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Sector News, 16 June - 20 June 2008

University must not be about privilege.  Education Guardian, 17 June 2008

Opinion by Mike Baker.

Only 4% of students achieve three grade As at A level.  It is expected that only 0.5% will obtain the new A* grade.  So why are some universities inventing their own entry examination when the system already delivers this level of differentiation?  Mike Baker argues that the concerns about A level grading and attitude of some universities is bordering on the paranoid.

Green and pleasant land in crisis.  Education Guardian, 17 June 2008.

Unless training becomes more flexible, the pressures caused by low recruitment may force farmers out of business.

How short-sighted new labour has become. Education Guardian, 17 June 2008.

Scores of e-mails from Guardian readers are expressing anger at the drying up of adult education.  The readers complain that rising fees and , in some cases, the wholesale removal of adult courses has a dramatic effect upon retired people’s opportunity to take part in the ‘community’.  Removal of opportunity (some say) can lead to isolation for older people with the depression often accompanied by that. 

Bologna looms, so Zagreb marches.  We barely notice. Education Guardian, 17 June 2008 

Comment by Frank Furedi

The Bologna accord aims to harmonise 40 different European higher education systems by creating a single system.  Unlike a number of our European counterparts, we have barley noticed this attempt to create intellectual and institutional harmony.

Link news.  Education Guardian 17 June 2008.

This week the Guardian published “Link”, a supplement reporting on the use of communication technology in teaching.  Articles include:

Becta seeks rival ‘office’ software.

In an attempt to reduce the Microsoft ‘stranglehold’ on ‘office’ software used on schools, Becta have requested tenders for a research project to provide schools specific software.

Schools dive into diplomas.

Doubts expressed about schools’ readiness for the ICT demands which will be made by the diploma

Find your nearest power socket.

Ackworth school has installed a broadband over electrical network system (Boen).  The system is super fast and more reliable than wireless systems.

School grades are key to university achievement.  THE, 19 June 2008.

A research project has discovered that given equality of opportunity pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more or less equally likely to go to university as their more advantaged counterparts.  Hence, they conclude that tackling underachievement in schools is the key to widening university participation.  (One wonders how these people get funded to tell us what we allready know).

Dual sector ‘not fit for purpose’.  THE, 19 June 2008.

Researchers have arrived at the conclusion that the concept of higher and further education are not rational.  It would be sensible to consider further and higher education as parts of a common enterprise.

Vocational abilities trail scholarly skills on kudos. THE, 19 June 2008.

Parity of esteem between academic and vocational qualifications remains a dream.  Very few with vocational qualifications obtain a place in higher education and many who do drop out in the first year.  However, students who combine academic and vocational qualifications do as well as those with purely academic qualifications.

Adult education underappreciated. THE, 19 June 2008.

Part of the Government’s drive to improving national skills includes a target for more than 40 per cent of the workforce to hold a higher education qualification by 2020.  However, many adults are likely to study at la lower level than the qualification they already possess. many suitably qualified candidates for higher education lead comfortable lifestyles and see little need to participate in higher education.

MPs insist funding cut decision lacks evidence. THE, 19 June 2008.

Cuts in funding for those taking second degrees have come under fire from MPs who insist that the policy is based on a lack of evidence.

‘Performance management is a waste of time,’ claims HR professor. THE, 19 June 2008.

The idea that individuals need to be motivated by managers is “nonsense”, so claims Michael Sheehan, professor of human resource management at the University of Glamorgan.  professor Sheehan calls for more focus on employees unlimited potential and how to develop it rather than viewing staff as people who need constant chivvying along.

Market focus at odds with scholars’ priorities for sector.  THE, 19 June 2008.

It is clear that the majority of academic staff are out of tune with the Government’s ‘marketisation’ of higher education.   Roger Brown, professor of higher education at Liverpool Hope University comments that unless this issue is taken seriously attempts by the Government to change the policy of HE is likely to fail.

Too tied to government. THE, 19 June 2008.

Questions are asked whether the Higher Education Academy is the right body to monitor education in the UK.  The quality of learning (in HE) is not as high as it should be.  Much of this is the result of government policies.

Conflicting stories.  THE, 19 June 2008.

Thushari Welikala explains that western approaches to learning can be alien to students from other cultures who learn to a different script.

TES, 20 June 2008

There are several articles in the TES this week about threatened schools that are doing well.  The front page (Threatened schools are doing well) comments that “value added scores for half the secondaries most at risk reveal they do better than average”.  Whilst “Congratulations but we may now close you”, tells the story of Alderman Peel High in Wells-next-the Sea.  Alderman Peel school has been congratulated by the school’s minister Jim Knight for outstanding value added performance.  The King Richard School in Portsmouth has also been congratulated for a high value added performance, yet both school are on the list of 240 schools most at risk of closure and replacement. 

Allied to the above stories is ”Restructuring puts pressure on staff”, explaining that new structures may give opportunities to middle and senior management it did little to improve staff morale.

Workers gain right to time off for training.  TES, FE Focus,  20 June 2008.

A proposed new entitlement applying to 22 million people would give staff the right to time off work for training.  Employers would be allowed to say no to training, only if there was sound business reasons for doing so and even then they would have to explain their reasons in writing. 

Unemployed forced to attend courses.  TES, FE Focus,  20 June 2008.

680,000 people claiming job seekers allowance, will be the first to experience compulsory checks on how their skills compare to the needs of the job market.  The checks will be followed by training where appropriate.