FE news at a glance

27th March 2015 at 00:00

Publicise benefits of functional skills, ETF urges

More must be done to improve employers' awareness and understanding of functional skills if the qualifications are to be respected, according to a new report. The Education and Training Foundation has found that although functional skills in maths and English are gaining widespread recognition with employers, their purpose and value need to be better explained. Its report, Making Maths and English Work for All, says a publicity campaign could help to put the qualifications into context and ensure they are not seen as a "consolation prize" in a GCSE-focused system. The ETF calls for standards to be aligned to employability and for the content of the qualifications to be based on employer needs. Standardised, rigorous but flexible assessment is needed to give employers confidence, it adds. Last year, more than a million functional skills qualifications were awarded in England. Awarding organisations are already responding to pressure from Ofqual to make them more valid and reliable, and the exam watchdog will soon be setting out guidance to ensure that consistent standards are set. Ofqual has warned that it will consider "formal regulatory action" if its requirements are not met.

Cuts to adult education are capped at 24 per cent

No college or training organisation will have its non-apprenticeship adult skills budget cut by more than a quarter compared with 2014-15, the Skills Funding Agency has promised. Last month, it was revealed that adult skills funding was being cut by 11 per cent in 2015-16, equating to 24 per cent excluding apprenticeships. However, the funding protection awarded to traineeships, English and maths means that some providers could face cuts of up to 32 per cent. In a letter setting out funding allocations (bit.lySFALetter), the SFA says it has "sought to minimise the impact of the budget reduction" and adds that no provider will face more than a 24 per cent decrease.

Nuclear college to open in Cumbria and Somerset

The UK's new national college for the nuclear industry will be based at two hubs in Somerset and West Cumbria, it has been announced. The college, a partnership between the government and nuclear employers, will train future workers and develop world-class skills for the industry, which is expected to need 30,000 new employees over the next decade. The two hubs, at Bridgwater College in Somerset and Lakes College in Cumbria, will offer high-tech specialist training and facilities including a reactor simulator and virtual reality engineering system. A total of seven new national colleges for industry have been announced, with pound;80 million of government funding matched by investment from employers.

How apprentice loyalty is a boon for businesses

Apprenticeships help businesses to boost loyalty both inside and outside the workplace, according to a study. An independent survey of 555 employers in England by the National Apprenticeship Service shows that 56 per cent of businesses that offer apprenticeships retain their apprentices for longer than other recruits. Of these employers, 59 per cent say this is because of the quality of the training provided and about a third say that apprentices are more committed than other employees. The report also reveals that apprenticeships are helping employers to attract new business, with 76 per cent saying that they actively promote their apprenticeship credentials when pitching or talking about their company.


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