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Showing posts from September, 2020

Riders on the storm: Urgent action is needed or reset the clock

UPDATE 27th Sept 2020 More news today of students locked down in cities across the UK means that action should be taken with immediate urgency. They must be dispersed home in an orderly way as soon as possible. A policy of ‘test and disperse’ must be in place within days and followed through.  All universities must then cooperate to improve access to facilities with the inevitable shift to online learning. It must be treated as an emergency and dealt with now, not at Christmas. If this is not done soon, then we should reset the clock and start again with a fresh term in January. All institutions across the UK must allow access to their facilities to ensure students can study online nearer to their home and within the inevitable lockdown areas at home.  By suggesting that students may not be allowed to travel to their family homes at Christmas, it means that the government has finally confirmed  the ‘experiment’ has failed. All advice they received this summer point

‘Three Wise Monkeys’ of the exams mess

This week saw more grief added to the sorry tale of how students have been badly let down by ‘government’ in the widest sense. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson was brought before the Education Committee to explore his role, and that of the Department for Education, in the examination debacle this summer. It was not searching enough as each played their role as one of the three ‘wise monkeys’. Williamson’s crocodile tears, shed for the fate of ‘disadvantaged’ students, did not convince anyone they were a concern at the outset. Some will be challenging the veracity of his memory on this particular point.  Meanwhile the Ofqual Board met on Wednesday. Glenys Stacey, Acting Chief Regulator, had promised the Education Committee in a letter on the 8th September that they would publish all their minutes going back to September 2019.  “I also wanted to confirm our plans to publish minutes of Ofqual Board meetings. We will publish minutes up to March 2020 shortly. We intend to agr

Ofqual and the finger of blame

This week confirmed beyond any doubt that Ofqual is pointing the finger of blame for the public examinations chaos this summer firmly at the government and its ministers. The positions of Schools Minister, Nick Gibb and Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson must be on the line. When Williamson is confronted by the Education Committee next week, like Momus he may find his mask has slipped and cannot lay blame anywhere else. He might be meeting his Nemesis and find he is expelled from his lofty position.  Called to account.  On Wednesday morning, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, Education Permanent Secretary, Susan Acland-Hood, and Director for Qualifications, Michelle Dyson, will be called to account by the Education Committee. With the redoubtable Robert Halfon in the chair, they will face a hard time. This is because Halfon and his colleagues will be armed with more documentary evidence from Ofqual and others that look bad for both ministers. All of the correspo

Government response to digital poverty, job losses, and student hardship: A £21 million cut to its support

Hiding in the House of Commons proceedings from Monday afternoon was an astounding confirmation of student hardship cuts from the Higher Education Minister, Michelle Donelan. Using a sleight of hand, she announced £256 million was to be offered for student hardship support in the coming year. What she did not say was that it was being diverted from student premium funding and amounted to a CUT in support of £21 million. This indicates her government has become detached from the reality facing students and universities doing their best to support them. The announcement yesterday of new ‘Guidance on Higher education: reopening buildings and campuses’ , after universities have their own complex arrangements in place, is a good example. The Department for Education is quoted in the Guardian as saying “no funding would be provided to help meet the guidelines, and that additional costs would need to be met from existing budgets” Of course the overall government grant has been cut.  

The Ofqual University Challenge: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

The evidence session of parliament's Education Committee with Ofqual this week was lengthy and depressing. Blame was put on government policy, but little seems to have changed. It must be remembered that the whole debacle happened in the context of ongoing reviews of university admission processes by Universities UK and the Office for students. With Scotland moving quickly to an inquiry, the same must happen elsewhere in the UK and it would help if this were joined up. It must move well beyond the Ofqual approach of continuing to undermine the process whilst trying to prop up a system that was already unfair and inaccurate. Moving university selection more toward potential and ability as a measure, instead of relying on attainment, should be the starting point. Then making sure every student has an equal chance must become the bedrock of a new structure.  Senior officials from Ofqual were brought before the parliamentary Education Committee on Wednesday morning (see NOTE*