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Sector News, 13 - 17 July 2009

Essential English.  Education Guardian, 14 July 2008

Esol classes are facing closure in a number of colleges around the country.  Colleges are complaining that they lack the funding to deliver the full range of Esol courses.  The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills says that the Government has trebled Esol funding since 2000-01. However, in the last three years Esol funding has stayed the same despite increased demand.  Additionally, the Government wants Esol funding directed to classes for priority learners, higher level learners to go on to longer courses.

 It’s a cinch.  Education Guardian, 14 July 2009.

The Government’s decision to prioritise Science and Technology is having an adverse effect on art and design, an industry which contributes £60bn to the UK economy.  A particular concern is the creative sector’s difficulty in accessing funding through the Technology Strategy Board, a quango created to provide support to business.

More universities to require top grades at A-level.  Financial Times, 11 July 2009.

Half of the UK's leading universities are from next year set to increase the number of degree subjects requiring three A-grades at A-level, according to the Financial Times.  Critics see this as a result of possible cuts in funding or an inability to raise tuition fees in a time where competition for places is growing.

Story first seen in THE 16 July.

Second wave of ELQ tremors may hit OU science.  THE, 16 July 2009.

The Open University is facing a 10 per cent cut in funding from Hefce as a result of the Government’s decision on equivalent and lower-level qualifications (ELQs).  Initially Arts and Humanities bore the brunt of recent cuts in funding.  However, science is likely to be the victim of the second wave of cuts amounting to some £100 million a year.   The OU may offer just one science course in future, BSc in Natural Science.

‘Summer of despair’ ahead for graduates and students.  THE, 16 July 2009.

In a debate in the House of Commons last week, Conservatives said that young people would be the major victims of the recession.  They have warned the Government of it failing young people during the economic downturn stating that there could be tens of thousands left without a university place this year.  The THE reports under "Prime Minister offers more university places", that Gordon Brown made a promise to a select committee last week that he would increase places at university, although he refused to give a number.

Teach them how to think.  THE, 16 July 2009.

Kevin Sharpe bemoans the loss of the university approach to instilling critical thinking into its students, replacing it with passive course delivery measured only in lecturer hours and Powerpoint presentation.  He argues that students are not empty vessels into which knowledge should be poured, they should read, think and reform ideas.

Kevin Sharpe is professor of Renaissance studies, School of English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London.

Articles in the THE this week.  THE, 16 July 2009.

There are three major articles in the THE this week, two of which may be of interest.  In “Red, white and blue Moon”, Colin Pillinger explains Britain’s contribution to the Apollo programme and in “The war of the canon”, George Watson argues that studying literature in order to discover yourself can be painful and the outcome nebulous.

GCSE science exams are often 'woefully inadequate'.  Daily Telegraph, 16 July 2009.

Score, Science Community Representing Education, has said in a new report that GCSE science does not have sufficient academic rigour.  “Publication of the report comes months after Ofqual, the exam watchdog, raised 'significant concerns' over GCSE science, suggesting reforms had led to the subject being dumbed down”.

 Language diploma students urged to explain motive.  TES, 17 July 2009.

Experts believe that students will learn languages better if the learning focuses on why they want to take a particular language.  The language diploma, due to start in 2011, will be more project based than existing GCSEs or A levels.  Project-based learning should give the students more opportunity to study the language in a context more suited to themselves.

Experts say new A-level will protect pure maths.  TES, 17 July 2009.

In contrast to the Education for Reform group’s opinion, three other groups of experts believe that the new A-level will protect the traditional maths A-level.  Education for Reform, a group of 58 teachers, academics and business leaders believe that the proposed “Use of Mathematics” A- level will encourage pupils to switch from the traditional A -level to the easier option. 

157 Group to draw up manifesto for sector.  TES, FE Focus, 17 July 2009.

After talks with Lord Mandelson, the 157 Group have decided to put forward a manifesto for further education to autumn party political conferences.  The manifesto is likely to be focused around six key themes, 14-19 education, higher education in the FE sector, efficiencies, performance management, community cohesion and financial flexibility.

MPs call on LSC to refund capital project expenses.  TES, FE Focus, 17 July 2009.

The Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee has condemned the LSC for the catastrophic mismanagement of the capital building project.  It says that LSC should pay compensation to the colleges that it encouraged to inflate demands when the LSC knew that the money was running out.   Earlier the LSC stated that they would not pay compensation except where they are legally obliged to give it.