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

December has seen the education system under even greater scrutiny than normal with the PISA tests, Key Stage 2 tests and the Ofsted Annual Report all being published in quick succession.

The overall impression is of an education system inching rather than racing forward, battling at times against a torrent of demands. Elsewhere there have been significant funding developments this month with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, grant settlements for 2014/15 for schools and 16-19, and ‘awkward’ Reports on the costs of Free Schools and HE fees, all published.

Key headlines from the month

  • Key Stage 2 tests. 75% of pupils reach standard level in this year’s tests
  • PISA tests. The UK ends up 21st for science, 23rd for reading, 25th for maths
  • Ofsted. Chief Inspector calls for national testing at ages 7 and 14
  • Perf tables. Quals for 14-16, 16-19 and Tech Bacc recognition all published
  • National Curriculum. 10 week consultation on KS4 Eng/maths under way
  • Free Schools. Costs go up according to latest Report
  • School places. Additional funding put in to provide for more places
  • School Commissioners. DfE begins recruitment process
  • Computing. New £1m support programme announced for primary schools
  • School maths. National network of new hubs announced to support maths teaching
  • 16-18 Core Maths. DfE  work up initial guidance
  • 18 year olds. Facing cut in funding rate from Sept 2014
  • Apprenticeships. Loans to be scrapped
  • Regional skills policy. Labour launches new advisory group
  • HE loans. Over a third won’t be paid back according to Public Accounts Committee
  • HE Research. Expert panels start to sift through reams of REF submissions

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

Speeches of the month

  • Liz Truss’s 2 December Publishers’ Association speech argues that the ‘beautiful’ textbook has a key role to play in the new curriculum
  • Liz Truss’ 5 December Google Demonstration Day speech outlines the importance of computing skills for young people and announces some more money to support it
  • George Osborne’s 5 December Autumn Statement suggests Britain is on the road to recovery but must keep taking the medicine all the same
  • Liam Byrne’s 9 December IPPR speech evokes the spirit of Harold Wilson’s white-heat of technology as he prioritises the development of science and innovation and skills training

Quotes of the month

  • “We seek a responsible recovery.” George Osborne’s theme for his Autumn Statement
  • “Achieving his fiscal targets would require government consumption to fall to its lowest level as a share of national income since consistent records began in 1948.” The Institute of Fiscal Studies reflects on the Autumn Statement
  • “They are more vulnerable, lower in confidence and do not deserve a cut in funding for the service we provide them.” One College Principal’s reaction to the cut in the funding rate for 18 yr olds  
  • “You’re not going to see great surprises about the UK in this data.” Andreas Schleicher as he prepares to launch the latest PISA results
  • “I am calling on the government to re-introduce more formal external testing at the end of Key Stage1. Indeed I would strongly urge the government to re-introduce external testing at Key Stage 3 as well.” Sir Michael Wilshaw makes the case for more testing at the launch of Ofsted’s latest Annual Report
  • “The Commissioners will exercise the existing powers of the DfE and they will take the decisions currently undertaken by the Secretary of State.” The DfE advertises for new School Commissioners to oversee Academies and Free Schools
  •  “There was no Ming vase of careers advice that was smashed by the Government.”Michael Gove maintains a stout defence of the dismembering of the careers service

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘MINTs.’  The new economies of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey gain a soubriquet
  • ‘MESH.’  Maths in Education Strategic Hubs, apparently
  • ‘De-authorisation.’  What’s happening to the schools system. 

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.