Bit of a landmark week with three important progress reports this week. One has been the latest Annual Report from Ofsted, another covered progress in the Industrial Strategy and the third covered T level developments, culminating in the Education Secretary’s landmark speech. Christmas is clearly coming.
There’s been plenty of other education developments to take in this week. In quick-fire summary, one HE Minister departed and another arrived, the government reported on T level industry placement pilots, and updated developments on Sector Deals and Skills Advisory Panels. UCAS released the second in its series of reports into university entry this year, the Collab Group of colleges released a new report on apprenticeships, concerns grew about a potential overspend in the levy budget, the Nuffield Foundation reported interim findings from its project looking into maths teachers in FE, and a number of important reports were published from the ONS and Joseph Rowntree Foundation among others on some wider social issues including poverty and loneliness among children.
Special mention this week goes to two of these developments; the Education Secretary’s technical education speech and Ofsted’s latest Annual Report. A few words on each.
We’ve had many landmark moments over the years for vocational and technical education but the Education Secretary’s latest speech has the potential to be a defining one. The theme was technical education and while some of the diagnosis was depressingly familiar and sweeping, mismatched provision, weak match with a changing labour market and so on, the cure was promising and built around four ingredients. These included: a better match between provision such as T levels and local needs, not new but with new tools; a refinement and re-assembly of technical provision at all levels with stronger employer involvement and investment; the building of a higher-level technical route to enable progression; and greater comparability between routes. A ten year project perhaps as indicated but vital given the twin driving forces of post Brexit skill needs and automation.
Second, briefly the Ofsted Annual Report. Here too, four themes were identified. First getting the basics right from early years’ literacy to post-16 English and maths, and SEND provision. Second, having the capacity to deliver, with sharp reminders here about the impact of cuts on 16-18 provision but also the need to ensure quality in apprenticeship provision and getting some ‘stuck’ schools moving. Third, and the area that attracted widespread media comment last weekend, how schools should work with communities and parents on anything from childhood obesity to exclusions and where responsibilities lie. And fourth, the need to get back to the substance of education. As education commentator Tom Bennett wrote: “few understand the big issues more than she (the Chief Inspector) does.”