Steve Besley's Education Eye: week ending 24 June 2022

Welcome to Education Eye, a regular update detailing the policies and stories happening in UK education, compiled by Steve Besley.

What's happened this week?

Important stories across the board:

Two big education related stories have been headlining the news this week.

First, there’s been a lot of attention on workforce matters, with the University and College Union (UCU); the Gatsby Foundation; the NFER; and the Education and Training Foundation, all putting out reports on different aspects, including, notably, workload and recruitment. 

The UCU study, for instance, highlighted the growing issue of workload for both FE and HE staff. Based on a survey of 13,000 staff, it reported that 87% of university staff and 93% of college staff reckoned that their workload had increased over the last three years. Increased admin was largely to blame, although in fairness much of this came from the extra demands arising out of the pandemic. 

Either way, the headline message was that 'university and college staff do two days unpaid work every week'.

Meanwhile, the NFER report for the Gatsby Foundation emphasised the importance of financial incentives – such as training bursaries and levelling-up premiums – in boosting teacher recruitment. In its view, 'a one per cent increase in the teaching starting salary – over and above the change in the outside-teaching graduate starting salary – is associated with a two per cent increase in applicants to ITT' (initial teacher training).

That said, the report reckoned that shortages of teachers in maths, science and computing subjects are likely to remain a concern for some time.

The media has also been busy with other workforce stories this week, notably that of the rail workers and the impact on exams. Sleepovers, staggered starts and judicious timetabling seem to have been the order of the day as schools and colleges swung into action. As one college principal told the BBC “Those who are affected who can't come in by train, we're putting on other forms of transport for them, in some cases minibuses and taxis, so they can get in for their exams.” 

Things even spilled over into Westminster, with the Education Committee forced to postpone its evidence session on post-16 qualifications. “Tomorrow’s Education Committee inquiry into the future of post-16 education has been postponed and will be rescheduled for a later date,” the Committee tweeted at the start of the week.

The other story, growing stronger all the time, has been about the cost of living and the implications for education. 

One issue is whether there will be a spill over into strike action by teachers over pay. According to a chart in The New Statesman this week, ‘public sector wages are 4 per cent lower in real terms than they were in 2010.’ 

The NEU has been on many of the front pages this week calling for “an inflation-plus increase for all teachers.” Along with the NASUWT, it is backing its call with a ballot of members for strike action in the autumn if the government doesn’t improve its offer. As the general secretary of the NASUWT put it, “If a pay rise is not awarded, it will be won by our members in workplaces through industrial action.” The union was talking about 12%. The government position is 3% for 2022/23, 2% the year after. College staff have been offered 2.5%.

Interestingly Teacher Tapp found mixed views when it surveyed members over a 3% pay rise. 39% would support strike action if that was the offer, 21% wouldn’t, 36% were unsure. The Education Secretary has been praising the work of teachers in getting things back on track after the pandemic and has called strike action “unforgivable.”. Battle lines are being drawn.

In other education news this week, the government launched an important consultation on careers guidance in secondary schools in England, and the need to provide requisite sessions for their Year 8-13 pupils on apprenticeships and other technical provision. The so-called Baker Clause. 'New legislation will come into force on 1 January 2023 that will require schools to put on at least six encounters for pupils, over the course of school years 8 to 13, with a provider of technical education or apprenticeships'. 

The six ‘encounters’ need to meet set guidelines and be spread, with two sessions in Years 8/9, two in Years 10/11 and two in Years 12/13. The accompanying guidance provides all the details, although it notably avoids referencing BTECs and City and Guilds when it comes to listing the technical education that should be mentioned. As members of the House of Lords, who are currently continuing their scrutiny of the Schools Bill in Committee noted, the government seems to be intent on controlling things where possible.   

Elsewhere, the government pledged additional support with mental health provision for university students. The HE Policy Institute (HEPI) published interesting survey evidence on student attitudes towards free speech and Wonkhe and Pearson reported on their survey on how best to build students’ sense of belonging, particularly after a difficult few years. 

In other news, the Social Mobility Commission published its latest detailed State of the Nation Report. ‘It’s not true it’s getting worse on all counts, but the picture is complex’ according to Katharine Birbalsingh. The report calls for a wider, more nuanced approach, promising, among other things, the creation of a new Index 'comparing someone’s circumstances at birth with their outcomes in their thirties and fifties'.

And finally, much of the media this week reported the story of the 92-year-old man who recently took a GCSE in maths. He did it after struggling to help a friend with their maths. “I did run out of time,” he said, “but I had a go at most of the questions, except the ones I thought looked complicated, which I’d have gone back to if I’d had time.” Many of us would recognise the sentiment.

The top headlines of the week:

  • ‘Provide apprenticeship careers talks or face legal action, schools told' (Monday).
  • ‘Students make it to exams on time despite rail strike’ (Tuesday).
  • ‘Largest teaching union threatens to ballot members in England on strike action’ (Wednesday).
  • ‘English schools warn of acute teacher shortages without ‘inflation plus’ pay deal’ (Thursday).
  • ‘Covid wipes almost a third off academies’ fundraising income’ (Friday).


  • Social Mobility. The Social Mobility Commission published its latest State of the Nation report pointing to a mixed picture, promising a more nuanced approach in future taking in education, employment, enterprise and the economy and promising a new Social Mobility Index ‘comparing where people start and end across a range of outcomes.’
  • Net Zero Jobs. The Resolution Foundation with the LSE published their latest report for their Economy 2030 Inquiry, looking on this occasion at what effect meeting net zero may have on attendant industries and jobs, suggesting that while it will not destroy jobs as often happened with other major structural shifts, it will change jobs, including notably green jobs such as conservation technicians, and brown jobs such as energy plant operatives, with re-skilling a big priority.
  • Entertainment and media sector. PwC published its latest Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report suggesting that the UK is set ‘to become the largest market in Europe’ in 2023 with digital consumption forecast to push revenue to almost £100bn by 2026. 
  • Family Review. The Children’s Commissioner released the first batch of responses from children and young people surveyed as part of data gathering for the government commissioned Review of modern family life, with many displaying positive views about what family life means to them. 
  • Covid impact on early years. The Centre for Evidence and Implementation and partners published research into how the pandemic had affected access and provision for early years, concluding that despite the work of providers and local authorities, many children, particularly from disadvantaged and ethnic minority backgrounds, had missed out on formal provision.
  • More on early years. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IfS) published the latest of its Nuffield funded studies for the Deaton Review of Inequalities focusing on this occasion on early childhood development, suggesting that despite an increase in funding, significant gaps remained particularly among different socio-economic and ethnic groups leaving some children already behind when it comes to schooling.
  • Financial Literacy. The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) reported on the work of its year-long inquiry into financial education in England, arguing that now more than ever financial literacy was an imperative, setting out 28 recommendations to build lifelong financial literacy, starting in primary school and running through to older age.
  • Levelling up. Public First called in a new report for the creation of a new Network for Communities, funded through the Dormant Assets Scheme, that could provide advice and support to help 100 of the most left behind communities.

More specifically ...


  • NEU on pay and conditions. The NEU called for ‘an inflation-plus’ pay increase and action to tackle teacher workload in an open letter to the Education Secretary indicating that a lack of action could result in a ballot for industrial action.
  • NASUWT on teachers’ pay. The NASUWT argued that teachers were facing a big squeeze in living standards and that members would be balloted for strike action later this year if pay demands, put at 12%, were not met.
  • School offers 2022/23. The government published details on the number of applications made and offers received for school places in England starting this September, showing a slight drop in the number of applications for primary places but an increase at secondary level as demographic changes move through and with an increase in the number of first choice offers made all round.
  • Careers consultation. The government launched consultation on proposed revised statutory guidance for secondary schools to make sure that from next year, they host regular careers sessions on apprenticeships and technical education across Yrs 8-13, as set out in the recent Skills Act.
  • The government confirmed arrangements for schools wishing to request a marking review for this year’s KS2 SATs results which will be available from 9 July.
  • Accountability measures. The government outlined the accountability measures that will be used for this year with KS2 results produced but not widely published as part of a transition back to full reporting next year, and some changes to the calculations and presentation of KS4 results for this year.
  • Ukrainian pupils. The government listed a range of resources available to schools to help Ukrainian refugee children settle in, including a little booklet explaining the English education system along with materials on helping with reading, learning English and wellbeing.
  • School Absences. FFT Education Datalab examined data on school absences in England last term in light of thresholds proposed in a government consultation that could lead to intervention or even penalty notices, suggesting it would all result in a potential increase in the numbers of families facing penalties.
  • Recruitment incentives. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) examined the impact of pay and financial incentives for teacher recruitment of shortage subjects in a report for the Gatsby Foundation, underlining the impact these can have on recruitment and calling for them to be increased in the future and to look at the case for separate pay scales for primary and secondary teachers.
  • Workforce trends. The Gatsby Foundation reported on current trends in the school workforce using data from School Dash and Teacher Tapp to point to latent evidence of shortages of both teachers and technicians and some worries over longer-term teacher retention, with challenging schools in particular proving difficult to staff.
  • Industrial action. The NASUWT called for ‘pay restoration’ for teachers as it announced a ballot of members for industrial action in November. 


  • Accountability measures.The government set out the picture on accountability measures that will be applied for 16-18 performance this year confirming some changes including changing the website name to reduce the competitive element, as well as not using qualification grades achieved between Jan 2020 and August 2021 but retaining the headline attainment measure along with the retention and destination measures.
  • Workload survey. The University and College Union (UCU) published the results of its latest survey of staff work practices across the FE sector, with over 90% reporting an increase in workload over the last three years, a big hike in admin and staff on average said to be doing the equivalent of at least two days unpaid work a week.
  • Teacher recruitment.The Education and Training Foundation reported on the results of its commissioned report into teacher recruitment and training in the FE sector noting particular demand for maths, English, SEN and science teachers along with construction, engineering and healthcare and with some concerns about part-time and fixed contract roles and about early career retention.
  • Pay 2022/23.The AoC set out its recommended pay offer for 2022/23 proposing 2.5% for all staff with an uplift of £750 for those earning below £25,000 pa.


  • Mental health support. The government promised additional funding to help universities work more closely with the NHS and provide integrated mental health support for students through accessible local hubs.
  • Student loans. The Student Loans Company outlined how it was preparing for its busiest time of the year with key dates all in place and some 1.5m+ applications expected this year.
  • HE in apprenticeships. The QAA published a revised version of its publication on the characteristics and distinctive features of higher-level apprenticeships covering everything from recruitment, to programme design and delivery, to assessment.
  • Free speech. The HE Policy Institute (HEPI) published the results of an updated survey of undergraduate views into free speech undertaken by YouthSight showing students taking a stronger line generally than was the case in the last survey in 2016, with an increase in the number who support having their freedoms protected, the use of trigger warnings, and mandatory training for staff on understanding other cultures, among other things. 
  • A sense of belonging. Wonkhe and Pearson reported on their extensive survey into students’ sense of belonging and support at institutions, with all sides keen to strengthen relationships and help build student confidence and outcomes, particularly post-pandemic.
  • Workload survey. The University and College Union (UCU) published the results of its latest survey of staff work practices, showing workloads and admin increasing, growing numbers on term-time or zero contracts and staff on average said to be doing the equivalent of at least two days unpaid work a week.

Stand-out tweets

Tweets and posts of note:

  • “Suppose I can’t do an online parents evening from the hammock”| @icod
  • “A tiny child with wide eyes just said to me on an empty staircase: "I think I'm on the wrong staircase. Which staircase should I be on?" It was like a horror film. I'm terrified” | @bennewmark
  • “I’m hugely in favour of the abolition of these insane teacher resignation windows. Someone who resigns on 1 June stays with the school until Christmas. That’s an awfully long time for disinvestment to transform into disaffection” | @LawrenceEFoley
  • “Domestic printers are the most exasperating, malicious if not hateful piece of technology in the known universe. The twisted crooks that make them must truly despise each and every one of us” | @anon_opin
  • “Just got repetitive strain injury by scrolling back to my year of birth on a online form” | @richardosman

Memorable quotes

A selection of quotes that merit attention:

  • “The UK will remain a highly services-dominated economy with a smaller manufacturing sector than France” – the Resolution Foundation assesses the scale of change to come from Brexit.
  • “We want to move away from a narrow focus on ‘long’ upward mobility – moving a few from the ‘bottom’ into the ‘top’ – to a broader view of different kinds of social mobility, sometimes over shorter distances, for a greater number of people” – the Social Mobility charts a new course.
  • “The average experienced teacher, even before the recent spurt in inflation, is paid a good 8 per cent less than a decade ago” – Paul Johnson of the IfS reflects on the current pay issues facing the government.
  • “We have to tell you that failing sufficient action by you, in the Autumn Term, we will consult our members on their willingness to take industrial action” – the NEU sets out its stall to the Education Secretary on teachers’ pay and conditions. 
  • “The school should not do anything which might limit the ability of pupils to attend” – the government issues statutory guidance to schools on hosting careers sessions for secondary students about apprenticeships and technical education.
  • “Money habits and behaviours that will stick with children for life are formed by age 7,10 yet just one in three children receive any education about money at primary school” – the Centre for Social Justice makes the case for starting learning about finance early.
  • “After 12 years of Conservative-led government it is really very odd that we still have a statutory ban on any new selective schools” – leading backbencher Sir Graham Brady leads the call for more grammar schools.
  • “The college delayed exams scheduled for 9am by half an hour, to give students extra time to arrive – although two students turned up at 6.30am because they had no choice” – centres report on running exams during a rail strike.

Important numbers

Not-to-be-missed numbers of the week:

  • 9.1%. The CPI inflation rate for the year to May 2022, the highest level for 40 years according to the latest figures from the ONS and driven largely by price rises for food, clothing, recreation and energy
  • 100,000+. The projected increase in UCAS university applications over the next four years, up from 700,000 to 800,000+, based on UK demography and international demand according to Mark Corver at dataHE.
  • 36%. The proportion of students in a survey who think academics should be fired if they teach material that heavily offends some students, according to research from HEPI and YouthSight.
  • 49 FTE. How many hours a week staff in FE are working on average, (50.4 FTE in HE,) according to a new survey from the UCU.
  • 12%. How much teachers deserve in terms of a pay increase this year, according to the NASUWT.
  • 83.3%. The percentage of first preference offers on secondary school places made this year, with 92.2% at primary, both up according to latest government statistics.
  • 17%. The annual rate of increase over the next five years for the UK entertainment and media market in virtual and augmented reality, according to PwC.

Everything else you need to know ...

What to look out for next week:

  • AELP National Conference (Monday 27 June – Tuesday 28 June).
  • Education Committee evidence session on children’s services (Tuesday 28 June).
  • LGA Annual Conference (Tuesday 28 June – Thursday 30 June).
  • ONS release first set of Census 2021 data on population and households with education data to follow later in the autumn (Tuesday 28 June).
  • Launch of Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers (Wednesday 29 June).
  • Institute for Government event on green skills (Wednesday 29 June).

Other stories

  • Census results. Next week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will start to release the first sets of results from the 2021 Census data. It will cover population and household figures for England and Wales. Data sets on demography, ethnic groups, housing, the labour market and education will follow during the autumn and winter. As part of the build-up to all this, the ONS this week published a history of the Census from the very first one undertaken in 1801. The population for England and Wales then was recorded as 8.9m with three types of jobs listed: agriculture, trade, other. One of the most popular occupations was domestic servant although 74 ‘leech bleeders’ were listed in the 1841 census. It wasn’t until 1961 that the first census was processed on computer and this latest census was the first to be done digitally. A link to the story can be found here.
  • How’s the news looking? According to the Reuters Institute latest Digital News Report, the UK is one the countries where ‘selective avoidance’ of news has doubled in the last five years. Trust in the news is also significantly down with saturation coverage of Brexit, Covid and partygate apparently to blame. That said the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 remain the most trusted news brands. News print has continued its decline while online news sources including social media such as Facebook and Twitter, has continued to grow. The full report can be found here.

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Steve Besley

Disclaimer: Education Eye is intended to help colleagues keep up to date with national developments in the education sector. Information is correct at the time of writing and is offered in good faith. No liability is accepted by Steve Besley or EdCentral for decisions made on the basis of any information provided.



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