In this week's TES Further: how prison education could close the skills gap

Also: how to build classroom armour, and why the number of colleges taking on 14-to-16-year-old students has fallen

Tes Reporter

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In this week’s TES Further, Amina Bodhania, an education manager at HMP Manchester, examines how getting employers to engage with prison education programmes can tackle far more than the skills gap (article free for subscribers). “With new approaches to prison education, institutions are becoming a source of talent that can be trained and equipped with the skills needed to boost national and local economies,” writes Amina. She says that as an education manager in one of the UK’s largest prisons, she witnesses "every day" how prisoners learn and take on new skills, despite often growing up with a negative experience of education.

EXCLUSIVE

TES reporter Julia Belgutay reveals that the number of colleges taking on 14-to-16-year-old students has fallen. For the first time since 2013 – when colleges were given the green light to recruit 14-to-15-year-old students – the number of colleges planning to recruit younger students has dropped to just 18, although the overall number of students has slightly increased, from 959 last year to 1,065.

FE editor Stephen Exley writes that student numbers are low partly because few colleges feel there is sufficient demand (or appeal) to extend their age range, especially when this provision is seen as a nowhere land to “dump” students with behavioural problems. “This kind of reputation – often ill-founded – can pose a significant PR problem,” writes Stephen. That’s if anyone’s heard of them at all...

Stark advice

Tom Starkey, TES Further’s new columnist, writes that it often pays to build yourself a bit of armour to shield against some of the more difficult facets of working in further education. He says that armour comes in many forms – his includes a layer of “amusement at the cyclical nature of things and irreverence in the face of the relentless, pounding seriousness of every decree that crosses my path". Does that mean he doesn’t care? No, but it does help him to avoid a breakdown every couple of hours.

'A champion of FE'

In this week's magazine, we interview Ian Ashman, the Association of Colleges' new president. Mr Ashman is a champion of FE (article free for subscribers), who has fought many battles for the sector, including making the case for English for speakers of other languages (Esol) provision. "There is a need for Muslim women to learn English to create a cohesive society," says Mr Ashman, who ultimately believes the message about FE’s wide-ranging benefits is finally being heard in Westminster.

Meanwhile, Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA), writes that sixth-form colleges are a tight-knit family, one that is proving to become “strong and united” in the face of academy conversions (article free for subscribers). Sixth-form colleges “may only represent 11 per cent of 16-19 provision,” he writes. “But more than one-in-five A-levels is taken at a sixth-form college.”

FErret

FErret writes that pay negotiations in FE can be a painful and protracted affair (article free for subscribers). One between the SFCA and the teaching unions is proving to be particularly tense affair. He also reveals the curious case of the City of Glasgow College's broken kilns.

All this and much, much more in this week’s TES Further.

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