Policy Eye - week ending February 26 2016

Policy Eye

The EU Referendum has begun to make its presence felt, with the Education Secretary making clear her position at the start of each of her set piece speeches this week.

The week summed up

It’s ‘in’ by the way and follows the open letter to last week’s Sunday Times from leading University Vice-Chancellors also pressing the ‘in’ case.

The value of the UK education export industry is estimated to be around £18bn and includes international students, foreign skills contracts, language teaching, to all sorts of exchange activity so the sector has a strong interest in seeing how things shape up and will be keen to make its views known.

More immediately this week has seen a new Bill, new Plans, new concerns and a new trend all emerging.

The new Bill, new in the sense that it’s about to join the devolution of skills and local growth planning on to the statute book is the Education and Adoption Bill which completed its passage through Parliament this week. The Bill provides levers for further ‘academisation’ of the school system and in many people’s eyes tips the balance firmly in favour of the Secretary of State as the quote (see section below) from John Pugh MP highlights. Both the TES and Schools Week have helpful summmaries of the Bill.

The new Plans come in the shape of the Dept Strategic Plans for the remainder of this Parliament, released finally at the end of last week. There’s few surprises, most of the objectives were listed in the Manifesto but there are some notable snippets: BIS moving to digitalise services, the DfE looking to secure £1bn a year from more efficient procurement services in schools, some specific apprenticeship focus, for example. A link to the Plans for DfE and BIS can be found below.

The new concerns emerge from the various studies published this week about school performance. The work from Durham, Loughborough and UCL’s IoE, all listed below, raise important questions about just how well our young people really are doing and how far advantage/disadvantage remains a key determinant.

Finally, the new trend. Early stages yet but the story from Stoke-on Trent that local leaders have decided to plunge in and take a lead on raising maths performance among young people follows criticisms earlier this year from the Chief Inspector that local civic leaders weren’t doing enough to raise school standards. With Stephen Twigg heading up the Liverpool Challenge and Tristram Hunt MP backing the Stoke venture, perhaps, just perhaps, a new trend of local leadership is emerging.

Top headlines this week

  • ‘Minister relaxes deadlines for submitting controversial new primary assessments.’  (Monday)
  • ‘Poor GCSEs could kill Northern Powerhouse hopes, Ofsted chief warns.’ (Tuesday)
  • ‘Lily Cole challenges MPs on illiteracy.’ (Wednesday)
  • ‘Higher education Bill odds-on after Cameron backs legislation.’ (Thursday)
  • ‘Warning over England’s teacher brain drain.’ (Friday

People/organisations in the news this week

General Policy

  • The Prime Minister who was on hand to support his local The Education and Adoption Bill which completed its passage through Parliament and now awaits the royal assent
  • The Education and Business/Skills Depts which have updated their Dept Plans with strategic priorities for the next four years and progress made so far
  • The Education Secretary who took to social media to rebut concerns about this year’s primary assessments
  • The Education Secretary who made keynote speeches to the City of London and to college leaders in both cases stressing how the government was going about reforming the education and skills system
  • Treasury Minister Lord O’Neill who told the Northern Powerhouse Conference that the next phase of development will focus heavily on the region’s skills gap
  • The government which issued its response to the Youth Select Committee report on Young People’s Mental Health supporting many of the 17 recommendations and pledging continued action
  • Anthony Watson, a former Nike executive, who has been recruited by the Labour Party as chair of a business and enterprise advisory council to help the Party strengthen links with the business world
  • Project Literacy, a major global literacy project supported by leading companies including Pearson, which launched a new awareness campaign this week built around the ‘Alphabet of Illiteracy’
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) which published an interesting insight into education, housing and other social trends among young people (20- to 34-year-olds) showing for instance that the numbers staying on in education, living at home and getting married later, are growing all the time.

HE

  • 103 University Vice-Chancellors who signed an open letter to last week’s Sunday Times arguing that staying in the EU would be better for UK universities ( for those interested in this area presentation and audio material from the recent HEPI/HEA event on the referendum can be found on the HEPI site)
  • Colin McCaig, Research Fellow at Sheffield Hallam, who in a blog for Wonkhe examined what impact the lifting of the numbers cap was having so far on the HE sector and found a mixed picture
  • The Higher Ed Policy Institute (HEPI) which ahead of the development of a framework of metrics for teaching excellence in HE published a Paper looking at how ratings systems apply elsewhere in the public sector and what lessons could be learned for HE.

FE/Skills

  • The Institute for Apprenticeships, further details of which have now been drafted into the Enterprise Bill
  • The Skills Funding Agency which has announced that subcontracted provision under advanced learner loans will not be permitted from the 2017/18 funding year
  • The City and Guilds Alliance for Vocational Education which published a report from the Centre for Real-World Learning on developing employability skills for young people
  • Bill Watkin who takes up the post of Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association in April.

Schools

  • Sir Michael Wilshaw who used his address to IPPR’s ‘transforming cities’ seminar to highlight the gulfs in attainment in a couple of Northern cities and called on local civic leaders to take a lead in raising
  • Sir Michael Wilshaw who in a busy week claimed in his latest Monthly Commentary that lured by tax-breaks, warmer climate and ‘respect’ for traditional English education, teachers were “flocking abroad”
  • The Sutton Trust whose latest report on ‘Leading People’ looked at the educational background of those in leading professions in 2016 and found a private school background still holding a tight grip
  • Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring which published a report comparing the academic achievements of state and independent school pupils and found the latter two years ahead
  • The Maths Education Centre at Loughborough University which published a report on maths standards over recent years and found that while these had dropped in the period before the 1990s, there was no evidence to suggest a similar decline subsequently
  • Dr John Jerrim of UCL’s Institute of Education who carried out further research on recent PISA test data and who concluded that despite the acknowledged improvements in London schools, the capital’s teenagers still lagged behind counterparts in many other competitor countries
  • Stoke–on-Trent which has launched a £1m maths excellence project that will see partnership groups set up for existing teachers, tuition fees and relocation payments for new teachers and a big push generally to get 70% of pupils (rather than the current 59%) reaching good GCSE standard in the next three years 
  • The College of Teaching which has so far failed to crowdsource the funding needed to release teachers to help set the College up
  • ‘Miss, I like your eyes. Are they real?’ One of a list of quirky things said to teachers and collated in a list by TeachFirst

Tweet(s) of the week

  • “Teaching excellence: there is no ‘ideal lesson’ formula.” @timeshighered
  • “Ofsted’s next top dog will be a real Rottweiller.” @tes
  • “University students are less drunk than they used to be.” @Independent
  • “Computers can detect boredom by how much you fidget.” @tele_education

Word or phrase of the week 

“Flipping workload.” Not an exasperated teacher but former Schools Minister Jim Knight on how technology might just help ‘flip’ the balance between teaching and paperwork for teachers.

Quote(s) of the week

“Every decision will have to pass an #EURef test.” - Julian Gravatt writing in Wonkhe about some of the difficulties the Chancellor faces as he draws up his latest Budget

“Does the balance of the Bill not concern him in that it gives at least seven new powers to the Secretary of State, but not one new power to parents? - Lib-Dem MP John Pugh challenges the Schools Minister in the final debate on the Education Bill

“Yes, we’ve reformed the primary accountability system and no, we’re not downplaying the scale of that change.” - The Education Secretary puts critics of the new primary assessment regime straight

“I don’t agree with everything he’s done but his determination to speak his mind has served the education system well.” - Former Education Secretary Estelle Morris enters the debate about who should succeed Sir Michael Wilshaw

“I thought it went well until I realized my flies were undone.” - One of a number of work experience mishaps reported on The Guardian website this week.

Number(s) of the week

  • 68.9%. The success rates for apprenticeships in 2013/14, the last year for which full figures are available, continuing a downward trend that is worrying many
  • 853,000. The latest (end of 2015) UK wide NEET figures for 16-24 year olds, down against the same figures at the end of 2014 but up slightly (by 5,000) on those in the summer
  • £1,000. What one college has pledged 16- to 18-year-old eligible students if they don’t succeed in moving into further learning, an apprenticeship or a job six months after completing their programme of study
  • 1%. The number of teachers leaving to work abroad according to the DfE as it responds to the Chief Inspector’s claim that ‘thousands’ were heading abroad
  • 3.3m. The number of young people (20 to 34) living with their parents in 2015, up from 2.7m 20 years ago.  

What to look out for next week

  • World Book Day (Thursday)
  • Education Committee witness session with Ofsted (Wednesday)
  • BIS Secretary addresses the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference (Thursday)
  • ASCL Annual Conference (Friday, Saturday. Sir Michael Wilshaw presents on Friday, Nicky Morgan on Saturday).

Steve Besley
Head of Policy
policywatch@pearson.com

Policy Eye is a nearly weekly additional service from Policy Watch offering a regular round-up of UK education headlines and stories from over the previous 7 days.

  • Policy Eye – week ending March 4 2016

    The traditional spring season of conferences gets under way today.

    The week summed up

    First up is ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) whose Annual Conference will be confronting some familiar issues: funding, teacher recruitment, workload and so on.

    Each of these has work pending. The consultation on a national funding formula is still eagerly awaited and time is getting short. The issue of teacher recruitment, crisis or no crisis, has been bubbling for some time and was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions this week where the Leader of the Opposition’s reference to Agency Britain, as hospitals and schools desperately turn to agencies to fill vacancies, attracted considerable attention. An interesting Paper on the future of the profession, co-authored with the think tank Policy Exchange and due to be presented to the Conference, should offer some more positive food for thought here. As for teacher workload, the subject of three working groups at present, no pun intended, has been high on the concerns of those in both primary and secondary having to adopt to new assessment arrangements. The Schools Minister sought to allay fears among primary teachers this week but Sir Michael Wilshaw who had some strident things to say about schools and the profession to the Education Committee this week and who is due to speak later today, will no doubt have his own thoughts.

    Despite the headlines below, including particularly those about 2016 secondary school places which were allocated this week, it hasn’t all been about schools. This week has also seen the build-up to the Budget continue with both the CBI and EEF offering interesting thoughts to the Chancellor on the apprenticeship levy among other things, the 2016/17 grant letter for HE is about to be announced, the latest review of the state pension has been confirmed and important reports published on two of the current hot topics.

    The first of these is the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for HE where the BIS Select Committee published the results of its inquiry into HE quality assurance. Basically the quality of UKHE is pretty high and well regarded at the moment and as the Committee concluded, the TEF should therefore use this as a starting point and ensure it adds to it rather than makes things more complicated and opaque. A link to the report is below. Secondly, the government updated its guidance on the FE sector’s area reviews. The guidance at least confirms that some restructuring costs could be available although it chooses its words carefully (‘not a fund in the conventional sense.’) But the reality of the review exercise is laid bare in the Minister’s Foreword: “once the restructuring is complete, no college should be dependent on, or request any additional support from government.” On your own then.

    Top headlines this week

    • ‘Secondary school places for all undeliverable, councils warn.’ (Monday)
    • ‘Schools sharing staff to cover lessons, heads say.’ (Tuesday)
    • ‘Schools urgently need good leaders, says Ofsted boss.’ (Wednesday)
    • ‘Two more studio schools to close due to recruitment challenges.’ (Thursday)
    • ‘Flexible working could help solve teacher shortage, think tank argues. (Friday)

    People/organisations in the news this week

    General Policy

    • The Business Secretary who in a speech at the Mansion House listed a new focus on adult learning and workplace training among his six priorities for business, promising more details soon
    • The government which published the subject content for the final group of GCSE, AS and A’ levels due to be taught from Sept 2017
    • The Schools Minister who attempted to calm fears in a comment piece in the TES as he responded to concerns about this year’s primary assessments
    • Stephen Timms MP who has recently joined the Education Select Committee and who blogged about his initial thoughts, noting for instance that many familiar challenges still remain to be tackled
    • The Institute of Directors which launched a new report on UK broadband speeds calling for it to be a thousand times faster by 2030
    • The CBI which set out its proposals for the forthcoming Budget in a letter to the Chancellor with five core recommendations including one on promoting skills for growth
    • Former CBI boss John Cridland who has been called on to head up the government’s latest review of the state pension and report back by May 2017
    • Amanda Spielman, current Chair at Ofqual, who will take on the additional role of interim Chief Executive until a successor to Dame Glenys Stacey is in place
    • Sir Michael Wilshaw who appeared before the Education Committee as part of its Inquiry into ‘the purpose of education’ and who in the light of comments on FE, RSCs and school leadership, ended up with most of the headlines
    • Ofsted which has confirmed it will take over the direct management of early years inspections when the current contractors’ contracts run out next March
    • The Sutton Trust and All Party Parliamentary Group which are launching a joint inquiry into how to improve access and opportunity to some of the top professions.

    HE

    • The government which published the science and research budget details showing an indicative increase from £4.7bn to £5.1bn in allocations over the next four years
    • The Higher Ed Statistics Agency (HESA) which published the latest stats on HE providers’ balance sheets pointing to an increase in income for many providers but a drop at the p/t and mature end
    • The BIS Select Committee which published the results of its Inquiry into ‘Assessing Quality in HE’ concluding with support for the introduction of the TEF in principle but only after full consideration has been given to the metrics and the timescale involved
    • Jill Johnes, Professor at the University of Huddersfield Business School, who wrote a useful article about the growing use of public bonds by universities to help overcome financial gaps
    • EU students who from this September will have to wait five rather than the current three years to qualify for financial support.

    FE/Skills

    • The government which published further updated guidance on area reviews including notably now the criteria and details on applying for restructuring ‘funds’
    • The Manufacturers’ Organisation EEF, which identified six ‘tests’ for the Apprenticeship Levy (sufficiency, flexibility, simplicity, stability, restricted for apprenticeship training use only, and basic English and maths to remain state funded) in its submission to this year’s Budget
    • Colleges around the Tees Valley area which will have to find a new university validating partner for their HE courses as Teeside University announces a scrapping of current arrangements from 2017, raising wider concerns about long-term HE/FE validation
    • Sir Michael Wilshaw who provoked anger in the sector by telling the Education Committee that ‘FE was in a mess’ and that 16-19 year olds would be better served by staying on at school. AoC response here

    Schools

    • ASCL, which ahead of its Annual Conference this week, published a further survey on teacher shortages suggesting that many schools were having problems recruiting maths, science and English teachers
    • Education Datalab Director Rebecca Allen who wrote an interesting blog highlighting how schools with a large intake of low-ability pupils could suffer under the new Progress 8 arrangements
    • Four big communications companies including BT and 02 which have got together to pilot a scheme to encourage more girls to consider careers in STEM industries
    • The Schools Minister who marked World Book Day by announcing a series of roadshows promoting phonics teaching
    • Columnist Fraser Nelson who responded to last week’s claims that private school pupils were often the equivalent of two years ahead of their state school peers by suggesting that the Blair/Adonis/Gove reforms were transforming the state sector to such an extent that it was now beginning to ‘pull ahead’. 

    Tweet(s) of the week

    • “Am worried that 1000’s of children enjoying stories for #worldbookday and not doing subjunctives.” @MichaelRosenYes
    • “Wilshaw on inspection: We can tell how good a school is within half an hour of being there, due to atmosphere of the school.”@GregHurstTimes
    • “Teachers can be very wealthy individuals, Ofsted chief says.” @schoolgoverning
    • “Never mind the pious mantra in universities, what about a strategy?” @ed_ontap
    • @nesta_uk @stianwestlake says with technology, adoption is more important than invention.” @Demos

    Word or phrase(s) of the week

    • “AIEd. Artificial Intelligence in education, the subject of a report in The Independent this week and growing in prominence as UCL’s Knowledge Lab, Pearson and others explore its potential

    Quote(s) of the week

    • “We believe it essential that the quality assurance of universities should remain administratively and visibly independent from government or the new regulator.” The BIS Select Committee concludes its Inquiry into Quality Assurance in HE
    • “Not all posh boys in red trousers.” Two Cambridge College medical students set out to change preconceptions about studying medicine at Cambridge
    • “The restructuring facility is not a ‘fund’ in the conventional sense of a typical programme budget.” The government rushes to make clear that restructuring funding for colleges is no giveaway
    • “Some unions have claimed that teachers will have to undertake 6,120 assessments for a class of 30 pupils. This is nonsense.” The Schools Minister moves to allay concerns about primary assessment
    • “Inspectors must uphold the highest professional standards in their work and treat everyone they encounter during inspections fairly and with respect and sensitivity.” Ofsted’s latest guidance on conduct during inspections
    • “Those joining the workforce today are likely to find themselves waiting till their mid-70s to get a payout from the state system.” Pension experts set out the scenario for new workers as the latest state pension review gets under way.

    Number(s) of the week

    • £9bn. How much a year the CBI believes businesses could have to fork out for by 2020 as a result of government business policies such as those on the National Living Wage and the Apprenticeship Levy
    • 900,000 (out of 3m.) How many retail jobs the British Retail Consortium reckon could go over the next decade as a result of the introduction of technology and the living wage
    • £1.6bn. What colleges owe in long-term debts according to AoC figures quoted by the TES
    • 20%. The projected rise in the number of secondary school pupils by 2024
    • £16. How much ‘competitive’ parents paid to dress up a child in the latest Princess to Pinocchio outfit for World Book Day according to media comments.

    What to look out for next week

    • National Careers Week (all week)
    • Education questions in Parliament, where a question on 2016 exam accreditation has already been raised (Monday)
    • BIS Committee witness session on the Digital Economy (Tuesday)
    • Education Committee witness session on financial management at the DfE (Wednesday)
    • Sutton Trust Summit on ‘Improving Social Mobility through Schools.’ Speakers include Nicky Morgan, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Andreas Schleicher (Wednesday).
    Read more
  • Policy Eye - week ending February 19 2016

    Policy Eye

    In theory a quieter week for education with many on half-term, MPs away and the PM on duty in Europe but there’s been plenty to talk about with two notable themes emerging, one on testing and exams and the other on the welfare of young people. Many people see the two as interrelated – the relentless pressure of testing leading to concerns about the impact on young people.

    Read more