Policy Watch

Education’s always changing, and it can be hard to keep track. Policy Watch is the easy way to make sure you stay up to date with the latest developments.

Keep up with what’s happening in education policy

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!

The latest from Policy Watch

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  • Policy Tracker - Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in July 2014

    You start the month with one team and end up with another, the election must be getting nearer.

    Key headlines from the month

    • Ed Depts. Changing of the guard in both
    • Ofsted. Issues guidance to inspectors on evaluating new assessment regime
    • School buildings. Facing an £8.5bn backlog of repair according to architects
    • Maths hubs. 32 pace-setters announced
    • English/maths. GCSE Eng/maths seen as future national standard, stepping stone quals listed
    • English and maths GCSE. NIACE commissioned to look at functional aspects
    • Core maths. Government responds on the technical guidance
    • School sixth forms. Will receive separate Ofsted grading from Sept 2014
    • Master teachers. Labour looking at recreating
    • Headteacher Boards. Elected members announced
    • Tech Levels. Latest listing for 2016 tables confirmed
    • Tech/voc ed. The Education Committee prepares for final major review
    • Careers guidance. The Education Committee confirms follow-up inquiry
    • 14-16 yr olds. More colleges bid to take on young recruits
    • 16/19-24 funding. Labour considers shift to local commissioning
    • QCF/GLH. Ofqual confirm consultations coming
    • Apprenticeships. Public see them as degree alternatives in poll for Pearson/Sutton Trust
    • Growth Deals. Government signs off first instalment
    • FE. The IfL throws its lot in with the ETF
    • Tech degrees. Labour lines up new high-level voc route
    • UCAS. Uni applications up by 4% at end of June deadline

    Reports/Publications of the month (in order of publication)

    Speeches of the month

    • Elizabeth Truss’s 2 July Maths Support speech makes the now familiar passionate pitch for both the importance of maths and the government’s enthusiasm for it
    • Ed Miliband’s 3 July speech to the Policy Network supports the theme of inclusive prosperity and identifies 5 core challenges around skills, trust and reformed markets
    • Liam Byrne’s 7 July City of Westminster College speech sets out Labour principles for a locally commissioned skills system including per-student funding
    • Ed Miliband’s 8 July Pearson/Sutton Trust event speech points Labour HE policy in the direction of employer endorsed tech degrees
    • Matthew Hancock’s 8 July Pearson/Sutton Trust event speech highlights apprenticeship reforms as a key part of the government’s reforms of the skills system
    • Matthew Hancock’s 9 July Change Board speech rehearses familiar lines about how the government is opening up opportunity by bridging the academic/vocational divide
    • Michael Gove’s 10 July Education Foundation speech stresses (perhaps presciently) the importance of keeping the government’s school reforms going not least for social mobility

    Quotes of the month

    • “There is no question of reversing his policies; the point is to preserve them with a little less controversy.” An unnamed colleague on the brief facing the new Education Secretary
    • “I am tremendously privileged and luck and happy to be given this job. Like poor Manuel, I know nothing at the moment but am keen to learn.” The new Skills Minister faces up to his new job
    • “Let us link hands and embrace the future together.” The Chancellor gets friendly on a trade mission to India
    • “My priority for expansion of university places will be tech degrees.” Ed Miliband on Labour’s HE plans
    • “Only 10 out of 120 institutions will charge maximum fees of less than £9000 in 2014/15.” The HE Network reflects on the steady spread of the fee max
    • “By 2023 the number of state-funded secondary pupils aged up to and including 15 is projected to be 17% higher than in 2014.” The DfE on the pupil numbers bulge
    • “Of the 29,000 schools in Britain, 80% of the stock is beyond its shelf life.” The Royal Institute of British Architects eyes future school building work

    Word or phrase of the month

    • ‘Whiteguymageddon.’ Apparently what the Ministerial reshuffle was all about.
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  • Policy Tracker - Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in June 2014

    16 headlines, 23 Reports, 7 leading speeches, it’s been that sort of month.

    Key headlines from the month

    • Primary. Government and IoE announce new leadership schemes
    • Free schools. 38 more approved, total rises to 331
    • Progress 8. Schools invited to opt in early
    • GCSEs/A levels. Ofqual consults on the final sweep
    • Science. DfE launches consultation on proposed programme of study at KS4
    • Maths. ACME launches a maths education blueprint
    • Functional Skills. Ofqual seeks views
    • Exams 2014. Ofqual writes to schools and colleges
    • School funding. Lib-Dems pledge to ring fence 0-19 funding
    • Teachers. Ofqual invites teacher comments on exam prepping techniques
    • Lesson observations. Ofsted prepares to pilot a new approach
    • Learning Technology. Government pushes the agenda in FE
    • Apprenticeships. New co-investment funding model to be piloted from 2014/15
    • University complaints. Universities uphold a rising number of student complaints
    • Universities. Bath, Surrey, Lancaster charge up the Guardian university league table
    • Student visas. Government Statement responds to latest concerns.

    Reports/Publications of the month (in order of publication)

    Speeches of the month

    • Matthew Hancock’s 2 June AELP Conference speech presents apprenticeship reform as an essential modernising exercise and announces a pilot funding model for new starters
    • Michael Gove’s 7 June Policy Exchange speech outlines five factors that help define high-performing school systems starting with autonomy and accountability
    • Matthew Hancock’s 11 June AoC International Conference speech finds good progress being made in the International Education Strategy as it reaches its first anniversary
    • Matthew Hancock’s 15 June Spectator speech highlights the role of technology in helping transform vocational learning
    • Sir Michael Wilshaw’s 20 June Sunday Times Ed Festival speech identifies 4 features for successful comp schools: aspirational; competitive; ordered; working with/confronting parents
    • Glenys Stacey’s 20 June Sunday Times Ed Festival speech outlines what to expect not just for this summer but for the longer-term future in the qualification world
    • George Osborne’s 23 June Manchester speech sees a new rail network and flourishing universities as core ingredients of a booming Northern economy.

    Quotes of the month

    • “I would say freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions.” The Prime Minister defines British values
    • “When I go to Tesco I don’t negotiate the prices and I guess you don’t either. But they know sure as anything I can go to Waitrose next door if I want and that drives value for money.” The Skills Minister on the shopping basket approach to apprenticeship funding
    • “When I was 7, maths meant workbooks, pencils and pocket calculators.” The Skills Minister on what learning was like before technology came along
    • “We wouldn’t accept a fifth of hospital operations going wrong of a fifth of flights ending badly. So why should we accept a system in which school standards were still too low?” Michael Gove on setting bars for school standards
    • “We’re not going to indulge in massive curriculum change, undoing what’s taken place.” Tristram Hunt tries to reassure
    • “It won’t be an easy summer but then I haven’t had an easy summer yet.” The Chief Executive of Ofqual on the anxieties of the summer results season.

    Word or phrase of the month

    • ‘Playlist.’ An online learning plan for students, apparently
    • ‘Mindfulness.’ The new in-demand skill for leaders.
    read more
  • Policy breakfast briefing: Education 2015

    May 7 2014 marked the one-year countdown to the UK's 2015 general election. We hosted a special policy breakfast briefing to consider what the election might have in store for education. You can watch the video here.

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