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Sector News, 22 - 26 August 2011

Value of holding a degree shrinks for 21st-century graduates, 24 August 2011

 The value of having a degree has decreased as more people have gained them, a study has shown. The share of the population with a university education has more than doubled over 20 years – but graduates still earn more. An analysis of graduate employees in the last quarter of 2010 shows they earn 85% more than people who left school after GCSEs, which is down from earning 95% more in 1993. A quarter of the population now have a degree, up from 12% in 1993. The Office for National Statistics said the dip in graduate earnings is because a smaller proportion of graduates are doing highly skilled jobs.

Girls surge ahead at GCSE to open up record gender gap at 16 The Guardian, 25 August 2011

Results of this year’s GCSEs show that girls are outperforming boys in results in almost every subject, and have also increased their share of top grades in the sciences compared with last year. It has lead to a gap between the sexes of 6.7 percentage points, the highest so far. Dr Jim Sinclair, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications, which publishes the GCSE results, said the growing gap was a "worrying trend". However Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that at A-level boys tended to be very focused on the grades they need for university, but at GCSEs they did not have the same maturity as girls in seeing the obvious reasons to want high grades.

Majority do not believe a degree is worth £9k, opinion poll suggests Times Higher Education, 26 August 2011

A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has shown that less than a third of British adults think a university education is worth £9,000 a year. One question explained the loans system, and asked if a university system was worth £9,000 a year, and just 29% said it was, 56% said it was not and 15% were not sure. A total of 59% of respondents were in favour of squeezing a degree into two years to reduce the total cost.

'Could do better', but please don't sue me for saying so Times Higher Education, 26 August 2011

Academics are afraid to give negative student references or put candid remarks on exam scripts because of an overbearing risk-management culture in universities, according to a researcher who has undertaken a two-year study. Kim Soin, reader in accounting at the University of Greenwich, said the introduction of Freedom of Information and data protection legislation in universities meant students had greater access to what academics wrote about them, which had led to fears of legal action. They could see their references, which had led to a reluctance to write anything bad, or even discuss contentious issues in class or put comments on exam scripts.

GCSE pass rates: end of choice, union warns TES, 26 August 2011

The TES reports that the GCSE pass rate has risen for the 24th year in a row, with A and A* grades at a new high of 23.2 per cent. There were big increases in entries for physics, chemistry and biology, but a decline in modern foreign languages. Mary Bousted, general secretary of teaching union the ATL, welcomed the overall “great results” but said the English Baccalaureate is likely to restrict the range of subjects taught to GCSE. A Department for Education spokesman said the Ebac was not compulsory.

'Dead' diploma has cost £20,000 per pupil completing it TES, 26 August 2011

The TES has revealed that the diploma, which is seen by at least one major examination board as “dead” has cost nearly £20,000 for every pupil completing it, not including teaching costs, almost twice the amount previously thought. It was originally seen as a serious rival to A levels and GCSEs, but just 9.069 diplomas aimed at GCSE-level pupils were completed this year compared with 5.15 million GCSEs. The government has spent at least £296.6 million developing it, funding consortia, training staff to deliver it and subsidising transport so pupils could reach classes. It now appears the diploma could be doomed.

Tuition fee hike triggers university rethink TES, 26 August 2011

Almost eight out of 10 teenagers who intended to go university will change their plans because of the rise in tuition fees, a poll has revealed. A survey carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that 15% of pupils in Years 10, 11 and 12 have dropped plans to study at university because of the planned increase in fees from next year up to a maximum of £9,000 a year. Almost one in five said they would choose universities which do not charge maximum fees, and 17% said they would consider studying at FE colleges or universities abroad.

Head to fight 'tooth and claw' after parents vow to sue over A- levels TES, 26 August 2011

A private school has vowed to "fight tooth and claw" to defend its reputation after a parent threatened to sue over his son's failure to get straight As at A-level. David Webster missed out on a place to study maths at University College London after his geography coursework was unexpectedly graded E, dragging his overall mark down to B. His father, academic roger Webster, says £11,000-a-year Silcoates School in West Yorkshire breached its contractual duty by failing to guide David correctly, as exam board OCR says the coursework did not meet its published criteria. All six pupils in geography got lower than expected for one unit and despite two appeals all scripts came back unchanged. David is now reading natural science at Durham University. The dispute has been going on for two years.

Teachers' children must not be able to jump queue, warns trust TES, 26 August 2011

Teachers' children should not be allowed to jump the queue for places at the most popular schools, leading educational charity the Sutton Trust has warned. It says instead preference should be given to children from poorer backgrounds. The Trust says the government’s planned overhaul of admissions policies would entrench inequality. A draft of the code says any oversubscribed school can prioritise the offspring of its teaching and non-teaching staff to help successful schools recruit and keep the best teachers. But the Sutton Trust says it would be a disincentive for teachers working in more challenging schools in deprived areas. Education secretary Michael Gove said allowing successful schools to expand will put pressure on underperforming schools to improve.