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Sector News, 03 - 07 November 2008

Lack of conviction in prison education system.  Education Guardian, 4 November 2008.

A report by the House of Commons public finances committee (PAC) claims that little has been done to improve services for those inmates who struggle with literacy and numeracy.   The PAC says the Learning and Skills Council’s attempt to raise the quality of provision and offer a single integrated service for prisoners has failed almost completely.  The report expresses dismay that around half of prisoners have no qualifications and 40% have a reading age less than that of an 11 year old.

Poorer prospects.  Education Guardian, 3 November 2008.

At the start of this year's recruitment cycle 46% of the jobs advertised for graduates were in the financial services industries.   With the economy heading for possible recession, the Guardian wonders what this will mean for new graduate chances in the job market in the near future.  As competition for jobs increases it could be that employers will look to universities to fill vacancies normally filled by others.  It could also mean that the skills such as interpersonal skills and adaptability could be rated higher with employers, alongside the quality of degree obtained by an applicant.

FE colleges plan low-cost degrees at bachelor level.  THE, 06 November 2008.

The Association of Colleges, has put forward a discussion paper proposing the delivery of new degrees by FE colleges.  The proposals are:

  • colleges to expand higher education offerings,
  • two year rather than three year degrees
  • employer help in design of programmes,
  • part time routes,
  • low cost participation

Come out of the woodwork now’: MP’s challenge to standards critics.  THE, 06 November 2008.

An investigation aiming to confront claims of falling standards, is to be conducted by the University, Science and Skills (IUSS) Select Committee.  The investigation will ask the many university lecturers and staff ,who are of the opinion that ‘dumbing down’ is a reality, for proof that this is the case.

Napier introduces six-month route to masters.  THE, 06 November 2008.

For students who do not have bachelors degrees, a six month bridging course is to be offered as a route to masters level.  The programme will be offered by the Edinburgh Institute at Napier University and will be available to people who have no educational or professional qualifications but who have at least five years’ experience in the workplace.  After completion, students can join all the institute’s management degrees with the exception of MBA.

Fight or flight is the wrong response – there’s no danger here.  THE, 06 November 2008. John Widdowson,  principal of New College Durham.

In response to the article Fight or Flight, THE 16 October, John Widdowson argues that the new powers given to colleges to award degrees do not pose a threat to university/college partnerships.   He dismisses fears of dilution, saying that colleges will not have an unlimited ability to franchise foundation degrees.  On fears over lack of quality, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has already stated that 99% of college foundation degrees are commendable or approved.

Pick ‘n’ mix not so sweet.  THE, 06 November.

An amusing article, with a serious conclusion, about one man’s attempt to install a credit transfer system in universities.

Implementing the 14-19 reforms.  TES, 07 November 2008. Advertisement feature.  No link.

A full page (Government?) ad on implementing diplomas. Whilst there is no link to the advertisement, there are a few useful web sites which are probably worth looking at if you have not already got plenty of information on the 14-19 changes.

Information for schools and college staff on all of the 14-19 education changes: learning/14to19  and

The Diploma: A Guide for Schools (REF 499) and The Diploma: A Guide for FE (Ref 500) can be downloaded at:, or use:  Link for schools section; Link for FE section.

An online 14-19 prospectus which gives an overview of all the courses and qualifications available at schools, colleges and sixth forms by area:, although when I used this it did not focus directly on the Diploma.

Business booms as economy slips.  TES 07 November 2008.

A short article, explaining how the ‘credit crunch’ has revitalised business teaching.

EMA students ‘undeserving’.  TES, FE Focus, 07 November 2008.

It seems that the Education Maintenance Grant (EMA) has got into another acrimonious battle. After the debacle of non-payment of students, the Conservative party has argued that families receiving state benefits do not deserve the further subsidy (EMA).  By increasing the compulsory education or training age to 18, it has, say the Conservatives, effectively removed the need for the ‘carrot’ of EMA.

See also: “The carrot is dead, long live the stick?

Education for prisoners is failing in almost every respect, say MPs.  TES, FE Focus, 07 November 2008.

Another look at a story reported in the Guardian, 04 November.  Here the TES reports, that prisoners have had their education disrupted by lack of record keeping, that funding has been misdirected and prisoners have never had their training needs properly assessed.  The Government committee report states that “the skills service introduced in 2006 across England, which intended to provide a consistent educational programme based on early assessment of prisoner’s needs, has fallen short of its stated aims”.

Diplomas won’t take off unless colleges are given more freedom.  TES, FE Focus, 07 November 2008.

Opinion: David Collins, president of the Association of Colleges.

It is clear from the enrolment figures for the 14-19 diploma (12,000, instead of the 50,000 expected) that the new qualification has not fired the imagination of teenagers.  There are a number of problems associated with the delivery of the Diploma:

  • Diplomas are occupationally rather than vocationally focused,
  • there is the insistence that the Diplomas must be delivered through a partnership group,
  • getting employers to ‘buy-in’ is a serious challenge.

David discusses why he sees the above as problems and suggests that the only way to make the system work is to give colleges the opportunity to deliver Diplomas independently.