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Sector news, 26 - 30 March 2012

The trainee teachers who are paying to work for nothing The Guardian, 26 March 2012

Some lecturers have reported that further education colleges are using unpaid lecturers, as trainees in need of work placements increasingly agree to work for free. The Guardian looked at how widespread the practice was after being told this by lecturers at three FE colleges. The University and College Union (UCU) said some of its members have approached it with complaints about the use of unpaid teachers. An unnamed lecturer said to gain their PTLLS and DTLLS qualifications students are working as volunteer lecturers to get teaching time. The UCU is going to raise the issue with ministers and employers. The Association of Colleges said it was unaware of unpaid trainees being used, but if it was brought to their attention they would take it seriously.

University admissions changes are scrapped The Guardian, 28 March 2012

Plans for pupils to apply to university once they have received their A-level results rather than with their predicted grades have been scrapped. Ucas, which co-ordinates degree applications, said in October that the current system where universities offer students provisional places based on their expected grades gave an unfair advantage to pupils at private schools where they applied long before the official deadline, giving them for some courses a greater chance of a conditional place. But after carrying out a consultation with schools, colleges and universities Ucas has decided that the difficulties posed by changing the system are insurmountable. To bring it in, it would mean brining forward A levels and other exams so students apply to university in July, leading to less teaching time in schools and colleges. Ucas admitted it still remained a problem that many students’ predicted grades turned out wrong, meaning some, often from lower income families, do not believe they will get in to top universities so do not apply. Ucas is planning to change the clearing system, giving all applicants equal access to vacancies rather than having to browse university websites themselves.

English universities in 'squeezed middle' fear fall in student numbers The Guardian, 29 March 2012

The Guardian has identified a “squeezed middle” of English universities which are expected to suffer sharp falls in student numbers this autumn according to data published this week. The figures show 34 universities which will be hit by the coalition government’s reforms because they neither attract the best performing students, who get A-level grades of AAB or higher, nor the lowest fees of £7,500 or less. They are expected to suffer falls of more than 10 per cent in undergraduate student numbers in the autumn, with the steepest drop of 12.6 per cent likely to be at the University of East London. The figures come from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

FE professionalism gets radical shake-up TES, 30 March 2012

In a surprising move, the review of FE professionalism by Lord Lingfield has proposed abolishing the decade-old requirement for colleges and training providers to ensure that their staff are qualified teachers. It has also called for the Institute for Learning to become a voluntary body, and to offer refunds to those who have already paid fees. The University and College Union (UCU) hailed this as a triumph for its boycott which restricted the number of people renewing their registration from 200,000 to 85,000 last year. The review also proposed to make it possible for unqualified staff to work indefinitely in colleges and publicly-funded training providers.UCU said it “categorically” supported the need for staff to be qualified, and pointed out it was an interim report. The IfL confirmed it would revert to being a voluntary organisation, but warned that ending regulated teacher training could have dire consequences for standards and the status of FE teaching.

There is more on this story at:

Government could remove obligation for teachers to register with IfL

Tougher tests for trainee teachers to be introduced  The Independent, 27 March 2012

Tests taken by trainee teachers are to be toughened up amid concerns that too many take several attempts to pass. Ministers announced an expert panel would review the literacy and numeracy tests taken by would-be teachers after they have started their training course, after concerns had previously been raised by ministers that trainees were allowed unlimited re-sits, with about one in five failing one of the tests the first time around.