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

A big month for learning and skills with the CBI Conference, the AoC Conference and this year, the Skills Show following in quick succession and provoking a range of announcements. 

Main talking points

Not much quieter elsewhere with notable developments on performance tables, A levels and apprenticeships and Reports from the CBI, Ofsted, Ofqual, NAO and both Education Committees amongst others all helping to keep the lights burning.

Key headlines from the month

  • Primary Schools. 400 underperformers to be converted to Academy status by end of 2013
  • Calculators. Banned for KS2 tests from 2014
  • Performance Tables. The Dept publishes the KS4 list for 2015
  • GCSE English. Raw grades only to be issued for Jan 2013 assessments
  • EBacc. 22 academics sign an open letter expressing concern
  • RE. Cross party MPs get together to stop the subject being marginalised
  • Engineering Diploma. Royal Academy of Engineering work up new model
  • English and maths. SFA confirm additional monies for adults and apprentices
  • A levels. Jan resits to go from Sept 2013
  • School Governors. Education Committee announce new Inquiry
  • 16-19 VQs. Government to consult on criteria for performance table recognition
  • College estate. Further ‘renewal grant’ money allocated
  • FE Guild. Project team put together, consultation due Jan 2013
  • Employer Ownership Pilots. Round 2 bids launched
  • Earn or learn. Scheme proposals due early next year
  • Work Programme. Latest data indicate target likely to be missed
  • Graduate jobs. Futuretrack survey reports job market remaining challenging
  • University status. 10 more Colleges await university nomenclature
  • University access. HEFCE and OFFA prepare report for mid Jan
  • University freedom. New group set up to defend the freedom of British universities
  • Unemployment. Drops to 2.51m, 963,000 for 16-24 yr olds but p/t working up.

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

  • GCSE English 2012. Ofqual offer a second and more detailed surmise on the issues afflicting this year’s GCSE English
  • Governance and leadership of the DfE. The Education Committee reports on its inquiry into the running of the Dept and considers some of the impact of rapid change
  • Skills Survey 2012. The Chartered Institute of Insurers report on strengths and weaknesses in the skills supply chain to their industry
  • Financial Health of the HE sector. HE passes the HEFCE medical but it seems that much depends on the strength of future student recruitment cycles
  • BIS Committee Inquiry into Apprenticeships. The BIS Committee complete its 11 month Inquiry into issues around apprenticeships and come up with 32 recommendations
  • DfE Review Report. The Dept follows up its own internal review by proposing some important changes to the future size, structure and workings of the Dept
  • Tracking the decision making of high achieving HE applicants. BIS and the Sutton Trust identify the barriers facing particular groups of students
  • Analysis of the consultation on A level reform. Ofqual report on the 1,000 or so responses to its summer consultation on A level reform and announce some initial change to resits
  • Decoding learning. NESTA reflect on the promised land of digital education and see schools purchasing a lot of kit with little regard to how it can best be used
  • First Steps. The CBI turn their attention to schools and throw their weight behind a streamlined curriculum, a balance between skills and knowledge and testing at 18 not 16
  • Employer Ownership of Skills Pilot. BIS and the UKCES release the Prospectus for Round 2 bids following the successful approval of over 30 bids from Round 1
  • Annual Innovation Report. The latest Foresight Report highlights over 50 new and developing technologies that could help stimulate future economic growth
  • Managing the expansion of the Academies Programme. The NAO report on how the Dept is managing a rapid expansion of the Programme and the effect on Dept budgets
  • Regulating AO Training Events for Teachers. Ofqual follow up their initial report by launching a consultation on some new regulatory measures for ‘exam’ board teacher seminars
  • Consultation on Chartered Status for FE Institutions. BIS follow up the Lingfield Report by asking for views on what should constitute the criteria for chartered status
  • Choice and Competition in FE. The Institute of Government offer a history lesson on the various attempts at reforming FE
  • The Richard Review of Apprenticeships. The latest Apprenticeship Report proposes a stronger shift towards funded employer ownership of standards and delivery
  • Ofsted Annual Report. Ofsted’s latest Annual Report sees 70% of providers performing well but concerns about provision in some parts of the country
  • Review of Qualifications for 14-19 yr olds in Wales. The Welsh Government go for a single Qual Body but keep GCSEs, A levels and voc quals as part of a strengthened Welsh Bacc.

Speeches of the month

  • Elizabeth Truss’s 9 November speech sets out how the Government is setting about raising maths standards such as removing the use of a calculator in KS2 tests
  • Michael Gove’s 9 November speech offers a stout defence of external exams and tests as helping ensure equal treatment and social justice
  • Glenys Stacey’s 14 November speech considers some of the challenges faced by the regulator when confronted by significant reform of the qualification system
  • Vince Cable’s 19 November CBI speech outlines how the Government is trying to encourage growth through its long-term Industrial Strategy
  • Matthew Hancock’s 21 November AoC speech brings some new funding but also a number of reforms to: apprenticeships; traineeships; qualifications; and standards.

Quotes of the month

  • “It is probably neither as good as the zigs suggest nor as bad as the zags imply.” The Governor of the Bank of England on the uncertain state of the economy
  • We’re not going to write great books about Joseph Conrad by getting them out sooner.”The Council for the Defence of British Universities on the pressures of market forces in HE
  • “It is complicated and off putting to an employer to have to undertake paperwork gymnastics to pigeon hole their system into a pre-defined set of curricular approaches.”Doug Richard gets the message across about freeing up the apprenticeship system
  • “Education England is not yet on the medal podium but is picking up pace.” The Chief Inspector reflects on the state of English education in his Annual Report
  • “I am as it happens a huge fan of teacher assessment, properly designed and administered but teacher assessment alone cannot bring the benefits proper external assessment can secure.”  Michael Gove makes the case for external tests and exams.

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘RAPID.’  Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input or Decide: a planning model adopted by the DfE
  • ‘Sandpit.’  Space away from the frontline to be creative; apparently another planning term.

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.