Click Sector Developments

Issue 97 | July 2019

APPRENTICESHIPS AND SKILLS MINISTER FOR ENGLAND RESIGNS

Anne Milton, the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, has announced her resignation from the government after 25 months in office. She resigned from her post ahead of the appointment of the new prime minister, Boris Johnson. In her letter of resignation, she cited the reason as being her ‘grave concerns about leaving the EU without a deal’, a stance she said she could not support.  At the time of writing, her successor has not yet been appointed and Damian Hinds is still in his post as Education Secretary for England.

EDUCATION SELECT COMMITTEE CALLS FOR 10-YEAR PLAN TO BOOST SCHOOL AND COLLEGE FUNDING

The House of Commons Education Select Committee has produced a report that calls for a ten-year education funding plan tourgently address the damage that has been done to schools and colleges as a result of funding cuts’. The report says that a combination of far more pupils and students entering schools and FE along with the cumulative effect of education reforms has put excessive strain on the education sector over the past decade. At the same time, schools and colleges have been forced to provide a range support more commonly associated with that provided by social services, the youth service, the careers service and other agencies. The report says that education funding has not kept pace with these rising demands. Spending per pupil in schools fell by 8% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2017/18 but FE has been hit the hardest, says the report, and urgently requires a £1 billion boost in funding. Participation in full time FE has more than doubled since the 1980s, yet post-16 budgets have seen the most significant cuts of all education sectors, with per student funding falling by 16% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2018/19. The report says that the social justice implications of this are troubling, given the high proportion of disadvantaged students in FE colleges.

The report argues that within the context of the upcoming spending review, the Department for Employment (DfE) should develop a ten-year plan for education funding and should make the strongest possible case to the Treasury for multi-billion pound funding increases. The report also calls for a much more strategic long-term approach to spending, without which the school and college education system will be stretched beyond breaking point. In the short- to medium term committee members have called on the DfE to:

  • Urgently address underfunding in FE by increasing the base funding rate for 16-18-year-olds from £4,000 to at least £4,760 (amounting to around £970 million per year), rising in line with future inflation.
  • Increase school funding by raising the age-weighted pupil unit value.
  • Increase high needs funding for special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to address a projected deficit of at least £1.2 billion, and ensure any funding uplift takes proper account of the costs of delivering Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans for young people up to the age of 25.
  • Implement the full roll-out of the National Funding Formula as soon as possible, making the various funding formulae more forward-looking and less reliant on historical factors, and investigating how best to account for the adverse individual circumstances of outliers.
  • Develop an official statistics publication for school and college funding to provide greater clarity on the data and trends.
  • Grant Ofsted the powers to conduct inspections at multi-academy trust (MAT) level, and require MATs to publish more detailed data on their financing structures.
  • Ensure all eligible children attract the Pupil Premium and extend the Pupil Premium to provide for 16-19-year-olds.
  • Set out the timetable for providing apprenticeship transport subsidies, as per the Government’s manifesto commitments.

A copy of the Education Select Committee report can be accessed at:
https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmeduc/969/96902.htm

EDUCATION SELECT COMMITTEE TO LAUNCH AN INQUIRY INTO ADULT EDUCATION AND LIFELONG LEARNING

Committee chair, Robert Halfon, has announced that the House of Commons Education Select Committee is also to carry out an inquiry into adult education and lifelong learning in England. The inquiry will cover:

  • The benefits of adult education and lifelong learning to the individual, society and the wider economy.
  • The existing level of support available to learners and whether this is adequate.
  • The role played by local authorities/combined authority areas in providing adult education.
  • How adult education can help people cope with future changes in the jobs market, including technological change, and help people move out of low skilled and low paid jobs into higher paid jobs.
  • How improving adult skills can promote social justice and boost productivity across the country.
  • How to encourage more adults to engage in adult education, skills updating and life-long learning.

In making the announcement, Mr Halfon called for ‘massive growth’ in the number of adult and community learning centres, with ‘one in every town’, along with fee support for disadvantaged part-time students, and tax breaks for employers who invest in the lifelong learning of their employees. More information is at:
https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/news-parliament-2017/adult-skills-and-lifelong-learning-launch-17-19/

DFE PUBLISHES FUNDING METHODOLOGY FOR T-LEVEL DELIVERY IN 2020/21

The DfE has published funding guidance for those providers selected to deliver T-Levels in the 2020/21 academic year. The guidance explains how and why T-Level funding will be different from the way other 16-19 study programmes are funded. These differences include the following:

  • There will be new higher funding bands for T-Levels. This is because T-Levels will be larger than standard study programmes for 16-19-year-olds and T-Level programmes will be of different sizes.
  • Funding is based on course hours over 2 years. This is because T-Levels are 2-year programmes.
  • Unlike other 16-19 programmes here will be no reduction in funding for 18 and 19 year-olds.
  • Industry Placements will be funded at a flat rate of £550, with half paid in the first year and half in the second year.
  • There will be a single payment of £750 per subject, per student, paid in the first year for students without a Level 2 in mathematics and/or English and who will need to continue studying these subjects as part of their T-Level, in order to achieve the T-Level exit requirement.
  • As each T-Level carries an English and mathematics exit requirement, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) mathematics and English Condition of Funding rule will not be applied to T-Levels.
  • There will be additional disadvantage funding to reflect additional hours and demands of T-Levels.

Full details of the 2020/21 T-Level funding methodology can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-t-levels-will-be-funded-in-academic-year-2020-to-2021

163 QUALIFICATIONS AT LEVEL 3 AND BELOW WILL NO LONGER BE PUBLICLY FUNDED

Following the completion of the first stage of a DfE two-stage consultation, the Education Secretary for England, Damian Hinds, has announced that, with effect from August 2020, 163 qualifications at Level 3 and below (including 76 BTEC qualifications) will no longer receive government funding. Mr Hinds said that the qualifications that will have their funding withdrawn are ‘legacy qualifications’, which are not subjected to any external assessment and have already been mostly replaced by new more rigorous versions that will continue to be funded by the DfE. Mr Hinds also said that the government will prevent any new qualifications at Level 3 and below from being approved for funding from 2020. This, he said, was to ‘avoid adding to the already confusing and complicated system of over 12,000 qualifications already available at these levels’. Mr Hinds went on to say that the 163 qualifications that were having funding withdrawn also overlapped with A-Levels, apprenticeships and the new T-levels, which are now regarded by the government as ‘gold standard’ qualifications and which, said Mr Hinds, students, parents and employers trust. A spokesperson for the DfE said the government response to the first consultation will be published alongside the launch of the second consultation later this year. This will set out more detailed proposals for change, including the criteria that will be used to determine whether a qualification will, or will not, be approved for public funding. The list of qualifications that will have their funding withdrawn can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/qualifications-getting-approval-for-funding

NEW REPORT SAYS EBACC NO LONGER SERVES ANY USEFUL PURPOSE

The think tank EDSK has produced a report called ‘A Step Baccward’, which argues that the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) no longer serves any useful purpose. The report’s main recommendation is that EBaccs should be scrapped, which has been warmly welcomed by teacher unions. The report is at:
https://www.edsk.org/publications/a-step-baccward/

RESEARCH SAYS THAT OFSTED’S NEW EIF MODEL FOR LESSON OBSERVATIONS IS UNRELIABLE IN AN FE CONTEXT

In a surprise admission, Ofsted has said that the model to be used for assessing observations and the quality of lessons specified in the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF), due to come into force in September, is not appropriate for use in the FE and skills sector and that a more suitable approach needs to be developed in time for the start of the new academic year. The admission follows the publication a report by Ofsted that contained the findings of research into the validity and reliability of EIF inspection methods. Ofsted said that observation judgements did not show the same degree of reliability in FE settings as it did in schools. This was because observations in schools are mainly classroom based, whereas lessons within the FE sector take place in a variety of contexts and settings. A spokesperson for Ofsted said that the inspectorate is working on a new model that is more suited to FE provision. Calls have now been made for the inspectorate to delay the launch of the new EIF in the FE sector for a year to allow more time for the new model to be developed. A copy of the Ofsted research can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inspecting-education-quality-lesson-observation-and-workbook-scrutiny/research-commentary-assessing-the-quality-of-education

DFE PUBLISHES NEW GUIDANCE ON 16-18 SCHOOL AND COLLEGE PERFORMANCE MEASURES

The DfE says that it is reforming the school and college accountability systems in England to make the system fairer and more transparent. To achieve this, a set of five headline measures has been published for use in performance tables. The headline measures are: progress, attainment, progress in English and mathematics (for students without a GCSE pass at A*-C in these subjects or 9-4 for new reformed GCSEs), retention, and destinations. These measures are intended to provide a rounded picture of school and college performance and inform student choice, a school or college’s own self-assessment and benchmarking, Ofsted and the government’s own performance management of the 16-18 sector. In 2017 these headline measures were extended to include Level 2 vocational qualifications, whilst in 2018 performance tables included value-added data for Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) and apprenticeships for the first time. In both 2017 and 2018 headline measures were supported by additional measures covering attainment, retention, and the proportion of students entering qualifications. On 2nd July, the DfE published its 2019 Statement of Intent that sets out the performance measures that will be published in the 2019 school and college performance tables. A copy of the statement can be obtained at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-and-college-performance-tables-statements-of-intent

The DfE has also published a supplementary document entitled ‘Understanding School and College Performance Measures’ which gives a non-technical explanation of 16-18 performance measures. The guidance also provides additional details on how measures will be displayed on the ‘Compare school and college performance’ website, for example when data may be suppressed, or what happens when a school or college closes, merges, or becomes an academy. A copy can be obtained at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/understanding-school-and-college-performance-measures/understanding-school-and-college-performance-measures

And the DfE Technical Guidance for 16-18 school and college performance measures can be found at:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/819734/16-18_Accountability_Measures_Technical_Guide_July_2019.pdf

NATIONAL RETRAINING SCHEME IS LAUNCHED IN LIVERPOOL

Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary for England, has officially launched the government’s new National Retraining Scheme in Liverpool, where the scheme will be first rolled out. The scheme is a key part of the government’s Industrial Strategy and was initially announced in 2017 (although full details of the scheme were only made available in April this year) and comes with a budget of £100 million. It aims to support adults to adapt to changes in the workplace, such as providing retraining for adults whose jobs could become obsolete due to technological advances, and assisting adults to identify their existing skills, explore local job opportunities and access training courses to help them gain the skills they need to progress into higher paid work. The National Retraining Scheme is led and overseen by the National Retraining Partnership, a partnership between government, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Trades Union Congress (TUC). More information is at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-retraining-scheme

COLLEGES TO REMUNERATE GOVERNORS AND APPOINT ‘DIRECTORS OF GOVERNANCE’

The FE sector continues to contract in the wake of funding cuts and area reviews, and more colleges are finding themselves under severe financial pressure. This, in turn, is placing more demands on governing bodies and, if poor or misinformed decisions are made, colleges could now find themselves facing insolvency. As a consequence, the FE Commissioner for England has called for more robust and better-informed governance of colleges and for more governors with high level financial expertise to be appointed to boards. If a college is facing acute financial or other pressures, it has been argued that key governors may need to be recompensed for their services over and above providing them with out-of-pocket expenses, particularly where a sound business case which clearly lays out the benefits to the college, its students and wider stakeholders can be made. A small, but growing number of colleges that have found themselves in these circumstances have been allowed to offer remuneration for the services of key governors, but as every college is a registered charity, in order to be allowed to do so, it has to apply for permission from the Charities Commission. However, as colleges are technically exempt from the Charities Commission’s oversight, the request will be handled by the main regulatory body for colleges, which is the DfE. If the DfE grants permission to a college to pay one or more of its governors it will usually be for a fixed period and will require the college to include the order granting the permission to be included in the college’s instrument of government. Governors who are remunerated for their services are warned that if a college faces insolvency or action from creditors, a court will hold them to a higher standard and level of personal responsibility than those governors who are not remunerated.

In addition, some colleges have appointed ‘Directors of Governance’ to supplement, or replace, the Clerk to the Corporation in order to provide a higher level professional approach to corporate services, including such things as overseeing governor recruitment, and informing and advising governors and senior managers on FE regulatory issues and their statutory responsibilities with regard to the fiduciary and other risks associated with their decisions. Parallels to this can be found in the private sector (and increasingly in the voluntary sector) where non-executive chairs and directors are remunerated for their services and where highly qualified company secretaries have very senior positions within the organisation.

UCU REPORT ON PRESSURES CAUSED BY INCREASING CASUALISATION OF FE WORKFORCE

A report from the University and College Union (UCU) says that the increasingly widespread use of casual contracts across the FE sector is forcing staff to work multiple jobs and visit food banks to make ends meet. The report found that 72% of staff working on insecure contracts in further, adult and prison education said they struggled to subsist, and 56% experienced problems paying bills. 71% of staff said that they believed their mental health had been damaged, and 45% that the insecurity of employment along with the fear and stress of hours (and therefore income) being cut with little or no notice, had impacted on their mental health. Others said it was difficult to get a mortgage or secure rented accommodation without being able to demonstrate they had a stable income. 93% of respondents on fixed-term contracts unsurprisingly said that they would rather be employed on a permanent basis, and 72% said that they would rather be on a contract with guaranteed hours, even if it meant less flexibility. 56% said that they had held two or more jobs in the last 12 months, with 39% holding two or more jobs in the education sector. Some respondents also complained they were not given the same resources as permanent staff (eg they had no work email address, no desk or work space, and struggled to get simple tasks such as photocopying done). Meanwhile, according to the report, the percentage of colleges now employing over half of their teaching staff on casual contracts has tripled to 29%. A copy of the UCU report, entitled ‘Counting the costs of casualisation in further, adult and prison education’, can be found at
https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10335/counting_the_costs_of_casualisation_in_further_education/pdf/countingthecostsofcasualisationinfurthereducation

REPORT SAYS FE TEACHERS’ WORKLOADS ARE HIGHER THAN THEIR COUNTERPARTS IN SCHOOLS

More research findings commissioned by UCU and published in a report entitled ‘Transformative Teaching and Learning in Further Education’ say that teachers in FE colleges have a higher workload than those in schools. The report says that while secondary school teachers teach between 20 and 21 hours per week, a much higher total of teaching hours per week is common in FE colleges and that very nearly a fifth of all respondents reported teaching more than 27 hours per week. The report goes on to say that 46% of respondents reported that they spent more than 4 hours per week and 33% said that they spent more than 8 hours per week supporting students outside the classroom. Meanwhile, FE teachers on permanent contract are paid between £5,000 and £7,500 less per year than their counterparts in schools. A copy of the report can be obtained at:
https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10385/Transformative_teaching_and_learning_in_further_education_july_2019/pdf/transformativeteachingandlearninginfurthereducationjuly2019

SCHOOL TEACHERS TO RECEIVE AN ABOVE INFLATION PAY RISE NEXT ACADEMIC YEAR

On 22 July, Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary for England, accepted all the recommendations from the Independent School Teachers’ Review Body (ISTRB), to raise the upper and lower boundaries of all pay ranges by 2.75%. This is equivalent to around £1,000 on average classroom teacher pay. School leaders will continue to determine how staff are paid, but the increase in pay will be supported by an additional £105 million through the teachers’ pay grant, on top of the £321 million already committed for the 2019/20 financial year. There has been no mention of additional money to fund a pay increase for FE staff.

ETF LAUNCHES NEW WEB BASED PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS RESEARCH TOOL

Meanwhile, perhaps as a consolation prize for FE teachers, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has announced the launch of a ‘Professional Standards Research Tool’ through the Society for Education and Training (SET). Designed for all FE practitioners, the ETF says that the tool will add to the ETF’s continuous professional development support for the FE sector workforce. The tool is interactive and aims to help FE practitioners keep up to date with relevant educational theory and research. It is particularly intended to benefit those who are taking Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status and Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) qualifications conferred by the ETF through SET. Hosted on the SET website, the new Professional Standards Research Tool can be accessed on any mobile or desktop device and gives users quick access to a regularly updated range of new resources relating to each of the 20 Professional Standards. Further information is available on the SET website at:
https://set.et-foundation.co.uk/digital-assets/qtlsmap/

And further information on professional standards in FE is available on the ETF website at:
https://www.et-foundation.co.uk/supporting/support-practitioners/professional-standards/

COLLEGES WARNED ABOUT CYBER-ATTACKS WHICH HAVE RESULTED IN FINANCIAL LOSSES.

The ESFA has warned colleges to be aware of ‘phishing’ scams where fraudsters use a what appears to be genuine email in order to trick the user into giving them their personal details. In one such email the fraudster posed as the college principal. Fraudulent emails often contain a link that takes the user to a website which requests the user to make changes to the bank account the college uses for DfE, ESFA, or other payments and receipts. The request looks legitimate and, if undiscovered, could result (and has resulted) in a payment being made to the fraudsters account, which is then rapidly emptied. The ESFA says that the attacks have resulted in ‘financial losses’ and advises college users to ensure they have strong firewalls and passwords and up to date anti-virus software in place, and to check that emails are genuine before the user sends passwords, data, or payments. More information can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/esfa-update-26-june-2019/esfa-update-further-education-26-june-2019

NEW INSTITUTE FOR APPRENTICESHIPS AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION CHIEF EXECUTIVE (IFATE) APPOINTED

Jennifer Coupland, who is currently the Director of Professional and Technical Education at the ESFA has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of IfATE. She will replace current Chief Executive, Sir Gerry Berragan, who was appointed to the post in 2017 and who completes his two year contract in November. Ms Coupland was previously the acting Chief Executive of the Standards Testing Agency and prior to that she was the Deputy Director of the Apprenticeships Unit.

GOVERNMENT TARGET OF 3 MILLION APPRENTICESHIP STARTS IN ENGLAND BY 2020 LIKELY TO BE MISSED

In response to a question from the House of Commons Education Select Committee chair, Robert Halfon, about the declining number of starts in some types and levels of apprenticeships, Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary for England, admitted that it was unlikely that the Conservative government’s 2015 manifesto target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020 would be achieved. Mr Hinds argued that this was because apprenticeships now on offer were of a much higher quality and were at higher levels. When questioned about the decline in the number of lower level apprenticeships (which were argued to assist with social mobility and be bridges to higher-level training), Mr Hinds said that the current focus was on providing apprenticeships that delivered high-quality skills valued by employers, rather than a higher volume of lower level apprenticeships, some of which employers had alleged to be of questionable quality. The latest DfE apprenticeship statistics (July) show that there have been 1.8 million apprenticeship starts since the 3 million target was set in May 2015, with less than a year remaining to make up the current 1.2 million shortfall in starts. Further information can be found at:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/815291/Apprenticeships_and_Traineeships_release_July19_main_text.pdf

LATEST APPRENTICESHIP DATA SHOWS THAT 16-18 AND LEVEL 2 STARTS CONTINUE TO FALL

The July DfE apprenticeship data shows that apprenticeship starts overall have risen by 7% during the first three-quarters of 2017/18 (August to April) compared with the same period in 2018/19. The overall increase in apprenticeship starts is largely due to an increase of 82% in the numbers of people aged 25 and over starting higher-level apprenticeships at Level 4 and above. Against this, apprenticeship starts at Level 2 have fallen by 51% and apprenticeship starts for young people aged 16-18 have fallen by 23% since the apprenticeship levy and other reforms were introduced in May 2017. Against this, there has been an increase in 69% in the number of starts by those aged 25 and above on Level 4 and above programmes over the same period. In addition, the higher costs associated with higher level apprenticeships means that the average cost of training an apprentice is now more than £9,000, which is twice what the government

initially predicted. This has led to forecasts that the apprenticeship budget could be overspent by £0.5 billion this year (2018/19), rising to £1.5 billion in 2021/22 and concerns that a significant proportion of the apprenticeship budget is now being spent on firms’ existing training programmes and graduate level schemes that have been rebadged as apprenticeships.

COLLEGE SHARE OF APPRENTICESHIP MARKET CONTINUES TO CONTRACT

The DfE July apprenticeship data also shows that the share of the apprenticeship market taken by colleges continues to fall. In the year to July 2018, colleges’ share of the apprenticeship market contracted from 31% to 26% and that colleges delivered only 19% of all apprenticeship starts with levy-paying employers compared to 66% delivered by independent training providers (ITPs). With reference to apprenticeship starts on the new standards, colleges delivered 18% of apprenticeship starts compared to 72% delivered by ITPs. Some colleges have experienced a very significant contraction in their apprenticeship numbers and give as the main reason for this their reduced ability to subcontract. The new subcontracting rules introduced in 2017 mean that prime contract holders can now no longer subcontract their entire apprenticeship programmes (as some have done in the past). Instead they must directly deliver a significant proportion of their apprenticeship contract themselves. Also, many ITPs that were previously subcontractors are now on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) in their own right and are able to contract directly with levy-paying employers. Further information can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/fe-data-library-apprenticeships#apprenticeship-and-traineeships-current-data

ESFA PUBLISHES NEW RULE CHANGES FOR SUBCONTRACTING APPRENTICESHIPS AND AEB FUNDED PROVISION

Concerns have been expressed by MPs in parliament about the charges prime contractors levy for ‘managing’ subcontractors. Prime contractors typically refer to the amounts they charge as ‘management fees’, but subcontractors call the practice ‘top-slicing’, and complain about what they regard as an excessive proportion of the contract value being held back by the prime provider (as much as 40% in the past) to cover these ‘fees’. MPs and others have expressed strong views that as much as possible of the public funding made available for education and training should be spent on delivering courses to learners, rather than being swallowed up by top-slicing. In response, the ESFA has published new rules for those prime contractors that use third parties to deliver ESFA contracts that they have been allocated. The new rules include a specific requirement that all subcontracting contracts for apprenticeship and Adult Education Budget (AEB) funded provision should include a list of individually itemised, specific costs charged by the prime contractor for managing their subcontractors. The rules say that prime contractors should:

  • Clearly describe, before each subcontracting relationship is agreed, the reason they are entering into a subcontracting arrangement.
  • List the services they will provide for the subcontractor (eg monitoring quality and providing administrative support) and specify the associated costs of doing so.
  • Individually itemise these costs and describe how each cost incurred (and charged to the subcontractor) contributes and adds value to the delivery of high-quality learning by subcontractors.
  • Provide justification to show why such costs are reasonable and proportionate in relation to the overall cost of delivering of the learning or training.

From 1 August 2019 the ESFA says that it will revise its contract compliance measures to incorporate the above requirements and will introduce and implement a risk-based approach for monitoring them. It will also impose sanctions if a prime contractor is in breach of these requirements. The revised subcontracting rules will apply to all new AEB learner or apprentice starts from 1 August 2019 where a new subcontracting contract is yet to be agreed and entered into, and they will apply from 30 November 2019 where a revision to an existing subcontract is required. The ESFA says that the new rules and guidance will be reviewed after 18 months, but they already appear to have caused consternation amongst many prime providers. The ESFA initially considered setting a cap on the level of management fees that subcontractors could be charged, but by opting to require prime contractors to list the costs of managing the subcontracting arrangements, many have complained that the administration resources needed to comply with the new rules will overly onerous and very costly and that they would have preferred a cap instead. They also claim that in order to comply with the rules, ‘thousands’ of subcontracting contracts will need to be rewritten just four weeks before the new academic year. More information and a copy of the new AEB and apprenticeship subcontracting rules and guidance can be obtained at:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/subcontracting-using-funding-to-offer-education-and-training

IFATE PUBLISHES A NEW QUALITY ASSURANCE FRAMEWORK FOR APPRENTICESHIP END POINT ASSESSMENTS

Readers are cautioned that the next two sections contain a bewildering and soporific number of acronyms that are likely to cause your eyes to glaze over, or worse.

End Point Assessments (EPAs) are intended to demonstrate that apprentices who complete their apprenticeship can actually do their job to the high standards required. All apprentices are required to pass their EPA in order to complete their apprenticeship. Employer groups (‘Trailblazers’) that develop apprenticeship standards are required to find and appoint an organisation that can carry out the external quality assurance (EQA) of EPAs. These are called End Point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs). In order to help ensure that EQA in respect of EPAs is consistent and coherent, IfATE has published a new framework for monitoring EQA which must be complied with by all EPAOs. The aim is to improve clarity and consistency in the EQA process across all EPAOs and to ensure that EPAs are quality assured to the same standard across all occupational routes and apprenticeship standards. There are eight steps within the new IfATE framework, which cover such things quality control mechanisms, ongoing quality assurance and continuous quality improvement. These steps are listed in the new IfATE framework as:

  • Setting out the right approach to assessing occupational competence via clear EPA plans that have been developed by employers and approved by IfATE Route Panels as being fit-for-purpose.
  • Ensuring that only organisations with the relevant experience and expertise can deliver EPAs. To this end all EPAOs must be listed on a new Register of End-Point Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO).
  • Ensuring that EPAOs are well prepared to deliver high-quality assessments through readiness checks.
  • Ensuring that an EPA provides a high-quality and relevant assessment of occupational competence through a programme of monitoring EPA delivery and that EQA (which includes observation of the EPA delivery), is only undertaken by EPAOs with the necessary assessment and occupational experience and expertise.
  • Reporting on the quality of EPAs, and using evidence from EQA reports to develop clear action plans to maintain or improve the performance of individual EPAOs, including an assessment of EPAO capability and capacity for EPA delivery.
  • Using EQA to improve assessment for apprenticeship standards and assessment plans and any other aspect of apprenticeship quality.
  • Taking action to ensure that any inadequate EPA practices are remedied promptly, thereby minimising any risk to EQA.
  • Continuous improvement of the EQA process to capture good practice and ensure that EQA is operating effectively and consistently, and provides evidence of impact on EPAs.

The new IfATE framework also says that EQA activity and processes will now be risk-assessed and that where EPAs are considered to be at greatest risk, the EPAO carrying out the EPA can expect to be subjected to a greater level of scrutiny and more frequent monitoring. All EPAOs will be assigned a risk rating which will be determined by various factors, such as feedback on their performance from apprentices, employers and training providers. EPAOs will be graded on a four-point scale, which reflects the Ofsted grading system. These are: Grade1 (outstanding), Grade 2 (good), Grade 3 (requires improvement), and Grade 4 (inadequate). Any EPAO graded 4 will automatically be assumed to be high-risk. Unlike Ofsted, it appears that at present, IfATE has decided not to publish reports and risk ratings, although it says that it will share the outcomes of reviews and gradings with relevant bodies where necessary and does plan to publish reports, or elements of them, at some point in the future. A copy of the IfATE framework and supporting documents can be found at:
https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/quality/external-quality-assurance/#eqa-framework-

ESFA TO ONLY FUND STARTS ON APPRENTICESHIP STANDARDS IF THEY HAVE AN APPROVED EPAO

There have been numerous examples of apprentice programmes starting without an approved EPAO being in place, leading to criticism that neither the employer nor the apprentice has any idea how the required EPA will be carried out. In a recent update, the ESFA’s response has been for all trailblazers to engage with potential EPAOs at a much earlier stage in the standard development process. The ESFA update goes further, and says that from 1 October 2019, the ESFA will not fund any apprentices to start on any new standard until an EPAO that can carry out an externally quality assured EPA against the specific apprenticeship standard has been appointed. In addition, the EPAO appointed must either listed on, or must have given a firm commitment to becoming listed on, the RoEPAO. To provide evidence of commitment to being listed on the RoEPAO, EPAOs are required to complete and submit a form to the ESFA and funding will continue to be withheld until this form is received. A copy of the ESFA update is at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-end-point-assessments-change-to-starts-policy-for-new-standards-being-approved/apprenticeship-end-point-assessments-change-to-starts-policy-for-new-standards-being-approved

UUK PUBLISHES REPORT ON THE FUTURE OF DEGREE APPRENTICESHIPS

Degree apprenticeships combine vocational training with academic study, with degree apprentices typically receiving a salary for doing four days’ work with their employer and spending one day a week in a university to gain a degree. Unlike other undergraduate programmes in England, degree apprentices can complete their apprenticeship programmes and graduate with a degree and be debt free. There are currently more than 7,000 degree apprentices in England, with more than 100 universities either delivering degree apprenticeships, or preparing to deliver them. The organisation that represents universities, Universities UK (UUK) has commissioned research which was carried out by National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) on how to better promote degree apprenticeships. As part of the research, NEON spent several months talking to employers, degree apprentices, universities, and potential applicants and their parents about how the current system for publicising degree apprenticeships could be improved. The research findings have been published in a new report entitled ‘The Future of Degree Apprenticeships’, which says that progress developing degree apprenticeships in England is being held back by poor levels of awareness among school pupils, parents and employers and thatbold action’ is needed from the government to reform the degree apprenticeship system so many more people can become degree apprentices. A copy of the report can be accessed at
https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/downloads/FutureGrowthDegreeApprenticeships.pdf

RECORD NUMBERS OF 18-YEAR-OLDS HAVE APPLIED FOR A PLACE AT UNIVERSITY

Data released by the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows that 236,350 18-year-old school and college leavers in England (40% of the total number in that age group, and 3,970 more than in 2018) had applied for a place at university by this year’s deadline of 30 June. Against this, the number of 18-year-olds in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland applying for degree places has fallen. In Northern Ireland, where 47% of 18-year-olds applied, there were 530 fewer applications from 18-year-olds than last year. There were 610 fewer applications in Scotland, where 33% of 18-year-olds applied for a university place. And in Wales, where 33% of 18-year-olds applied for a place, there were 220 fewer applications than last year. Across the UK as a whole, 275,520 young people have applied to university this year, up from 272,910 and a 1% increase on figures at the same point in 2018. The data also shows that there are record numbers of black, Asian and mixed race 18-year-old applicants for university places, while the number of white applicants continues to fall, and particularly the numbers of white working class applicants. Despite uncertainty over Brexit, the number of applicants, across all age groups, from other EU countries has risen by 540 from 50,120 in 2018 to 50,660 this year. The UCAS data also shows that a record 81,340 international students from outside the EU have applied to study in UK universities, an increase of 8% on last year. More information is available at:
https://www.ucas.com/data-and-analysis/undergraduate-statistics-and-reports/ucas-undergraduate-releases/applicant-releases-2019-cycle/2019-cycle-applicant-figures-30-june-deadline

THE PROPORTION OF STUDENTS AWARDED FIRST-CLASS DEGREES CONTINUES TO INCREASE

Data released by the Office for Student (OfS) shows that between 2010/11 and 2017/18 the percentage of first-class degrees awarded by UK universities rose from 16% to 27%. The OfS report also says that even after accounting for prior attainment and changes in student demographics, it is not possible to statistically explain at least 80% of this increase. As an extreme example, 47% of all degrees awarded by Surrey University in 2017/18 were first-class honours degrees. The study also looked at the change in the percentage of both first and upper-second class degrees awarded, with upper-seconds now being the most common degree awarded. The OfS data shows the percentage of undergraduates being awarded first or upper-second class degrees rose from 67% in 2010/11 to 78% in 2016/17. And across England, of those students those going to university with grades below three Ds at A-level in 2010/11, 40% were awarded one of these top two grades. By 2017/18 this percentage had increased to above 70%. Commenting on the OfS data, Education Secretary for England Damian Hinds said universities needed to act to protect the value of degrees or risk losing their credibility. A copy of the OfS report can be obtained at:
https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/press-and-media/new-ofs-analysis-shows-continuing-upward-trend-in-award-of-top-degrees/

WIDE VARIATION IN GRADUATE EARNINGS AND EMPLOYABILITY DEPENDING ON THE UNIVERSITY STUDIED AT

Data published by the DfE shows a wide variation in graduate employment prospects and average earnings and employment prospects measured 1, 3 and 5 years after graduation, depending on which university the graduate attended, despite having studied the same subject. The data reinforces the view that it really does matter where an applicant chooses to study. Commenting on the data, Education Secretary for England, Damian Hinds said ‘It cannot be right that students studying the same subjects at different institutions, and paying the same fees, are not getting the same positive outcomes’. A copy of the DfE data can be found at:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/811944/260619_main_text.pdf

DFE PUBLISHES DATA ON THE COST OF STUDENT LOANS AND LOAN REPAYMENTS

The DfE has published data which provides forecasts for HE student numbers and associated student loans and loan repayments in England over the next 5 years. The data forms part of the government’s Resource Accounting and Budgeting (RAB) exercise, and provides an estimate of the value of student loans that will written off and the likely cost of this to the tax payer. Student loan repayments for those on the latest undergraduate student loan system are only made when the graduate earns over £25,725 per year and are time limited to 30 years. The government now accepts that not every student will repay the full amount of their loan. The DfE data says that the numbers of full-time undergraduates eligible for tuition fee loans are expected to grow from 384,000 in 2018/19 to 397,000 in 2023/24. The data further suggests that 70% of the full-time undergraduates starting a university course in 2018/19 will benefit from a taxpayer contribution. This is because, on average, only around 55% of student loans taken out in this year will actually be repaid, with the remaining 45% (equating to £7.4 billion) being covered by the taxpayer. Against this, the data suggests that masters’ degree loans will not require any taxpayer subsidy, since the majority of students studying at this level are expected to pay back their loans in full.

The DfE data can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/student-loan-forecasts-england-2018-to-2019

SLC PUBLISHES 2018/19 STUDENT LOANS DATA

The Student Loans Company (SLC) has released data which shows that in 2018/19 it:

  • Had 8.6 million ‘customers’ and managed a loan book in excess of £136 billion.
  • Processed almost 2 million applications for student finance.
  • Paid out £8.6 billion in loans and grants to new and existing students, as well as £9.6 billion in tuition fees directly to higher and further education providers.

Further information is available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/student-loans-in-england-2018-to-2019

UUK ESTABLISHES A ‘FAIR ADMISSIONS REVIEW’

Following concerns expressed about aspects of current university admissions policies (eg growth in the number of unconditional offers being made and the socio-economic backgrounds of applicants to whom offers are being made), UUK has established a ‘Fair Admissions Review’ with the membership consisting of representatives from UCAS, universities, colleges and schools. The review will collect evidence on how admissions practices work and identify the main challenges linked to offer-making practices including unconditional and contextual offers. The review recommendations will be published in spring 2020.

COLLEGES CONTRIBUTE DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNT TO TOTAL OFS SUBSCRIPTION FEES

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has calculated that the fees that FE colleges are charged by the OfS for the 2019/20 academic year will amount to more than 25% of the total of all fees charged by the OfS. This is despite the fact that fewer than 10% of HE students are taught in FE colleges. The AoC said that the 164 colleges offering HE programmes will pay an average of £39,900 each, equating to £74 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student. This means that the total paid by FE colleges to the OfS is estimated to amount to £6.5 million. Against this, universities and other HE institutions will pay a total £16.8 million, equating to £128,300 per institution, but only £10 per FTE student. The OfS says that the main reason for this is that the subscription bandings used to calculate subscription fees result in institutions with larger HE student numbers paying less per student than smaller institutions.

COLLEGES, SCHOOLS AND OTHER PUBLIC BODIES TO BE GIVEN A STATUTORY DUTY TO HELP PREVENT KNIFE CRIME

Under plans announced by the Home Secretary, public bodies in England and Wales, including schools, colleges, NHS trusts, local councils and police forces, are to be given a legal duty to help prevent and tackle serious violence, including knife crime. They will legally be required to share data, intelligence and knowledge with the aim of providing early, targeted intervention. The legal duty will apply to organisations, not individual workers, following objections expressed by teacher and other unions when the proposal was first announced in April. New guidance will shortly be published to provide advice on how different organisations and sectors can partner with each other. The extent to which organisations comply with the new duty will be assessed through inspections or other existing mechanisms. Potential penalties for failure to comply with the new legal duty will be published when the legislation is introduced later this year.

AND FINALLY…

A college was undergoing a full Ofsted inspection, and a specialist catering inspector was observing a practical class in the college’s training kitchen. The students were preparing for a Chinese banquet being held that evening in the college’s training restaurant. The inspector had been in the class for around five minutes when, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the lid of a saucepan lift and just for a second, what appeared to be a bird’s beak appeared above the rim, then quickly disappeared as the saucepan lid dropped down again. The inspector decided that she was imagining things and carried on with her observation. But a few minutes later, the saucepan lid lifted again and the beak reappeared, this time with a pair of eyes above the beak, staring at her. A student distracted her attention momentarily, and when she looked back the beak and the eyes were gone and the saucepan lid was down again. The inspector was now convinced that her eyes were paying tricks on her, so she resolved to try to forget what she had seen and carried on observing the class. But after a few more minutes, the saucepan lid lifted once more and this time she saw not only a beak but a whole feathered head, complete with eyes that were staring at her. The inspector then decided that she must be hallucinating. She forced herself to look away and, sure enough, when she looked back, the saucepan lid was down and the head was gone. But throughout the lesson, the inspector kept imagining that she saw what appeared to be a bird’s head pop up above the saucepan rim to peer at her for a while, only for the lid to drop back down again when she looked back. At the end of the lesson, when the inspector had finished giving her feedback, she turned to the lecturer and said, ‘You’ll probably think I’m a mad for saying this, but I could swear that I’ve seen what looked like a live bird in one of the saucepans over there’. ‘Did the bird keep popping up and looking at you?’, asked the lecturer. ‘Yes, it did’ replied the inspector. ‘Ah’, said the lecturer, ‘that would be the Peking duck’. 

As in previous years, there will be no newsletter published in August. Think of this as more of a break from the truly awful jokes at the end (and a few pretty poor ones in the middle). Normal service will be resumed in September, whether you like it or not. But in the meantime, from all of us at Click we hope that you will enjoy a relaxing and well-deserved holiday, or at the very least that you will able to get some respite from the everyday chaos and stress of working in FE.

Alan Birks – July 2019

As usual, the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those held by Click CMS Ltd.
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