Thursday, 28 August 2008
Amsterdam' s Schiphol airport, boarding has just been announced for three different flights, two of which are running a little late – nothing to worry about but the queue to get through security is fairly long whereas normally it's only one set of passengers at a time.
Security opens as many checkpoints as possible given that it's gone 21:00 and the number of staff is reduced to match fewer flights.
Young man a couple of places in front of me arrives at the X-ray machine.
He has not taken his laptop out of his bag to have it screened separately as instructed by posters and disembodied voice!
He has not removed his belt.
He has not removed his jacket and placed it in a separate "basket".
He sets off the walk-through machine because he's left his keys in his pocket.
And then he looks surprised when the security people take everything out of his bag and do a fairly thorough pat-down on him!
I just wanted to tell him exactly what I thought of his stupidity. Being the worse for wear because of alcohol or drugs after a day or two in Amsterdam is no excuse for holding up 100 people who are already going to be late home!
And when I had to wait half an hour for a train at Luton having missed the train I intended to catch I didn't just want to have a verbal rant at him!
Actually contains some good ideas although how many people will be acknowledging "UK Older People’s Day" on 1 October I do not know. If you're 50 or over, and I know that several readers of this blog as well as its author fall into that category, then you are "an older person". Ouch! I don't feel older.
Linking ideas, I was reading in the newspaper only yesterday that by 2060 there will be only two working people for every person in Europe aged over 65.
State pensions are struggling to cope with four people of working age to everyone over 65 so I don't know what pensions will look like in 50 years. Maybe the "cut off" for work will need to rise to 70 or 80 or ??? as my husband is fond of saying "think of a figure and double it". I'm alright, Jack (just) but what about future generations? And in the UK the present government borrowing just to stay afloat is really rather frightening!
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Assessing Neighbourhood-Level Data for Target Setting (PDF, 399 kb , 84pp) is only available online (other than alternative formats e.g. Braille or audio)
Bless you DCLG for saving me a little bit of time -- no need to do more than check that the link to the download works without having to actually download it and check the number of pages (which for those of us who need to decide whether to print or read online is often the deciding factor).
Monday, 25 August 2008
I know there is a great debate taking place about which operating system is better.
Jack Wallen, host of the Linux and Open Source blog, started a lengthy discussion asking the question: Why would you choose Windows over Linux?
I thought that was kind of funny, because recently I have been asking myself the opposite question: Who would choose to switch to Linux?
Read the full article
and rejoice, as I did, in an analogy that Mark uses:
I have no knowledge of the operating system that runs my microwave oven. I don’t have to install the popcorn application — it is already there, and it works just fine. I don’t care who made it, I don’t care if it is open source, and I don’t spend time on PopcornRepublic discussing the merits of one popcorn application over another. It doesn’t matter — what matters is that I get a good bag of popcorn.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
After condemning regeneration policies in Liverpool and Hull, critic saves sharpest barbs for 'rip-off capital'
Read the full article
Saturday, 23 August 2008
Schools Minister Jim Knight on plans to close schools that fail to get a third of pupils through five good GCSEs.
Read the full article (NB: I read it when I first picked it for blogging but it wouldn't link when I edited.)
The Minister has pledged: "By 2011, all our schools will be at the required level". Excuse my cynicism but just how does he expect to achieve that? By closing all schools that don't reach the required standards and .... what?
One answer that is being bandied about is that they'll all be turned into Academies but by 2011? I doubt it.
Merge schools so that school A disappears but becomes a campus of the new school AB where B was already meeting the requirement? I can't see how that will do anything except reduce the average for the new school AB.
Accept the fact that there are children congregating in one geographic area or school who are not going to reach the required standard without removing all the "it's because s/he is black, a refugee, comes from a broken home" and start expecting that young people will achieve but not if schools are labelled failing when they aren't. They are doing the very best that they can under difficult circumstances but can't improve by attracting good staff if they're labelled in this way.
"Labour's flagship reforms to protect women from domestic violence have failed to increase criminal convictions, a government study has found."
The Independent 16 August 2008
Where would I be without the Inner Temple Library and its wonderful picking up of stories that I miss completely?
Friday, 22 August 2008
School inspectors are writing to children as young as four, telling them they may fail in adult life because their teachers are not up to scratch.
You can read this story in almost every media outlet. I happened to pick it up from The Independent
£1.24bn is a lot of money, even for government IT. It is nearly as much as Connecting for Health spent on the core National Programme for IT contracts up to March 2007. It would keep Birmingham City Council's IT going for 26 years on its current deal.
It is also what the Department for Work and Pensions plans to spend on IT in this financial year.
Such things are hard to assess, but DWP's record on IT seems pretty good, such as when moving its Jobcentre Plus contact centres to a single system and number. It has had problems, such as its cancellation of Siemens' contract for the Customer Information System project, but on balance DWP is one of the better departments for technology use.
It is more the sheer size of the budget that is notable. DWP and HMRC together in the 2007-08 financial year spent £1.89bn on IT - more than £30 for everyone in the country - basically (with a few exceptions such as Jobcentre Plus) to administer money coming in and out of government.
One wonders if, when deciding to add new complexity to taxes and benefits, politicians pause to think about the cost of that complexity.
Do politicians pause to think of the cost of the complex changes that they initiate? Of course not. Plus ça change and all that.
Thursday, 21 August 2008
via Webware.com by Rafe Needleman on 15 August
We have been reminded several times lately that Web 2.0 is in no way a synonym for "reliable." Major services have crashed. Big product launches have fizzled. Users have raised their collective fists in the air. What's going on? Is the Web crumbling? Well, no, it's not. But users' expectations are rising, and Web companies often get themselves into trouble by promising far more than they can deliver.
Rafe's "timeline of offline" provides names, dates, corporate reaction, and what the users did. He ends with the recent Netflix problems with shipping centres and says: "The damage: Netflix customers have to watch old DVDs, live TV, Tivo, Unbox, Hulu... Wait a minute, do we really need Netflix?"
I know a lot of people who do use Netflix and personally I'd answer the question above by saying: "No, you don't need it". Tesco DVD rental, pay for a year in advance, is better value for money and has never had an outage!
OfSTED's first inspection of the government's e-learning provider has resulted in a "grade two" award
Ufi's performance in developing and delivering online learning was described as good, in the report published on 8 August 2008.
Sarah Jones, Chief Executive of Ufi, said: "Maintaining a high quality, reliable and innovative service for each of our learners is a priority for everyone at Ufi. For our success to be acknowledged by OfSTED is a great encouragement to us all. Since October 2000 more than 2.4m people have taken some 6.5m learndirect courses, according to Ufi. Each day an average of 7,700 learners log on and learn with the scheme.
via guardian.co.uk Education by Polly Curtis on 15 August
Controversial data-handling firm in the frame after ETS is fired for late delivery of tests.
Read the full article
Words like "frying pan" and "fire" come to mind. Is it time to say that SATs were not a good idea and ditch them?
The first looks at school term dates and the distribution of holidays in primary and secondary education
The second covers the academic year in higher education and includes the length of terms, holidays and examination periods.
Both Organisation of School Time in Europe: Primary and general secondary education - 2008/09 school year and Organisation of the Academic Year in Higher Education - 2008/09 are available from the Eurydice Network website (under Latest publications)
New from INCA
The INCA comparative tables have been updated. These provide a brief overview of key issues across the 20 INCA countries and include summary tables on:
- The duration of compulsory education (school starting ages and phases)
- The primary curriculum
- The lower secondary curriculum
- The control and supply of textbooks
- National assessment and public examination arrangements
- Initial teacher training.
A new comparative table covering the organisation of the school year and school day has also been added.
The tables are available from: http://campaigns.openemail.net/t/3263140/5934961/1394/0/
You may also be interested in ADSET's Business Information
The Megacentre, Bernard Road, Sheffield S2 5BQ
This conference will explore and reflect upon current policy and practice in relation to young adults (aged 16-25), particularly those on the margins of education, training and employment and the development of employability skills in supporting the transition to work.
This conference will reflect on the skills and qualities required from young adults by employers and how young adults can be supported to develop them. It will consider roles and responsibilities in developing employability with young adults and show case effective and innovative practice.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
Misuse of automated decision aids: Complacency, automation bias and the impact of training experience
an article by J Elin Bahner, Anke-Dorothea Hüper and Dietrich Manzey (Berlin Institute of Technology, Department of Psychology and Ergonomics) in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies Volume 66 Issue 9 (September 2008)
The present study investigates automation misuse based on complacency and automation bias in interacting with a decision aid in a process control system. The effect of a preventive training intervention which includes exposing participants to rare automation failures is examined. Complacency is reflected in an inappropriate checking and monitoring of automated functions. In interaction with automated decision aids complacency might result in commission errors, i.e., following automatically generated recommendations even though they are false. Yet, empirical evidence proving this kind of relationship is still lacking. A laboratory experiment (N=24) was conducted using a process control simulation. An automated decision aid provided advice for fault diagnosis and management. Complacency was directly measured by the participants’ information sampling behaviour, i.e., the amount of information sampled in order to verify the automated recommendations. Possible commission errors were assessed when the aid provided false recommendations. The results provide clear evidence for complacency, reflected in an insufficient verification of the automation, while commission errors were associated with high levels of complacency. Hence, commission errors seem to be a possible, albeit not an inevitable consequence of complacency. Furthermore, exposing operators to automation failures during training significantly decreased complacency and thus represents a suitable means to reduce this risk, even though it might not avoid it completely. Potential applications of this research include the design of training protocols in order to prevent automation misuse in interaction with automated decision aids.
References and further reading may be available for this article. To view references and further reading you must purchase [this was a link but it didn't] this article. Or ask Hazel to go and read it in the British Library!
Actually you don't need to ask – I'll be doing it anyway because I want to see whether any of the references look at decision-making aids in a careers context rather than a manufacturing one. It would also be interesting, to me anyway, to see how this complacency affects automated classification systems where you have to accept or reject the programs "suggestion".
Given that most of the mistakes I both made and found when doing quality assurance on learning opportunity data were connected with complacently copying down through the data rows I suspect that we'll all go for the easy option!
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
There's a lot of talk these days about flexible working, work-life balance and portfolio careers. Crèche-at-work schemes, job-shares and flexi-time have become commonplace. If so much is being done to help women be part of the work force why are women, especially mothers, turning away from traditional jobs, and becoming entrepreneurs?
Read the rest here
About the author Dr. MariaLaura Di Domenico is a Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the OU Business School where she is responsible for research and teaching in organisation studies, small business, and entrepreneurship.
This is a well-thought-out article on the labour market covering a number of issues that have come to the fore recently, and studies that suggest that women are actually more discriminated against now than they were twenty years ago – particularly by small business managers small business owners who see women of childbearing age as potentially a costly problem.
And the links that MariaLaura provides are very useful – some I've seen but not highlighted for you, a couple were new to me.
Maternity leave 'damages' careers
'Kitchen table tycoons' identified as new brand of female entrepreneurs
Watch the Mum's the Business trailer
What makes an entrepreneur?
The world of work
Free OpenLearn course - Entrepreneurial behaviour
Investigating entrepreneurial opportunities (OU course starting November 2008 £440)
NB: Whilst I make every reasonable effort to ensure that external links are valid at the time of publication I cannot be held responsible for third-party sites being hacked. I do, however, only link to sites that I consider reputable.
Monday, 18 August 2008
The dismal science is at last a real science, with tangible benefits, says Guy Sorman.
M Sorman provides the answer in ten points – preceded by one of the best expositions on the history of economic science that I have ever seen. And all with, of course, reasons why he believes that these ten points are the right ten points to explain why economics has, as it were, come of age.
- The market economy is the most efficient of all economic systems.
- Free trade helps economic development.
- Good institutions help development.
- The best measure of a good economy is its growth.
- Creative destruction is the engine of economic growth.
- Monetary stability, too, is necessary for growth; inflation is always harmful.
- Unemployment among unskilled workers is largely determined by how much labor costs.
- While the welfare state is necessary in some form, it isn’t always effective.
- The creation of complex financial markets has brought about economic progress.
- Competition is usually desirable.
These ten propositions should guide all economic policy-making, and to an increasing degree they do, worldwide.
The best of all possible economic systems is indeed imperfect. Whatever the truths uncovered by economic science, the free market is finally only the reflection of human nature, itself hardly perfectible.
Guy Sorman, a City Journal contributing editor, is the author of numerous books, most recently The Empire of Lies: The Truth About China in the Twenty-First Century. His article was translated from the French by Ralph C. Hancock.
If you have any interest in the why of economic policy then this is a "must read".
Voluntary and community sector organisations will receive £6 million in funding for the next three years from HM Revenue & Customs to help people get the right benefits and tax.
Read the full press release
Do you mean to tell me that people aren't getting the right benefits and tax?
Sorry for the sarcasm but the biggest ------ (you insert an appropriate phrase as what I'd like to write might not get through work-based spam traps) has been made by HMRC with the Tax Credits fiasco. And I don't blame HMRC as an organisation (although perhaps I should), let alone do I blame the staff who are, in my opinion, doing an impossible job with tools that only hinder rather than help. No, the blame lies with the government for making a finance collection department responsible for making payments.
Read more on this story
I know one thing that would help – sort out the overly complex paperwork that employers are required to complete. Yes, I know that there has to be some accountability but if you want bricklayers, plumbers and electricians trained on the job then you need to have them working with bricklayers, plumbers and electricians. These people are skilled with their hands and in the main detest paperwork.
Make it easy not hard and don't give money with one hand and then take it back with the other.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
via Onrec.com - United Kingdom headlines on 13 August
The latest official labour market statistics, published earlier today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), confirm that UK job prospects are on the slide.
via guardian.co.uk Society by Amelia Hill and Gaby Hinsliff on 9 August
New study says most Britons believe family life suffers if women work. We asked nine panelists if it is possible for modern mothers to combine childcare with a career.
Read the full article
It's little wonder that kids turn to gangs to provide a sense of belonging
says Rowenna Davis via guardian.co.uk Society on 9 August (same day, same newspaper)
Left to face a hostile world alone, it's little wonder that kids turn to gangs to provide a much-needed sense of belonging.
These reports seem to be coming down heavily on the idea that mothers who go out to work create problems for society as a whole. I've said before, and I'll no doubt say again, that it depends very much on the care that those children get whilst mother (and presumably father) are out earning money. And my personal experience is that it depends on the child and the parent. I thought I'd brought up my children equably (or as near as one can given that the girls has, and have, very different personalities). One is happy to work full-time, and then some, with nursery provision when the kids were tiny and now au pair for before- and after-school care. They don't seem to be suffering and nor are they overly compensated by "things". The other daughter has steadfastly refused to consider working outside the home except during school term-time even though her child is now at secondary school. No problem there although this grandchild does seem to have more things rather than less!
The number of people claiming out-of-work benefits continues to fall. The numbers on Lone Parent benefit and incapacity benefits have fallen by more than 70,000 over the last year up to February 2008, according to figures out today.
Read the full press release which contains a lot of detail and links to further statistics
Client ref ReferenceEMP-103
COI ref 164545P
via Current Awareness by sally on 12 August
"Two-thirds of the earnings divide between men and women is due to 'unobservable factors' including discrimination and has nothing to do with lower skills or productivity, according to a government study released yesterday."
The Guardian 12 August
Thank heavens for Sally (and the other girls at the Inner Temple Library but it's mainly Sally's name I see on the 10-20 daily posts) for picking up on the stories I missed – like this one.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
Note for newcomers to this blog:
Credo Reference (formerly XRefer) is available in many areas through the public library service – for personal use ONLY please so to save you time in reading the updates that come monthly from Credo I paste them into here, normally after taking out what I don't think applies to my known readership.
Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO
Biographical Dictionary of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Routledge
Canada's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook, ABC-CLIO
Concise Encyclopedia of Sociolinguistics, Elsevier Science & Technology
Condensed Encyclopedia of Polymer Engineering Terms, Elsevier Science & Technology
Conspiracy Theories in American History, ABC-CLIO
Encyclopedia of Nationalism: Leaders, Movements, and Concepts, Elsevier Science & Technology
Encyclopedia of Nationalism: Fundamental Themes, Elsevier Science & Technology
Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, ABC-CLIO
Encyclopedia of Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and Differences and the Impact of Society on Gender, Elsevier Science & Technology
Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers, ABC-CLIO
The Former Soviet Union's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook, ABC-CLIO
The Former Yugoslavia's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook, ABC-CLIO
Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture and the Law, ABC-CLIO
Martial Arts of the World, ABC-CLIO
Mexico: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Culture and History, ABC-CLIO
Nigeria's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook, ABC-CLIO
Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present, ABC-CLIO
Public Opinion, Polling, and Democracy Around the World: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO
Science in the Contemporary World: An Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO
South Africa's Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook, ABC-CLIO
Sixth monthly increase in jobless benefits claims in a row well ahead of economists' expectations.
Read the full article
"Well ahead" is usually a good thing – "far worse than" would be a more appropriate phrase in my opinion. Either way it's not good.
Fifty Million Missing Women via 3quarksdaily by Abbas Raza on 12 August
From the Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly:
According to Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, there should be millions more women and girls living in India than there are. The acclaimed economist compared the natural ratio of men to women globally with the ratio in India, and twenty years ago had calculated that India was "missing" about thirty-seven million women. That number has escalated to fifty million today. ... Numbers tell the story in chilling detail:
- Some one million female foetuses are aborted each year.
- Midwives in some regions regularly kill the infant girls they deliver for as little as $1.50.
- Dowry-related murders of women stand at about 25,000 cases a year.
- A UNICEF report found that the mortality rate for girls under five is more than 40 percent higher than for boys the same age.
- WHO and UNIFEM estimate that one pregnant woman dies every five minutes in India.
These conditions persist due to a deep-rooted mind-set Banerji describes as "unresisting acceptance of female genocide".
More here. [Thanks to Marilyn Terrell.]
abridged from Business Wire in The Career News Volume 8 Issue 2
Make a favourable first impression in interviews.
- Radiate energy, friendliness, confidence and competence.
- Look savvy and contemporary.
- Outdated haircuts and clothes reinforce stereotypes that older workers resist change.
- Sit or stand erect. Slumping projects exhaustion and age.
- Arm yourself with examples or anecdotes to reinforce strengths.
- Refer to past accomplishments and skills, explain how you'd tackle problems.
- Show how judgment, experience and consistent achievements enable you to make significant contributions.
Demonstrate enthusiasm and passion for the work.
- Show you're in tune with industry trends and have the necessary technical skills.
- Demonstrate ability to mentor less experienced co-workers.
- Speak comfortably of your flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity, and openness to new ideas.
- Emphasise patience and good health.
- Maintain optimism. Your attitude about age influences how you are perceived by others.
- Accentuate your ability to contribute. Believe you can continue to grow and produce.
Not that different from the advice given to any job seeker to which I'd add one more item.
Don't try to hide your age. Dressing as lamb when you're actually mutton, using "trendy" language to show how "with it" you are or cutting out several years of work experience from your CV will only lead to your downfall not getting the job. And saying that you have six O-levels is a dead giveaway!
Friday, 15 August 2008
Is this the end for SATs? Ministers and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority which oversees tests and exams in England will hope that today's axing of the SATs contract with the American-based firm ETS will salvage its reputation for competence - along with £24m.
Full marks to The Guardian for being first to pick this up and blog it.
Read the article
In the past people with learning disabilities often spent long periods of time as hospital inpatients. This is no longer considered to be acceptable and the current UK policy is for long-stay hospitals for people with learning disabilities to be reduced in size and, eventually, closed. However, there is still a need for people with learning disabilities to receive assessment and treatments that may still involve a period of admission to a specialist facility. A study of such a facility by researchers in Northern Ireland found that the main reasons for admission were challenging behaviour and mental-health problems. The study found that there were significant reductions in these problems following admission to the unit, which was staffed by a multidisciplinary team, mostly made up of nurses.
People with learning disabilities admitted to an assessment and treatment unit: impact on challenging behaviours and mental health problems
E Slevin, R McCinkey, M Truesdale-Kennedy and L Taggart (Institute of Nursing Research & School of Nursing, University of Ulster) in Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Volume 15 Number 7 (2008)
This study describes the evaluation of an assessment and treatment unit for people with learning disabilities. Results showed the main reasons for admission for the 48 people admitted to the unit were because of challenging behaviours and mental health problems. Valid and reliable scales were used to measure the behaviours and mental health problems of those admitted across three-time periods: pre-admission, during admission and post-admission. The analysis found significant reductions in challenging behaviours and mental health problems following admission to the unit. The unit was staffed by a multidisciplinary team with nurses making up the largest group of staff. A number of issues of concern are discussed including access to mental health services for people with learning disabilities, the need for robust community services and areas that require further research. In conclusion, the study found evidence supporting the value of the unit and how it may lessen distress in learning disabled people who are behaviourally disturbed. It is suggested that nurses played a key role in the unit but they need to make the support and caring they provide more visible. Nurses need to harness and make explicit the caring they provide for people with learning disabilities.
With more people being "treated" outside specialist units it is incumbent upon careers and guidance advisers to have at least some idea of the specialist needs of those with learning disabilities. And, if I'm reading the literature correctly, the higher incidences of mental health problems in this group of people.
Issued by the News Distribution Service on behalf of the Sutherland Inquiry.
Read the full press release from the Central Office of Information
but note that you have only until 12 September to make your point
The process for submitting evidence is set out on the inquiry's website
Scope of the Inquiry
- How the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has discharged its remit from DCSF to deliver National Curriculum tests at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 in 2008, and specifically:
a. how QCA has delivered against its formal success measures in relation to Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 tests in 2008;
b. the appropriateness of governance and organisational arrangements within QCA; and
c. the appropriateness of the DCSF's arrangements to monitor QCA's delivery against its remit.
- The appropriateness of arrangements put in place by QCA to procure the contract for delivery of National Curriculum tests, and the subsequent management of that contract by QCA, and specifically:
a. the procurement process from the development of the initial tender specification to the award of the contract;
b. the suitability of the contract to allow delivery of QCA's remit;
c. the arrangements for the contractor, ETS Europe (ETS), to report to QCA;
d. the arrangements for ETS to report risks to QCA;
e. the effectiveness of QCA's arrangements to manage the ETS contract and the delivery of National Curriculum tests in 2008; and
f. the functioning of IT systems and programmes to manage and deliver the National Curriculum tests and to ensure delivery of data between the contractor, ETS, QCA, DCSF, and schools.
- The delivery of the tests in 2008 by the National Assessment Agency (NAA), and ETS:
a. the nature and extent of the failures;
b. risk identification, management and contingency planning by ETS and NAA;
c. quality and use of management information provided by ETS to NAA, and NAA to Ofqual;
d. administration of the marking process, including the training and management of markers;
e. communication with schools by ETS and NAA; and
f. the effectiveness of regulation of National Curriculum tests by QCA (as regulator) and subsequently Ofqual.
I don't think I need to add anything, do I?
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, has today written to the Chair of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, Barry Sheerman, to update him on developments in relation to National Curriculum tests.
A copy of his letter to Mr Sheerman follows below.
Barry Sheerman MP
Chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee
House of Commons
In my statement to the House on 22 July I made a commitment to provide regular updates throughout the summer on progress with the marking and publication of national curriculum tests and results. I am writing today to inform you that this morning the contract between QCA and ETS Europe has been dissolved with immediate effect. I enclose a copy of their joint statement, which is also available at www.qca.org.uk
As I said in my statement to the House on 22 July, the contractual discussions have legally been a matter for QCA and ETS Europe. It was very important and in the public interest that QCA was able to conclude those discussions in a timely, orderly and rigorous fashion, in order to safeguard the interests of pupils, schools and taxpayers. My department has sought to ensure that due process has been followed throughout, that the public purse is protected, and in particular that all procedures relating to the settlement are carried out in accordance with HM Treasury guidelines on the proper use and return of public funds.
Ken Boston has written to me to set out the terms of the agreement he has reached with ETS Europe to terminate the contract, and I attach a copy of his letter. In his letter he says that the full effect of this settlement is that contractual costs to the end of the 2008 test cycle were £39.6 million, of which £24.1 million has therefore been recovered. ETS Europe had received £35 million from QCA, but will now make a repayment to QCA of £19.5 million, along with the cancellation of all outstanding and anticipated invoices for work done with an estimated value of £4.6 million. In addition, there will be no payments made by QCA to ETS Europe for any future years of the contract, which had a total value of £156 million over five years.
Therefore, ETS Europe are [IS] both forfeiting the opportunity of substantial future earnings, and will now repay a very substantial part of the fee they were [IT WAS] expecting for this year’s work. Today’s settlement is within parameters approved by DCSF’s accounting officer and HM Treasury, as Ken Boston’s letter makes clear.
The National Assessment Agency (NAA) has now taken over the management of the completion of the 2008 test cycle including the publishing of outstanding results, the reviews process, and the process of returning all scripts to schools, as well as any residual marking. As part of their termination agreement, ETS Europe will continue to cooperate with the NAA and QCA in this regard.
There is no immediate change for schools in terms of how to raise queries, access results, or return scripts, until further notice. QCA and the Department are communicating this to schools today. Details on requesting reviews and an operational update from NAA in the light of today's announcement can be found on NAA's website, and QCA's chief executive will be writing to all head teachers before the start of next term to give further details. I will of course continue to update you accordingly over the coming weeks.
In my letter of last week I informed you about a data processing issue that had caused some records to indicate pupils as absent incorrectly. QCA have [HAS] advised me that data for pupils incorrectly marked as absent during the processing of results have now been removed from the national figures. On this basis I am advised by QCA that 99% of Key Stage 2 results are now available to schools. At Key Stage 3, 95% of results are now available overall, with 93% available in English, 97% available in maths and 96% available in science.
It is important that we learn the lessons of this year’s delays, including for the 2009 test cycle. This is why Lord Sutherland’s inquiry has been established. QCA has indicated to me that, in order to ensure the findings of his inquiry can be properly reflected in future years, they propose to procure for the delivery of 2009 tests as a single year contract. I have invited Lord Sutherland, and he has agreed, to contribute any relevant advice he can on the specification of this tender, on the understanding that his full report will inform future years. QCA has also indicated to me that they propose to work along the lines of tenders in previous years where this will help ensure the secure and timely delivery of the 2009 results.
I am copying this letter to the Speaker, and to Michael Gove MP and David Laws MP. I have also placed a copy in both libraries of the House.
ED BALLS MP
This press notice relates to 'England'
QCA has also issued a statement today. Please see http://qca.org.uk/
For a copy of the letter from Ken Boston to Ed Balls [CLICK HERE]
Contact DetailsPublic Enquiries 0870 000 2288, email@example.com
Press Notice 2008/0175
Gender equality at the heart of Decent Work campaign – Youth employment: Breaking gender barriers for young women and men
Despite efforts by the international community, gender stereotyping and employment barriers continue to affect millions of young women and men around the world, said the International Labour Organization today on the occasion of International Youth Day.
Read the full article
And don't think that this is only about developing countries – discrimination happens everywhere, just not so much in countries that have laws against it!
At the end of her life, Pauline Kael said to a friend, "When we championed trash culture we had no idea it would become the only culture." But then who did?... more
A History and Philosophy of Jokes by William Grimes in the New York Times Book Review via 3quarksdaily by Abbas Raza on 20 July
In Stop Me if You've Heard This, his wispy inquiry into the history and philosophy of jokes, Jim Holt offers up a choice one from ancient times.More here.
Talkative barber to customer: "How shall I cut your hair?"
Customer: "In silence."
This knee-slapper comes from "Philogelos," or "Laughter-Lover," a Greek joke book, probably compiled in the fourth or fifth century A.D. Its 264 entries amount to an index of classical humour, with can't-miss material on such figures of fun as the miser, the drunk, the sex-starved woman and the man with bad breath.
Let us not forget the "skolastikos," or egghead: "An egghead was on a sea voyage when a big storm blew up, causing his slaves to weep in terror. 'Don't cry,' he consoled them, 'I have freed you all in my will.'"
Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World by Timothy Brook
a review in the Sunday Times which I read via 3quarksdaily by Morgan Meis on 20 July
This is a spellbinding book, though it is not really about Vermeer. Timothy Brook is a professor of Chinese, and his subject is Dutch trade with China in the 17th century. Starting from details in five of Vermeer's paintings, he takes readers on a series of brilliantly circuitous mystery tours that reveal the savagery on which western civilisation was built. The hat of his title is the wide-brimmed, high-crowned fashion item worn by the officer in Vermeer's Officer and Laughing Girl. To make a hat like that you must have stiff felt, manufactured from beaver pelts. By the start of the 17th century, European and Scandinavian beavers had been driven to extinction by the demands of the hatting industry, so a new source was needed. Brook's first set piece is a battle in 1609 on the shore of one of the Great Lakes between a band of French explorers and an army of Mohawk warriors. Armed with arquebuses, the French rapidly gunned down the Mohawks, and this display of firepower persuaded the remaining tribesmen to provide a regular supply of North American beavers for European hats. It also marked the start of the destruction of North American native culture. The French, though, were not really looking for beavers. They were looking for China.
more from the Sunday Times here.
Oldest New Testament Bible heads into cyberspace
via ResourceShelf on 21 July
More than 1,600 years after it was written in Greek, one of the oldest copies of the Bible will become globally accessible. Sections of the Codex Sinaiticus, which contains the oldest complete New Testament, will be available on the Internet, said the University of Leipzig, one of the four curators of the ancient text worldwide. High resolution images of the Gospel of Mark, several Old Testament books, and notes on the work made over centuries will appear on http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/ as a first step towards publishing the entire manuscript online by next July.
via Cognitive Edge on 5 July
Sitting in the departure lounge for Sydney, in the brand new Terminal 3 at Changi Airport. No lost luggage, no security queues, good signage and free wireless access throughout the terminal (not to mention the whole city of Singapore). Maybe BAA should outsource.
Maybe they should but you know they won't!
Arts & Letters Daily on 5 August
Like every force of nature, lightning gives and takes away. It exudes nitrogen for plants. It is also deadly: it chars, explodes, sears... more
The 100 Most Common Words In The English Language
via Guardian Unlimited: Technology on 7 August
Another interweb time-waster, but it does have some educational value!
Blog Review 684 via The Adam Smith Institute Blog on 9 August
One serious point:
- An example of foreign aid that really works: now, can we just get someone offering the same training in our own education system?
And one frivolous:
- And finally, coming soon to a field near you.
This is the question that is asked by CNN.com which is then answered by the reporter saying that these are just examples of the odd jobs that are being done.
Read the full article (with cute picture of dog but no badgers!)
My answer is probably unprintable because I see all occupations and subjects of learning in terms of "where can I classify these?". Throwing into an available box I'd probably do the first two into "animal welfare" and the authenticator into fine art.
Anyone disagree? Go on, I dare you!
Thursday, 14 August 2008
New survey reveals working families feel their kids get a head start.
Read the full article
Who is one supposed to believe? One survey says it's a good thing and another that it's bad. Maybe this is one of those "it depends" answers. If you're working all the hours you possibly can just to keep body and soul together and buy essentials for yourself and the kids then those same kids are going to be fending for themselves a lot of the time. If, however, you have a "good" job and can afford appropriate childcare then the consequences for the children of the family may not be all bad.
an article by Claire Kenny and Claus Pahl in International Journal of Knowledge and Learning Volume 4 Number 1 (2008)
In addition to knowledge, in various domains skills are equally important. Active learning and training are effective forms of education. The authors present an automated skills training system for a database programming environment that promotes procedural knowledge acquisition and skills training. The system provides support features such as correction of solutions, feedback and personalised guidance, similar to interactions with a human tutor. Specifically, they address synchronous feedback and guidance based on personalised assessment. Each of these features is automated and includes a level of personalisation and adaptation. At the core of the system is a pattern-based error classification and correction component that analyses student input.
Looks interesting from the abstract but I'd need to read the full article to appreciate the nuances of the system proposed. I've noted this to read in the British Library but it may take a month or so before it arrives.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
A widely accepted prediction is that computing will move to the background, weaving itself into the fabric of our everyday living spaces and projecting the human user into the foreground. To realise this prediction, next-generation computing should develop anticipatory user interfaces that are human-centred, built for humans and based on naturally occurring multimodal human communication. These interfaces should transcend the traditional keyboard and mouse and have the capacity to understand and emulate human communicative intentions as expressed through behavioural cues, such as affective and social signals. This article discusses how far we are to the goal of human-centred computing and Human-Centred Intelligent Human-Computer Interaction (HCI²) that can understand and respond to multimodal human communication.
Over half the 426 local authorities surveyed in England and Wales are not making their data available for public re-use, contrary to central government policy.
Read the full article
How the "unprintable expletive deleted" can we expect to develop local labour market information when in half the areas basic data to work with is not available. And the sanction? Unknown to me but I expect it will be a slap on the wrist and a "do better next year lecture".
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
[This was actually dated 01/07/08 but I'm sure I hadn't got that far behind!
Just checked and I was wrong but it's still worth reading.]
All of the reference books and blogs in the world can't fully prepare you for an interview. The reason is that every interviewer and every interviewing situation is going to be different.
Read the full article
Monday, 11 August 2008
The catch phrase is "WebAnywhere: A Screen Reader on the Go" and this is exactly what it does. Tools for the visually impaired are few and far between so nobody should begrudge Richard Ladner, a University of Washington professor of Computer Science and Engineering and his doctoral student Jeffrey Bigham from a bow. The mentor and the student developed this web tool keeping the needs of the visually impaired in mind. Blind users generally use their own computers with screen reader software installed. WebAnywhere aims to correct this through its independent platform and web based application.
WebAnywhere is not only a screen reader but its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a web-based application. That means :
- It does not need any software to be installed in the client machine. The only requirement is a browser and the ability to play sound.
- It works with any operating system - Windows, Mac, whatever
- It requires no special permissions; the computer should only be net enabled and should have audio.
- It works on any web-enabled device including any mobile that supports web access.
- With a data size of 100Kb for the home page, it has a fast loading time (less than 5 seconds).
An enthusiastic review of the many good features ends with:
An Open Source standard, the source code can also be downloaded and hosted on an independent server.Just a few cons: the application cannot access Adobe Flash objects embedded on a web page nor can it direct its speech recognition program to external applications such as PDF documents. Instead, it redirects it to the HTML version (cached on Google) of the document (if one exists).
WebAnywhere's primary goal is to provide net usability for the visually impaired on any computer. For an Alpha release, the functionalities outlined make for an ease of experience. Though many would not give up their favorite screen reader software, this application gives access to the blind in places where none is available.
Note: The WebAnywhere Project is supported by a National Science Foundation Grant.
By Saikat: a techno-adventurer in a writer's garb. When he is not scouring the net for tech news, you can catch him on his personal blog ruminating about the positives in our world.
More from MakeUseOf.com
There are several sources that I read regularly where I don't go and check the actual application / book / whatever being written about. I take their word for it because I trust this source – this is one of them. If MakeUseOf says it's good then it's good.
And apologies for taking so long to bring this to you but it resides at the bottom end of my feed reader where I don't go on a daily basis as I do with the news items.
Saturday, 9 August 2008
The website offers:
- essential key documents;
- checklists; and
- an opportunity to find answers to your questions.
There is also an opportunity to sign up for regular updates and forthcoming events.
The QRSP programme delivered by the Learning and Skills Network (LSN), on behalf of QIA, is designed to offer guidance on sector qualification reform and the QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework), in the context of a demand led system.
Friday, 8 August 2008
via QuickLinks Update by Richard Swetenham on 20 July (RAPID)
The Commission has adopted a Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The Green Paper is an attempt to structure the copyright debate as it relates to scientific publishing, the digital preservation of Europe's cultural heritage, orphan works, consumer access to protected works and the special needs for the disabled to participate in the information society. The Green Paper points to future challenges in the fields of scientific and scholarly publishing, search engines and special derogations for libraries, researchers and disabled people.
Comments should be submitted by 30 November 2008.
Nothing to add.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
From Roger Pearse
I live outside London, and I really don't see a lot of value from the British Library. Why shouldn't it suffer cutbacks? It's an institution that makes nothing much available online, and charges like a wounded bull for any of its services. Isn't it just a bloated bureaucracy? It's telling, surely, that its reaction to threatened cuts is not to cut staff but services to the public – the reaction of every self-serving bureaucracy.
Can someone explain to me why we, the general public, need to fund this organisation? With figures that show the benefit to us all?
I'm sure that regular readers will understand my immediate reaction to this tirade. Mr Pearse may not see a lot of value from the British Library but there's several thousands of other people who do. And I fail to understand how cutting the number of staff would result in anything but reduced services. We, the general public, need to fund this organisation because it is the repository for all items published in this country and we must have somewhere for them. If you are going to have this wonderful collection of material then it makes sense to allow access to it for study, research and interest. And if you want a copy of an article, for your own private research, then you should be prepared to pay for it. As I understand it the price that you pay includes an amount back to the publisher and the cost of actually finding the item and copying it etc.
And it's a wonderful place to work even if you don't live in London.
an article by by Brett JL Landry, Dinah Payne and M Scott Koger in International Journal of Management in Education Volume 2 Number 3 (2008)
The educational system in the USA and around the world is changing as technology changes. Partially as a result of these changes in technology, there are a myriad of reasons for educational institutions of all kinds to offer less "traditional" types of classes: online offerings. The decision to offer online classes rather than the more traditional classes can spring from a number of factors, including professors' and students' time constraints, the participants' physical location and even competition from the growing industry of "online education". The decision of individual schools and professors to offer online classes can be influenced by any or all of these and other reasons. However, the decision to offer online courses by some instructors is easy. Some may have previously participated in online or other forms of distance education classes. Others have participated in Web Enhanced Instruction (WEI) using Blackboard, eCollege or WebCT. But for some instructors, it is a daunting task to go from "chalk and talk" to an online offering. This paper is meant to serve as a template for online course offerings. It will define the basic conceptual building blocks of online offerings. Additionally, this paper outlines the steps needed for the transformation from traditional to online course offerings and the associated issues.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Neuroeconomics via Poverty & Growth - Building Capacity to Reduce Poverty by Raj on 2 July
In classical economic theory, the consumer is assumed to be a rational decision maker ... and that they are equipped with immutable logic to further their best interests.
neuroeconomics suggests that the interplay between the various centers of the brain play a part in the financial decisions that people make.
Completely fascinating. A "scientific" explanation of impulse buying, loan decision etc.
via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate on 9 July
Shoppers at farmers markets have ten times as many conversations with other people as those at supermarkets. And as for the food... more
via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate on 6 July
Feminists were thin on the ground in 19th-century Egypt. But in 1899, there appeared a citizen who held outlandishly modern opinions on the subject of women... more
via Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate on 14 July
So what has the feminist revolution really given women? Sisterhood, empowerment, and eight hours a day in a cubicle... more
Monday, 4 August 2008
Completed questionnaires from 223 organisational members were analysed to test the extent to which career plateaus were positively associated with intentions to leave and that structure and content plateaus explained unique variation in turnover intentions after considering job satisfaction, organisational commitment, job search behaviour, and several demographic characteristics. Findings supported both of these hypotheses. The authors also found that career plateaus influenced turnover intentions differently than job satisfaction and commitment in that plateaus directly influenced intentions rather than being mediated through job search behaviours.
Friday, 1 August 2008
"The head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Nicola Brewer, has just announced that recent and future improvements to maternity pay may, ironically, be backfiring on women by making employers wary of hiring and promoting them. The industrial neanderthal Sir Alan Sugar has added fuel to the fire by claiming recently that many employers bin the CVs of women of childbearing age without even considering their job applications."
Full story from The Independent 15 July 2008