Monthly Update on STEM - Science Technology Engineering and Maths in Education April 2011

Monthly Update on STEM - Science Technology Engineering and Maths in Education April 2011

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Skills News

Demand for ICT labour and skills outstrips supply for first time since 2008

The latest e-skills Labour Market Bulletin shows that demand for ICT labour and skills in the UK outstripped supply for the first time since the end of 2008, as the volume of advertised positions on offer marginally exceeded the number of 'ready candidates' in the labour market in the third quarter of 2010.

Other encouraging findings included the unemployment rate for ICT staff falling to 3.1%, compared with a comparison figure of 8.3% for the workforce as a whole.

In a survey of 408 business leaders by education company Pearson only 16% thought that the education system taught the right mix of academic and practical skills.

82% warned that the recovery would fall flat unless investment was geared towards vocational learning. 80% thought young people should be taught practical skills alongside academic subjects such as Maths and English. Just 3% thought traditional academic subjects alone were most important to the UK's economic development

BESA Daily News: EU publishes education benchmarking report

The European Commission has published a report detailing and comparing the education systems of each member state in relation to benchmarks set for 2010. The benchmarks cover areas such as school dropout rates, participation in upper secondary education and literacy.

The report also establishes Europe-wide benchmarks for the year 2020.

For more detail please see the European Commission press release linked here

Government Bills & Acts News

The Education Bill committee has completed its scrutiny and the amended Bill has now been published and passed back to the Commons for third reading.

The Committee has also published a consolidated version of all the written evidence submitted in the course of its proceedings.

Shadow Education Minister Andy Burnham has said that Labour‟s review of education policy will look again at 14-19 curriculum reform and how to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum.

The review group - including Pearson UK president Rod Bristow and Professor Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University - will consider:

o What knowledge and skills does the next generation need to be successful?

o How can we continue to improve standards in English, maths and science, but also provide a balanced curriculum that meets the needs of all children?

o What influence and control do parents want over local schools and education?

o How can we create the most professional teaching workforce in the world?

Government Budget News

The Budget and the accompanying Plan for Growth set out measures to achieve the government‟s four economic ambitions, including: “a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe”.

Stronger promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills, including

· Support for the Careers Profession Alliance to improve training for careers professionals in subject-specific specialisms;

· More support for STEM promotion activities, including through STEMNET and its STEM Ambassadors programme and through industry-school visits.

An expansion of the new University Technical Colleges programme, to establish at least 24 UTCs by 2014.

£180m for up to 50,000 additional apprenticeship places over the next 4 years, including 40,000 places to support the young unemployed; and 10,000 places created by business consortia setting up advanced and higher apprenticeship schemes.

Support for a new degree-level Higher Apprenticeship, providing a route for apprentices to achieve professional accreditation.

100,000 additional work experience placements for young people to develop key work skills and get on the employment ladder.

Technology News

In a survey of 669 executives involved in cloud computing initiatives, five immediate benefits were identified.

· Increased agility: At big companies, IT systems often impede rapid change. 60% of respondents said that the cloud‟s speed, flexibility and responsiveness would be its greatest benefit in the near term.

· Lower costs: 70% said they expected it to help them keep costs under control, including through fewer data centres; saving on IT staff and energy costs; and the elimination of upfront IT, particularly for start-ups.

· Better collaboration: centrally accessible processing power and common methods of finding and entering data helped to improve collaboration for 67% of respondents.

· Better customer connections: Blogs, microblogs and fan pages on social networks are among the mechanisms that companies have used to reach customers. Companies can also mine massive amounts of customer data at high speed and low cost.

· Development of new services: cited by over 60% of respondents.

Government Bodies News

Chief inspector Christine Gilbert is leaving Ofsted at the end of June, 4 months before her contract is due to come to an end in October. Ms Gilbert has headed the watchdog since 2006.

A report by the education select committee says Ofsted is too big to function effectively and should split into separate organisations inspecting education and children‟s care, with more inspectors having an education background.

Two new positions should be created within the Department for Education – a chief education officer and a chief children‟s care officer.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has launched a review of teaching standards, which he feels are too vague and don‟t focus sufficiently on improving teachers‟ skills.

The review also aims to put a greater emphasis on skills to combat bad behaviour and support low-achieving pupils, and to have a clearer focus on the importance of improving grades in English and maths.

In a 2010 survey, two out of five teachers believed the current standards made no difference to the way they taught. A third said they failed to define competence.

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of the Young Foundation, has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of NESTA from June.

Stephen Marston, formerly director general for universities and skills at BIS, has been appointed vice-chancellor of Gloucestershire University from 31 July. His post at BIS was abolished in November, but he has been leading on the HE White Paper, now due out in June. He was previously director general for lifelong learning and skills in the Department for Education & Skills, where, among other things, he set up Train to Gain.

In a 12-minute video, journalist Mike Baker talks to experts from three different continents about what the „interconnected world‟ means for education.

Does the curriculum need to be changed to ensure we are really preparing young people for a world where they may study abroad; work for transnational companies; connect online with colleagues and friends in different continents; and be world citizens?

School and Academy News

The DfE has started publishing data on how every secondary school in England performs in each GCSE subject.

Schools can be ranked by: the number entering each GCSE subject; the number getting certain grades in a particular subject; the number and proportion achieving five A*-C including English and maths, with and without GCSE equivalencies; the number and proportion taking each component of the English Baccalaureate and grades attained.

Research by Kings College London, highlighted in an OFQUAL report, questions the reliability of the PISA international education league tables often quoted by Ministers.

The differences between countries‟ performances are not that large and are usually statistically insignificant.

The rankings are not that meaningful, partly because the constituent comparators change from study to study and from year to year. “Overall, and over time, England‟s performance is not that worrisome.”

A number of assumptions are made about such studies: that they are an objective measure of what is best; that the pupils involved are a balanced representation of all learners at that stage of education; and that pupils in each country are equally motivated to perform well.

The West London Free School - set up by the writer Toby Young – is the first to sign a funding agreement with the government and be given the go-ahead to open in September.

So far, there have been 258 applications to set up free schools. Of these, 40 have now been approved to move to business case, and 9 have passed to the „pre-opening stage‟.

Another 162 schools in England became Academies in March, bringing the total up to 629, compared to 203 at the time of the election.

One in six of England's secondary schools is now an Academy. 272 are „old-style‟ Academies set up by Labour as a way of raising standards in disadvantaged areas. 82 primary schools have become Academies.

A poll of 1,471 heads by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) found 46% had converted to Academy status or intended to do so.

Nearly three-quarters of these were driven by the belief that it would help the school financially.

34% of those who took part in the survey were undecided about becoming an Academy and 19% had no plans to convert. Of them, half said there was not enough to gain from Academy status and 40% were concerned about the effect on other schools locally.

Some heads felt it was becoming increasingly difficult not to convert because of the number of schools likely to convert in their area.

Research by the London School of Economics suggests that turning a school into an Academy improves its performance, as well as that of neighbouring schools

The researchers only examined Academies created by Labour, which were underperforming schools in deprived areas. However, they found that increased autonomy and flexible governance may have sharpened incentives to improve performance.

The effects of conversion were largest for the 158 comprehensives which became Academies, and went from having little autonomy to lots. Converting schools with more freedom to Academy status had weaker effects.

There was “a strong relationship” between improvements at Academies and at local schools – even though higher-achieving pupils started leaving other local schools to go to the new Academy. The researchers put this down to the market effects of increased choice and competition.

A study of data tracking thousands of adults from birth to 53, has found that attending a grammar school made no difference to social mobility for working-class children.

It did improve their chances of earning slightly more than their parents, but that was also the case for children from middle-class homes who went to grammar schools.

Across the sample, the advantages of going to a grammar school were cancelled out by the social disadvantages experienced by those who went to secondary moderns.

BESA Daily News: Consultations opened on schools and academies funding

The DfE has opened two parallel consultations on the funding system in maintained schools and in Academies. The consultations stem from the Schools White Paper published last November.

Both consultations close on 25 May 2011.

Further details, including links to the consultations, are available from the DfE press release here.

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