1st July 2016 at 00:00
A year’s a long time in skills

Serving time

A year is 365 days long, right? Not necessarily, as it happens. And, if you work in the FE sector, you don’t even need to start thinking about leap years before things start to come unravelled.

It transpires that in the weird world inhabited by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), a year can either be 366 or 372 days, depending who you ask. Let FErret explain.

An apprenticeship framework must last for 366 days to meet SFA requirements. Obviously. However, in the latest twist for providers, the most recent version of the apprenticeship standards funding rules stipulates that a standard “must contain a minimum of 12 months of learning prior to the end-point assessment being conducted”. Therefore, to allow time for the end assessment, “the entire duration of the apprenticeship standard for both training delivery and endpoint assessment is recorded on the [individualised learner record] as a minimum of 372 days, to be eligible for funding”.

In other words, as far as the SFA is concerned, a year lasts for either a year and a day, or a year and week. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, FErret is going to go and bash his little furry head repeatedly against a brick wall.

Long and winding pathways

The interminable wait for blue skies and soaring temperatures has only been rivalled by the seemingly endless delays in the publication of the Sainsbury Review of technical and professional education.

Originally due to be published before the pre-referendum period of purdah, this deadline came and went. June soon crept into July and now FErret’s spies tell him that even the most recent publication date mooted – 8 July – looks unlikely to happen. Until last Thursday, the following week was looking to be the most likely bet. Now? We could be waiting longer than we’ll be waiting for the English football team to live up to expectations at a major international tournament.

Not that it particularly matters. The thrust of the document – pathways split into technical and academic routes, compulsory work experience, oversight role for the Institute for Apprenticeships, blah blah blah – has been doing the rounds since the spring. It is competing with the appointment of Amanda Spielman as the new Ofsted chief for the title of “worst-kept educational secret of 2016”.

Unwanted Prevent

FE providers could be forgiven for looking forward to the publication of Ofsted’s imminent report on how they’re implementing the Prevent duty as much as a trip to the dentist. To say that efforts to crowbar the anti-radicalisation agenda into the world of education haven’t gone down well would be an understatement. Those fainting blossoms at the NUS students’ union describe it as an “expansive surveillance architecture”.

In any case, it seems that confusion reigns. Indeed, FErret has heard stories of schools being so desperate to comply that they tried to palm off allowing students to watch the England-Wales football match as demonstrating British values. Nice try.

But there are rumours that spin doctors at various government departments – not least the Home Office – can’t wait to get their grubby little mitts on the report in order to promote the pro-Prevent agenda. FErret wouldn’t be unduly surprised if some (relatively) salacious details of poor practice end up being hawked around media outlets in the coming days.

FErret’s minions at TES will be on hand to offer balanced coverage, of course.

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