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

A huge number of Reports and Papers out this month (see below) with the Budget or at least funding generally, dominating many of them.

Main talking points

Public sector pensions and pay apart, there was little in the Budget on education though many will have noticed the Chancellor’s continuing commitment to stick with current funding restrictions into 2016/17 which will, as the Institute of Fiscal Studies noted last year, have implications for education provision.

And on the theme of funding, updates on progress towards new funding systems for both schools and FE were published during the month, bids opened for summer schools and employer owned pilots and the finance package for university students for 2013/14 was announced.

Key headlines from the last month

  • GCSE. Michael Gove cautions against early entry
  • Homework. Michael Gove scraps current (old) guidelines
  • Performance Tables. The Dept publish the latest listing for the 2014/15 tables
  • Summer schools. Bids for funding opens
  • Careers. The Dept issue statutory guidance for schools
  • Youth Contract. DWP Select Committee prepare to launch an Inquiry
  • HE admissions. UCAS shift focus from PQA reform to Clearing
  • HE Student Finance. David Willetts confirms the package for 2013/14
  • HE margin places. HEFCE confirms allocation of the 20,000 ‘margin’ places up for grabs
  • Russell Group of universities. Gains four new members
  • Employer Ownership Pilot. Guidelines for applications issued
  • Welfare Reform. Bill incorporating Universal Credit eventually passed.

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

  • National Numeracy Survey. The new group dedicated to tackling maths skills finds that 17m adults have ‘poor’ numeracy skills
  • A New Streamlined Funding System for Adult Skills. The SFA publish an update on progress in introducing a new simplified funding system from August 2013
  • Quarterly Economic Forecast. The British Chambers of Commerce suggest unemployment will rise to 2.90m by Q1 2013 in their latest Quarterly Review
  • Review of Alternative Provision. The Government’s Expert Adviser on Behaviour outlines what’s available outside mainstream provision and calls for more school commissioning
  • Labour market statistics: March 2012. The ONS publish the latest set of unemployment figures which show the overall total up 28,000 since the last quarter to 2.67m
  • The growth of academy chains. The NCSL publish a report on some of the implications and challenges of academy chains for school leaders
  • Public attitudes to GCSEs and A levels. Ofqual’s annual survey finds public confidence undimmed in both qualifications
  • Moving English forward. Ofsted report on evidence from inspections of English and suggest some ways of helping raise standards
  • Enterprising Futures. The new(ish) Gazelle Group in FE look at changing practices in the workplace and call for greater prominence to be given to developing entrepreneurial skills
  • Hidden Talents. The LGA examine the complex web of support systems for unemployed young people and call for better pooling of resources
  • Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century. The OECD present some interesting case study evidence as they consider teaching roles in the future
  • Budget 2012. A 100+ pages of forecasts, predictions, reforms and hopes for the future
  • Economic and Fiscal Outlook. March 2012. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) point to a zig-zag pattern of growth as they sketch out the economic climate for the next 5 years
  • Plan for Growth. The BIS Dept update progress on the 235 measures in the Growth Plan
  • The over-looked middle in 14+ education and training. The Institute of Education point to a new group of young people likely to emerge from the current lack of provision
  • Next Steps in School Funding Reform. The Dept report on steps being taken to introduce a simplified national funding formula from 2013/14
  • Professionalism in FE. The Independent Review Panel tries to clear the air as it produces the first phase of what will be a two phase report
  • After the Riots. The final Report of the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel comes up with over 60 recommendations covering schools, families, the police and consumerism
  • Plan A+: unleashing the potential of Academies. The think tank Reform and the Schools Network examine progress in Academisation and call for a new Plan A phase of development.

Speeches of the month

  • Vince Cable’s 6 March EEF Manufacturing Conference speech spells out what he considers to be some of the key ingredients of a modern industrial strategy
  • Francis Maude’s 7 March Policy Exchange speech sees giving people a stake through greater ownership, mutualisation and transparency as an essential part of the Party’s modernisation
  • Iain Duncan Smith’s 12 March Social Justice speech announces the creation of a new investment funded Early Intervention Foundation to help prevent social breakdown
  • Sir Michael Wilshaw’s 15 March Raising Standards in literacy speech lists 10 steps to help raise national standards in literacy
  • Ed Miliband’s 16 March Labour Youth Conference speech calls for a bank bonus tax to be used to guarantee 6 months work for 18-24 year olds who have been out of work for a year
  • Sir Michael Wilshaw’s 20 March Policy Exchange speech reflects on Ofsted’s role in after care services that could help school improvement
  • George Osborne’s 21 March Budget speech has little to say on education but plenty on tax, benefits and pensions
  • Michael Gove’s 24 March ASCL speech identifies five pillars for reform: the funding system, teaching, the curriculum and quals, accountability and system change.

Quotes of the month

  • “The British economy has carried a little more momentum into the new year than previously anticipated.” The Chancellor points to some movement in his Budget speech
  • “It’s simply inexcusable for anyone to say they can’t do maths. It is a peculiarly British disease we aim to eradicate.” The new National Numeracy campaign takes a no-excuses approach to raising maths standards
  • “Lest anyone think we have reached a point where we should slacken the pace of reform, let me reassure them: we have to accelerate.” Michael Gove keeps his foot on the pedal
  • “Young people between 13 and 24 years can receive support from at least 8 national organisations funding 33 different funds and schemes spanning 13 different age groups.”The Local Government Association tries to untangle support systems for young people
  • “Sage on the stage or guide on the side.” Former Labour adviser Peter Hyams looks for both as he recruits teachers for his new school.

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Abattoir administration.’ The Times political correspondent gets graphic over cuts
  • ‘Dux.’ The DfE displays its Latin credentials as it adopts a classical term for its new scheme to encourage entry to university.

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.