http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/sep/29/class-veg-college-cuts-vocational-education ‘It could only happen in class-ridden UK’: veg man blows raspberries at college cuts In our diary: leaflets in the Riverford veg box over neglect of vocational education; ‘dysfunctional’ academy relations, and how an exam was upgraded from U to A Guy Watson complains of a ‘dearth’ of chefs, butchers and vegetable growers and ‘a blinkered view of what constitutes education’. Photograph: Pal Hansen Warwick Mansell Tuesday 29 September 2015 07.00 BST Last modified on Tuesday 29 September 2015 07.03 BST Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Shares 179 Comments 3 Of all the people who might criticise government policy on further education, the founder of a thriving upmarket fruit and vegetable delivery company seems an unlikely candidate. Step forward Guy Watson, boss of Riverford Organic Farms, the Devon-based purveyor of boxes of produce to homes across England and south Wales. Watson, it seems, is less than enamoured with the resourcing of further education, as encapsulated in a Conservative pre-election pledge guaranteeing funding for schools educating English five- to 16-year-olds, but not for colleges. It could only happen in class-ridden Britain, where we don’t value chefs and foodies highly enough, he says. Watson’s weekly missive to customers earlier this month, packed with Riverford’s 48,000 deliveries, was entitled “FE and food: an employer’s plea”. In it, he blows a raspberry at ministers, suggesting the food business was suffering from a dearth of chefs, butchers and vegetable growers and that a neglect of college vocational education would exacerbate this. Citing reported estimates of a 35% cut in college budgets since 2009, with a further 24% cut looming this year, Watson writes: “Imagine the outcry if schools were cut like that. How can we expect a teenager entering a profession (farming and cooking are professions, just as much as law, medicine and media) to value what they do if we won’t invest even modest sums in their training? “It could only happen in the class-ridden UK. Nowhere else in Europe is there such a blinkered view of what constitutes education.” Signing off, Watson slams the recent Department for Education proposal to scrap A-levels in food technology as “another misguided narrowing of opportunities”. The Department for Education did not get back to us with a comment in time for publication. The further education sector will no doubt be cheering Watson for his comments – but we guess more employers will need to speak out before ministers start listening. Trust’s ‘dysfunctional’ relations with DfE Advertisement One of England’s largest academy chains has a “classically dysfunctional” relationship with the Department for Education and a far-from-perfect one with other agencies, including Ofsted. So says a submission to the Commons education select committee by a consultant who has worked closely with the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), a chain of 41 schools. The committee is investigating the work of regional schools commissioners (RSCs), the eight officials appointed last year to supervise the creation and operation of academies. The evidence from Joe Nutt, an associate with the consultancy firm Deloitte, seems devastating given his close involvement with the trust. Earlier this year, he undertook a review for TKAT, interviewing more than 30 senior figures close to the chain. Nutt says that a strategy he advocated for TKAT to grow slowly had not been implemented, partly as the Kent-based chain was under pressure from the local regional schools commissioner to take on more “failing” schools, some as far away as Cornwall and Manchester. He adds: “In the words of a [TKAT] board member I interviewed, the relationship between the trust and the department [for education] was ‘classically dysfunctional’. He estimated that the chief executive [Karen Roberts] was spending 70% of her time managing that relationship. Nutt says the chain’s relationship with Ofsted also requires improvement, citing an instance when the inspectorate apparently mistakenly sent TKAT data on another academy chain. Nutt adds that his 2015 review found that there was a “major risk” around “teacher cheating” – presumably with staff under pressure to raise exam results –and believes this risk “is seriously underestimated at national level”. TKAT’s spokesperson said the chain did not wish to comment. Commissioners in double trouble Advertisement Other submissions to the select committee are also fascinating. Ofsted says the twin roles of the eight regional schools commissioners – to hold academies to account for their performance and to encourage more schools to become academies – “could at some point in the future come into conflict”. Meanwhile, England’s largest academy chain, the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET), seems to be no fan of the new RSC system, saying the commissioners are “too closely linked with the expansion of the academies programme” and that their “perceived political role undermines their effectiveness”. “There should be clear lines, transparent expectations and open criteria to determine the way in which [RSC] business is conducted. That is not the case at present,” AET’s submission adds. Northamptonshire council, meanwhile, says the government’s decision for the Education Funding Agency to monitor all academies’ arrangements for safeguarding pupils is “dangerous and nonsensical as the EFA have neither the resources nor the expertise” to do so. When is an exam fail not really a fail? Is it the largest ever upgrade in exam marks? Lara Dorman, 17, is both “happy and irritated” after an AS history paper was elevated on appeal from a mark of 30 out of 100– her initial result – to 88 on appeal. This took her grade from a U to an A, and meant her overall grade for the two-paper AS climbed from a D to an A. However, Lara had already had to drop history A-level by the time the upgrade came through earlier this month. Lara, from Wakefield, says: “It makes me wonder how many other people are not getting the grades they deserve.” Pearson Edexcel apologises for the distress and explains: “This error arose after the answers were written in the wrong space on the paper.” Measures have been taken to ensure that “candidate responses written in the wrong answer space” are still given marks for their work in future.