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Another 93 courses face the chop to make way for T Levels

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Date | 20 June 2023

According to an article on FE Week, ninety-three courses taken by over 17,000 students face the axe as the government reveals its latest hit list of level 3 qualifications. Popular courses for 16- to 19-year-olds in engineering and manufacturing are set to lose their funding from 2025 as officials continue to clear the way for their flagship T Level qualifications.  
 
These courses include Pearson’s BTEC national foundation diploma in engineering, the BTEC national extended diploma in engineering and IMI’s diploma in light vehicle maintenance. Over 8,200 young FE students enrolled on those qualifications in 2020/21. The teaching of wave 3 T Levels began in September 2022, bringing in business and administration, legal, finance and accounting and engineering and manufacturing. Those students will complete the course in 2024. Overlap qualifications will be removed the year after in 2025. 
 
Taking the conversation to LinkedIn, the overall response is that FE staff are not too pleased with this news. Samara R. said, “T Levels require more employer input (a lot of paperwork for them to do) and they don’t have the time, patience or tolerance for it. They aren’t the teachers. Students however still prefer classroom-based learning with some elements of placement, which employers prefer too... Once again Government messing it all up. Internationally it’s A-Levels of BTEC...T Level will take years to be recognised.” Andy S. said, “It’s Ts or nothing. Once again, this government is leading the way to another mess!” 

Ofsted urged to halt all visits to schools and colleges

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Date | 24 March 2023
 

An article on Daily Mail explains that Ofsted has been urged to halt all visits after the tragic passing of Ruth Perry, headteacher of Caversham Primary School, who took her own life following a recent Ofsted inspection downgrading the school from outstanding to inadequate. The inspection report found the school to be good in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judges to be inadequate. A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection fo Caversham Primary School has more than 39,000 signatures. 

 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said ‘given the strength of feeling and the need for a period of calm reflection, Ofsted should pause inspections.’ Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), called it the ‘height of insensitivity’ for Ofsted to inspect schools or colleges this week. She said: ‘Ofsted should pause all its inspections and reflect upon the unmanageable and counter-productive stress they cause for school leaders and the impact on leaders. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: ‘Ofsted should undertake an immediate review of the impact of inspections on the wellbeing of school and college leaders, and a pause in the inspection cycles would allow for a period in which this could happen.’ Similarly, Flora Cooper, executive headteacher of the John Rankins School in nearby Newbury, Berkshire, yesterday said she will refuse to let Ofsted in the building during a planned visit today and called on other schools to do the same. Ms Cooper tweeted: ‘I’ve just had the call. I’ve refused entry. Doing this for everyone for our school staff everywhere!’

 

Taking the conversation to LinkedIn, many others in the education sector feel the same way about the situation. One commenter said: ‘when I think of inadequate safeguarding I think of schools that are excluding vulnerable children or schools that have such a rigid disciplinary system that it traumatises the children. This school definitely does not fit in this category whatsoever.’ There is so much emphasis on the importance of student mental health, which is excellent – but nobody talks about staff mental health. Staff are under constant pressure, and Ofsted does not make matters better. I’m intrigued to see what the outcome is and whether Ofsted guidance will change, or be replaced entirely.

2023-24 T Level roll out has been delayed

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Date | 14th March 2023

FE News announced that Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary, has released a statement announcing that the rollout of T-Levels in multiple sectors will be delayed from 2023-2024. She explained in her statement that, “we have decided to defer the first delivery of three T Levels in Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy; Craft and Design; and Media, Broadcast and Production from 2023 to 2024. We have taken the decision to defer the Catering T Level beyond 2024…the T Level in Legal Services will be introduced as planned in 2023, alongside the T Level in Agriculture, Land Management and Production which is subject to the usual approval process, and the Animal Care and Management T Level remains on course for first teaching in 2024, and Marketing in 2025.” A link to the education secretary’s written ministerial statement can be found here.

 

Responding to the announcement that four T Levels due to start in September will be delayed, David Hughes, AoC Chief Executive said: “The Department for Education is right to ensure only T Levels of high enough quality enter the market. Sadly, though, colleges will be massively disrupted by this announcement happening so late in the year. Colleges already had plans in place for how to deliver these now delayed T Levels and have been marketing them to potential new learners. This delay highlights the risks involved in implementing new qualifications and shows why T Levels need to be tested fully before other qualifications are defunded.”

 

Although the later notice for the delay will throw a spanner in the works for many members of the FE community, this may be for the best. Some may say that the introduction of the first bout of T Level courses was rushed and not thought through thoroughly. The delay means that when the courses are introduced, they will be introduced with a more thorough understanding and will cause fewer issues in the long run.

DfE accounces new £12m T Level employer placement fund

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Date | 6 March 2023
 

FE Week has reported that fresh funding has been announced to entice employers into offering T Level placements – following the failure of previous sweeteners to get businesses on board. 

 

The Department of Education revealed that a £12 million fund will be available to help employers offering placements in the 2023/24 financial year, which can be used to cover the costs such as set-up expenses, equipment, or staff training. In addition, all providers delivering T Levels in the 2023/24 academic year will get a one-off grant of up to £10,000 for additional careers guidance for students. The DfE guidance confirmed that any employer offering a suitable T Level placement starting from April 1st2023, is eligible to claim for ‘legitimate costs’. Placements that start before then are not eligible. 

The money is set to be paid via T Level providers for their learners. The guidance says that T Level providers will be allocated a sum of cash based on their T Level student numbers. Employers will then be required to provide basic information about their business and submit a declaration form that includes evidence of the costs they are claiming for. The providers will then be responsible for validating claims from employers, making the payments to employers either once a start date as been agreed or a placement begins, and then report back the claims paid out via a DfE online tool. Full guidance will be published later this month on the DfE T Level website.

DfE will now allow working from home in some T Level placements

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Date | 16 January 2023

FE Week has announced  shared the government’s updated delivery guidance which contains watered-down fresh rules for T Level industry placements – including allowing up to a fifth of hours to be delivered remotely in 6 out of the 23 available subjects (accounting; digital; finance; legal services; management and administration; and media, broadcast, and production). For example, a digital student undertaking a 315-hour industry placement can spend up to 9 days of it remotely.

 

Previous rules had made clear that all placements (which must be a minimum of 315 hours/45 days), “cannot be delivered virtually/remotely, except for work taster activities.” Explaining the reason for the change, the DfE’s guidance said: “The hybrid (remote) placements approach can be used in office-based environments where a hybrid way of working (i.e. where some of the time is spent working remotely) has become an established way of working. This approach aims to facilitate greater access to a wider range of employers as providers will be able to access business outside of their immediate local area.”

 

The move was aimed to help ease ministers’ and sector leaders’ fears of convincing enough businesses to host students for the 315-hour placements, a long-held concern that was exacerbated by Covid-19.

 

Taking the conversation to LinkedIn, the feedback so far seems positive - with staff members across the FE community praising this decision. There are many comments along the lines of Comments include “there are too many issues with securing placements for students,” and “definitely needed for digital courses, so many large and small companies outsource all IT and security to companies where the workforce work from home.”

The Baker Clause comes into force

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Date | 11 January 2023
 

As explained in an article on FE Week, the Baker Clause has become legally enforceable from February 2022. This means that secondary schools now have a legal duty to provide pupils with “at least six encounters with a provider of approved technical education qualifications of apprenticeships.” Ofsted have also updated their handbook and clarified that they will report where a school falls short of the requirements.
 

The Baker Clause states that schools much allow colleges and training providers access to every student in years 8 to 13 to discuss non-academic routes. According to Ixion, it also states that schools need to “impartially promote the full range of technical education qualifications and apprenticeships,” meaning that students will receive impartial information on all the routes available to them. The Baker Clause forms an important part of a school or college’s careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) programme. A thorough CEIAG programme, including a diverse range of education routes and providers, will be beneficial for students. By complying with the clause, schools will also be meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks which relate to students being introduced to the full range of pathways. To help students to make sense of this information, a good careers programme and effective guidance is crucial.

Researching the impact of enrichment in further education

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Date | 11 November 2022

Association of Colleges, Northern Council for Further Education, and the University of Derby are currently working on an exciting piece of research to explore enrichment activity in further education. They are keen to highlight ways in which enrichment adds value and provides genuine benefits for learners in colleges.
 

The researchers initially surveyed 84 colleges across all regions of England and found that the definition of enrichment varied widely from one college to another. The analysis of this survey revealed differences across the sector which in turn helps determine how enrichment is organised. For some colleges, enrichment was seen as an important strategy to reduce inequalities by widening access to a broader range of activities.
 

Interestingly, survey responses did suggest that multiple colleges did not view enrichment as something that will help students progress into higher education or pass their main programme.
Among the issues raised were:

  • The impact of inequalities

  • Funding and culture

  • The Covid-19 pandemic

  • The role of student unions

  • Geographical constraints to accessing opportunities
     

But through deeper research interviews with college staff, they found the ways enrichment could support students through their course, providing them with reasons to keep on coming to college, including:

  • Personal support network they may not find during their study programme

  • Encouraging learners to develop their interests and talents

  • Enabling learners to develop their character, including their resilience, confidence and independence skills

  • Teaching learners how to keep physically and mentally healthy

  • Preparing learners for future success

 

Participation in enrichment can broaden the student experience and support their development. However, for some colleges, employability remains the main aim.

Although colleges who use enrichment this way may take a broader approach to employability than students may encounter during their study programme, both employability and enrichment are equally as important as one another.

Ensuring qualifications provide students with real-life skills

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Date | 28 October 2022


 

In an interesting article on FE News, Ian Castledine, Head of Proposition at RM, discusses whether traditional written exams are becoming outdated and not supplying learners with real-life skills. Castledine, among many others, believes that digital skills will be a new way forward. Digital assessments are becoming a large part of the education system in some countries such as Finland, and it is on the rise. A study from Bauhaus Education found that 71% of students in years 10-13 feel as though the current exam system is outdated and needs to be overhauled. Since the lockdown, many universities had to restrict traditional methods of exams and acknowledge that open book assessments were going to be the way forward, rather than an ability to recall information under certain specific conditions.

Castledine suggests, “testing digitally is another one of many options that students should be able to choose when sitting an exam”, as it is obvious that there is no ‘one size fits all’ situation when it comes to learning and assessing. For example, a student who has a talent for numbers and data could explore a career in coding through various courses such as Code Institute and this may not require them to go to university – but a successful assessment model will help them to identify skills that should be prioritised and thus lead them in the right direction.

 

At Navigate, data analysis of the most recent 50,000 psychometric skills assessments taken shows that the lowest-scoring skill was Digital Skills. This suggests that Castledine’s idea would go a long way as it will help learners and young people to develop their digital skills, which is crucial for young people’s work and life outcomes.

CDF Industry Placements have been extended for 2023-2024

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Date | 17 October 2022

 

The team here at Navigate are delighted to hear the news from Gov.uk that capacity and delivery fund (CDF) industry placements have been extended for the 2023-2024 academic year. 

Can FE ever really be more than just a qualification?

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Date | 10 October 2022
 

An article on FE Week posted by Alex Martin, programme leader and sport lecturer at The City of Liverpool College, debates whether FE could ever be more than simply a qualification.
 

Every year, thousands of learners navigate their way through the tumultuous landscape of further education in Europe. The question Martin asked was, ‘what motivates these people to attend, work hard and develop relationships with staff and peers alike?’ The obvious answer is that learners simply want to gain whatever qualifications they find themselves studying towards as this is surely the most important thing in the learner’s educational life. So, the relationships they develop along the way must merely be vehicles to get the learner to the next stage of their journey.

However, at The City of Liverpool College, they focus on hidden curriculum. They have created a personal development programme which encourages the learners to be aware of the world around them; such as social connections and digital skills.

 

Martin considered; ‘do the learners want this?’ as he is unsure whether learners could link these experiences with positive outcomes. This is where the trick power of a hidden curriculum comes into play - through a series of activities such as delivering a small presentation or participating in a fitness test, learners’ experiences can be enrichment and skills development almost without their knowledge, causing them to leave the colleges as better prepared individuals, ready for industry and civic life. Perhaps colleges purely for receiving qualifications, but it is the college’s responsibility and duty to provide more than this.

 

At Navigate we wholeheartedly support the development of the ‘hidden’ curriculum. However, we believe that it is essential for learners to not only experience enrichment, but reflect on the activity as well. This helps them to contextualise the impact it has on their skills, personal development and aspirations. It also ensures that colleges have essential data required for funding and inspection purposes – rather than just recording that activity has happened, the data demonstrates the impact on learners.

 

Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out how Navigate can support your college to manage and record the ‘hidden’ curriculum.

Are students really making informed decisions about their post-school career pathways?

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Date | 24 September 2021

 

The team at CareermapNews undertook a study of almost 2,500 UK-based adults aged between 18-21, with the aim of finding out just how many students felt pressured into choosing a particular course or career path, while undertaking their A-Levels or chosen college course. The study also looked into how many of these students are now happy with their chosen career paths.

Over three quarters of students who took part in the survey revealed they felt pressured by parents and peers to choose a particular university or career path, following the completion of their A-Levels / college course (65%).

 

In addition to this, around 33% of students admitted they opted to go to a particular university just because their friends had applied there too.

60% of young people in U.K. say opportunities to learn job skills worsened by pandemic

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Date | 23 July 2021

Phys.org reports that according to a new student-led study by UCL researchers, sixty percent of students in school, college or university felt their opportunities to learn job skills worsened due to the pandemic. The percentage remained high even when schools and colleges reopened.

The paper includes responses from a panel of 1,542 16-25-year-olds collected during February and May 2021. 

The authors say it is those on the cusp of entering the labor market who need help to become better prepared for a successful transition, especially so when facing an uncertain economic climate.

Co-author, Dr. Ingrid Schoon (UCL Institute of Education) said: "Young people in education and training have suffered the triple whammy of lost learning time, a sharp drop in available work experience placements and internships, and a switch to remote work and online learning, which might not have been possible for all.

"Through closer collaboration between education providers and employers, opportunities to develop valuable work experience, job skills and professional networks are achievable. An evaluation and potential extension of the Kickstart Scheme can be a first step in this direction."

New £135M T Level Capital Fund to upgrade classrooms

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Date | 18 January 2021

FE News reports that Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, has announced a multi-million pound investment that will ensure T Level students have access to the world class facilities and cutting-edge equipment they need to succeed

 

The Investment forms part of the government’s drive to make sure young people gain the skills they need to launch a great career and level up the economy

 

T Level providers across the country can bid for a share of £135 million, through the T Level Capital Fund, to upgrade classrooms and buildings in readiness for students starting courses in September 2022. Part of this funding will also be made available to pay for specialist kit such as surveying equipment and engineering tools to make sure students have access to the industry standard devices they need to be ready for the workplace.

Wolverhampton Council Creates 180 work placements

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Date | 5 December 2020

Young people in Wolverhampton at risk of long-term unemployment are to be given work experience placements by the city council and local businesses, reports the Birmingham Mail

The 'Kickstart' programme will see the council providing up to 180 young people aged 16-24 with paid employment postings within their own services, along with those of a number of partnership firms.

Launched nationally last month, the Government-funded scheme is being run in conjunction with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and will provide placements until December 2021.

Local employers are encouraged to sign up to the programme if they can provide 30 or more work placements before December 2021.

Starting dates can be spread up until the end of that month, with a completion date of all placements by June 2022. Upon approval, each employer will receive a financial grant of £1,500 per posting.

DfE lifts all provider T Level restrictions from 2024

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Date | 26 October 2020

FE Week reports that the Department for Education has announced today any provider delivering 16 to 19 study programmes will be able to run T Levels from 2024. 

In an update to its ‘T Levels: next steps for providers’ document, the Education and Skills Funding Agency said: “By 2024 all T Levels will have been delivered for at least a year and we will be moving towards full national roll-out.  

“Therefore from 2024, T Levels will be available to be delivered by all providers delivering 16 to 19 study programmes.” 

This will affect colleges, school and independent sixth forms, and certain independent training providers, and will come after the remainder of the 25 T Level routes are intended to have been rolled-out in 2023. 

£100m pilot integrated into £2.5bn National Skills Fund

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Date | 12 October 2020

The government’s national retraining scheme pilot has been rolled into the national skills fund, Gillian Keegan announced today.

In a ministerial statement, the skills minister said the decision to amalgamate the two programmes was taken in order to “reduce complexity” in the adult education landscape.

 

The retraining scheme was first announced in the 2017 Budget to help adults retrain into “better” jobs, with £100 million set aside for the next three years to test and develop the scheme.

The digital service acts as a course and job directory. It allows users to identify and input their current skills and then based on those skills, offer suggestions for training and alternative employment. The service then directs users to vacancies in their area based on the suggestions provided.

Covid-19 forecasting app for colleges launched

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Date | 10 October 2020

A new app that forecasts the spread of Covid-19 in colleges has been launched.

Developed by the University of Exeter in collaboration with colleges, the free online tool is said to analyse individual college data according to various inputs such as class-based bubbles, larger year group bubbles and attendance on different days.

It also allows the user to input community infection rates as well as information about how they are running their college to forecast how many people may need to self-isolate and other steps they can take to minimise disruption.

The app is still in its beta edition, but after a “successful trial” with several colleges, the app is now available to every college in the country.

Boris Johnson announces 'radical' plan to boost vocational training

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Date | 1 October 2020

Boris Johnson has promised to end the “pointless, nonsensical gulf” between university and vocational education, in what he called a “radical” shakeup of funding for post-18 education.

Giving an speech at Exeter college, Johnson said the Covid-19 pandemic had “massively accelerated” changes in the economy that were already under way, such as the shift to online shopping.

He said adults would need the ability to acquire the “technical know-how” to work in new industries, because “as old types of employment fall away, new opportunities are opening up with dizzying speed”.

Wellbeing for Education Return Fund is now open

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Date | 28 September 2020

The Wellbeing for Education Return programme will support staff working in schools and colleges to respond to the additional pressures some children and young people may be feeling as a direct result of the pandemic, as well as to any emotional response they or their teachers may still be experiencing from bereavement, stress, trauma or anxiety over the past months"

North-east firm launches virtual work experience scheme

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Date | 14 September 2020

Here's a great virtual work experience initiative from the engineering firm Halliday Fraser Munro. 

"A north-east architecture firm has set up a virtual work experience scheme for students who would have missed out on placements.

Halliday Fraser Munro has launched its Virtual Studio, which will give students in architecture, planning or construction the opportunity to learn from its teams online.

The firm said many students would have been unable to complete placements or internships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Managing director David Halliday said: “Providing opportunities for students to develop and grow in their chosen field of architecture, planning and construction has always been an important focus for the whole team at Halliday Fraser Munro.

“The Virtual Studio will deliver webinars to enhance student’s knowledge of the latest topics affecting the industry and gives us the opportunity to make connections with the next generation of talent and to help them transition from the studio to the office.”

T Levels launch but classes not full

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Date | 10 September 2020

Colleges and schools have missed two-thirds of their T Level enrolment targets, with digital proving to be the toughest subject to sell to students, according to early findings from an FE Week survey.

But leaders are still celebrating the initial figures, which could increase slightly as recruitment continues in the coming weeks, considering the impact of Covid-19 and the chaos of this summer’s GCSE exams.

Skills minister Gillian Keegan said the early indications were that recruitment had progressed “well in the circumstances” and produced a “viable cohort” across the country.

The first ever T Levels – which have been five years in the making and described as the “gold standard” in technical education to sit alongside their academic equivalent A-levels – launched this month in three subjects: construction, digital and education and childcare.

Here’s how to get the edge when looking for work

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Date | 10 September 2020

We found this great article over on BBC Bitesize that is encouraging young people to access Labour Market Information.

 

It's well worth forwarding on to your students along with some links to your college LMI site.

 

You can find the article here. 
 

Introducing Navigate updates to customers this week

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Date | 19 November 2019 

 

It's been such a pleasure introducing the recent Navigate update to our customer colleges this week. We're proud to have created an easy-to-use platform that saves WEXP teams 1.5 hours of admin per work placement, giving them more time to focus on building employer relationships and supporting learners.

What did the Queen's speech say about FE?

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Date | 14 November 2019

Continuing positive messages re. medium-term funding for T Levels: "Background documents for the Queen's Speech repeat the £400m funding pledge and support for the introduction of T levels"

The impact of external speakers on pupils' motivation, attitude, and self-belief

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Date | 09 November 2019

Some good research from Speakers for Schools and Education and Employers. This is a particularly powerful finding: "Students who could not recall any talks were five times more likely to believe that their background held them back in achieving their ambitions compared to those who could recall eight or more talks"

T Level Industry Placements Podcast with AOC's David Hughes

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Date | 26 November 2019

This is well worth a listen from David Hughes, Chief Exec at the Association of Colleges. Heartening to hear that the AoC has been lobbying the DfE to build flexibility into Industry placements.

 

There's so much fantastic work happening across the country to ensure T-Levels are a success, so good to know govt. is listening to best practice coming from the pilots.

Child happiness hits lowest in decade

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Date | 15 October 2019

Worrying news from The Children's Society... "The Good Childhood Report found a third (33%) of 10-17-year-olds have concerns about whether they will have enough money in the future, with more than a quarter (29%) worrying about having a job. Elsewhere it showed most common worries among 10 to 17 year olds were crime (42%), followed by the environment (41%) and information sharing online (37%)"

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