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

Clearly a difficult month politically but where does this leave the world of education and training?

Main talking points

First, like most other public services, it leaves it facing further belt tightening potentially well into 2016 and possibly beyond; Danny Alexander’s IFS speech this month, listed below, is important in understanding the context for this. Second, it leaves the world of education having to look at new ways of doing things so that it can raise performance while at the same time implement efficiencies: changes to teacher support, FE governance, workforce and funding, all listed here, are examples of this. And third, it leaves it having to ensure that the quality of its services and products are such that they can fully support learner progression: developments around A levels, apprenticeships and careers guidance, also all listed here, are examples of that.

Key headlines from the month

  • Primary schools. £600m dished out to help cope with primary ‘bulge’
  • Free schools. 70 hoping to open in Sept 2012 but premises still an issue
  • A levels. Consultation to begin in June on HE involvement
  • Exam Board seminars. Ofqual set out new arrangements
  • Teachers. New appraisal arrangements confirmed for Sept 2012
  • Youth Contract. Launches at last at the start of the month
  • Young entrepreneurs. Bids for start-up scheme announced
  • Apprenticeships. New safeguards announced, new Parliamentary Group formed
  • Careers. New national service and range of products launched
  • FE. Consultation on governance complete, one on workforce regs under way
  • HE student numbers. Arrangements for 2013/14 announced
  • HE access agreements. New guidance for this year published
  • Big Society. New fund to support social enterprise launched
  • Economy. Unemployment slightly better, growth figures slightly not.

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

  • Work Experience Placements That Work. The CIPD offers a guide for employers on best practice in work experience placements
  • Innovation Code Checklist. As it says on the tin, a checklist for FE and training providers who want to draw down funding to support development of innovative provision
  • Fit for Purpose? Ofqual takes the pulse on the suitability of A levels as the Secretary of State invites HE to get involved in qualification design
  • The Right Advice at the Right Time. The Skills Minister brings along a TV chef to help him launch the long awaited new National Careers Service
  • Funding Rules 2012/13. The Skills Funding Agency pulls a lot of guidance and regulations together as it launches version one of this year’s funding rules
  • No Train No Gain. The IPPR offers a further perspective on where state-led skills policies have gone wrong in the past and calls instead for a more devolved and innovative system
  • Loans in FE. The DfE offer the first of what should be a regular series of briefings as part of the build up to next year’s introduction of fee loans for parts of the FE sector
  • Community Learning Trust Pilots. The BIS Dept launch its Prospectus for a new ‘Big Society’ model of locally determined adult and community learning trusts
  • Consultation on Revocation of the FE Workforce Regulations. The BIS Dept follow up the recent Review of FE professionalism with a consultation intended to clear the decks
  • Apprenticeships for young people. Ofsted emphasise the importance of work experience as it reports on what makes for good practice in apprenticeship provision for young people
  • Improving attendance at school. The Government’s Expert Adviser on Behaviour comes up with some beefed up proposals to improve attendance particularly in primary schools
  • Labour Market Statistics April 2012. The latest labour market stats point to a 35,000 drop in the unemployment total over the last quarter
  • Work Based Learning Workforce Survey 2010/11. AELP and LSIS get together to update the profile of the WBL workforce
  • Reorganising central government bodies. The Public Accounts Committee express concerns about how much will really be saved through quango reform
  • Business and Schools: Building the world of work together. UKCES uncover some familiar truths as it examines an important relationship
  • The Missing Link. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services publish two significant reports positioning local authorities as the ‘missing link’ in the new school system
  • Maths within A level options. Score and Nuffield investigate the content and nature of maths components and call for changes.

Speeches of the month

  • Stephen Twigg’s 3 April ATL Conference speech announces that Sir Tim Brighouse will head up views on teacher CPD as part of Labour’s sweeping policy review
  • David Willetts’ 18 April HEFCE Conference speech reports on the latest developments in HE and confirms thinking on student numbers and widening participation but not the Bill
  • Sir Alan Langlands’ 18 April HEFCE Conference speech looks ahead to the next Spending Review and argues that HE will need to get the balance right between public/private funding
  • Danny Alexander’s 23 April IFS speech confirms that the age of austerity will drag on for some time yet and so sets new funding rules for Depts like education and skills.

Quotes of the month

  • “It’s taking longer than anyone hoped to recover from the biggest debt crisis of our lifetime.”  The Chancellor reacts to the latest ‘disappointing’ growth figures
  • “I am sure universities will emerge from this stronger than before and that is not an empty claim.” David Willetts tells the HEFCE Conference that he sees light at the end of the tunnel
  • “An apprenticeship is about employment and skills development. It is not simply a vocational training course.” The new head of the NAS is clear about the nature of apprenticeships
  • “Skills have become the global currency of 21stc economics.” The OECD’s forthcoming Skills Strategy starts from this position
  • “It is my view that the single most important purpose of an A level qualification is to prepare young people for study at university.” Michael Gove clarifies what he sees as the purpose of A levels as he calls on HE to assure standards.

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Rainy day money.’ The money (5% of resource budgets) that spending Depts now have to stash away just in case
  • ‘Room meat.’  What HE students apparently become if force fed dull lectures.

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.