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Ofsted Seeks to Make Oversight of Subcontractors More Comprehensive and Transparent

Ofsted has published new research looking at subcontractors in the further education and skills sector.

New research by Ofsted finds that subcontractors in the further education and skills (FES) sector often have overall control of the day-to-day quality of a learner’s education and training. However, directly-funded providers do not always exert enough influence to manage the subcontracted provision well. For example, they might not have the necessary subject or industry expertise to review provision meaningfully.

The research also found that the current approach to inspection means that some subcontractors are visited more than once, while others are not visited at all.

While Ofsted is not funded to directly inspect subcontractors, the research proposes a more comprehensive and transparent approach to improve oversight.

The report, ‘Subcontracting in further education and skills’, recognises the acute economic challenges FES providers are facing as a result of COVID-19, as well as the broader decline in subcontracted provision over recent years. It explores what makes for high-quality FES provision delivered through subcontracting and asks how inspection and regulation might need to adapt as a result of a rapidly evolving landscape.

Ofsted is responsible for inspecting the quality of education offered by directly-funded FES providers, but inspectors do not report on all subcontracted provision. However, the inspectorate has increased its focus on subcontracting over the past 2 years, in response to concerns about the quality of some subcontractors.

Currently, Ofsted inspections give a rounded judgement of a directly- funded provider by sampling activities across the provision. The choice of subcontractors to sample is made within practical constraints, such as their location. These activities then inform the leadership and management judgement of the directly- funded provider and, where appropriate, the quality of education judgement.

The report suggests there are limitations to this approach and concludes that the oversight of subcontracted education could be improved by sampling more subcontracted provision. Therefore, Ofsted is seeking to make inspecting and reporting on subcontracted provision more comprehensive and transparent by:

  • working with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to improve access to timely and accurate data on the number and size of subcontracting arrangements held by a directly-funded provider
  • increasing awareness among inspectors of Ofsted’s available inspection resource, in order to investigate more subcontractors
  • changing the way evidence is recorded to systematically and consistently include information about all subcontractors visited
  • where appropriate, highlighting more subcontractors in inspection reports

In particular, more accurate data from the ESFA would allow Ofsted to arrange to visit subcontracted provision that was far away, because out-of-region resources could be factored into planning.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

The financial stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and ESFA’s tighter regulations around subcontracting make this an important and timely report. Over the past two years we have increased our focus on the management of subcontracted provision. However, this new research has highlighted the importance of reviewing subcontractors within our current model.

We are open to exploring how we could directly inspect subcontractors in the future, but that would need significantly more financial resource and better data. So, for now we will continue to inspect subcontractors as part of our inspections of directly-funded providers. But I’m confident that the changes set out in today’s report will make our oversight more meaningful and transparent.

The report is based on visits to 14 subcontractors in November and December last year; focus groups with 38 inspectors; and desk-based analysis of inspection reports and evidence bases, as well as other publicly available data on subcontracting.

Help Shape the Future of Funding for Apprenticeships

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (@IfATechEd) launches a consultation on refined plans for a more transparent funding band recommendation approach 

See the source image

A second public consultation is being launched today to gather views on how the Institute should recommend the maximum government funding contribution for apprenticeships.

We have also responded to our previous consultation on this topic, which took place between February and May this year.

Anna West, deputy director for apprenticeship funding and approvals, said:

“Our goal is to introduce a more transparent and evidence-based system. I would like to thank everyone for taking part in the first consultation. We have taken on board your feedback to further improve our approach.“The refined model now being consulted on would be based on independent evidence, but also offer flexibility to employers to provide further information to ensure they receive appropriate levels of funding. I would like to urge as many people as possible who care about the future of apprenticeships to take part.”

The funding band system as a whole supports employers, helping more to benefit from apprenticeship levy funding by delivering value for money in the programme. 

The Institute launched the project to develop a new approach in response to feedback that the existing system, based around employers gathering quotes for how much training costs and comparisons with existing standards and qualifications, was not transparent enough.

report by IFF Research into the actual costs of delivering apprenticeships was used to develop a more transparent model, drawing on average eligible delivery costs, which is now being consulted on.

The first consultation set out our core model and asked for views on addressing differences in costs.

We were pleased to receive over 200 consultation responses. The majority indicated that the proposed model was simpler to understand and strengthened transparency.

We used feedback from respondents to develop a single approach that provides trailblazers with an early estimate of the maximum government funding level their apprenticeship stands to receive based on an automated “rates-based” model.

If a trailblazer considers this inappropriate, they can provide information to allow us to make a bespoke estimate of likely eligible costs.

The consultation will run for 6 weeks, closing at midnight on 6 October 2020. A series of supportive virtual roadshow events will also take place during this period.

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.

More Than 1 Million Young People Could be Jobless by 2021, Think Tank Warns
July 6, 2020
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Youth unemployment could top one million by the end of the year – highlighting the scale of the jobs crisis facing an entire generation of young people, a new report warns.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank estimated that an extra 620,000 people aged between 18 and 24 will be jobless by the end of the year, on top of the 410,000 already unemployed.

This will be the highest number of young people unemployed on record, surpassing the levels seen in the 2008-9 and 1990s recessions, said the report.

This level of youth unemployment should be a major cause for concern, according to the IPPR, as being out of work at an early age can cause serious “scarring effects” on people’s life chances including lower wages, increased risk of further unemployment and worse health into later life.

A £3bn government intervention was needed to ensure everyone under the age of 25 is in education, training, apprenticeship or a job, said the report.

Harry Quilter-Pinner, IPPR senior research fellow, said: “We face an unemployment crisis in the UK. Our analysis suggests youth unemployment could more than double by the end of the year. This would be a huge waste of talent and potential. It doesn’t have to be like this.

“That’s why we are calling on the government to step in to guarantee all young people either a funded place in education, an apprenticeship or a job.

“This will require the state to support businesses to take on young people, just as it has supported them to retain adults through the furlough scheme.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are doing everything we can to protect our economy and ensure there are options for young people, with the Opportunity Guarantee announced earlier this week ensuring every young person has a chance of an apprenticeship or in-work placement.

“Alongside our package of support for business, our nationwide network of Work Coaches are already matching jobseekers to new roles as we get Britain back working again. The National Careers Service is also providing help and advice to young people who have been furloughed, made redundant or had their exams cancelled.”


WYCA Adult Education Budget Strategy
May 28, 2020
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The Plan

In March 2020, West Yorkshire agreed an ambitious devolution deal with the Government, which will see our region have a directly-elected mayor from May 2021.

Your Voice

The agreement, which is the biggest ever of its kind, unlocks more than £1.8 billion in investment to drive up living standards through better transport, improved skills and stronger businesses, while tackling the climate emergency. This means that West Yorkshire will have control of the £63m annual Adult Education Budget (AEB) for the area enabling us to align spending on skills more closely with the opportunities and needs in the local economy.

The main purpose of the AEB is to provide adults with the skills needed for entering and sustaining employment, an apprenticeship, a traineeship, or other further learning. The funding pays specifically for learning programmes (predominantly qualifications) and provides an element of learner support funding for those with learning difficulties and disabilities.

The AEB Strategy has been developed in order to ensure that we are ready to deliver the Adult Education Budget by 1 August 2021. The plan builds on our existing strategies and the needs of our area, providing a clear foundation upon which we can build the skills of people and businesses within West Yorkshire. The timescales set out by the Government mean that it is necessary to develop the plan prior to the election of the West Yorkshire Mayor.

Click here to view the AEB Strategy.

Devolution of the Adult Education Budget will only proceed if the wider devolution deal is agreed and implemented. If you are interested in knowing more about the West Yorkshire devolution consultation, please 

Click here to visit our West Yorkshire Devolution webpage.

Have your say

As part of our engagement activity and transparency around devolution across West Yorkshire we would like to invite you to provide feedback on the AEB Strategy via an online survey using the link below.

This survey will be open from 25 May to midnight on 12 July 2020.

You can access the survey here.(External link)

Next steps

Following the consultation period, the survey results will be analysed and your feedback will be considered in the development of the final AEB Strategy. This plan will be considered by the Combined Authority to ensure that we are able to meet the required timelines for the delivery of the devolved AEB for the 2021/22 academic year.

Adventures in Career Development
May 26, 2020
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Thoughts about career and other stuff from Tristram Hooley.

Building Career Capital: Developing Business Leaders’ Career Mobility

I’ve just published a new article entitled Building career capital: developing business leaders career mobility with Cathy Brown and Tracey Wond. The paper is based on research that Cathy conducted as part of her doctoral thesis. It was published in Career Development International but you can find an open access version on the University of Derby research archive

In the article we set out a new framework for career capital based on research with 36 business leaders who have recently undertaken a role transition within a UK construction business. We cluster these aspects of career capital under three categories: Knowing Self, Knowing How and Knowing Whom. These are illustrated in the figure above. 

Our argument is that these are aspects that prove to be important to people’s careers. In the article we explore a range of different strategies that people can use to effectively develop and utilise their career capital as well as compensating for the gaps that they have in their career capital. 

We hope that the article will be of interest to researcher and career theorists, but also to business leaders and organisational managers who wish to build individual and organisational career mobility. It may also be of interest to careers professionals who might find it helpful as a way of thinking about the elements that people need to identify and develop as part of their careers. 

Brown, C., Hooley, T. and Wond, T. (2020). Building career capital: developing business leaders’ career mobility. Career Development International, Ahead of print. https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-07-2019-0186

Majority of UK Workers Say They Work Effectively from Home
May 22, 2020
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Over half (55%) said their industry as a whole can operate effectively based on remote work.

The LinkedIn study, which is run fortnightly, also showed that UK confidence about jobs, finances and careers sits at +13 on a scale of -100 to +100. This is more positive than negative, but only slightly.

From the data across April, it emerged that those working in the healthcare sector felt the most confident, at +24. They were particularly optimistic about their job security.

On the other hand, education professionals were among the least confident, sitting at a score of +10. They felt particularly low levels of confidence around progressing their career in the next year.

In terms of job-seeking, survey respondents felt generally pessimistic. When asked about their confidence in their ability to get or hold onto a job, the average score was -7 on the index for the week from 27 April to 3 May, down from -2 between 13 and 19 April.

Those working in sales were the most pessimistic, with 77% expecting the number of available jobs to fall in the next two weeks.

Martyn Dicker, director of people at Unicef UK, told HR magazine that it was unsurprising to see that two-thirds of UK workers believe that they are effective when working remotely. 

In addition to technology’s ability to facilitate remote work, Dicker said: “I also believe that a key ingredient of workers feeling that they are effective, is their strong desire for it to work.

“We know that greater flexible working is desired by many, with the CIPD 2019 Job Quality Index stating that 68% of UK employees would like more flexibility. It’s worth noting that this is just 2% more than the 66% believing that they are effective in the LinkedIn study. 

“The UK fares particularly poorly when it comes to job demands interfering with family life, so maybe this forced home working experiment will provide UK employers the impetus to drive change and embrace more flexible working.”

LinkedIn’s study also showed that optimism about company futures was low.

The study found that only 22% of those at director level or above thought their company would be better off in the next six months, with 45% saying they thought it would be worse off.

Among those in non-management roles, 18% believed their firms would be better off and 37% thought they would be worse off.

Emma Jayne, area director of people and culture at the Dorchester Collection, said: “The future is so uncertain right now and it is at the forefront of people’s minds constantly I’m sure. 

“As employers it’s important that we are offering regular, clear and honest communication on the situation our businesses are in and if we can offer reassurance then that should be the very first thing that we are doing. 

“It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions at the moment and HR’s most critical role right now is to take care of the mental wellbeing of their people.

“The results around the outlook for the next six months I think are very realistic. Despite the government encouraging a return to work to boost the economy, the reality is the economy is going to take a long time to recover from COVID-19.”

Finally, the index found that 49% of UK workers plan to increase the time they’re spending on online learning in the next two weeks, corroborating other recent studies on the upskilling trend.

Nearly half (48%) said they hoped this learning would advance their career path, while 47% wanted to learn something unrelated to work. 

A third (32%) were interested in improving their emotional wellbeing through online learning, while 30% wanted to contribute to society and help others.

Jayne added: “Online learning is such a gift at the moment. We are all in our homes with some time on our hands which is very different from the fast pace of life that used to be’ normal’. 

“I am certain we will see an upswing in a more joined up and kinder society when we come out of this pandemic, I wonder if people will be inspired by the amazing work of the NHS and other services and they will see an upturn in people wanting to pursue a career in those fields.”

The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index surveys around 1,000 UK LinkedIn members in each wave.

Furloughed Employees in the Training Sector Have Their Say
May 4, 2020
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By GPRS Recruitment.

GPRS Recruitment

We’ve all been unable to escape the word ‘furlough’ over the past few weeks – a term many of us were not even familiar with before this crisis. Simply put, the government’s furlough scheme guarantees employees who have stopped working during the coronavirus pandemic 80% of their wage (with exceptions).

Fortunately, only 30% of candidates who responded to our survey said that they have been furloughed.

The Financial Times reported at the start of April that up to half of companies in the UK were furloughing their staff (https://www.ft.com/content/8e2…85-a9bf-78deeb94bc80), so the training sector appears to be more active than other industries, with most staff still working, albeit remotely.

53% of staff in the sector who have been furloughed agreed with the decision to furlough them, acknowledging that it would be impossible for them to perform their role remotely. In terms of training staff, there are of course some fields in which trainers are unable to deliver remotely, namely the more ‘hands on’ qualifications such as hairdressing and construction.

A further 14% of furloughed candidates, when asked if they felt it was necessary for them to be furloughed, selected ‘other’ and offered comments such as ‘learners [being] unavailable’ due to their own work being disrupted, ‘client demand lowered and there were many cancellations’, and delivering remotely being ‘impossible with a young child’. In addition to simply whether a qualification can be delivered remotely or not, there are a wealth of other factors that have been considered when the decision has been made to furlough or not.

Indeed, only one third of those that told us they have been furloughed described themselves as trainers, with the majority of furloughed employees identifying themselves as management or admin staff. With apprenticeships still continuing where possible, and apprentices still being able to continue with their qualification if they have been furloughed themselves, for most training staff there is still work available, and happily, for many training providers furlough is a last resort.

*The survey was conducted between 6th and 10th April 2020. The survey had 1,598 responses.*

Employees Feel Too Old For Apprenticeships
September 17, 2019
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Many employees would like the opportunity to start an apprenticeship or switch career but are worried they’re too old, according to Jobrapido.

Its research found that more than half (52%) of UK employees would readily embark on an apprenticeship if it could support a career change or move them to a different industry sector.

Of those that wouldn’t embark on an apprenticeship,nearly two-thirds (32%) believe they are too old and that the age limit is between 16 and 24. A quarter (25%) felt that apprenticeships would be a step down given their career experience.

The research also asked employees what the biggest obstacles to making a career change were. Three in 10 (30%) cited family or financial commitments, with a further 17% stating that a lack of confidence and that they would need to change their mindset. Nineteen per cent believed their lack of qualifications prohibits a change while the same proportion said they have no understanding of how to go about switching careers, and 14% said they are put off by the time it takes to retrain.

When asked what could support them to make a change, more than a quarter (26%) stated a change of mindset, followed by investment in training and/or educational qualifications or new skills (17%), support in the form of outside funding or a grant (12%), and government and/or industry support with further initiatives (11%).

CEO of Jobrapido Rob Brouwer said that age should not be a barrier to those looking to start an apprenticeship: “Despite the majority of the UK workforce being open to the possibility of apprenticeships, the vast majority have already ruled this out as they believe there is an age barrier in order to access [them]. The reality is that apprenticeships are open [to people] above the age of 16 and there is no age barrier.”

“Despite the majority of the UK workforce being open to the possibility of apprenticeships, the vast majority have already ruled this out as they believe there is an age barrier in order to access [them]. The reality is that apprenticeships are open [to people] above the age of 16 and there is no age barrier.”

He said that the government should work with education providers to reach out to workers who might consider themselves “too old” to embark on an apprenticeship.

“There has been a big drive in recent years to encourage more apprenticeships in the UK… Yet perception lags behind reality about the criteria and age of apprenticeships. This in turn is preventing more of the UK workforce from capitalising on the opportunities to retrain, acquire new skills and gain confidence in the workplace. All of which lay the right foundation to build an entirely new career,” he said.

“What is needed is an education drive from UK industry, the government, educational establishments and employers as to how anyone over the age of 16 can access and embark on an apprenticeship.”

Brouwer added that on the whole people no longer want a job for life. “We live in an era where a job is no longer a job for life and many could have at least two or even three different careers in their working life. It is not surprising that so many who took part in the research harbour ambitions to change their career path,” he said.

Jobrapido surveyed 1,444 employees who work across different industry sectors including sales, marketing, engineering, transportation, construction and technology in July 2019.

Survey Shows Careers Guidance for Young People has Improved Over the Last Two Years

Careers guidance for young people has improved over the last two years, according to a large-scale survey of schools.

The research points to the successful early establishment of a new cohort of senior ‘Careers Leaders’ with responsibility for driving a whole school approach towards careers support.

The survey of 750 Careers Leaders reveals that they feel positive about the future of careers provision and the impact they’re having on young people, and have the backing of their senior leadership teams.

Previous research from Education & Employers has shown high quality careers support and employer engagement has a positive impact on young people’s gradesemployment prospects and future earnings.

In 2017, the Government’s Careers Strategy set an ambitious plan for every school in England to appoint a named Careers Leaders with ’the energy, commitment and backing from senior leadership’ to deliver a comprehensive careers programme. 

The research – carried out on behalf of The Gatsby Foundation and The Careers & Enterprise Company – represents the first comprehensive survey of Careers Leaders.

It reveals they are overwhelmingly positive about the approach set out in the Careers Strategy and the outcomes for young people:

  • 88% say their role is having a positive impact on young peoples’ outcomes
  • 81% feel positive about the future of careers provision
  • 75% think careers provision has improved since the Careers Strategy

The Careers Strategy called on schools and Careers Leaders to work towards meeting all eight of the Gatsby Benchmarks of Good Careers Guidance – a set of standards based on international best practice.

The survey reveals that 94% of Careers Leaders said the Gatsby Benchmarks had helped to improve careers guidance. This follows findings published last year showing schools across the country improving against the Benchmarks.

Careers Leaders are a relatively new part of the school workforce, with two-thirds appointed within the last two school years. But the research finds that school leaders are backing the reforms and their focus on ensuring Careers Leaders are senior or have senior access in schools – 83% of Careers Leaders are either part of their school’s senior leadership team or report directly into senior leadership

The research also finds that Careers Leaders spend twice as much time on careers as ‘careers-coordinators’ did a decade ago, underlining the increased prioritisation of careers by schools.

Claudia Harris, Chief Executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company, said:

“According to this major survey across 750 schools, Careers leaders are overwhelmingly positive about the direction of careers support in schools. The significance of this lack of cynicism should not be underestimated. They value what they are doing and see the benefits for their students.

“The survey finds that Careers Leaders are in senior positions or report into the SLT, representing a marked shift in the profile of careers to central in school agendas. High quality careers and enterprise support is increasingly being used by schools as a core pillar to ensure excellent long-term outcomes for their students.

“We see it in the progress every day: across the country careers support is improving in schools, and particularly in the most disadvantaged communities. This is down to the commitment of Careers Leaders and the school leaders that back them.”

Sir John Holman, Senior Adviser to the Gatsby Foundation and author of the Good Career Guidance report, said:

“The pilot of the Gatsby Benchmarks in the North East of England showed us that the key success factor is having an effective Careers Leader, with access to the senior leadership of the school or college.

“It is very encouraging to see that schools are truly making this role a priority, and that those in post feel so confident about the future. This research gives valuable insight into how Careers Leaders can be best supported and enabled to do their job, which is critical to the future of every young person in the school.”

The survey was carried out by independent research organisation SQW, on behalf of The Gatsby Foundation and The Careers & Enterprise Company. 750 Careers Leaders responded to the survey, and results were weighted to be representative of schools across the country.

Field work took place between 4th March and 5th April 2019. The survey achieved a response rate of 22% and 750 schools. Responses were weighted be representative of region, type of school and size of school.