Last month saw the clocks go back with autumn well and truly upon us. For those who saw their first flurry of snow, summer must seem a distance memory. So heads down for the term that is where most of the action takes place in our sector.

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The reality of Functional Skills has really kicked in and as apprenticeship numbers continue to rise (over 500,000 at the last count), adults join the party and those studying full time programmes continue to make progress. There are now estimated to be over 2.5 million learners taking these qualifications. And at one time we thought they might not survive!

And what else has been happening this month? We have had the proposals for new qualifications for teachers and trainers as a result of the Lingfield Review, which will impact on those teaching functional skills. There will be three new Diplomas for subject specialists in English and mathematics which actually include ‘functional ‘ in the title. In the Functional Skills Membership area we added a new Viewpoint for you last month ‘Teaching and assessing functional skills’ which we have updated to include the proposals so that you can see what’s planned. Register now for access! Another recommendation from the Lingfield Review which is now being implemented has been the announcement of the ‘Further Education Guild’ which will set professional standards for the sector. AELP and AOC are taking this forward, so watch for announcements from them on developments.

What happening on the ground? There is increasing activity on implementation of the recommendations from the government review of vocational qualifications that are really starting to impact on our sector. Wolf’s recommendations for programmes of study for full time learners is high on the FE agenda, as the sector starts to prepare for what will be significant changes. We now use ‘Wolf; as abbreviation for teaching focused on English and maths. The good news is that the government and their ‘officials ‘(civil servants to you and me) have started to realise that there needs alternative routes to reaching the magic ‘C’ and above for GCSE maths and English and official documentation has started to say a GCSE at grade C or above or a Functional Skill at level 2 as the objective for all learners. AOC have been offering road shows on how the changes will impact on funding and have produced some curriculum modelling. Clearly with a recommendation of 600 guided learning hours to fill the sector will need to think long and hard on how they will use the time allocated for teaching and learning.

And there is good news for those working with apprentices. It looks like there will be a slightly more generous rate of funding for apprentices going forward and there will to be a continued emphasis on funding learners to the level 2.

There are changes for adults too. We have started to think about the impact of the single budget which will be implemented from September 2013. Lots of complexities of funding will go and there will be funding based on the credit. The funding agencies have been active in getting the message across about the changes to the way the sector will be funded next year, but if you aren’t up to speed, we’ve got a new Funding fact sheet in the membership area, summarising how the changes will impact on our sector.

So apart from funding and the proposals for the new teaching qualifications what else have I been asked about this month? One interesting question was raised at an event I attended this month. I was asked if I know what the achievement rates are for Functional Skills. This is an interesting question. Ofqual are the only body that could map across all the awarding organisations offering functional skills (and there are now 17), in all of the subjects, at all of the levels, at each of the times the tests are offered for paper and for onscreen as AOs only hold their own data. Clearly, although Ofqual have this information, they do not publish it. Given the performance with GCSE English results, you can see where they are coming from…but a brave person might want put in an FOI request? Go on I dare you

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