No Policy Watch last week so two weeks to catch up on and plenty to take in.
Developments from last week have all been listed below so let’s stick with this week where there’s been plenty to report particularly around Westminster. It includes a Cabinet reshuffle, a series of debates on education matters, some Budget submissions, new developments around online safety especially for children, an update on technical qualifications and further afield, a string of reports and a couple of notable speeches on HE. Just as well next week brings a half-term break and Parliamentary recess.
A lot to take in therefore so here are some pointers.
On the Cabinet re-shuffle, the retention of Gavin Williamson (and Nick Gibb) suggests policy continuation around the 3Fs of Free Schools, funding and FE. The change of Universities Minister continues the rollercoaster there and comes as the sector grapples with future visas, fee levels and global relationships. Diana Beech’s ’10 things a new Universities Minister should know’ blog is a useful scene setter here. The changes at BEIS and the Treasury are also of interest to education, particularly with the Budget, if it goes ahead, under a month away. Quite how economic planning in a year of four big economic ‘moments’ – the March Budget, summer Spending Review, Autumn Statement and end of year trade deal - will operate, will be something many in education will be watching closely given previous promises.
Before we leave the noise of Westminster, a couple of other developments this week to take it. First those education debates which have seen MPs discuss such important topics as the apprenticeship levy, white working-class boys’ attainment and social mobility, in the less constrained environment of a Westminster Hall debate. Such debates don’t necessarily change the world but they do air views. The levy debate for instance saw MPs from all sides line up to offer thoughts on how to make the levy simpler and more flexible, Rob Halfon for example listed half a dozen including an company skills credit, while there was lots of talk about more voc education and role models in the debate on white working-class children.
And second, that update on technical qualifications which came in the form of the government’s response to last year’s consultation on Level 3 and below qualifications. It’s proving to be a protracted process partly because there hasn’t been such an audit for some time and partly because it involves a delicate balance of need versus supply and cost. There’ll be further consultation later this year but for the moment Awarding Organisations have six weeks or so to make their case for any qualifications with low or no enrolments they wish to retain before the government withdraws funding for new starts from August 2021.