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Sector News, 12 - 16 January

National intern scheme to help graduates through the recessionDaily Telegraph.

Published Sunday, 11 January 2009.

“In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, John Denham, the Skills Secretary, discloses that four well-known companies - including Barclays and Microsoft - have already agreed to take part in the scheme, provisionally called the National Internship Scheme. “

“He also refuses to rule out bringing forward plans to raise the school leaving age to 18 as an emergency measure to prevent this year’s crop of GCSE pupils adding to the ranks of the jobless. “

“Mr. Denham says that the National Internship Scheme will provide help for the thousands of teenagers - dubbed ‘Gordon’s graduates’ - leaving university in “challenging” times, when many companies are expected to cut back on trainee posts“.

One in seven secondary schools miss GCSE targets.  Daily Telegraph, 12 January 2009.

Approximately 14% of secondary schools are failing to ensure that 30% of their pupils get five good GCSEs, including English and Maths.  The Government has already threatened any school failing to obtain the bench mark by 2011 with closure, or being turned over to a privately run academy.

Free school thinker.  Education Guardian, 13 January 2009.

An article about John MacBeath, who was one of three accused by Chris Woodhead as the “dark heart of education”.  Yet many of John MacBeath’s ideas have been adopted by Ofsted, notably self evaluation.  Whilst the article is school based, it gives an interesting account of the thinking of a radical who was at one time a ‘de-schooler’. 

John MacBeath is professor of educational leadership at Cambridge University.

A municipal room for improvement.  Education Guardian, 13 January 2009.

Early last autumn, John Denham announced that he and Andy Burnham, culture secretary, would be working towards gaining greater access for adults to public areas such as libraries, museums and colleges and that the spaces would be provided at no or subsidised costs.  There is little evidence that such a policy is being carried out at a local level.  U3A report that its groups up and down the country have seen no change in local attitude, groups paying anything from £10 to £60 per hour for rooms.  Figures released before Christmas show a further fall in adult participation, excluding those doing basic skills participation rates had dropped by 30% in the past two years.

Resource 2009. Education Guardian, 13 January 2009.

A major supplement this week advertises the BETT exhibition, 14-17 January, at Olympia along with items concerning the use of technology in education.

There are no links available with this supplement but the BETT website is obtainable through the highlighted link.

Articles within the supplement include:

A glimpse of the future.

In Blackburn, four year olds are making podcasts, in Suffolk ‘Assembly’ is being posted on You Tube and in Bristol, primary school children have designed a programmable fountain.  These are some examples of how ICT is impacting curriculum, ICT will be seen, in the future, as fundamental to school buildings as electricity and water.

Technology starts at home.

Schools minister, Jim Knight will open this year’s BETT (British Educational Training and Technology Show). Last year, during his opening speech, Jim Knight announced funding to support pupils from low-income families to obtain broad band access at home.  The ‘jury is out’ as to whether an announcement about further cash incentives will happen this year.  The minister is sure that we teach IT skills too late for those who have the technology at home and he would clearly like to see constant progress in the use education makes of IT.

Get ready for the next intranet generation.

By the end of 2010, every school should have in place a learning platform, it is effectively what schools would have called its intranet, it is a virtual learning environment.  Learning platforms are all about personalised learning and pupils, who are getting used to this technology are using platforms to complete tasks on line, send in work and receive marks. 

In January 2007, the Education Guardian produced a supplement on learning platforms which is still available on line using the link: platforms. The Becta website also offers information about ICT.

Government promises to help every student with ability go to university.  THE, 15 January 2009. 

A series of measures announced in the paper, New Opportunities; Fair Chances for the Future, state that every pupil from a low income background who is roughly in the top 50% of performers should receive an early HE experience.   In addition there is to be £1 million given to the National Challenge schools to fund higher education experiences at Key Stage 3 and the number of career development loans will treble. The government also wants universities to recognise each others compact schemes and promises that it will become easier to move on to university after an apprenticeship.

Concern over access spending statements.  THE, 15 January 2009.

The Higher Education Funding Council has set out details of the information establishments will have to submit in new widening participation reports.  This has produced claims that the reports could result in “gameplaying” and that there would be no comparability across institutions as all cost their activities differently.

Salford to shut complementary medicine BSc.  THE, 15 January 2009.

Salford has become the latest university to remove complementary medicines from its degree lists. Salford states, that their degree in acupuncture and complementary medicine is not a sound academic fit.  This despite there being more than 70 students registered on the Chinese medicine course. The university will continue to offer the subjects, as short course, at undergraduate level.

Business leaders eschew HE and go private for training.  THE, 15 January 2009.

An outdated view of UK universities means that businesses go to private education providers to train their staff.  Private sector providers are perceived to offer more relevant provision, more responsive delivery and better value for money.   Research by CFE (East Midlands, formerly Centre for Enterprise) has found that there is little awareness in companies about the provision in HE.

Nurture all-round talents.  THE, 15 January 2009.

Eddie Blass comments that despite the modern rhetoric surrounding talents required by industry, nothing much has changed.  Organisations still need people who can communicate effectively, solve problems and spawn new ideas.  These, amongst other (high level) skills, are the produce of a liberal education.

Eddie Blass is senior lecturer in professional education, University of Hertfordshire.

Happy to be here.  THE, 15 January 2009.

One of the major articles in this weeks THE shows the results of the annual THE Student Experience Survey.   Its table of results covers 101 universities and reports on student opinions of lecturers through to recommendations to a friend.  Loughborough tops the table for the third year in a row.   The article shows the methodology for the survey and discusses the success of various universities.

Exam league tables. 

The exam league tables are published on the 16 January, needless to say the popular press has a lot to say about this.

The Independent of 15 January 2009 leads with "More than half of pupils fail to hit GCSE target".  Figures published on the eve of the school exam league tables show that less then 50% of pupils reached the government target of five A* to C GCSEs.  The figures also suggest that whilst there is an all round improvement from last year, Maths and English are improving at a slower rate than other subjects and that results from academies are from satisfactory.  On the 16 January the lead is  “School tables: Comment by Richard Garner, Education Editor” along with a series of related articles accessible from the link.

There are no less than five headlines in the Daily Telegraph: "School league tables 2009: Truancy rife at worst schools";  "School league tables 2009: 20 most improved schools"; "School league tables 2009:Top 20 state schools"; "School league tables 2009: Bottom 20 state schools" and "400,000 children in failing secondary schools".

Schools accused of hot housing to get results, starts the Guardian's reports, a story about school pupils who are encouraged to take their examinations early.  “Losers in school league tables face closure, Modern language remains barrier for state pupils are two other articles published on the 15 January.  On the 14 January the Guardian suggested that the league tables show Half pupils finish schools without basic science grades”.

The Times of 16 January (on line), has interactive tables searchable by school or local authority for GCSE and A Level results; Official School League Tables 2008.  In addition it caries the article Leadership not poverty to blame for poor exam results, says Ed Balls”.

Balls: no regrets on Challenge.  TES, 16 January 2009.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary has defended the launch of the controversial National Challenge.  National Challenge is the initiative which threatens schools with closure if less than 30% of their pupils obtain 5 GCSEs (A* to C) including English and Maths.  The Schools Secretary remains uncompromising in his desire to ensure that all secondary schools achieve the benchmark.

The article “National Challenge: 200 shrug off threat”, discusses this years league tables and the National Challenge benchmark, stating that 200 schools have escaped the threat of closure.

Rate schools with GCSE points system, urges Gove.  TES, 16 January 2009.

New league table measurements, based on a points system would be introduced by a Conservative government.   Michael Gove, Shadow Schools Secretary, makes the move in light of a growing concern that the current system forces schools to put most of their efforts onto C/D grade students.  Michael Gove’s opinion is that a change of strategy would ensure more time is spent with more and less able students.

‘World-class skills will have to wait’.  TES, FE Focus, 16 January 2009.

A commons committee report says that “The Leitch review was published at a time of optimism” and the government needs to focus on re-equipping redundant workers for new work rather than concern itself with skills targets for 2020 (in the light of the economic downturn).  “Train to Gain through employment did seem right two years ago.  But it has not delivered in the way that the Government intended”. 

See also “Now is the time for re-skilling not upskilling”.  Comment

Training must meet local needs.  TES, FE Focus, 16 January 2009.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is promising legislation to compel colleges and training providers to work together to meet local needs.

Careers advice fails to do the job.  TES, FE Focus 16 January 2009.

A survey conducted by City & Guilds suggests that most adults have not received any careers advice since leaving school and those that have found it far from satisfactory. Andrew Sich, the awarding body’s head of corporate affairs says that “it’s fundamental to have a good adult careers service if you’re not going to put people on the wrong path.  There have been too many bad decisions made as a result of poor advice and guidance”.

‘We are talking about a move to the business world’.  TES, FE Focus 16 January 2009.

Colleges have been reticent to talk about their acquisitions of work-based companies.  Colleges are acutely aware of the attitude of some businesses towards them, who see colleges as inflexible and tied to the academic year.  By announcing mergers with and buy outs of training companies colleges fear that some employers will refuse to work with the (new) organisation.