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Sector news, 15 - 21 September 2013

Zero hours in universities: 'You never know if it'll be enough to survive' Guardian, 16 September 2013

In this article, Harriet Swain follows up a previous news story about the number of zero hours contracts used in universities, by talking to academics who are on unpredictable hours and money, often with no sickness pay. One Dr aged 32 in a research university has to borrow from his parents to manage on his hourly-paid lecturing job, and another knows she is leading a third year group this year but still has no contract. Both know personal relationships with course leaders are vital for keeping their jobs at all. Another lecturer at a Russell Group university said she was in trouble when her hours fell below eight a week. She has already downsized her home after worrying about keeping up mortgage payments, and she has no entitlement to holiday pay. The biggest user of zero-hours contracts, Edinburgh University, has agreed to scrap them by the end of the year. The Labour leader Ed Miliband has also pledged that a Labour government would end abuse of zero-hours contracts. UHR, the professional organisation for university human resource practitioners said the advantage for universities was that it gave them flexibility particularly in areas where they did not know what the demand was going to be.

College sector delights in free school meals victory TES, 18 September 2013

The FE sector has welcomed news that disadvantaged students in further education and sixth form colleges will be eligible for free school meals under new plans unveiled by the Liberal Democrats yesterday afternoon. Free meals are currently available only for eligible students at school sixth forms, but deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced the coalition will end the anomoly by extending the scheme to colleges. The news was welcomed by the Association of Colleges (AoC), which has been pushing for the change as part of its No Free Lunch? Campaign. Martin Doel, AoC chief executive, said it addressed an “indefensible disparity affecting disadvantaged 16 to 18-year-olds choosing to study at a further education or sixth form college” rather than school. Around 103,000 college students from poorer backgrounds are expected to be eligible for free meals.

Vince Cable: international students do not feel welcome in Britain Guardian, 17 September 2013

Business secretary Vince Cable said that the number of international students in British universities has fallen sharply because they do not feel welcome. Speaking at a fringe event at the Liberal Democrats party conference he said a lot of students who would normally come to Britain to study have gone to America and Australia because they think they will get a “warmer welcome”. Cable said about £17bn is generated each year by universities, £10bn of which was from overseas students through fees and expenditure. But if they stay for more than one year they are classified as immigrants and count under the government’s immigration cap.

Put Latin on national curriculum, Michael Gove told Independent, 16 September 2013

Latin should be included in the national curriculum to avoid it becoming a “Cinderella language”, Education Secretary Michael Gove has been told. The Department for Education currently has a list of languages that can be studied as part of the languages curriculum for Key Stage Three (11 to 14-year-olds), but it only covers modern foreign languages and omits Latin. Politeia, the right-wing think-tank, has argued in a pamphlet this could discourage schools from offering the subject, creating a situation where it “is in danger of being the Cinderella of foreign languages”. Shelia Lawlor, director of Politeia, said it was wrong to penalise pupils who wanted to keep up Latin as their main language in secondary school, or who would like to start it there, as there was evidence its study benefited pupils’ whole education and equipped them to learn a range of other languages. A Department for Education official told the seminar held to launch the pamphlet that Latin had been excluded because if it was included it would mean some pupils did not study any modern foreign language between 11 and 14, and that was not what ministers intended.

More children reach expected standard in writing and maths, figures show Guardian, 19 September 2013

More children are reaching the standards expected of them in maths and writing but the number reaching the same level in reading has dropped, new figures show. The results of this year's national curriculum tests, or Sats, show a slight improvement overall, although almost one in four 11-year-olds are still failing to achieve a set benchmark in the three Rs by the time they finish primary school. In a new spelling, punctuation and grammar test, taken by pupils for the first time this year, more than one in four, 26 per cent, did not gain a level 4 – the standard expected of 11-year-olds. Education minister Elizabeth Truss said the majority of children should be congratulates on their achievements, but the statistics also showed one in four children leaving primary school without a firm grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar. The new test encouraged schools to focus on these basics.

Foundation publishes partner commitments FE Week, 20 September 2013

The Education and Training Foundation has announced £75,000-worth of partner commitments with four FE bodies. The foundation, the FE sector’s self-improvement body, has published its delivery plan for 2013-14, which includes a £25,000 commitment to the Association of Colleges (AoC) to continue clerks and senior leadership programmes. It has pledged £15,000 to the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) to research support needs of those teaching English and maths. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has the same figure to help support those delivering traineeships, plus a further £10,000 to research training needs for those managing a dispersed workforce. The Association of Adult Education and Training Organisations (known as Holex) will also benefit from £10,000 to research the needs of community workforces within learning trusts. The contracts did not go through a competitive process. However, Peter Davies (pictured), interim chief executive of the foundation, has told foundation owners AoC, Holex and AELP, and other membership bodies, the process of handing out contracts had to be “open”, but he remained committed to working with and through sector bodies wherever possible.