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Sector news, January 23-27

Is the new chief inspector of schools just an instrument of government? The Guardian, 23 January 2012

Fran Abrams profiles the new Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw, visiting his successful academy school and another one nearby, where the head is annoyed the “contextual value-added” measure on league tables won’t show what her school is up against. Abrams says Wilshaw has already stirred up strong emotions, with Michael Gove calling him a “hero” and shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg quite happy with the appointment, but teachers annoyed at his speech saying a “satisfactory” rating by inspectors should be viewed as unsatisfactory, and wants Ofsted to look at whether heads were being too generous to failing teachers when allocating performance-related pay. There are also fears that Ofsted is now a political weapon, being used to do the government’s work.

The national curriculum: why have one if it's not for everyone? The Guardian, 23 January 2012

Former education secretary Estelle Morris writes that the government is using freedom from the national curriculum as a carrot to lure schools into becoming academies. She says it seems as if the government’s answer to the question 'who should control the content of the curriculum?' is that it depends on whether the school is an academy or not. If it is, control rests with teachers; if not, it seems to remain with the government.

Prepare to be scrutinised at university open days The Guardian, 23 January 2012

The idea of university open days has changed – it used to be universities that got cleaned up ready to be scrutinised by potential students, but these days with demand for many courses high despite the rise in fees, admissions tutors now see the open day as an early chance to hunt for undergraduates who stand out from the crowd. The advice to students is to be brave and talk to tutors, rather than letting their parents do all the talking. And when they get talking, the suggestion is to talk about subject-related ideas you’ve seen on an intellectual TV programme or read about – and make sure the admissions tutor gets to hear and remember your name!