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Sector News, 23 - 27 March 2009

Six-month teacher training is just wrong.  Education Guardian, 24 March 2009.

Opinion, Estelle Morris, chair of strategy board at the Institute of Effective Education, University of York.

Estelle Morris becomes the latest in a long line of critics of the Government policy to attract unemployed financiers into teaching.  She makes the point that if the Government halved the length of training for doctors or vets, there would be a huge national outcry. Teach First, an initiative to attract high achieving graduates on to a two year teacher training programme, has been hugely successful and wonders why the Government has not used this as an option. 

Wanted: a learning revolution.  Education Guardian, 24 March 2009.

John Denham’s white paper, “The Learning revolution”, announces £20m of new money for adult learning.  However, little if any of this is likely to find its way into resurrecting some of the lost adult education classes.  The DIUS vision is one where adult learning takes place anywhere and where private and public buildings open their doors for people wanting to learn.  For example, they will include, pubs, shops, libraries, cafes and churches.

Colleges head quits over botched building programme.  Education Guardian, 24 March 2009.

Mark Haysom, the Learning and Skills Council's chief executive, has resigned over the college re-building fiasco. He said that he was taking responsibility for the quango's failures in managing the flagship programme.

Watchdog considers ‘more intensive’ inspection regime. THE, 26 March 2009.

Universities could face more intensive scrutiny during future inspections, according to the QAA’s boss.  QAA insist that the public need reassurance about university standards.  In a report to be published later this year, the QAA will announce that university standards are fundamentally sound.   However, further investigation is required into the range of contact hours students receive and into the processes used for examination assessment and the awarding of degrees.

ELQ rule blamed for rise in number of adult learning courses facing axe.  THE, 26 March 2009.

A professional body for lifelong learning (University Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL)) has become the latest organisation to blame the Government’s decision to stop the funding for those taking equivalent or lower qualifications, for the drop in adult education places.  Manchester, Bristol and Reading universities have already been reported to be cutting lifelong learning provision.  The THE reports today, that London, Bucks, Thames Valley, Lancaster and Bath have joined the list of universities withdrawing provision.

Academic medicine on the critical list, says BMA.  THE, 26 March 2009.

There is a shortage of teaching staff in medicine which has reached critical levels according to the BMA. The BMA reported to a commons committee, “Since 2000, the number of senior academic trainees and fully qualified academics has fallen by 27%.  This has coincided with an unparalleled increase in the number of medical students and medical schools”.

Universities must step in to reverse atrophy of A-level physics standards.  THE, 26 March 2009.

Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation has stated that A-level physics is only a shadow of its former self.  One examining board, according to Lord Drayson, does not require calculus and there are a number of examples where basic physics laws are not taught.  Alan Wilson, reporting on the latest statements gives three reasons why this has happened:

  1. the competitive nature of the examining board market,
  2. a need to encourage more students to study physics,
  3. a clash of objectives at the heart of Government policy wanting to boost numbers studying physics whilst wanting to keep  advanced students studying physics at university level.

All the above, according to Alan Wilson, tend to lead to actions which reduce the difficulty of the subject.

Alan Wilson is professor of urban and regional systems, University College London and chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Ofqual orders total rethink for science exams.  TES, 27 March 2009.

Ofqual has ordered exam boards to re-think their new science GCSEs because of concerns about reliability and the number of resits allowed.   Echoing the above report (THE and A level physics), the regulator says that there has been a decline in standards at A grade between 2001 and 2007, along with a decline in performance at grade E for OCR and AQA candidates.

Call for extended projects to be made compulsory.  TES, 27 March 2009.

Focus groups of admissions tutors at universities have  concluded that students chase grades rather than knowledge.  The groups say that ministers must ensure that all schools offer extended projects to counter this trend.

Every penny for building spent.  TES, FE Focus, 27 March 2009.

More on the continuing saga about the FE college re-building programme.  Stephen Marston, director-general of FE at DIUS has admitted to college principals that the money for capital investment has run out a year early.  All of the £2.3 billion of capital funding has been spent, whilst the bill for unfunded projects stands at £5.7bn.  Colleges are reported to have spent a total of £220m into design and planning and are now forced to look for funding from elsewhere.

DIY learning shelves teachers.  TES, FE Focus, 27 March 2009.

A white paper launched by the Government on Monday attempts to restore through community activities some of the lost opportunities for adult education during the push for Train To Gain. The move has been highly criticised as a solution which removes the need for teachers.

See also “Welcome to the teacherless revolution”, (comment).

Call for key workplace skills to be taught.  TES, FE Focus, 27 March 2009.

Basic employability skills such as timekeeping, dress code and teamwork should be taught to all students according to the Government’s skills commission.  The commission argues that technical skills are worth nothing if students do not have the right skills to obtain and keep employment.

Building a framework for future success.  TES, FE Focus, 27 March 2009.

Only 12,000 students began diploma courses in September, instead of the expected 50,000.   However, the Government should see Diplomas as a process of continual improvement and not fall into the trap of deciding that we will have a review some time in the future, so says Andy Powell chief executive of the Edge foundation.   The fear is that we will see a repeat of the GNVQ failure.

Lecturers see the benefits of mobiles in classrooms.  TES, FE Focus, 27 March 2009.

“Mobile technologies such as smart phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) helped to raise student achievement and retention rates, as well as making learning more flexible and interesting, according to a study of the first year of the two-year Mobile Learning Network (Molenet) programme”.  The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) made £6m available in 2007/8 to support 32 projects using mobile technologies.  The results were encouraging, purporting to achieve an 8% improvement in retention rates and a predicted improvement of 10% in achievement.