Political dramas have left education a bit in its wake this week but there’s still been plenty going on.
Top billing perhaps should go to the Labour Party whose education plans such as changing the status of private schools among others discussed at their Party Conference this week have attracted a lot of attention. More on this below.
In other news this week, latest government figures showed that almost 20 years to the date since it was first set by Tony Blair, the number of young people entering uni has hit the 50% mark while this year’s intake faced warnings about excessive and potentially dangerous initiation events.
In FE, the chief exec of the Association of Colleges listed five key messages coming out of the latest event in their inquiry probing college models for the future as a new report elsewhere looked at closing the skills gap over the next decade. And for schools, KS1 SATs results were formally published, the Sutton Trust highlighted the growing use of private tutors and the first recipients of the new inspection framework offered their thoughts on how it had been for them.
But back to the top story and Labour education plans, given added spice this year from the sense that a general election may be not far off. Not all proposals will end up in the Party manifesto but they start to set an agenda. Labour’s big idea remains of course the embryonic National Education Service (NES.) Jeremy Corbyn referred to it in his leader’s speech: ‘free education for everyone as a right, throughout life, not a privilege,’ a Service embracing free childcare, free vocational and technical education and no more university tuition fees. How far this can all be given legs remains the issue.
More specific education proposals largely concerning schools were laid out by Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary in her Conference speech last weekend. They included plans to dismantle Ofsted in favour of what was described as ‘two-phase inspection system’ of regular health checks by local officers and triggered in depth inspections led by trained inspectors, Second, the re-emergence of the Challenge model of school improvement used successfully in London and elsewhere under the Blair government to support schools in challenging areas. And third, and most contentiously, proposals to withdraw charitable status and exemptions from private schools as part of a process of integrating such schools into the state sector. The private school sector was quick to point to a YouGov poll showing 50% of people surveyed opposed such plans and media columns have been pretty heated ever since. For anyone looking to understand the issues, the BBC’s Sean Coughlan has an excellent summary here