Gordon Brown given UN education role

Gordon Brown given UN education role

BBC |July 13, 2012

By Sean Coughlan| BBC News education correspondent

Former prime minister Gordon Brown is to become a global education envoy for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr Brown’s aim is to see 61 million more children enrolled into education across the world by 2015.

Since leaving office in 2010, the former UK prime minister has produced a series of reports on education in developing countries.

Earlier this year he launched a campaign for an international fund to bring education to all children.

Mr Brown said his new role would be a “great privilege”.

“Ensuring that every child in the world has the opportunity to go to school and to learn is a longstanding passion of mine,” said Mr Brown.

“Education breaks the cycle of poverty and unlocks better health and better job prospects.”

Global goals

The announcement, made in New York, means Mr Brown becomes a UN envoy – supporting UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

This unpaid position is the first big job for the former prime minister since he left Downing Street two years ago.

But it does not mean that he will be leaving domestic politics.

His office told the BBC that Mr Brown definitely remained the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

That could lead to further criticism from those who have attacked him for attending few debates and voting in Parliament on only a handful of occasions.

He joins the likes of the former US President, Bill Clinton, and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Mr Brown has been campaigning in support of the millennium development goal that by 2015 all children should have access to at least a primary school education.

While it seems increasingly likely that some of the millennium goals will be missed, Mr Brown has called on the international community to try to keep its pledge on primary education.

Mr Brown earlier this year published a report warning of the “silent emergency” of millions of children not receiving any education – and called for an urgent investment to change this.

He reported that in South Sudan, girls were more likely to die in childbirth than complete a primary school education.

Mr Brown says he wants to support the UN secretary-general’s initiative, Education First, which aims to prioritise education within development projects.

“Enrolling an additional 61 million children and ensuring a quality education for all by the end of 2015 will not be easy – but it is a goal which, working together, we can achieve,” says Mr Brown.

Mr Brown has worked with his wife Sarah on a number of international education projects, including promoting the cause of children in conflict zones who miss out on education.

In a report on South Sudan published in April, he said that more than 40% of the world’s children missing out on education lived in “fragile states” or those affected by violence.

He warned that at present, only 2% of humanitarian aid goes into education.

Mr Brown has said he will continue to serve as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Ministers ‘rush to approve private degree courses’

Ministers ‘rush to approve private degree courses’

BBC |July 12, 2012

By Hannah Richardson|BBC News education reporter

Ministers are being accused of “falling over themselves” to approve degree and diploma-level courses at private colleges in England.

New figures show 400 courses have been approved since 2010 when ministers pledged to open up the higher education market.

Private colleges are not subject to the same quality checks as public universities.

The government said it planned to strengthen checks on private providers.

Currently it is the Student Loans Company which checks course descriptions against information on courses in the public domain. It then passes this information on to government officials.

However, the universities minister David Willetts said in a parliamentary written answer earlier this year that such checks did not cover the quality of education provided.

Instead many private providers form partnerships with specific universities which take on a validation role for certain courses.

‘Unregulated’

The figures were published by the Student Loans Company in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Times Higher Education magazine.

They showed the number of courses approved in 2011-12 rose by 77% from 228 in 2010-11 to a total of 403 in 2011-12.

The acceleration of the approval rate is also illustrated by the fact that one college had 98 courses approved by officials in just a single day.

Another college had 22 courses approved just weeks before it was closed by the UK Border Agency.

Head of the UCU academics’ union Sally Hunt said the data showed how little oversight the government has given to courses run by private providers.

She added: “At a time when public universities are being starved of funds, ministers seem to be falling over themselves to sign off ever- increasing amounts of taxpayers’ money to more or less any company which applies for designated course status.”

The government should act to to halt the “unregulated process and introduce stringent regulation for private providers”, she said.

Students on such “designated” courses qualify for government-backed tuition fee loans from the SLC.

‘Quality checks’

The firm said that some £55m in loans and grants was allocated to courses with private providers in 2010-11.

This figure is expected to rise considerably as such providers are able to increase their course charges from about £3,000 to £6,000 from this September.

But unlike universities, most private providers are not subject to stringent quality checks by the Quality Assurance Agency.

Universities UK said the UK’s public universities were some of the most highly-regulated in the world.

It said the QAA, which bases its checks of public universities on a “set of UK-wide nationally-agreed reference points”, has a key role in monitoring standards and auditing institutions.

Universities UK added that such private institutions were not subject to student numbers control or any of the accountability requirements from the funding body, Hefce.

‘Due diligence’

A UUK spokesman said: “We are very supportive of finding a way to bring them under the same student number controls and onto a level playing field, ensuring that they engage with the QAA, Hefce etc in the same way that our institutions have to.

“This is important to ensure that these organisations (QAA, Hefce) are seen to be meeting their obligations to safeguard the student experience and ensure public funding is spent effectively.”

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said all courses designated for student support must be validated by a recognised UK awarding body – such as a university – to help ensure quality.

“In the last 12 months, we have also introduced due diligence checks on organisations applying for designation for the first time. These look at a range of factors including financial sustainability and consideration of any parent company.

“But we recognise the case for going further and have recently said we are now looking at introducing more robust and transparent requirements on quality assurance, financial sustainability and governance,” he added.

The Student Loans Company said it checks colleges by asking them to provide information about the courses they offer including timetables, intensity and amount of days of study required.

It then checks this against information in the public domain and passes it on to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Gove turns down group’s bid for extra education funding

Gove turns down group’s bid for extra education funding

BBC |July 13, 2012

By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter

A group of England’s lowest-funded local education authorities has had its bid for extra funding turned down by the Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Schools run by members of the group, known as f40, get up to £600 less in basic grant per pupil than the local council average.

They had asked for £99m to share between them until a new national funding formula is introduced in 2015.

Turning them down, Mr Gove blamed the economic situation.

The group heard the decision just days before Mr Gove announced approval for about 100 new free schools.

‘Economic situation’

In a letter to the group’s chairman, Councillor Ivan Ould, Mr Gove said: “I am very sympathetic to the case you and your colleagues put forward.

“I agree the current system for funding schools is out of date and complex, and that is why I have committed to introducing a new National Funding Formula.”

He continued: “It is important that we move to a new formula gradually and at a pace which schools can manage.”

He said it was important to consider any changes carefully and get the new formula right.

He added that because of the “reality of the current economic situation” any extra funds would have had to have come from elsewhere in the funding system.

The government has indicated the new funding formula will not be introduced during the current parliament.

‘Fairer funding’

But group secretary Doug Allen said what made the news particularly difficult was coverage of grants to free schools.

“I read recently that Mr Gove is giving £2m to a school in Beccles for a small number of pupils.

“You have to question where is the sense in that, where is all that extra money coming from?”

He added that the campaign for fairer funding had been going on for 20 years under governments of all descriptions.

But this was the first time that the group felt they had won the argument, he said.

The group was asked specifically by Mr Gove in March to produce some financial modelling to show how the issue could be addressed.

He highlighted the disparities in funding using the example of schools close to each other in Leicester City and Leicestershire.

“You could be living in one street and go to a school in Leicestershire that gets £800 per pupil less than the one someone else in that street goes to because it is a Leicester city school.”

He said similar discrepancies existed between the East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull, and Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

Third of new free schools are religious

Third of new free schools are religious

The Guardian |by Jeevan Vasagar, education editor on July 13, 2012

Education secretary, Michael Gove, at the Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy free school in London

Education secretary Michael Gove, seen at the Woodpecker Hall Primary Academy, says free schools are driving up standards. Photograph: Eddie Mulholland/Rex Features

A third of the free schools approved by the government to open from September 2013 onwards characterise themselves as faith schools, compared with a quarter of the first wave.

More than 100 new free schools were announced on Friday, including 33 that describe themselves as religious, 20 of which are designated faith schools and will be able to select some pupils on this basis.

Faith organisations have an advantage over parent groups in setting up free schools as they often have access to property, such as a church hall, and can swiftly mobilise community resources.

Of the first wave of 24 free schools that opened last September, six were faith schools, including two Jewish schools in London, a Hindu school in Leicester and a Sikh school in Birmingham.

A total of 102 free-school applications have been approved to open from next year. These include one backed by Manchester City football club and five private schools converting to the state sector. In all, 59 schools are being set up by teachers, existing schools and educational organisations, including the five private ones.

During a school visit later on Friday, David Cameron said: “The free schools revolution was built on a simple idea: open up our schools to new providers. And use the competition that results to drive up standards across the system. Get behind parents, charities and committed teachers who are trying to make things better. And give them the freedoms they need to transform our education system.”

The number of free schools opened so far has been modest; a further 50 are expected to open in September.

The schools that have won approval in the latest round include the Connell sixth form college, a co-educational school being set up by Altrincham Grammar School for Girls and backed by Manchester City. The club will provide access to its football pitches.

The Collective Spirit school in Oldham will be a “faith sensitive” school that does not select on the basis of religion but aims to build community cohesion. The East London science college, which will be based in Tower Hamlets or Newham, is being set up by a teacher group led by David Perks, founder of the Physics Factory charity, which campaigns to encourage the study of physics.

The Big Life group, which is responsible for the Big Issue in the north of England, is behind a plan to open a primary school in Longsight, Manchester.

The new schools include 85 mainstream institutions. Of these, 40 are primary, 28 are secondary and 10 are “all-through”. The rest are for different age ranges, including sixth formers.

There are five schools for children with special needs and 12 “alternative provision” schools, for children who cannot attend mainstream schools. The Harris Federation, an academy sponsor, will open one of these in Croydon or Bromley. will cater for 90 pupils, including excluded children and teenage parents.

There will be two schools backed by universities, the Marine academy primary in Plymouth and the University of Birmingham school and sixth form in Birmingham.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, said: “Free schools are driving up standards across the country. Now more and more groups are taking advantage of the freedoms we’ve offered to create wonderful new schools.”

Rachel Wolf, director of the New Schools Network, the charity that advises groups wanting to set up new schools, said the announcement meant the free-schools programme was on its way to delivering a “great new school for every community”.

Gove made a similar promise ahead of the general election, but has since declined to give a target.

Wolf said: “We are excited that such a large proportion of the schools are coming from within the education sector. With over half of the groups approved today being school-led, the profession is voting with its feet. Teachers across the country are recognising that free schools give them the opportunity to set up and run schools as they see fit, without being encumbered by unnecessary process and bureaucratic controls.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the teachers’ union NUT, said free schools were “neither wanted nor needed”.

It emerged last month that the Beccles free school in Suffolk had just 37 applications for children to start this September, despite originally planning to open with places for more than 300.

Riverside Co-operative

The Riverside Co-operative will be one of the biggest free schools when it opens in the east London development of Barking Riverside, catering for around 1,800 children when at full capacity.

The school will be split into three “mini schools” for children of different abilities. There will be a “grammar school” stream for the most academically able, who will study for the English baccalaureate and be expected to take A-levels and go on to university. A second “mini school” will offer a mix of academic and applied learning, combining GCSEs with vocational education. A third, for children who arrive at school below the expected level for their age, will focus on literacy, numeracy and social skills.

Children will be able to transfer between the three streams at the end of each year, and the most academic “mini school” is expected to be the largest, catering for half of pupils.

Roger Leighton, executive head of the school, said: “Our aim is to have flexibility between the three mini schools, rather than the old [grammar school] system of total separation and a clear break at the age of 11.”

Longsight school

One of the free schools approved on Friday is backed by the Big Life group, the social enterprise behind the Big Issue in the north of England.

The group is working with parents to set up an 189-place primary school in Longsight, a deprived area of Manchester where there is a shortage of school places.

The Big Life group, which already manages a children’s centre in the area, said it had supported more than 20 families with appeals for school places, and more than 40 families had asked for support finding a place. Manchester city council has already had to set up three temporary classes in the area as a population boom has squeezed schools.

Fay Selvan, chief executive of the Big Life group, said: “It’s an area which has a lot of new migrants, a community which finds it hard to access school places.

“More traditional communities have got more established links to schools, such as through siblings. They are the people most affected by not having enough primary school places.”

Alongside education, the school will provide volunteering opportunities to parents, and training which leads to teaching and childcare qualifications.

The school will encourage parental involvement through morning reading sessions and its curriculum will focus on language development. It will also offer maths, science, ICT and PE as discrete subjects.

In its first year the school will offer 27 reception places,  15 year-one places and 10 year-two places, growing to a total of 189 places for children from reception age to year 6 by 2019.

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