Policy Tracker – Keeping track of what happened in the world of education in August 2018

Policy Tracker

A month dominated by exam results with analysis and implications still coming in. Also a month that seen concerns expressed about an increase in pupil off-rolling and university unconditional offers, important reports on disadvantaged pupils, teacher shortages, Level 4/5 provision and childhood in 2018, and growing media interest in Ofsted’s proposals for a new school inspection framework and the extent of the government’s long-term commitment to its current apprenticeship target .

Key headlines from the month

  • Nursery teachers. Save the Children highlights shortage of graduate early years teachers
  • Alternative provision. DfE announces funds for nine new regional projects
  • Vulnerable children. Government sets up new response unit
  • Language teaching. DfE announces new Centre of Excellence to work with leading schools
  • Teachers. Education Policy Institute highlights continuing shortages
  • Strategic school improvement funding. DfE winds fund down as it reviews other options
  • Edtech. DfE to work with BESA and the Chartered College on new online packages
  • GCSE results. 20.5% entries gain A/7 grade as more ‘new’ GCSEs taken this year
  • A’ level results. Stable for second year, 26.4% gain top grade, overall pass rate of 97.6%
  • A’ level subjects. ASCL highlights the impact of cuts on certain subjects
  • T levels. FAB drops its legal challenge and confirms new working arrangements with DfE
  • Apprenticeships. Online funding system put back a year
  • Apprenticeship target. Government thought to be re-considering
  • FE performance. DfE prepares to pilot multi-site performance data
  • Chartered Institute for FE. London South East Colleges becomes 14th member
  • AEB devolution. Government publishes MoU for transition year
  • Level 4/5 review. DfE publishes interim evidence overview
  • HE marking tool. Pearson prepares to trial new AI marking assistant tool in the US 
  • Digital economy. Government sets up new expert panel

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

Speeches of the month

  • Chuka Umunna’s 21 August Demos speech on ending serious gang violence puts forward four proposals including opportunity, investment, community capacity and criminal justice reform

Quotes of the month

  • “The national A’ level results show very little movement compared with last year” - the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) releases this year’s batch of A’ level results 
  • “We do not need to abolish the Institute for Apprenticeships” – the DfE issues its formal response to the earlier House of Lords report
  • “We have agreed that FAB will work more closely with the DfE and IfA over the summer and into the autumn on a number of key issues including ensuring meaningful consortia arrangements in the subsequent roll-out of T levels and that the sector is properly engaged in the debate about the future of Level 2,3 and Applied Generals” – the Federation of Awarding Bodies drops its legal challenge in favour of better working arrangements on T level and other qualification development
  • “Nearly 50% of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree is outdated by the time students graduate” – Universities UK makes the case for lifelong learning and continual skill upgrading 
  • “There is still something of the cult of the gentleman amateur about our graduate job market” – Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies reflects on graduate opportunities 
  • “They have weathered the storm of an unprecedented year of upheaval” – ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton praises this year’s GCSE students
  • “The overall teacher labour market in England is in trouble” – the Education Policy Institute offers its conclusions on teacher recruitment and retention
  • “We know about mobile phones not being allowed into examinations. What about smart watches? What’s the next technology going to be? How can we help the exam boards and JCQ to keep ahead of the game?” – Sir John Dunford, chair of the new exam Commission, highlights some of the questions the Commission will need to ask

Word or phrase of the month

  • ‘Stable.’ The word used most frequently by the Joint Council for Qualifications to describe this summer’s GCSE and A’ level results despite media build-up suggesting that exam changes would cause ‘chaos and confusion’