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Sector News, 23 June - 27 June 2008

How many teachers really know their stuff?  Education Guardian, 24 June 2008. Opinion by Martin Stephen, high master of St. Paul’s school, London.

Finding an in service course on leadership training is easy, but finding one which allows the participant to brush up their subject knowledge is almost impossible.  So says Martin Stephens, who comment that we can hardly be surprised at lack of subject knowledge amongst teachers when it is seen as second (if at all) to generic training.

Going to the football does me good, but it isn’t free. Education Guardian, 24 June 2008. Comment by Alan Wells former director of the Basic Skills Agency.

Alan Wells argues that it is a myth to consider that adult education contributes to the economy by providing the skills we need.  He is happy to accept the case for free literacy and numeracy education but not for general adult education.

Hit or myths? Education Guardian, 24 June 2008.

“You cannot say that apprenticeships are good for the world of work and exclude central government”, says

David Way, national director of apprenticeships at the Learning and Skills Council.  This adds to the scepticism shown by some employers to the government’s push for apprenticeships.  However, there is proof a plenty that apprenticeship work to both employers and apprentices benefit.

We cannot rely on industry to develop our graduates. Education Guardian, 24 June 2008

Comment by Christopher Snowdon, vice chancellor and chief executive of the University of Surrey.

University awards are as high a quality (for the top 13% of graduates) as they were in the 70s despite growing numbers of university students brought about by HE widening participation initiatives.  Whilst HE and industrial co-operation is seen as a good thing it is not totally necessary for universities to keep meeting government demands.

NEWS, The Week in Higher Education.  THE, 26 June 2008.

The Daily Mail reported on 19 June that white working class boys are turning their backs on university.  Government funded research shoed that 23 per cent of white males go to university, compared with 30 per cent black African, 58 per cent Indian and 33 per cent Pakistani. 

The Confederation of British Industry withdrew support for the 14-19 Diplomas, stating that industry had no appetite for the reforms.  CBI director general, Richard Lambert, warned that diplomas could lead to a two tier education system, widening the divide between private and state schools.

School should be an issue for admissions staff. THE, 26 June 2008.

The National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE) will advise the Prime Minister that a candidate’s school should be taken into account when deciding whether to offer them a place.

External examiners under pressure to uphold marks and avoid criticism. THE, 26 June 2008.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman, professor of politics and contemporary history at the University of Buckingham, believes that the external examiner system is under pressure and is not fit for purpose.  He cites a number of examples where external examiners have not been allowed to change marks even though the work submitted was of a poor quality and yet other examples of examiners being told that they are not there to comment on  grades but to report on the systems used.

Institutions limit access to anti-cheat software. THE, 26 June 2008.

This week the THE reports on the on-going saga of plagiarism in two articles, the above and Students believe plagiarists are rarely caught.  Universities often ask students to submit their work for scrutiny, using programmes such as Turnitin, to make them aware that their work is being monitored for plagiarism.  In the second articles students comment that lecturers are reluctant to investigate plagiarism and cheats are rarely caught.

Universities fear fallout of further funding plans. THE, 26 June 2008.

Vice chancellors have warned that plans to reform further education funding could severely hit student intakes at some higher education institutions.   Those institutions with high numbers of students from further education could lose numbers if cash is diverted away from A-level course in colleges.

Group efforts in learning’s delivery room. THE, 26 June 2008.

Professor Sally Brown, an HEA teaching fellow, comment that assessment is the key to learning and that assessment should not be seen as a Bolton end on of course item.  She believes that students do not all learn in the same way and that mixing assessment practice and using assessment as a tool to find a student’s on going strengths and weaknesses is an important function of the process.

Grade predictions lottery.  TES, 27 June 2008.

An analysis of local authority targets shows that there are marked difference of expectations between authorities.   “The difference in goals at GCSE mean that white teenagers who live in one area are expected to do nearly twice as well as those living elsewhere, while targets for black Caribbean pupils can be five times greater in some areas”.

See also ‘Our own goals make more sense’Here, the Radclyffe School in Oldham, which has some of the highest numbers of Pakistani pupils, explain how they set their own targets which are above the expected norm.

In the same TES there is a comment on Ethnic Profiling, under the banner a target too farThe Government’s decision (four years ago) that 150 local authorities should draw up targets for up to 20 ethnic groups has produced results which are not credible.

Motormouth teachers achieve better results.  TES, 27 June 2008.

In yet another survey Brian Apter, an educational psychologist, observed more than 3,500 children and nearly 300 teachers in 141 primary classes.  He found that pupils tended to talk least when teachers talked most. 

Test papers untouched in markers’ homes.  TES, 27 June 2008.

More than a million key stage 3 papers are not listed as being marked.  The results were supposed to have been finished (marking) by Monday for key stage 3 and Thursday for key stage 2.  An American firm running the operation for the first time this year has had scores of complaints from examiners saying that the administration of operation has been a shambles.

English teachers fear two-tier exam.  TES, 27 June 2008.

Pupils are to be offered the choice between English literature and English language, or a third generic English GCSE emphasising functional language use.  QCA (Qualification and Curriculum Authority) say that the third examination is for those who do not want to tackle the reading involved in English literature.

New degree ‘must not become a Masters Lite’. TES, 27 June 2008.

A warning was issued this week by the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) that the Masters in Teaching and Learning risks becoming watered down.   Ministers expect that, eventually, all teachers will take the part time three year course.  there is concern that a centrally led qualification lacking in depth and academic rigour would do little to enhance a teachers ability in the classroom.

Early signs show rise in number of A-level entries. TES, 27 June 2008.

Analysis of As level results suggests that the number of entries to A level maths is set to rise over the next few years.  Figures suggest entries for the As exam were up by more than 10 percent in January.  Experts are confident that the figures show an increased popularity in maths.

Colleges gain as workers train.  TES, 27 June 2008.

Train to Gain cash incentives are being used to create almost one million places on the programme.  the budget is set to increase from £350 million to £1 billion in 2010-11.  However, despite college s being given a 3 per cent increase per training place (over the next three years), there are still doubts being expressed that the economics of the programme have not been properly thought through.

LSC staff worry for vulnerable.  TES, FE Focus, 27 June 2008.

The learning and Skills Council (LSC) claim that the new funding arrangements for teenage and adults will neglect vulnerable people.  There are also concerns expressed about replacing LSC with two new national bodies.  With echoes of concerns raised by others, the LSC states that someone should have overall charge of the two new quangos.  Without this the ensuing power struggle will be to the detriment of post sixteen education.

Plenty of reading bait to help you reel in basic skills students. TES, FE Focus, 27 June 2008.

Forced to consider targets and tests Gill Moore (Skills for Life lecturer) comments that we do not introduce adults to the pleasures of reading as mush as we might.