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Sector News, 24 - 28 August 2009

CBI calls for spending to combat youth joblessness.  The Times, 24 August 2009.

According to the CBI, youth unemployment is too high and it will be asking the Government to invest £150 million to tackle the problem. “The CBI wants the Government to give companies £2,500 towards training each extra apprentice at an overall cost of £125 million. Young people are being hardest hit by unemployment and the Government must increase the opportunities available to limit its scarring effects.”

“Official figures showed that 835,000 18 to 24-year-olds were Neets in the second quarter, up from 730,000 for the same period last year.”


Diploma students 'must take an A-level to get into university'. The Daily Telegraph, 24 August 2009.

In an apparent attack on the Government’s flagship Diploma scheme a number of universities have said that they do not believe that the first cohort of students with Diplomas will have the requisite skills for university.  Pupils taking an Engineering Diploma will be told that they will have to take a maths A level before being allowed on to a maths degree.  Why an engineering student would want to take a maths degree is not discussed.


A pretty pass.  Education Guardian, 25 August 2009.         

The Guardian and Independent start this year's media reports on the forthcoming GCSE results with an article citing evidence that teachers are looking for exam bodies who give the best opportunities for their students to obtain good grades.  Examples of teachers who have changed from AQA to OCR and AQA to Edexecel are given.  One teacher who has ‘swapped’ boards says “I feel awful about this in many ways as I’m a determined opponent of dumbing down and grade inflation”.  Yet another bemoans the fact that standards between examining bodies are not consistent.


The last-ditch scramble for courses.  Education guardian, 25 August 2009.

Three applicants to university talk about their experiences in trying to find a university place this year.

The Independent of the 24 August, “Students scramble for university places”, reports that 140,000 hopefuls were scrambling for 10,000 places through clearing.


Pressure grows to replace league tables.  THE, 27 August 2009.

Arguing that university league tables should comment on what a university does well rather than ranking it against other universities, Chris Brink, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University wants the Government to compare institutions on strengths.  Professor Brink believes that “Quality is a more subtle and multi-dimensional concept than can by captured by linear linking”.


Prepare to meet your trainer.  THE, 27 August 2009.

Adrian Furnham makes some humorous observations about the rise of the Human Resources training days.   He comment on what he sees as ‘traits’ of trainers who vary from what he calls failed but aspirant actors who see training as something between Blue Peter and the X factor.  Adrian Furnham is professor of psychology, University College London.

Other major articles in this week's THE are:

Quintessentially Britain, truly Asian”, in which John Gill reports on Malaysia’s potential  - looking at delivering British higher education in Malaysia.

Stitches through time”, a story about Sara Schley’s (associate professor, National Institute of the Deaf) love of knitting.


GCSE

The big story today is of course the GCSE results.  

The Daily Telegraph runs a number of stories including the one about Xavier Gordon-Brown, an eight year old who has obtained an A grade in GCSE maths and a footballer who obtained ten GCSEs at grade A.  On a more serious note the paper reports that GCSE language entries have halved, French being one of fastest declining subjects in UK schools after entries fell by 6.9 per cent.  Under the headline,” GCSEs: schools under threat”, the Telegraph concludes that about 300 schools are under threat of closure because they have failed to reach the minimum standards set by Government for passes at GCSE.  The main discussion concerning the results appears under “GCSE students awarded record results”. Compared with 2008, there is a 0.9 per cent increase in the numbers of students obtaining Grades A or A*, a rise of 1.4 per cent to 61.7 per cent of subjects graded at C and girls continue to outperform boys.  The Government hailed the results as proof of the success in their investment in education, whilst the Tories said that the high pass rates were all about schools moving to ‘soft’ options.

The Independent ran with the headline, “Record results as boys outperform girls at maths”, stating that boys outperformed girls in maths for the first time in 12 years, along with predictions by headteachers that the gap, currently at 6.9 per cent, will shorten over the next few years. 

The Guardian adds to the debate by reporting that private schools are still faring better than comprehensives.  The paper also reports that passes in English fell slightly this year and it has a short comparison of results by region.

Other papers reporting on the results include:

·         the Daily Mail, “GCSE gender gap narrows as boys overtake girls in maths for the first time in 12 years”,

·         the Daily Mirror, “Another year of record GCSE results”, which on the web, seems to take the form of a video,

·         the Daily Express, “Another year of record GCSE grades".

 “Analysis: long-term doubt over future of GCSEs”, is a story run by the Times newspaper.  The Times completes its article with the comment that some academics believe that the GCSE has run its course because of the constantly improving pass rates.

UnderEnglish down in record GCSE day“, the TES, 28 August, gives two tables showing the “Major courses on the up” and “Major courses in decline”.  As previously reported (above), French is shown as having a 6.6 per cent decline along with four other subjects, Additional Science, Physical Education, Science and Design and Technology, whose decline is even more marked.  Interestingly Physics, Chemistry and Biology head the list of increased participation, Physics and Biology attracting over 20 per cent more students that in the recent past.  However, participation rates in these subjects remains low.  The TES also reports on a drop in English entries gaining A* to C grades, and shows the increase in mathematics results (up 0.9 percent in top four grades).


Vilified GCSE boosts science uptake.  TES, 28 August 2009.

Uptake in AS level science has increased by over 30 per cent amongst those taking the 21st science GCSE course.  Three times as many pupils who did the course went to study at AS level compared with those who followed other science GCSEs.  Supporters of the course, which had previously been accused of “dumbing down” science, see the result as vindication of their opinions that the new GCSE is more relevant to today’s students.


Lecturers seek status equality.  TES, FE Focus, 28 August 2009.

A new fast track system should be available next year which will enable FE lecturers to transfer their qualifications to schools. The Institute for Learning is to start talks with the General Teaching Council next month to try to remove the inequality over qualifications.

See also editorial: “Passage between sectors must be a two-way street”. 


Should education move at the speed of life, or provide an escape from it? TES, FE Focus, 28 August 2009.

Comment: Raj Patel, assistant director of research and policy Learning and Skills Network.

Raj argues that education should do more than just match the pace of life.  Education should also give time for reflection.  Whilst the demands of modern living give rise to more and more fast track schemes and the desire to keep pace with rapidly changing technologies, education could find a unique position to give people space to think through a deeper and wider range of issues.


Pupils need advice on apprenticeships.  TES, FE Focus, 28 August 2009.

Comment: Graham Hoyle, chief executive, Association of Learning Providers (ALP).

Clause 35 in the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, requires schools to give pupils advice on apprenticeships but, “Only when it is in the best interests of the pupils to do so”.  The ALP and a large group of parliamentarians want this clause changing so that school are obliged to tell all their pupils about apprenticeship schemes.