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Sector News, 15 - 19 September 2008

My shopping list for making further education work.  Education Guardian, 16 September 2008.

Comment: Alan Tuckett, director of the National institute of Adult Continuing Education.

Reports of underspend from Train to Gain of well over £1million sit uncomfortably against cuts in excess of 1.4 million adult education places. More money is required for adult education and a prioritising of places for those with numeracy and literacy skills below level 2.  Alan Tuckett also believes that there should be a cap on ESOL provision.

Gr8 db8r takes on linguistic luddites.  Education Guardian, 16 September 2008.

In an interview with language guru John Grace, the Guardian reports that text speak is neither bad spelling nor a sign of moral decay.  John Grace comments that almost every basic principle that people hold about texting is misconceived. “People have always feared the impact of new technology on language.  Text messaging is just the latest form of anxiety”.

Be fair to adults as well as young people.  Education Guardian, 16 September 2008.

Comment: John Denham, secretary of state for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

John Denham argues that failing to provide access to education for young adults is tantamount to failing the community.  However, we also fail the community by ignoring the educational needs of adults.  The article continues with an attack on Conservative party policy along with expressed satisfaction for the Labour party approach.

Working for social mobility.  Education Guardian, 16 September 2008.

Alison Richard, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University says that promoting social mobility is not a university’s core mission.  Nevertheless, Alison makes the case for widening participation stating that universities have raised the number of students from low income backgrounds.

Reform unfair aid system, says Hepi.  THE, 18 September 2008.

The Higher Education Policy Institution (Hepi), says that student tuition fees should be “top-sliced” to create a national student bursary scheme.  Hepi thinking is that top-slicing fees could address serious short comings and distortions of the student support system.  The organisation also calls for an increase spending on student support, that the Government requires institutions with fewer low-income students to spend more on out-reach and a notational bursary scheme where the level of support would depend on household income funded from a central pool. 

Sector told to show house is in order.  THE, 18 September 2008.

John Denham has called for the Quality Assurance Agency to respond more rapidly when questions are raised about standards.  By responding quickly (says John Denham) the QAA can best ensure that the university house is in order as well as showing publicly that its house is in order.

Leaders of Lib Dems to ditch fees policy.  THE, 18 September 2008.

Liberal Democratic leaders plan to abolish the party’s opposition to tuition fees. Stephen Williams, Lib. Dem, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills states that their policy is unsustainable.

Cryptic feedback baffles students.  THE, 18 September 2008.

Many students at elite institutions say that they are baffled by the feedback given to them by lecturers.  All too often feedback poses questions without explaining where the students have gone wrong.

Hefce’s shift of access funds will put a hole in budgets.  THE, 18 September 2008.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) intends to switch funds dedicated to halting drop outs to one aimed at helping universities to widen access.  University representatives argue that this will not help achieve the Government’s targets for HE and that if the move is necessary then the Government should put more funding into the system. 

Judgment calls. THE, 18 September 2008. See also A case of considered judgement.

Two articles in this week's THE are dedicated to an experiment where the paper asked ten academics to mark a first year paper. Verdicts ranged from zero to 2:1. The experiment followed weeks of debate about inconsistencies in marking.  A report published last year by QAA stated that the class of degree awarded to a student depended upon the marking practices in the subject studied and that, in general, the universities had only weak control over the marking practices of examiners.   

If the experimental results are studied then by taking away the top mark and the zero, all the other markers were agreed that the work fell on the border of a 2:2 and a 2:1.  Worryingly, only two markers called into question an element of plagiarism present within the marked script.

In the second article, the THE concludes that, whilst the experiment was small, it does suggest that professional judgements can be trusted and that we should treat with caution calls for the system of assessment to be scrapped.

Forget the evidence - a real debate with the public is what we need.  THE, 18 September 2008.


Dennis Hayes, head of the Centre for Professional Education, Canterbury Christ Church University, considers that educational research is out of touch because it is completely divorced from wider social concerns. 

The power of two.  THE, 18 September 2008.

A cursory glance suggests that this article is about books and biographies.  However, the article goes on to explore the merits of team teaching.

Diploma Support programme.  Training and support.  TES, 19 September 2008

One of the magazines in this weeks TES is a QIA leaflet advertising training and support for diplomas.  The link to the QIA information is

Examiners fail grading test.  TES, 19 September 2008.

Cambridge Assessment asked examiners to grade 400 history and physics papers that had previously been marked.  All marks were removed from the papers prior to re-marking and no indication of the original result was given.  Only 40% of the examiners’ judgements matched the original marks and in physics this fell to 25%.

Maths drilling fails pupils.  TES, 19 September 2008.

Despite exam results improving, Ofsted has warned that too many children are leaving school lacking the ability to apply maths in their everyday lives.  An Ofsted representative pointed to what she believes is poor teaching and drilling for examinations rather than equipping children with the skills they need in everyday life.

Bettered by the Greeks.  TES, FE Focus, 19 September.

Britain is not performing as well as Greece in staying-on rates.  Greece is country where the school leaving age is 14, yet 93% of its 15 to 19 year olds stay in education, this compares with 79% in the UK.  The OECD, which compares the education systems and economies of 30 countries, has concluded that “their is no close relationship between the end of compulsory education and the decline in enrolment rates”.  Hence, they call into question the Government’s decision to raise the age for compulsory education.  

See also Chase to catch Czechs fails.  

Adult learning in poorest areas harmed by cuts.  TES, FE Focus, 19 September 2008

Cuts in college provision for adults has harmed efforts to help those in the poorest areas.  An Ofsted review of community learning has supported critics who say that adults need a gentle reintroduction to learning rather than formal qualifications.

Active participation is key to students’ voice.  TES, FE Focus, 19 September 2008.

Comment, Mike Dixon Head of Park College, part of Sussex Downs College.

Mike Dixon runs through his college’s approach to gathering student opinion.  Much of the article is given over to the results gleaned from the quality team’s question “How can I become an effective learner?”.

Safety net set up for building apprentices.  TES, FE Focus, 19 September 2008.

A rescue package has been created to ensure that construction apprentices can finish their training.   John Denham, the Innovation, University and Skills, Secretary, said that a clearing house will be established to help those facing redundancy and match them to possible vacancies to ensure that they finish their apprenticeships.