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 February 2013

    A busy month for schools with an orderly retreat sounded around some of the proposed changes to the Key Stage 4 exams system and further consultation launched on both the emerging National Curriculum and a more balanced secondary school accountability framework.

    For FE the month saw Lord Heseltine give evidence on the case for a single funding pot for adult skills, Sir Michael Wilshaw defend Ofsted’s reporting of FE, consultation on a proposed FE Guild draw to a close and a mixed bag of stats on apprenticeship starts, youth unemployment and the Work Programme released. For HE, debate continued about numbers and future funding while HEFCE started the process of cutting the ever slimmer grant cake ready for 2013/14

    Key headlines from the month

    • Children and Families Bill. Now published and with new SEN arrangements included
    • School improvement. Ofsted sets out how it intends to inspect LA provision
    • National Curriculum. Latest proposed Programmes of Study for KS1-3 published
    • GCSE English. Wales declares separate approach to grading
    • Maths. Further research highlights concerns about international performance
    • GCSEs. Back in place but subject to ‘radical’ reform
    • A levels. HE continue to come out against the standalone AS
    • 14-19. Both Labour and Lib-Dems seek further views
    • School accountability. New criteria for secondary schools put out for consultation
    • Ofsted. Regional directors announced, School Data Dashboard launched
    • FE Guild. Rapid fire consultation draws to a close
    • 24+ Learning Loans. Further details on loan facility conditions issued
    • QCF. SFA identifies lists for cull of low number qualifications
    • Skills system. BIS Committee examine Heseltine proposals
    • HE funding. HEFCE start to apportion funds for 2013/14
    • Apprenticeships. New starts up 13.9% on previous year but dips at pre-19
    • Employer Ownership Pilot. Bidding for Round 2 now under way
    • Work Programme. Further criticisms from the Public Accounts Committee

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

    Speeches of the month

    • Michael Gove’s 5 February SMF speech offers a vigorous defence of his qualification reform policy and argues that it provides the real progressive agenda now
    • President Obama’s 12 February State of the Union speech emphasises the importance of educational opportunity and affordability
    • Ed Miliband’s 14 February Bedford speech highlights the importance of skills as part of his One Nation economic reform programme

    Quotes of the month

    • “I cannot envisage circumstances where Government support for those things will be reduced in the next spending round.” Vince Cable draws up the ramparts around his Dept as the Treasury sharpens its knife
    • “The regime there now is, there is no age limit on fee loans.” David Willetts encourages the older generation to keep on learning
    • “I have decided not to make the best the enemy of the good.”  Michael Gove tells the House why he has decided not to move ahead with EBCs and exam system change
    • “We need a revolution in vocational education and apprenticeships.” Ed Miliband confirms the importance of vocational education to Labour’s Skills Taskforce Review
    • “Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.” President Obama includes a number of education announcements in his annual State of the Union Address
    • “I will be a bit like King Lear touring the country, meeting with these eight regional directors and finding out what is happening.” Sir Michael Wilshaw tells the Education Committee how Ofsted’s new regional tier will operate

    Word or phrase of the month

    • ‘Rhetorical afflatus.’  What the Secretary of State thinks the current National Curriculum has too much of
    • ‘Bending spending.’ How Michael Heseltine thinks funds should be stretched
    • ‘Festina lente.’ What one MP advised Michael Gove to do. ( ‘make haste slowly’ for non EBacc graduates).
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  • Policy Tracker - Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in January 2013

    Little sign of a thaw here with 24 top education measures listed as still outstanding in the Government’s mid-term review launched at the start of this month.

    Evidence of momentum this month includes for schools, announcements on A level reform and a report on EBCs, for colleges, papers on Traineeships and the value of learning and for HE, latest application and grant figures. 21 major Reports and 20+ key headlines this month attest to the continuing momentum

    Key headlines from the month

    • Free Schools. Restrictions lifted on use of buildings, plans for maths schools emerge
    • Academies. 3,167 now open or in the pipeline including first PRU
    • Maths. Nuffield publish latest report into post-16 variants
    • EBacc. Computer science in but petition for others reaches Number 10
    • A level. Reforms confirmed for 2015
    • Careers. Education Committee report on changes needed
    • ‘League Tables.’ Latest tables confirm evidence of the EBacc and Academy effect
    • Teachers. Teaching Agency and National College prepare to merge
    • Inspections. Ofsted order stretch and challenge report into teaching of most able
    • Teachers’ pay. Government confirms move to new system from Sept 2013
    • Wales. Minister confirms new Qual Body in place from Sept 2015
    • 16-24 Traineeships. Government start initial planning
    • 24+ Loans. Support funding and new materials available
    • HE Grant. Down to £2.8bn for T/L but £5.8bn forecast to come from fee income
    • HE applications. Relief as important Jan cycle figures up 3.5% on last year
    • Postgrads. Pressure builds up for a better deal as numbers drop
    • First class degrees. Up nearly 50% over the last five years
    • Apprenticeships. Graduate frameworks to be developed this year
    • Regional Growth Fund. Latest bidding round opens
    • Education UK. New unit set up to drive export demand
    • Unemployed. Drops to 2.49m, Labour propose new £1bn scheme

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

    Speeches of the month

    • The Education Minister’s 17 North of England speech spells out some of the steps being taken to improve maths performance in schools
    • Charlie Taylor’s 18 January North of England speech sets out some of the challenges facing the newly merged Teaching Agency and National College for School Leadership
    • Stephen Twigg’s 23 January Policy Exchange speech lays out Labour’s approach to transforming vocational education and announces a review of work experience
    • David Willetts’ 24 January ‘8 great technologies’ speech provides a progress report on the key technologies at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy

    Quotes of the month

    • “On all the big issues that matter to Britain, we are heading in the right direction and I have the evidence to prove it.” The Prime Minister in his upbeat New Year message
    • “A choice between extended misery if the euro survives and catastrophe if it doesn’t.” A leading economist with a lessupbeat New Year message
    • “We want you to consider increasing the flexibility for those institutions that have shown strong recruitment patterns in 2013/14 and taper this away from institutions enjoying less demand.” The Government’s latest Grant Letter looks to the market
    • “I could learn about veterinary somewhere else but it wouldn’t come across as well as hearing it from a vet with his hand up a cow’s backside.” A recipient to the Commission on vocational learning on why such learning is so important
    • “Do they think Silicon Valley wants people who can understand calculus and linear algebra or students who turn up saying ‘don’t worry we can Google everything?’” The Education Minister defends changes to A levels

    Word or phrase of the month

    •  ‘Clunking and gridding.’ Maths techniques the Government doesn’t like.
    read more