‘Government should say more about how it will promote vocational routes’

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told the House of Lords Social Mobility Committee today that government should do more on promoting vocational routes.

He appeared in front of the committee flanked by his chief operating officer, Matthew Coffey (pictured below right), to give evidence on the role of the education watchdog in providing skills and employment opportunities for under-served groups of young people.

“We need to say a lot more about apprenticeships … perhaps government should say a lot more about what it is going to do to promote a strong vocational offer in schools and post-16, it’s not just up to Ofsted to say we’re going to do this,” said Sir Michael.

He added the fact that only 5 per cent of young people were going into apprenticeships, and only 3 per cent from disadvantaged backgrounds, was “a nonsense” that must be addressed.

He also called on head teachers to make sure their students understood the opportunities outside the school and criticised some for encouraging learners to stay on into sixth form when other pathways might be better.

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Providers urged to think about what technology ‘will do for learners’

The impact technology has on learners is more important to Ofsted than the technology itself, a former inspector told delegates at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ Learning Technologies Expo 2015.

Kerry Boffey (pictured above), director of the Adult Learning Improvement Network, said providers needed to think about what technology “will do for learners”.

“Does it speed up their learning? Does it make it more enjoyable? More interactive? More accessible? What difference does it make to their learning?” she said.

“That’s how technology is used in your self-assessment and in your inspection preparation and while you’re being inspected.”

Ofsted inspectors, she said, “don’t want to see technology — they want to see how you use technology, and the difference it makes to those learners”.

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Apprenticeships levy plan described as a ‘massive game changer’ at AELP autumn conference

The government’s planned apprenticeship levy has been described as a “massive game changer” by chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) David Hughes.

Mr Hughes (pictured above) was glowing in his praise for the levy, which was first announced by chancellor George Osborne in July and has come in for fierce criticismfrom the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), at today’s Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) conference in Coventry.

He said that the charge on large employers would be “massive game changer” that presented a “massive opportunity” to improve vocational training as the government tries to hit its target of creating 3m apprenticeships by 2020.

“We’ve got probably £1.5m coming into the sector [through the levy],” Mr Hughes added.

“What other bit of the public sector is going to get additional funding as a result of the spending review?”

Stewart Segal, AELP chief executive, also told the conference that he was “amazed” that the government had opted for the levy.

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Tackle ‘Mickey Mouse apprenticeships’ before they damage vocational education

The head of Ofsted has warned against apprenticeships with skills in ‘making tea and cleaning floors’ – we need to make sure standards are rigorous

The Government’s announcement in 2014 of their intention to create three million more apprenticeships by 2020, was – as expected – both welcomed and challenged across the education and business sectors.

Sceptics questioned how such ambitious plans could be implemented without forfeiting both quality within the qualifications or the budgets for the training of current employees.

So far, the number of apprenticeships has increased to 374,200 this year, a rise of 59,600 from last year: still a long way off the target. But it seems that, at the moment anyway, the figure of three million is of small concern compared with the worrying standards that are coming to light in some apprenticeships.

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‘Sir Michael Wilshaw: End apprenticeships for making coffee and cleaning floors’

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is expected to criticise apprenticeship providers who accredit low level skills.

Apprenticeships are being awarded for “low-level” skills like making coffee and mopping floors, the head of Ofsted is expected to say this week.

The Government has committed to delivering three million apprenticeships in the next five years, but chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw will accuse employers and providers of wasting taxpayer money on poor quality qualifications.

Learners are not being stretched by low-level apprenticeships, which are especially common in service jobs like retail and care, according to an Ofsted report.

Unscrupulous providers are accrediting skills like making coffee and cleaning floors, with some recruits unaware they are even on an apprenticeship programme.

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‘New Ofqual framework to focus on outcomes’

Ofqual’s replacement for the Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) will give awarding organisations more freedom to review and develop their qualifications, the watchdog’s vocational qualifications boss has said.

The new Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), which comes into force on October 1, will take away the rules and structure of the QCF and instead focus on outcomes.

Speaking at the Skills and Employability Summit in London, on Thursday (September 17), executive director for vocational qualifications at Ofqual Jeremy Benson said: “A valid qualification must assess skills and knowledge sufficiently well.

“It enables assessment results to be interpreted and used appropriately, and allowing people to be confident that those results can be relied upon.

“Having a detailed set of rules specific to vocational qualifications is not the best way of securing validity,” he added.

Mr Benson said that the change is part of Ofqual’s aim to improve people’s confidence in vocational qualifications, and comes after a review and consultation over the QCF, carried out over the past year.

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Apprentice numbers ‘disaster’

The number of young people employed as apprentices in England is “a disaster” and Ofsted inspectors will be ensuring schools are promoting “all the options” to learners, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has told MPs.

Sir Michael appeared in front of the new education select committee on Wednesday (September 16), where he faced questions about the role of Ofsted.

Quizzed by MPs about the importance of destination data for both schools and colleges, Sir Michael said an “important” line of questioning for school head teachers would be about post-16 options and careers advice.

He said: “What’s really important for inspections of secondary schools is that HMI ask questions about post-16 provision, whether schools and head teachers of secondary schools are providing youngsters with all the information that they need to make good choices and not restricting that information to get youngsters into their own sixth form.”

“That’s really important and that’s going to be a big emphasis this year. We are going to be asking a lot more about careers guidance than ever before,” he added.

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‘Apprenticeships aren’t just for the young’

Once thought to be the territory of school leavers and those under 25, the concept of internships and apprenticeships is undergoing a change – albeit very slowly.

While work placements for anyone over the age of 25 may seem like a pipe dream in the real world, Hollywood seems to be enthralled by the idea.

This months’, ‘The Intern‘ will see Robert De Niro starring as a 70-year-old widower who becomes a senior intern at an online fashion website and 2013’s, similarly named, ‘The Internship‘ saw Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play middle-aged, recently redundant, salesmen who quickly learn the world doesn’t cater to them anymore.

For a growing number of people, an internship (often unpaid) or an apprenticeship is seen as a necessary and vital step towards employment.

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‘New quality and access to apprenticeship fund proposed by Niace’

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) has called for a new fund to help improve the quality and access to apprenticeships.

The proposal was part of its submission, lodged with partner organisation the Centre for Social Inclusion (Inclusion), to a consultation which closed on Friday (September 4) on the government’s 2015 spending review.

A Niace spokesperson said that the new fund should be “ring-fenced from funding raised through the [proposed] apprenticeship levy” for large employers.

It would be invested in “widening access to apprenticeships from underrepresented groups and fund employer-led quality initiatives to enhance outcomes for apprentices and businesses”, the spokesperson added.

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‘Broken Boles promise leads to Trailblazer criticism’

Skills Minister Nick Boles has broken his promise to the House of Commons Education Select Committee that there would be “many fewer” new apprenticeship Trailblazer standards than the frameworks they will replace by 2017.

He told committee members in January that he was worried about the “unbelievable proliferation” in the number of frameworks, which currently stands at 334, adding “what I promise you we will achieve, is many fewer standards”.

But Graham Stuart, who was chair of the committee at the time, has hit out at the government’s streamlining effort after it was revealed that more than 350 standards have already either been delivered or are being developed.

The Conservative MP said that Mr Boles “told my then committee earlier this year that there was an ‘unbelievable proliferation’ of different standards and this represents a missed opportunity to address the problem”.

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