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Sector News, 26 May - 30 May 2008

Double vision.  Education Guardian, 27 May 2008. 

Last year the Department for Education was split into the Department for Children, Schools and families (DCSF) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).  The concern for further education was that it appeared that it belonged in both camps.  College students under 19 belong to both DCSF and DIUS and the adult ed. population to DIUS. Paul Odulinski, principal of Ayelsbury College comments that the structure is more complex, whilst Sally Dicketts of Oxford and Cherwell Valley College says that it can be difficult to budget because of the (almost) conflicting demands from both camps.

There is concern that split responsibility for 14-19 diplomas may mean no responsibility is taken.  “Was it wise to split schools policy from higher education” asks Barham Bekhradania, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute.  “For key policies such as widening partipation and university admissions and drop out rate, what happens in schools is crucial”.

Here’s why we can’t let FE fall through the crack… Education Guardian, 27 May 2008.

Comment, David Willetts, shadow secretary for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

David Willetts considers FE as the “unsung hero of our education system”.  He sees little hope of meeting the country’s upskilling and reskilling needs without FE.

Margaret Oakley is returning to education after a 74-year gap.  Education Guardian, 27 May 2008.

At 88, Margaret is the oldest student at the college and she is taking a 10 week Ransacker course, a residential scheme for over 55s.  The college is teaching her how to use a computer.  Margaret has ten weeks to work on her own project, which concerns a women’s organisation called Internationally Yours.

Is it John Denham, giant-killer?  Education Guardian, 27 May 2008.

Ministers are concerned over the costs of college mergers.  Despite the final say on college mergers being the responsibility of the Learning and Skill Council (LSC) under the further education act of last year, John Denham is keeping the final say over mergers.  He insists that value for money should be the overriding factor in any decision to merge.  Next year there is to be squeeze on college funding, many believing that it is the worst for years.   Denham’s caution with mergers cannot be totally divorced from this.

Who needs to know?  Education Guardian, 27 May 2008.

Peter Kingston reports that a new ruling will allow colleges to omit details from their annual accounts, including foreign travel costs.

 No A levels required to study science.  The Independent 23 May, reported in THE 29 May 2008.

Newcastle University have reported plans which involve pupils studying an Open University degree level course instead of three A levels.  The university has set aside sixty places for pupils opting to study using this approach.

Higher Education Academy: A mission to foster ‘robust debate and new thinking’.  THE, 29 May 2008.

The Higher Education Academy was created to enhance university teaching.  However, concerns about its governance have surfaced when member’s of the academy spoke out against plans to reduce the council’s size.  In January, Oakleigh Consulting reported that there was some dissatisfaction [.] regarding the style of leadership by some managers.  The HEA responded by stating that the report also talked “with some enthusiasm” about the senior team now in place.  Nb. story at bottom of page headed "Controversy continues as HEA director leaverpost".


Jewish student’s exam shifted after legal threat.  THE, 29 May 2008.

A lawyer representing a Jewish student, whose university insisted that he sat his examination on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, has persuaded the university to change its mind.  The lawyer commented that educational institutions which are bound by anti-discrimination legislation have failed to learn lessons.


International students pose challenge to library staff.  THE, 29 May 2008.

Foreign students are putting university library staff under severe pressure.  Foreign students tend to make more demands on libraries just to keep on a level playing field with English speaking students.  In addition, there are a considerable number of requests, particularly from post-graduate student for specific information about their home-land.  For example, one student requested an aerial map of Afghanistan to help him with his work on agriculture.  the student was from Afghanistan but the information could have been sensitive.

Beyond the best and brightest: meritocracy and its discontents.  THE, 29 May 2008.

(First story, Charlton’s "Elite institutions", THE, 22 May 2008)

Bruce Charlton makes some (arguable) comments about class and IQ, stating that IQ varies with social class and that higher social classes have a higher IQ.  Wendy Johnson, Research Councils UK fellow in the School of Philosophy, takes these statements to task.  Whilst agreeing that universities select the brightest students and that higher social class students are in the majority, (a component of Charlton’s argument) she makes the point that Charlton’s research was conducted on adults whose social class is based on the work they perform.  For students, social class is based on their parents.  Deborah Eyre, Director, National Academy for Gifted and Talented, considers that the west’s preoccupation with IQ levels is one of the main reasons we have such a class bias in the English education system.

The links above go to the original stories and a number of responses.

Wisdom and wit.  THE, 29 May 2008.

Kevin McCarron explains why he nearly failed as a stand up comedian owing to his academic background and how the lessons he has learned from this can help improve lecture room practice.

Results prized above learning experiences.  TES, 30 May 2008.

Schools based article but with ‘knock-on’ effects for post sixteen education.

New Government guidance on the teaching of English has stated that the central purpose is to improve exam results.  Understandably, this has upset some English teachers, who argue that league tables are being put ahead of improving pupils’ learning experiences.

Grammar will be almost invisible.  TES, 30 May 2008.

Warwick Mansell reports that the new advice on teaching English will offer little on grammar. 

University advisers for pupils.  TES, 30 May 2008.

Recommendations in a report to be published by the National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE) is reputed to state that bright pupils should be advised against taking ‘soft’ A levels if they want to get into a leading university.  The report also recommends higher education visits for every primary pupil.

Local cash ‘is political ploy’ and (comment) End of LSC no cause for celebration.  TES, FE Focus, 30 May 2008.

Two articles condemning the removal of the LSC and the transfer of money to local authorities.

Peter Pendle, of the Association for College Managers is concerned that the new administrative arrangements are a political ploy.  The Learning Skills Council (LSC), whilst far from perfect has improved, additionally they were blamed for errors not caused by themselves, i.e. they were often forced to be messengers of more central planners.

Low diploma take-up ‘not a bad thing’. TES, FE Focus, 30 May 2008.

There has been just more than half of the expected take up of 14-19 diplomas.  Just 20,000 teenagers will study the new diplomas rather than the expected 38,000.  Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary stated that he never expected a ‘big bang’ at the beginning.  Because schools and colleges have been struggling to prepare for the start of the diplomas, lower numbers could be something of a blessing.