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Parents urged to boycott VTech toys

A range of cybersecurity experts warn parents to beware of buying VTech's electronic toys following its handling of a recent hack attack.

Posted on: 10 February 2016

Teacher shortages confirmed in England

The government has missed its teacher recruitment targets for the last four years amid growing teacher shortages, says the official spending watchdog.

Posted on: 10 February 2016

Britain's ticking time bomb of poor literacy and numeracy

Most of us take for granted being able to understand the instructions with our medicine or check our change in the shop.Yet shocking statistics ( from the OECD show that 9 million adults lack functional literacy, numeracy or both. These are fundamental basics for being full participants in society, and for future economic growth. It's time this was recognised for the national disgrace it is, and for a national consensus to end it once and for all.Many will find it hard to believe that 9 million fellow citizens lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. But the OECD's Survey of Adult Skills asked a representative sample of people in a number of countries to take a test. And the results show the scale of the challenge, and how it is set to get worse unless we act decisively.The headlines were grabbed by the startling statistic that one in ten university students lacks basic literacy and numeracy skills. But the challenge is more profound. My edited highlights would be:1. The school system must do betterYoung people in England (which the research focused on) are average by OECD standards at literacy and below average at numeracy. This reflects both a higher proportion of young people gaining qualifications in other countries, and that qualifications in England are no guarantor for having good basic English and Maths.We must do better than this. It is not overly ambitious to say that every young person should have these core basics. Successive governments have argued that previous administrations failed to build the basics into schooling and qualifications, but their latest reforms would. This government is no different. We must hold their feet to the fire in ensuring that good rhetoric is transformed into good practice.2. Transitions into the labour market must work betterIn most countries young people have better literacy and numeracy skills than older people. England and the USA are the only two participating countries where this is not the case. So the risk is that we slip even further down the international league table. This driven in part by lower participation in education post 16. But 30% of young people with GCSEs or NVQ2 have low basic skills. This is worse than for other countries upper secondary qualification equivalents.It is vital that all routes from compulsory education include core literacy and numeracy. This includes Apprenticeships where the Government has an admirable target of 3 million by 2020. This will only be of benefit to individuals and employers if Apprenticeships impart genuine improvements in skills. The Learning Work Institute (L W) has argued that an Apprentice Charter ( and focus on outcomes could help to drive this. The same must be true of the new Youth Obligation for young people out of work: they need the basics in order to build a career.3. We must redouble our efforts to help adults and work with employers90% of our 2025 workforce have already left the education system. To help adults, we need to invest more: across England around £230m was spent last year on literacy and numeracy, but the scale of the challenge means cities and local areas should prioritise a greater proportion of the Adult Education Budget, as well as ensuring literacy and numeracy are built into other qualifications. Half of adults lacking basic skills are out of work, we need to build skills improvements into the welfare system. But around 4 million are in work, yet employers report only 1.5 million workers lack the skills ( to do their jobs. We need to work with employers to boost productivity and raise our sights.We should also invest better: L W have developed the Citizens' Curriculum (, an integrated programme of study approach covering literacy, numeracy, digital, health, finance and citizenship. Early results show increased engagement from learners and savings to public services, such as reduced emergency services call outs and increased engagement with public health services. We would like flexibility for this approach to be delivered, and for cities and local areas to build it into their commissioning plans.It is depressing that this article could have been written at any point in recent decades: there is much to commend in policy and delivery, but we remain far behind many comparator countries. But I hope that despair will be replaced by determination. Determination to do better and redouble our efforts so that everyone at every stage in their life has the chance to gain the basics they need.The good news is that we know the scale of our national problem. The challenge now is to act, and act decisively, to make it our national mission that all citizens have the skills they need for life and work.Stephen Evans is deputy chief executive of the Learning Work Institute

Posted on: 09 February 2016

Academy chain schools 'not good enough'

Ofsted has warned the E-Act academy chain that the quality of education for too many pupils is "not good enough".

Posted on: 09 February 2016

Young 'ignore social media age limits'

More than three-quarters of 10 to 12 year olds in the UK have social media accounts, even though they are below the age limit, a survey for CBBC Newsround suggests.

Posted on: 09 February 2016

VIDEO: Entrepreneurship in village schools

India has become a hub for start-ups in recent years. Most investment has been focused on cities, but as a majority of Indians live in rural areas, what difference would teaching entrepreneurial skills to village students make?

Posted on: 09 February 2016

Are you optimising recruitment?

In recent months I've noticed many providers that were struggling to recruit high quality applicants. Each had specific problems but there were also some problems common to the majority of them. Some even broke the law. I suspect these problems are common with more providers than this handful. Applications forms that confuseBy and large, in FE, application forms are designed to give providers the information that they need to enrol and subsequently produce funding reports. They aren't often designed with the applicant in mind.Sadly, many potential applicants struggle with application forms that appear to ask for irrelevant information. Examples currently on provider websites include the following questions posed before the applicant has been permitted to indicate the course they would like to apply for, e.g. Is your household income less than £30,944?, National Insurance number?, Do you have any special dietary requirements? (a strange question for someone that wants to do an evening class), Do you have a prison record? In some cases these questions were asked before the applicant was asked for their name.Most questions are asked for a good reason. But what impression do these questions create when they are considered more important than the applicants name or which course they are applying for?Ask yourself if the questions you ask are vital at this stage. Are they being asked in the correct order and is the tone right. When we researched applicants some told us that the application form was off-putting or worse. One even reported the form as being offensive.At this early stage in the relationship our potential students are still getting to know us. Some are making multiple applications and will apply to other providers. So creating the right impression is vital if they are to take a place offered at your establishment. Applications are part of a two-way process; providers can fail to match applicants' standards. Applications forms that don't workWe mystery shopped various providers and found that many online application forms were not only confusing but were also difficult to use.Some required a complex ID/User name and password to be used. Sometimes this wasn't emailed to the applicant. Other forms were a single page application form that seemed to scroll down the page forever!Worse still, some didn't have a save function. So if there was a power cut the whole form was lost and had to be restated from scratch. And if it was necessary to go off and look for that elusive National Insurance number the screen had to stay live or the application was lost.It didn't stop there. Some online application forms wouldn't allow submission unless the applicant had included mandatory information. In one case this included a mobile phone number. So effectively without a mobile phone the applicant could not apply. How discrimatory is that?Sure, most applicants have mobile phones. But a handful don't and it appears they are therefore barred from making online applications. Having been refused once would you then complete a handwritten form .... or would you look elsewhere? Applications that get lostOn analysis we discovered that a small percentage of online applications never reached the provider. They were filtered out by overactive spam filters.There are several ways to overcome this but they are only effective if implemented. The providers we spoke to didn't know they were losing applications, hadn't tested for losses, so hadn't implemented a work around.There are simple ways to check that every application reaches the provider. Have you checked recently? Do you know how to do this? Insecure applicationsIn one case we know the application forms were being set from the website to the provider via insecure email. It was relatively easy to hack into it and get the names and details of every applicant. Basic cryptography can be used to ensure your applicants details are safe. Do you know your applicants data is safe - or do you assume it is? Admissions teams that don't communicate with marketingDepartments within organisations often work in silos. Without the Admissions team communicating with Marketing how are you sure that applications are not going missing? How does marketing know which campaigns result in applications? There are ways, but we found that most providers failed to implement them. Retyping data into student/MIS SystemsWhen an online application is received by a provider it is in an electronic format. So you have to ask yourself why nearly 50% of the providers we surveyed then proceeded to print out the application forms and retyped them into the college systems. In one case they were typed twice, for two different systems. What alarmed us most was that managers were unaware of this practice.When funding is as tight as it is today none of us can afford to lose a single applicant. So ensuring an efficient marketing and application process is essential if we are to get a good ROI on our marketing, ensure we do not lose applications and do not break the law. Tip of the icebergThe above are the tip of the iceberg and it is likely that many readers will know of an organisation that is making at least one of these critical errors. If this is the case, the organisation will be recruiting at a lower rate than you could. Numbers per class will be down and so will income streams. Is your organisation making any of these errors? Marketing consultant Stefan Drew was previously director of marketing at two FHE colleges and now works with colleges, universities and private providers throughout the UK, Europe and the US - visit: ( and

Posted on: 09 February 2016

Starbucks employee wins dyslexia case

A woman with dyslexia wins a discrimination case against her employer Starbucks after she was disciplined for falsifying documents.

Posted on: 09 February 2016

New campus plan after China TV deal

Plans to launch a media school in Cardiff are unveiled after a deal was struck with a Chinese television firm.

Posted on: 08 February 2016

VIDEO: Investing in South African schools

South Africa is investing more money in nursery schools. But, with the economic challenges the country faces, it's hard to determine whether these programmes will eventually be successful.

Posted on: 08 February 2016