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Sector News, 22 - 26 September 2008

College: the teenage hangout of choice.  Education Guardian, 23 September 2008.

16 – 18 targets have been exceeded by some 500 full time learners, with no extra funding.  This is the claim made by FE colleges up and down the country who say that they are struggling to cope with demand. Some colleges are having to turn away students, raising concern that the Government's desire to obtain a place in education and training for all 16 and 17 year olds may not be met.

The Tories have plenty of explaining to do.  Education Guardian, 23 September 2008. Comment, Mark Corney, director of MC Consultancy.

The Conservative party have made it clear that their education and skills policy would be for 16-19 and not 14-19 as is the current policy with Labour.  Whilst GCSEs would remain for 16 year olds, the Diploma would change to 16-19 and apprenticeships, A level remaining as the gold standard. They also oppose raising the learning leaving age and the statutory right to day release for 16-17 year olds.

University begins at school.  Education Guardian, 23 September 2008.

Newcastle and Sunderland, Sheffield Hallam and Lancaster universities are amongst a number of universities to have teamed up with local schools. This is in line with Hefce thinking that universities should be more involved with schools curriculum development and delivery in order to smooth the passage from school to university.

Time to learn.  Niace supplement in Education Guardian, 22 September 2008.  (No links found)

Niace – National Institute of Adult Continuing Education 

In this weeks Guardian, Niace has a supplement on lifelong learning.  A national inquiry is underway to review thoroughly what lifelong learning means and the potenial it holds.  Within the supplement are the following:

So what went wrong?  A front page article which explores the definitions of lifelong learning and the advantages to those continuing education.

Never too late.  An introductory article which summarises the main piece (above).  In it Peter Kingston (Ed. Guardian) discusses the merits of lifelong learning as an aid to staving off dementia (by keeping our minds active) and its potential for supporting the fight against poverty and social exclusion. 

Research reveals flaws in back to work course.  Questions are being asked about the policy of putting the unemployed through courses with qualifications as the best way to get them back to work.  Evidence submitted to the Inquiry for Lifelong Learning suggests that disability and poor health could be bigger barriers than lack of qualifications, for men finding employment.  For women, the evidence suggests that family commitments and lack of affordable child care are greater barriers than any lack of qualifications.

A broad based approach is key in the fight against poverty. Leisha Fullick, pro director at the Institute of Education, University of London says that poverty is a key theme for the Inquiry for Lifeliong Learning.  She cites nearly one fifth of people living in the UK are in households below the official low infcome threshold. Leisha is unconvinced that obtaining qualifications is the only answer for the socially disadvantaged citing attiude and motiviation as enablers for people to take part in learning.

University of the workplace.  In another argument about the worth of qualifications for adults, here informal on-the-job training is described as a unique learning environment.  Unfortunately, many employers only recognise formal qualifications thus ignoring trhe rich experiences of those who trained at work.

Are employers missing out on free training?   Only one compnay in twenty provides structured and professionally delivered training for their staff.  Many companies tend not to use the public funding available, disliking the bureaucracy involved and the necessity to undergo Ofsted inspections.

Three MPs, three questions, one aim: a well-trained UK.  John Denham (Labour), David Willetts (Conservative) and Stephen Williams (Lib. Dem.) agree that the UK needs a well trained population and that adult learning is important.  However, they do differ on policy.

The above is a summary of some of the articles in this weeks supplement.  Interested parties can follow the progress of the National Inquiry on the Niace website.

Minister vows rethink on tuition fees for part-timers.  The Guardian 23 September 2008. 

Inequality in the policy for payment of tuition fees is to be looked at by Bill Rammell, the higher education minister.  The inequality is created by part time students having to pay their fees ‘up front’ before starting their course.

Exams cut by 20 per cent in bid to improve assessment.    THE, 25 September 2008.

The University of Gloucester are to cut examinations and coursework by 20% in order to give staff more time to improve feedback to students.  A spokesperson for the university says that “too much traditional assessment encourages students to focus too heavily on marks and to adopt an instrumentalist approach to their studies”.

What price a fair system?  Full tuition fees for students.  THE, 25 September 2008.

UK universities should charge the full cost of their degrees, as much as £20,000 says a former senior adviser at the World Bank.  He argues that higher education does more for graduates than society.

Academics told they must embrace online future.  THE, 25 September 2008.

“Use of the internet is changing the nature of scholarships and universities must exploit its potential if they are to succeed in the 21st century”.  So says Brenda Gourley, vice chancellor of the Open University.   A view held by John Denham who told THE, “One of the questions for the university system in Britain is how, as part of being a world class higher education system, we can aim to be one of the leading – if not the leading – centres of online higher education in the world”.

There are a number of articles in this weeks THE exploring the relationship between work and higher education.

Million+ head says beware of concessions to business.  THE, 25 September 2008.

Les Ebdon, chairman of the Million+ group warns that the Government risks creating a divided university sector where a few are preferentially funded by the taxpayer to pursue “learning for learning’s sake”, whilst the rest are forced to rely on business for direction and support.

CBI task force calls for more ‘business-friendly’ degrees.  THE, 25 September 2008.

Academics and students have voiced serious concern over the influence being exerted by outside agencies shaping university policy.  Last week the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) suggested that commerce should consider what it requires from universities and how the sector should be funded.  

See also Flaws of industrial designs, where the relationship between education and training is (in part) explored .

Hobbling around with the burden of easily forgotten information.   Opinion by Penelope J. Corfield a visiting fellow, at All Souls, Oxford.

Penelope has the opinion that skills-only courses should be dropped and that we should return to an integrated knowledge-based system.  This opinion is expressed at a time of growing revolt against the Government’s apparent wish to have an education system based purely on skills.  Academics are generally against this Government ‘push’ arguing that reason based on sound judgement is better than a mishmash of unrelated facts.

Bring on enlightenment.  Opinion, Rudi Bogni, corporate director and foundations trustee. 

Rudi argues that “education should create more rounded individuals and a better society, not just a better-trained workforce”.

Watchdog savages testing regime.  TES, 26 September 2008.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has said that “there is no quantified evidence that league tables or similar schemes help to improve performance”.  In a report which undermines the PM’s desire to clamp down on poorly performing schools, the NAO has warned that setting targets using raw marks is unfair and it would be better to judge schools on their ‘value-added’ performance.

Test obsession holds back the UK.  TES, 26 September 2008.

“Using testing, targets and parental choice perpetuates rather than breaks Britain’s cycle of inequality”.  This is the judgement of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  The OECD’s latest report suggests an urgent need  for a new approach to education in general and specifically in relationship to the UK’s poor performance in literacy and numeracy.

New GCSEs could add to workload.  TES, 26 September 2008.

New GCSEs in English which are to be launched in two years time could add to the workload of teachers.  Changes in coursework could raise marking demands.

Principals rebel over adult fees.  TES, FE Focus, 26 September 2008.

FE Focus has learnt that a number of principals are refusing to help the Learning and Skills Council with its plans to increase the fees for courses it does not fund.  By insisting on dictating policy over these independently set fees, the principals argue that the LSC is overstepping its responsibility.

See also Win or lose, colleges face penalties, where FE Focus supports the move by the principals (above).

Cultural values, not teaching, are the key to learning, stupid.  TES,  26 September 2008.

Julian Elliott, professor of education at Durham University, says that the success of well-regarded systems such as Russia and Japan owe their success more to cultural attitude than anything teachers do in the classroom.