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

The last days of business for this Parliament have seen 11 think tank reports, 8 government reports, 3 agency reports, a Budget and half a dozen key speeches. Just the election to come. 

Key headlines from the month

  • Baseline testing. Early years groups call for it to be dropped
  • Assessment commission. DfE lists the membership
  • Careers. DfE issues latest guidance
  • GCSE science. Ofqual confirms new approach to assessment of practical work
  • GCSE, A levels. Ofqual map out final reform programme
  • Free Schools. A future Conservative government would create 500 more
  • Academy chains. Government considers performance metrics
  • School places. Announced for secondary schools for 2015/16 as bulge starts to hit
  • School funding. MPs debate transition to national funding formula
  • 14-19. CBI call for further review
  • Post-16 courses. Operational guidance for new database issued
  • Functional Skills. Not broken but could be improved according to latest report
  • STEM teachers. New incentives, bursary and fast track procedures announced
  • National College of Teaching. Government commits to some funding
  • Teacher CPD. Expert group to develop new standards
  • School inspections. Ofsted confirms what its looking for
  • FE. Minister offers latest progress report
  • FE funding system. NAO to investigate and report in the summer
  • Degree Apprenticeships. 9 more announced covering key sectors
  • Apprenticeship funding. New digital voucher scheme announced
  • HEFCE funding. 2015/16 allocations published.

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

  • Bridging the Social Divide Report. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission issues a five point call on closing the gap as political Parties limber up for the election
  • The Next LEPs. The think tank Localis reports on its survey of LEPs and calls for skills funding to be part of a devolved system of LEP driven local planning and funding over the next 5 years
  • Careers Education in the Classroom. TeachFirst adds to the growing volume of reports on the inadequate state of schools careers guidance as it launches a programme for its own recruits
  • The most able students. Ofsted follows up an earlier report into how well secondary schools are providing for the most able and concludes progress has been pretty slow
  • Reading: The next steps. The DfE includes book clubs and poetry recitals as ways of improving reading standards in primary schools in a report to mark World Book Day
  • The Commission on Apprentices. The think tank Demos concludes its year-long inquiry into apprenticeships in Construction and elsewhere with a call to strengthen quality and status
  • Education Manifesto. The think tank Policy Exchange makes recommendations in seven areas ranging from early years to lifelong learning in its pre-election manifesto
  • Apprenticeships and traineeships for 16-19 year olds. The Education Committee includes recommendations on quality and careers in its report on work-based learning for young people
  • A Rising Tide. The think tank Policy Exchange examines the evidence around Free Schools and argues that the case for extending the template is now proven
  • Costing the sixth form curriculum. The Sixth Form Colleges Association sets out the real cost of providing a post-16 curriculum and suggests cuts are making this difficult
  • First Year Process Evaluation. BIS commissioned research finds happy trainees and good progression rates from the first year of this programme
  • Evaluation of Apprenticeship Trailblazers. BIS commissioned research reflects on some of the issues surrounding the Trailblazer model of apprenticeship design
  • The Future of Higher Vocational Education. The Vice-Chancellors of Sheffield and Warwick Universities get together to sketch out a new vision to be led by some of the ‘top’ universities
  • Apprenticeship Reforms. The government charts out progress so far
  • Closing the gap: the work of the Education Committee in the 2010-2015 Parliament. The Committee reflects on its work over the last five years and its focus on closing the gap
  • The distribution of school funding and inputs in England: 1993-2013. The Institute of Fiscal Studies finds much of it aimed at deprived schools and at non-teaching numbers
  • Extremism in Schools: the Trojan Horse affair. The Education Committee reports on the lessons are to be learned from the affair and highlights a lack of inter-agency collaboration
  • Language Trends 2014/15. The CfBT and British Council’s latest annual survey of language learning in schools reports a slow trudge in attracting more young people to take up languages
  • Budget 2015. The big fat Budget Book spells out the details
  • Academies and Free Schools. The government confirms it remains keen to extend academisation as it responds to the recent Education Committee Inquiry
  • A dual mandate for adult vocational education. BIS launches a hefty consultation to help set a new vision for adult voc learning around skills training and second chance opportunities
  • Making maths and English work for all. Latest commissioned report finds the case for Functional Skills remaining strong but some changes to content and assessment needed
  • After the QCF. Ofqual launches consultation on a new, more flexible framework
  • Moving on up. The think tank IPPR add their thoughts to the growing 14-19 great debate calling for clearer definition, coherence and purpose to the whole upper-secondary system
  • Financial health of the HE sector 2013/14-2016/17. HEFCE offers its regular clinical analysis of how the HE sector finances are bearing up and despite wide variations finds positives
  • Education in chains. The think tank Reform make the case for reform through collaboration.

Speeches of the month

  • The Prime Minister’s 9 March Free School speech continues the ‘all-out war’ on mediocrity in schools by proposing a massive increase in Free School numbers
  • Chuka Umunna’s 10 March apprenticeships speech highlights the 4 features of Labour’s voc policy (more apprenticeships, HE ladder, responsive provision, college branding)
  • Nick Clegg’s 15 March Spring Conference speech lays claim to the Party’s role in protecting schools budgets and brining in greater fairness through the Pupil premium
  • George Osborne’s 18 March Budget speech sets out to make Britain walk tall but continues the theme of austerity for at least the next three years
  • Tristram Hunt’s 20 March ASCL speech suggests new technology, new school forms and new ways of learning can help move things on from an exam factory model of schooling
  • Glenys Stacey’s 20 March ASCL speech highlights some of the competing tensions that lie behind qualification reform as she explains how progress is going in the current reforms
  • Nicky Morgan’s 21 March ASCL speech continues to praise teachers but prefers to keep curriculum decisions in the hands of ministers.

Quotes of the month

  • “What these schools have achieved is frankly remarkable.” The Prime Minister on Free Schools
  • “People still think apprenticeships are for brickies and mechanics only.” The Skills Minister on dispelling myths about apprenticeships
  • “The plan is working. Britain is walking tall again.” The Chancellor on his Budget
  • “We get vocational education.” The Shadow Business Secretary on what Labour gets
  • “Thank you, let’s hope we don’t have to see you back again.” The chair of the Public Accounts Committee concludes its inquiry into funding by alternative HE providers
  • “I call it the cult of the big reformer.” The Shadow Ed Sec on toning down alpha male reforms.

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Empowerment lounge.’ Apparently all good schools should have one. 

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.