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Sector News, 07 - 11 September 2009

Training ground with a difference.  Education Guardian, 08 September 2009.

The Stoke Challenge, launched by Stoke City FC, has a two week intensive back to work course as part of the programme.  Students produce short videos including a light hearted take on job interviews with a serious message as well as spoof chat show, both to be shown on You Tube.   Martin Keown, the former England and Arsenal football star, is ambassador for the project.  He believes that “some young people may have slipped through the learning net but the project brings them back”.  Certainly the experience obtained by two of the twelve participants (as reported in the paper) has been positive.

Do large sixth forms do better?  Education Guardian, 08 September 2009.

According to the Association of Colleges (AoC), A level results are closely linked to the size of sixth form, with the larger sixth forms doing better than their smaller counterparts.  An AoC report goes on to state that “sixth formers are more likely to do well at A level if they go to college rather than school”.

The TES, 11 Sept. covers this story under "Small sixth forms are AS liability, study finds".

‘I’m not going cap in hand to ministers’.  Education Guardian, 08 September 2009.

Interview: Steve Smith, vice chancellor of the University of Exeter and president of Universities UK.

Steve Smith highlights the dilemma facing cash strapped universities with cuts just around the corner.  Whilst firmly believing that everyone with the right grades should have a chance, he admits that growing numbers of students are putting a strain on university finance.   The Institute for Fiscal Studies show that Britain will face a 16 per cent cut in its key public services.   Steve Smith will stress to ministers that if they want a knowledge economy, they will have to pay for it.  However, he sees little hope that universities will avoid having to make cuts if they are to remain financially viable institutions.

 Superficiality breeds contempt.  THE, 10 September 2009.

“Tim Birkhead challenges the state of affairs where academics are too busy chasing research grants to inspire their students.”  He cites several reasons which contribute towards poor teaching at university level.   Pressure at school to complete the national curriculum, the internet’s superficiality, the academics' desire for research rather than teaching and successive governments’ predilection for standardisation have all led to a teaching system which is more about ‘memory’ than synthesis.  He argues that there is too little weight given to how to think.

Tim Birkhead is professor of behaviour and evolution, University of Sheffield.

Thanks very much for coming: you shall be rewarded.  THE, 10 September 2009.

Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, accuses universities of rewarding marks to students just for turning up.  He names some universities where 10 per cent of a student’s final grade is based on seminar attendance. 

Cash and quality debate faces UUK.  THE, 10 September 2009.

Steve Smith, chair of UUK, has focussed his assault on government finances on maintaining the unit of resource – the amount of teaching funding per student.  (See above, "I'm not going cap in hand to ministers",  Education Guardian).  However, Professor Ebdon, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedford, says that universities should first prove that they are serious about maintaining standards.

Tutors resolute despite lifelong death knell. THE, 10 September 2009.

Bristol University decided to cut its lifelong learning Earth Science courses when the Government decided to withdraw funding for equivalent or lower level qualifications.  Despite the university’s withdrawal of support, tutors say that they will continue teaching the courses independently.

Other major articles in this week’s THE:

Occupational hazards”, Nicholas Tesla’s experiences in running the gauntlet of job interviews.

Confucius says he who waits contemplates”, Jon F. Baldwin finds queuing is often his only opportunity for self-reflection.  

Tories poised to dump Diplomas.  TES, 11 September 2009.

The Conservative party is likely to scrap Labour’s flagship Diploma if they win the next election.  They argue that there are serious doubts as to its acceptance by universities, doubts about the standards surrounding the qualification and there is still a high degree of scepticism as well as ignorance amongst teenagers.

Vocational debate won’t die with jinxed Diploma.  TES, 11 September 2009.


Gerard Kelly comments that “The UK can turn out limitless numbers of students skilled in the nuances of dead Regency novelists, but not a would-be electrician with the respect or training she deserves”.  The Diplomas are complex and almost impracticable, but the issue remains that comprehensive education needs a comprehensive qualification.

Lifelong learning could save Treasury millions.  TES, FE Focus, 11 September 2009.

The “Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning”, commissioned by Niace will argue that adult education reduces the cost of health care and crime.  The inquiry will state that these and other benefits make extra investment for over 25s affordable.

Colleges ready to reign in the recession as sixth forms grow fat on funding.  TES, FE Focus, 11 September 2009.

Ian Pryce, principal of Bedford College, believes that the college sector produces successful A level students at a fraction of the cost of school sixth forms.  In addition colleges have driven up participation and have led the development of meaningful 14-16 vocational education.   He holds the opinion that encouraging school sixth forms is wrong and that if funding for schools was cut to college level many schools would fall by the wayside.

FE’s flexibility offers society a vital safety net.  TES, FE Focus, 11 September 2009.

Comment, Alan Thomson, FE Focus Editor.

Alan agrees with the Niace findings that education is a powerful tool to pull people away from lives of crime, ill health and poverty. Education may be no panacea, but beneficial effects such as increased employment, economic status, improved health and nurturing citizenship through educated parents are well documented.