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Sector news, 4 - 15 March 2013

UUK launches review of part-time study THE, 14 March 2013

Universities UK has been asked by David Willetts to undertake a review of part-time study and make urgent recommendations in response to a report which shows a “dramatic decline” in part-time students. Eric Thomas, the UUK president and University of Bristol vice-chancellor, will lead the review, to report in the autumn of this year. A report by HEFCE, Higher Education in England: Impact of the 2012 Reforms, shows that the number of part-time undergraduates and postgraduates entering higher education fell 26.6 per cent to 221,000 in 2012-13 (37 per cent down on 2010-11 levels). A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said in response to the Hefce report said there were no financial barriers to higher education, and the changing demand for part-time, mature and postgraduate study needed to be monitored. Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s shadow universities and science minister, said the Hefce report “should give students and universities cause for concern”.

Ofsted inspectors are helping schools to pass their tests by charging £600 a day The Independent, 12 March 2013

Ofsted inspectors are hiring themselves out for up to £600 a day to advise schools on how to pass its inspections, The Independent has reported. An investigation by the website Exaro found that although Ofsted bans its staff inspectors from working as consultants, more than 1,000 contracted inspectors are allowed to see their services to schools, and some even offer to do mock inspections in return for pay. The Campaign for Real Education called for Ofsted to ban the practice as it gave an unfair advantage to schools that have the resources to pay for them. Ofsted said under disclosures of conflicts of interest policies an inspector who had provided advice to a school would not be involved in inspecting it.

Free school head without any teaching qualifications plans to ignore curriculumThe Observer, 10 March 2013

One in ten teachers working in free schools are not formally qualified to do so, according to official figures, including a 27-year-old who has been appointed as headteacher of a primary due to open this year. A government census found there were 21 teachers with no teaching qualifications in the 17 free schools which responded. Almost half, 47 per cent of schools, had at least one unqualified teacher. Pimlico Primary free school will be headed by Annaliese Briggs, a former thinktank director, who is now being trained, and who has said she will ignore the national curriculum and teach lessons "inspired by the tried and tested methods of ED Hirsch Jr", the controversial American academic behind what he calls "content-rich" learning. Shadow education secretary, Stephen Twigg has said he would reverse the free school policy if Labour gained power.

Gap between rich and poor students 'stark'Daily Telegraph, 14 March 2013

Teenagers from poorer backgrounds remain much less likely to go to university, and to study at a top institution, according to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It also warns that some universities could have problems if they fail to attract enough students, and it raises concerns about a slump in the numbers of people studying part time. The study says that while the evidence shows that the reforms have not made poorer youngsters less likely to study full time, there are still "significant gaps" between students. Data from Ucas shows that 18 year olds from the wealthiest areas are still three times more likely to apply to university than those from the poorest areas, the report says.

Vocational courses to be dropped from school and college league tablesGuardian, 1 March 2013

Thousands of vocational courses that lead to students "working hard but getting nowhere" – possibly nine in 10 of the total – are to be dropped from school and college league tables in England under plans outlined by the government. Only a few of the 4,000 qualifications will be included. The tables are an important yardstick by which many parents and ministers judge education performance. Skills minister Matthew Hancock said all students would have to study a high-quality qualification of substantial size if their college or sixth form was to get credit in the league tables.