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

August has been a month of exam results but also much more for the world of education.

The main talking point this month has been the exam results season and the traditional rituals that go with it. Attainment and gender gaps along with alternative routes and assessment pressures remain hot topics. Ofqual’s monitoring report (listed) provides useful technical coverage. Elsewhere the apprenticeship levy, the graduate premium and the latest dept plan have variously attracted interest over recent weeks.

Key headlines from the month

  • New Ministerial portfolios. DfE and BEIS publish each of theirs 
  • Early years funding. Government consults on new formula
  • Free Schools. DfE extends criteria to include social and demand needs
  • Grammar schools. Debate breaks out as the government considers options
  • Marked exam papers. Pearson to make freely available next year
  • Crowdsourced exam questions. OCR considers the case
  • EBacc. Education Datalab suggests new GCSE grade threshold could hit some schools hard
  • Coding. Sutton Trust announces two new schemes to help widen access
  • GCSE results. EBacc entries up, A*-C core pass rate for 16 yr olds slightly down, more so for 17 yr olds
  • A’ level language results. Pass rate remains steady, AS entries drop, uni entries up
  • Apprenticeships. Public Accounts Committee announces new Inquiry
  • NEETs. Up for the 16-18 age group, down for 19-24 yr olds in latest figures
  • FE. Latest wave of mergers go through
  • FE inspections. Ofsted adjusts its guidance to fit the increasing number of college mergers
  • HEBrexit. Wonkhe hosts major conference to assess impact
  • TEF. Chris Husbands appointed as first chair for the new Teaching Excellence Framework 
  • Uni fees. Sutton Trust highlights young people’s continuing concerns about costs
  • Maintenance grants. Replaced by loan system from start of the month as Labour pledges to reverse
  • Widening participation. Latest stats show little progress in narrowing HE access gap
  • National Student Survey 2016. Little change with 86% of final year undergrads satisfied
  • Safeguarding research. Treasury steps in to safeguard current commitments
  • Local growth champions. BEIS Ministers adopt roles as local growth champions.

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

Quotes of the month

  • “I want today’s teachers and schools to excite and instil as much passion for learning as my teachers and schools did for me” – new Secretary of State Justine Greening reflects on the task ahead
  • “My dream job” – new Skills Minister Robert Halfon appears equally excited about his new role
  • “From now on, universities will, in part, be judged on how you feel you were supported academically as well as the outcomes of the course” – the HE Minister pens an open letter to students on new HE quality arrangements
  • “And just like planning a holiday, once one series is over, we start planning the next one” – Ofqual blogs about the exam season cycle
  • “Surely this is evidence enough that hitting students over the head with the same form of learning and assessment is not the way forward” – AELP Chief Exec Mark Dawe believes that this year’s GCSE results prove making young people repeat their GCSE English and maths doesn’t always bear fruit 
  • “Boys emerged as the most responsive to bribes” – Currys PC World surveys parents who offer phones and laptops as incentives to do well in exams
  • “My dad got lots of practice books and old papers for me to go through” – a youngster recounts his experience of taking the 11+.

Word or phrase of the month

Wage returns. Rapidly becoming the measure of success for many learning routes but is it the only 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.