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Sector News, 12 - 16 October 2009

Painting, decorating and paperwork.  Education Guardian, 13 October 2009.

Colleges are reporting that they are unable to fill vacancies, despite the recession.  A survey by LLUK, the sector skills council for lifelong learning, found the situation will get much worse over the next ten years.  LLUK estimate that 582,000 staff will be needed in ten years time. It also shows that 48 per cent of the workforce is aged 45-64.  Construction, engineering and health care are currently the areas where shortages are most acute.

We must find ways to spend less on keeping students.  Education Guardian, 13 October 2009.

Comment: Paul Clarke, director for policy Universities UK.

Paul applauds the plan to introduce 10,000 new student places at universities next year, commenting that the country needs graduates to help it out of recession.  However, he says that more needs to be done to balance the need for higher education with paying back the national debt.  In this article he discusses a few of his ideas, including modifying the loan repayment system and providing money from private sources.

A fundamental review of business education is overdue.  The Times, 13 October 2009.

Opinion: Veronica Hope-Hailey, Associate Dean of MBA programmes at Cass Business School, London

Business schools stand accused of spending too much time teaching theory and not enough time teaching practice.  According to Veronica, “The charge sheet (says) modern-day MBAs are out of touch with industry practice, their heads are filled with theory and their professors indulge in research that has no real-world application. Worse, MBAs are motivated only by the promise of personal, financial gain that business schools do nothing to challenge; still less do the schools inculcate a sense of civic responsibility.”

'Agenda for change' aims to combat feedback myths.  THE, 15 October 2009.

More than 20 educationalists have signed an “Agenda for Change” document in which they call for a major overhaul of methods used by tutors to give feedback to students.  Feedback is often scored low in the National Union of Students' surveys and feedback, say the educationalists , is often based on “myths, misconceptions and mistaken assumptions”.

No place for hip hop in art school.  THE, 15 October 2009.

According to a report funded by National Arts Learning Network (NALN) “The art and design academy has a deeply embedded institutionalised class and ethnically based notion of a highly idealised student”.  The effect of this is to create bias against working class and ethnic minority students. The results come from a study of five arts and design colleges.  As evidence, the report cites, amongst other examples, one tutor who made a comment about the unfashionable clothes of a black working class candidate.  A further example is that of a tutor who deemed that the portfolio of a student who at interview professed to like hip hop was unsatisfactory, despite the portfolio being good enough to obtain an interview.

Greenwich and Leeds Met given ‘limited confidence’ rating by QAA.  THE, 15 October 2009.

The standards watchdog QAA has said that Greenwich and Leeds Met are worthy of no more than a limited confidence statement, expressing concern at the monitoring of standards at the two institutions.  In its report the QAA states that there is too much focus on “process” and said that there is evidence of inconsistent application of "process" between departments.

Nurturing critical minds.  THE, 15 October 2009.

Opinion, Mary Malcolm, vice principal (academic development), University of Abertay, Dundee.

At the University of Abertay Dundee, the strategy for teaching is that 60 per cent of contact time must focus on active inquiry for students at all stages of study.  Quoting Mary Malcolm, “Developing independent learners takes time and practice, and the skills are best developed by subject experts”.  Albeit that the strategy puts greater demands on tutors, the university believes that we cannot claim that we are offering a high quality service if students are left on their own to develop independent skills.

Individual and national success demands one path to higher skills.  THE, 15 October 2009. (No link available)

Opinion, Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State.

There is no place for the distinction between academic and vocational in today’s culture, according to Lord Mandelson.  Today’s goals should be about creating confident and qualified individuals rather than perpetuating the distinction that academia is for professionals and vocation for crafts people.  It is a matter of social justice that we widen the paths to all forms of training as well as a matter for the country’s competitiveness.

Major articles in this week’s THE:

"Past mistakes": Matthew Reisz introduces a team of historians who are fighting against the so called “genuine lessons" of history. Examples are given where events in history are used as justification for policies that bear no resemblance to the historical facts.   This story is also covered in The Daily Telegraph under "History being distorted by politicians".

“Moving Pictures”: Ian Stewart who explains how his research into biomechanics was helped by a trip in the USA.

“Captains of the academic enterprise”.  Amanda Goodall argues that organisations playing at the highest level need people who understand the business and not outside generic managers.

Universities finally open their doors to the poor.  The Independent, 15 October 2009.

Today’s Independent claims that the percentage of young adults from Britain’s poorest households entering university has risen from 13.5 per cent in 1996 to 18.5 per cent this year.  A reason given for the rise is the introduction of the means tested educational maintenance grant which has encouraged pupils to stay on to take A levels. 

Declare CPD or lose licence.  TES, FE Focus, 16 October 2009.

August 31 was the deadline for FE staff, eligible as members of the Institute for Learning (IfL), to declare their mandatory 30 hours of continuous professional development (CPD).  To date only 59 per cent have declared CPD, leaving IfL frustrated.  Tony Fazaeli, chief executive of IfL, has said that this year IfL will take an encouraging stand but after they are likely to get tough with those who still have to declare. There is an online IfL tool used to declare CPD, but it can be difficult to use.

Out-of-date stats trip up FE minister’s incentives overhaul.  TES, FE Focus, 16 October 2009.

Kevin Brennan, further education minister, has said that too few FE students are getting jobs.  The comments came after a BBC report claimed that fewer than 9 per cent of college leavers found work.  The BBC report was based on an LSC investigation which was too small to be of statistical significance and was conducted as a trial for the data gathering system.  The reality is that 40 per cent of college leavers get jobs, 84 per cent either find a job or progress on to another course and 85 per cent of those going on to university complete their first degree.

Warning over methods used to raise success rates.  TES, FE Focus, 16 October 2009.

A series of issues surrounding the methods used by colleges to report success rates has been uncovered by the LSC.  In response the LSC has set new rules for any remaining returns for last year’s and this year’s results. 

 Manifesto makes case for radical FE rethink. FE, FE Focus, 16 October 2009.

A new manifesto issued by the 157 Group calls for a single organisation to fund both FE and HE and to reduce the number of quangos and amount of red tape.  The group is worried that the forthcoming financial squeeze will affect its members.  Large colleges already deliver low cost education (according to 157) because of economies of scale, sixth form colleges have better funding levels because they are small in comparison.   The Association of Colleges (AoC) has also published a manifesto in which it calls for the Higher Education Funding Council to fund more courses in FE.   AoC have also requested that school pupils could attend college, full time, from 14 years of age. 


157 Group


  • College to rise to 14-19 agenda
  • Simplified funding system, strip out quangos.
  • FE should not be negatively influenced by funding changes compared to HE and schools.
  • College study has a wider impact than just skills training
  • Colleges to exert greater influence on curriculum
  • Seamless route required from FE to HE.
  • Review sixth form presumption and local authority commissioning methodology.
  • Colleges to set up trust schools and academies.
  • Colleges to aspire to become polytechnics.
  • Framework for Excellence too complicated.





  • Colleges to recruit full time students from 14.
  • All 14 year olds to get independent information in vocational and academic routes.
  • HEFCE to fund more course in FE.
  • Three year funding arrangements required.
  • Skills accounts for adults.
  • Colleges to decide on courses in partnership with business and local councils.
  • Autonomy to remain sacrosanct.
  • Single performance assessment system required.
  • Tried and tested qualifications, like A levels, to remain in FE.



Alexander Review: give us back our schools.  TES, 16 October 2009.

Although our news page is primarily for post 16 education, we would be remiss if we did not mention today’s big story.  The Cambridge Primary Review has demanded that England’s primary schools are taken away from politicians who impose a “state of theory of learning” on teachers.  The report starts, rather strongly, “Ours is a public system of education which belongs to the people and is not the personal fiefdom of ministers and their unelected advisors”.   One of its major recommendations is that formal primary education should not start until the age of six.   The story has been reported by The Independent "Minister rejects plans to start lessons at six"; the Guardian under "Calls to start formal lessons at six" and under a whole host of headlines in the Daily Telegraph and The Times