Lecturers in Welsh FE and sixth form colleges will get a 2.75% pay rise at the start of the next financial year, the Labour-led Welsh government confirmed last week. The move puts lecturers on the same pay level as Welsh schoolteachers who received a similar increase last year. In addition, new lecturer recruits will get a 5% pay rise. The government is contributing £6m - 1.75% of the increase - with the remaining 1% coming from college budgets, according to Dafydd Evans, chair of the Colleges Wales Principals’ Forum.
This weekend still saw no sign that the FE and skills brief would be allocated to a specific minister, despite sector pressure on Downing Street. In recent months, Gavin Williamson, who retains his post as education secretary of state, has filled the role as part of his overall brief. Meanwhile, Lord Agnew leaves his post of academies minister (appointed in 2017), which included responsibility for college financial oversight, reports TES. He is moving to the Cabinet Office and Treasury joint minister of state. Only last week he sent a letter to all schools reminding them to open more doors to colleges and apprenticeship providers. Michelle Donelan becomes universities minister, after filling in for Kemi Badenoch (on maternity leave) as children and families minister. Badenoch becomes a Treasury minister, while Baroness Berridge becomes a junior minister at the Department for Education, with responsibilities not yet confirmed.
A damning Ofsted report on the struggling national college focusing on HS2, which was due out last week, has so far had publication legally blocked by college governors, reports FE Week. The action has been linked with Downing Street’s decision to go ahead with the controversial HS2 project late last week. Following an additional government injection of just over £4.5m, the recently renamed College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure (NCATI) was set to receive Ofsted’s lowest grade rating. The Department for Education says formal intervention measures were put in place in December. The college says it has also temporarily suspended publication of board minutes since January, so as not to ‘prejudice' the current independent HS2 review. It says delays in announcing new HS2 contractors has meant college recruitment for apprentices has dropped way behind targets and contributed to its financial difficulties.
The government has firmed up who will benefit from the £5,000 maintenance grants announced in December to boost student numbers in key NHS areas. From next September, the money (which does not need to be repaid) will go to new and continuing nursing and midwifery students and many allied health students on pre-registration courses at English universities and other HE institutions. Details released last week show the grants will benefit those studying in areas including paramedics, radiography and physiotherapy. In addition, a separate payment of up to £3,000 (up to £1,000 for each category) can be applied for by students with childcare costs, those studying in a region short on recruits, and new students studying one of five shortage specialisms: mental health nursing, learning disability nursing, radiography, prosthetics and orthotics, and orthoptics and podiatry. Both types of grant come alongside current support such as student loans.