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Sector News, 11 - 15 January 2010

Harvard wins fans for advanced leadership course.  Education Guardian, 12 January 2010.

Harvard University has run a pilot for a course entitled "The Advanced Leadership Initiative" which has attracted wide media attention in the US.  The university sees it as a radical departure from the status quo and focuses on the growing number of people who are looking to re-train as they reach retirement age.  Campaign groups for older people in Britain believe that this is such a good idea that UK universities should adopt the scheme. The initiative’s premise is to develop the skills and experience of older people and put them at the heart of the most challenging social issues of our time.


University funding row erupts.  Education Guardian, 12 January 2010.

Chris Higgins, vice chancellor of Durham University believes that we will lose the excellence of the university sector if we spread funding too thinly.  He believes that differentiated funding is the only way to protect a sector with a world wide reputation.  According to the vice chancellor, research and hence PhD teaching, should be restricted to 20 or 30 universities who would receive Government funding for their work.  Other universities, Chris Higgins says, are excellent at teaching and do not need research facilities.


Bett 2010.  Education Guardian, 12 January 2010.

This week’s supplement is about the British Education and Technology show at Olympia on the 13th to the 18th January (links are given where available).   Although schools- based, the supplement and the on-line articles could be interesting for those based in post-sixteen education.

The supplement includes:

“Switch off and save” – The Conservative Party believes that as much as £30,000 per year is being wasted by schools not switching off their IT equipment.  Glebelands, a medium sized secondary school in Surrey says that it has saved £12,000 on energy costs just by ‘switching off’.

“A class without walls” – Three years ago the Government instigated The Manifesto for Learning Outside the Classroom , a school based initiative aimed at giving children more opportunities to learn outside of the traditional classroom setting.  Mobile technologies have enhanced the experiences of children on projects and the use of IT has motivated pupils to extend their learning. 

“Can we cope with a fast-changing schoolscape?” – Staff development in the use of new technologies is necessary if we are to use the technologies to their full in a teaching setting.  There is concern that some existing staff development focuses too much on technical skills instead of creating a balance between those skills and teaching skills.  There are a number of organisations attempting to change this approach.  Becta is producing a series of publications later on this year to address the issue and the Open University and e-Skills UK has developed “Vital” aimed at helping teachers use IT more effectively in the classroom.

“Online services – for free” – traditionally education establishment have bought software, under licence, and stored it locally on a hard drive.  The system has the inherent problem that students may not have the same software at home and of course it is expensive.  Cloud computing, as it is known, is an all encompassing term describing software such as Hotmail which is available on the internet for free.  Now it is possible to use word processors, spreadsheets and graphics packages in the ‘cloud’.  Providing establishments are careful, the advantages are reduced costs of IT and enabling students to access at home the same software used in their lessons.  Examples are Microsoft's eduplatform, and RM’s suite of learning platforms where schools no longer have to install or maintain hardware themselves.

On the Guardian web site:

“Learning platforms - networks change the way we teach and learn” Glow, the world's first national intranet for education, is managed by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) and delivered by RM.  Schools across the country can share resources and expertise and work can be delivered to students online and marked online.

“Home access - funding scheme brings equality online” -  Becta will use the Bett technology exhibition to announce a £300 million package to allow the poorest children to buy computers for home use.  The Government believes that as many as 1 million children do not have access to the internet at home.  The scheme encourages poorer families to apply for a one off £500 grant towards the purchase of a computer for children at Key stage 2 and 3.

“Special needs education - suppliers rise to the challenge” - Sir Jim Rose published his report in June last year, “Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties”.  The report made several recommendations, including the need for early identification of dyslexia and a teaching approach that is systematic and repetitive.  Several companies have risen to this challenge. Amongst them are:

 There are other articles on line which readers can see using the following links:

"School broadcasting"; "Gadgets and games"; "Building schools for the future" and "School management systems".


Academy’s freedoms threatened as libel law lands scholars in dock.  THE, 14 January 2010.

A law firm has expressed alarm over the number of libel cases that are being brought against academics.  In England, a company spokesperson said,  the law favours the claimant and this along with a growing hypersensitivity particularly by foreign students and the practices of some law firms is impoverishing academic debate.

See also Libel law is an ass


Cap fits, reform loan repayments instead.  THE, 14 January 2010.

A report, Fair  Funding for All”,  produced by the Million+ group of new universities has warned that raising the tuition fee cap to £7,225 annually would deter about 17,000 possible new entrants to HE.   Million+  recommend a change to the fees loan repayment in order to raise up to £1 billion.


Doctoral doom: smaller players will leave market without cash injection.  THE, 14 January 2010.

Unless more funding becomes available, universities outside the research elite will leave the market for PhDs.  As the financial squeeze tightens some middle ranking universities will consider cutting PhD students who they say lose them £80,000 per PhD student.


Let’s join the debate and stop letting others set our future vision.  THE, 14 January 2010.

Opinion: Jon F. Baldwin, registrar, University of Warwick.

It does not help universities that are under threat to have a myriad stakeholders all voicing opinions about how universities should conduct themselves.  It helps even less when the voices are all out of tune with one another expressing opinions which are disparate and in come cases idiotic.  Jon Baldwin considers that “Universities are about freedoms, constructive dissent, truth and consequence”. He fears that losing this ability to question, universities will lose the plot.  Jon makes the point that universities should join any debate about their future rather than leave that future to whoever holds political power after the election.


It’s all about them.  THE, 14 January 2010.

This week the THE publishes the results from its most recent “Student Experience Poll”.  THE conclude that the universities that do well are those that put students first.  The discussion in the article is about the different ways universities achieve this.  A number of examples such as social life, facilities and the most helpful staff are discussed.


There is one more major feature in this week’s THE, Prudence you no longer rule my world in which Deidre McCloskey of the University of Illinois discusses her loss of faith in economics and rationality.


Course of ‘doubtful’ value is one of country’s favourites.  TES, 15 January 2010.

Last March, Ofsted branded the OCR National level 2 in ICT qualification as a tick box course only achieving what you would expect of an 11 year old.  The long version of the ICT course is equivalent to 4 GCSEs for exam table purposes.  However, the course has proved extremely popular both with teachers and pupils and when asked by OCR for evidence for their judgement little was forthcoming.


Top independents primed for Pre-U.  TES, 15 January 2010.

It is estimated that in two to three years time, the number of private schools offering the Cambridge Pre-U could double.  There are already around 90 state and independent schools offering the qualification which seems to have grown in strength caused by doubts about changes in A levels.

The Independent runs a story on the drift away from GCSE’s and A levels by independent schools under the headline Independent schools deserting A-levels and GCSEs”.


Beware Wikipedia, warns watchdog.  TES, 15 January 2010.

The latest attack on the validity of the information held by Wikipedia, the on line encyclopaedia, comes from Ofqual.   Ofqual identify the on-line information source as of variable quality and with a content which is sometimes wrong.


Public cash cuts for more than 1,000 qualifications.  TES, FE Focus, 15 January 2010.

The Learning Skills Council (LSC) is to publish this month, a list of qualifications that are likely to lose funding. It is expected that many of the 1,000 curses suspected of missing out offer qualifications which are external to the National Qualifications Framework or the Qualifications and Credit Framework.


Scheme to match-make jobs and trainees fails to win hearts.  TES, FE Focus, 15 January 2010.

A Government flagship service, the National Apprenticeship Service, has failed to make an impact on the recruitment of apprentices.  Only 6,000 out of the 240,000 apprentices started in 2008/09 involved the service.  A £15.7 million matching service which is web based has failed to attract the use expected.


Intraining adds commercial quality to an FE success story.  TES, FE Focus, 15 January 2010.

Intraining, is part of the Newcastle College Group.  The training organisation was formed last year when it took over the running of the failed private training company Carter and Carter.  It is credit to the group that despite this difficult start Intraining has been awarded a grade 1 by Ofsted.


Has the learning revolution brought lasting change?  TES, FE Focus, 15 January 2010.

The Government’s Learning Revolution is a £30 million project which now has a few months to run.  Having cut some 1.5 million places in adult education, the Government sought to reduce criticism of its lack of interest in informal learning by encouraging community groups to bid for project money.   Since its inception the funding, controlled by Niace, has supported more than 300 projects with grants ranging form a few thousand to more than £100,000.  However, it remains to be seen whether the strategy of kick starting projects in the hope that they will eventually support themselves has been a success.


Who will argue the case for learners in prison?  TES, FE Focus, 15 January 2010.

Comment: Alan Schuller, Associate Director of Niace.

Tom Schuller makes the case for improving education in prisons.  He argues that re-offending rates could be reduced by a better quality of education which would include initial testing, the continuation and improvement on the focus of basic skills and an acceptance that learning for self development and creativity are important parts of an education experience.  He also says that the prison service should not move prisoners from one establishment to another thus breaking the cycle of their education.