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Sector news, 1 - 7 September 2013

GCSE students face new English and maths hurdle Guardian, 2 September 2013

Teenagers will be forced to continue studying English and maths if they fail to get good enough marks in the two subjects at GCSEs, under government changes. The rules come into force this week that 16-year-olds will be required to get at least a C grade in the two subjects or face carrying on until they do. Ministers are keen to improve the performance of British schoolchildren in what were called the "most important [subjects] in the world". About one in five young people in England continue studying maths past the age of 16, compared with the majority of school children in other developed nations. The DfE said among young people aged 19 last year, 285,000 left school at 16 without a C or higher in both English and maths, and by the time they reached 19 255,000 of them still had not achieved that level.

'Learning for earning' tables to tell pupils which subjects payTelegraph, 1 September 2013

Pupils will be encouraged to take tough subjects under a plan to link specific courses to earnings as adults. The initiative is expected to influence children to choose mathematics and science over “soft subjects”, such as media studies, by disclosing which lead to the best-paid jobs. The scheme is set out in the Education (Information Sharing) Bill, which would allow officials to match adults’ tax records with their educational and career achievements – something that is currently prohibited under data protection laws. Individuals are not expected to be identified. The Department for Education insisted the move was part of the Government’s “commitment to transparency” but it is also likely to be seen as a further attempt to promote core academic disciplines and high-quality vocational courses.

Sir Geoff Hall quits as foundation chief – Peter Davies to ‘pick up the baton’FE Week, 2 September 2013

Sir Geoff Hall has stepped down as interim chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation after three months in post, FE week revealed exclusively. The Foundation is still looking for a full-time chief executive. Peter Davies, who had been project leader in the foundation’s early stages, is expected to take over as interim chief executive later this month. Sir Geoff said: “The foundation is now in the delivery phase after a period of set-up, so this is the right moment to hand back the baton as the organisation becomes operational.” The Foundation has been criticised for its hiring policy after it emerged that no advertising had taken place for some senior roles. David Hughes, interim chair of the foundation board, thanked Sir Geoff for his efforts.

Why are well qualified teachers working as cleaners?Guardian, 2 September 2013

This article by Hester Lacey looks at the problems of qualified and skilled teachers from abroad who are unable to work in this country. She focuses on Morro Tunkara who has three degrees, a higher certificate from teacher training college in the Gambia and seven years’ teaching experience. His qualifications have been validated by UK Naric, but without qualified teacher status (QTS) he is finding it impossible to get teaching work. This is despite the fact that it is widely acknowledged that there is a shortage of skilled and trained teachers, and it is predicted that more than 100,000 secondary school pupils will be taught maths and science by teachers untrained in these subjects. Morro is now planning to take a course run by Empowering Learning in Hackney which helps teachers who qualified abroad to transfer their qualifications.

Universities twice as likely as other employers to use zero-hours contractsGuardian, 5 September 2013

Universities and colleges are more than twice as likely to employ staff on controversial zero-hours contracts as other workplaces, freedom of information requests have found. More than half of the 145 UK universities and nearly two thirds of the 275 FE colleges that responded to requests from the University and College Union (UCL) said they used the contracts, which do not specify the number of working hours and often give limited guarantees on conditions. In the wider economy, research from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation has found that 27 per cent of companies use zero-hours contracts. UCU president, Simon Renton, said the findings shone a light “on the murky world of casualisation in further and higher education”. Five institutions including Edinburgh, Bath and Kingston universities employed more than 1,000 people on these contracts. Edinburgh said it was committed to stopping using these contracts. Bath University said only staff working the equivalent of one day a week were on the flexible deals.

Stop counting coursework towards GCSE grades, urges exam boardGuardian, 3 September 2013

The UK's largest examination board has called for an end to coursework counting towards pupils' GCSE grades in England, labelling it as cumbersome, open to abuse and "disliked by many teachers and loathed in some subjects". The report by the OCR exam board comes as the Department for Education and the exams regulator Ofqual mull proposals to revise GCSEs, including the role of coursework, known as "controlled assessment". Michael Gove, the education secretary, said this year that internal assessment such as coursework "should be kept to a minimum and used only where there is a compelling case to do so", making grades dependent on a final examination at the end of two years' study. The OCR report says internally assessed coursework is vulnerable to being abused by schools, to “optimise students’ grades”. The report suggests exam boards conduct assessments through school visits but this would be very expensive and hard to organise.

Maths and physics graduates may be offered extra £5,000 to enter teachingGuardian, 5 September 2013

The education secretary is considering an extra £5,000 carrot to attract maths and physics graduates into teaching, in an effort to solve the long-running shortage of qualified specialists in crucial subjects. In a speech at the Policy Exchange on Thursday, Michael Gove will say more needs to be done to fill vacancies for maths and science teachers – and hint at changes to school-based teacher training programmes that have so far had disappointing results. The School Direct programme, which places student teachers directly in schools for training, has been a success, attracting 22,000 applicants for 10,000 places, but has been less successful in recruiting qualified applicants for physics, chemistry and maths teaching to meet future demand. New research has also shown that the charity Teach First, which recruits high-flying graduates from leading universities directly into teaching in schools, has had a positive impact on students’ GCSE results.

Teachers in England to strike over pay and pensionsGuardian, 5 September 2013

Teachers in England are to stage a pair of one-day regional strikes next month, with a national walkout planned for later this term, the two biggest teaching unions have announced. Teachers will strike on 1 October in all local authorities in the east of England, East and West Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside, the NUT and NASUWT unions said. This will be followed by a similar strike on 17 October in the north-east, south-west, and London and the south-east. The action will be followed up with a further one-day strike across all of England before Christmas. Both union leaders said teachers had been forced into the action by the intransigence of the government, and particularly the education secretary, Michael Gove.

A ‘paradigm pertinent’ foundation FE Week, 6 September 2013

The chair of LSIS since it was established in 2008, Dame Ruth Silver, gave an exclusive interview to FE Week about the establishment of the Education and Training Foundation, and said “change was absolutely needed”. She said: “The foundation is the next generation of improvement bodies and I think in its different way of working it is paradigm pertinent in a way that LSIS was not.” Dame Ruth said the work of the Foundation would focus on continued improvement, but it went further into self-regulation, taking responsibility for a phase which reflected the pulling back by central government from regulation and guidance. She believes the Foundation will become self-funding, which was supposed to happen to LSIS but never did.

Apprentice hopefuls face GCSE barrier FE Week, 6 September 2013

Colleges and training providers who “rigidly” demand higher grade GCSEs for the most basic of apprenticeships have come in for criticism from government vocational training adviser Professor Alison Wolf. An apparently growing number of adverts for intermediate apprenticeships are asking for maths and English GCSEs of at least grade C or D, research by FE Week uncovered. There were 249,164 of the 2011/12 GCSE cohort who failed to achieve A*-C in English and maths, a total of 40 per cent. Professor Wolf, author of an independent government review of 14 to 19 vocational education in 2011, called on providers to take a broader view of applicants’ abilities. Roger Francis, business development director at functional skills specialist Creative Learning Partners Ltd, said he thought some providers may be deciding that option to avoid delivering functional skills which they found “challenging and financially unrewarding”.