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Sector News, 01 - 05 December 2008

On course to keep Britain working.  Education Guardian, 2 December 2008.

Colleges are being asked by the Government and LSC to come up with innovative ideas to respond to the heavy job losses expected during the current economic downturn.  The flexibility being encouraged by the Government is in stark contrast to the restrictions posed by the FE funding rulebook.  Discussions are progressing with John  Denham (Secretary of State for Skills) about what funding will be required and what responses FE can make to support those who will need re-training.

Time to have another go at individually driven learning.  Education Guardian, 2 December 2008. Comment, Alison Wolf, Sir Roy Griffiths professor of public sector management, King’s College London.

Alison Wolf argues for the re-introduction of Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs). ILAs were initially launched in 200 and withdrawn in 2001 amid a growing concern over the management of the accounts.  According to a senior civil servant, ILAs were very popular and created a great deal of interest amongst the public   Now is perhaps the time to bring them back but with a better organisational structure in order to free up (particularly adults) to learn what they feel they need to know rather what the Government dictates.

Ministers urged to ‘back off’.  Education Guardian, 2 December 2008.

The Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) began in 2000 with the aim of studying all aspects of education and training in the UK.   Its overriding conclusion, is that the Government’s predilection for assessment and achieving goals and meeting targets has created a situation where students are students are achieving more but learning less.

‘Soft’ A levels impair entry to selective institutions.  THE, 4 December 2008.

The think tank Policy Exchange has accused universities of an unacceptable lack of transparency over the A levels the prefer applicants to have.   Those with traditional A levels are more likely to gain places than those with subjects such as media studies, accounting and business studies.

See also: It's time to get tough on choosing soft subjects. The Independent, 4 December 2008.

A chance for curious minds to shine bright. THE, 4 December 2008.

Opinion, Kevin Sharpe, professor of Renaissance studies, Queen Mary, University of London.

Professor Sharpe expresses the opinion that Oxford interview are not about privilege, but about seeking out those with enquiring minds. 

He offers as an example:

“To be specific, when faced with a candidate who had expressed on his application (always remember what you say about yourself) a passion for photography, I asked whether photographs were better historical evidence than words. Similarly, I asked keen walkers what they had learnt about the past on any long walk. Within minutes one begins to see the candidates for whom thinking ends at the school desk and those who carry their thinking into their other activities - reading beyond the school curriculum, watching the news or films - into their lives. And for the candidate - perhaps especially those not from the more privileged schools and backgrounds - it can be an exhilarating discovery”.

Let’s take a lesson from US.  TES, FE Focus, 5 December 2008.

Whilst colleges in the UK and US are perhaps the best equipped to reach disadvantaged students, the US is far ahead.  The US has a system of credit funding which makes it easy for students to study at their own pace and move between institutions or levels of study within the state.  In order to match this UK colleges need to have more freedom to run their own higher education courses.

‘English classes for asylum seekers help economy’. TES, FE Focus, 5 December 2008.

Niace (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) says that learning English is a basic human right and that it makes good economic sense.  Taxpayers face a high cost for having asylum seekers on benefit because they do not have the English to find work.

Tories aim to set colleges free to meet needs. TES, FE Focus, 5 December 2008. Response to an article in FE focus, 28 November by David Willetts, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

David Willetts says that the headline “Tory idea to scrap funding bodies and give cash to students” is misleading.  Whilst he shares much of the concern outlined in a report from Reform he does not see how giving young learners a standard sum of money would work.  The disparity of costs between subjects and the effects on older learners would make the idea unworkable.

Fears of training ‘only fit for dustbin’. TES, FE Focus, 5 December 2008.

The CBI has expressed concerns increasing apprenticeship places without concerns for quality will consign the apprenticeship schemes to the dustbin.  The CBI has further commented that there is little evidence to show that currently there are plans to tackle the issue of supply of apprenticeships during an economic downturn.