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Policy Watch is our regular policy update service, covering national and international developments in the world of education. We try to keep things simple, sharing the latest news and information with you through weekly updates, monthly summaries, papers and events.

You can access the Policy Watch service through Steve's Twitter feed @SteveBesley or by signing up for email updates.

About Steve

As head of UK education policy at Pearson, Steve’s been running the Policy Watch service for almost 20 years. He’ll keep you informed on all things education, along with the rest of his subscribers – there were more than 10,000 at the last count!

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  • Policy Eye - week ending May 22 2015

    By next Tuesday the process of swearing in MPs for the new Parliament should be completed. 

    The week summed up

    The day after, the formal process of government will begin when the Queen is ushered in to read out the list of Bills that the government intends to introduce over the next session. It really will be back to business with a vengeance.

    For anyone who thought that education might get off lightly this time, it may be time to think again. Not only will a number of the Bills being lined up, most notably those on City Devolution, Enterprise, Immigration and Welfare affect the education and skills system in some way, but one in particular, the proposed Education Bill, is already provoking considerable discussion.

    The Bill is intended to deliver on the manifesto pledge of raising performance and diversifying the school system and builds on the Prime Minister’s “all-out war on mediocrity” speech earlier this year. The aim, as indicated by Nicky Morgan on the Marr Show last weekend is “to speed up the process for tackling failing schools; extend our academies programme to tackle ‘coasting’ schools; and deliver on our commitment to open new free schools.”

    As the BBC’s Education Correspondent Sean Coughlan pointed out, the assault on so-called coasting schools is not new. The same language was being used by Chris Woodhead’s Ofsted back in 1999 when just the same sort of issues about how to define a ‘coasting’ school and how many there were, were being aired. As Professor Michael Jopling explained in a blog this week, “There’s no agreed definition of a coasting school” although both he and Jonathan Simons at the think tank Policy Exchange had a pretty good stab at it. As to how many there are, this depends on how they’re defined but anything between 2,500 -3,000 has been suggested.

    While government depts have been busy preparing the legislative programme for the new administration, the Chancellor has been equally busy drawing up plans for the new government’s first Budget due six weeks later. This week, George Osborne headed down to the CBI’s Annual Dinner to set out some of his initial thinking, much of it of interest to the world of education. Three headlines stand out. First the government intends to tackle the tough stuff first: “when it comes to saving money, we all know the more you can do early, the smoother the ride.” The new Chief Secretary has already written to depts to get them to go through the books and identify more ‘savings.’ Second, the government is keen to get to grips with what’s holding back productivity and will produce a Productivity Plan by July focusing on issues such as skills training, science and innovation. And third, the mantra for the new administration appears to be ‘step up a gear:’ it applies to the economy as much to schools. 

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘Nicky Morgan: coasting schools face intervention.’ (Monday)
    • ‘Foreign students boost economy by £2.3bn’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘More pupils reading for pleasure.’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘Graduates may face tougher loan terms.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘Free school expansion plans launched.’ (Friday)

    People/organisations in the news this week

    • The Prime Minister who in a speech on immigration confirmed that more effort will be made to train the indigenous workforce and encourage overseas HE students although any associated system abuse will also be tackled
    • The Education Secretary who outlined plans to tackle school underperformance and create more school places as part of a proposed new Education Bill
    • The new Business Secretary who in his first major speech outlined a range of measures, due to be included in a forthcoming Enterprise Bill, to help small businesses and entrepreneurs
    • Carol Monaghan MP who will speak for the SNP on education and public service matters
    • The Institute of Government who examined the vital statistics of the new administration and reported that the average age of cabinet ministers is 50 (Matt Hancock is the youngest at 36,) 2/3 entered Parliament in the last 10 years, a third are women and two are from a BME background
    • The Local Government Association who ahead of the proposed Cities Devolution Bill called for a wider English Devolution Bill with a new funding settlement to help deliver skills training, affordable homes and safer communities
    • The World Education Forum who have adopted a new Declaration on the Future of Education which governments are expected to sign up to by the end of the year
    • HE Policy Institute Director Nick Hillman who identified four ways that governments could try and tackle some of the HE funding issues, including a limited fee rise and tougher loan repayments
    • Andrew McGettigan, who in a new pamphlet for the HE Policy Institute, examined some of the issues surrounding the accounting and budgeting rules of the student loan system and their impact on future policy
    • AoC Assistant Chief Executive Julian Gravatt who wrote a useful blog on how the government might meet the challenge of providing for 3m more apprenticeships over the next five years
    • Ex government adviser Robert Hill who used a lecture this week to list 10 challenges likely to face school leaders over the next five years with funding, pupil numbers and teacher recruitment prominent among them
    • NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby who argued in a blog that the government’s obsession with autonomy and accountability were yesterday’s war and that capacity, as in more school places and more teachers, were today’s battleground
    • The fledgling College of Teaching which invited applications to become one of 13 founding trustees charged with helping establish the new College
    • The House of Commons Library who published a Briefing Paper on the GCSE, AS and A level reforms
    • Ofqual who reported on their review of GCSE maths sample assessment materials and called for some changes to be made before they were sent schools from the end of June
    • The Education Endowment Foundation who invited applications to a £2m fund that will support five projects looking into the effective teaching of EAL (English as an additional language)
    • SSAT Operational Director Bill Watkin who blogged about some of the issues surrounding KS2 resits
    • The National Literacy Trust, who in its annual survey of reading habits of children and young people, found encouraging evidence that more 8-18 yr olds were reading for pleasure
    • Researchers who investigated the impact of mobile phones in schools in a report commissioned by the Centre for Economic Performance and who found schools that banned them tended to have more teaching time and better results
    • The Pre-school Learning alliance who set out an Early Years Agenda for the new government built around 3 areas: funding, ‘schoolification,’ and Ofsted
    • The Children’s Commissioner for England who urged the new government to adopt  a 7-point plan to make the welfare of children a top priority over the next five years
    • ‘Twerking,’ ‘ridic’ and ‘dench,’ just some of the 6,500 new words that can now be used in Scrabble as it seeks to reflect the rapidly changing nature of language.

    Tweet(s) of the week

    • “Those who underperform at school often become the best teachers.” @tes
    • “Feedback like trust is like a sandwich without the bread filler.” @CParkinson535
    • “Social media more stressful than exams, claims head teacher.” @SchoolsImprove
    • “44% of middle school students prefer taking the trash out to doing maths.” @PathastoMath

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “So in the Budget we’ll spend less on welfare and instead invest to create 3m more apprenticeships so that young people can learn a trade, get better jobs and earn more.” The Chancellor indicates some of the things expected to be in his second Budget of the year now set for July 8
    • “It’s not OK to be just above the level of failing.” The Education Secretary explains the issue of ‘coasting’ schools on the Andrew Marr show
    • “Avoid acronyms; make talks interactive; use simple slides; incorporate an experiment or other strongly visual material; and always include a Q/A afterwards.” Guidelines issued for next week’s Pint of Science Festival in which science topics are taken to pub audiences across the UK
    • “These skills can be developed far more effectively through schemes such as apprenticeships and practical education.” Richard Branson responds to Prince Harry’s call for young people to develop skills through a form of National Service
    • “I am deeply concerned for our young children, whose experience of education is now so exam-heavy and whose preparation for life and the workplace is so light.” Ahead of another exam season, Sir Anthony Seldon voices concerns about the effect on young children.

    Number(s) of the week

    • £2.3bn. How much international students contribute to London’s economy according to research from business firm London First and PwC
    • 42%. The percentage of FE college principals who are female according to research from the AoC, a higher female leadership ratio than in either schools or HE
    • 87%. The percentage of staff in FE who find their job stressful, up 14% since the last survey three years ago according to a report by the University and College Union (UCU)
    • 12.3%. The latest stat for 16-24 yr old NEETs, down slightly at 0.7% on the previous quarter
    • 7%. The percentage of schools that have a new assessment system in place for Sept 2015 according to a survey from BESA
    • One hour a week. The amount of extra time of teaching it’s claimed schools could gain if they banned mobile phones.

    What to look out for next week

    • Queen’s Speech (Wednesday).
    read more
  • Policy Eye - week ending May 15 2015

    Gradually things are returning to normal; the posters are down, the recriminations more reflective and attention is turning to what the future holds under a new majority Conservative government.

    The week summed up

    Next week, the Speaker will be selected and new MPs sworn in and the week after, the Queen will announce what will be in the new government’s first legislative programme where Bills on School Commissioners, City Devolution, the tax lock, welfare reform, free childcare and counter terrorism are already being touted. As the Prime Minister was keen to stress both on the steps of Downing Street and in his first cabinet meeting; ’we’re the Party of working people…we’re here to give everyone in the country the chance to make the most of their life,’ so let’s get on with it. It’s an approach dubbed ‘blue collar Conservatism.’

    Elsewhere there’s been considerable speculation as to what might be in store for the world of education where, as the blogger and education researcher Tom Bennett remarked this week, both Nicky Morgan and Sajid Javid will have their work cut out just reading all the blogs telling them what to do. Further details can be seen in an accompanying Pocket Watch but clearly funding remains the big worry for many in the education system with all sectors voicing concerns. The manifesto spells out a two-stage plan to get rid of the deficit that will take us up to 2019/20 when, to quote from page 9 of the document: “after a surplus has been achieved, spending will grow in line with GDP.” Living in an age of austerity thus remains the continuing normal for at least the next 4/5 years.

    Funding may concentrate the minds but there is another strong theme running through Conservative education plans and that is about improving levels of performance. This week’s report from the OECD on basic skill levels among young people and the ONS update on UK productivity have both laid bare the size of the challenge on learning and skills. The new government is clearly looking for each sector to up its game with a range of mechanisms such as more powerful Regional Commissioners for schools, more forensic outcome measures for FE and a new teaching quality framework for HE, all being lined up. The analogy between education leaders and football managers, both focused on results, has already been made.

    Finally, and further evidence of things returning to familiar routines, the testing and exam season is upon us and the media has been full of well-meaning advice for families and young people as the pressures mount. Examples of this are quoted below but as the BBC’s Education page put it: “there are only two things that a parent can ever say to a teenager taking exams: the wrong thing and the wrong thing.”

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘Children as young as 10 smoke before exams, survey suggests.’ (Monday)
    • ‘Morgan pledges to tackle ‘poor’ schools.’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘No big changes in DfE’s ministerial line-up as Nick Gibb is retained.’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘Sector stands by for battle over cuts, fees and Europe.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘Legislation on taking over ‘coasting’ schools planned within weeks.’ (Friday).

    People/organisations in the news this week

    • George Osborne who confirmed in his first major keynote speech of the new government, that the forthcoming Queen’s Speech will include a City Devolution Bill to help stimulate local economies and skills planning
    • Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who back in the hot seat, indicated that her priorities would include tackling poor school performance and rebuilding bridges with the teaching profession
    • Sajid Javid, the new BIS Secretary who indicated that apprenticeships, jobs and youth training would remain priorities as some of the media questioned the long-term future of BIS
    • Jim O’Neill who has been appointed as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury to help drive the city devo max and local infrastructure agendas along
    • The European Commission who have published plans for an EU wide ‘digital single market’ intended in time to be able to compete with the big US internet giants
    • ‘Confident creators,’ ‘the held back’ and ‘the safety firsters,’ the three digital tribes identified in the RSA’s report on the ‘The New Digital Learning Age’ for which a number of strategic solutions, including a new approach for learning technology in schools, is proposed
    • FutureLearn who claim that their ‘Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests’ Mooc course has attracted record numbers of students
    • Universities UK who have announced plans to step up their campaign to ensure the UK stays in the EU not least because it brings benefits to UKHE 
    • Aaron Porter, former president of the NUS, who blogged about whether a rise in tuition fees might be on the cards during the lifetime of the forthcoming Parliament
    • Professor Kathryn Mitchell, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of West London who will take over as vice-chancellor at the University of Derby from September
    • The Core Cities group covering England’s 8 largest cities outside London, who have launched a Devolution Declaration calling for a range of responsibilities including those over local skills and jobs to be devolved to approved City-Regions
    • Sir Geoff Hall, former Principal of New College Nottingham, who is to become the new general secretary of the Principals’ Professional Council
    • The OECD who published their biggest report so far on how well countries are doing in raising basic skill levels among young people and which saw the UK ranked 20th out of the 76 core countries surveyed. (Hong Kong-China, Estonia and Korea came 1st, 2nd, 3rd)
    • The OECD who published a challenging Report on the Swedish school system highlighting three necessary reform areas (teaching and learning, quality with equity, accountability)
    • Chris Cook, Policy editor on Newsnight who blogged about the budget squeeze facing schools after the election
    • Head teacher Tom Sherrington who wrote an open letter to Nicky Morgan both welcoming her back and urging her to help with funding, curriculum reform and teacher recruitment
    • The professional body, ASCL, who will run a series of seminars over coming months to help schools deal with their new responsibilities in preventing young people from being drawn into radicalisation
    • The unions who have joined arms to urge the new government to protect education spending
    • Ofsted who published new data highlighting significant gender imbalances in the take-up of A level subjects like English and Physics
    • Ofqual who reported back on its recent consultation about which GCSE and A level subjects will or will not be developed for 2017
    • The accountancy firm PwC who announced they will end their reliance on A level grade scores when selecting graduate recruits 
    • Amanda Spielman, chair of Ofqual, whose call not to get too hung up on exam grades was welcomed in some quarters 
    • The Creative Industries and Institute of Civil Engineers who published a report calling for the creative arts to be given as much attention as STEM subjects in the school curriculum
    • Professor Robin Alexander, Director of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust who highlighted some of the policy challenges in primary education facing a new government 
    • “You’ll kick yourself if you’ve only missed by one mark.” One of a number of worst things a parent can say to a child preparing for an exam according to a listing by BBC Education.

    Tweet(s) of the week

    • “It’s like freshers’ week in the Commons with registration desks for new MPs.” @SkyAnushka
    • “Pretty much same team of DfE ministers minus David Laws means continuity +no learning curve.” @GregHurstTimes
    • “Best piece of exam advice: Look up for inspiration; down in desperation but never sideways for information!” @GuardianTeach
    • “Don’t get hung up on grades says exams watchdog boss.” @tes
    • “Gove was the Kevin Pieterson of politics, smashing lots of sixes but not making many friends and leaving the job half done, says Seldon.”  @pwatsonmontrose

    Acronym(s) of the week

    • EFA. Not just the Education Funding Agency but also ‘Education for All,’ the driving force behind the World Education Forum’s global education objectives which will be reviewed and updated at next week’s global gathering.

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “We’ve got far more to do. That’s why I want another five years of standards, discipline and rigour in our schools.” David Cameron on what lies ahead for schools under a Conservative government
    • “It’s about listening, it’s about hearing what they’ve got to say, tackling things like workload, Ofsted inspections and building on all the lessons I’ve learned in the last 10 months.” Nicky Morgan on how she views her future priorities
    • “Coasting schools can give the appearance of achieving good results when they should in fact be doing a lot better.” Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Schools builds up the case for school improvement
    • “To some extent, you and your predecessor put enough changes in place to keep us busy for five years so don’t go crazy looking for things to do.” Headteacher Tom Sherrington pens his advice to Nicky Morgan
    • “The world is full of examples of improvements in education and there is no time to lose.” OECD education director Andreas Schleicher as he introduces the organisation’s latest report on the importance of basic skills.

    Number(s) of the week

    • 32%. The number of MPs in the new House of Commons who have had a private education according to research from the Sutton Trust
    • 24. The number of MPs who have had some experience of working in education either as teachers or in other roles
    • £750m. The amount of money raised through fundraising and alumni over the last three years by Oxford University as its looks to hit its initial target of £2bn
    • £2trillion. How much the OECD reckon could be added to the UK’s economy by the end of the century if by 2030, all school leavers reach minimum levels of basic skills
    • 735,000. The latest youth unemployment figure, down 5,000 on the last quarter
    •  4. The number of reasons to be cheerful about a Tory government according to one head teacher
    • 8 seconds. What our attention span has now dropped to, one second less than the proverbial goldfish, according Microsoft research.

    What to look out for next week

    • House of Commons re-assembles (Monday)
    • World Education Forum meets to set the new global education development agenda (Tuesday – Friday).
    read more
  • Pocket Watch - Carry on Minister

    The general election over and Ministers in place, attention this week has been switching to what lies ahead for the world of education.

    Commentators and others have been rushing forward to offer their thoughts. Head teacher Tom Sherrington put his in an open letter to Nicky Morgan urging her to remove what he termed ‘a constant gun to the head’ (no pun intended;) the TES listed ‘seven things that a Conservative government might mean for schools’ including more of some things such as tests and free schools and less of other things, principally money; the professional bodies have already combined to urge the new government to ‘protect all education funding’ while Professor Chris Husbands, Aaron Porter, FE’s AoC and 157 Group, and Leora Cruddas are among those who have offered insightful blogs on future policy possibilities.

    Arguably two schools of thought are emerging. On the one hand are those who believe that the Conservatives will not be able to be very radical in an area like education largely because they have bigger fish to fry, Europe for a start and will be strapped for cash as they battle to eradicate the deficit by the end of the next Parliament. Then there are those who think that unencumbered now by Coalition partners, the Party will be able to push through a much more radical agenda particularly in the area of schools where early legislation is anticipated.

    Initial comments from both the Education Secretary and the BIS Secretary offer few clues. Nicky Morgan has suggested that her top priorities ‘would be to tackle school performance and ensure lots of good and excellent teachers across England’ while Sajid Javid has stressed that apprenticeships, jobs and youth training would remain important issues for his dept. All of which suggests business as usual, a case of Carry on Minister perhaps, but the Tory manifesto had 38 pledges for education and it’s in here that we should find the real clues as to what lies ahead.

    Here’s a summary of some of the key points under four headings: funding; schools; FE; HE.

    Funding

    Funding remains the big concern for many people in the education system. The manifesto commits the government to “eliminating the deficit in a sensible and balanced way.” This will mean among other things finding a further £13bn from dept savings and £12bn from welfare savings all on top of the £21bn of savings found in the last Parliament. It may broadly be the same rate of savings as the last five years but as the IFS have indicated, it’ll be a lot harder this time round because to use the cliché, ‘the low hanging fruit has already been lopped.’ It’s not known at this stage if there’ll be an early Budget as there was in 2010 but there will be a Spending Review later this year and with both DfE and BIS now headed up by Ministers with Treasury experience, education will be looking for both to secure as good a settlement as possible. As things stand the manifesto funding pledges include:

    • For schools: to continue the pupil premium, although at current rates, to invest £7bn for school places over the next five years, to protect the per-pupil funding of 5-16 year olds and to make school funding fairer,
    • For FE: to make it easier for employers to take on apprentices by scrapping National Insurance contributions for under 25 age apprentices and for other new workers through the Employment Allowance
    • For HE: to introduce a national loan system for postgrads.

    But it also promises among other things 500 more free schools, 3m more apprenticeships and a lifting of the cap on university student numbers, all of which will require some investment. Lots of figures were bandied about before the election about what the impact of continuing austerity might mean for different parts of the education system, anything from 6% to 10% cuts for schools and double that or more for some parts of the hard-pressed FE sector.

    So what to look out for now? Obviously the Spending Review later this year as that will set the funding picture for the next 2/3 years. Elsewhere schools may want to keep an eye out, finally, for the new national funding formula and potential multi-year spending plans which were endorsed in the last debate on school funding in March and due for completion next year. Things remain bleak for Sixth Form Colleges (SFE) and FE providers. A funding uplift for large programmes is promised for 16-19 provision but as the SFE argued before the election, the sector needs £1000 more per student to be able to deliver a decent programme. FE will no doubt look out for the NAO report on the financial health of the sector due out this summer and further ahead on how the apprenticeship voucher system, which was announced before the election and due to come in by 2017, will operate. As for HE, the manifesto remains clear that it’s sticking with the current fee regime but the issue will be whether a further fee increase is on the cards. There had been pre-election talk of a rise to £10,000, even £12,000 so it will be interesting to see if there’s a strong push from some vice-chancellors for this to happen.

    Schools   

    Most of the manifestos had plenty to say about schools and the Conservative manifesto was no different. David Cameron talked during the campaign about restoring ‘rigour, discipline and excellence’ in schools and that’s pretty much the tone throughout with more stick than carrot. Three particular sticks include a much stronger focus on the core essentials through the use of resit KS2 tests, universal adoption of EBacc subjects and support for STEM subjects; second, continued use of school system reform as a way of raising standards, parachuting in new leadership where necessary and creating more free schools; and third, a heavy reliance on accountability measures whether through Ofsted ratings or PISA tables to keep everyone on their toes. Some of the assumptions about what generates success may stretch credibility but the message is clear. As for what’s missing, there’s not much on teacher development and support and there’s nothing in the manifesto on the management of the new school system particularly as it continues to diversify, although announcements on Commissioner powers are expected shortly or on skills training for young people, no mention for instance of a 14-19 Bacc of any sort. The emphasis seems entirely, as the Education Secretary indicated, on school performance and measures needed to raise this.

    FE

    FE remains a fairly foreign land for much of the manifesto where apprenticeships form the centre piece of the Party’s commitment to skills training. Potentially some of the promised 3m new places will come from the pledge to ‘replace lower-level classroom-based FE courses with high-level quality apprenticeships’ but the rest will require concerted efforts by both government and employers. The dept is due to release further data on earnings and destination measures this summer and this data drive looks set to continue as does the development of a network of specialist National Colleges. Beyond these, the Party has already set out a dual vision for the sector around high-level professional skills and second chance opportunities for those who left school without the skills they needed for which a consultation is due to complete next month. The new BIS Secretary may want to put his own stamp on it but as a ten-year vision it pretty much sets the scene. The big challenge, however, remains how to create a stable funding regime to support the level of skills training needed to drive economic recovery and opportunity.

    HE  

    Finally, briefly HE where as with the other sectors, the overriding message is carry on as before but where the arrival of a new, well-connected minister may make things more interesting. For the moment the three things to look out for include: any groundswell for an increase in fees, a continued clampdown on the visa system and sponsors, and a new teaching quality framework.

    read more
  • Policy Eye - week ending May 1 2015

    So the last lap beckons and by this time next week we should know, or perhaps not if the polls are accurate, who has won the 2015 general election.

    The week summed up

    It’s an opportune moment to consider how education now stands after four weeks of campaigning. Arguably four points stand out.

    First, while education has not featured as a high-vis issue in the same way as the economy, health and welfare, it has been in there as an important topic. The Lib-Dems have made it the centrepiece of their campaign, have referenced it on 24 of their hefty 157 manifesto pages as well as dedicating a whole pull-out chapter to it and have made it a redline in any likely Coalition negotiations. The other two main Parties have given education plenty of coverage as well, with the Conservatives citing it on 11 out of 83 pages in their manifesto and Labour on 15 out of their 83 pages. In fact learners in some form, be they school pupils, apprentices or university students, get almost as much attention as a reference group as those famed ‘hard-working families’ of Britain.

    Second, none of the three main Parties has been short of pledges when it comes to education. Few have been new and not many are wildly exciting particularly when you consider some of the other work going on within and around the profession for a new National Bacc, a new inspection approach, a new college system, even a new 25-year vision. The Conservatives have 38 pledges on their shopping list, Labour 37 and the Lib-Dems nearly double that at 63.

    Third, in terms of balance, the manifestos, let alone the campaign itself have gone with form. So schools/teachers/curriculum have got most of the attention listed in 20 of the Conservative pledges, 19 of the Labour ones and a whopping 42 of the Lib-Dem with HE some way behind that and FE, as tends to happen, with the smallest amount.   

    Fourth, in terms of issues, funding has clearly featured prominently in manifestos and on politicians’ lips with the Conservatives pledging to invest in more school places and apprenticeships and Labour and the Lib-Dems making much of their protection of the entire education budget to age 18 and in Labour’s case, the reduction in tuition fees. For schools, teacher development and institutional performance feature heavily throughout all manifestos, for colleges apprenticeships, English and maths, careers and employability are writ large and for HE it’s visas, vocationalism and value-for-money.

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘Free school supporters press for parental rights.” (Monday)
    • ‘Tories to fund apprenticeships with bank fines.’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘How have we got education so disastrously wrong?’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘Outsource marking to cut teachers’ workload.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘Google should be allowed in exams.’ (Friday)

    People/organisations in the news this week

    • David Cameron who promised to use £220m+ of bank fines to pay for a further 50,000 apprenticeships especially 20-24 year olds who have been out of work for six months as part of a five point guarantee for young people
    • Nick Clegg who has made an increase in education spending a Lib-Dem redline in any future Coalition negotiations and pledged to support free school meals for all primary school children from 2017/18
    • The Institute of Fiscal Studies who followed up their analysis of the major Party’s spending plans by doing the same to their tax and benefits plans and ended up equally bemused
    • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) whose economic growth report for the first three months of the year revealed a sharper slowdown than anticipated
    • The Complete University Guide whose latest report indicated that universities were now doing a lot more to improve facilities, reduce class sizes and develop undergrad employability skills
    • Warwick, Dundee, Brunel, Plymouth and Portsmouth, the top five ‘younger’ universities to keep an eye on according to the editor of the Times HE Rankings
    • The HE sector, 46% of whom intend to vote Labour, 22% Green, 11% Conservative and 9% Lib-Dem in a poll conducted by the Times Higher
    • David Willetts who has been announced as the new Chair of the Resolution Foundation
    • Cooking and baking, playing a musical instrument and learning a language, the top three skills people would love to learn according to a National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) survey published ahead of the Festival of Learning
    • The 157 group who published a report calling for an incoming government to consider granting colleges greater freedoms and flexibilities to enable them to respond more effectively to learner and employer needs
    • The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) who have published their survey of the work-based learning workforce showing that 63% were female, 29% received a salary of less than £15,000, 25% were part-time and functional skills was the hardest subject to recruit for
    • Andy Westwood and Julian Gravatt each of whom blogged about the current political obsession with apprenticeships and some of the implications
    • The Edge Foundation who have taken over sponsorship of this year’s Skills Show
    • The Campaign for Science and Engineering who looked at the science and engineering policies of all three major Parties and found little to excite them
    • Cambridge Assessment who published new research showing the extent of volatility in exam results and argued as a result that it would be better for school performance to be judged over a period of time rather than on the basis of a one-year snapshot
    • The National Governors’ Association who along with the NAHT, ASCL and the Local Government Association, have published updated guidance on the roles of governors and school leaders
    • The NSPCC who have published a guide to help parents ensure their children are safe online. 

    Tweet(s) of the week

    • “Schools becoming A and E depts of communities, says union leader.” @LouisMMCoiffait
    • “Send children’s homework abroad to be marked says leading academic.” @bbceducation
    • “There is no teacher workload crisis-just politics.” @JohnRentoul
    • “Education reform under my glorious reign? Find a better way of presenting/organising school work than worksheets stuck in exercise books.” @drlangtry_girl
    • “Let’s ban PowerPoint in lectures- it makes students more stupid and professors more boring.” @The Conversation
    • “Panel beaters and baristas don’t have to learn Shakespeare or chemistry just to be good at learning says Prof John Hattie.” @tes
    • “Is my mum allowed in? Job interview nightmares revealed.” @reedcouk

    Acronym(s) of the week

    • QS World University Rankings. A global university ranking system that assesses over 3,000 HE institutions and ranks the world’s top 800 by country, region, subject, reputation causing considerable flurry amongst universities particularly if they’re near the top. Its latest rankings have just been published. 

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “If you’re young, want to work hard and want to get on, the Conservative Party is for you.” David Cameron
    • “Everyone can-with efforts and persistence-learn the maths they need for everyday life and work.” National Numeracy’s Mike Ellicock on doing the maths as Labour sets out plans for maths for all up to the age of 18
    • “Without investment in education, there can be no deal with Liberal Democrats.” Nick Clegg on where the Lib-Dems would draw the line in any future Coalition arrangements
    • “Apprenticeships have become a proxy for pretty much all vocational education and at the same time, cat nip for politicians.” Former Labour adviser Andy Westwood on the allure of apprenticeships
    • “You can expect some efficiency savings in certain areas but you can’t keep trimming and trimming and trimming and expect core provision to remain.” A secondary school head teacher interviewed for the Guardian’s education issues series
    • “The main reason (they struggle) is that delivering high-quality vocational education in England is nowhere near as easy as some UTC enthusiasts seemed to think.” The 157 Group Chief Executive Lynne Sedgemore on some of the challenges facing UTCs.

    Number(s) of the week

    • £227m. The amount of (Libor) bank fine money that David Cameron has promised will be used to help fund an increase in apprenticeship numbers
    • £55.3bn. How much the Lib-Dems are promising to ensure is spent on education by 2020, up from the current £49.6bn
    • £600m a year. The amount it would cost to extend free school meals to all primary school pupils under Lib-Dem plans
    • 517,113. The number of pupils in UK independent schools according to latest official figures, up 1% on last year.

    What to look out for next week

    • NAHT Annual Conference (today and over the weekend)
    • Election results start to come in (late Thursday night). 
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