The general election has obviously dominated headlines this week with education likely to feature as a key policy area. It’s remained consistently high up the list of voter concerns in recent polls, it’s an area Opposition Parties have been busy working on in recent months and it’s a sector that the government has showered with funds recently as a demonstration of their commitment. The Education Secretary’s Written Statement to Parliament this week, outlining key achievements by the DfE since 2010 offers further proof that the government remains keen to hold the ring in this area.
More on all this in a minute but let’s start by tidying up this week’s education developments.
Higher education first where the Minister hosted a roundtable on student accommodation and the Office for Students issued a series of reports. The most significant of these perhaps looked at how the first year of the new registration process for HE providers had gone, pointing to what appears to have been some uncomfortable discussions with providers.
In FE/skills, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has been in conference and it’s also been a full week for reports. The CBI and Learning and Work Institute reported on lifelong learning and the case for apprenticeship levy reform respectively while the Industrial Strategy Council published a landmark report on future UK skills mismatches. A summary of the report by Council Chair Andy Haldane can be found here. As he concluded: “vocational training, long the collapsed left lung of the UK’s educational system, needs to be urgently resuscitated.”
For schools, the government has invited bids to help with school facilities improvement, the Education Policy Institute published the second report in its series on school expenditure looking at which type of school spends most, and a commissioned report for the Northern Powerhouse highlighted the importance of contextual matters when it comes to considering school performance.
And so back to the election where the importance or otherwise of the student vote has been under considerable discussion this week with both the BBC and HE Policy Institute offering their thoughts. A lot seems to depend on where students will be on the day given university terms across the UK are so different. As to how students might vote, the latest YouthSight poll of students has Labour ahead in terms of student choice though not with the same level of enthusiasm as before. As for early pitches, the Russell Group has been quickly off the mark with a wish list for a future government that includes maintaining per student funding levels and retaining close relationships with EU partners. It’s all up and running.