first year, with payments totalling £97,500 in 2016/17, a Freedom of Information request by FE Week has revealed. The campaign’s measly results have been lambasted by experts, who are urging the government to stop with “short-term” monetary fixes and create long-term quality strategies to boost teacher recruitment numbers. Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the...

Crisis deepens as learners drop at two thirds of UTCs

Learner numbers have dropped at around two thirds of established university technical colleges this academic year, an FE Week investigation has found. We submitted freedom of information requests to the 26 UTCs that opened in 2014 or before, asking for their 2016/17 student numbers. FE Week analysis of their responses (see the full breakdown in the table below) showed student numbers had fallen this academic year at 13 of the 20 UTCs that provided data. Further to this, 11 (55 per cent) revealed they are still at less than half capacity. The findings will heap pressure on ministers to scrap the controversial project, driven by Lord Baker (pictured above), just two years after the Conservative Party pledged to establish a UTC “within reach of every English city” in its 2015 general election manifesto. Lincoln UTC experienced the biggest drop in student numbers, falling from 302 in 2015/16 to 214 this year, a drop of 29 per cent. Its principal Paul Batterbury said the decline was a result of the local council cutting free transport for students who attended the college – many of whom live outside the catchment area – this year. Sir Charles Kao UTC, in Essex, experienced the...