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 Tracker – Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in December 2015

    A shorter working month but no shortage of activity with Ofsted’s latest Annual Report, the government’s 2020 Vision for Apprenticeships, UCAS’s summary report on 2015 admissions, the Social Mobility Commission’s third annual report and the latest statements on school and FE funding, all making the news.

    Key headlines from the month

    • Children’s Services. Government announces ‘failing’ services will be taken over
    • Coasting. Criteria to be extended to Academies
    • Careers. New joint Education Committee launches another inquiry
    • Intervention in underperforming schools. Consultation closes
    • Appeals. Ofqual launches consultation
    • ICT. Thousands sign petition to keep it at GCSE and A level
    • Re-sits. Ofqual consults on proposals for re-sitting legacy qualifications
    • School funding (1.) DfE announces revenue funding settlement for 2016/17
    • School Funding (2.). F40 group presents petition on fair funding
    • State school debt. Rises to over £50m overall according to TES survey
    • Sixth Form Colleges. Guidance on applying for Academy status due in the New Year
    • FE Funding (1.) BIS publishes latest funding letter and spending totals
    • FE funding (2.) Public Accounts Committee raises concerns about ‘future deterioration’
    • Traineeships. Government invites all eligible providers to offer programmes
    • Apprenticeships. Government sets out its long-term vision and plans for 2020
    • UCAS. Publishes its summary report on 2015 admissions
    • Voc ed. Uni of Huddersfield scoops large Gatsby grant to help improve voc ed T/L
    • National Living Wage. Government lists 4 steps bosses need to take before April 2016.

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

    • Annual Report. Ofsted’s latest Annual Report highlights some familiar concerns but it’s the attainment gaps between secondary schools in the North and the South that grabs the headlines
    • Great Expectations. City and Guilds looks into the career aspirations of 14-19 yr olds and raises issues about careers guidance, clarity of pathways and poorly matched aspirations
    • ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ The NFER becomes the latest to add its voice to the growing concerns about teacher recruitment and retention as it examines who’s joining and who’s leaving
    • ‘Patterns and Trends in UK HE 2015.’ UUK and HESA’s annual data-drop reports on an increase in disadvantaged and non-EU students as the sector continues to change over time
    • Innovating Pedagogy. The OU pushes the boundaries with its latest collection of essays on ten new teaching and learning strategies
    • Annual Report. The Education Endowment Foundation publishes its 2014/15 Annual Report highlighting in particular its toolkits, programmes and resources helping to close the gap
    • Implementing the FE and Skills Reform Programme. The FE Minister sends out his latest termly update on developments in the learning and skills sector
    • English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision. The government sets out its strategy and time plan for achieving the 3m target by 2020
    • Supply and demand for higher level skills. Universities UK argues that far from a shortage of high skilled graduates in the future, the demand for those with such skills will actually increase
    • Employability: Degrees of Value. An Occasional Paper for HEPI looks at the issue of employability and what more could be done to help graduates in this area
    • Consultation on marking reviews, appeals and related changes. Ofqual proposes a number of changes designed to make the system more transparent yet secure
    • Advanced Learner Loans Prospectus. The Skills Funding Agency publishes the prospectus for eligible qualifications for the 2015/16 funding years
    • Funding Rules. The Skills Funding Agency updates its funding rules and guidance for training and skills providers for up to August 2016
    • Skills Funding Agency funding letter. The government leaves the SFA with some tough calls as it issues its funding priorities and limits for 2016/17 and beyond
    • Improving Schools in Scotland. The OECD assesses the state of play in Scotland and finds much to be positive about in the new curriculum framework but also a need to push on
    • Overseeing financial sustainability in the FE sector. The Public Accounts Committee raises further concerns about support and intervention in the FE sector
    • End of Cycle report. UCAS issues its annual report summarising trends, data and implications coming out of this year’s admissions cycle which saw a 3.1% increase in numbers accepted
    • Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain. The Commission publishes its third annual ‘State of the Nation Report with some important recommendations for education.

    Speeches of the month

    Quotes of the month

    • “We have a very clear view that to give young people a good start in life, they should have the choice of an apprenticeship or a university place when they leave school.” The PM believes young people should take one of two roads when they leave school
    • “It’s a moral outrage that the education system systematically fails the poorest children in the country at every level from early years on.” The social mobility tsar on education’s challenge
    • “These instructions are valid through to 2020.” The FE and Skills Minister sends his priorities through to the Skills Funding Agency
    • “We will continue with a minimum funding guarantee so no school sees more than 1.5% per pupil reduction in its 2016/17 budget.” The Education Minister explains the schools’ revenue settlement for 2016/17
    • “We have already shown that we are tough on underperforming academies and that RSCs take robust action where needed.” The Education Secretary gets tough and extends the coasting definition to Academies
    • “We feel that a period of consistency and stability for this sector will have greater impact than major structural reform.” The Education Minister on the Government’s plans for careers
    • “We shouldn’t just sit around in my office saying scrap this, scrap that.” Lucy Powell, Shadow Education Secretary, on the view from her office
    • “The current system in which teachers mark exams in their spare time for little pay is simply not able to cope with the sheer number of scripts which have to be marked each summer.” The General Secretary of one of the professional associations reacts to the latest data on appeals. 

    Word or phrase of the month

    • ‘‘Missing middle.’ School leavers neither going to uni or on to an apprenticeship.
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  • Policy Tracker – Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in November 2015

    Some significant developments this month with the launch of a new Green Paper for HE, consultation on the EBacc for schools and further area reviews for FE, all topped off with the Chancellor’s spending announcements for the remainder of this Parliament. 

    Key headlines from the month

    • Primary. Further research links proper breakfast to improved performance
    • School textbooks. Publishers draft new best practice guidelines
    • Special Considerations. Requests up but number approved remains small
    • Late exam entries. Up at GCSE, down at A level
    • 2017 GCSEs and A levels. Consultation launched on a further batch
    • EBacc. Government consults on six core proposals
    • Unregistered schools. Ofsted calls on government to take action
    • Mental health. Youth Select Committee highlights concerns
    • Regional Schools Commissioners. Education Committee continues its inquiry
    • School governors. Ofsted to look into a more professional model
    • School funding. Government to consult on a new fair formula next year
    • Inspections. Ofsted survey reveals how far parents use inspection ratings
    • Sixth Form Colleges. Encouraged to join the Academy trail
    • NEETs. Further drop in latest quarterly figures
    • Apprenticeship Trailblazers. Latest guidance signals couple of changes to approval process
    • Special Apprenticeship Adviser. Nadhim Zahawi picks up the mantle for government
    • Apprenticeship levy. Government response sets out how it will work 
    • FE Loans. Chancellor extends to 19-23 year olds
    • Learning and Work Institute. New name for the joining in matrimony of NIACE and CESI
    • Devo deals. Liverpool and West Midlands sign up
    • Colleges. Mergers in Shrewsbury and East London under consideration
    • HE. Extensive Green Paper from government sets out latest vision. 

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

    Speeches of the month

    • Nicky Morgan’s 3 November Policy Exchange speech focuses on monitoring the progress of 7 yr olds, the EBacc and a new National Teacher Service as she seeks to push educational excellence
    • John Cridland’s 9 November CBI Conference speech sees the Director-General depart the CBI stage continuing to call for GCSEs to go and for stronger skills pathways in the school curriculum
    • Nicky Morgan’s 9 November CBI Conference speech explains how the government is attempting to transform education and calls on business to join in and work with schools in the future
    • Nick Gibb’s 17 November Publishers’ Association speech continues to extol the virtues of text books as a valuable tool in learning and praises publishers for helping revive their use
    • Nick Boles’ 17 November AoC speech challenges FE to be quicker off the mark and seize a piece of the action especially around apprenticeships
    • Sam Gyimah’s 19 November speech at the National Association of School Business Managers Conference helps launch a new framework of prof standards for school business managers
    • George Osborne’s 25 November Autumn Statement speech mixes clever footwork with headline announcements as it sets out the government’s future spending plans.

    Quotes of the month

    • “And quite frankly, if we’re not into surplus after 10 years of full economic growth when will we ever be?” The Chancellor asks the question
    • “Students should come out of their university years feeling they’ve got value for money for their time there. Unfortunately too many are coming out feeling they haven’t and I want to address that.” The HE Minister on one of the principles behind the latest Green Paper
    • “As your friend I have to ask you why on earth are you letting these guys nick your lunch?” The Skills Minister with a friendly warning to colleges about being quicker off the mark
    • “I want to see at least 90% of students entering the EBacc.” The Secretary of State makes clear her expectations on the EBacc
    • “At root, it’s not autonomy that really matters, it’s what autonomy allows you to do differently that counts.” The Schools Minister on ‘it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it
    • ’“We need multiple learning pathways, vocational and academic, from 14-18, with GCSEs retired and a full range of A’ levels, technical and academic at 18.” The departing CBI DG on 14-19. 

    Word or phrase of the month

    • ‘Waithood.’ The stage between childhood and adulthood (which some teenagers want to skip). 
    read more