Policy Tracker – Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in February 2017

A summary of everything education in the UK in February 2017.

School funding, the recruitment and retention of teachers, maths, the EBacc, apprenticeships, HE entry, the digital economy and Budget build-up… all have been subject to major reports this month showing where lines are being drawn up.

Key headlines from the month

  • Multiplication tests. Minister confirms they’ll be introduced for 11 years in 2019
  • GCSE grade boundaries. Ofqual warns of over-reliance on predicted grades for new GCSEs
  • Exam reviews and appeals. Ofqual announces new future arrangements
  • GCSE maths. Ofquals reports a cautious approach by schools towards tiering in the new maths GCSE
  • Science practicals. New survey finds pupils want more of them
    New GCSEs. Petitions against an emphasis on memory testing attract considerable numbers
  • EBacc and the arts. Research suggests the EBacc has not harmed the take up of GCSE arts subjects
  • Grammar schools. Education Committee suggests they are a distraction
  • 19-25 SEND. Government issues latest guidance
  • CPD. The Teacher Development Trust highlights gaps in provision and funding
  • QTS. Education Secretary pledges to retain
  • Teachers. Education Committee raises concerns about recruitment and retention
  • School funding. F40 Group come out fighting against new funding proposals
  • Institutes of Technology. Collab Group offers an implementation model
  • Industry Training Boards. Government launches consultation
  • Construction. Build UK and the Collab Group announce new 1-yr course
  • Apprenticeship service. Government issues Service Agreement
  • Apprenticeship achievement rates. New calculation system sees 2015/16 rates slip to 67%
  • AoC. Consults on future structure
  • Uni applications. UCAS reports dips in applications in latest data
  • OfS. Government declares Sir Michael Barber as its preferred candidate as Chair
  • Industrial Strategy. Ministers hit the road to explain regional benefits
  • Uni essays. Government instigates new clampdown on essay websites.

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

  • From Concept to Delivery. The Collab College Group publishes an implementation blueprint for Institutes of Technology suggesting some could be set up before the end of the year
  • University applications. UCAS reports on 2017 application numbers at a key point in the admissions cycle showing an application drop of 5% caused largely by drops in nursing applications and from 19+
  • Time to act. The HE Policy Institute (HEPI) brings together case studies of how some universities are benefitting from using technology to support learning, student retention and institutional efficiency
  • Northern Powerhouse Report. The Northern Powerhouse think tank issues its first report highlighting four major priorities: education and skills; leadership; infrastructure; competitiveness
  • Work in progress. The Reform think tank considers potential changes to the public sector workforce suggesting that increasing automation can bring better outcomes and new ways of working
  • Budget submission. The CBI submits its wish list to the Chancellor ahead of the Spring Budget with an emphasis on education and skills, business support and business environment
  • Green Budget. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfS) publishes its Green Budget assessment of the challenges facing the UK economy ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Budget
  • Science Education Tracker. The Wellcome Trust publishes its Tracker survey of student hopes and views on science noting positive noises from GCSE students but a desire for more practicals
  • Access Agreement guidance. The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) issues its guidance to HE for 2018/19 access agreements with a strong emphasis on helping schools raise attainment
  • Two Cultures. The New Schools Network examines data on exam entries in arts subjects and finds take-up continuing to rise despite fears about the impact of the EBacc
  • Schools Revenue Funding 2017/18. The Education Funding Agency publishes its guidance on school revenue funding for local authorities confirming no reduction to the schools block
  • GCSE maths: understanding schools’ approaches to tiering. Ofqual reports on its survey of how some schools are approaching tiering for the new GCSE maths suggesting most taking a cautious line
  • Transformation Strategy. The government publishes a further strategy to help transform public services through accelerated digitalization, enhanced verification and digital skills training
  • Evidence check: Grammar schools. The Education Committee reports on its one-off witness session on grammar schools effectively raising the bar by listing five core concluding criteria
  • Skills 2030. The think tank IPPR calls on the government to widen the apprenticeship levy into a skills levy that can pump prime low-skill regions in a new report looking at economic and skill needs by 2030
  • Recruitment and retention of teachers. The Education Committee reports on its findings recognizing familiar issues like CPD and workload but also job satisfaction and wellbeing
  • Tech and digital policy for skills and trade. The Coalition for Digital Economy (Coadec) highlights the importance of basic skills, STEM skills and software development for a future digital economy
  • Capital funding for schools. The National Audit Office (NAO) raises concerns about the deterioration in school buildings and the cost of free schools on school capital budgets
  • Apprenticeships for Northern Growth. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) highlights the growing numbers on apprenticeships in the North and their importance to the Northern economy
  • Closing the attainment gap in maths. The Fair Education Alliance calls for better support, evidence and guidance to help raise maths levels among disadvantaged children
  • Applied general qualifications as a route to HE. The HE Policy Institute (HEPI) highlights the importance of BTECs as an entry route for higher ed but raises issues about entry guidance.

Speeches of the month

  • Matt Hancock’s 8 February arts speech extols the virtues of cultural education and welcomes the increase in GCSE arts take-up despite popular conceptions about the impact of the EBacc
  • Nick Gibb’s 9 February Olympia speech commits to the inclusion of live theatre visits as part of GCSE drama and equally praises the increase in arts take-up in schools in the face of initial scepticism
  • Nick Gibb’s 16 February Buckingham University speech reminds PGCE students about the importance of formal teaching and learning while continuing to nail some traditional myths
  • Justine Greening’s 16 February College of Teaching speech pledges to retain qualified teacher status announcing that a new, strengthened route will be introduced in 2019 and new prof quals this Sept.

Quotes of the month

  • “The very best teachers go beyond the pages of textbooks to teach young people about determination, aspiration, resilience and compassion” – Prince Harry on the ‘best’ teachers
  • “Not one has transformed the system” – the Coalition for a Digital Economy reports on the plethora of STEM initiatives
  • “The lesson I’ve learnt about technical education is that what matters is developing high quality courses, not building shiny new institutions” - Michael Gove as another UTC announces closure
  • “We are very different people so I think just not being him and being myself was one thing” – Nicky Morgan on taking over as Education Secretary from Michael Gove
  • “Disappointing but not a surprise” – the vice-president of the NUS reflects on the fall in the numbers of people applying to university so far indicated in the latest UCAS stats
  • “Members remain of the view that the timescale and design of the Apprenticeship Levy pose big risks for employers to manage” – the CBI calls for a transition period for the Levy
  • “A guide on the side, not a sage on the stage” – Schools Minister Nick Gibb debunks another myth about teaching
  • “This can be found right next to El Dorado” – NAHT Gen Secretary Russell Hobby suggests a tutor proof 11+ test might be hard to find
  • “We can’t tell you what the temperature will be on 24 August but we can tell you that about 70% of 16-yr old students in England will achieve a grade 4 or above” – Ofqual warns about grade predictions.

Word or phrase of the month

‘Not an overwhelming flood of negativity.’ The Education Secretary sets the bar for responses to the ‘ Schools for All’ consultation.