More Conferences this week including of course the Conservatives but also independent schools.
Elsewhere, the Times Higher had an interesting article on what scrapping private schools might do to some admissions numbers, contracts for developing the next wave of T levels were announced and the ESFA looked to strengthen the rules around subcontracting. As for schools, there’ve been useful articles on data and assessment, school system reform and comparing standards across exam boards.
But it’s to the Conservative Party Conference that we head first where a number of education announcements were made with FE, for a change, getting some of the biggest notices.
It’s worth reflecting for a moment why FE is getting its place in the sun at last. Reasons include the fact that both the Chancellor and Education Secretary have studied there, the demographics are about to shift in favour of their core ‘customer’ group, the skills training it offers is forecast to be in demand post-Brexit and a post-Augar bounce has seen politicians recognize the importance of the ‘other 50%.’ It’s no wonder therefore that the sector is looking to design a College of the Future model to take on new challenges.
So what was announced at the Conference for FE? Four, or perhaps five things stand out. First the announcement of a new Skills and Productivity Board to provide expert advice on aligning learning provision with economic need. This comes two years after the demise of the Commission for Employment and Skills but where the inclusion of ‘Productivity’ is key. Second, a further increase in the numbers of Institutes of Technology, still not quite clear about how they’ll operate but the potential is there. Third, a promise to benchmark technical learning opportunities against a supposed competitor country – Germany. Fourth, support for young people with a new Fund and a pilot jobs app. And fifth, a new White Paper on devolution, potentially therefore a further nod towards local planning and delivery.
And so to the other big Conference this week, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) of independent schools. They met of course in the wake of Labour Party proposals to withdraw benefits for private schools and merge them into the state sector. This clearly featured in the Chair’s opening speech which highlighted the contribution such schools make as well providing survey evidence showing plans to scrap such schools were not popular with voters. The Conference went on to consider other timely matters including how young people feel about going off to uni – a mix of excitement but also anxiety – the emergence of another social media challenge facing young people, that of ‘sadfishing,’ posting emotional issues to elicit attention, apparently and the potential of AI to replace exams.