A long awaited report, some keynote speeches, measuring well-being in higher ed, ‘a steep decline’ in computing education in schools, and a global perspective on skills for 2019; all make the education news this week.
Let’s start with that long awaited report first. This was the Timpson report into school exclusions, first signalled in late 2017, launched under former Education Minister Edward Timpson in March 2018, expected to report at the end of last year but eventually making it to the line at the start of this week. Part of the reason for the delay has been the emergence of other related issues such as off-rolling and gang crime but part also has been internal debate about what powers over exclusions head teachers should actually have.
In the end, the report leaves this and a number of issues open for further debate and consultation but does come up with 30 proposals. Chief among these include making schools responsible for the educational outcomes of the students they exclude where the details are left for consultation, reducing the period of fixed-term exclusions, also left for consultation, and strengthening alternative provision and the role of local authorities. The government called it ‘a landmark report’ but for many people two bits are missing: some money and some changes to the accountability system. Both are likely to be debated for some time.
Next those keynote speeches, one from the Education Secretary last week and the other from the Universities and Science Minister on Tuesday. In the former, Damian Hinds told head teachers that he heard them ‘loud and clear’ on funding but wanted help with making the case for special needs. He also continued to chip away at the burden of accountability by announcing a simpler ‘requires improvement’ metric for schools that need support. In the other speech, Chris Skidmore, in the first of a series of speeches on R/D outlined what’s needed in terms of investment and future talent; both important ingredients for the post-Brexit era.
Third, what’s going on with computing in schools in England? According to Roehampton University’s latest report, the number of hours given over to computing/ICT has dropped 47% at Key Stage 4 (KS4) over recent years, students are taking fewer computing qualifications and in some schools, no computing qualification at all was offered at KS4. Hence the headlines of ‘steep decline’ leaving concerns about how far some students in some areas are missing out. Stats will be closely scrutinised this summer.
Finally, the OECD’s latest big report on future skills focusing on the impact of digitalisation where some countries, notably Scandinavia and the Netherlands, are forging ahead. The central message from this report is the need for a broad skillset and lifelong learning, to be able to take advantage of the benefits.