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Sector News, 07 - 11 December 2009

Keep up the investment, cut the waste.  Education Guardian, 08 December 2009.

Whilst over the decade 2.4 million adults have become qualified to level 2, there is little agreement on what it is worth.  There are some schemes in which Government funding has been used to deliver training for which the company was already paying.  Adding to this waste is the plethora of quangos who rather than support industry have merely caused confusion.  Tom Clarke (author of the article), applauds labours concentration on skills but wants the Government to cut out the waste.

Some deserve immunity from quango carnage.  Education Guardian, 08 December 2009.

Opinion: Sir David Melville, chair of Lifelong Learning UK.

Successive Governments since the late seventies have sought to persuade employers to invest in training.  Unfortunately, they have done this by inventing and then abolishing one quango after another.   Sir David Melville believes that Lifelong Learning UK, which is a charity, should be spared this ‘quango carnage’ operating as they do between the state-sponsored and industry-led skills efforts.

Undergraduates to undertake 100 hours of community service. (in THE's "The week in higher education", 10 December 2009)

Proposals put forward by the think-tank Demos suggest that university students should be required to take part in 100 hours of community service.  To pay for the scheme Demos states that the interest on student loans should be raised to bring in the £450 million per year required.  David Lammy, Higher Education Minister, is understood to back the report which the National Union of Students describes as 'barmy'.

 The Demos report can be found using the link, and clicking on the front cover of “Service Nation”. The specific item can be found on page 26 of the report.

Also in the THE’s “The week in higher education”  is a reference to the Conservative Party’s  teaching plans, in which they state that they will make student loan payments on behalf of graduates who have obtained passes in STEM subjects at first or 2:1, providing that they go into teaching.  STEM subjects are science, technology engineering and mathematics. The offer amounts to approximately £40,000 per student. 

The article was first published in the Daily Telegraph of 4th December under the headline “Tory teaching plans too limited”.

Pedagogy a poor second in promotions.  THE, 10 December 2009.

According to research undertaken at the University of Leicester, the use of teaching criteria in university promotion policies is inconsistent, often absent and not always applied even if included.  Displaying a considerable lack of transparency the researchers could only obtain policies from 46 institutions.  The researchers accuse universities of hypocrisy in stating that they give equal weight to teaching and research, when teaching hardly plays a part for promotion purposes.

The report is entitled “Reward and Recognition of Teaching in Higher Education”.

Good design ‘essential for economic success’.  THE, 10 December 2009.

Elaine Thomas, vice chancellor of the University for the Creative Arts, has written to Lord Mandelson about the lack of support from the Government for the creative arts sector.  In her letter she points out that design is a sizeable contributor to the national economy and as such should not be considered second class, but seen alongside STEM subjects in its importance.

Information overload.  THE, 10 December 2009.


Although common ground for both Labour and Conservative parties, giving students too much information is “dangerous, futile and immoral”.  The sentiment is held by Roger Brown, professor of higher education at Liverpool Hope University.  He likens the move to assuming that students are just as able to choose between courses as they are between iPods.  Roger Brown believes that the requirements to fulfil the role would cost considerable amounts of money and that it would be impossible for students to be given the information in the customised fashion required.

Major features in this week’s THE are:

“Beyond Debate?”,  An article about the Copenhagen climate change summit.

“Finns, they are a-changin", discusses tertiary education in Finland which is highly regarded world wide along with the possible legislative changes to be made by the Finnish Government.

“Spaces of selfhood “, John D. Brewer reflects on the experiences that led him into sociology.

Chancellor hands FE £200m to meet September guarantee.  TES, FE Focus, 11 December 2009.

The Chancellor’s pre-budget report commits £200m to support 16-19 places. Funding will grow by 0.9 per cent each year adding an extra £60 million or nearly 14,000 places.  However, despite statements to the contrary the adult budget will see a further £300 million cut on top of the £340 million of savings identified for the 2010/11 budget.

Teachers spend their spare time on compulsory training.  TES, FE Focus, 11 December 2009.

College and training providers are cancelling time off for training, forcing teaching staff to train in their own time.   More support is needed from providers to help staff meet their regulatory training needs.  Lack of involvement continues, with fewer than half of lecturers telling their employers what training they had done. 

BIS hits adult basic skills targets early as 2.8m achieve literacy and numeracy.  TES, FE Focus, 11 December 2009.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has exceeded its targets for adult literacy and numeracy by more than two years.  BIS also reports that it is on course to reduce the number of adults without a level 2 qualification and that the target for level 4 qualifications could hit 34 per cent next year, a year earlier than planned.

FE production line must have a higher purpose.  TES, FE Focus, 11 December 2009.

Opinion: Alastair Thomson, principal advisory officer, NIACE.

Whilst “Skills for Growth” and a “Skills Investment Strategy" contains much that will contribute to economic recovery, they fail to recognise the contribution made by education to a good society.  Alastair Thomson is concerned that the word education is being replaced by the word skills.  However, he also has two other concerns about the whole Government Strategy for post 16 ‘skills’ training/education.  Alastair wonders whether the strategy papers amount to little more than short term fixes and where the money is coming from post 2011.

Schools ‘get off lightly’ in pre-budget report, but universities prepare for cuts.  The Guardian, 11 December 2009.

The Guardian’s ‘take’ on the pre budget statement and what it means to education.  Whilst schools will see a modest increase in their funding there are real fears that higher and further education will suffer cuts.  Some universities are already planning for a 20 per cent cut in income over three years and they are expected to make £600 million in savings. 

Other components of the pre-budget statement include:

  • Raising the threshold for children to qualify for free school meals, after complaints from child poverty campaigners that it is currently set substantially below the household income that defines a child as living in poverty. An extra 500,000 children will be eligible for free school meals.
  • Funding 10,000 students from low income backgrounds to allow them to take up internships in industry and the professions that are traditionally the preserve of those wealthy enough to undertake unpaid work.
  • £300m in spending to be “redirected” to guarantee every 16- to 24-year-old who has been out of work for more than six months a job or training place, reducing that threshold from the current 12 months.
  • Redirecting £200m to a Strategic Investment Fund that universities have to bid for to undertake research work.

Ministers' budgets: Protection for schools and health – but cuts elsewhere. The Independent, 11 December 2009.

“Spending on schools attended by three to 16-year-olds will go up by 0.7 per cent in real terms in 2011-12 and 2012-13, while budgets on education for 16  to 19-year-olds will increase by 0.9 per cent above inflation. Spending on Sure Start children's centres will be pegged to inflation. The total estimated increase in education spending will be £2.6bn a year by 2013.

However, Ed Balls’ department has already been warned that its budget for new schools and repairing buildings will drop from £7.4bn to £6.7bn next year, with further reductions likely. Yesterday it was told to identify £350m in savings from central budgets and efficiency measures.”