FE News Update - 5 March 2019

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League tables to rank ‘best apprenticeship’ employer

To coincide with this week’s 12th National Apprenticeship Week (March 4-8), education secretary Damian Hinds has announced the government is developing a national league table of employers that are making the biggest efforts to promote apprenticeships, TES reports. The scheme will include a top 100 ‘league table’ of large employers and a top 50 equivalent for small and medium size businesses, both of which will be published annually and selected by an independent judging panel. A special quality mark will be awarded to employers running high quality apprenticeship schemes. National Apprenticeship Week itself is an annual focus on encouraging more employers and school-leavers/existing employees to offer apprenticeships and start or build on careers. It promotes and celebrates apprenticeships ranging from level 2 (GCSE equivalent) to levels 6 and 7 (first and postgraduate degree) and is being marked by a host of college open days, factory visits and other special events across the country. 

Scotland launches apprentice network for schools

Scotland is placing apprenticeships centre stage this week by launching a nationwide apprentice network linking schools with apprentices, reports TES. It aims to break down barriers and misconceptions and inspire pupils to take up apprenticeships by providing a volunteer ‘ambassador’ apprentice from the network to work as a role model with every school. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given the scheme her full backing by launching the network at the start of Scotland’s own national apprenticeship week.

Teachers fight corner over lesson observation

The proposed introduction of a graded system of lesson observations for all teachers has been rejected by teachers at a sixth form college run by Shrewsbury Colleges Group, according to TES. The teachers plan to take strike action over six days after the college, merged with another institution in 2016, has sought to streamline lesson observation across the group and wishes to grade and categorise lesson quality from ‘outstanding’ (grade 1) to inadequate (grade 4). An NEU teaching union rep says a poor grade can damage a teacher’s self-esteem and even end careers, and causes high stress levels during the observations. The college says the merger has resulted in ‘significantly improved’ pay and conditions for most teachers and no redundancies. For the past two years most lesson observations had led to grades of either ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’, and the college was seeking more differentiation in grading to improve feedback to teachers in supporting their professional development.

T-level work placement rules under review 

Concerns about lack of work placement opportunities for T-level students appear to have been heard by government planners, FE Week reports. During a recent webinar run by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, a leading T-level developer said the T-level requirement to include a single placement lasting a minimum 315 hours per student is being re-examined in a search for more flexibility. This could mean offering an alternative to one long placement in the form of a series of shorter industrial placements at different employers, particularly affecting students in rural and other areas that lack sufficient numbers of employers able to offer the longer, one-off placements.

Richard Doughty

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