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

Filter posts by category:

  • Pocket Watch – Conference Lessons 2015

    It was always going to be a different Conference season this year with all three major Parties having to adjust to the realities of life after the May general election, but what have we learned about the future for education and skills?

    Here are six observations.   

    Education and skills remains an important issue

    It may not feel like one of the top policy issues at the moment but if the last few weeks are anything to go by, education remains an important priority for many. In the build-up to the general election earlier this year, education remained consistently in the top ten of voter priorities, coming in at number seven behind issues such as immigration, the NHS and the economy. According to the latest survey by Ipsos-Mori a couple of weeks ago, that has hardly changed. As if to emphasise the importance of education, it’s been the Prime Minister who has been fronting education announcements of late whether it be the announcement of more academies and apprenticeships last month or tougher rules on school truancy this week. The government clearly sees education as an important part of its pitch for the so-called ‘common ground,’ offering opportunity and aspiration to those hardworking families it so often mentions. As for Labour, it’s early days, there was a brief reference to school accountability in Jeremy Corbyn’s speech and the new Shadow Education Secretary has identified this along with teacher recruitment and funding as obvious targets as she starts to shape Opposition education policy. For public and politicians alike therefore, education remains up there as an important issue. 

    It’s (still) all about the economy

    The economy remains the overriding issue for much of this Parliament and certainly in the case of the government the locus for much education policy. At the moment, most minds are focused on the Spending Review and what that might bring for education but we’ve heard a lot over the last few weeks from both major Parties about their wider economic plans for the future. For the Conservatives, George Osborne seized the headlines with his raid on Opposition territory for a man and a plan in the shape of Lord Adonis and the National Infrastructure Commission. This along with a promised ‘massive transfer of power to local authorities’ and a commitment to legislate for a surplus for the future were the headline ingredients in his ‘building for the future’ speech and will be of interest for much of the FE and HE sectors let alone those who argue for a more skills-based 14-19 curriculum. For Labour, John McDonnell was keen to demonstrate that there were alternatives to austerity, “another world is possible.”  He duly announced a series of reviews including of the Treasury, Bank of England and HMRC, the creation of a new Economic Advisory Committee and a clampdown on tax evasion and avoidance. How far any of this would translate into a new skills agenda remains to be seen but he did interestingly stoke up a reformed BIS Dept as a key player in the future ”in charge of public investment, infrastructure planning and setting new standards in the labour market.” 

    But social reform matters

    Whether it’s Corbyn’s “kinder politics, more caring society” or Cameron’s ‘building a more compassionate society that leaves no-one behind,’ the Conference season has seen all major Parties attempt to add a heart to the economic head that has been determining government policy for so long. At present it’s hard to get beyond the buzz words: aspiration, opportunity, mobility and so on but there are signs that it’s beginning to drive some specific policies such as housing, social care, youth employment and of course education where the Prime Minister identified a lack of social mobility as “another big social problem we need to fix.” David Cameron’s belief that a more autonomous school system, sharper accountabilities and the introduction of a National Living Wage will help solve the problem puts him at odds with the Labour Party who have genuine concerns about all of those and especially about some of the specific welfare reforms. Social mobility is clearly one of the big social reform issues facing education at present as Ofsted, the Social Mobility Commission and others have been pointing out for some time. But there are others including: pupil welfare, safeguarding, children’s mental health, children in care and how well we prepare young people for adult life, many of which were raised in fringe events over the last few weeks and which will continue to shape the education agenda for the foreseeable future.  

    Schools of excellence

    In the build-up to the Conservative Party Conference this week, the TES highlighted four “major education crises” facing the government namely: teacher supply, pupil numbers, ‘rushed’ exam reforms and budget cuts. These, plus concerns about early years and 16-19 funding were also raised in various forums by Lucy Powell, the Shadow Education Minister who used her major speech to focus on a problem that’s proved thorny for the Party in the past: what to do about Free Schools and Academies. Her answer? “There will be no more Free Schools and Academy chains will be made accountable.” How the proposed new‘local oversight’ will work, whether it will be the Blunkett model of local standards commissioners or something else, remains to be seen but the marker has been firmly laid. As for the Conservatives, the Prime Minister again committed to more of the same in terms of Free Schools and Academies and the Education Secretary to wraparound childcare during both term and holiday time, and more opaquely to “educational excellence everywhere” but how far all this has helped resolve the crises listed.    

    FE still the forgotten middle child

    If there’s one sector entitled to feeling a bit miffed about a lack of political attention over the last few weeks, it’s FE. There was plenty of talk around the Conference fringes about apprenticeships, skills training and local growth planning but when it came to platform speeches from the BIS Secretary of State and his Shadow, not a smidgeon. For FE therefore it’s business as usual, battling to deliver the dual mandate of essential employability skills and higher-level tech skills while coping with shrinking budgets and a time-consuming series of area reviews. Significantly most government policy for the sector these days emanates from the Treasury, last week’s release of a National Infrastructure Plan for Skills being just the latest example. It may be some comfort therefore that so many of the Treasury plans including the all-important Growth and Productivity Plans depend on the FE sector to be able to deliver them. How many, should become clearer when the Treasury announces its spending and growth plans next month. 

    HE on hold

    For HE, Theresa May’s “students, yes; over-stayers, no,” speech was a sharp reminder that the student visa issue remains a hot topic and one that appears to be dividing Ministers as well. Overall, however, the sector remains a bit in limbo as it awaits the outcomes of two important Reports. One of course is the Spending Review where comments continue to pour in warning the government against savage cuts. Valedictory comments from the outgoing V.C. of Oxford and a blog from the Chancellor of Birmingham University this week being just the latest two examples. And the other of course is the Green Paper, given a pretty hefty trail by the HE Minister last month and due out shortly. Until the details on both of these are out and the implications clearer, HE remains in a state of uncertainty. Further uncertainty surrounds the Labour Party’s position on fees where it now appears that the campaign pledge by Jeremy Corbyn to scrap them will be subjected to the Party’s extensive consultation process. Quite what will emerge from what the Shadow Minister called “a deep process of thought” remains to be seen but it’s unlikely to be quick. 

    read more
  • Policy Eye – week ending October 2 2015

    The media crowded in enthusiastically but what have we really learned from this week’s new look Labour Party Conference particularly for the world of education? 

    The week summed up

    According to some, the new leader looked like a teacher and even sounded like one particularly when he began his speech by asking: “Any chance we could start?” It’s a phrase many teachers would recognise.

    There was a big call for ‘a kinder politics, a more caring society’ but when it came to education, there were just five lines. It’s very early days of course but some pointers have begun to emerge both during and after the Conference.

    At present three stand out. First, the pledge to scrap tuition fees, one of the big Corbyn campaign pledges but which has now been put on hold while it’s subjected to the Party’s extensive policy making process. It might emerge, it might not but as the Shadow HE Minister put it rather guardedly: ”there needs to be a deep process of thought.” Second Academies and Free Schools, the main focus of those five lines and where the new Shadow Education Secretary confirmed; “no more Free Schools and academy chains will be made accountable.”  And third, the economy and skills, where as part of an alternative economic plan proposed by the Shadow Chancellor, a new Economic Advisory Committee would be set up and a new, more powerful role as a driver of growth granted to BIS under a future Labour government.

    Now it’s off to Manchester where the Conservatives host the last of this season’s major Party Conferences, (Business, skills and the economy on Monday, education on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s speech Wednesday.)   

    The mood will be different but there’s no shortage of issues when it comes to an area like education.

    To highlight just a few from the week’s headlines below; first higher education where despite HEFCE’s welcome report on the career progression of the Class of 2008/9, those in other words who graduated at the height of the financial crisis, deep concerns remain about future funding and the impact of the Spending Review (see Sir Paul Nurse’s quote below.) Second, the area-review process for FE, blasted as a “shambles” by the Shadow Schools Minister and now drawn into the latest consultation on adult learning accountability measures launched this week. Third, the funding of skills training and in particular the apprenticeship levy for which consultation closed this week. To quote from the CBI’s submission; “a new levy won’t be welcomed by business so we want to see a new politically independent Levy Board setting the rate.”  And fourth and never far away, teacher recruitment where despite the announcement this week of new, increased bursaries, UCAS figures on recruitment to teacher training courses remains low in some key subjects.  

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘Compulsory academic GCSEs ‘a problem for some,’ says Ofsted chief.’ (Monday)
    • ‘Campaign warns 11% of world illiterate.’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘Jeremy Corbyn commits to making schools accountable to councils.’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘Pupils chose YouTube over teachers for careers advice.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘Experts fear race to bottom after Ofqual drops extra science GCSE checks.’ (Friday

    People/organisations in the news this week

    • John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in a wide-ranging speech to the Labour Party Conference, signalled that the BIS Dept would be a key driver of economic growth in any future Labour government
    • Lucy Powell who used her first Conference speech as Shadow Education Secretary to call for greater local accountability for academies and a halt to the creation of more Free Schools
    • The Institute of Government who used a series of charts to provide an interesting analysis of the Labour frontbench
    • Sheffield City Region which has become the latest region to sign up to the Chancellor’s programme for devolving management of local growth planning and investment
    • The BIS Dept who launched further consultation on the new outcome based success measures it intends to use for post-19 education and training from summer 2017
    • The DfE who have responded to concerns about teacher recruitment by announcing increased bursaries for teachers of core subjects and increased funding for Schools Direct
    • Project Literacy, a global alliance of business and charities, who have submitted a virtual petition to world leaders at the UN calling on them to prioritise the enormous issue of illiteracy around the world
    • The Hays Global Skills Index whose latest report covering 31 countries highlighted continuing concerns about skill shortages in different parts of the world
    • Deloitte, who have announced that from next year they will not look at which school or university a candidate attended so that they can be judged on merit
    • HEFCE who reported on the career progression of UK students who had graduated at around the time of the economic crash in 2008/09 and found that nearly 78% were in professional jobs between 6 and 40 months after leaving uni
    • The Consumer Ombudsman Services who published a useful student guide full of tips on how to deal with landlords, utility companies and service providers for students embarking on life away from home
    • Judith Petts, currently pro vice-chancellor at Southampton University, who has been appointed as vice-chancellor at Plymouth University from Feb 2016
    • The RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework) which replaced the QCF from this week
    • The consultation on the apprenticeship levy which closed today (Friday Oct 2) with employer groups expressing concerns about cost, quality and business impact
    • Ofsted who confirmed that it would be publishing a survey report on apprenticeships this month and will also undertake a follow-up survey on 16-19 study programmes
    • Ofqual Director Jeremy Benson who outlined some of the issues surrounding innovation and technology in assessment in a speech to the FELTAG Conference this week
    • The LSE’s Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion whose joint report on the performance of disadvantaged pupils in London added to the growing weight of evidence building up about the success of the capital’s schools
    • The DfE who updated its guidance on implementing the pay arrangements in schools
    • The Prince’s Teaching Institute which according to the TES is moving into primary education and running its first ever event for primary heads this week
    • ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ‘The Book Thief,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ the top five books (in order) in W.H. Smith’s social media customer survey of the top paperback books of all time  

    Tweet(s) of the week 

    • “@GordonMarsden on tuition fees: we are going to review our position. We rule nothing in and nothing out.” @AaronPorter
    • "We have to get away from thinking policy problems are solved by setting a big number” @IPPR_NickP #Lab15 #apprenticeships
    • “The apprenticeship levy is probably a game changer but we don’t know what game we are playing says @davidhNIACE.”  @FEWeek
    • “The great majority of Tweets on Twitter is education is education-based not b/c educators are in great numbers but the group is prolific.” @tomwhitby
    • “Online communities are the new staffrooms says #UKFEchat founder @MrsSarahSimons” @tesfenews
    • “Have we redesigned our entire curriculum simply because one man read a book? The DfE’s obsession with E.D.Hirsch.” @SecEd_Education

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “We’ll also turn the Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills into a powerful economic development dept in charge of public investment, infrastructure planning and setting new standards in the labour market.” The Shadow Chancellor promises a more expansive role for BIS under a Labour government
    • “I don’t intend to sit on the sidelines. We will make a difference.” The new Shadow Education Secretary appears keen to make her mark
    • “Neanderthals.” Sir Paul Nurse’s view of anyone attempting to cut the science budget (Sir Paul is currently leading a major review of research councils)
    • “There is a feeling that beyond the narrowest of employment-related targets, politicians no longer care about what becomes of FE." The Policy Consortium checks the pulse of FE six months on from its annual survey of the sector
    • “I know nothing about education.” But the new chief executive of the 157 group of Colleges is learning very fast according to an interview in the TES
    • “We’re proud of what we’ve done with free schools meals.” The PM’s spokesman dismisses speculation that free school meals could be cut as part of the Spending Review
    • “When you’re up at 1.00am planning lessons, it’s less lonely if you watch Bargain Hunt.” One of the lessons learnt by new primary school teachers according to the TES.   

    Number(s) of the week

    • 757m. The number of people across the world classified as illiterate and whose needs have been highlighted in a new global campaign launched at the UN
    • 34. The number of UK universities in the top 200 of the Times Higher annual world university rankings published this week
    • 55. The number of current world leaders who have been educated at UK universities and thus added to UKHE’s international standing according to research from the HE Policy Institute
    • £240 a year. How much students living away from home typically lose out because they don’t know their rights or how to complain
    • 57p. The increase in the apprentice hourly rate of the National Minimum Wage implemented this week bringing the hourly total now to £3.30 (£6.50 an hour for adult workers)
    • 62% of qualified teachers are female yet only 36% of heads are female; the teaching glass ceiling reported on in The Guardian this week.  

    What to look out for next week

    • Conservative Party Conference (Sunday–Wednesday)
    • National Customer Service Week (all week).
    read more
  • 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