Plenty going on in Westminster but no shortage in education either this week.
For higher education, Oxford University outlined proposals to widen access, the HE Policy Institute (HEPI) published a Paper on staff wellbeing and the Russell Group revamped its guidance on subject choice for entry to uni. For FE and skills, another report on apprenticeships was launched, the government flexed up its proposals on industry placements for T levels and a new report was published on skills policy.
For schools, aside from a couple of government landscape announcements and an interesting report on school choice, a campaign was launched to ban mobile phones in schools. In between all this, the Chancellor made a keynote speech identifying four challenges for our time, Brexit apart, and the exams season trundled on with a number of the heavyweights featuring this week.
Here’s a bit of detail behind some of these stories.
For HE, there’s been considerable interest in what Oxford described as ‘a sea-change’ in its admissions policy with the announcement of two schemes, an Opportunity scheme and a Foundation programme, to help widen access. The aim is to see a quarter of its undergrads coming from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2023. That’s an increase of 10% on current figures and has been generally welcomed though one commentator saw it as a ‘drop in the ocean.’ Equally important perhaps may well be the changes made by the Russell Group to its listing of so-called facilitating subjects for university entry. In a new announcement this week, the Group indicated that it was shifting from listing designated subjects to providing a more comprehensive and interactive website that will appeal to a wider audience. A move welcomed by many.
Next FE and skills where it’s been equally busy this week. The Public Accounts Committee published a new report on apprenticeships, making it eight major themed reports so far this year, not all critical but with a steady list of priorities such as improving access and take-up at L2, now building up. Elsewhere the government responded to a concern around T levels by loosening up some of the arrangements around industry placements and offering employers the prospect of some funding for expenses. And putting skills policy in perspective, the latest Sense and Instability report reminded us just how much churn there is in this area.
Finally, in a week in which a survey reported that teenagers check their phones every two minutes, the Parents and Teachers for Excellence group called for a ban on mobile phones in schools altogether.