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Sector news, 16 - 20 January 2012

Let's give adults the benefits of digital skills The Guardian, 16 January 2012

UK Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox has written this article saying that digital literacy must be extended to adults too, in order to improve employment prospects. She says that the education secretary gave the go-ahead last week to overhaul the ICT syllabus and replace it with a course in computer science, which is a big win for longer-term economic growth. Lane Fox writes that there are now 11,147 local digital champions in the UK volunteering to share their skills, and if schools started to encourage pupils to be digital champions to help their relatives. She writes that unemployed people are 25 per cent more likely to find work if they have web skills, and there would also be wellbeing benefits for the elderly.

How will cuts to disability benefits affect students? The Guardian, 16 January 2012

Charities are concerned that welfare changes and the higher tuition fees coming into effect this year will harm the future ambitions of many disabled young people. The welfare reform bill aims to reduce the number of people who will be eligible, abolishing the lower levels of Disability Living Allowance, and students who don’t then get DLA won’t get housing benefit either. Campaigners say the proposals will also leave some disabled students with less money for personal care and transport, and many are already having to pay accommodation costs for their carer too.

Ofsted 'satisfactory' rating to be scrapped The Guardian, 17 January 2012

The Ofsted rating of “satisfactory” for schools, widely regarded as a euphemism for a poor school, is to be scrapped, the new chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, will propose as he outlines new plans to tackle "coasting schools". Schools which do not provide a good standard of education will be graded “requires improvement”, and no school will be allowed to stay in this category for more than three years. They would face another inspection within 12-18 months, rather than up to three years as now, and must show improvement over the course of two more inspections over three years, or face going into special measures. A total of 28 per cent of schools were judged satisfactory at their last inspection.

Jobs at risk as teacher training courses dwindle The Independent, 16 January 2012

Following the move to school-based training of teachers, universities will be forced to axe teacher training courses this year, leaders of lecturers’ unions say, causing job losses around the country. The Training and Development Agency for Schools has said the number of places for trainee secondary school teachers will fall. Unions say Liverpool Hope University has already made job reductions ahead of the cutbacks.

Summer holidays could be reduced, says Michael Gove The Telegraph, 14 January 2012

The Education Secretary Michael Gove said the school day could be extended and the summer holidays reduced, and he claimed the government and education community were “all in favour” of the move. He made the comments as he announced plans to allow head teachers to ger rid of underperforming staff faster. He said pupils could be in school between 7.30am and 5.30pm, and attend on Saturdays, with an extra two weeks potentially on school terms. The extra time over five years would allow them to take vocational subjects as well as exam classes. It would also benefit those from “poorer homes” who “lose learning over the long summer holidays”.

Use of Turnitin software does not deter cheating, study finds Times Higher, 19 January 2012

A new study has suggested that students who are aware their work will be checked by plagiarism-detection software are just as likely to cheat as those who are not. Turnitin software which is widely used extracts text from submitted essays and checks it against sources such as online documents. But research from California State University expected to find that fewer students would cheat if they were warned their work would be scanned, but it turned out not to be the case.

It's all change at the top for lead skills agencies  TES, 20 January 2012

The chief executives of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) simultaneously announced this week that they were standing down. The SFA head, Geoff Russell, is taking retirement for the second time, aged 53, and NAS chief executive Simon Waugh has decided to spend more time with his family after his contract expires next month. Mr Russell apparently told the Department for Business Innovation and Skills in August that he intended to step down, and it was agreed he would stay for a further 12 months to complete the SFA restructuring, and allow time for a replacement to be found. However there have been no moves towards that, with the department saying it would have been inappropriate to advertise his job before he announced he was leaving. Chief operating officer David Way will lead NAS until a successor is appointed.