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Sector News, 15 - 19 December 2008

The crucial years for widening access.  Education Guardian, 16 December 2008.

Universities have improved their record of attracting students from the poorest backgrounds.  However, a growing body of opinion in further education suggests that this is too late to address the real issues.  It is necessary to sort out the 16-19 system and crucially the selection that leads into it.   The education system still works in favour of high achievers, those leaving school at 16 being divided into those who have 5 good GCSEs and those who do not.  For the latter, the only option is vocational education which does not have a general education option. As a result vocational education suffers because it is linked with lower achievement.

Email culture kills interaction between campus colleagues.  THE, 18 December 2008.

Universities it seems are beginning to suffer in the way many of us have suffered in the past through an overbearing email load.  Lack of staff room space and the ability to send emails are being blamed for a lack of communication between university staff.  Interestingly, whilst 71% of vice-chancellors rated themselves good at communication, only 12% of communications directors thought that academic managers were good at communication.

RAE 2008: the results.  THE, 18 December 2008.

Research is not normally reported in this section.  However, this week the THE is full of the recent findings from the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

The Pre-U alternative to A-levels will be worth more points to students. Daily Telegraph, 18 December 2008.

The Pre-U was devised by Cambridge University and was launched in September.  It  has been seen as a return to the traditional A-level and a more testing alternative to an A level system which has seen A levels broken up into more bite sized chunks.  There is no coursework in the Pre-U, the qualification being assessed through end of course examination.   UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) has announced that the new qualification is likely to be worth more to university applicants than existing A levels.

‘Creaking’ special needs system faces overhaul.  TES, 19 December 2008.

Ministers have announced that the entire special needs system is under review.  Next year Ofsted will look at SEN in total, despite the Government earlier refusing to take a fresh look at the system.  Statements which guarantee pupils levels of support, have become increasingly criticised  as some authorities, mindful of the cost, seek to limit their use.

From expansion to recession.  TES. FE Focus, 19 December 2008.

Colleges started the year with expanded student numbers, mergers and general expansion.  However, the economic gloom has changed all that.  Now colleges are prime targets to be used by the Government to meet the challenges of the changing economic situation,.  In this article the TES looks at the issues that have surrounded further education during 2008.

CPD cash directed at regulation.  TES, FE Focus, 19 December 2008.

Instead of spending money granted to improve the quality of teaching, colleges stand accused of using the money to pay for courses on inspection.  Delegates at the Sunderland Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training have said that cash targeted for  teaching improvement was being used for institutionalised training.   They further argued that this funding should be split 50:50, half used for college priorities and half for personal development.