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

A summary.

A month of accelerating activity as the summer break loomed with 40+ reports published, 8 key speeches made and any number of headlines seized, as per the lists below.

Key headlines from the month

  • SATs. The DfE publishes the interim results from this year’s tests
  • Primary assessment. ASCL host new review
  • EBacc. Government confirms lengthier take-up schedule
  • GCSE. Government confirms £40,000+ costs of explaining grade changes
  • School funding. Education Secretary announces extra funding for next two years
  • Teachers’ pay. Pay board recommends another year of a 1% rise for most
  • Performance Tables. Government publishes this year’s requirements
  • Inspection myths. Ofsted reports success in debunking 7 out of 9 myths in its latest campaign
  • Computers. DfE announces latest bulk buying scheme
  • Headteacher Boards. Elections under way
  • Social Mobility. Ed Secretary confirms range of initiatives
  • Post-16 maths. Government announces new support programme following Smith review
  • 16-19 funding. Associations call on government to increase funding rate
  • Apprenticeships. 440,300 starts since last Sept according to latest data
  • Education Committee. Halfon takes over as Chair
  • Careers strategy. The Education Secretary announces another one
  • T-levels. Pilots put back a year to 2020
  • FE. Ed Secretary announces new improvement fund and training for staff
  • FE teachers. New scheme to train up ex-forces personnel gets under way
  • Skills Plan. Government looking at autumn summit and consultation
  • Tuition fees. Debate intensifies about the their nature, impact and future
  • UCAS stats. Latest stats show fall in UK and EU applicants especially nursing and mature students
  • 1st class hons. Numbers being awarded continues to rise.

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

  • On measuring the number of vulnerable children in England. The Children’s Commissioner tries to identify and categorize the numbers of vulnerable children at the start of what could be a long haul
  • Reality Check. The HE Policy Institute and Unite Students survey young people preparing for uni and find many anxious and unprepared for what lies ahead
  • Evidence on uses of technology in education. The Centre for Education Economics publishes a collection of think-pieces highlighting technology’s potential when used effectively
  • Work Local. The Learning and Work Institute sets out a new model of integrated and devolved local employment and skills services to help boost local growth calling for it to be in place from 2022
  • Preventing and tackling bullying. The DfE updates its guidance for schools and governing bodies particularly to accommodate developments around safeguarding and cyber-bullying
  • Higher Ed funding options in England. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfS) opens the Pandora’s Box of tuition fee funding raising difficult questions about value, costs, benefits and long-term planning
  • Where next on school funding? The Education Policy Institute (EPI) offers a useful little primer on school funding and how the government should proceed with its proposed national formula
  • Work placements. The DfE publishes the results of its commissioned research into what makes for effective work placement with clear guidance, shared best practice and investment all raised
  • Plan for 14-19 Education. The Edge Foundation publishes a further report on 14-19 education calling for a more coherent, all-through phase of learning with a more balanced curriculum
  • Education and Skills Survey 2017a. The latest annual survey from the CBI and Pearson finds employers concerned about future recruitment, impact of the levy and poor school careers guidance
  • School Teachers’ Review Body. The Pay Board recommends sticking to the 1% pay cap in most cases but comes with a number of warnings about future pay, recruitment and comparability issues
  • Good Work. The (Matthew) Taylor report into modern working practices highlights changing work patterns and sets out seven steps needed to ensure work remains ‘fair and decent for all’
  • A new approach to making the UK numerate. The charity National Numeracy highlights continuing concerns about numeracy levels offering its online National Numeracy Challenge as a ready solution
  • Parents/Carers Survey. The DfE’s latest Omnibus survey of parents and carers reports that 75% of those surveyed were aware of GCSE changes but only 30% were aware of the EBacc
  • Laying the foundations. The new(ish) Industrial Strategy Commission publishes its first major report setting out a number of stepping stones for a new, long-term industrial strategy
  • APPG on Apprenticeships. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships publishes its Annual Report calling for better careers advice in schools and increased pay levels for apprentices
  • Navigating teacher recruitment, pay and curriculum choices. The Education Policy Institute looks at continuing issues around teacher recruitment suggesting it remains challenging in some subjects
  • Social Mobility in perspective. The Sutton Trust publishes three reports on social mobility painting a fairly bleak picture of progress, as it marks its 20th anniversary of its work in this field
  • The quality of school governance. The DfE reports on its ongoing efforts to measure the quality of school governance suggesting that at least nine of the ten metrics proposed could work
  • FE Choices Learner Satisfaction Survey. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) summarizes the latest results showing an overall 76% satisfaction rating with the quality of teaching
  • Inequality in Education. The cross Party Commission issues its final report highlighting continuing attainment gaps between regions and social groups and for more help for schools in poorer areas
  • Gainful gigging. The Reform think tank highlights the importance of flexi work for many groups of people and calls on employment services to support it
  • Teachers’ views on Ofsted. Ofsted reports that teachers currently find inspections a better experience than they did five years ago but many, especially in primary, remain stressed by it all
  • Employer Qualification Perceptions Survey. Ofqual publishes the findings from its survey indicating a mixed bag but with some awareness of changes to functional skills and apprenticeship assessment
  • SEN support. The DfE reports on its commissioned survey of how schools and colleges are supporting students with special educational needs, painting a fairly positive picture overall
  • On course for success? The Social Market Foundation highlights key issues around HE student retention, with London faring especially poorly, in a report commissioned by the UPP Foundation
  • Capacity for Collaboration. The NFER reports that rather than having to rely on outside providers, the school system has enough capacity in the system for good schools to support weaker ones
  • Grading the new GCSEs. Ofqual reports on the consultation, thinking and background papers that went into the development of the new GCSE grading scale
  • Implementing the EBacc. The government finally responds to its earlier consultation on EBacc take-up confirming 75% of eligible students to be taking the EBacc in 2022 and 90% by 2025
  • Trends in arts subjects following the EBacc. The government publishes data to claim that the EBacc hasn’t had any adverse effect on the take-up of arts subjects in state schools
  • Understanding school views on Progress 8. The government reports on its research into school views on Progress 8 finding broad support but concerns about the impact on some pupils and subjects
  • DfE Annual Report and Accounts. The DfE publishes its 200+ page summary of accounts and performance over the last year with some useful data on performance outcomes
  • 2017 School and College Performance Tables. The government outlines its arrangements for this year’s performance tables which will new include new GCSE scales for the first time
  • The impact of Academies on educational outcomes. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) examines how far Academies have brought long-term improvement and conclude the jury’s still out
  • The comprehensive university. The HE Policy Institute (HEPI) publishes a challenging Occasional Paper looking at how far a ‘fairer’ comprehensive higher ed system should be created
  • Teaching Excellence Framework subject-level pilots. The DfE sets out how it’ll test out subject-level pilots of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) over the next academic year
  • Smith review of post-16 maths. The government responds to the Smith review into post-16 maths by announcing a new £16m L3 Support Programme
  • 16-19 study programmes. The government publishes non-statutory guidance on what makes for effective 16-19 study programmes
  • Post-16 Institutions Omnibus. The government checks out how the sector is coping with the current reforms finding for example 73% of providers were aware of the T-level proposals
  • Patterns and Trends in UK higher education. Universities UK offers its latest annual overview of the changing shape of UKHE highlighting in particular the increasing diversity of the student body
  • Apprenticeship survey. The Industry Apprentice Council reports on its survey of manufacturing and engineering apprentices finding them happy with the course but not with school careers guidance
  • Inpatient provision for children with mental health problems. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) publishes a report highlighting issues around inpatient support for children with mental health issues
  • Millennials and mental health in the modern labour market. The IPPR think tank considers the impact of modern labour practices including low pay, flexi-work on the wellbeing of the younger gen.

Speeches of the month

  • Damian Green’s 1 July Bright Blue speech sees continued education reform, including potentially university tuition fees, as one of a number of issues the Tory administration should consider
  • Philip Hammond’s 3 July CBI speech indicates the Chancellor remains keen to stick to the economic plan despite calls to lift the pay cap and loosen the strings generally
  • Jeremy Corbyn’s 6 July Chambers of Commerce speech confirms the Party’s commitment to free skills development and training as part of the Party’s National Education Service model
  • Justine Greening’s 6 July Chambers of Commerce speech stresses the importance of government and business working together to help improve technical education for young people
  • Amanda Spielman’s 7 July Directors of Children’s Services Conference speech spells out further thinking on the new approach to the inspection of local authority children’s services
  • Theresa May’s 11 July Taylor Review launch speech calls on other parties to help deliver the vision of a fairer society originally sketched out on the steps of Downing St a year ago
  • Justine Greening’s 12 July Sutton Trust speech points to how seriously her Dept is taking the issue of social mobility and some of the steps it is taking as a result
  • Jo Johnson’s 20 July Reform speech confirms that the current tuition fee regime in HE is to stay but that value for money measures such as student contracts and 2-yr degrees will be introduced.

Quotes of the month

  • “Some journalist wrote recently that I could talk about productivity with room-emptying enthusiasm” – the Chancellor reveals some of his fan mail
  • “Governments should expect nasty fiscal surprises from time to time” – the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warns of fiscal potholes ahead
  • “We recognize that at the election people were concerned about the overall level of funding for schools as well as its distribution” – the Ed Secretary on the school funding campaign
  • “I want to create an army of skilled young people for British business. But I need your help” – the Education Secretary calls on business to help develop technical skills in young people
  • “I am not one of the doom-mongers who believe that automation will inevitably herald an era of mass unemployment”- Jeremy Corbyn on a more optimistic post automation future
  • “I will not be afraid to challenge ministers, leaders or the sector when needed” – the Chair of the Education Committee picks up the cudgels
  • “Not good news” – the Chief Executive of one of the university mission groups reacts to the latest data from UCAS on uni entry for this year
  • “if we are so worried about funding then why are we not talking about further education?” – Paul Johnson, Director of the IfS, argues that the underfunding for skills is the real issue
  • “We are particularly concerned about this because demographic trends indicate rising pupil numbers and therefore rising demand for teachers” – the teachers’ Pay Board adds its own warnings
  • “Right for most pupils” – the Education Secretary expresses her commitment to the EBacc
  • “If you find it hard at first, don’t panic, you’ll get used to it” – Year 7 pupils offer advice to Year 6 pupils contemplating their transition to big school in a couple of months.

Word or phrase of the month

Austerity fatigue. Arguably becoming the political issue of the autumn.

Steve Besley
Head of Policy

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