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Sector News, (02) 05 - 09 January

Learning to live with Train to Gain.  TES, FE Focus, 02 January 2009.

DIUS (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills), has published figures showing that whilst traditional adult education is vanishing, there is sharp rise in the over 19s taking level 2 (and above) qualifications.   Between 2005 and 2008 there was an 81% increase in the number of adults studying for level 2 qualifications and a 21% increase in those on level 3 courses.

Let’s have a UCAS-style clearing house for FE, says skills chief.  TES, FE Focus, 02 January 2009.

Simon Bartley, chief executive of UK Skills, says that there is no single location to find training opportunities, as there is for university courses.   Mr Bartley is of the opinion that teachers tend to promote university education at the expense of vocational courses, a fact born out, he says, by the 9% drop out rate from first year university courses.  When prospective students look for course in FE they look to their local college, but they should have the opportunity to look at schemes further afield.

School-leaving age 'could be raised to 18 immediately'. Daily Telegraph, 05 January 2009.

Current legislation means that pupils who are 11 this year must remain in education or training until they are 18.  However, the Government is thought to be considering applying this rule to older pupils.  This is part of a list of proposals being studied by Gordon Brown in advance of a summit on employment.

Teenager husbandry.  Education Guardian, 06 January 2009.

An enthusiastic Derbyshire farmer is teaching thirty teenagers a few things about chickens and eggs.  Roger Hoskins believes that schemes such as his can have a major impact upon the social well being of teenagers. “The change in their attitude can be remarkable”, says Roger for example, slowly, angry young people would become more caring and supportive of each other.  The tasks on the farm include looking after hens, keeping the chicken sheds clean, planting vegetables, making hanging baskets and working in the farm shop. Each youngster has a mentor who supervises them and assigns jobs for the day.

Academics fear PhD quality is slipping.  THE, 08 January 2009.

A poll conducted by the THE has uncovered concerns by academics that pressure to get more students through, quickly, are harming standards.  Participants cited concerns about mounting pressure to “accept students who were not capable of doctorate level work, problems with the level of support available, overseas students, language difficulties and the bureaucratic difficulties of failing PhD candidates".

See also A ‘taboo’ topic is aired on the web”, which discusses the effect of funding on PhD standards.

The wizards of Oz.  THE, 08 January 2009.

In 2007, the University of Melbourne overhauled its curriculum and threw out a hundred years of tradition in favour of a broader curriculum.   Rather than study one subject in depth the university offers degrees with a multi disciplinary flavour.  The new curriculum requires a student to study a quarter of their degree from across other subjects (known as breadth subjects).  The change has produced quite a stir amongst universities worldwide, who are watching developments with interest.   Already the university has been in discussion with universities from, Thailand, China, Scotland, Ireland, the US, Chile and Oman.   The change is partly based on the universities belief that the students of tomorrow need to be able to handle more complex knowledge and concepts in a world where boundaries are constantly shifting.

Poor score for grading system.  TES, FE Focus, 09 January 2009.

The Framework for Excellence, a framework designed to allow providers to measure their performance against others, is not considered highly by college principles.  A survey carried out by QDP found that 59% of respondents thought that the framework was not useful as a measure of success and 75% thought that the framework would not last. This conflicts with an LSC survey which produced results showing that 80% thought that the framework would improve performance and 85% thought it would be a successful measuring tool.  QDP accuses the LSC of not connecting with its audience.

See also Framework will be a boon if they get it right.

Cash to retrain the redundant.  TES, FE Focus, 09 January 2009.

An extra £158 million taken from Train to Gain and the European Social Fund is to be used to help people back into work.  The funding will train up to 40,000 workers against a back drop which leads personnel managers to think that Britain could face 600,000 job losses this year.

A Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills spokesperson said that the fund is to be targeted at those who have recently lost their jobs and was only part of a £4.5 billion of spending on adult education.  

The article explains how a number of colleges have been innovative in designing their re-training courses.

Brown to fund more apprentices.  TES, FE Focus, 09 January 2009.

Gordon Brown has announced an extra £140 million to be invested in the creation of around 35,000 new apprenticeships.  The PM considers this a worthwhile move in the Government’s attempts to create more jobs during the recession.

The prevailing mindset about IT has to change.  TES, FE Focus, 09 January 2009.

Comment: Stephen Crowne, chief executive Becta, the government agency for technology in education.

Too many colleges do not use modern technology effectively enough, in the opinion of Stephen Crowne.  There are, he says, still too many examples of where technology is a hindrance rather than a help and the current mindset is rooted in the past.  There are colleges, North Devon is mentioned, where the use of technology is world class.  There is need for more technology-focused staff development and a need for senior managers to take a lead in explaining to staff that technology will improve teaching and learning, where there is a clear understanding of what technology is expected to do.