Policy Tracker - Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in February 2015

It’s been a month which has seen education power up the agenda as this month’s listing shows.

Key headlines from the month

  • Baseline assessments. DfE lists approved providers
  • Primary assessment. DfE launches new commission to review best practice
  • Class sizes. Labour pledges to restrict to 30 for 5,6,7 yr olds
  • School places. DfE puts in more money to cover next 3 years
  • 11 yr olds. The Education Secretary plans new benchmark standards
  • GCSEs/A levels. DfE and Ofqual publishes regs and guidance for 2016 batch
  • Science practicals. Ofqual confirms new uncoupled arrangements at A level
  • Maths. Cambridge Maths launch new manifesto to raise maths standards
  • PSHE. Education Committee calls for the subject to be beefed up
  • ALCAB. A level content advisory body stood down ‘for the time being’
  • Teacher Workloads. Debates continue about whether real issues tackled
  • Academies. The government plans to extend to schools requiring improvement 
  • School funding. The government sticks to ‘flat-cash,’ Labour and Lib-Dems plan protection
  • Inspections. Ofsted confirms shorter more frequent inspections from Sept 2015
  • Sixth Form Colleges. MPs sign up to removing the VAT burden
  • Work experience. Labour promise it for 14-16 yr olds as UKCES find it’s drying up
  • Apprenticeships. Labour pledges to create 80,000 more a year
  • Voc Quals. Ofqual announces consultation on new post QCF framework
  • FE. Further squeeze on adult skills budget signalled in latest funding letter
  • North East. Gets a new Growth Deal
  • UCAS. Gearing up to include applications to European as well as UK universities
  • HE. HEFCE publishes latest Business Plan
  • HE regulation. UUK proposes new statutory body
  • HE tuition fees. Labour confirms plans to cut fees by a third
  • HE participation. OFFA calls for faster progress on fair access at selective universities
  • Alternative HE providers. Public Accounts Committee expresses concerns about quality and costs
  • UKMoocs. Tops a million learners. 

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

Speeches of the month

  • Greg Clark’s 4 February HEFCE Annual Conference speech acknowledges how important HE is to the country and what the government is doing to support it
  • Gleny Stacey’s 4 February Association of Colleges Examining officers speech explains what changes Ofqual is making to improve the exam system including the changes to practical work
  • David Cameron’s 10 February British Chambers of Commerce speech spells out how the government has been supporting business and pledges more of the same to help growth
  • Ed Balls’ 10 February British Chambers of Commerce speech calls for a new industrial policy, a competitive tax system and reform rather than exit from the EU
  • Glenys Stacey’s 12 February speech to the Skills Summit sets out Ofqual’s approach to regulating adult voc quals and announces consultation on a new framework
  • Ed Miliband’s 16 February industrial plan speech pledges more apprenticeships as part of a range of measures to raise productivity and prosperity for all
  • Glenys Stacey’s 25 February Next Steps speech sets out progress being made in reforming GCSEs and A levels and warns against throwing it all away
  • Nick Gibb’s 25 February Reform speech sets out government thinking on primary assessment and what the government is hoping for from the current reforms.

Quotes of the month

  • “No one wants their child to go to a failing school and no one wants them to go to a coasting school either.” The Prime Minister on raising school standards
  • "I’m not saying that every Labour minister under the last administration was universally loved but…” .” Ed Miliband promises a new beginning for teachers
  • “It is worth noting that the average college has made 105 redundancies since 2009/10.” The Chief Ex of the AoC on the pressures in FE as the latest funding letter brings more bad news
  • “I would ask any incoming government to consider carefully before tinkering under the bonnet of GCSEs and A levels in the near future.” The Chief Exc of Ofqual on sticking to plan
  • “We do not believe your proposals will get close to the root cause of the workload problem. “ Teacher unions write to the Education Secretary about the workforce reforms.

Word or phrase of the month

  • 'Polyanna creep.’ To try and show things in a better light. 

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.