Policy Tracker - Keeping track of what happened in the world of education for February 2012

Two of what are likely to be dominant themes for the world of education and skills this year have been very much in evidence this month.

Main talking points

First standards, where this month has seen Ofqual announce further tightening for some GCSEs, the Chief Inspector set out the rationale behind changes to inspections and the Skills Minister announce further quality changes for apprenticeships. Second youth employment, a fertile ground at present for planners and policy makers and where the month saw a further announcement on the Youth Contract by the Deputy PM and a couple of significant Reports on youth unemployment, listed below. Elsewhere, HE gained a new Director for the Office for Fair Access but saw proposals to impose penalties on early repayment of fee loans dropped.

Key headlines from the last month

  • Free Schools. Next round of applications opens
  • GCSE. Further tightening in 4 subjects announced
  • Ofsted. Consultation on raising the bar launched
  • National Citizen Service. Further consultation under way
  • Apprenticeships. 3 big banks prepare to pitch in
  • Apprenticeships 16-24. AGE (Apprenticeship Grant for Employers) launched
  • SME Apprenticeship Review. Chair and reporting date established
  • Business in the Community. Network of Business Connectors extended
  • FE. Independent review of profession takes evidence
  • FE ITE. Budget for initial teacher education announced
  • City Skills Fund. Funding pot confirmed
  • UK Skills Show. Date (Nov 2012) and venue (NEC) now set
  • HEFCE. Funding for teaching and learning announced
  • HE fees. Proposals for early repayment penalty abandoned
  • HE Key Information Set. Latest modelling of format published
  • Regional Growth Fund. Further £1bn added for new round of bids
  • Make it in Great Britain. The ‘Make it’ challenge launched
  • Unemployment. Final 2011 figures confirmed at 2.67m.

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

Speeches of the month

  • David Miliband’s 6 February speech launching the Youth Commission Report outlines some important recommendations to help youth employment
  • Sir Michael Wilshaw’s 9 February ‘Good to Great’ Conference speech spells out some of the changes being planned for the inspection system
  • David Cameron’s 23 February Business in the Community speech takes on some of the recent anti business mood and argues that business and social justice can go hand in hand
  • Vince Cable’s 23 Feb Manufacturing Summit speech explains what steps the government is taking to support the manufacturing industry
  • Vince Cable’s 27 February Industrial Strategy speech highlights the work the government is doing to stimulate a growth strategy.

Quotes of the month

  • “A rising tide lifts all boats.” David Willetts explains the thinking behind an open HE market
  • “Hopefully I’ll never have to press the nuclear button.” The new Director of OFFA considers his armoury
  • “If the route to university is a well signposted route, the route into work for (these) 16-18 year olds is more like an unmarked field of landmines.”  The ACEVO Youth Commission highlight the rocky road facing many young people
  • “Every individual soul is precious.”  Michael Gove tells the Select Committee why he’s so committed to education reform
  • “My view is that we have tolerated mediocrity for far too long.” Sir Michael Wilshaw takes a strong line on satisfactory level performance
  • “This will not be just another quango.” Stephen Twigg outlines plans for a new Educational Improvements Agency.

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Rhineland capitalism.’ The joint state-employer training model adopted in countries like Germany and Austria and viewed enviously for its success in training young people
  • ‘Job Snobs.’ Government riposte to critics of its work schemes.

Steve Besley
Head of Policy

Policy Watches are intended to help colleagues keep up to date with national developments. Information is correct at the time of writing and is offered in good faith. No liability is accepted for decisions made on the basis of information given.