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FE teaching gets its own research centre

The Institute for Learning (IfL) and the University of Wolverhampton have announced the creation of a centre dedicated to research on FE teaching, the Centre for Research and Development in Lifelong Education (Cradle). Led by Denis Gleeson, emeritus professor of education at the University of Warwick, it is expected to have a particular focus on research into teachers' first years in the classroom. "The time is right for new action and a greater national commitment to research in further education," said IfL chief executive Toni Fazaeli. "For too long, despite some outstanding contributions, we have lamented the relative paucity of university-led research focusing on FE, compared with schools and higher education."

Monitoring employer contributions 'too bureaucratic'

Ministers have rejected calls to force businesses to account for the investment they make in apprenticeships, after concerns that they are failing to make the required contributions. MPs on the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee last year recommended that companies should be required to submit a record of their cash and in-kind contributions, which would be passed on to the Skills Funding Agency. But in the government's response this week, it claimed that such a move would be too bureaucratic. "In support of policies to cut bureaucracy we do not agree with requiring employers to publish their contribution, and would be concerned that this requirement could put employers off engaging with the programme," the response said. Adrian Bailey, the committee chairman, said that the refusal was disappointing. "During our inquiry, we were shocked to hear evidence of the government wasting money on training schemes that it could not ensure provided value for money," he said.

Concern over vocational take-up in schools

Colleges have warned that the drop in pupils taking vocational courses in schools could have a knock-on effect in FE and apprenticeships. After the majority of vocational qualifications were de-recognised in school league tables, 60 per cent of schools have either cut their vocational provision or plan to, according to research by the Institute for Public Policy Research. At the same time, 85 per cent of headteachers say that vocational education is valuable for their pupils. "This could lead to fewer young people understanding the vocational qualifications available post-16 and fewer continuing to apprenticeships," said Joy Mercer, director of policy at the Association of Colleges. Jan Hodges, chief executive of the Edge Foundation, which commissioned the research, said: "Our concern is that in attempting to guarantee quality the government has used a sledgehammer to crack the nut. Schools are now being forced to drop valuable technical, practical and work-related courses or risk getting no credit for the provision."

Industries plan to double apprenticeships

The engineering and manufacturing industries have announced plans to double the number of apprenticeships at level 3 and higher over the next two years. It follows an increase in these categories of over 85 per cent since 2010, to 31,070 last year, according to sector skills council Semta. Chief executive Sarah Sillars said that there was still a huge shortage in these industries, however. "The sector needs to recruit 82,000 people just to cover retirements up to 2016 so there is a real opportunity for young people, so much more needs to be done to attract them into engineering and advanced manufacturing," she said. The University and College Union said that more employers needed to offer apprenticeships, with just 18 per cent in the sector currently taking on trainees.

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