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Sector News, 14 - 18 December 2009

New buildings remain a dream for many.    Education Guardian, 15 December 2009.

At last some good news concerning the debacle caused by the Learning and Skills Council’s failure to fund all the promised building projects for FE.  Bournville College have started their building work at Longbridge which will cost an estimated £66 million.  Unfortunately, there are 150 other colleges who are not so lucky and who have little hope of securing Government money in the near future.

Why design should be rated alongside science.  Education Guardian, 15 December 2009.

Opinion: Professor Elaine Thomas, vice-chancellor, University for the Creative Arts.

For some time now there have been complaints that the Government is not giving enough credence to the place of art and design within the economy.  Professor Thomas argues that focussing on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and ignoring the important part that design plays within these subjects is to omit a sector that contributes highly to the national wealth.  For an example, she comments on the success of the Apple iPod, iMac, and iPhone stating that their success is not simply a consequence of the hardware.

Learning for longer.  Education Guardian, 15 Decenber2009.

This week’s supplement is about raising the education/training participation age to 18.  As usual with a supplement there are no links to the newspaper.

From 2013 all young people will be forced by law to stay in some form of education and training until they are 17 and by 2015 that age will have risen to 18.  This gives less than four years for authorities and educational establishments to prepare for what will be a fundamental change. 

“It is vital for our competitiveness in the global economy, and for young people’s personal fulfilment and achievement, that all young people are in education or training until at least 18”, states Ian Wright undersecretary of state for 14-19 reform and apprenticeships.  Currently the statistics show that nearly 93 per cent of sixteen year olds and 84 per cent of seventeen year olds are in some form of education or training.  The legislation has been made in order to bring these figures up to 100 per cent.

The learning pathways involve high levels of guidance coupled with GCSE and GCE As and A levels; foundation, higher or advanced diploma; foundation learning (entry or level 1); apprenticeships; employment with training.

Today the Department for Children Schools and Families has launched its RPA (raising the participation age) delivery plan for local authorities.

You can find information from the Department’s web site DCSF .

Student support may be targeted in £600m cutback, sources warn.  THE, 17 December 2009.

Despite Government comments that decisions are yet to be made, it is expected that the bulk of a £600 million cutback, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be targeted at student support.  A senior sector source said “The report was a 'clear steer' [.] that the cost of higher education should shift from the Treasury to students and graduates”.

The cuts will be implemented over two years from 2011 to 2013, and will come from "changes to student support within existing arrangements; efficiency savings and prioritisation across universities, science and research; some switching of modes of study in higher education; and reductions in budgets that do not support student participation".

Task force aims to keep UK top.  THE, 17 December 2009.

Hefce have set up a task force with the remit to keep the UK’s leading global position for on line learning. 

The task force will begin by looking at four key areas:

  • The current level of online provision in the UK, including the types of institutions and courses where it is available, the proportion of online learning compared to other modes of learning in courses, and investigating what kind of students (for example, full-time, part-time, work-based) can study via online means.
  • The international market for online learning, focusing on UK HE’s competitors, and considering how the UK may be able to attract a greater number of students.
  • The level of demand from students – new and potential – for online learning provision in UK higher education institutions (HEIs).
  • Student perceptions of online learning in UK HE.

NB. link to Hefce site not THE.

Conversational gambit.  THE, 17 December 2009.

Opinion Frank Furedi: professor at the University of Kent.

Lecturers have a chequered history of giving feedback.  According to the National Union of Students, this is the one area which is commonly criticised by students.  It seems that correcting the problems of student feedback should be easy, but the issues surrounding feedback and what the students want from it are not clear.  Apparently, students do not read lecturers' feedback on their work, although they are happy to have their grades on line.  Kate Brooks, co-ordinator of student experience, teaching and learning at the University of the West of England, notes that although students say that they want "more feedback", a "significant number of students do not pick up their essays at all".  Although there are examples of lecturers being slow and examples of giving confused feedback, when students say they want better feedback what they are really saying is that they do not understand the feedback they have been given.  The solution, according to Frank Furedi, lies “in providing more personal contact and interaction, so that the ideal of an academic relationship becomes more of a reality. That way we would not be giving feedback, but having a conversation.”

Features in this week’s THE:

“To have and to hold”; Matthew Reisz talks to book collectors about a passion which goes beyond being merely a reader.

“The art of the possible”;  American universities are beginning to question why they have multi-million dollar art collections.

“Royal icing on the cake”; Janine Spencer talks about her memories of being in hospital when the Queen visited.

Ofqual consultaion.  TES, FE Focus, 18 December 2009.

Ofsted chief hits back at criticism.  TES, 18 December 2009.

Christine Gilbert, chief schools inspector, has defended Ofsted’s new regime of focusing on raw exam results when reaching overall decisions.  The focus on exam results has caused fury amongst teaching staff who say that schools who were judged good or better are now coming out with adequate or worse.

See also “Comment:- School inspections have no secret agenda”, by Christine Gilbert.

Troubled Diploma suffers further blow as key elements come under threat.  TES, 18 December 2009.

Kathleen Tattershall, head of Ofqual, has said that the structure of the Diploma is too complicated and we should ask whether we have the balance right between principle learning, functional skills and the extended project.  There are universities who are concerned about the academic rigour of the Diploma.  Exam boards have criticised the Government's headlong rush to put in place qualifications which they see as difficult to manage and they consider the Government’s view that the Diploma will become the qualification of choice by 2013 as a fantasy.

Ofqual consultation.  TES, FE Focus, 18 December 2009.

The TES have drawn our attention to the new exam regulator’s consultation “Regulating for Confidence in Standards”.  The consultation paper can be viewed at

Another view - Extreme choices face those who want to keep FE open to all.  TES, FE Focus, 18 December 2009.

A look at the issues being faced by those who believe in open access but have to confront students with openly racist tendencies.

LSC must justify capital loss in court.  TES, FE Focus, 18 December 2009.

“Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education has won the right to a judicial review, expected to take place before next summer, examining the funding body’s handling of the capital crisis.” The insititute is seeking £3.75 million compensation for expenditure it incurred on a building project which fell ‘foul’ of the LSC’s inability to pay for capital costs.

Sixth forms to 'double' as legal status fuels expansion plans.  TES, FE Focus, 18 December 2009.

As the Sixth Form College Forum sets out its plans for the future, it admits that it will be disappointed if it cannot double the number of sixth form colleges in a reasonable time.  Whilst the numbers of sixth form colleges has fallen since incorporation, student numbers have almost doubled.  The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act has allowed any college to apply initially to become a sixth from college, with the education secretary making the final decision. The deadline for initial application is next week, after which only colleges having 80 per cent of their work with 16-19 year olds will be able to apply.

£300m war chest to take on youth unemployment.  TES, FE Focus, 18 December 2009.

A £300 million fund is to be created to offer up to 100,000 training, job and work placements in an attempt to tackle youth unemployment.  “From April, 18 to 24 year olds who have been out of work for six months will be compelled to accept a job or training place offered by Jobcentre Plus under the new Young Person’s Guarantee.”