Policy Tracker – Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in May 2016

All the latest headlines, speeches, reports and topical quotes listed here from another busy month in education.

Main talking points

A busy testing and exam month of course with standards generally remaining a big issue including standards of performance, standards in the school system, standards in apprenticeships and standards for teaching excellence in HE as various Reports here indicate. Bit by bit battle lines are being drawn.

Key headlines from the month

  • SATs. Government commits to them despite series of issues this year
  • Key Stage Assessment. NAHT sets up new review group
  • Mental health. Schools champion dropped as DfE reviews the role
  • Term-time holidays. Government re-considers rules following court hearing
  • Unregistered schools. Ofsted expresses further concerns
  • Ofsted commentary. Chief inspector challenges coverage of science and languages in primary
  • Exam entries. Ofqual publishes latest figures for 2016 summer entry
  • Academies. Government shifts from coercion to aspiration
  • MATs. Education Committee publishes evidence submitted to its Inquiry
  • Education Bill. New Bill to continue school system reforms included in Queen’s Speech
  • Enterprise Bill. Now passed and with delegated powers on apprenticeship targets
  • Functional Skills. Providers and practitioners have their say
  • Sector support. The Education and Training Foundation gets its grant for 2016/17
  • Apprenticeship marketing. New campaign launched aimed at young people
  • Apprenticeship funding. Targeted growth funding made available for 16-18 and 19+ apprenticeships
  • Enterprise tsar. Lord Sugar picks up the reins (again)
  • NEETs. Latest stats (Jan-March 2016) show slight decrease
  • HEQA. HEFCE announces the listing of preferred bidders for its new QA model
  • Online learning. Leeds University announces new online degree component 
  • HE. Range of Papers issued to accompany new White Paper
  • BIS. Confirms future closure of Sheffield office under modernization plans
  • English Language testing. Home Affairs Committee launches new Inquiry.

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

  • Examining academies: Part 3. Data crunchers SchoolDash complete their trilogy of reports looking at the impact of academisation this time on primary schools and indicating a limited effect
  • Solving the Conundrum. Sir Anthony Seldon proposes a star system for lecturers and a checklist for high-quality teaching in HE in a new pamphlet for the Social Market Foundation 
  • State of Education 2016. The Key organization publishes its annual pulse check on the school system highlighting concerns about teacher recruitment and workloads, school readiness and funding
  • The Digital Revolution. Lord Baker considers the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on education and employment and argues for a more skills orientated curriculum in a report for Edge 
  • Finding your routes. The Resolution Foundation calls for simpler routes and more help for the 40% of mid –skilled workers who don’t go to uni in a report for the Social Mobility Commission
  • Boys to men. The HE Policy Institute examines under representation and under achievement of young men in HE and calls for more outreach activity and targets to help re-balance things
  • Access agreement monitoring for 2014-15. The Office for Fair Access reports on the impact of HE access agreements over the last year which have seen £725.4m spent on access activity
  • Consultation on preferred data about graduate destinations. The HE Stats Agency launches a hefty consultation about the nature of graduate destination and outcome data needed in future
  • The HE White Paper. The government launches its latest proposals for the HE sector building on last autumn’s Green Paper with its emphasis on teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice
  • Teaching Excellence Framework. The government accompanies the HE White Paper with a technical consultation on the Year 2 arrangements for the Teaching Excellence Framework
  • Call for Evidence. The government seeks views on how far students are prepared to switch courses or universities where necessary
  • Education, education, mental health. The think tank IPPR reports on the growing concerns about mental health issues in secondary schools and makes the case for dedicated funding and support
  • Ofsted Strategic Plan. The inspection agency highlights three overarching priorities as part of its latest Strategic Plan
  • Making education your business. The Royal Society and CBI set out five steps to help businesses work with schools and colleges in developing STEM skills among young people
  • Higher Education and Research Bill. The government publishes the new Bill along with Explanatory Notes and an Impact Assessment 
  • World-class apprenticeship standards. The University of Derby examines the evidence and draws up the key features in a report commissioned by Pearson 
  • Financial Education in Schools: Two Years On-Job Done? The All Party Group of MPs reports on progress made in delivering financial education in schools and conclude it’s still not job done 
  • Academies: Autonomy, Accountability, Quality and Evidence. The education writer Warwick Mansell examines the issues and challenges some evidence in a briefing for the Cambridge Review
  • Marking reviews, appeals and grade boundaries. Ofqual responds to its recent consultation listing a number of changes for this year including some for appeals arrangements
  • Restructuring Facility. The BIS Dept publishes guidance and application forms for colleges needing funds to support re-structuring following an area review.

Speeches of the month

Quotes of the month

  • “The government will press ahead with proposals to make it easier for challenger institutions to award their own degrees” – Part of the briefing accompanying the release of the HE White Paper
  • “Having listened to the feedback from Parliamentary colleagues and the education sector, we will now change the path to reaching that goal” – Nicky Morgan announces some changes to academy plans
  • “A milk tray of hard and soft centres and a smorgasbord of delights” – one MP’s description of what was in the Queen’s speech
  • “Quick fixes for turning the tanker of educational underperformance in this country do not exist” – Nick Gibb explains why you can’t rush education reform
  • “I wasn’t born odd. I really had to work at it.” Sir Michael Wilshaw on the inner maverick needed to be a great leader
  • “What about ballet grades, piano exams, pony club demonstrations, Brownies’ cup-cake competitions? Should these be boycotted?” – Claire Fox considers where to draw the line on testing
  • “A move from secure fit to best fit would remove some problems” – the National Association of Headteachers proposes a way of dealing with concerns in the assessment of writing.

Word or phrase of the month

‘Self-improving system.’ What the government is hoping to create under its new Schools and HE Bills.

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.