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Sector news, 21 - 25 November 2011

Leave history alone but teach it for longer, says US historian The Guardian, 21 November 2011

In this interview with David Cannadine, Dodge Professor of History at Princeton, John Crace looks at the investigations into the study of history and at Cannadine’s recommendation that the curriculum be left alone but it should be taught to all pupils up until the age of 16.

David Willetts: 'Many more will go to university than in my generation – we must not reverse that' The Observer, 20 November 2011

Deca Aitkenhead interviews David Willetts, the minister for universities and science, who has so far ridden out the storm over the increase in tuition fees. He talks about the rough calculations that were made about the amount of money the government would need to loan out to students to pay fees. The government was apparently taken by surprise by how many universities opted to charge the highest fee and alarmed by how much that meant they would have to loan. Many universities are now hoping to charge lower fees, a decision made just weeks before students make their final applications, causing confusion to many people. Willetts says students should not think about taking out a loan and having a debt, but see it as a tax.

Exempting schools from Ofsted inspection is a worrying policy The Guardian, 21 November 2011

Former education secretary Estelle Morris says only the Treasury benefits from the proposal to waive future inspections for schools that Ofsted judges are outstanding. The recent education bill states that regular inspection is an unnecessary burden on the highest-performing schools, and only some recognised triggers could lead to an inspection. A school could ask to be inspected but would have to pay. Morris says standards can decline rapidly, parents won’t have up to date inspection information and inspectors will no longer see the full range of schools which might influence their judgments.

Ofsted finds 800 schools stuck on 'satisfactory' rating The Guardian, 22 November 2011

Ofsted’s annual report has revealed that nearly 800 schools visited by inspectors this year are stuck and failing to improve. It said 14 per cent of those visited have been judged as satisfactory twice in a row, and their capacity to improve was found to be no better than satisfactory either. It also found evidence there was a gulf between rich and poor, with a fifth of schools serving the poorest children four times more likely to be inadequate at inspection than the fifth serving the most affluent children. It also found 85 schools which catered for children from the most deprived families were judged to be outstanding.

Sheffield named ‘University of the Year’ at annual THE Awards Times Higher, 24 November 2011

Coventry’s two universities have won top awards in the Times Higher Education Awards. The University of Warwick won the Excellence and Innovation in the Arts award, and Coventry University won the Entrepreneurial University of the Year and shared with Loughborough University the Outstanding Support for Students award. The University of Sheffield won the top prize of University of the Year, for its strategy “based on its values and rooted on its founding principles”. It was also praised for its “determination and grit” in focusing on its local community.

Cable castigates 'clawback' option Times Higher, 24 November 2011

Vince Cable, the business secretary, has warned universities they must not “claw back” student places that they have franchised to colleges to protect their own numbers. Speaking at the Association of Colleges conference in Birmingham, he said he had told vice chancellors that “anti-competitive behaviour” was unacceptable. He said FE colleges have a very important role to play in expanding choice. Mr Cable also encouraged colleges to explore the opportunities for winning foundation degree-awarding powers following the success of Newcastle College and New College Durham.

FE suffers crushing blow from Ofsted TES, 25 November 2011

This article by Stephen Exley looks into the discovery that in Ofsted’s annual report, published on Tuesday, that in 84 colleges inspected in 2010/11 none were rated outstanding for teaching and learning. A total of 16 colleges were given a lowly satisfactory as their overall grade for the third inspection in a row. Of those colleges previously rated good, 44 per cent saw their grade fall. The TES said the Institute for Learning has launched a consultation with members to discuss what needs to be done to drive up teaching standards and improve professional development. Even in institutions rated good for their teaching, 27 per cent of lessons were satisfactory and 2 per cent inadequate. The IfL is to hold a series of meetings to discuss the state of teaching in the FE sector with the first at Birmingham Metropolitan College in December. In Ofsted’s report, independent learning providers delivering work-based learning were praised, including for the expansion of the apprenticeship programme.

This article charts the story of the plan to merge Northumberland College with NCG, the Newcastle College Group, and how the proposal provisionally given the go ahead four months ago has now ended acrimoniously. In a public consultation 63 per cent of respondents opposed the plans, and Northumberland’s governors raised concerns about NCG’s alleged plans to sell off at least one of its campuses.

Joseph Lee examines the discovery that the pilot scheme whereby £250 million of FE funding would be handed directly to employers to commission their own training had been under discussion for just three weeks. He said this revelation came from Skills Funding Agency chief executive Geoff Russell. When prime minister David Cameron announced the policy he hinted at the reason for the speedy move, by linking it to youth unemployment. The move gives employers an enormous amount of control over a portion of skills funding, with £50 million available to them next year, and a further £200 million in 2013. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says employers will be required to show how the public money will generate private investment, support apprenticeships and raise skill levels in their industry or supply chain.