This Week's News 02.03.18

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Employer satisfaction surveys to be audited for first time

The government will audit the results of its employer satisfaction survey for the first time. The ESFA said it would provide "additional quality assurance" in this year's survey, in new guidance, in order to ensure the data is comparable between providers. It specifically wants to "ensure that colleges and training organisations are using the prescribed methods to survey their employer customers". To pass the audits, providers must email their employers with a link to the survey along with their employer ID. The ESFA claims this is the "best method" for surveying, as results are "instant" and easily comparable. If employers are more likely to respond by paper, a hardcopy of the questionnaire can be sent. The agency will "monitor" cooperation with the rules through its audits, which have been introduced to ensure comparability. The questions themselves will also be different this year. These are being updated to "ensure the survey continues to provide information that employers find useful", but the agency did not provide examples. As with previous years, the survey will be provider-led, requiring colleges and training organisations to administer it to their employer customers themselves in the first instance. If providers are unable to meet their minimum response target, the ESFA will step in and ask the polling company Ipsos MORI to contact employers directly to gather the answers. The employer satisfaction survey runs every year. It asks employers to rate their pleasure with different aspects of training delivered by individual college and training organisations. The data collected then allows employers to make comparisons. The survey for 2017/18 will start on 26 March.

‘Ghost learner' football scammers jailed for over 25 years combined

Two former professional footballers and four of their colleagues have been sentenced to a total of over 25 years in prison for defrauding colleges out of £5 million in apprenticeship funding. Mark Aizlewood, who played for Wales 39 times in the 1980s and 1990s, and Paul Sugrue, who played for clubs including Manchester City, Middlesbrough and Cardiff City, were both sentenced at Southwark Crown Court for their part in a scam which involved "ghost learners". Two of their former colleagues at the now-defunct provider Luis Michael Training, Keith Williams, 45, from Anglesey, and Jack Harper, 30, from Southport, were also sentenced after being found guilty. Two more men who were also involved in the con, Christopher Martin, 53, from Newbury, and Steven Gooding, 53, from Bridgwater, had pleaded guilty before the trial began in September and were also sentenced. This marks the end of a five-month trial that was brought to court by the Serious Fraud Office. Using this lure of a career in football coaching, LMT even employed other high-profile former players, such as Welsh international Neville Southall, the Republic of Ireland's Alan McLoughlin and Manchester United player Russell Beardsmore, as tutors to deliver some of the training, albeit unaware of the con. The provider also used almost 150 professional and semi-professional football clubs as part of the scam, roping in big teams like Manchester City, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. "These men stole public money intended to give young people a start in life - these were cynical crimes for which they have been held to account today," said the Serious Fraud Office's general counsel Alun Milford.

Safeguarding young learner drivers

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has confirmed that it will treat driving instructors who have sexual relationships with 16 and 17-year-old pupils as exploitation and warned that If an instructor is considered a high risk to learners they face being removed from the approved driving instructor register. The DVSA will investigate serious allegations of improper behaviour and refer its findings to the police. These allegations include instructors: using sexualised language; using unnecessary physical contact; making inappropriate contact with their pupils; sending indecent messages or images to their pupils. The DVSA reports that there were 109 investigations into instructor misconduct in the year April 2016 to March 2017.

Sex offences against children and young people

The NSPCC has released findings from a freedom of information request to 43 police forces across the UK asking for the number of recorded sexual offences against children and young people under 18 in the year April 2016 to March 2017. The figures show: 64,667 recorded child sexual offences; 13,876 recorded offences were against children aged 10 or under; 2,788 were against children aged 4 or under; 193 were against babies under the age of 1. One in ten offences were flagged as having an online element, an increase of 59% on the previous year. The NSPCC is calling on government to ensure training and support is available to front-line police officers to help raise awareness of safeguarding procedures and tackle child sex offences.

Many GCSE pupils have reading level of a 13-year-old

Many GCSE pupils have the reading level of a 13-year-old, or even younger, a new study shows. Researchers say this is potentially hindering their ability to understand exam questions. The gap between children's age and their reading ability grows with every year they are in secondary school, according to the study of almost one million pupils across the UK. According to Keith Topping, professor of education and social research at the University of Dundee, the level of difficulty of the books that children read throughout primary school rises sharply each year. However, once they reach secondary school, the difficulty level of the books that pupils read tends to decrease as they progress through school. This is true for both girls and boys. "If children are not practicing reading at a high enough level, they are likely to have difficulty understanding examination questions," Professor Topping said.

Congratulations to the following learner who completed her Apprenticeship this week

Kayleigh Gourlay - Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeship - Scully Scully, Godalming

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