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Sector news, 30 April - 4 May 2012

Schooldays rule your destiny long before first job interview, say MPs The Observer, 29 April 2012

A cross-party committee of MPs says long before people apply for a job or university place their prospects in life have all too often been set. It says Britain is far behind the rest of the developed world in terms of social mobility and today’s 40-somethings have even less mobility than those born in the 1950s. In their interim report, Seven Truths About Social Mobility, they say giving pre-school children essential skills is the key to breaking Britain’s class system. The report says going to a top university is the best way of accessing the best careers and about a fifth of students offered a place at Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities are privately educated, compared with 7 per cent of the school population overall. The committee said the challenge is to tackle attainment before school, when the gap between rich and poor starts to emerge.

Exams watchdog plans A-level reforms to curb persistent grade inflation, 29 April 2012

The head of exams watchdog Ofqual says year on year grade inflation of A levels is “impossible to justify” and has indicated there must be wide-ranging reforms to the exams to tackle claims that examiners were giving students “the benefit of the doubt”. Glenys Stacey, in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph reported in the Guardian, said Ofqual would consult over the summer on proposals to scrap the modular AS structure, to make core subjects compulsory for all under-18s, and to introduce multiple choice questions to ensure students were being tested more widely on their knowledge.

Sixth-formers should host lessons to test suitability for teaching, say MPs The Independent, 1 May 2012

The Commons Education Select Committee has suggested sixth formers should be encouraged to host lessons in front of other pupils to see whether they are suited to teaching. In a report they say such a scheme would help cut drop-out rates on teaching courses. Only 52 per cent of those on undergraduate courses stay in the job for five years and 57 per cent of those who take postgraduate courses stay.

'Golden age' never happened, head teachers' leader tells Gove The Independent, 30 April 2012

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is obsessed with a golden age that never happened, according to the general secretary of the head teachers' union. Russell Hobby, of the National Association of Head Teachers, says Mr Gove's belief that education was better in the 1950s and 1960s is misleading as only a small percentage of the population took formal exams at 16, and there are now five times as many people who get higher grade GCSEs than got the equivalent O levels in 1968. Mr Gove has talked of his desire to return to a more traditional curriculum concentrating on core subjects, with history lessons focusing on British events.

MPs back plan for performance-related pay in schools Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2012

The Telegraph writes about the report published by the Commons Education Select Committee which says teachers should be rewarded for “adding the greatest value” to pupils’ education and given paid sabbaticals to further increase their skills. The report comes as ministers are considering plans to create a clearer link between pay and classroom performance as part of a plan to boost results and draw the best graduates into the profession. The report quotes international research which says the worst teachers could cost their class £250,000 in lost future earnings compared with those who are taught by an average performer. Teachers unions have said they are opposed to any attempt to dismantle national rules on pay and conditions.

Job losses and pay cuts planned as FE feels the pinch TES, 4 May 2012

Lecturers are facing the threat of more redundancies and pay cuts as reduced funding levels for the next financial year start to bite, the TES reports It has carried out research that suggests more than 750 redundancies have been proposed at more than 50 colleges. Hundreds more lecturers are facing salary cuts of up to £9,000 a year as employers look to make savings. Some colleges are proposing dozens of redundancies, with St Helens topping the list at 73, and Sussex Downs on 63. UCU members are holding strike ballots at some colleges.

'Cost-effective' colleges can pick up more of the HE pie TES, 4 May 2012

Colleges are to benefit from 5,000 more places for students in 2013-14 for institutions offering “good quality and value for money”. These are places being distributed through the “core and margin” scheme, which already saw 20,000 degree places transferred from universities charging high fees to cheaper rivals this year, including half to colleges. Some colleges are reportedly disappointed there was not more opportunity to expand HE provision.

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