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Schools should pay for GCSE resits, thinktank says

Secondary schools should be forced to pay a "resit levy" to colleges for students who fail to obtain a good GCSE pass in English and maths at the first attempt, according to Policy Exchange. The thinktank is calling for colleges to be compensated by schools that do not ensure their students achieve a C grade or above in GCSE maths and English. Research by Policy Exchange reveals that FE colleges took on five times more students who were resitting English than schools in 2013, and six times the proportion retaking maths. This year's GCSE results show significant increases in the number of students aged 17 and over taking maths (30,000 extra) and English (18,000 extra). As a result of the rise in candidates, some colleges were forced to cut classes or to close completely during exam season to accommodate them. Natasha Porter, author of the paper, said: "It is unfair for some schools to pass the buck to FE colleges who are already facing extreme funding pressures to fix a problem they have not caused themselves."

Apprenticeship levy could be vulnerable to abuse

Strong quality assurance mechanisms are required to prevent money raised by the new apprenticeship levy being lost in "profit-maximising training wheezes", a senior official at the Association of Colleges has warned. A blog by assistant chief executive Julian Gravatt (bit.lyAoCApprenticeBlog) argues that the current accountability structures offered by Ofsted and the Skills Funding Agency may not be sufficient to prevent abuse of the new levy, which is set to be imposed on large employers from 2017 to pay for expansion of the apprenticeship programme. "The new scheme will encourage some employers to think more about training, which is good, but it will be a step back if the levy money gets lost in profit-maximising training wheezes", Mr Gravatt writes. "The secret to stopping this will be the registration and quality assurance arrangements."

Stop unsuitable academic study, charity urges

"Radical action" is needed to prevent young people being directed towards unsuitable academic provision rather than vocational pathways, according to crime reduction charity Nacro. The organisation, which will take on the running of Totton College in Hampshire from November, has claimed that many schools attempt to retain post-16 students in order to attract per-student funding. Josh Coleman, Nacro's director of education, said: "Only if we work together to identify those likely to benefit from more vocational opportunities, rather than pure academia, can we help these talented young people to overcome their barriers, get ahead in life and avoid becoming Neet [not in education, employment or training]."

Heavy goods vehicle apprenticeship plans stall

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has hit out at the government's decision to reject plans for a heavy goods vehicle driver apprenticeship. The RHA said it was invited to draw up a proposal for an apprenticeship framework to meet the needs of the sector but this was not approved. As a result, firms in the sector could end up paying for the new apprenticeship levy but not be able to offer a relevant apprenticeship themselves, according to director of policy Jack Semple. "We have asked officials how a large road haulage firm, employing primarily lorry drivers, can get its levy back when no apprenticeship is available," he said. "We await their response."

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