Policy Tracker - Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in February 2013

A busy month for schools with an orderly retreat sounded around some of the proposed changes to the Key Stage 4 exams system and further consultation launched on both the emerging National Curriculum and a more balanced secondary school accountability framework.

For FE the month saw Lord Heseltine give evidence on the case for a single funding pot for adult skills, Sir Michael Wilshaw defend Ofsted’s reporting of FE, consultation on a proposed FE Guild draw to a close and a mixed bag of stats on apprenticeship starts, youth unemployment and the Work Programme released. For HE, debate continued about numbers and future funding while HEFCE started the process of cutting the ever slimmer grant cake ready for 2013/14

Key headlines from the month

  • Children and Families Bill. Now published and with new SEN arrangements included
  • School improvement. Ofsted sets out how it intends to inspect LA provision
  • National Curriculum. Latest proposed Programmes of Study for KS1-3 published
  • GCSE English. Wales declares separate approach to grading
  • Maths. Further research highlights concerns about international performance
  • GCSEs. Back in place but subject to ‘radical’ reform
  • A levels. HE continue to come out against the standalone AS
  • 14-19. Both Labour and Lib-Dems seek further views
  • School accountability. New criteria for secondary schools put out for consultation
  • Ofsted. Regional directors announced, School Data Dashboard launched
  • FE Guild. Rapid fire consultation draws to a close
  • 24+ Learning Loans. Further details on loan facility conditions issued
  • QCF. SFA identifies lists for cull of low number qualifications
  • Skills system. BIS Committee examine Heseltine proposals
  • HE funding. HEFCE start to apportion funds for 2013/14
  • Apprenticeships. New starts up 13.9% on previous year but dips at pre-19
  • Employer Ownership Pilot. Bidding for Round 2 now under way
  • Work Programme. Further criticisms from the Public Accounts Committee

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

Speeches of the month

  • Michael Gove’s 5 February SMF speech offers a vigorous defence of his qualification reform policy and argues that it provides the real progressive agenda now
  • President Obama’s 12 February State of the Union speech emphasises the importance of educational opportunity and affordability
  • Ed Miliband’s 14 February Bedford speech highlights the importance of skills as part of his One Nation economic reform programme

Quotes of the month

  • “I cannot envisage circumstances where Government support for those things will be reduced in the next spending round.” Vince Cable draws up the ramparts around his Dept as the Treasury sharpens its knife
  • “The regime there now is, there is no age limit on fee loans.” David Willetts encourages the older generation to keep on learning
  • “I have decided not to make the best the enemy of the good.”  Michael Gove tells the House why he has decided not to move ahead with EBCs and exam system change
  • “We need a revolution in vocational education and apprenticeships.” Ed Miliband confirms the importance of vocational education to Labour’s Skills Taskforce Review
  • “Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.” President Obama includes a number of education announcements in his annual State of the Union Address
  • “I will be a bit like King Lear touring the country, meeting with these eight regional directors and finding out what is happening.” Sir Michael Wilshaw tells the Education Committee how Ofsted’s new regional tier will operate

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Rhetorical afflatus.’  What the Secretary of State thinks the current National Curriculum has too much of
  • ‘Bending spending.’ How Michael Heseltine thinks funds should be stretched
  • ‘Festina lente.’ What one MP advised Michael Gove to do. ( ‘make haste slowly’ for non EBacc graduates).

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.