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Sector news, 14 - 18 May 2012

Parents to control budgets for children with special educational needs The Guardian, 15 May 2012

Parents in England are to be given control over their children’s special educational needs (SEN) budgets, which will allow them to choose expert support rather than local authorities being the sole provider. It will legally force education, health and social care services to plan provision together. There are fears that it might mean children being removed from the special education register altogether but Sarah Teather, minister for children and families, said some children were being identified as having SEN who shouldn’t be. Managing the budgets will be optional for parents, and the government will try out a number of approaches, either giving money directly to parents or leaving it with the local authority. 


Stranded: the students and staff hit by the crackdown on 'bogus' colleges The Guardian, 14 May 2012

This article focuses on the fate of overseas students attending colleges in the UK which were originally approved and listed by the UK Border Agency, which have subsequently, due to government regulation changes, gone out of business. Colleges told they can no longer sponsor foreign students often go into liquidation, leaving their students with no courses and putting staff out of jobs. Students had to pay more fees to go to another college if they wanted to stay and study in the UK. The regulations putting colleges out of business are aimed at curbing migration to the UK and cracking down on “bogus” institutions. Some students at these colleges have struggled to find the money to move to another one, some have gone home and some have stayed in the UK illegally.


Student visa rules cost universities millions, MPs told The Guardian, 14 May 2012

Universities and colleges are spending millions of pounds to navigate the government's "Kafkaesque" new student visa rules, MPs on the public accounts committee have been told. The London School of Economics spends £250,000 a year trying to understand regulations which govern the entry of non-European Union students. MPs are investigating the issue of student visas after a report published in March by the National Audit Office found serious errors in the way the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) implemented the changes. Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said the report was the most shocking account of poor management leading to abuse she had ever seen. The Guardian reports that it had found scored of genuine students left stranded and penniless as bona fide colleges closed down.


Michael Gove proposes that schools set own teachers' pay The Guardian, 17 May 2012

The education secretary Michael Gove has suggested that England’s state schools should be allowed to set their teachers’ salaries themselves, leading to the end of a national pay scale for the profession. Mr Gove has made the suggestion in a submission to a review on teachers’ pay which is due to report in the autumn. The idea is likely to be deeply unpopular with teacher trade unions. This week an international study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development showed there was no clear link between awarding teachers performance-related pay and improving standards in schools.

'No benefit' to short apprenticeships The Independent, 17 May 2012

The Commons Public Accounts Committee praised the Business Department's drive to boost the number of apprenticeships, but also voiced concerns over the amount and quality of training, and welcomed skills minister John Hayes’s recent announcement that in future the vast majority of apprenticeships will last more than a year, with a six-month minimum for over-19s who already have qualifications. The number of apprenticeships quadrupled from 79,000 in 2006/07 to 325,500 in 2010/11, with the proportion completed successfully rising from 34% to 78% over six years. Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said there was a danger of apprenticeships which lasted only six months or less being of no real benefit to the individuals or employer and could devalue the programme.

Students 'see no rise in lectures' despite tuition fee hike The Telegraph, 17 May 2012

A tripling in the cost of a degree has made almost no difference to the number of lectures and tutorials undergraduates receive, it was revealed. Figures showed that students reported an average of less than 14 hours of timetabled tuition each week this year, 12 minutes up on 2006, when fees soared three-fold. It also emerged that students at former polytechnics did less overall work, including attendance at lectures and seminars, than undergraduates at traditional universities.

Adults may reject education over loans – survey

More than two in five potential adult students say they would be unlikely to take up a loan for an FE course, according to the government’s survey of attitudes to borrowing. Researchers for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that opposition to the FE loans being introduced next year softened when the terms were explained, including the fact that they would not need to make repayments unless they were earning more than £21,000. But even then, 42 per cent said they would probably not be willing to take out a loan, and of those 11 per cent were definite about their opposition, prompting fears that large numbers of adults will turn their backs on education.

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