Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Criticisms of Teaching Must Be Taken Seriously': Fe Comment

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'Criticisms of Teaching Must Be Taken Seriously': Fe Comment

Article excerpt

And new FE minister says colleges should accept school sixth forms.

Colleges must take Ofsted's criticism of teaching quality seriously and will have to put up with growing competition from school sixth forms, according to the new minister for post-16 education.

Matthew Hancock, in an exclusive interview with TES, also refused to confirm whether he would be pressing ahead with the FE Guild proposed by his predecessor John Hayes, promising to scrutinise any bids before making a final decision.

But, speaking a month into his new post, Mr Hancock maintained that he planned to continue with the "broad thrust" of policies already in place and offer further freedoms and flexibilities to providers.

While paying tribute to "exceptional performance" in some FE colleges, the minister acknowledged the observation in Ofsted's most recent annual report that there was "far too little outstanding teaching".

Not a single college inspected in 2010-11 was given the top rating for the quality of its teaching and learning, and Mr Hancock stressed the government's ambition to achieve "rigour across the educational piece".

"We've got to take seriously those sorts of criticisms because, while I'm very keen to support and encourage very high levels of performance, we've got to make sure performance across the board is as high as possible," he said.

But, despite criticisms of the quality of some of the record 457,000 apprenticeships created in 2010-11, Mr Hancock lauded his predecessor's work. While Mr Hayes repeatedly came under fire for focusing on training people already in work rather than the unemployed, his successor insisted that "apprenticeships at all levels are an excellent use of taxpayers' money".

"All of the research shows that combining off-the-job study with on-the- job, hands-on experience is the best way to learn a vocation," he said. "I'm a huge supporter. I believe the increase in numbers is a big success story."

The minister was quick to play down his role being split between the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, a divide many feel has led to the sector being politically marginalised. "I see myself as clearly in one job, where the budget comes from two departments," he said. "I've got a team working with me who move from one department to the other. …

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