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Wednesday 6 March 2019: Apprenticeships, school funding and further education

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Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at apprenticeships, school funding and further education.


Today, Wednesday 6 March, BBC Breakfast ran a segment on apprentices who have retrained from different careers.

The piece included short videos with numerous apprentices who spoke positively about their experience, including Sarah Eley, a star of the ‘Fire It Up’ campaign, who is doing a nursing apprenticeship.

Also today, the National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on apprenticeships. The report includes a number of findings, including that the government has not demonstrated whether reforms made to apprenticeships are boosting productivity, with numbers of apprenticeships below previous levels. The NAO also states that since introducing its reforms the department has improved how it assesses the benefits of the programme. This report has been covered by the Times, the Financial Times, City AM and the Mirror.

Apprenticeship and Skills Minister Anne Milton said:

The apprenticeship programme gives employers the opportunity to provide new and existing staff with a range of opportunities to gain skills in the workplace and makes sure we have long term investment in apprenticeships.

The number of people starting training on our new employer designed standards is rising year on year and we will continue to work with employers to help them develop their apprenticeship programmes. Apprenticeships enable people to get a great job and career, and give employers the skilled workforce they need.

We have increased flexibility for levy paying employers so they can transfer 10% of their levy funds to other employers and we will increase this to 25% from April.

School Funding

There has been further coverage across national and social media on school funding. Yesterday, Labour MP Jess Phillips, tweeted about a letter from her son’s school, which said that the school would close early on Fridays due to funding pressures. There was national coverage on this and wider school funding criticisms in the Guardian, the Express, the Times, I News, the Mirror and the Star.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Any changes made to the school day need to be reasonable and parents need to be adequately consulted before changes are made, so that they can make alternative arrangements for childcare.

We have protected the core schools budget overall in real terms since 2010, and put an additional £1.3bn into core schools funding across 2018-19 and 2019-20, over and above plans set out at the last Spending Review. IFS figures show the average primary school class receives £132,000 of funding. And that funding per pupil in primary schools will be up by 8% in 2019-20, compared to 2009-10.

While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more. That’s why we’re supporting schools and head teachers, and their local authorities, to make the most of every pound.

Further Education

Today, the Sixth Form Colleges Association has released a report which is critical of funding for post-16 education. The Association’s poll of school and college leaders shows that schools and colleges are reducing foreign language and STEM classes as well as student support services. This has been covered by the Guardian and the Times.

We are aware of the importance of funding for sixth form colleges and have protected the base rate funding for 16-19 year olds until 2020.

Since the introduction of the EBacc in 2010, there has been an increase in the proportion of pupils in state funded schools taking a language GCSE: from 40% in 2010, to 46% in 2018.

This year, we are providing additional funding to support institutions to increase participation in advanced maths qualifications – this means that sixth forms will receive £600 for every additional student studying AS or A Level Maths.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Our further education and sixth form colleges have a vital role to play in making sure people have the skills they need to get on in life. That is why we have protected the base rate of funding for 16-19 year olds until 2020.

We will also be providing £500m every year, from 2020 to support the delivery of the new gold standard T levels – which some Sixth Form Colleges will be offering.

However, we recognise that the financial position for sixth form colleges is challenging and are looking carefully at the needs of all colleges in the run-up to the next Spending Review.

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