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Sector News, 14 - 18 January 2008

TES 18 January 2008, FE Focus, page 1 “Change of Heart on Mergers” (Joseph Lee) 

“Minister steps in over worries about super-sized colleges improving the quality of education.”

Discusses Government concerns regarding effectiveness of super-sized colleges formed through merger.  John Denham, secretary of state at DIUS expresses scepticism about the effectiveness of mergers to improve quality.  At the November (2007) Association of Colleges conference he stated “There is no evidence that larger colleges provide more effective education”.  Furthermore the drivers for merger are often financial.  However, research commissioned by the LSC in 2003 found that “large colleges merging did find economies of scale and their size protected them in the market.  But financial benefits were rare and only came in the long term”.  The result is that ministers are thinking again about the way college mergers are approved.

TES 18 January 2008, FE Focus, page 3 “Fellows with a common goal” (Steve Hook)

“[.] lecturers taking part in schemes to update industrial knowledge”  

Reference to Maggie Philbin’s speech at the New Engineering Foundation’s award ceremony (date not stated) comments on the importance of engineering generally and lecturer training specifically.  Article refers primarily to lecturers secondments to commerce and industry. See comment on page 4 headed “CDP and job insights go together”.

TES 18 January 2008, FE Focus, page 5 “Join up the dots in Esol provision” 

“Sally Hunt believes the most vulnerable have lost out on provision” 

“The launch of a consultation on arrangement s for tuition in Esol offers an opportunity for a re-think” Sally Hunt is general secretary of the University and College Union.  Comment upon John  Denham’s (Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills) statement that ESOL should foster community cohesion and integration in communities.   Sally Hunt makes a number of points: 

  • the limitation of free entitlement to Esol disenfranchises many who need to study English.
  • expensive Esol provision is not the way to support cohesion (suggestion that by 2010 proportions of Esol learners will be expected to pay 50% of fees)
  • voluntary contributions by employers do not work, contributions should be mandatory
  • difficult to see how current provision will work successfully.


TES 18 January 2008, FE Focus, page 6 “Throw open the windows of opportunity” (Alan Tuckett) 

“Reflections on the three Niace conferences supported by FE Focus, on the future of post-19 education” Reference  to the 2006 Niace inquiry on the state of adult education published in Eight in Ten.  Title taken from the proportion of adults in further education. Notes fall in adult learners within FE, for post-19s between 2003-04 to 2006-07 25% fall in over 19s; 43% for over 25s and 58% for over 60s.  Hit hardest are low paid workers.  1.4 million adults have been lost against an LSC estimated loss of 200,000.   The article quotes Geoff Hall, Principal and Chief Executive of New College Nottingham who stated that “a rush for numbers leads to loss of quality and accountability and that the financial irregularities experienced with individual learning accounts and franchising were likely to be reproduced with “Train to Gain””.


TES 18 January 2008, page 5 “Pupils must go beyond A-levels” (Helen Ward and William Stewart) 

“Most teachers believe new (maths) exam is easier.”  

“A new exam beyond A level is needed to stretch the most able in maths, the exams regulator has said in a report which shows that most teachers (6 out of 10 quoted) believe the present qualification has got easier.”  Not a view shared by QCA or the Mathematical Association. Article asserts that exam is not suitable for brighter students has not attracted lower ability groups.  However, there is an admittance that the take up in maths and increased and that teachers generally feel it has helped the transition between GCSE and A level.

TES 18 January 2008, page 6 “Hard truth behind the ‘soft’ options” (Irena Barker) 

“What A-level combinations do pupils need to get into top universities”.

Lengthy article discussing the attitude of some schools towards the selection of A-level combinations and its effects on pupils ability to enter university.  Example given of a ‘crazy’ combination is Art, Media Studies and Biology for a pupil wanting to become a doctor.  Also cites shortcomings in university admissions procedures.