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New Year Careers Issues

The January newsletter from Click highlights a number of challenges relating to careers work in schools and colleges in the year ahead. Here’s a summary of some of the key points and there’s a link to Click below if you’re interested in subscribing to the newsletter yourself:

The BIS ‘Apprenticeship Pay Survey’ reveals that in 2014 almost a quarter of 16-18 year old apprentices were paid less than the NMW (which was £2.68 per hour at the time of the survey). NMW non-compliance was most common for apprentices in hairdressing (42%), childcare (26%) and construction (also 26%). Other data published by BIS showed s that the overall number of apprentices aged 24 and under has contracted by almost 12,000 in the last 2 years.

BIS has published its list of approved technical and vocational qualifications for 14-19 year old students in England. As a result the number of vocational qualifications eligible for public funding has fallen from over 5,000 down to 625, which BIS says ‘will help provide clearer career pathways for students’. The approved qualifications will be placed into three categories. These are:

  • Technical Certificates (aimed at helping 16-19-year-olds into skilled trades)
  • Technical Awards (for 14-16 year olds)
  • Tech Levels (that are intended to be GCE A level equivalent vocational qualifications for 16-19 year olds)


The CBI has proposed the abolition of GCSEs at 16 in view of the raising of the participation age to 18. Instead, the CBI wants each young person to have a learning plan tailored for them from age 14 to 18. Everyone would do some form of English and mathematics, plus a mix of academic or vocational A-levels depending on what’s right for them with peak level testing taking place when students are aged 18.
The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has announced that Professor Ed Sallis (who was principal of Highlands College in Jersey from 1997 to 2012) will chair the taskforce to review the teaching and accreditation of mathematics and English for those students who achieved a GCSE Grade D or below in those subjects. New funding conditions means that students who have achieved a GCSE Grade D in English and mathematics at GCSE will, from next year, be required retake the subjects in the attempt to get a grade C or above. However, those students who have achieved a GCSE at Grade E or below will be allowed to take alternative qualifications.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said that the DfE should ‘undertake an urgent review of the effectiveness of its initiatives’. In particular, they expressed their concerns that:

  • The amount the government spends on the education of 16-18 year olds has fallen by 8% in real terms since 2010/11 and in September 2014 it reduced the basic rate of annual funding for an 18 year old from £4,000 to £3,300’.
  • Government spending on 16 to 17 year olds is now 22% lower than spending on 11-16 year olds.
  • The DfE has no plans to replace the Youth Contract scheme (which supports the hardest to reach young people) when it comes to an end next year.
  • The proportion of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) was at its lowest since records began, but 148,000 were still NEET at the end of 2013.
  • The main reason for the fall the number of young people classified as NEET ‘was the requirement for young people to remain in education or training until at least their 18th birthday’. In the light of this, it was ‘difficult to show that any other interventions, such as careers advice, have been effective’.
  • Careers advice was, in any event, ‘patchy’ and it was ‘unclear what action the DfE would take when a school was shown to be offering poor careers advice’.
  • The report highlighted that travel ‘is a major issue for students’ and that ‘sometimes it can be the difference between a young person being able to go to college or not’ and says that this is ‘a particular problem for students from lower income backgrounds and for those living in rural areas’. Further cuts to these services ‘could worryingly see a whole generation of people being unable to get to college’.
  • The proposed reforms to apprenticeship funding designed to put employers in control of apprenticeships ‘were in danger of putting off businesses, and particularly smaller businesses from taking on apprentices’.


The Education Select Committee chair, Graham Stuart MP, questioned the Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, about the ‘striking similarities between the remit of the new Careers Company and that of the existing National Careers Service (NCS) in brokering links with employers. Ms Morgan responded by explaining that ‘the NCS and the new Careers Company were different’, but they ‘would work together to deliver the same goal’. She also confirmed the initial £20 million would fund the first two years of the company’s activities, and that it was hoped employers would meet running costs after that.


HEFCE will allocate £11.02 million to individual universities and colleges between now and 2016 in a bid to improve collaboration with schools and colleges. Of this total, £714,772 (or 6.5%) will be shared amongst 74 FE colleges with higher education provision. The grants are part of HEFCEs new ‘National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO), a successor scheme to Aim Higher, set up with BIS funding of £22 million for 2014/15 and 2015/16. 35 local networks will receive grants of around £240,000 each over the two-year period, along with further specific grants for individual providers. HEFCE has launched a website for colleges to find their nearest network, but individual networks will eventually be expected to develop and administer their own websites.


More than 144,000 students are currently studying HE programmes in FE colleges. A report by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) on 45 FE colleges providing HE courses in England in 2013/14 showed  ‘significant good practice in enhancing the learning experience of students on HE courses’, with 10 colleges being commended for their work. Only 13% were judged to be not meeting QAA expectations and around a third of the colleges reviewed were deemed by the QAA to require some form of improvement in respect of one or more of the following areas:

  • Provision of information for students.
  • Engagement with students' views.
  • Partnerships with employers.
  • A failure by some colleges to recognise that HE needs distinct management and governance systems.

QAA chief executive Anthony McClaran said ‘FE College higher education does a great job at widening participation and increasing the range of courses students can choose to study’, but went on to say ‘We found that a few colleges need to focus more strongly on developing the robust higher education ethos that we rightly expect from all UK providers’.


Trends in university applications show:

  • 512,400 people secured places in universities in 2014 up by nearly 17,000 on the previous year. 447,500 were from the UK.
  • Women are much more likely to enter university than men. This applies to women from both rich and poor families and across all regions. Among 18-year-olds, 34% of women were allocated university places, compared with 26% of men, the widest ever gender gap measured.
  • While the gap between male and female is at its widest ever, the gap between rich and poor is at its lowest. The numbers of disadvantaged students getting places in higher education in 2014 rose by 11% compared with the previous year. These students were more likely to enter university with BTEC qualifications, rather than GCE A Levels. But at the other end of the scale, richer students are seven times more likely to get a place in Russell Group universities, leading to a view that the type of university attended is now becoming the key measure of social distinction.
  • There are significant regional differences in university entrance. Young people in London and Northern Ireland are the most likely to enter university while those in Wales and the South West of England have the lowest entry rates.


Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveals that 71% of students graduating in 2014 achieved either an upper second (51%) or first class (20%) honours degree. The percentage of graduates obtaining first class degrees has now more than doubled since 2004. It is not clear whether this is due to students working harder than ever before now they are paying much higher tuition fees or whether it is due to grade inflation.


If you would like to receive your own copy of the full newsletter, you can register for this at

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  • Kerry

    A great summary of the full report.  Some excellent headlines here to use as LMI in a class room setting and also for updating staff in schools - thanks Anthony.

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