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

Exam season of course and a lot of the activity listed below reflects the importance of exams and qualifications with much interest in Ofqual’s plans for the future and reports such as Ofsted’s on maths teaching.

Main talking points

Other themes for the month include social mobility, Special Needs, the annual celebration of adult learning and emerging changes for the profession and inspections, all receiving prominent attention over the last four weeks.

Key headlines from the month

  • Special Needs. DfE issue formal response to earlier Green Paper consultation
  • Schools. Disadvantaged pupils record higher average GCSE scores in 440 secondaries
  • UTCs. 2 open, 3 opening in Sept, 17 under development, 15 more approved
  • School buildings. 261 plans approved under the new Priority Schools Building Programme
  • Voc learning. Independent commission on pedagogy gets under way
  • 24+ (FE) Advanced Learning Loans. SFA/SLC prepare for info road show from July
  • Adult Skills funding. SFA confirm current budget of £3+bn with indicative £2.7bn for 2013/14
  • Enterprise. £82m StartUp Loans scheme for 18-24 year entrepreneurs launched
  • Adult apprenticeships. NAO suggest economic returns of £18 per £1 of public funding
  • Graduates. ‘High Fliers’ apply early for this year’s jobs; marketing, teaching, media popular
  • Employer Ownership Pilots. 269 bids now in, winners to be announced later
  • Adult learning. NIACE annual survey reports slight 1% fall in participation
  • Pensions. PWC predict a person born this year will not get a state pension until they reach 77.

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

  • Great teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best. The Select Committee concludes its inquiry into the profession with strong recommendations on pay, performance and CPD
  • Taking Regulatory Action. Version 2. Ofqual spells out how it intends to use its newly acquired regulatory powers
  • Annual Qualifications Market Report. Ofqual sizes the market and players in its latest survey of the exams and qualification market
  • A risk-based approach to quality assurance. HEFCE launches consultation on a new risk-based quality assurance system for HE in England to be in place potentially from 2013/14
  • 7 Key truths about Social Mobility. The All-Party Parliamentary Group highlight some essential determinants of social mobility with many rooted in education
  • The Regional Growth Fund. The National Audit Office comes up with some of the costings of job creation under the Government’s flagship regional fund
  • DfE Accountability. The Public Accounts Committee casts a sharp eye over DfE operations and calls for clearer lines of responsibility and better value for money
  • International Comparisons in Senior Secondary Assessment. Ofqual completes its international benchmarking exercise for A levels and identifies 10 leading issues
  • Support and aspiration. A new approach to SEN. The DfE reports back on progress in transforming special educational needs provision
  • BIS Research Papers 67, 76, and 77. BIS publish a series of commissioned research Papers on the value of apprenticeships along with views from employers and apprentices
  • Adult Apprenticeships. The Public Accounts Committee welcome the growth of apprenticeships but suggest more could be done to improve costs and benefits
  • Labour Market Statistics May 2012. The ONS report a fall in unemployment over the last quarter, down 45,000 to 2.63m and for young people down 17,000 to 1.02m
  • Attitudes to FE loans. BIS finds attitudes improve slightly once the concept is explained but recognises that a hard round of information and guidance is also needed
  • The case for change. The DfE submits its evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body for a reformed pay and performance structure for teachers
  • HEPI survey into the student academic experience at English universities. The HE Policy Institute examines what impact fee increases have had on the student academic experience
  • Progress Report on Social Mobility. The Deputy PM reports on progress as the strategy reaches its first birthday and launches 17 ‘trackers’ to help measure progress in the future
  • Corporate Plan 2012-14. Ofqual’s first major ‘battle’ plan lists a number of significant developments for the qualification and exams system
  • Lost in transition. The Work Foundation report on the scale of the NEET problem and argue that a changing market is leaving some young people permanently out in the cold
  • Social mobility and education gaps. Research for the Sutton Trust on social mobility across the English-speaking nations finds an uncomfortable gap in the UK for the disadvantaged
  • Maths: made to measure. Ofsted’s report on maths teaching highlights 3 problems: disadvantaged pupils never catching up; variable teaching; too much early GCSE entry
  • Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives. The OECD sets out a strategic approach to skills policies built around 3 policy levers: developing, activating and applying effective skills
  • Science, Engineering and Technology Technicians in the UK economy. The Gatsby Foundation reports on its work to develop a high-level technician tier in key economic sectors
  • Responses to inspection consultation. Ofsted reports on its recent consultation on changes to inspection arrangements for schools and colleges from this Sept.

Speeches of the month

  • The Queen’s Speech lists 19 Bills for the next session of Parliament including one on Children and Families, a couple on Pensions and one on Enterprise
  • Michael Gove’s 10 May Brighton College speech spells out what more needs to be done to help improve prospects for disadvantaged pupils
  • Nick Clegg’s 14 May social mobility speech announces cash prizes for schools that manage to raise the performance of disadvantaged pupils the most
  • David Cameron’s 17 May ‘Economy’ speech sets out how the Government is getting to grips with the 3 big economic challenges of: recovery, the Eurozone and the global context
  • Ed Miliband’s 21 May Sutton Trust speech calls for a proper recognition of vocational learning as a way of improving social mobility
  • David Willetts’ 24 May UEA lecture extols the virtues of a free market industrial strategy built around technology, research and business engagement.

Quotes of the month

  • “I’m listening. I’m leading. I get it.” The Prime Minister on the economic fight back
  • “This annual survey, once again, clearly shows that participation is determined by class, age, employment status and prior attainment.” NIACE on its annual adult learning survey
  • “Will we ever see a comprehensive boy or girl edit The Guardian?” Michael Gove on how far we still have to go to improve social mobility
  • “Anything less than good is not an acceptable standard of education.” Ofsted establishes its position
  • “Parents need a 5-a day guide to help them get children ready for school.” The Schools Commissioner raises the prospect of a parenting handbook.

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Striving classes.’ You’ve heard of squeezed middle…
  • ‘Skills potholes.’ What the UK Commission found when it surveyed employer views.

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.