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!

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  • Policy Eye – week ending October 9 2015

    This week the annual Party Conference season drew to a close. 

    The week summed up

    The SNP have their bash next week but it’s back to the more routine business for politicians in England next week. So, five months on from the general election and with a busy autumn beckoning, how’s education looking?

    A more detailed summary can be found in an accompanying Policy Watch but in terms of headlines, six points stand out.

    First, education remains an important priority. It’s not in the top three public concerns highlighted by Ipsos-Mori recently but it’s certainly in the top ten and a central part of the government’s pitch for the centre ground hence why the PM and Chancellor took the lead on education announcements this week.

    Second, the economy hangs over everything but it’s much more now about how to get the wheels turning a bit better, more jobs, better productivity, higher skills and so on; both the Chancellor and his opposite number had plenty to say about all of this.

    Third, it’s not just about surpluses and targets, economic policy needs to come with a soul as well, kinder, compassionate, caring, all words used in the Leaders’ speeches and all beginning to be displayed in education agendas where issues such as mental health and pupil safeguarding have been raised again this week.

    Fourth, for schools, it’s pretty much business as before, ‘excellence for all,’ as Nicky Morgan put it but with mechanisms like funding, coasting and local accountability providing key political dividing lines. Fifth, for FE, missing again from major speeches but with its future being shaped in Treasury plans. And sixth, HE, about to enter a new phase with a Green Paper due out shortly but where debates about fees, funding and visas are never far away.

    If, Desert Island Disc wise, one overriding them or issue had to be selected from the debates and speeches of the last few weeks, it would probably have to be social mobility or in education terms opening up opportunity and closing down attainment gaps whether in schools, FE or HE. It was a theme adopted in David Cameron’s speech, “the brick wall of blocked opportunity” and in Jeremy Corbyn’s “we have aspirations for all children, not just a few.” It’s the theme also of two reports out today one on the pupil premium and the other on apprenticeships. It binds politicians and professionals alike and as the Social Mobility Commission put it last year, is the ultimate prize for 2020. 

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘More than 50% of teachers in England plan to quit in next two years.’ (Monday)
    • ‘Private schools condemn exam marking.’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘Morgan: schools must offer working-day childcare.’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘Prime Minister warns over extremist teaching.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘MPs want better help for poorer pupils.’ (Friday

    People/organisations in the news this week

    • The Prime Minister who re-affirmed his support for more Academies and Free Schools and announced a new registration system for religious supplementary schools in the education ‘bits’ of his Conference speech this week
    • The Chancellor of the Exchequer who used his Conference speech to announce a number of measures to help stimulate growth in the economy including new powers and simpler funding rules for local councils and the creation of a new National Infrastructure Commission
    • Education Secretary Nicky Morgan who confirmed in her Conference speech that families would have ‘a right to request’ a full day’s childcare before and after school and during the holidays as well
    • Nicky Morgan who has written to the School Teachers’ Review Body asking for advice by next April on how best to apply the 2016/17 pay award of 1%
    • The government who announced new sanctions, pursuable through the welfare system and the courts, to help tackle school truancy
    • The Public Accounts Committee who following a series of inquiries this year on the pupil premium have produced their own report concluding that while the premium has helped, there is still not a good enough understanding let alone sharing of what works best in helping close the attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils
    • Jonathan Portes who is leaving his post as director of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research
    • The British Council, who as this year’s Nobel prize winners were being announced, examined the educational background of past winners and found that many had studied at some point in the UK
    • Key Cities, a group of 26 smaller cities including York, Derby and Cambridge who have urged the government not to forget about them as the devolution bandwagon gathers pace
    • The Industry Skills Board, a group of employers with an interest in skills issues brought together by City Guilds, who have published a 25-point action plan for ‘Making Apprenticeships Work’ which includes a Levy Board and UCAS style applications for young apprenticeships
    • The Sutton Trust whose latest commissioned report found that the best top apprenticeships resulted in greater lifetime earnings than some non-Russell Group degrees but that not enough apprenticeships were yet at this top end
    • The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) who is inviting responses as to how it’s doing in its Annual Perception Survey
    • The DfE who ahead of the new accountability measures coming in next year, published experimental data on L1/2 attainment in English and maths by 16-18 yr olds for 2013 /14
    • Ofqual who published in one handy booklet its full postcard collection explaining the current changes to qualifications and regulation 
    • Ofqual who published a listing of GCSE, AS and A level qualifications not being reformed explaining in each case why they are being withdrawn
    • Leading independent schools who as part of the HMC have been in conference this week reflecting on many of key education issues of the day from qualification reform to concerns about mental health in schools
    • Dr Sam Carr from Bath University who examined the issue raised in a recent NUT survey about so many teachers wanting to leave the profession and suggested that ‘suffocation’ of motivation and job satisfaction were key factors
    • The book retailer Waterstones who announced that as sales of Kindles are falling, it will restock the shelves with books instead. 

    Tweet(s) of the week

    • “Ofqual chief: exam markers don’t do it for the money.” @tes
    • “If you can bake you can do maths.” @Nat_Numeracy
    • “Once students went to university for education, now it’s ‘an experience.’ @ed_ontap
    • “Let’s make a stand and change the world for our girls, one trouser leg at a time!” @SchoolsImprove (as a parent launches a Facebook group about school uniform rules)
    • “Stop indulging in toffism, says private school head.’” @tes 

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “Today, a teenager sitting their GCSE is more likely to own a smartphone than have a dad living with them.” The Prime Minister reflects on some of the challenges in social reform
    • “Today I am embarking on the biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory.” The Chancellor launches his so-called devolution revolution
    • “If politicians and others do not fully understand or appreciate what a jewel they have in British higher education, they risk throwing it all away.” The outgoing vice-chancellor of Oxford university on protecting the crown jewels of UKHE
    • “There has never been a better time to be a teacher.” Schools Minister Nick Gibb makes the case at one of this week’s Conference fringe events
    • “I was ready to make a 300-mile round trip to see one candidate…before they had another chance to be interviewed by another school.” A head teacher on the realities of the current teacher shortage
    • “At the age of 8, I had a dozen pretend registers and a full-sized whiteboard in my bedroom so that I could ‘practice’ teaching with my friends.” A trainee teacher tells her story as part of this week’s World Teacher Day
    • “If you are a school today, what are you preparing your children for when they are moving into a world when they could live up to 120?” The challenges for schools just got greater according to the chief executive of Fast Future
    • “What’s grammar? An old lady who gives you biscuits.” One from the TES top ten list of overhead primary school quotes this week. 

    Number(s) of the week

    • 4.7% in primary schools and 1.6% in secondaries. How much the attainment gap has closed by since the pupil premium was introduced in 2011 according to the Public Accounts Committee
    • 66%. The number of parents in a survey by the Baker Dearing Educational Trust who said that their biggest concern was that their child may not be able to find a job when they leave education
    • 61%. The number of teachers in a survey commissioned by the NUT said to be considering quitting over the next couple of years largely due to heavy workloads
    • 17. The number of Local Authorities planning for super-size secondaries to cope with rising pupil numbers according to research from the TES
    • 94%. The number of leading independent schools reporting concerns about the use of social media, up from 45% five years ago, in a survey by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference
    • 31%. The number of under-fives who according to recent research now have their own iPad. 

    What to look out for next week

    • Parliament returns (Monday)
    • Edge Annual Lecture with Nicholas Wyman (Tuesday)
    • BIS Committee witness session on the government’s Productivity Plan (Tuesday)
    • Education Committee witness session with Ofqual (Wednesday)
    • Initial UCAS deadline date for many 2016 medical, dentistry and veterinary courses (Thursday)
    • ResearchEd seminar on edtech (Friday). 
    read more
  • Policy Eye – week ending September 25 2015

    Slimmer pickings this week with the political wagons out on the road for the annual Party Conference season.

    The week summed up

    This week it’s been the turn of the Lib-Dems, UKIP and Greens, next week it’ll be Labour and the week after the Conservatives. So far there’s been little to report education-wise. Tim Farron’s first leadership speech for the Lib-Dems this week was well received and credited his sixth form college with his liberal beginnings but was more about reviving spirits than setting policies. There’s plenty of interest for obvious reasons in next week’s Labour Conference but whether we’ll learn much about education policy remains to be seen.

    Away from the heat of the Conference hall, education developments continue and this week literacy, school funding, and digital skills and cyber threats have been early runners.

    Raising standards in literacy has become a bit of a mission for Nicky Morgan who teamed up with David Walliams earlier this summer to launch a campaign intended ‘to help make English pupils the most literate in Europe.’ Initial plans centred on getting more 8-year olds signed up at local libraries and working with the Reading Agency to create 200 new book clubs. This week, the Morgan-Williams team launched a further initiative aimed at publishers and schools, calling on the latter to share good practice and the former to help make the great classic novels more easily (and cheaply) available in schools. They haven’t been the only ones keen to spread the word with the National Literacy Trust preparing to launch its HELLO tool (Helping Early Literacy and Language Outcomes) and as indicated below, even McDonalds offering book excerpts in its Happy Meal packages. The government claims that the recent phonics data shows that its policies are working but 11% of pupils still reach the end of primary unable to read well so there’s some way to go.

    On to school funding, where the Education Committee is pressing the Secretary of State for timings on school funding reform, something that was in the manifesto and which has been on the cards for some time. It’s not the only funding uncertainty with the impending Spending Review raising all sorts of concerns and where free school meals, the pupil premium and 16-19 funding are all under debate at present and awaiting the Review outcomes with varying degrees of concern.

    Finally, the arcane world of cyber threats and how to deal with them. Not an obvious area for digital technologies perhaps and one only briefly alluded to in the BIS Committee’s Inquiry into digital development announced this week but where the Minister promised additional funding so that universities and colleges could develop training in this area. A new frontier perhaps. 

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘Labour warns children would go hungry if universal free meals scrapped.’ (Monday)
    • ‘Fake apprenticeships-crackdown planned.’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘Mandarin lessons to get £10m boost says Chancellor.’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘Give low cost classics to schools, says Nicky Morgan.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘Wilshaw set to clash with government over EBacc.’ (Friday)  

    People/organisations in the news this week

    • The BIS Committee which has announced it will look into digital skills as part of its inquiry into the digital economy
    • The Education Committee which has announced it will be holding a short inquiry into Holocaust education later this year 
    • Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey who announced a new £500,000 fund, to be administered by the HE Academy, to help universities and colleges develop training in cyber protection
    • Nicky Morgan who along with David Walliams launched the next stage of the literacy campaign with a call for more sharing of good practice and more classic novels to be made available in schools
    • UCAS who have published their traditional interim update on uni entry four weeks on from A level results day confirming a 3% increase in numbers entering UKHE for 2015/16 
    • HEFCE who have launched consultation on a proposed framework for monitoring compliance by HE providers with the new Prevent duty
    • The Sutton Trust who argued against any retrospective changes to student loan terms as its latest report into the impact of changes announced in the Summer Budget concluded that many students would end up repaying more
    • The NUS who are looking at taking legal action over the government’s plans to shift from maintenance grants to loans from next year
    • The Institute of Fiscal Studies whose latest collaborative research found that the graduate premium (the returns on a degree) were often higher than previously considered, especially for female graduates
    • Surrey and Sussex, who jumped into the top ten and top twenty respectively in the Times/Sunday Times 2016 rankings of universities published last weekend
    • A group of academics who have written to university vice-chancellors encouraging them to set up bursaries and scholarships to help students fleeing from violence in other parts of the world
    • Nick Pearce, director at the think tank IPPR who is leaving to become from December the new Director at the Institute of Policy Research at the University of Bath
    • Michael Farthing who will step down as vice-chancellor at Sussex University next summer
    • The Education Funding Agency (EFA) whose latest Bulletin reports that Ministers have relaxed the funding conditions around GCSE maths and English resits to allow for a 5% tolerance
    • The Gazelle Group of Colleges which the TES reports is restructuring both its membership and fees
    • CITB who are using levy funding to help launch a new ‘Go Construct’ campaign to encourage more people to consider a career in construction
    • Two more FE colleges, this time in Wales (Coleg Gwent and Cardiff and Vale) who are considering options for closer collaboration
    • Qualification Wales, the new independent qualifications regulator for Wales, which formally started operating this week
    • Ofsted who have followed up recent information on changes to inspection arrangements by explaining how the inspection workforce is also changing
    • The College of Teaching who have listed five non-teachers along with five teachers and three head teachers among its 13 founding trustees
    • Former Eton headmaster Tony Little who called for a more innovative approach to assessment including greater use of teacher assessment to make the new GCSEs more relevant to today’s demands
    • The Geographical Association who have developed a resource pack to help schools teaching about the current migration crisis and human geography issues in general
    • McDonalds who over the next six weeks will be giving away packaged excerpts from Roald Dahl books with its Happy Meals in a move, backed by the National Literacy Trust, to support children’s reading

    Tweet(s) of the week

    • “@Stewartsegal says ‘Plan for at least 10 years of @Apprenticeships levy’ even if gov’t changes.” @AELPUK
    • “Students of the future will not only be assessed on their knowledge but what they can do with that knowledge.” @OECD_Edu
    • “When is an inspector not an inspector? When they’re trying to sell ‘mockstead’ inspections, Ofsted warns.” @tes 

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “When I was growing up my school didn’t have a sixth form. So I went to a separate sixth form college and in my first week I joined the Liberal Party.” Lib-Dem Party leader Tim Farron recalls his College days in his first Conference speech as Party leader
    • “The bullet point-ization of information is making us stupid and irresponsible.” The debate about the virtues or otherwise of powerpoint presentations continues
    • “What people are concerned about is whether the A level exam results mean quite the same thing they used to mean.” Cambridge considers whether to bring back entrance exams
    • “Do not bring a full set of pans and crockery to halls with you. No matter what your Mum says, there is no need to have a stir-fry wok and salad serving spoons.” Recent graduates take to the NUS website to pass on their tips to this year’s freshers
    • “The Government should introduce more formal ways to measure the performance of an apprentice and introduce a standardised grading system equivalent to a university degree classification.” The Centre for Policy Studies offers some thoughts ahead of the spending Review on how to improve productivity in this country
    • “I learned to carry a spare pair of trousers.” Teachers take to the Guardian Teacher Network to share with this year’s new cohort what they learned from their first year of teaching
    • “I see it at home in Downing Street every night as my 12-year old daughter does her Mandarin homework.” The Chancellor enthuses about learning Mandarin and promises more money to help schools teach it during his recent visit to China. 

    Number(s) of the week

    • 14. The number of different ways, including grades, surveys and output indicators, in which learning gain in higher education could be measured, according to a report commissioned by BIS, HEFCE and HEA 
    • £0.04m. What it might cost business overall to adopt the principles of apprenticeship brand recognition laid out in the current Enterprise Bill
    • 47%. How many people in the UK workforce would like a change of career according to the latest report from the London School of Business and Finance
    • 93%. How many recruiters check out a candidate’s social media profile before making a decision to hire, according to an article in Training Journal
    • 77%. The proportion of Year 1 pupils (6 yr olds) who reached the expected phonics standard this year, up 3% on the previous year in latest DfE stats
    • 8%. The rise over the last year  in the number of appeals by parents over school admissions according to latest DfE figures
    • 61%. The number of girls (as opposed to 46% of boys) who don’t feel confident on their first day at school, college or work according to a You Gov survey carried out for Sky Academy’s Confidence Month

    What to look out for next week

    • Labour Party Conference (Sunday-Wednesday)
    • Virgin Disruptors event with inputs from Sir Richard Branson. Professor Brian Cox, Pearson and others looking at ‘how far education is keeping up with the 21st century’ (Friday). 
    read more
  • Policy Tracker - Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in September 2015

    The start of another education year and no shortage of activity as per below. 

    Key headlines from the month

    • Summer born children. Government planning to allow deferred school entry
    • Assessment without levels. Government responds to final report
    • Phonics standards. Up 3% to 77% for Yr 1’s this year
    • Literacy. Nicky Morgan launches latest drive to get more books in schools
    • IT. BT steps up support for primary schools with more training and resources
    • Money for Mandarin. Chancellor pledges £10m
    • Free Schools. Government pledges biennial waves every year to 2020
    • Academies/free schools. Labour indicates an interest in greater local control
    • Admissions appeals. Up 8% this year
    • Lie-ins. Some teenagers to be given longer lie ins to assess impact on GCSE results
    • Smartphones in class. New behaviour group to look at
    • ParentInfo. Government launches new online tool to help parents keep up with teenage trends
    • Core maths. New post-16 programmes launched
    • 2017 GCSEs and A levels. DfE and Ofqual consult
    • Qual reforms. Ofqual sends out postcards to explain
    • Enterprise advisers. Careers and Enterprise Company rolls out its new network
    • Teachers CPD. Taskforce calls for views
    • Inspections. New inspection teams for new inspection approach
    • College of Teaching. New trustees announced
    • Education Bill. Heads to the Lords
    • Enterprise Bill. Starts its journey at the Lords
    • Apprenticeships. Statutory definition included in the Enterprise Bill
    • Area-based reviews. Latest list updated
    • FE English/maths teachers. ETF launches latest training modules for teachers
    • English/maths GCSE 16-19 resits. Funding conditions relaxed
    • RQF. Ofqual outlines arrangements for the new post QCF quals framework
    • Local devolution. AoC group to review of impact on skills and FE
    • Undergrad numbers. UCAS report 3% increase for UKHE for 2015/16
    • Degree awarding powers. Minister lifts moratorium
    • Office of the Independent Adjudicator. Extends its remit into other HE settings
    • Support for women at uni. Universities UK commissioned to set up new taskforce
    • Campus extremism. HEFCE launches consultation on compliance with new Prevent duty
    • HE quality assessment. BIS Committee announces new inquiry.  

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

    Speeches of the month

    • Nick Gibb’s 5 Sept ResearchED speech highlights the traditional virtues of good teaching and learning and how the government is supporting them
    • Jo Johnson’s 9 Sept Universities UK speech sets out the key principles behind his forthcoming Green Paper for the sector and gets Vice-Chancellors talking as a result
    • Sir Michael Wilshaw’s 10 Sept School Improvement speech highlights 3 concerns: regional differences; primary-secondary transition; and the long tail of underachievement
    • David Cameron’s 11 September speech sets out 3 principles (innovation, devolution, efficiency) for making the state smarter and more effective
    • Nicky Morgan’s 24 Sept child literacy speech teams up with David Walliams again to launch the next phase of support and activity.  

    Quotes of the month

    • “Across Whitehall we’re looking in every dept at budgets that aren’t protected.” Nicky Morgan on the dangers of a lack of protection ahead of the Spending Review
    • “We are not rushing to judgement though the silence is ominous.” Vince Cable and Chuka Umunna join forces to reflect on the government’s industrial policy
    • “It’s akin to Byron burger having to ask permission of McDonalds to open up a new restaurant.” The HE Minister on finding validation partners in HE
    • “My biggest frustration with the media coverage is the awful word Oxbridge.” The V.C of Cambridge on the need for distinctiveness
    • “I think fragile is the way to put it.” The Education Secretary on the mood in FE
    • “We don’t ask much from government, usually it’s best if they keep out of the way but a sustainable supply of well trained staff and the resources we need to deploy them-these are the basics and they’re under threat.” The gen secretary of NAHT on the basic tools
    • “The government should gather a panel of experts to design a model curriculum. This content would then be laid out in a logical, sequential format: year by year, term by term.” How to design a curriculum by a former superhead
    • “Any head worth their salt should stand up and ban them.” Sir M Wilshaw on mobiles in school. 

    Word or phrase of the month

    • ‘Cultural appeasers.’ School leaders who acquiesce rather than challenge, according to Ofsted
    • ‘Disengagement contracts.’ What lies behind a lot of poor teaching according to the HE Minister. 
    read more
  • Policy Eye – week ending September 18 2015

    Corbyn, computers and curriculum make the headlines this week as follows.

    The week summed up

    Corbyn, or more precisely Labour first where with a new Shadow Cabinet now in post there’s been much interest in how Labour policy will shape up. When it comes to education we have new Shadow Secretaries of State at both DfE and BIS and both have been in the news this week.  Lucy Powell, the new Shadow Education Secretary, has been grilled by the Times Ed today where her views on academies and free schools, in effect that they should be brought under local control, has made the headlines. That is a marked difference from her predecessor’s position and has inevitably pleased some and disappointed others. Writing earlier in the week, Policy Exchange’s Jonathan Simons, suggested that her approach would be pragmatic although there may some ‘eye-catching’ announcements; time will tell if this one. Over at BIS, Angela Eagle had an early opportunity to make her mark with questions to BIS Ministers on Tuesday afternoon. Her questions on apprenticeships and skill shortages showed that she recognised some of the issues but in truth it was too early to pick up any new agenda; that will come as the spending review details emerge. As for HE where of course Jeremy Corbyn had promised to scrap tuition fees, nothing yet although an interesting set of views from HE specialists can be found on the Guardian website.

    And so to computers, the subject of a major report this week from the OECD and of a Paper at the BERA Conference both raising questions about the impact of technology in the classroom. The argument, and it was well put by the government’s behaviour adviser Tom Bennett, is that we have become in his words “dazzled” by technology, believing it can transform classroom learning and raise results without any real understanding about how it should best be used. The OECD published a mass of data pointing to the fact that many of the best-performing countries were “very cautious about using technology in the classroom.”  The use of technology and indeed of smart devices generally by young people is the subject of considerable debate at present, no one is suggesting a Canute like position but it’s an interesting example of an education debate where the expectation has preceded the evidence. We haven’t heard the last.

    Finally for this week, the curriculum, where the government has finally set out its thoughts on the issue of assessment without levels, essentially recognising that more training and support is needed. And Ofqual has resorted to traditional lines of communication with the publication of its series of mini postcards explaining in simple terms many of the changes being implemented at present. These range from the ‘new’ adult qualification framework, not QCF from October 1st but RQF (the R stands for regulated) to the new GCSE grading criteria. They’re in the post. 

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘Smart phones could face ban from classes.’ (Monday)
    • ‘Computers do not improve pupils’ results says OECD.’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘Tories now the heir to Blair on schools.’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘State students outperform private in degree grades.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘Head teachers call for end to pupil premium amid plans for funding overhaul.’ (Friday

    People/organisations in the news this week

    • The Prime Minister who made a major speech last weekend outlining 3 principles (reform, devolution and efficiency) for state reform ahead of the forthcoming Spending Review
    • The UK which was ranked in the top five countries (along with Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands and the USA) for effective innovation in the latest Global Innovation Index of 141 nations
    • Luciana Berger, who was appointed Labour’s Shadow Minister for mental health, the first time such a role has been created
    • Lucy Powell the new Shadow Education Secretary who in an interview in the TES has indicated a marked changing in party policy by suggesting academies and free schools could be brought under local accountability
    • The Chair of the Education Committee whose letter to the Education Secretary following their recent Q/A session seeks further information on a couple of funding matters
    • The think tank Policy Exchange who have published a collection of essays by leading educationalists to mark its Annual Lecture given this year by E.D.Hirsch
    • The Education and Adoption Bill which completed its passage through the House of Commons and now passes to the House of Lords with a 2ndReading on 20 Oct
    • The BIS Committee which has announced that it will launch an inquiry into quality assessment in HE with particular reference to the role of the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework
    • Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Imperial and Kings, all in the top 20 in the latest World Ranking of Universities 
    • Quality assessment arrangements in HE where consultation on future approaches closes today
    • The new Prevent guidance, aimed at tackling those at risk of radicalisation in universities and colleges which comes into force next week
    • HEFCE who found that in many cases state school graduates tended to achieve higher degree grades than their independent school counterparts in a report looking at the impact of different course and student characteristics on degree outcomes in 2014
    • The New College of Humanities which reached its first graduation ceremony in unusual style by commissioning original works of art displaying the particular skills of each of its first 36 graduates
    • Durham University, who according to the price comparison website Money Supermarket, offers the cheapest pint of beer (@£2.10) of any university
    • The CBI who have called for protected funding for education and skills and support for vocational skills in its submission to the Treasury Spending Review
    • Apprenticeships, where the statutory definition which was consulted on over the summer, was included in Part 4 of the Enterprise Bill laid before Parliament this week
    • BIS who published 2006/8 -2012 data on progression into HE by groups of apprenticeships and FE students
    • HEFCE, UVAC and the SFA who have joined forces to produce a guide for universities and colleges thinking of offering Degree Apprenticeships
    • Jaguar Land Rover who have recruited a record number of graduates and apprentices (600) in its intake this year
    • The AoC and Oxford University’s Centre for Skills who will work together to examine the impact of the government’s local devolution of skills with a report due next summer
    • The Education and Training Foundation (ETF) who published English Pipeline, a series of training and resource materials to help those teaching English in FE provision
    • The charity National Numeracy who launched its new Family Maths Toolkit stuffed with tips and activities to help families learn and enjoy maths together
    • The OECD whose report on the use of computers in schools raised a number of questions about their validity as a learning tool
    • Dr Tom Macintyre who presented further evidence this week in a Paper to the British Educational Research Association (BERA) questioning the impact of technology in the classroom
    • The Careers and Enterprise Company who are rolling out a new network of business volunteers or Enterprise Advisers to help bring schools, colleges and the world of work more closely together
    • Regional Schools Commissioners, for whom the Education Committee has been gathering views ahead of its planned inquiry
    • ASCL, NGA and education lawyers Browne Jackson who have got together to produce a guide for school leaders and governors who are considering working together in collaborative arrangements
    • Ofqual who sent out a series of 8 ‘plain speak’ postcards to explain the various changes to GCSE, AS and A levels in England as well as to the adult skills qualification system
    • The DfE who have agreed to set up a national bank of assessment questions but not yet an expert group to help schools operate assessment systems now that the framework of national curriculum assessment levels has been removed
    • Tom Bennett, whose review into behavioural issues in schools has been extended to take in the use of smartphones and other such devices in school
    • SchoolDash, a new website being developed by a data entrepreneur to help make sense of the mass of data coming out on school performance these days“
    • Ridiculous,” one of the professional body responses to a proposal from the New Schools Network to introduce a ‘parental trigger’ that could be used to remove head teachers
    • Writing letters, something that can help children with their writing skills according to a survey by the National Literacy Trust to mark Letter Writing Week. 

    Tweet(s) of the week

    • “Apparently @NickyMorgan01 vs @LucyMPowell is the 3rd time two women have faced each other over education.” @RichardVaughan (Spoiler: Williams v Thatcher and Morris V May were the other two)
    • “Fair to say that @TristramHunt and I don’t see eye to eye, mainly because he’s several inches taller than me @NIckyMorgan01.” @SchoolsWeek
    • “Schools are not gifts which can be dished out to ministers’ friends and party donors says @KevinBrennanMP” @SchoolsWeek
    • “Edge calls for ‘Polytechnic Colleges’ instead of National Colleges and Institutes of Technology @ukEdgehttp://data.parliament.uk/written evidence.”@davidharbourne
    • “More evidence is needed to convince firms to sign up apprentices.” @tesfenews
    • “Cunningham’s Law: The best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.” @tech_faq

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “We will say to any local authority failing its children: transform the way you provide services or those services will be taken over by non-profit trusts or partnerships.” The PM in his keynote speech on state reform
    • “We now have a very strong education system in this country and I hope the Labour Party will join me in rooting out the remaining problems and education failures where they are in this country.” The Education Secretary ‘welcomes’ the new Labour leader
    • “Being shadow minister for anything is not for the faint-hearted.” Professor Chris Husband blogs on the challenges facing the new Shadow Education Secretary
    • “We are always concerned about increases in fees.” The Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University reacts unfavourably to any suggested increase in fees
    • “This is the worst financial scenario we’ve ever faced.’ Dr Lynne Sedgemore, who recently retired as executive director of the 157 Group, reflects on her 35 years in FE
    • “It’s like a bookcase in a library with qualifications indexed by their level and size.” Ofqual’s Director of Voc Quals describes the new RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework)
    • “A ritual torture that takes place throughout the school year.” The Guardian’s Secret Teacher on school Inset days
    • “The impact on student performance is mixed at best.” The OECD reports on its survey into the use of computers in schools.

    Number(s) of the week

    • 300. The number of MPs who voted for the Education Bill in its 3rd Reading this week against 200 ‘Noes’
    • 20,000. The number of public respondents who submitted ideas to the Spending Review
    • 38. The number of area proposals submitted to the government for local devolution deals, a lot more than anticipated according to the Prime Minister
    • 30. How many universities the UK had in the QS world top ranking 200 universities, only the US had more
    • 12–15 yr olds. Nearly a quarter of whom wake in the night to use social media in a survey published by Cardiff University.  

    What to look out for next week

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  • Pocket Watch – Two important bills

    This week the Education and Adoption Bill completed its passage through the House of Commons and headed off to finish its business in the Lords.

    At the same time, two further Bills that had been listed in the Queen’s Speech in May and which are of particular interest to the world of education made their grand entrance. One was the Enterprise Bill, a Bill that sets out to support small business and enterprise but with a section on apprenticeships. It’ll start in the Lords first where it is due a 2nd Reading on 12 October.

    The other is the Immigration Bill which has a number of wide ranging proposals including a couple of particular interest to the world of education. It’s starting off in the Commons and has its 2nd Reading on 13 October. 2nd Readings are used to debate general principles behind the proposed legislation and in the case of the Enterprise Bill where there’s already been consultation on apprenticeships may not be too controversial. The Immigration Bill may prove a different kettle of fish given the extent of the proposals outlined. This is how the education bits appear in each Bill.  

    The Enterprise Bill

    As indicated a lot of this Bill is taken up with simplifying and supporting small businesses, for example there’s provision for a Small Business Commissioner to fight for SMEs but Part 4 of the Bill deals with two apprenticeship matters. Clause 18 is aimed at the 3m target and grants the Secretary of State (SoS) powers to set apprenticeship targets for public bodies including incidentally government depts and other non-dept public bodies. How the targets are set, whether they’re to apply to single or groups of bodies and the prescribed timescale will be up to the SoS. There’ll be a duty on such bodies to provide progress reports to the SoS who will also be able to access information about the nature of a particular body’s workforce if required.

    Clause 19 picks up on the consultation earlier this summer on the formal status of an apprenticeship by making it an offence “for a person to provide or offer a course or training as an apprenticeship in England if it is not a statutory apprenticeship.” The offence can be committed by a body corporate or a representative of the body, will be enforced by local Weights and Measures Authorities and could result in action in a magistrate’s court and a fine. The aim is to protect the brand and prevent misuse. 

    The Immigration Bill

    This too has a couple of sections that are of particular interest to the world of education, both of which have been signalled previously. The first deals with English language requirements where as set out under Clauses 38-45, public sector workers will be required to speak “fluent English.” Public sector workers are defined as those that are public facing such as the police and NHS although relevant Ministers will be able to extend the requirement to different categories of workers and fluent English is defined as ‘a command of spoken English that enable workers to perform their role effectively.’

    Clause 46 meanwhile introduces an immigration skills charge which would see a levy imposed on certain groups of employers for each skilled worker they sponsor from outside the European Economic Area. Any money raised is intended to pay for the increase in apprenticeship numbers. 

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