Speaking exclusively to TES in his first interview since being appointed apprenticeships and skills minister, Rob Halfon reveals his plans to raise the profile of apprenticeships. He envisages a world where taking an apprenticeship is as prestigious an option as attending Oxbridge, and where apprentices receive a living wage. The key to achieving this, he says, is a grounding in "basic maths and proper literacy".
And while he acknowledges the difficulties colleges face as a result of the explosion in GCSE resits, Mr Halfon insists that a basic level of literacy and numeracy is just essential: “Some people have said to me, ‘This is just too much for young people to do when they’re doing skills or vocational training [as well].’ My view is that it has to be done.”
'Tested to destruction'
After Ofsted chair David Hoare appeared at the Teach First Impact Conference in Leeds last week, it's fair to say that it is his comments about the Isle of Wight and inbreeding that have attracted most attention.
But he also had some interesting things to say about the FE sector, particularly in relation to the difficulties faced by learners: "When FE colleges take these young people, many of them have been tested to destruction...and when you have had a tough time at GCSE and you have failed...you are told you are stupid."
This week, FErret has got his paws on a leaked document about the growing phenomenon of joint apprenticeship companies (article free for subscribers). Colleges are joining forces to increase the numbers of apprenticeships on offer. Providers in Manchester have already launched an apprenticeship company, with nine FE colleges and a training provider signed up so far. And colleges in several other parts of the country are following suit.
Time for stability
Kirstie Donnelly, managing director of City and Guilds, writes that what the FE sector needs most from this government is a period of calm. After so much change, the sector needs stability, she says, and the government “must set a course” with the sector and employers – then stick to it.
Meanwhile, Dame Ruth Silver, president of the Further Education Trust for Leadership, writes in her column that the English FE sector can learn a thing or two from the reforms happening already in Scotland (article free for subscribers). The reforms – which have seen the number of Scottish FE colleges being reduced from 37 to 20 – have passed the teething stage and are now "encouraging new networks and partnerships". So what lessons can the rest of the UK learn from this Scottish transformation?
Mark Chutter, a curriculum leader at Sussex Downs College, writes that inspirational teaching is key to cultivating curiosity (article free for subscribers). He says that studying is about a sense of discovery, and in order to nurture the innate quality of inquisitiveness, “reductive learning objectives” must be kicked out of the college window.
Gotta catch 'em all
Finally, TES’ resident reverend, Kate Bottley, reveals that her church has been turned into a PokéGym (article free for subscribers). The latest Pokémon craze has swept through North Nottinghamshire College, with learners venturing out into the great outdoors to play it. Reverend Bottley's attitude towards the game is mixed: "I'd love for more learners to seek solace in faith or sport," she writes, "but if hunting virtual-reality Japanese creatures in the yoghurt aisle in Morrisons gets them outside, it’ll have to do."
All this and much, much more in this week's TES Further.
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