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Sector News, 20 - 24 April 2009

Unemployment more appealing than college.  Guardian Education, 21 April 2009.

Opinion.  Mark Corney, director of MC Consultancy.

Mark Corney argues that specific measures are required to meet the needs of 16-17 year olds during the recession.  Mark sees these measures as skills packages for those who lose their jobs but cannot face more full time education.

You don’t need academics to tell you that phonics work.  Education Guardian, 21 April 2009.

Comment.  Eric Allison, Guardian’s prison correspondent and trustee of the Shannon Trust (prison service charity).

Responding to the article in last weeks Guardian “Can you teach an old dog with young tricks?”, Eric Allison considers the creation of a trial to test phonics against other methods as an expensive waste of time.  Eric points to the success of phonics in a prison setting, which he comments is good enough proof that the system really works with adults.

Learning in a brave new world.  Education Guardian, 21 April 2009.

Seventeen leading figures from the world of (post-sixteen) education have been giving their views on lifelong learning in a Guardian debate.  Set against a backcloth of recession the panel was asked (amongst other questions) what type of training is required, to what level and should specific sectors take priority?  Their deliberations are reported under four headings:

  • a shift of emphasis – ensure training for sectors where growth is expected (construction, IT, health and Social Care).  Accept that jobs will be created which currently cannot be imagined, hence the need for transferable skills and do not train more apprentices than there are jobs,
  • new skills are needed- some of the panel argued for more generic degrees, others for degrees to be more fit for purpose (vocational degrees). The 14-18 Diploma was seen as a good example of connectivity between skills and education and a general theme of parity between FE and HE,
  • intervention- it was accepted that some government intervention was needed post-recession to kick-start the employment market.  Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were singled out for special debate, these enterprises see training as a burden during recession and find it difficult to plan long term training, there was an opinion expressed that small bite sized training packages need to continue,
  • cutting red tape- bureaucracy was generally seen as a serious issue effectively working against attempts to put in place successful training packages.

The above is a very brief summary of the panel’s discussions, it is advised to read the whole article rather than rely on the summary above.

See also:Skills in a shrinking economy”.

Budget 2009: £250m to safeguard sixth-form places.  The Guardian, 22 April 2009.

“The chancellor, Alistair Darling, has promised £250m this year to provide extra places in school sixth forms and further education colleges and prevent them having to turn away students.”  Extra funding amounting to £250 million this year and £400 million next year is given to produce an extra 54,000 places in English sixth forms and further education colleges.  There is to be £260 million of new money for training and an additional £300 million for capital projects for FE.

Plan for 20 centres attacked as model campus faces cuts.  THE, 23 April 2009.

The New University Challenge (NUC) aims to create HE centres in areas where there is no higher educational opportunity.  A joint venture between the universities of Essex and East Anglia has been praised for bringing higher education to a further education college and it has been held up as an example of a model for the New University Challenge proposals.  However, restructuring at University Campus Suffolk putting 34 jobs is raising questions about NUC development. 

It can never be too early to ask students to start taking intellectual risks.  THE, 23 April 2009.

Opinion, Anthony Seldon (master) and David James (director) at Wellington College.

Many students who go on to higher education find it difficult to use their own initiative and imagination.  This is a result of years of testing where educational achievement is reduced to a few grades.  British school need change radically and put learning rather than assessment at the heart of the curriculum and creates the climate for pupils to be imaginative and take risks.   From this September Wellington College will use the International Baccalaureate Organisation Middle Years Programme to replace what it believes to be an uninspiring current curriculum.

Boring and dismal sciences?  Not at all  –  they can transform our lives.  THE, 23 April 2009.

An article arguing that social sciences in general and economics in particular are needed despite the difficulty of knowing where they fit in planning and the curriculum.   

Grades twice as likely to go up in AQA appeals.  TES, 24 April 2009.

Anglia Assessment is an independent education consultancy that has been tracking AQA and OCR for the past six years.  According to their latest report pupils have a one in eight chance of having their grades raised on appeal to AQA compared with a one in seventeen chance with OCR.   This, Anglia Assessment say, shows up further inconsistencies with the marking of A levels.

Tories slam new quango.  TES, 24 April 2009.

The Conservatives have severely criticised the Government for giving a new quango the job of running its academies programme.  Initially the Young Peoples Learning Agency (YPLA) was to control all 16 – 19 education, but in January the Government confirmed that it will also be responsible for the academies programme.  The new quango is not expected to start work until the autumn.

In addition to the above the story, the TES has an article outlining the Young Peoples Learning Agency’s remit (quango in a tangle). What the new agancy does is at the end of the article. Both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives agree with the decision not to run academies from a single ministerial office but believe that the YPLA is not the agency to do it.

Education voucher bid to help all new arrivals. TES, FE Focus 24 April 2009.

Niace has proposed a “welcome voucher” for all immigrants to the UK, which they can use to enrol for classes.  Niace believes that all immigrants and UK citizens who migrate within the UK should be given free classes.

See also “Let’s open doors to new arrivals and their skills”.

£300m more for building and £251m for 16 to 19s.  TES, FE Focus, 24 April 2009.

The TES’s comment on the budget pointing out that the chancellor has announced £300 million for college re-building and £251 million, rising to £404 million the following year, to honour the guarantee of places for 16 year olds.   Government sources added that at least £1.2 billion would be committed to capital over the next five years. However, some colleges have said that projects will still have to be curtailed or shortened.

UCU wants master plan for adult learning.  TES, FE Focus, 24 April 2009.

According to the University and College Union (UCU), adult education needs a national plan to define learner’s needs, marshal resources and develop strategies for delivery. The manifesto issued by UCU also asks for sufficient funding to maintain teaching building and learning resources and demands a fee remission policy for some learners.

GCSE your time is up. TES, TES Magazine, 24 April 2009

This year 46 per cent of private schools are offering at least one International GCSE instead of the UK GCSE.  There are a growing number of state schools who want to do the same but the Government department responsible will not fund the IGCSE in state schools.  Hence, far from being a year of celebration of twenty one years of GCSEs it appears that the examination has never been under so much threat.  Independent school in particular are unhappy that the GCSE, in their opinion, does not stretch their most able pupils.  An opinion apparently supported, in part, by Ofqual who have already raised concerns about GCSE science.   Dr James, director of International Baccalaureate at Wellington College, is of the opinion that the prognosis for GCSE is dire, he feel that the subjects are boring to teach and offer little preparation for sixth form.

There are supporters of GCSE, for example, Jane Lees, head of Hindley School in Wigan comments that GCSE lays out minimum standards and good teachers will push their brightest pupils beyond that minimum.  Dr Coe*, believes that GCSE is still appropriate for most pupils and that it is too early to write off GCSEs. 

The initial idea of GCSE was as a school leavers certificate.  However, if pupils are to be expected to stay on until they are at least 17 year old then GCSE has lost one of its reasons to exist.  Maybe, the argument runs, we should remove GCSEs in favour of a single examination taken at 18.

*Dr. Coe is director of the Curriculum Evaluation and Monitoring Centre at Durham University.