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Sector news, 6 - 12 October 2013

Unions accuse schools of teaching on the cheap by using classroom assistants told to cover lessons Independent, 8 October 2013

Schools have been accused of teaching on the cheap by using unqualified staff to take lessons. Teaching assistants as well as cover supervisors are being drafted in to take classes ahead of qualified teachers, according to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Some were reportedly taking classes for three days or longer to cover for absent teachers.

What universities need: regulation, regulation, regulation Guardian, 7 October 2013

A report from the Higher Education Commission out this week will call for swift action to protect students from fly-by-night colleges. A report from the Higher Education Commission, which is made up of a cross-party group of MPs and representatives from business and academia, warns that if regulation does not happen there is little to protect students from disreputable institutions which may take their fees and then go bust.

Modern languages: degree courses in freefall Guardian, 8 October 2013

A new analysis of the latest data shows that language degree courses are closing at an alarming rate. This article looks at how the UK, according to the Confederation of British Industry, is being held back from recovery in the export market by its lack of language skills. But more and more universities are closing their modern language degree courses, as found by an analysis of Ucas course listings for 1998, 2007 and 2014-15 by Education Guardian. In 1998 there were 98 universities offering specialist language degrees and now there are only 56, a 40 per cent drop. Part of the problem is that language departments are often more expensive to run than other subjects because specialists cannot cover each other’s classes. Demand for languages beyond GCSE is also falling, with the number of pupils taking traditional modern foreign languages at A-level at its lowest since the mid-90s. The government has introduced compulsory language lessons in primary school from next year, but there will not be any benefit at universities for many years to come. Hefte is so concerned it has announcedf an extra £3.1m funding for language degree programmes.

Skills report warns of numeracy and literacy failings in England and Northern Ireland FE Week, 8 October 2013

Numeracy and literacy levels among young people in England and Northern Ireland are falling way behind the rest of the world, a new report on adult skills by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned. It said England and Northern Ireland had some of the highest proportions of adults scoring at or below level one, the lowest possible level, in numeracy, where adults can only perform basic mathematical processes. There were 24.1 per cent of adults at that level compared with 19 per cent among participating countries across the world. Around 16.4 per cent of adults, or around 5.8 million people, in England and Northern Ireland scored at level one or below in literacy, which is closer to the average of 15.5 per cent of adults among all participating countries. However, it could improve support for government vocational traineeship schemes, launched in August, which aim to boost trainees’ maths and English as well as on-the-job skills.