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Sector News, 28 July - 01 August 2008

A-level exams should start at Easter, says admissions chief.  The Independent, 28 July 2008.

Cambridge University’s head of admissions states that bringing A-level examinations forward to Easter would restore the credibility of A-level results.  The move would allow applicants to have their results prior to applying for a university place and would remove from admission tutors the necessity to award places on predicted grades.

Performance tables put successful diversity at risk.  Education Guardian, 29 July 2008. Opinion by Estelle Morris pro vice-chancellor, University of Sunderland.

Criticising the university league tables as being a newspaper rather than a government led initiative, Estelle Morris comments that our top universities will ‘always top the polls’ because of the work they do.  However, the tables show disrespect for the many universities which provide good quality degrees and contribute to the diversity of the HE sector.

New diplomas in chaos weeks before launch.  The Independent, 29 July 2008.

“The Government's flagship new diplomas are in chaos just weeks before they are due to be introduced in the classroom as a substitute for A-levels. “  So comments David Laws, Liberal Democratic education spokesman and a grammar school teacher from Linconshire.  Both claim that teachers are clueless about the delivery of the diplomas and that only 20,000 pupils have been entered against a target of 50,000.

Teachers still in the dark over new diplomas, union leader says.  Education Guardian, 29 July 2008.

Supporting the article in the Independent, Jessica Shephard reports that schools have received haphazard information about the new diplomas.

Maths teachers have lowest qualifications.  Daily Mail, 31 July 2008.

According to professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University, only 29.4% of maths teachers have a 2:1 degree or better.  This is lower than both sports and vocational lecturers.  The findings state that they increase concerns that pupils will be put off taking A level maths by lacklustre teaching.  However, the article fails to make the link between high degrees and good teaching.

Lecturers’ feedback efforts ‘misguided’.  THE, 31 July 2008.

Students’ dissatisfaction with the quality of lecturers was recently highlighted by a national student survey.  Professor Nichol, University of Strathclyde, comments that giving students reams of written feedback is misguided and greater student involvement in feedback sessions would be of benefit.

Name: DIUS. Year: 1. Shows willing but could do better…THE, 31 July 2008.

A major article in this weeks THE,  assessing the sector’s response to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. 

Denham makes ‘universal’ skills training offer.  THE, 31 July 2008.

“The Government has promised young people a “universal offer” of financial support for education and training, whether or not they decide to go to university “.  The promise covers all young people up to the age of 25 training to the equivalent of a level 3 qualification.

A first class fiasco.  THE, 31 July 2008.

Frank Furedi, Professor of sociology, University of Kent, says “the reason the degree classification system is broken is too little autonomy, not too much”.   Phil Willis, chair of a House of Commons Select Committee, made the comment that “the degree classification system is descending into farce”.  A claim supported by QAA who reported that “the degree classification system is arbitrary and unreliable”. 

Artistic licence.  THE, 31 July 2008.

For those interested in the arts, the THE this week has a major article on the rise of digital and conceptual art and how it is affecting traditional craft skills (teaching) departments.

Compulsory training to raise sencos’ status.  TES, 1 August 2008.

The Government have announced new rules which mean all new special education needs co-ordinators wil have to undergo government-approved training.  In addition schools must have a SEN champion, although the minister (Lord Adonis) stopped short of insisting that sencos would have to be part of senior management.  Nasen, the association of special education needs professionals said that “the training was vital to attract younger teachers into the job”. 

Over-65s left behind in learning.  TES, FE Focus, 1 August 2008.

Poor transport, high fees and a fear of crime are stopping elderly people from enrolling onto college courses.  The Help the Aged report states that nearly two thirds of over-65s say fear of crime stops them joining a course.  In addition about two fifths say that the courses are too expensive.

Takeover turns college around.  TES, FE Focus, 1 August 2008.

Flying in the face of recent concerns expressed by John Denham about mergers, the improvements in Skelmersdale College, after the takeover by Newcastle college, are exemplary.  Skelmersdale was considered a failing college, now it has been praised by inspectors for its outstanding improvement.

The oldest apprentice, bar nun.  TES, FE Focus, 1 August 2008.

“At 72, Helen Connolly’s enthusiasm has made her a star student in health and social care.  She also happens to be a nun, which she tells Joseph Lee, helps keep her out of mischief”.

Sister Helen is England’s oldest apprentice and a star in her health and safety course.