DFE PUBLISHES UPDATED GUIDANCE ON COLLEGE RE-OPENING
On 15 June, the Department for Education (DfE) published updated guidance for colleges on the distancing arrangements they should put in place for when students began to return. Some might think that since 15 June was also the date when students were scheduled to begin to return, the updated guidance might have been sent out a bit late (although to be fair, the new guidance is very similar to the guidance that was published two weeks earlier). The updated guidance confirms that, ‘…colleges should plan on the basis that from the week commencing 15 June, they can broaden the number of 16 to 19 learners attending on-site delivery’, but they should implement a range of protective measures including the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), increased cleaning, reducing ‘pinch points’ at the start and end of day, and utilising outdoor space. However, the guidance says that any additional costs arising from this, which the Association of Colleges (AoC) estimates could be as high as £70 million, must be funded from existing college budgets. The guidance goes on to say that:
- Colleges should continue to prioritise on-site provision for vulnerable learners, including those at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) and the children of critical workers.
- Remote education should remain the predominant mode of learning during this time.
- To help reduce the Coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission risk, the number of learners attending at any one time will be limited to a quarter of those on the first year of a 2 year 16 to 19 study programme.
- Colleges and other providers will have flexibility to decide the appropriate mix of online and face to face content for each programme, within the constraint of limiting those on site at any one time.
- While the focus should be 16 to 19 year olds on the first year of a two-year programme, colleges will have the flexibility to bring back other types of learners. These include:
- Students aged over 19 on the same 16-19 vocational course. However, adults will not normally be expected to be included in the cohort returning to on-site delivery.
- 16-19 learners who were due to finish this academic year, but have not been able to because their assessments have been deferred.
- Apprentices aged 16-19.
- Other learners aged 16-19:
- Where it would be beneficial for them to have a face-to-face meeting with their tutors before the end of the summer term.
- Who may be on extended programmes (for example, where they are studying part time, alongside caring responsibilities.
- Who have had to retake examinations or other assessments.
- Who are part way through their study programme, and have key exams and assessments next year.
A copy of the 15 June DfE update can be found at:
UPDATED GUIDANCE ON EXCEPTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR VOCATIONAL AND TECHNICAL QUALIFICATION GRADES
On 16 June, Ofqual published updated guidance on its ‘exceptional arrangements’ for how grades for vocational and technical qualifications should be awarded this summer. Ofqual has also published an interactive tool to enable providers to identify which type of exceptional arrangement should be put in place for each individual qualification. A recent analysis has revealed that there are more than 10,000 different qualifications listed as requiring a teacher assessed grade or some other form of assessment. It is thought likely that of these, around 44% will be graded via teacher calculation, around 42% are likely to involve an ‘adapted assessment’ (such as an online test) and around 14% will need examinations or other forms of assessment to be deferred and rescheduled. The latter will be necessary in cases where the qualification also acts as a license to practice (e.g. gas fitting). A copy of the Ofqual updated guidance can be found at:
…and a copy of the interactive tool that identifies the type of exceptional arrangement needed to determine the grade for each individual vocational and technical qualification can be found at:
EDUCATION SELECT COMMITTEE LOOKS INTO THE IMPACT OF EXAMINATION CANCELLATIONS
On 25 March, the House of Commons Education Select Committee announced that it would be conducting an inquiry into how the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the education sector and how effectively the DfE is dealing with the situation. The Select Committee is in the process of taking evidence in support of their inquiry covering such things as:
- The implementation of the critical workers policy, including how consistently the definition of ‘critical work’ is being applied across the country and how schools are being supported to remain open for children of critical workers.
- The capacity of children’s services to support vulnerable children and young people.
- The effect of provider closure on the early years sector.
- The effect of cancelling formal examinations, including the fairness of qualifications awarded and the impact on pupils’ progression to the next stage of education or employment.
- Support for pupils and families during lockdown, including:
- The consistency of messaging from schools and further and higher education providers on remote learning.
- Children’s and young people’s mental health and safety outside of the oversight of in-person education.
- The effect on apprenticeships and other workplace-based education courses.
- The financial implications of closure for providers, including Further and Higher Education and independent training providers (ITPs).
- The effect on disadvantaged groups, including the DfE’s approach to providing free school meals and the long-term impact on vulnerable groups, such as pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and children in need.
- What contingency planning can be done to ensure the resilience of the education sector in the event of any future national emergency.
On 10 June a Select Committee meeting was convened to specifically consider the impact of cancelling GCSEs, A-Levels, vocational, technical and other examinations, and the fairness of the ‘exceptional arrangements’ established by Ofqual in respect of grades calculated through teacher assessment. Representatives of the National Education Union (NEU), Ofqual, the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) and the Runnymede Trust (but not FE) were amongst those called on to give evidence to the Select Committee. Witnesses were asked questions on a range of issues including whether the teacher assessed grade system unfairly disadvantaged students from less wealthy and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the grading of vocational and technical qualifications and the reliability of the Ofqual standardisation model. General details on the inquiry and its brief can be found at:
…and a video of the Select Committee meeting held on 10 June to discuss the impact of examination cancellations this summer can be found at:
SPECULATION THAT EXAMINATIONS COULD ALSO BE CANCELLED IN 2021
Meanwhile, there has been speculation in the mainstream media that grades based on teacher assessment may need to be continued into next year. Asked to comment on this, a spokesperson for the DfE said, ‘It is important to be clear that no decisions about next year′s exams have been taken yet, but we do expect exams to take place and we are working with exam boards and Ofqual to draw up an approach. This approach will continue to be guided by the latest scientific and medical advice’. An example of the media coverage of this can be found at:
OFSTED TO PUBLISH INSPECTION REPORTS DELAYED BECAUSE OF CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
In March, Ofsted decided to suspend inspections and to pause the publication of all inspection reports (unless providers asked them to be published). This, said Ofsted, was because providers ‘had enough to deal with responding to Coronavirus challenges’. However in an update issued on 15 June Ofsted now says that it has decided to publish all of the paused reports so that, ‘… learners, parents and carers have access to the most recent inspection information about providers when they make decisions about their future or their children’s future’, and because, ‘…to delay publication any longer would not be in the public interest’. Ofsted has gone on to say, ‘We will begin to publish these remaining reports…and will contact affected providers beforehand to confirm this’. No decision has yet been made by Ofsted about resuming inspection activity. A copy of the Ofsted update can be found at:
FE STUDENTS’ EXPERIENCE OF REMOTE LEARNING DURING LOCKDOWN TO BE REVIEWED
Earlier this month, Ofsted announced that it will be working with the DfE, the AoC, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and HOLEX to carry out a review of FE students’ experience of remote and online learning during the lockdown. Ofsted says that the review is intended to ‘…provide insights into the sector’s experiences of online education and identify areas of strength and potential for improvement’, and will, ‘…help to inform the longer term strategy for improving the provision…as social distancing measures are eased’. Provider participation in the review will be voluntary and Ofsted says that there will be no inspection judgements or consequences for those providers that do agree to participate. Evidence for the review will be gathered from managers, teachers and trainers, students and apprentices, and Ofsted says that a report on the review findings will be published in due course. More information on the review can be found at:
NFER REPORT ON PUPIL ENGAGEMENT WITH REMOTE LEARNING DURING LOCKDOWN
A new report published by National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) published on 16 June highlights differences in pupils’ level of engagement with remote learning during the Coronavirus crisis. The report is based on findings from a representative survey of 1,233 school leaders and 1,821 teachers in England collected between 7 May and 17 May, when schools were only open to vulnerable pupils and children of keyworkers. Leaders and teachers in FE and sixth form colleges (SFCs) were not involved in the survey, but it is thought that the general findings relating to school age pupils will not be all that dissimilar to the student experience in colleges. Amongst the main findings of the report are the following:
- Teachers are in regular contact with, on average, 60% of their pupils. However, on average, less than half of pupils (42%) returned their last piece of set work. Most teachers (90%) believe that their pupils are doing less or much less work than they would usually expect at this time of year.
- Despite high levels of leadership guidance and teachers’ readiness to provide remote learning support, there is currently a substantial deficit in curriculum coverage across schools.
- Teachers report that, on average, just over half (55%) of their pupils’ parents are engaged with their children’s home learning. Parental engagement is significantly lower among the parents of secondary than primary pupils (48% compared to 56%).
- Access to IT is a challenge in all schools with the vast majority of leaders and teachers saying that at least some of their pupils have little or no access to IT at home.
- Teachers are concerned about all of their disadvantaged pupils, but say they are most concerned about low engagement from pupils with limited access to IT and/or those who lack space to study at home. Teachers report that the following proportions of pupils are less engaged than their classmates: pupils with limited access to IT and/or study space (81%); vulnerable pupils (62%); pupils with SEND (58%); pupils eligible for pupil premium funding (52%); and young carers (48%).
- Pupil engagement and disadvantaged pupil engagement are both lower in the most deprived schools. Teachers in the most deprived schools are in contact with fewer pupils and also feel that fewer of their parents are engaged. The proportion of pupils with little to no IT access in the most deprived schools is double that of the least deprived schools.
- Schools with low prior attainment and schools which experienced a significant drop in the numbers of pupils attending school prior to 20 March have lower levels of pupil engagement.
- Schools using a virtual learning environment (VLE) to inform pupils about learning activities, rather than the school website, and those delivering learning content to pupils through online conversations or activities that involve consolidating previous learning or revising, have higher pupil engagement levels in general and an increased probability of having highly engaged disadvantaged
No real surprises there then. A copy of the report can be found at:
GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES £1 BILLION FUND TO HELP PUPILS CATCH UP ON LOST TEACHING
On 19 June, the government announced that £1 billion would be made available to help children and young people catch-up on the teaching time lost because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Initially, it was though that £700 million of this funding would be made available to be shared between early years, schools and 16-19 providers, with the remaining £300 million being made available to fund a one-to-one tutoring scheme for the most disadvantaged. However, almost as soon as the announcement was made, the DfE issued a correction notice which removed early years and 16-19 providers from eligibility to access the funding. The notice also said that the schools part of the fund had been reduced to £650 million while funding for the one-to-one tutoring scheme had been increased to £350 million. This immediately led to complaints from early years and 16-19 providers, who said that this showed that they were not a priority for the government. When asked to comment on this, the DfE said that ‘…further guidance will be published shortly’. Meanwhile, the government has announced that all schools (and presumably colleges) in England will fully reopen in September. The latest DfE information on the catch-up fund is available at:
AOC PUBLISHES ‘REBUILD: A SKILLS LED RECOVERY PLAN’
The AoC has published a plan entitled ‘Rebuild: a skills led recovery plan’, which outlines how FE colleges can assist with the recovery of the economy in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. The preamble to plan sets out four main challenges. These are:
- More young people (defined as aged16-25) will be needing a college place due to high unemployment and being crowded out of jobs.
- A large cohort of young people, particularly new college starters, will be needing support to ‘catch up’ in their learning after several months of lockdown.
- There will be fewer apprenticeship places on offer as a result of a large number of apprentice redundancies and a shortage of new apprenticeships being offered.
- There will be large numbers of adults that require training to help them move from the sectors in most difficulties into those which might expand or recover more quickly. There may be even greater numbers if furloughed workers are faced with redundancy following the end of the furlough scheme.
The plan, which is costed at a total of £3.6 billion, sets out five main ways that colleges can help to address these issues. Maintaining consistency on headings beginning with the letters ‘Re‘, these are listed as ‘Retain’, ‘Relaunch’, ‘Resource’, ‘Retrain’ and ‘Resource’, as follows:
Retain: 16-18 providers and their students should be given access to:
- A college-based national tutoring scheme along with a re-engagement and catch-up programme, that would be funded through a £375 per-head premium.
- A targeted one-off grant to support delayed assessments from summer 2020.
- One off grant funding for social distancing adaptations.
- Extending High Needs Funding for final year students by 5%.
Relaunch: Students aged 18 and 19 should be provided with:
- New classroom-based programmes at Level 3,4 and 5, including:
- Up to 12-months pre/re-employment programmes to upskill and reskill targeted groups. These would include key worker and recoverable sectors with clear links to apprenticeship opportunities and including an interview guarantee through national employer body partners with student eligibility for a weekly allowance whilst on the programmes.
- Investment in a range of ‘employability’ wrap around services to complement the pre/re-employment training offer including a funded information, advice and guidance (IAG) offer.
- Investment in high quality content at Levels 3,4 and 5 in partnership with organisations such as the Open University, JISC and the Blended Learning Consortium.
- Reformed traineeship programmes at Level 2 and 3 for those aged up to 24, including:
- Extending the maximum length of a traineeship to 12 months and allowing the delivery of qualifications in priority sectors up to Level 3.
- Allowing the use of work simulation and realistic environments where access to work experience is not possible, and reduce the minimum work experience requirement (currently 100 hours).
- Removing the existing funding cap for qualification aims and revise funding rates for work placements.
- Apprenticeships (for all ages), through:
- Block release programmes.
- Employer incentives of up to £3,000 per apprentice.
- An increase of non-levy funding allocations.
- Where needed, a front-loaded payment profile for colleges to allow for intensive up-front delivery.
Retrain: This would involve:
- Enhancing the Adult Education Budget (AEB) together in a ‘one line’ budget with the National Retraining Scheme, the National Skills Fund, and the Shared Prosperity Fund. If properly aligned, colleges would be funded once to deliver across all of these funds, cutting bureaucracy and making the system more understandable and accessible for colleges, for employers and for students.
- Urgently considering releasing a proportion of the National Skills Fund to support retraining and flexible learning at Levels 4 and 5 aimed at helping displaced adults to reskill and/or upskill in the short-term.
- Removing the financial and other accountability penalties (which will not work in this crisis period).
- Fully funding adults aged 24+ to undertake subsequent Level 3 programmes or units in priority sectors to respond to post furlough unemployment.
Resource: This would require:
- A ‘single line’ capital budget, which would bring all capital funding lines into one to enable the most effective investment in much-needed resources.
- Investing in online delivery and infrastructure to enable more students to be able to access high quality online learning.
- Extending and promoting ‘Taking Teaching Further’, to promote FE as an employment opportunity for those who have valuable skills which currently can’t be used in industry.
Some cynics say that the DfE will give about as much consideration to the AoC recovery proposals as they gave to the earlier £8.6 billion AELP recovery proposals. A copy of the AoC plan can be found at:
DFE TO APPOINT NEW SENIOR POLICY ADVISORS TO ASSIST WITH IMPLEMENTING ‘REVOLUTIONARY’ FE REFORMS
The DfE is continuing its work on an FE White Paper in preparation for new legislation later in the year. At the same time, job adverts have been placed by the DfE for sixteen senior FE advisers to lead on ‘…the delivery of innovative policy reforms’. The post holders will be located in the DfE’s Further and Higher Education Group and it is widely believed that one of the reforms they will be working on involves bringing colleges in England back into public ownership. Whether this means full or partial local authority or combined authority control, and/or full or partial control by the DfE or one of its agencies (e.g. the ESFA) is, as yet, unclear. What has become clear is that the DfE has taken the view that the current system of FE governance is flawed. Work on the White Paper is being overseen by Keith Smith, who was redeployed to DfE from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in April. The advertisements and job descriptions can be found (but not easily) on the Civil Service jobs website at:
DFE REOPENS BIDS FOR FUNDS FROM THE COLLEGE COLLABORATION FUND (CCF)
When the CCF was initially launched in February this year, the amount available in the fund for colleges to bid for was £9 million. However, the first round of CCF bids was cancelled in March due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, but on 10 June a smaller £5.4 million CCF was reopened for applications. The CCF is intended to support FE colleges in improving quality, including in ways ‘…that are developed through new collaborative ways of working’ (although some cynics apparently think that encouraging groups of colleges to compete with each other for funds to help them to collaborate with each other is a bit strange, particularly when FE core funding is so clearly inadequate). Despite the reduction in the total CCF, the minimum that can be applied for has increased from £80,000 to £100,000 up to a maximum bid of £500,000. Successful applicants will be expected to match at least 25% of the total cost of the programme, although the DfE has said that it may waive a proportionate amount of the contribution required where a college is in formal intervention in respect of its finances. Each bid will need to be led by an applicant college with an ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ Ofsted grade, that will partner at least one other college graded by Ofsted as ‘requires improvement’. Each bid must address at least one of the CCF’s three quality improvement themes, which are identified as ‘quality of education’, ‘financial and resource management’, and ‘leadership and governance’. Merged colleges without a current Ofsted grade can still bid for CCF funds, as long as one of the two previous colleges meets the required criteria. All colleges that do receive CCF funding must complete their programme by the 31 March 2021. Updated information on the CCF can be found at:
FIRST APPRENTICESHIP DATA FOLLOWING THE CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN IS PUBLISHED
The DfE has published the first apprenticeship data following the Coronavirus lockdown. As might be expected, the data shows a significant fall in starts. The data reveals that there were 13,020 apprenticeship starts in the period between 23 March and 30 April 2020, which is a reduction on the 26,330 apprenticeship starts reported for the same period in 2019. Of the starts reported between 23 March and 30 April 2020:
- Apprentices aged 25+ make up 66% of starts (56% in the same period last year).
- Apprentices aged 16-18 starts accounted for just 8% of starts (15% in the same period last year).
- Intermediate apprenticeships accounted for 23% of starts (37% in the same period last year).
- Higher apprenticeships accounted for 34% of starts (17% in the same period last year).
- Business, Administration and Law and Health, Public Services and Care were the dominant sector subject areas comprising 70% of starts (61% in the same period last year).
Further information and more apprenticeship data for the period can be found at:
APPRENTICESHIP TRAINING PROVIDERS FAILING TO MEET MINIMUM STANDARDS HAVE CONTRACTS TERMINATED
In order to meet the ESFA’s minimum standards, apprenticeship training providers (ATPs) are, amongst other things, currently required to deliver a 62% achievement rate. Following the publication of DfE apprenticeship achievement rate data for last year, ministers expressed concerns that the rates had deteriorated to unacceptably low levels. This prompted the ESFA to write to those ATPs that had failed to meet the minimum standards warning them that they would be subject to intervention, and that for some the continuation of their contracts was at risk. However, the letter also said that because of the continuing challenges providers were facing in respect of Coronavirus pandemic, the agency would delay commencing intervention measures until October at the earliest. It now appears that the ESFA has changed its mind and the agency has recently written to several providers, some of which have hundreds of apprentices, to issue them with a notice of termination. This means that with effect from the date specified in their letter (typically on 31 July), they will be removed from the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) and will be prevented from accessing further ESFA funding. The letter also says all new starts must cease immediately. However, the provider is still contractually required do whatever is necessary to minimise disruption to their apprentices by, for example, working with the agency to ensure that their apprentices and their employers receive advice about how the apprentices affected by the termination can successfully complete their programmes. For some, this could include finishing with the same provider or for others, transferring to a new provider, depending on the time needed to complete their apprenticeship programmes. More on the contract termination process can be found in sections 13 and 14 of the ESFA publication below, which can be found at:
PHD-LEVEL (LEVEL 8) APPRENTICESHIPS WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE FOR PUBLIC FUNDING
The Chief Executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), Jennifer Coupland, has been sent a letter by Gillian Keegan the Minister for Apprenticeships in England. In her letter, Ms Keegan said ‘I do not believe that using levy funds for Level 8 apprenticeships, which could result in a PhD, provides value for money, nor are they in the spirit of our reformed apprenticeships system’. This in effect means that PhD apprenticeship proposals, such as the two programmes already approved by IfATE (Clinical Academic Professional and Nuclear Technical Specialist), will not now be eligible for public funding. In her letter Ms Keegan goes on to say that higher and degree level apprenticeships will continue ‘…to form an important part of our skills and education system, providing people of all backgrounds with a choice of high-value vocational training’, but it was important that levy funds were, ‘…supporting those that can benefit most from an apprenticeship, such as those starting out in their careers or helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get ahead’. In addition to this development, Education Secretary for England, Gavin Williamson has ordered a review of the Level 7 Senior Leader Standard that allows apprentices to gain an MBA. Many believe that the outcome of the review will mean that MBA apprenticeship programmes will soon also be no longer eligible for public funding. A copy of Ms Keegan’s letter to Ms Coupland can be found at:
MORE COLLEGES AND PROVIDERS TO DELIVER THIRD WAVE OF T-LEVELS IN SEPTEMBER 2022
The DfE has announce that a further 88 providers have been selected to deliver the third wave of T-Levels in September 2022. 46 providers already selected will deliver T-Levels in September 2020 while 67 further providers will deliver T-Levels from 2021. The announcement of the additional 88 providers means that a total of 18 T-Levels will be able to be delivered from September 2022. The remaining seven T-levels will be rolled out from 2023, bringing the total to 25. The list of 88 providers selected to deliver T-Levels in 2022 can be found at:
CHANGES TO ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS TO DELIVER T-LEVELS FROM 2023 ONWARDS
The DfE has also announced that the requirement for providers to be rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted in order to be allowed to deliver T-levels will be dropped from 2023. However, those with inadequate or requires improvement grades will initially only be able to teach the T-Level routes introduced in 2020 and 2021 and only those providers with goo’ or outstanding ratings will be able to deliver the remaining T-Level routes launched in 2022 and 2023. The DfE said that this was intended both to increase the number of providers and to ‘…reinforce T-levels as a mainstream offer for all students’. The DfE went on to say that it will announce how providers can register their intentions to deliver T-levels from 2023 early next year. More information on the changes can be found at:
LATEST FE SECTOR WORKFORCE DATA AND COMPARISON WITH PREVIOUS YEARS
The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has published its Further Education and Workforce Data for England (SIR 27) report for 2018/19. The report provides details of the profile of the FE sector workforce drawing on data from 2018/19 Staff Individualised Record (SIR) returns. The data includes 91,800 records submitted by 186 providers, including colleges, ITPs and local authorities. The report identifies the main changes in the FE workforce over the previous 12 months and provides selective comparisons with the FE workforce profile over the period from 2013/14 (when SIR 21 was published). Key findings in the most recent report (SIR 27) include the following:
- The size of colleges measured by employee headcount has grown since SIR 22, most notably Specialist Designated Colleges and Agriculture and Horticulture Colleges, which have increased their median employee size by about 60% and 49% respectively.
- There has been a change in the balance of teaching staff and learner-facing technical and support staff. While the median number of total employees at colleges rose between SIR 22 and SIR 27, the median number of teaching staff fell from 250 to 231. The biggest changes in median headcount numbers were seen in learner-facing technical staff (which increased from 60 to 89) and support staff (which increased from 76 to 102). The median number of senior managers increased from 10 to 11.
- The proportion of providers offering courses in all of the main subject areas has increased between SIR 22 and SIR 27, except in the humanities. For example:
- In SIR 22, 74% of providers were offering ICT (Information and Communications Technology) courses. In SIR 27 this had increased to 83%.
- In SIR 22, 76% of providers were offering engineering and manufacturing technology courses. In SIR 27 this had increased to 84%.
- In SIR 22, 73% of providers were offering humanities courses. In SIR 27 this had fallen to 58%.
- The workforce remains predominantly female. 61% of all staff were female in both SIR 22 and SIR 27. However, during the period inbetween, the proportion of women in teaching roles has decreased from 56% to 53%, while the proportion of women in senior management has reduced from 58% to 54%.
- The gender pay gap is similar in SIR 27 to that identified in SIR 21. In SIR 21 it was 10.5%, while in SIR 27 it is 10.2%. In the period between these reports it has fluctuated, narrowing to 7% in SIR 23 but growing to 10.6% the following year.
- A lower proportion of staff are working part-time. Across all staff, the proportion working part time has fallen from 48% to 46%, and for teaching staff it has fallen from 50% to 46%.
- There has been an increase in the proportion of older staff, with the percentage of all staff aged 60 and over rising from 10% in SIR 22 to 14% in SIR 27.
- The proportion of staff on zero hours contracts has remained similar, at 4.4% in SIR 27 compared to 4.2% in SIR 26.
- There has been a decrease in the median pay of teachers. For teaching staff, median pay has decreased from £32,500 in SIR 21 to £32,300 in SIR 27.
The full SIR 27 report can be found at:
…and previous years SIR reports from 2013/14 onwards can be found at:
PAC PUBLISHES CRITICAL REPORT ON THE VALUE FOR MONEY OFFERED BY UTCS
Following a critical report into University Technical Colleges (UTCs) published on 30 October last year, on 10 June, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published its own report focusing on the value for public money offered by UTCs. The PAC report says that UTCs have cost the DfE more than £700 million since they were created in 2010, and that ‘…a lack of students has meant the department has been propping up the finances of UTCs for several years’, most of which will not be paid back. (As at January 2019, the 48 UTCs still open were operating at an average 45% capacity while 10 of the original UTCs had already closed). The report also criticises what it describes as an ‘unusual’ financial relationship between the DfE and the Baker Dearing Trust (BDT), which owns UTC brand. The report says that although the BDT received £893,000 from the DfE to support the opening of the UTCs, the BDT charges all UTCs licence fees which have risen over successive years to £10,000 in 2019/20. The Chair of the PAC, Meg Hillier said, ‘We are concerned by the department’s apparent lack of interest in what UTCs are getting from taxpayers’ money in this way’. She went on to say that the relationship between the BDT and DfE was ‘…too close with too little scrutiny from government and too much entitlement from the BDT’. The BDT responded by saying that income raised from the license fees had helped to fund the BDT’s work in ‘…delivering hands-on educational, financial, student recruitment, and multi-academy trust re-brokerage support for all UTCs, as well as fulfilling the central role of government liaison…’. The PAC recommends that the DfE should:
- Work with UTCs with higher occupancy levels to help UTCs that are struggling to attract students.
- Set clear three-year financial targets for each UTC.
- Within three months, explain in writing to the committee how it uses data on student destinations to track the performance of UTCs.
- Work with UTCs to gain assurance about the value they are getting from payments to the Baker Dearing Educational Trust, and submit its findings to the committee within three months.
A copy of the PAC report can be found at:
…and a copy of the earlier NAO report on UTCs can be found at:
OFS ISSUES GUIDANCE ON NOTIFYING STUDENTS OF CHANGES TO COURSE DELIVERY DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
The Office for Students (OfS) has circulated further guidance to universities and other HE providers (including colleges) in England, which says that students must be given clear information how teaching will be delivered in the 2020/21 academic year. In particular, students will need to be told about the proportion of course content that will be delivered online relative to face-to-face teaching and how the balance between lectures, seminars and self-learning will change. Students should also be informed of any other aspect of their experience at university that will be changed in order to comply with Public Health England advice. In addition, students must have access to a transparent and flexible complaints process, should they feel that changes have been made which they had not been made of, or if they feel they may have been misled in any way. Prospective students in particular should be given enough
information to enable them to make an informed decision about whether to start their course, whether they should choose a different course or whether they should defer taking up their offer of a place until the following year. A copy of the OfS guidance and other aspects of how universities and other HE providers should respond to the current Coronavirus crisis can be accessed at:
MOST UNIVERSITIES SAY THAT THEY INTEND TO PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH FACE-TO-FACE TEACHING IN 2020/21
A survey carried out by Universities UK (UUK) to which 92 out of a possible 137 UK universities responded, has revealed that:
- 97% intend to provide some level of face-to-face teaching and/or student support during 2020/21.
- 87% are planning to provide a full range of student support, including fitness, mental health support, careers advice and study skills. (95% of these universities say they will deliver student support using a mixture of online and in-person services, and 5% are planning to deliver these services only online).
- 90% say they have communicated their plans to prospective and current students.
- 82% universities are working with bars and cafes in the local community as they develop their plans.
Further information is available at:
HEPI PUBLISHES 2020 STUDENT ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE SURVEY
On 13 June, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) published its 2020 Student Academic Experience Survey. The survey shows a further decline in student satisfaction, with 31% of students saying that they thought their courses were poor or very poor value for money. This was up from 29% last year. HEPI has been gathering student views since 2006. However, the findings of this year’s survey, which was based responses from 10,000 students across the UK, was gathered in a year severely disrupted by the Coronavirus crisis and lecturers’ strikes. The survey also showed that all students had anxieties about the future jobs market. In addition, ethnic minority students said that they had a less positive university experience than white students. Students also expressed concerns about what they thought were insufficient teaching contact hours. However, the biggest cause for concern was the level of tuition fees in England (and to a lesser extent fees in Wales and Northern Ireland) and the associated accumulation of personal debt. A copy of the HEPI 2020 Student Academic Experience Survey can be found at:
UK UNIVERSITIES RECORD WORST PERFORMANCE TO DATE IN QS INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE TABLE
International university league tables for 2020 have been produced by the research group QS (one of several organisations that produce international university league tables). The QS rankings show that rankings of UK universities have fallen for the fourth year in a row to the country’s worst-ever performance in the QS tables. The data on which the QS tables are based were collected before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. QS says that nearly three quarters of the UK’s 84 ranked universities have dropped in the latest rankings. In addition, 59 UK universities saw a fall in the number of research citations and 51 UK universities experienced a contraction in the number of international students recruited (with a loss of around £460 million in fees). QS has attributed the deterioration to such things as the unchecked expansion of student numbers, over-stretched budgets, increased staff/student ratios, poor teaching and the effects of Brexit. More information can be found at:
Rumours are rife in Parliament that whilst reaching down for some order papers he had dropped during a debate in the House of Commons, Gavin Williamson had banged his forehead badly on the dispatch box. Over a drink in the members’ bar later, Matt Hancock was said to have recommended that Mr Williamson should rub Stork margarine (if he could find any) into the lump that had risen on his brow. This, he claimed, would, without fail, help hide the bruise, reduce the swelling, and relieve the soreness. However, it seems that after a week of rubbing margarine on his brow, as advised by Mr Hancock, there was no discernible improvement in the soreness, or the bruising, or the swelling on Mr Williamson’s forehead. When Mr Williamson therefore told Mr Hancock that his margarine remedy was rubbish, Mr Hancock was alleged to have replied, ‘I can’t believe it’s not better’.
Alan Birks – June 2020
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