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Sector news, 16 - 24 August 2012

A-level results 2012: A and A* grades fall Guardian, 16 August 2012

The proportion of A-level entries getting the top grade has fallen for the first time in 20 years in results published on Thursday for more than 300,000 candidates. The results show that 26.6 per cent of grades issued this year are A or A*, a fall of 0.4 per cent compared with last year. The overall pass rate at all grades rose for the 30th successive year, to 98 per cent.


Streamlined system to slim colleges' bloated bills TES, 17 August 2012

An overhaul of the outdated exam registration system could help to reduce the £20 million-plus annual bill faced by colleges for late entry fees and exams that students do not end up sitting. The computer systems used for registration date back to the late 1980s and were designed for GCSEs and A levels. They have been patched over the years to incorporate a wider range of vocational qualifications, but the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents the largest exam boards, says that the system’s complexity means colleges may incur unnecessary charges because exam centres are more likely to make errors. The Association of Colleges believes that late registration fees cost its members £20 million a year. The JCQ is entering the final stages of developing a single system for all of its exam boards, which should ease the burden on college finances. Called A2C, the project is intended to begin operation in September 2014, with all centres moving to the system over the following year.


Clearing 2012: a quarter of applicants yet to secure a place Guardian, 21 August 2012

Around 400,000 students have had their university places confirmed so far, but a quarter of applicants are yet to secure an offer, according to Ucas statistics, five days after the issuing of A level results. The proportion of students who have gained a place through clearing is up on 2011, at over 4 per cent of total applicants. When A-level results were released last week the Ucas website was advertising over 25,000 courses with vacancies for UK students, far more than in 2011, when around 14,000 were available.


Centralised pay for teachers is hitting pupils' grades, study says Guardian, 22 August 2012

Pupils' education is suffering because their teachers’ pay is negotiated centrally, according to new research that finds a pupil’s exam performance drops by an average of one GCSE grade when there is a 10 per cent rise in local private sector salaries. The study by academics from the University of Bristol analysed data from about 3,000 state secondary schools in England which educate three million children a year. Current national pay scales for teachers allow for little regional variation. This can cause difficulties in recruitment and retention, especially of the best teachers, the paper's authors say.


GCSE results 2012: top grades fall for first time in history Guardian, 23 August 2012

Top GCSE results have fallen for the first time in their 26-year history with the proportion of English GCSE entries achieving a good pass dropping by 1.5 percentage points, amid increasing concern from schools that thousands of children have been unfairly and harshly graded this year. Some 63.9 per c3ent of entries for English were graded A*-C, compared with 65.4% last year. The figures for English literature are 76.3% at grades A*-C compared with 78.4% last year. In all subjects, the number of entries achieving the A* grade is down 0.5%. The fall in English will leave many children disappointed and may affect their ability to take up places in sixth forms. A decline in English results is also critical for schools, which are judged on the proportion of pupils achieving five good GCSE passes including English and maths. The drop follows the introduction of a revised English exam and pressure on examiners from the exams regulator Ofqual, supported by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to curb grade inflation.


What A-level subjects should you pick? Guardian, 23 August 2012

Many GCSE students who hope to go to a decent university in a couple of years time will be wondering which A levels they should pick, and how they can avoid getting it wrong. If a student is set on a vocational career such as medicine it’s straightforward, but this article advises other students on what to do to try not to limit their options in two years by choosing subjects that aren’t taken seriously by universities.


Suitors woo backers in bid for 'FE Guild' leadership TES, 24 August 2012

The two largest employers’ associations have put themselves in pole position to lead the creation of the new “FE Guild” after they began work on a joint bid, aimed at uniting the sector on professional standards for teaching. The Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), which together represent most of the 1,088 publicly funded training providers, met other FE organisations last week to seek support for developing the guild. The idea for the guild follows plans by FE Minister John Hayes to scrap teaching qualifications introduced by the Labour government, along with stipulations that lecturers have to be qualified within five years of starting work.


Michael Gove must pay notice to skills, says former Blair education adviser Guardian, 22 August 2012

A guiding figure behind Tony Blair's education reforms has warned Michael Gove against becoming too obsessed with exams and ignoring skills in favour of teaching children facts. Sir Michael Barber says a focus on drilling children through exams risks stifling creativity.