While the clocks tick away elsewhere, education continues to get on and plan for the future, whatever that may be, with a number of important Reports and Papers out this week.
The government kicked things off with two important Reports this week. First, the launch of a new International Education Strategy with ambitious targets to increase both the number of international students in UK higher ed and the value of UK education exports generally. It’s a Strategy with implications across the education spectrum from early years to higher ed. Second, it followed this up a few days later with a batch of Papers on non GCSE and A’ level qualifications, issued as part of a first stage consultation on future funding for so-called Level 3 and below qualifications. Again another important piece of work that will run into next year and beyond and with potential funding implications for many school and colleges.
Other Reports out this week have included the recommendations from the Independent Commission for Lifelong Learning. This was set up a couple of years ago by Sir Vince Cable and is one of a growing number of reports into this area. The favoured solution, if this Report is anything to go by, remains a form of Learning Account. Other Reports this week have seen the HE Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan highlight the financial contributions of international graduates who have remained in the UK to work, the Resolution Foundation look at skill development and particularly the need for more higher level technical skills, and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) propose significant changes to the way in which the apprenticeship levy operates. Removing degree apprenticeships from the scope of the levy is the headline proposition in a Paper prepared for a Public Accounts Committee evidence session next week.
Elsewhere the Education Secretary has intervened in higher ed as promised and launched an attack on pay companies that process the payments of essay writing outfits, the Office for Students has been approaching its first birthday with reflections on all sides, the DfE launched the procurement process for the next wave of T levels and the Bake Off judge Prue Leith called for packed lunches to be banned and for staff and students to be able to sit down and eat together. Oh and with no mobile phones round the table.
But it’s that consultation on non GCSE and A’ level qualifications, Level 3 and below in the jargon, that is the stand-out this week. It forms part of the government’s plans to rationalise the qualification provision for post-16 and clarify the space for the incoming T levels with funding an important lever. The case for change is set out in an accompanying Report and lists six priorities, most of which such as the need for a more coherent and progressive offer, are well-known and are followed through with details on costs and volumes in an Impact Assessment Report. The consultation poses a number of fairly open-ended questions but as many have remarked, the devil will be in the ensuing detail and that’ll come early next year.
‘Cos I’m happy.’ Pharrell Williams sung about it, David Cameron wanted to measure it, Gallup has a World Poll that analyses it all and the UN has a special day each year to celebrate it, but happiness can be an elusive ideal. The UN’slatest International Day of Happiness occurred on Wednesday this week and according to its latest World Happiness Report, we in the UK are quite a happy lot. It may not feel like it at the moment but apparently we came 15th out of 156 countries in the happiness rankings, even higher than last year. Scandinavian countries did particularly well. If you feel you like you need cheering up, some suggestions are included in the BBC story accompanying the World Happiness Report which can be found here