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Extra University Places Announced

Over 9,000 additional places approved at UK universities for courses to deliver vital services and support the economy.

Published 30 July 2020 From: Department for EducationDepartment of Health and Social Care, and Michelle Donelan MP

Michelle Donelan

Extra university places for engineering, science and nursing courses have been made available for September, the Universities Minister has announced today.

Michelle Donelan has confirmed that the Government has approved over 9,000 additional places at UK universities for courses that will deliver vital services, support the economy and generate positive outcomes for students and the taxpayer.

As part of the Government’s aim to drive an increase in science and innovation and encourage STEM subject take-up, it has approved more than 1,300 extra university places for engineering courses, 756 places for bio-sciences and almost 500 for maths courses.

A total of 5,611 places for healthcare courses have also been allocated at universities in England to support the NHS, with 3,803 of these additional places going to nursing courses.

Last month the Prime Minister stated that investing in skills is crucial to our economic recovery post-coronavirus.

Today’s announcement will not only help thousands more people gain knowledge that will help them progress in life, but also to help rebuild Britain.

Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:

The coronavirus will not stop us from boosting growth in vital subjects like science, engineering, and maths.

These courses not only deliver some of the best outcomes for students, they will also be integral to driving innovation, helping our public services and building the skills the country needs.

Bids for extra places were assessed on the quality of each provider, including their rates of continuation and graduate employment outcomes. In total there were 3,859 eligible bids from 38 providers for additional places on courses of strategic importance. All bids that met the set criteria have been accepted.

Bids for healthcare courses in England totalled 5,611 and the Department for Health and Social care have accepted all additional places.

The allocation of places announced today follows the introduction of temporary student number controls, in which institutions were given the opportunity to bid for 10,000 additional places – at least 5,000 for healthcare courses and 5,000 for courses of strategic importance.

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ESFA Procurement Opportunity

ESFA procurement opportunity launching soon for providers to access additional funding to deliver 19 to 24 AEB funded traineeships.

Published 29 July 2020 From: Education and Skills Funding Agency

Stock image of a person writing on a piece of paper.

Following the publication of the government’s Plan for Jobs  which included a £111 million investment to triple the number of traineeships available, we are planning a procurement opportunity so providers can access funding to deliver 19 to 24 adult education budget (AEB) funded traineeships.

We will be looking for providers with the capacity to start providing high-quality traineeships quickly through a ring-fenced contract for service. Details about how we will manage new traineeship opportunities for 16 to 18-year-olds will be published shortly.

Opportunities to bid for additional 19 to 24 AEB traineeship funding will be handled through the Department for Education’s e-sourcing portal. Organisations who do not already have an existing account must register one as this is the only method to access tendering documentation. You can register online.

The Plan for Jobs included a commitment to provide thousands of new traineeships to get young people aged 16 to 24 (up to 25 for those with an Education, Health and Care Plan) in England into work.

As well as an investment of £111m for 2020 to 2021, there are new flexibilities and opportunities which will strengthen traineeships and widen access to them for young people:

  • young people qualified up to Level 3 (rather than Level 2 previously) are now eligible for a traineeship
  • there is a more flexible work experience offer of minimum 70 hours, with multiple employers if needed
  • we want to see flexible content and qualifications that prepares trainees for progression to apprenticeships and jobs through a direct line of sight to the occupational standards
  • an increased AEB traineeship learning aim cost of £1500.
  • employers who offer new traineeship work placements will receive £1,000 per learner (up to ten learners) to support engagement and assist with costs such as the purchase of additional PPE for trainees
  • traineeships can now last up to 12 months, allowing twice as much time on a programme for those young people with particular needs who need it. We still expect traineeships to support young people into work as quickly as possible.
  • we want traineeships to move young people towards work or an apprenticeship more than ever before. 

We will publish an updated traineeships framework for delivery and funding rules over the next month.

ESFA Update: 29 July 2020

Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.


ESFA Update further education: 29 July 2020

ESFA Update academies: 29 July 2020

ESFA Update local authorities: 29 July 2020

Items for further education
Informationlatest information on coronavirus (COVID-19)
ReminderFE teacher training grants and bursaries for 2020 to 2021 academic year
ReminderJuly financial collection from colleges deadline
Information2019 to 2020 adult education budget (AEB) reconciliation
Informationsupplementary bulletin to the college accounts direction and post-16 audit code of practice
InformationESFA procurement opportunity launching soon for providers to access additional funding to deliver 19 to 24 adult education budget (AEB) funded traineeships
Informationhigh value courses for school and college leavers: a one year offer for 18 and 19-year-olds
Information16 to 19 tuition fund
Information16 to 19 study programme guidance for 2020 to 2021
Informationversion 2, ESFA adult education budget (AEB) funding and performance management rules 2020 to 2021
Informationindividualised learner record (ILR) funding returns guidance for 2020 to 2021
Informationapprenticeship service new employer agreement
Informationqualification achievement rates (QARs) for 2019 to 2020
Items for academies
Informationlatest information on coronavirus (COVID-19)
InformationAcademies Accounts Direction supplementary bulletin
Informationbudget forecast return 3 year (BFR3Y) 2020
Informationhigh value courses for school and college leavers: a one year offer for 18 and 19-year-olds
Information16 to 19 tuition fund
Items for local authorities
Informationlatest information on coronavirus (COVID-19)
Informationhigh value courses for school and college leavers: a one year offer for 18 and 19-year-olds
Information16 to 19 tuition fund
Informationversion 2, ESFA adult education budget (AEB) funding and performance management rules 2020 to 2021
Informationindividualised learner record (ILR) funding returns guidance for 2020 to 2021
Informationqualification achievement rates (QARs) for 2019 to 2020

Published 29 July 2020

Virtual International Conference – Evolving Education and Careers

The Virtual Conference

The world has experienced major economic, social and technology impacts. Societies everywhere are undergoing deep transformation. Climate change, an ageing workforce and skills gaps are major issues that governments need to address. Only time will tell what the impact of the current health crisis will have in the medium and long-term. As a consequence, careers will evolve in response to a dynamically changing environment. How will this affect jobs, training, employment, the gig economy and/or unemployment in the future? We will be exploring forward-thinking approaches to careers support systems drawing on international good and interesting policies and practices.

For leaders, educators, career development, HR and employment specialists a fundamental question is: – how best can individuals be better prepared to adapt and prosper through lifelong learning and work? Individuals’ must be well equipped with the mindsets and tools they need to find and benefit from purposeful learning and work opportunities. Organisations working with young people and/or adults in differing contexts will need agile responses to meet citizens’ needs.

With all this in mind, time away to network with experts and like-minded colleagues is just what the doctor ordered. This year’s theme is Evolving Careers. Delegates will learn from experts and peers whilst sharing experiences, research and best practise to take back to the day job of helping to transform people’s lives.

Conference Content

  • International keynote speakers
  • Breakout sessions hosted by leading experts and contributors

Session topics include;

  • Career-related learning in primary schools
  • An evolving curriculum in secondary, tertiary, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education settings
  • Future scoping careers
  • Digital innovations
  • Building Partnerships
  • How to Make a Difference to Those That Need Support Most
  • Youth Transitions: Creating Pathways to Success
  • Adults in the workplace
  • Labour markets: where next?
  • Tackling unemployment
  • Lifelong guidance
  • Social inclusion

*these are subject to change

  • Interactive Q&A panel debates
  • Digital delegate toolkit packed with valuable resources

Why Attend?

Our conference last year was a great success with delegates rating it 4.4 out of 5 in terms of value, content and relevance to their needs.

This year we have mixed our successful formula with some great new features and benefits but don’t just take our word for it, this is what our delegates had to say after the 2019 conference;

“It was inspirational to share so many elements of practice and research in one place. The calibre of speakers and content (including the toolkit) was exceptional.”

“Inspiring, positive, brilliantly organised. A day well spent.”

“The conference blended the worlds of academia research with great examples of careers work from around the world. We want more!”

“A wonderful conference, full of insight. Can’t wait for the next one.”

“The conference offered a great opportunity to interact with thought leaders on important topics relating to career development. Excellent venue and well organised.”

Book Your Place

Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis and conference is free to attend for a limited number of earlybird registrations.

Please book your tickets from our Eventbrite booking page.

For all conference queries contact our event organiser Nina Hurst-jones nina@theeventorganiser.co.uk . Book your place

Watch the success of last years conference

The Edge Foundation is an independent foundation working to inspire the education system to give all young people across the UK the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to flourish in their future life and work. Longtime advocates of high quality careers education and guidance, they are delighted to be supporting this event.

Redundancy: Seven Questions Employers Should Ask Themselves

By Richard Thomas Employment Law Partner Capital Law 

What are your legal requirements as an employer when making redundancies?

Serious sad woman in sweater carrying cardboard box full of stuff and leaving office after dismissal

In the volatile market situation we find ourselves in at present, redundancies may be unavoidable for some organisations, but there are certain legal obligations that need to be fulfilled when employers take this route. Here, we’ll look at seven key aspects employers should consider before embarking on this.

1. Is redundancy a ‘legally straightforward’ way of dismissing employees?

Not really. There are plenty of variables that can easily complicate and delay a redundancy process. These include an employee’s length of service, the number of employees at risk, the involvement of a trade union, the number of sites affected, and the timescales involved. Add to these the logistics of trying to arrange the consultation process mid-pandemic, and it can quickly become difficult.

2. What is required before I can start a redundancy process?

The key condition is that a ‘genuine redundancy’ situation must be proven. In the current context, it would be relatively easy for many businesses to show that they find themselves in such a situation.

There is no one-size-fits-all test, but the situation must fall within one or more of the following categories: a business closure (the business shuts altogether); a workplace closure (the business is partly shut/ is relocated); or a reduction of workforce (the business no longer has sufficient work for some or all its staff).

As well as the impact of Covid-19, other scenarios could include a reduction in demand and/or customers, automating systems and streamlining staff.

3. How should I choose the employees to be made redundant?

At the outset, the business should ‘identify the ‘pool’ – i.e. the group of employees from which it will choose those who are to be made redundant.

When choosing those who are to be made redundant, fair and objective selection criteria should be used. Common examples can include length of service; disciplinary history; performance, skills, qualifications, experience and appraisals.

Selection criteria should not be based on unlawful/unfair grounds, such as an employee’s age, sex or race (discriminatory factors), absence for family, maternity, or disability related reasons, a role as a trade union or employee representative, or whistleblowing.

There is usually no requirement to consider any selection criteria if all employees are being made redundant, or if there is a pool of one.

4. Do I need to consider any alternatives to compulsory redundancy?

One option to consider at the outset is to offer voluntary redundancy. This might reduce the number of employees in the process, or prevent it happening altogether.

Before and during any meaningful process, you should consider other ways in which compulsory redundancies could be avoided, or at least reduced. This might include:

  • Identifying and offering alternative employment.
  • Recruitment freezes.
  • Reviewing and ending contractor arrangements.
  • Reducing overtime.
  • Allowing sabbaticals, flexible or reduced working, career breaks etc.
  • Cutting bonuses and other benefit schemes.
  • Early retirement.

If an employee has two years’ service or more, employers will be under a legal obligation to consider alternatives like the above, or otherwise be faced with the risk of a claim for unfair dismissal.

Employees and their representatives may also have their own suggestions on how to avoid a redundancy situation, which should come to light during the consultation process.

5. Do I need to think about collective consultation?

Quite possibly. In addition to individual consultation, if the number of proposed redundancies will be 20 or more within a period of 90 days at a single establishment, this will trigger collective consultation requirements. These include:

  • Notifying the Redundancy Payments Service before any consultation starts.
  • Consulting with trade union/elected employee representatives, and providing them with certain prescribed information.
  • An obligatory freeze on any redundancies taking effect for a 30-day period for 20 to 99 redundancies, or 45 days for 100 or more redundancies in 90 days.

Failing to follow these rules can prove costly. An employment tribunal can award up to 90 days’ uncapped pay per affected employee where an employer has breached its obligations.

If fewer than 20 redundancies are proposed, there are no strict collective consultation rules to follow, but it is always best practice to fully consult employees (and their representatives if applicable) throughout the process.

6. How do I consult during the pandemic?

If businesses remain open and staffed, and it is possible to do so, the traditional way of consulting face-to-face and electing representatives (within social distancing guidelines) may still be a viable option.

For many businesses, however, the alternative virtual route may be best. Employers can, just as efficiently, inform and consult employees through Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype etc. Provided that the legal requirements are met, conducting the process remotely should not prove to be an obstacle for employers.

Similarly, employers who have been required to arrange elections of employee representatives (which should be done by secret ballot) have found online tools such as Doopoll and SurveyMonkey useful for gathering nominations, while still protecting anonymity.

7. What will I need to pay redundant employees?

If an employee has two years’ continuous service or more, they will normally be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment (SRP) – calculated on the basis of their age, pay and length of service, and paid tax-free. There is also a weekly cap (currently £538) and a total cap (currently £16,140) when it comes to calculating SRP.

Some businesses may also offer enhanced redundancy packages, over and above SRP, which may also be paid tax-free (but not guaranteed) up to £30,000.

For those who have less than two years’ service, there is no automatic legal right to SRP. The employee’s contract and all redundancy-related policy documents should be checked, however, to make sure that no such right exists.

In addition, redundant employees (regardless of their length of service) will be entitled to their notice period and pay at the end of the procedure. Depending on the employee’s contract, you may be able to make a payment in lieu of their notice period (otherwise known as PILON).

Top 10 Communication and Collaboration Tools
July 28, 2020

Apps and other software tools can enable improved communication and collaboration within the workplace – here’s a guide to ten of the best.

By: Francesca Cassidy
collaboration tools

Never has it been more important to be able to collaborate and communicate remotely. The coronavirus outbreak has completely disrupted how we work, and those organisations without the proper tools will suffer. Luckily, there are more tools than ever before to choose from.

01 Slack

What began as a messaging tool for video game developers has evolved into the full-service collaboration platform we now call Slack. It is an easy-to-use messaging service and integrates with popular services such as Twitter and Dropbox. Conversations or channels are organised by topic of which you can have as many as you like. The design is slick and simple, and you can share any file type (including photos and videos) with colleagues in a fraction of the time it would take to email them. (Interestingly, teams who use Slack claim to see an average 48.6 per cent reduction in internal email). It also has video call functionality for up to 15 participants, for those days when you need to see your fellow workers’ faces.

02 Cisco WebEx

This video conferencing giant was formed in 2007 and one of the biggest players in the space (it is one of the most widely-used online meeting tools in the world.) WebEx’s major selling points include its high quality, designed to make users feel as though they are in the room with their colleagues. Users can host and join meetings, share screens and documents and easily pass control between team members when giving presentations or writing on virtual white boards. Typically used for team collaboration, webinars, training and customer support, it is now a crucial tool for organisations working from home.

03 Zoom

Labelled the “business story of 2020”, remote conferencing company Zoom has been one of the few real success stories amid the global pandemic. The cloud-based service combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration. Currently the second-most downloaded app in the world, its stock has soared while the markets plummeted, fainting more than 100 per cent since the beginning of the year. Its main pros are clean, high-quality audio and video, calls can be recorded for future review, screens can be shared with ease, and events can be scheduled, exported to calendars and guests invited, so no one in your team need ever miss a call.

04 Microsoft Teams/Office 365

Technology heavyweight, Microsoft, is another oft-cited purveyor of collaboration and communication tools worthy of respect. For collaboration, there is Office 365 with its unsurpassed range of features. The cloud-based solution offers all the traditional word processing, spreadsheet and slide-show capabilities, and lets multiple people edit the same documents in real time. Microsoft’s video conferencing offering, Teams, now comes bundled in with lots of Office 365 packages, and helps streamline remote communication through high-quality virtual meeting rooms.

05 G-Suite

Google’s full gamut of cloud computing and collaboration tools. The true value of G-Suite is simply the comprehensive range of interconnected tools – from email and calendar, to docs and sheets, to video conferencing with Google Hangouts. Perfect for startups and SMEs, these collaboration tools are free to use, with supplementary business features for when your company needs an extra level of customisation. Truly collaborative, team members can view each other’s calendars, communicate via chat, and work on documents at the same time.

06 Asana

Founded in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Asana is designed to help teams organise, track, and manage their workloads, making it easier to work on projects together. Slickly designed, this software-as-a-service allows teams to create projects, assign work to teammates, set deadlines, and chat about specific tasks, all in one place. It also comes with a suite of reporting tools to help members monitor project progress.

07 Trello

This web-based project management application was designed to make project collaboration as simple as possible. Overarching projects are set up as boards and members can add cards for individual steps or tasks, assigning them to those involved, prioritising, and adding timelines. Flexible, easy to use and visually attractive, it can be used across a range of sectors, from software project management and web design to law office case management and lesson planning.

08 Harvest/Forecast

Harvest is a web-based tracking tool, which allows you to monitor the time and budget your team members spend on individual projects or tasks. It also has invoicing and reporting capabilities so that clients will receive automated payment reminders rather than managers being required to chase via email. Harvest’s complementary application, Forecast, is a visualisation tool which helps teams map out plans so that you can check how available coworkers are at a glance. The perfect collaborative replacement for lengthy spreadsheets.

09 Powwownow

Telecommunications company Powwownow may have invented the future of conference calling. Available 24/7, they offer instant, hassle-free communication with your colleagues, wherever they are in the world. The major benefit is a cost saving, as you can conference call globally, without being hit with the bridging fees common to other providers. The in-built web meeting tool allows you to share screens and notes, take feedback, and record important meetings, so no vital decisions slip through the cracks.

10 Ryver

Another top-rated messaging platform, Ryver aims to help organisations communicate better. You can create as many teams as you want and categorise them easily, and conversations can be set up with individuals, small groups or whole teams. A set of filters allow you to control who sees what you say and post in the app, and specific posts can be marked if you want to come back to them later on. Finally, all company posts can be found in a Facebook-style newsfeed, so you never miss an important message – or deadline – again.

Author Avatar
Francesca Cassidy
By Endurance We Conquer – What Shackleton Can Teach Us Today
July 27, 2020

The following was published by gov.uk and is a guest blog on UK-Ireland connections from Catherine Page, a deputy to the Ambassador to Ireland Robin Barnett.

We have all had to find sources of inspiration to help us in the last few months. Mine came on one of many local lockdown walks in Dublin, when I passed a house with a plaque to “the Antarctic Explorer and Leader of Men”, Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose childhood home it had been. I have been inspired by Shackleton for a long time, since I was 17 and went on an expedition which re-traced his journey to the Antarctic island of South Georgia. But it felt particularly appropriate to find him again now – to be reminded of his story of grit and determination at a time when we have all been searching for these too, and to recall his family motto: “by endurance we conquer”.

Because if I had to sum up 2020 so far in one word it would be endurance. For me, as I imagine for most of us, this has been a period we have just had to get through, separated from family and friends and unable to do so many of the things we enjoy. As many restrictions were relaxed this week, you could almost feel the national sigh of relief. We can make plans again, see people who for the past four months have only apparently existed on Zoom, begin to have fun. But even in this new normal, for as long as we continue to live with coronavirus, I suspect we’ll need endurance – and on that there is much we can learn from Shackleton.

Images from Catherine Page
Shackleton’s childhood home in Donnybrook, Dublin

Shackleton’s challenges may not on the surface look much like our own. When the man from Kildare, by then a veteran of two previous British Antarctic expeditions, set off from London in 1914 on his ship Endurance, it was in the hope of being the first to cross the Antarctic continent. It was a task he knew would be “most dangerous, difficult, and strenuous work, that has nearly always involved a certain percentage of loss of life.”

Famously, he failed. The ship was crushed in the ice, had to be abandoned, and he set himself a new task: “to reach land with all members of the expedition”. Between October 1916 and April 1917 Shackleton and his men drifted with the ice flow. They then struck out on three small life boats, eventually making it to the rocky outcrop of Elephant Island. With much of the crew suffering from frostbite and exhaustion, and with limited provisions, Shackleton decided that he and 5 others would have to mount a rescue mission by sailing 800 miles across treacherous seas in an open boat to the whaling stations on South Georgia. They took only enough food for a month. They left 22 men on Elephant Island not knowing if rescue would come.

Improbably, after 15 days at sea and hurricane-force winds, Shackleton did reach South Georgia, but landed on the wrong side of the island and had to cross the previously unclimbed mountains on foot. When they finally arrived at the whaling station, the manager did not recognise them. It took a further four 4 months to get back to Elephant Island, where incredibly, he found all members of the crew still alive.

I have always felt a very personal connection to Shackleton. I had a small taste of some of what he faced when I was one of a group of young people who travelled to South Georgia to carry out scientific surveys and search for the stove he abandoned in the mountains, when he heard the whistle from the whaling station and knew he was safe. The month we spent there, in tents and on boil-in-the-bag rations, was certainly the biggest test of physical endurance of my life. As for mental endurance, the isolation and uncertainty felt by so many during coronavirus have been tougher. Not knowing whether he would make it back to Elephant Island, or what he would find if he did, Shackleton surely had to overcome his share of mental struggles too, and perhaps these were not so dissimilar to ours.

South Georgia’s mountainous interior with glaciers and crevasses

Another Antarctic explorer, Sir Raymond Priestley said of his three best known contemporaries: “For scientific discovery give me Scott; for speed and efficiency of travel give me Amundsen; but when disaster strikes and all hope is gone, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” Shackleton himself identified four qualities as essential for overcoming adversity: optimism, patience, idealism, courage. DCU and the Shackleton committee in Athy have produced a great set of podcasts looking at the relevance of each of these during the current pandemic, which you can find here – and they have rightly suggested a fifth, kindness. Above all for me, Shackleton’s ability to keep himself and those around him going when faced with yet another obstacle, is what set him apart and why he should be celebrated.

Images from British Embassy Dublin
Photographs from Shackleton’s Endurance expedition in British Embassy Dublin

At the British Embassy in Dublin we are privileged to have on our walls a number of photographs from the Endurance expedition. They were hung for the 100th anniversary to honour Shackleton as a great figure in the history of British and Irish Antarctic exploration. Like many workplaces, we have been operating the Embassy virtually since March. But when we do get back to the office, I look forward to seeing them again, as a reminder not only of an incredible UK-Ireland connection but of the amazing power of human endurance.

Wave of Flexible Working Requests Predicted

HR directors expect 70% of their workforce will have flexible working once coronavirus restrictions are lifted, a 45% increase on current levels.

More than 13 million people across the UK plan to ask their employer for changes to their long-term working pattern, according to research from Direct Line Life.

HR is therefore already preparing to receive more flexible working requests once the pandemic has eased, with over two fifths (43%) of HR directors giving the option to work from home five days a week. 

Cost of travel and being at work was a key reason behind changing working styles for around a third (31%) of people, as well as commuting time at 23%. 

More than a quarter (28%) of those hoping for more long-term flexible working said they have demonstrated they can do this successfully during the pandemic, a sentiment no doubt shared up and down the country. 

Spending more time with family and wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle was also cited as a key reason for the change.

One in six said they were concerned over pollution levels and 5% said they plan to spend more time exercising and becoming healthier. 

Chloe Couper, business manager at Direct Line Life insurance, said coronavirus has changed the mindset of millions of workers in the UK. 

She said: “Many people wouldn’t have considered their employer would accept a flexible working request, despite it being legal to make one but now companies and employees have become used to home working as the ‘new norm.’ 

“Going through such a serious pandemic will understandably make some people want to reassess their lives and priorities going forward. Protecting health and family are vital and it is great to see so many wish to spend more time doing both.” 

Working from home two days a week was the most popular option when looking to carry on flexible working arrangements.

Given office space is a large cost for most businesses, the opportunity for more staff to work remotely may reduce overheads for organisations. 

Research was collected by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,002 UK adults in April and by Pure Profile of 100 UK HR directors.

Graduate Job Confidence Slides as Labour Market Shrinks

By Beau Jackson, of hrmagazine

Fewer graduates in 2020 are confident of working in their dream industry than they were in 2019.

According to graduate job site Milkround, 83% of graduates expressed this sentiment last year compared to just 62% in 2020. 

Attitudes about universities have changed too. In 2019, 15% of graduates said their university could have done more to prepare them for the workplace, yet in 2020 this has risen to 25%. 

The global labour market has become unstable due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the most recent findings from the Institute of Student Employers’ (ISE) COVID-19: Global impacts on graduate recruitment report, the market for graduate jobs in England is expected to shrink by between one and 14% each year from 2020-2021. 

Although government response to the pandemic has differed from country to country, a similar percentage of shrinkage is expected across Australia, Finland, New Zealand and the United States. 

“While graduates often escape the worst impacts of recessions, the size and health of the graduate labour market is tied up with the wider economy,” said an ISE statement. 

“The magnitude of the current crisis means that it is impacting on workers of all skill levels and is likely to be particularly difficult for those entering the labour market for the first time and those working in the sectors which are feeling the worst effects.” 

Though Milkround’s findings suggest graduate confidence is waning, an optimistic 71% of respondents said the pandemic has not impacted their decision on which sector they will go into, and the NHS tops the list of respondent’s most desirable companies to work for. 

Georgina Brazier, graduate jobs expert at Milkround said that the decisiveness where areas of work are concerned demonstrates a continued resilience in the graduate population. 

She added: “Over the next few months, it’s essential that employers really understand what it is the next generation of workers are looking for as they enter the workplace, and work out how they can support recent graduates in realising their dreams despite the current circumstances.” 

Milkround’s Candidate Compass Report is based on a survey of 2,838 student and graduate candidates, conducted between 14th – 29th April 2020.

Nine Things FE WEEK Learned from the ESFA’s 2019-20 Annual Report and Accounts

By Billy Camden

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has this afternoon published its annual report and accounts for 2019-20, revealing college loan write-offs, hefty fraud investigation costs and salary boosts for top civil servants.

FE Week has the main findings:

Nine things we learned from the ESFA’s 2019-20 annual report and accounts

1. College keeps £15m in overpayments 

During the last financial year, South Thames College received an ESFA capital grant to “facilitate the acquisition of the site for a new school”.

The agency paid the college a total of £15,160,000 in “overpayment”, which has now been waived.

The ESFA’s accounts state: “In certain circumstances over-payments of grants can occur when grant payment profiles for educational bodies are based on expected learner numbers which are not supported by actual numbers or where capital grants are eligible for recovery.

“One example relates to our waiver of the capital grant recovery from South Thames College to facilitate the acquisition of the site for a new school.”

Other waivers of overpayments include £823,000 for Manchester Creative Studio and £609,000 for Wigan UTC.

2. Abandoned FE loans costs drop substantially

Across all education streams in 2019-20, the ESFA reported claims waived or abandoned of £25 million for this year compared to £62 million the year before.

The agency said this has reduced due to the completion of the college restructuring programme which implemented recommendations from the area reviews of post-16 colleges.

The only FE sector loan to be waived in 2019-20 was £1,750,000 for Trafford College, which was handed exceptional financial support for its merger with Stockport College. Trafford is also currently working on plans to merge with the troubled Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College, but this process was delayed earlier in the year owing to Covid-19.

3. 115 ‘compliance reviews’ of ITPs…

The ESFA said it “strengthened our oversight and assurance activities”, increasing the amount of resource dedicated to ensuring the “proper” use of public funds and engaging more with the sector.

As part of this, the agency delivered 115 compliance reviews on independent training providers (ITPs) with 21 additional control visits.

4. …but fraud continues to be a problem

Fraud hit the agency for £5.6 million in 2019-20, which mainly relates to two unnamed “specific cases” that are not yet in the public domain.

Recovery of the identified losses “remain ongoing”. During the year the ESFA was able to recover £8,119.

At 31 March 2020 the agency had a total of 82 live investigations and allegations to carry forward into 2020-21.

This comprises 19 on-going academy trust cases at “various stages” of the investigation cycle and similarly, 63 live cases relating to colleges and independent training providers.

The ESFA said the formation of new academy trusts and mergers continued to rise in 2019-20 with academies increasing by around 900 in-year.

Whilst there has not been a “significant” rise in the number of academy investigation visits compared to 2018-19, there is a “continuing slightly upward trend aligned to sector growth”.

Additionally, in response to changes in apprenticeships funding “we have seen a rise in the number of allegations this year”.

5. 894 providers removed from apprenticeship provider register

Last year the ESFA launched a refreshed and “strengthened” Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) through stronger criteria added to the application process and complete re-registration of providers.

There are now 2,067 providers on the register, and during the process the agency removed 894 providers who did not meet the new criteria.

6. Overall underspend mainly because of apprenticeships

The ESFA’s total outturn was £58.57 billion against a budget of £58.83 billion, a 0.4 per cent underspend. This included £58.51 billion expenditure on “grant and other funding, the balance of expenditure was in respect of staff costs and operating expenditure”.

The agency said the variance on resource funding was largely attributable to an underspend on apprenticeships.

As revealed by FE Week earlier this month, the Treasury took back £330 million of unspent apprenticeships funding last year.

7. Learning Record Service data breach investigation ongoing

An investigation was launched in January after betting companies were “wrongly provided access” to an education database containing the information of 28 million children.

This was the only “protected personal data related incident” for the ESFA that was judged significant enough to be formally reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office during 2019-20.

The ICO was notified that a learning provider, Trustopia, registered with the Learning Records Service (LRS), had been working with another company to use their access to the database for the purposes of ID verification for “non-educational purposes, in clear breach of their agreement with DfE”.

The personal data comprised of the name, date of birth, gender and postcode of 380,000 individuals registered with the LRS.

The ESFA’s accounts state that the ICO is continuing its investigation and will “contact the Department for Education once the investigation is concluded”.

8. Pay rise and bonuses for ESFA’s top officials

Chief executive Eileen Milner saw her salary increase from £140-145,000 to £150-155,000 whilst also bagging a bonus of up to £5,000.

Peter Mucklow, director of further education, saw his wage increase from £95-100,000 to £100-105,000 whilst receiving a bonus of up to £15,000.

The accounts say the pay boosts for both civil servants were made after they took on “additional responsibilities in 2018-19 which were reflected in their salary in 2019-20 and included an element of back pay”.

The only other top ESFA official to receive a pay rise was director of academies Mike Pettifer – from £1150-120,000 to £125-130,000 – after he “took on additional responsibilities from September 2018 which were for the remainder of 2018-19 and for the full year in 2019-20.”

Pettifer was also paid a bonus of up to £10,000.

9. £1.4m paid to firms linked to ESFA board members

The accounts show £964,000 was paid to Hays Travel, a company owned by family members of ESFA chair Irena Lucas. She is also the chair at Hays, one of the UK’s largest independent travel agents.

A further £984,000 was paid to the firm in 2018-19.

Meanwhile, another £684,000 was paid to Voyage Care, were ESFA board member Stuart McMinnies is a non-executive director. The firm provides support for people who have complex needs.