A week of celebrations with National Apprenticeship Week, National Careers Week and World Book Day, all taking place this week and attracting varying degrees of comment respectively.
Much of the noise has been around apprenticeships which was excellently showcased in many areas during this week but where a new report from the National Audit Office brought to a head some of the current underlying issues. Many were familiar, at least to those in the system, but as the AoC’s Julian Gravatt put it; ‘we have an apprenticeship funding system in which lots of people don’t feel they’re getting a fair deal.’ Managing costs, quality and the market were three clear themes to emerge from the report and reactions.
In Westminster this week, the government offered funding to help towns and regions beef up local skill levels as part of its Stronger Towns Fund. MPs debated school funding again but with few firm outcomes, the BEIS Committee heard from industry reps as part of its Inquiry into automation and the future of work, and the build up to next week’s Spring Statement by the Chancellor continued with the FT and the Resolution Foundation among others weighing in with their thoughts. Low key but important in setting the future economic landscape, being the general view of the line the Chancellor will take when he presents his Statement next Wednesday, hemmed in as he may be by some important Brexit votes.
It’s been an important week too in HE where University Mental Health Day saw the Education Secretary announce a new taskforce to look particularly at helping with the transition into university life. Elsewhere, the IfS published an interesting Paper on the variable distribution of government grants and loans, the HE Policy Institute surveyed students on university financial health, a big talking point recently, and discussion about the post-18 review continued with interesting thoughts from both sides of the ‘fence,’ FE and HE, on what should come out of the post-18 review.
In FE and skills, away from apprenticeships, the Sixth Form Colleges Association’s latest funding impact survey made fairly grim reading highlighting cuts to programmes and support. The wider post-16 picture was evident in the latest Omnibus Survey which showed how providers were coping with change, and talking of coping with change, the Skills Commission announced a new review of what the skills system needs to do to cope with more change. Lots of talk of change in other words.
Finally, for schools away from school funding, Ofqual published an interesting blog on exam marking but the big talking point this week has been gangs and knife crime, what to do and where responsibilities lie. There’s been considerable discussion, particularly in the pages of The Times, about the role of schools. The government may be awaiting its commissioned Timpson Review but the temperature is rising.