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Sector news, 2 - 6 January 2012

An education wishlist for 2012 The Guardian, 2 January 2012

The Guardian has asked a number of prominent people working in education, and students, what they would like to see happening this year in the sector – answers include a sabbatical for teachers, an end to student visa restrictions, the abolition of school exams, more work experience for students, a new system for vocational qualifications, retaining the widening participation premium and an overhaul of FE regulations to allow colleges to tailor their courses more to their local jobs markets.

Higher education needs real reform, not a return to the past The Guardian, 2 January 2012

Peter Scott, Professor of Higher Education Studies, at the Institute of Education, argues that the government’s higher education reforms are anything but, and are rooted in a profoundly reactionary view of university. He says the UK’s falling gross national product and the fall in student applications to university are connected, and will lead to a reduced output of graduates in 2015. He writes that a university education will be increasingly seen as a bourgeois lifestyle choice rather than a career-changing improvement.

Exam boards hit by scandals and criticism The Guardian, 2 January 2012

Following reports of examiners allegedly giving too much help to teachers about future papers during training sessions, a survey by the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) has identified the quality of marking as the biggest worry among those teaching the subject at A level. The survey found teachers said the results were out of line with predictions, inaccuracies and inconsistencies, and erratic marking and moderation. An official working for the OCR exam board, David Leitch, has also claimed in evidence to the Commons education select committee that senior OCR managers tried to stop further checks being carried out on the accuracy of examiners' marks after he and colleagues found 300 students' scripts containing basic mistakes in markers' adding-up. At least 80 examiners were found to have made mistakes.

Just 3% of pupils in some areas are getting good GCSE pass in key subjects The Guardian, 3 January 2012

A Conservative party survey has shown that just 3 per cent of teenagers managed to get at least a C in six traditional subjects at GCSE in some parts of England. Researchers looked at the proportion of pupils who took GCSEs in English, maths, two sciences, a language and history and geography last summer, a combination now known as the English Baccalaureate or Ebacc. In Knowsley, Merseyside, just 3 per cent achieved it, and in Tower Hamlets in London just 5.9 per cent did – both are among the most deprived parts of the country. In more affluent areas such as Buckinghamshire and Wokingham in Berkshire, 33.2 per cent and 26.5 per cent of pupils achieved the Ebacc. Damian Hinds, a Conservative MP who sits on the cross-party education select committee, said too many teenagers had been steered away from the subjects that employers value the most. Stephen Twigg, Labour's shadow education secretary, said the figures showed that, under Labour, more children had more choice in what subjects they took at GCSE, and that there was a danger the English Bacc would crowd out important subjects like Music, Religious Education, Art, and Design & Technology."

Number of UK-born university applicants slumps by 8% The Guardian, 4 January 2012

The number of UK-born students applying to start university this autumn, when fees go up to as much as £9,000 a year, has fallen by almost 8 per cent, official figures show. Statistics published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) reveal that 283,680 people have applied from within the UK, compared with 306,908 at the same point last year. The head of a government-commissioned taskforce on student finance information, Martin Lewis, has warned of a crisis because, he says, many students are misinformed about the new fees regime and believe they have to pay the fees upfront, rather than getting a loan and paying when they graduate and earn more than £21,000. A final set of figures for applications will be published on 30 January.

New breed of university will make UK 'best place in world to do science' The Guardian, 4 January 2012

The Guardian reports on a speech by science minister David Willetts to the Policy Exchange thinktank in which he describes plans to attract international investment in scientific research to Britain. He said the UK government wanted to encourage the formation of a new class of university that would focus on science, technology and postgraduate training.

There is more further education news available at which has covered a number of stories over the Christmas break, including:

Enhanced Renewal Grants given to 46 further education colleges about grants for capital programme work at colleges, including Warwickshire College.

FE Week investigates: The National Extension College is ‘reborn’ , revealing new ownership by the Open School Trust.

De Vere strikes deal with NAS to introduce ‘short’ Access to Apprenticeships about a new delivery model for apprenticeships.

ITT cuts may force closures Times Higher, 5 January 2012

Universities may have to "consider their involvement" in the provision of initial teacher training (ITT) following cuts to places at secondary-school level and a new focus on school-led training, the Training and Development Agency for Schools has said. The Times Higher Education carried out a survey which showed the sector has lost 13.5 per cent of its places for ITT provision across primary and secondary levels since the coalition government came to power in May 2010. If you exclude the School Direct scheme and those on a Graduate Teacher Programme, 35.4 per cent of secondary training places in higher education have been lost between the academic years 2010-11 and 2012-13. James Noble-Rogers, chief executive of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (Ucet), said Ucet is worried about "high-quality university infrastructure being lost for ever" if departments are forced to close.

Stand by for yet another year of raised temperatures TES, 6 January 2012

In this article the TES says the issue of the lack of money was still going to be around in 2012. It says the 16-19 funding formula review will be crucial for post-16 providers, and will introduce a level playing field and cut red tape, but whether it will be possible to keep different providers happy is another matter. This month will also see the Skills Funding Agency announce colleges' funding allocations for 2012-13, with some expecting cuts as big as 12 per cent for the next academic year. The all-ages National Careers Service will be launched in April, with the burden falling on schools, but with no extra funding available, and lots of unanswered questions. Later this month there is also due to be an announcement on the number of learners entering FE colleges over the past year. The spring is also expected to see the results of a review of professional development for FE teachers, which will look at the role of the Institute for Learning.

Troubleshooter is happy to be Mr Niace guy  TES, 6 January 2012

Joseph Lee interviews David Hughes about his hopes for the future of NIACE, where he took over the chief executive role in the autumn.

'A tribute to their positive impact on FE'  TES, 6 January 2012

The TES lists the people from the world of FE who received New Year honours, including a number of college prinicipals.

Just the job might be just enough  TES, 6 January 2012

A study of young people’s choices in education and the labour market has shown that teenagers in jobs without training tend to earn as much and stay as employable as those on vocational courses at work. The study by the Centre for Analysis of Youth Transitions for the Department for Education, examined three sets of data for 16 to 19-year- olds in England and the UK between 1991 and 2008. In just over a year, new legislation will mean all 17-year-olds have to stay in education or training, even if they are at work, but this questions its rationale.