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Post Qualification Admissions and DfE Consultation… Consultation… Consultation!

It seems the Department for Education (DfE) is governing by a process of endless consultations as a smoke screen to hide underlying strategy. The latest on Post Qualification Admissions has already decided to cease teachers’ grade predictions as part of the university admission system and offers only two options in a Hobsons choice. Its purpose appears to be making the process fairer for less advantaged students but might make matters worse. Many well-informed observers are getting very concerned. The decision is predicated on two assumptions. Firstly, that teachers tend to under predict the grades for disadvantaged students who may go onto get higher grades and miss out on courses at university with higher entry requirements. Secondly, that the examination grades are an accurate reflection of a student’s ability and teachers are simply getting it wrong. Neither are strictly correct, and this post is a longer one as it examines some of the flaws in the decision making by the DfE, led b

Funding lifeline for disadvantaged students in schools under the spotlight

The image depicts the cover of a recent report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office that looks critically at the impact of ongoing additional school funding for disadvantaged students. Its hard-hitting conclusions must not be ignored. They show 15 years of failure and little impact despite nearly a billion spent across schools from 2005 to 2020. Similar schemes operate across the rest of the UK and the report raises serious questions about where the money is going. There is no doubt that disadvantages at home impact upon how students get on at school. But the danger is that some opponents will seize upon the findings to argue that the money should be withdrawn since it appears to do no good. Wiser heads will ask about where the money is going before reaching such a perverse conclusion. This is a time of considerable danger for those with few advantages. A wider social intervention will be needed to address the problems, and it is unreasonable to expect schools to impact things beyond

The end of an era of teaching alongside research: A tribute to Thomas Brock

The title and the image might seem a departure from the usual offering from TEFS. To a degree this is correct, but there is a purpose in highlighting the essential link between research and teaching at university level, and how that link is being broken. The fracture of this vital cog of education at a high level impacts all students in a way that is damaging perceptions of a university and its purpose. Performance management, REF funding, and the resulting ‘teaching only’ contracts reported by Times Higher Education this week, have set us on a dangerous course. This post is by way of a tribute to the late researcher and teacher, Thomas Brock, who passed away earlier this month. His story is a lesson in how research and teaching have more value when in combination. He carried out ground-breaking research and teaching in another golden era of discovery. Every microbiologist since 1970 knows who he is through his textbook ‘Biology of Microorganisms’. In the midst of the current COVID-

Pandemic student employment: Over 75,000 lose jobs but job market survives collapse

The title illustrates how the same data can be presented to give different impressions. There is currently a general perception that most students are employed in the hospitality industry and the closure during the ongoing pandemic lockdowns have resulted in a collapse of the job market for them. But things are not so simple. Analysis of the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) employment data indicates the student job market has not totally collapsed. This is good news for some students who managed to secure furlough pay or employment of some kind. However, the 5% loss of employment between February 2020 and February 2021 equates to over 75,000 fewer students in employment. This partly explains why the hardship support from the government has been inadequate and needed to be topped up. It also indicates that pressures on employed students continued into the lockdown. Not all students are affected. The recent employment statistics illustrate clearly how there is a two-tier ex