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

A number of big talking points this month but two in particular stand out.

Main talking points

One, inevitably, is the emerging story about GCSE reform. Details at present are only sketchy and will remain so until consultation is launched but the leaked details have been enough to arouse considerable concern about the potential impact on young people. The other story remains the economy and the revelation that the cuts may have to drag on for ten years. Elsewhere there have been signs that the Government too has an eye on the future with future-facing consultations on both A levels and Apprenticeships launched and a keynote speech made by the Prime Minister on welfare reform.

Key headlines from the month

  • Phonics. Unions express concerns about current screening model
  • National Curriculum. Consultation begins on the draft Key Stage 1 and 2 core specs
  • ICT. Final consultation launched on disapplication of ICT at all Key Stages
  • Careers. Select Committee announce new inquiry
  • GSCE. Consultation likely within two months following media leak
  • Post-16 maths. Elizabeth Truss continues her campaign for compulsory 16+ maths structure
  • A levels. Consultation commences on future design and assessment model
  • 55,600. The number of pupils apparently skipping lessons on a typical day
  • Curriculum in Wales. Consultation begins on literacy/numeracy standards and 14-19 quals
  • Apprenticeships. Latest Review announced, more forward-looking
  • Higher apprenticeships. Latest funding allocated, degree proposals considered
  • FE. AoC call for free school meal eligibility to be extended to college sector
  • Functional skills. Concerns grow about funding rate in the workplace
  • 24+ Loans. Impact Analysis, SFA Guide and latest Briefing all published
  • UCAS stats. Latest figures point to 10% drop in domestic applications
  • HE – Business links. Plans for a new National Centre announced
  • Unemployment. Latest quarterly total down slightly to 2.61m, 1.01m for 16-24 yr olds
  • Inflation. CPI rate drops to 2.8% helped by falls in prices for oil, food, drinks.

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

Speeches of the month

  • Chukka Umunna’s 12 June IPPR speech reports on Labour’s HE policy review and confirms the Party’s promise to cut fees to £6,000
  • Vince Cable’s 12 June Times CEO Summit speech argues that the Olympic project has shown that Britain can deliver big infrastructure projects on time
  • Michael Gove’s 14 June National College speech looks at progress in raising the quality of teaching and announces further expansion of Teach First and a new School Direct model
  • George Osborne’s 14 June Mansion House speech sets out how the government is dealing with continuing ‘shocks’ to the economy
  • Michael Wilshaw’s 15 June National College speech stresses that while he wants to see rapid improvements in teaching, he’ll always be on the side of good heads and teachers
  • Vince Cable’s 15 June Centreforum speech looks at lessons from history and argues that it’s possible to grow out of recession while pursuing deficit reduction
  • Michael Gove’s 26 June Spectator Conference speech defends the government’s current reform programme by arguing that it’s about raising aspiration for all.

Quotes of the month

  • “We may still be coming through the deepest recession in living memory but we are for the most part incomparably better off than we were in the Silver Jubilee of 1977.” The Institute for Fiscal Studies compares the 2012 Diamond Jubilee with the 1977 Silver Jubilee
  • “In effect, the state doesn’t just open a door to dependency for young people, it drags them in.” The Prime Minister on the need for benefits reform
  • “It is easy to launch Maoist revolutions. It is much harder to build constructive and considered processes of change that address real challenges.” Labour’s Shadow HE Minister on how to carry through reform, in this case for HE
  • “Not to reform education is to settle for stagnation.” Michael Gove on the case for continuing reform of the education system
  • “Lessons should be planned but not in an over complicated or formulaic way. A crowded lesson is as bad as a crowded curriculum.” The Chief Inspector on lesson planning.

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Slow casserole.” The recipe for learning according to the Chief Executive of the GDST
  • “The soft bigotry of low expectations.” The American phrase, adapted by Michael Gove, to rebuff those attacking his proposed education reforms.

Steve Besley
Head of Policy

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