'Teach First' inspires new approach to Further Education

25 July 2013

Industry professionals should be seconded to Further Education (FE) colleges to train and support vocational learners, a new report by CentreForum suggests.

Launched at a high profile event tomorrow (Thursday), the report examines the case for one day a week teaching secondments, drawing on the experience of Teach First and findings of the Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning earlier in the year.*

The report says that a national secondment scheme dubbed 'Train Too' will deepen relationships between colleges, employers and employees, while offering a low risk opportunity to explore the practice of dual professionalism - or teaching and working at the same time.

It warns that at present only around 11% of teaching staff at FE colleges work in their chosen profession. There is also a "dangerous" gap between how industry, the FE sector and learners perceive the employment market, it says.

The report praises the coalition government's drive to increase the availability of apprenticeships but points out that many vocational learners still rely entirely on FE colleges for their tuition. It argues that 'Train Too' will help narrow the gap in quality between college based learning and the best apprenticeships.

Professor Alison Wolf CBE, who led the Wolf Review on vocational education, said:

"This report offers practical and excellent ideas for improving the quality of vocational education in this country. As Frank McLoughlin emphasised in his Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning report to the government, excellent provision requires close links between industry professionals and students."

"Creating and expanding these links is a priority but also a major challenge for colleges and governments. 'Train Too' offers a route forward and will, I hope, be welcomed across the political spectrum and translated into official policy with alacrity."

Report co-author James Kempton said:

"We all know we don't do enough to prepare people for work properly. Putting more industry experts in Further Education classrooms will transform vocational learning, offering up to date knowledge and inspiring real life experience. Colleges are desperate to work with industry in this way."

Lynne Sedgmore CBE, Executive Director at the 157 Group of Further Education Colleges, said:

"I am pleased to support this excellent piece from CentreForum. Based, as it is, on many very intelligent conversations with both providers of vocational education and employers, it sets out the case for an organised scheme of teaching secondments for the best in industry, and details a set of values which must be at the heart of any such programme."


*The Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning (CAVTL), led by Frank McLoughlin CBE, published its final report in March 2013.

The CentreForum report 'Train Too: industry secondments into Further Education' by James Kempton and Sam Tomlin can be downloaded.

Key recommendations from report

  • FE colleges should be supported in their efforts to improve the quality of vocational education.
  • While there are examples of excellent relationships between some employers and some FE colleges, more opportunities should be created for industy professionals to share their skills and expertise with the next generation of the workforce by teaching in FE alongside their own jobs.
  • A national secondment scheme should be established to enable industry professionals to teach in FE colleges based on the concept of a one a day week secondment for a minimum of one term or up to one academic year. This national scheme should sit alongside other initiatives to bring industry skills into FE.
  • The key stakeholders to participate in a national scheme of FE teaching secondments by industry professionals should comprise: FE colleges, learners, individual professionals (secondees), and businesses (corporate partners). The role, commitment and expectations of each need to be clearly established and communicated.
  • The national secondment scheme should be created around six design principles: a multiple engagement secondment model: flexibility; quality of secondees; strong 'championing'; a strong business case for all key stakeholders; and pilot testing.
  • The detailed model for the scheme should be developed through an iterative process of further primary research, piloting, review and refinement, prior to national roll out.

Think tank urges water industry shake up

17 July 2013

It is time to end reckless profiteering in the water industry and get a better deal for consumers, a new report by CentreForum urges.

Backed by former Director-General of the water regulator Ofwat, Sir Ian Byatt, the report presents a devastating critique of water companies' financial activities since the turn of the century. It describes an opaque, overleveraged and poorly regulated industry that consistently places short term profit maximisation above the interests of consumers and taxpayers.

The report says that in the drive to deliver profits to shareholders water companies have set up offshore tax avoidance structures and borrowed excessively to the point where they are in danger of becoming too indebted to finance their own infrastructure improvements. The example it gives is Thames Water which has requested taxpayer support for its 'super sewer' project despite recording bumper profits over a number of years.

Overleveraging is considered to have had a knock on effect on consumers. The report says that water bills have crept up partly because debt servicing requirements make it difficult for companies and the regulator to cut prices. In addition Ofwat is said to have mistakenly overestimated companies' capital costs when setting price levels. This again has come at the expense of the consumer, the report argues.

The report makes a set of recommendations for the government, Ofwat and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee to implement. It urges amongst other things the imposition of a levy on 'highly geared' (overleveraged) water companies, as well as German style earnings stripping rules to prevent all companies from drawing excessive loans with the intention of avoiding tax.

The report also calls for greater corporate transparency at a time when most English water companies have passed into the hands of private equity funds. It says that Ofwat should impose London Stock Exchange disclosure requirements on non-stock market listed water companies, and require public disclosure of all intermediate holding companies and ultimate controlling companies.

Report author George Turner said:

"For years now customers have been paying too much for their water and shareholders have been running off with giant profits. This is unacceptable in an industry which is so fundamental to people's lives and where customers cannot chose their supplier."

"What is worse, excessive profits have come about through a weakening of the financial strength of companies built up over many years of public investment. It is now time for parliament and the regulator to demand better standards from the water industry."

Sir Ian Byatt, former Director-General of Ofwat, who wrote the foreword to the report, said:

"This report sets out the issues involved in the financing of investment in the water sector with great clarity, making them accessible to non-expert readers, while providing a set of well thought out suggestions for action both by parliament and the regulator."


The CentreForum report 'Money down the drain: getting a better deal for consumers from the water industry' by George Turner can be downloaded.

CentreForum wins economics prize at Think Tank of the Year Awards

Prospect Award Rosette26 June 2013

We are delighted to have been crowned Prospect Magazine's UK Economic and Financial Think Tank of the Year 2013.

The Prospect judges were impressed by our joint report with Policy Exchange on Heathrow expansion and the impact it continues to have on the public debate. It was previously endorsed by the Economist, Financial Times and House of Commons Transport Committee amongst others.

The judges also commended our work on adult social care and leasehold and gave us an honourable mention in the category of UK Think Tank of the Year.

You can view the full list of categories and winners here.


Postgraduate education increasingly exclusive, think tank warns

5 June 2013

The lack of funding for UK postgraduates has reached crisis point, a new report by CentreForum warns.

Backed by Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, the report brings together leading figures from business and higher education who unite behind the case for a postgraduate funding settlement. It includes chapters by the British Academy, Confederation of British Industry (CBI), GuildHE, Higher Education Commission, National Union of Students (NUS), Russell Group, Sutton Trust and respected economists Joanne Lindley and Stephen Machin.

The report likens education's highest tier to "an exclusive golf club" – the preserve of affluent individuals from the UK and abroad – which is becoming increasingly exclusive amid rising tuition fees and real terms reductions in research and funding council support. These factors have contributed to a fall in the number of home students undertaking postgraduate courses, despite the rising value of these courses in the global economy.