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Showing posts from March, 2021

Testing times for Northern Ireland academic selection

A series of reports from the UNESCO Centre at the University of Ulster t his week coincided with the setting up of a new independent review panel to look at the divided Northern Ireland education system. The selection test, or 11+, used for secondary school selection dominates the media coverage. With tests cancelled for the 2021 intake due to COVID-19, there is increasing pressure to abandon them or make major reforms. The socioeconomic divisions caused are also put to the test. These are compounded by two parallel systems running along sectarian lines. So called ‘integrated’ education is advancing slowly and has a long way to go. Reforms of GCSEs and A-Levels will also enter the equation and could precipitate a greater seismic shift. There will be considerable support for the status quo from those who benefit, and nothing will shift without greater public confidence. However, the time is right to redouble efforts to make the system fair and equal. Increasing numbers of children fro

The science and technology revolution will be forged in the embers of a smoking ruin: UPDATE the cuts extinguisher

UPDATE 30th March 2021 Speaking on BBC Radio 4's 'The World This Weekend' on the 21st of March 2021, Paul Nurse attacked the likely cuts in the UK’s science budget with "Over £1bn cuts just at the time when science is saving the nation. It makes no sense". Nurse is a major influence as the Director of the Crick Institute, itself looking at major cuts, past Royal Society president and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for medicine. 2015 review of UK research councils led to the formation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that brought science closer to the centre of government. It seems his well-considered report about strategic leadership of science policy through the research councils has been discarded. A lack of leadership has somehow failed to work out how the UK’s involvement in Horizon Europe is to be funded. The result is uncertainty seen by TEFS back in December . This could amount to up to £2 billion and a loss of at least 10,000 scientists. Earlier this

Education Committee digs deeper as the Ofqual Odyssey begins.

Ten years of conservative government has culminated in a lack of preparedness for the onslaught of a virus pandemic, or indeed any crisis. The TEFS posting of the 26th February looked at the situation Ofqual finds itself in with ‘The next labour of Ofqual is announced’ . The final battle was fought last year, and the system failed. In an Education Committee hearing this week, the Schools Minster, Nick Gibb shrugged this off with “we do not design an exam system for pandemics”. But this is at the core of the problem and smacks of the complacency of the  Lotophagi (Lotus-Eaters in the image). Complacency and poor planning allowed the new coronavirus to sneak in unnoticed like a Trojan horse. The resulting total chaos of the examinations last summer marked defeat for the Department for Education, the government, and its examination policies. Its effects only became apparent after it was already too late. Now, the government and Ofqual are trying to find a way to return home to the old o

Universities, students, and the Budget 2021

There was a buzz of anticipation in the air on Wednesday as one of the most important budgets in decades was unfurled. Yes, it had leaked profusely in advance, but we all expected more in the way of surprises. In the end, it was disappointment and increasing anxiety for those needing social support into the future. Any impact on students and universities will be indirect as they are left to fend on their own. The strategy is one of support for business first with “investment led recovery”. The least well off will be hit hard by rising tax pressures while the social safety net will be lowered as furlough and universal credit subsidies are removed. The effects of Brexit are played down but the real costs will be a major additional burden. Hovering over the keyboard yesterday, it soon became clear there seemed to be very little to report on students and universities. What was not included was of greater significance. This is because ‘The ‘Budget 2021 Protecting the jobs and livelihoods