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

The key set piece development this month was the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement where in an effort to help stimulate growth, the government put money into school and college capital building but equally significantly signalled a shift towards local devolution of skills training and provision through Local Enterprise Partnerships. 

Main talking points

Elsewhere, the latest batch of international test results for 10 and 14 yr olds saw England and in particular Northern Ireland performing well in reading and maths though less well in science; the Bacc movement continued with new two variants emerging; colleges gained the right to set up new 14-16 centres from next September; and universities saw a drop in entrants this year confirmed in UCAS’s end of year report.

Key headlines from the month

  • Key Stage 2 tests. Test results confirm performance up and underperforming schools down
  • Schools. The Chancellor puts in £980m to help create new free schools and academies
  • School teachers. Prospects of a performance linked pay structure move a step closer
  • Baccs. 2 more emerge: a (Ken) Baker Bacc and a Government based post-16 Tech Bacc
  • 14-16 yr olds. Colleges prepare to take on 14+ yr olds from Sept 2013
  • Post-16 maths. New 2-yr problem solving based course proposed
  • Ofsted. Education Committee announces witness session to consider latest Annual Report
  • Wales. Prepares to set up a new qualifications and regulatory body
  • Chartered status. Consultation launched for new college status
  • FE. Additional £270m provided for college estate
  • Adult skills funding. SFA confirm teaching and learning budget of £3.2m for 2013/14
  • Employer Ownership Pilots. Topped up by £90m to £340m
  • LEPs. Granted key role and funding to lead development of local skills plans
  • HE. New partnership emerges to develop MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

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

  • Engineering UK 2013. The engineering sector’s latest landscape Report points to considerable demand and job opportunities in the future
  • Responses to the consultation on extending access to independent careers guidance. The Dept confirms an extension of the current model to year 8 and to 16-18 yr olds
  • Specialisation in public and private FE. The Skills Commission’s inquiry into FE concludes with a call for more branded specialist colleges: Dyson; Google; even Virgin perhaps
  • Autumn Statement 2012. All the gory details and proposals for the economy laid out in this latest Treasury’s latest Report
  • Economic and Fiscal Outlook. The number crunching provided for the Chancellor’s Statement in this latest outlook Report from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)
  • Update on the Growth Plan. An update on how the 5 year rolling Growth Plan is taking shape, 3 of the 12 education and skills measures now complete, others on course
  • Skills Funding Statement 2012-2015. BIS and the SFA set out the funding available for adult skills for 2013/14
  • FE College Capital Investment Strategy. BIS and the SFA include three new elements in the enhanced capital improvement programme for colleges for 2013/14
  • History for all? The All Party Parliamentary Group call for ‘a connected narrative’ of history teaching through to age 16
  • Post-16 maths. The Advisory Committee on Maths Education (ACME) make the case for an alternative post GCSE maths qualification with an emphasis on problem solving
  • PIRLS 2011: Reading achievement in England. The DfE publish analysis of the latest international benchmark test results in reading for 10 yr olds
  • TIMMS 2011: Maths and science achievement in England. The DfE publish analysis of the latest international benchmark tests in maths and science for 10 and 14 yr olds
  • End of Cycle Report 2012. UCAS bring to a close a momentous year for university applications with a Report suggesting a 54,000 drop in numbers starting university in 2012.

Speeches of the month

  • David Laws’ 4 December LGA speech extols the role of Local Authorities as agents of crucial services and performance in the new, autonomous education system
  • The Chancellor’s 5 December Autumn Statement puts the emphasis on growth and capital investment as he continues to administer the economic medicine
  • Liz Truss’s 11 December Reform speech sets out the context for the latest batch of international test results.

Quotes of the month

  • “It’s a hard road but we’re getting there.” The Chancellor on the long and winding road to economic recovery
  • “The headline numbers in this report signal the challenging environment for recruitment in 2012 for some parts of the UKHE.” UCAS on the difficult recruiting context in which UKHE is operating
  • “I am keen to ensure the best possible provision for young people that meets their need.”The FE Minister opens the door for FE recruitment of 14+year olds
  • “If you did not exist, you would need to be invented.” The Minister of State for Schools sees a continuing role for Local Authorities
  • “For some the arrival of Christmas is signalled by a party or a tree. For me the arrival of 3 freshly minted (international benchmarking) tomes marked the beginning of the festive season.” The Dept’s Under Secretary gets her festive pleasures where she can
  • “My very, very strong view is that we should stick to the timetable we have set but of course if a red light flashes, we will take account of it.”  The Secretary of State tells the education Committee he’s going to stick with his reforms to GCSEs unless he sees flashing lights
  • “These recommendations are a significant step towards the destruction of the current national system governing teachers’ pay and conditions.” The profession rounds on proposals to link teachers’ pay with performance.

Word or phrase of the month

  •  ‘Prozac leadership.’ An observed form of leadership not found in the textbooks but observable apparently in some corridor.

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.