Two top stories this week: the rush, largely by the DfE, to get stuff out before Parliament was dissolved and purdah took over and second, how things are shaping up as the election campaign gets under way.
Let’s start with the burst of papers, reports and guidance documents released by the DfE and others ahead of the dissolution of Parliament on Wednesday.
Top of the bill for many was the announcement from the DfE on 16-19 funding where the Education Secretary added further detail to the £400m cash boost announced by the Chancellor for this area at the end of the summer. A large chunk of this will go on high cost courses such as engineering and science, some will go on GCSE English and maths resits but also some on so-called ‘high value’ courses, largely STEM and some T levels through a new high-value course premium. Exact amounts won’t be clear until the end of the year but it’s an interesting move in funding direction and raises some questions about the positioning of other subjects.
Two other areas of note from the DfE papers concern the curriculum. First, the government is launching a review of GCSE modern foreign languages, this coming by the way at the same time as Ofqual announced changes to grading standards in French and German GCSE for the 2020 exam series. And second, iGCSEs, a topic that’s been of interest to the Education Committee where the government published the results of its recent comparability study on performance against mainstream GCSEs recognizing the importance of future alignment of standards.
Not all important reports have come from the DfE this week. The reports from JISC on the digital experience of teaching staff in UK FE and HE, from UCAS on early stage 2020 applications, and from the Educational Policy Institute on life outcomes for those taking vocational qualifications also stand out.
And so to the second big story of the week, the buildup of activity around the general election.
All the major Parties have now kicked off their campaigns sticking largely to familiar lines when it comes to education, so levelling up school funding for the Conservatives, scrapping tuition fees for Labour, although respective Chancellors appear to have entered a spending war. More specific policies will follow in what are promised to be, shorter manifestos. For the moment, most of the education policy suggestions have been coming in from other education players with manifestos published this week and listed below from the Association of Colleges (AoC,) Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the Sutton Trust. There’s some interesting propositions in among the detail of these.