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Sector News, 21 - 22 March 2011

Tension over college lecturers teaching in schools. Education Guardian, 22 March 2011.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, says that government moves to allow FE teachers to teach in schools is little more than a mandate to allow school heads and governors to employ anyone they wish. “We would be bringing in people to do the same job on extremely different pay and conditions with different professional standards,” she says. Currently teachers without QTS cannot teach in schools but QTS teachers can teach in colleges. Teaching unions also see the move as a way of cutting teachers' pay in line with lecturing staff who are generally lower paid.  However, college unions say that they have no intention of giving the government free rein to cut wages.  FE unions welcome the move to allow FE lecturers to teach in schools but say that they will expect their pay to rise in line with teachers' pay.

Make tax relief for training pay. Education Guardian, 22 March 2011. 

The amount set aside for the growth and innovation fund stands at £50 million and the amount removed from training by scrapping Train to Gain was £800 million, but neither amount has any significance when compared with the £5 billion of tax relief obtained by companies for training. However research undertaken by Howard Reed of Landman Economics and commissioned by unionlearn, shows, there is little evidence that the £5b is used to deliver effective training courses, or that it is reaching those who most need it.  Unionlearn is asking the government to address this issue in the forthcoming budget to ensure a mechanism to force companies to use the tax relief effectively.

University funding cuts. Education Guardian, 22 March 2011.

There are three articles in today’s Guardian concerning university budgets.

Professor Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, argues that the methodology used to fund universities through the raising of fee levels will over time ensure that university income will rise. His article is headed “University funding is actually going up”. “Universities optimistic despite cuts” explains that speakers at the recent Guardian Higher Education summit were upbeat about the general future funding of HE.  Thirdly, “What the future holds for universities”, also reports on the Guardian Education summit but in terms of pupil and government aspirations. Whilst the summit concluded that the number of students applying for places in HE was unlikely to fall (at least in the near future), concern was expressed about HE’s ability to attract a wider range of students.  There was also a warning that students faced with a marketised HE provision and higher fees would inevitably demand more information about their courses whilst both applying for and undertaking study.

Visa concessions made, but question marks remain. THE, 24 march 2011.

It is likely that the government’s visa regulations will hit privately run colleges severely. Many colleges are seen by foreign students as a way into study at UK universities but the government sees the provision as an unregulated immigration service.  Whilst chancellors have won some concessions during their fight against the changes it is still probable that overall the numbers of foreign students applying to learn in the UK will drop. Australia experienced a substantial drop in overseas applications when it tightened up its visa rules.

See also: “Foreign students may look elsewhere, UK warned in which Richard Yelland, head of the Education Management and Infrastructure Division at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, warns that countries like Japan are planning to increase their number of overseas students and that this will reduce applicants to the UK notwithstanding any changes to visa regulations.

Let's not do this again in a year or two, Browne says. THE, 24 March 2011.

Lord Browne of Madingley, who appeared before the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee recently, said that he would be unhappy if England’s university system needed another overhaul in two or three years time.  Lord Browne said “It is not right to have a system that can work for a couple of years and then we (have to) do it all over again”.

Hey, you, get off of my cloud: are scholars too selfish to share IT? THE, 24 March 2011.

“Cloud computing allows users to access servers or applications remotely, with the result that universities can share services rather than having to invest in technology separately”. However, lack of IT expertise amongst lecturers along with their reluctance to share resources means that the technology is underused.

Meet and greet: bridging the academic/cultural divide. THE, 24 March 2011.

New Perspectives on Education and Culture” is the title of a series of seminars funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.  The aim of the seminars is to bring together education and the arts by instigating dialogue between academics, artists and curators.

Public loan funding extends to modern-day Mary Poppinses, make-up artists and homeopaths. THE, 24 March 2011.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) have admitted that 4,000 students in 60 private institutions were awarded loans this year, including some who do not have the powers to grant degrees.  Within the list of recipients are student studying BAs in Early Childhood Studies, the International College of Oriental Medicine and the Centre for Homeopathic Education. Students studying music at private providers are the most numerous in obtaining loans.

Features in this week’s THE.

Identity check: Vice-chancellors' education and pay revealed”: John Morgan (THE) looks at the pay of vice-chancellors and asks whether they earn what they are paid.

Failure is not an option”: John Summers, a visiting scholar in history at Boston College, comments that whilst it is true that US higher education can be a ticket to success, the consensus (in the US) that it is the best in the world “betrays a hollow conception of higher education that puts product development over moral and cultural development”.

The Arts. THE, 24 March 2011.

Popular front is Matthew Reisz’s article in which he examines the arguments surrounding Niall Ferguson’s books and TV series concentrating on the British Empire. Whilst hugely popular there are academics who accuse Mr Ferguson of sacrificing detail for breadth. The Housemaid, is the feature of this week’s film review discussed by Duncan Wu. The Housemaid”, to be released in Germany in April, is a South Korean film concerning Eun-yi, an impoverished young woman who works for a wealthy family in their rambling villa. Dispatches: Britain's Secret Fat Cats (channel 4) is Gary Day's TV slot where he asks the question “what is meant by the Big Society when the government seems intent on dismantling it”.

Osborne signals technical college surge. TES, 25 march 2011.

George Osborne announced in his budget that he intends to make £150 million of capital funding available to support vocational and technical education. He wants to see the number of new University Technical Colleges (UTCs) grow to at least 24 by 2014. The move is supported by the education secretary and by Lord Baker who, with the late Ron Dearing, started the process. Whilst there are those who see the UTCs as an opportunity to overhaul vocational and technical education, there are those amongst teacher’s leaders who believe that it will do little more than force selection at 14 and remove funding from post-16 education.

GCSE Chinese entries plummet by a third. TES, 25 March 2011.

A change to the rules for some assessments for GCSE Chinese has been blamed for a 35 per cent fall in GCSE Chinese entries. The new rule says that some assessments must have a Chinese speaking teacher present. Unfortunately, not all schools have been able to meet this requirement.

As Teather ushers in new SEN era, worries on clarity persist. TES, 25 March 2011.

In a green paper earlier this month, children’s minister Sarah Teather, outlined far-reaching reforms to the special educational needs (SEN) system. There are three main aspects to the changes, assessment, parental rights and teacher training.

· Assessment: scrapping of statement system and the school action and school action plus categories for non statemented children. These are to be replaced by a combined education and health care plan which will last up to the age of 25. There are also plans to change the role of educational psychologists.

· Parental rights: there is a plan to re-allocate some of the money that goes to local authorities and give it directly to parents. Disagreements between local authorities will have to go to mediation. Schools will have to publish core information about their SEN activities instead of the 17 different parts they are currently required to make public.

· Teacher training: more placements in special schools for trainee teachers, teaching assistants and support staff to get extra funding for training and teachers will be funded to obtain higher level qualifications in SEN.

Most of the concerns expressed by professionals are about the application of the green paper. For example, there are fears that some children may not qualify support even if they need it and that schools may not have the infrastructure to meet parental demands, when parents get control of part of the budget.

Osborne creates extra 50,000 apprenticeships. TES, FE Focus, 25 March 2011.

Wednesday’s budget created 50,000 extra apprenticeship places. The government will spend £180 million on 40,000 apprenticeships for the young unemployed and 10,000 higher apprenticeships with level 4 qualifications. In addition the work experience programme is to be expanded over the next two years from 20,000 to 1000,000 places.

MPs reveal monitoring of bogus colleges has lapsed for two years. TES, FE Focus, 25 March 2011.

A government committee has recommended the creation of a single new accrediting body to look at the quality of the provision of private providers. The call comes after it was revealed that for two years key elements in monitoring private providers have been allowed to lapse.