- 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:
A blisteringly hot end of term for many.
Education providers battled on as best they could, running assemblies and graduation ceremonies, and generally keeping things going through the heat. PE kit became the dress code for many pupils, while Twitter debated the case for shorts for teachers.
MPs, also in the last week of their parliamentary year, were allowed to remove their jackets and ties. Here’s the Speakers announcement at the start of the week as temperatures literally started to soar.
“Therefore, while the heat remains at this exceptional level and for the remainder of this week, I am content for Members not to wear jackets or ties in the Chamber, if they so choose. When the House returns in the autumn, I will expect Members to revert to wearing a jacket.”
Despite the weather, there’s been plenty of education activity to report this week. Here’s a rundown of the top stories.
- The government announced the latest public sector pay deals, with teachers getting between 5% and 8.9% from September. Unions weren’t impressed.
- The Office for National Statistics published the latest labour market data. The Institute for Employment Studies called them ‘disappointing,’ pointing in particular to 'the largest falls in real pay on record'.
- The body that monitors government infrastructure and major projects listed ten education projects that were currently on its amber list of concerns. They included the school rebuilding programme, the national tutoring programme, skills bootcamps, and T level rollout.
- MPs held a Westminster Hall debate on BTECs. The new skills minister, herself a former BTEC student, responded, but failed to reassure everybody.
- Ofsted published its third and final set of reports on how education recovery is going. Providers are doing what they can, but in the words of the Chief Inspector “the pandemic and lockdowns created some distinct problems, which are taking time to shift."
- The QAA confirmed that it would step down as Designated Quality Body (DQB) in HE in England from next March, citing conflict with European Quality Standards used for other aspects of its work. Wonkhe suggested the issue was about independence.
Links to these and other stories are all listed below as usual.
Here’s a bit more detail on two of those top stories, namely Ofsted’s latest report into education recovery and that debate on BTECs by MPs.
On education recovery, the key message was that despite all the hard work, there’s still some way to go.
As the Chief Inspector put it in introducing the various sector reports, “Some young children are still behind in their development; older children are experiencing higher levels of exam anxiety than usual, and difficulties recruiting and retaining staff have been exacerbated across all phases of education".
Many will feel that this reinforces the frustration felt about the rejection of the former education recovery commissioner’s recovery plan a year or so ago. Sir Kevan was interviewed in the Education Guardian last weekend about it all, arguing that the effects of lost learning won’t go away.
The reports, based on evidence from inspections, conversations and data collected over the summer term, point not just to lost learning, but other features as well.
For schools, these included concerns about pupil readiness for moving on to their next stage of learning – especially those going on to secondary; anxieties about the return of external exams and tests; catch-up and support needed for SEND pupils; some worries about pupil behaviour; and pressures on staff generally.
Equally, for FE, there were anxieties about exams and assessments and provision for those with special needs. In addition, work placements; end-point assessments in apprenticeships; the squeezing of time for functional skills; the resort in some cases to remote learning; and the impact on staff recruitment were all cited.
The full effect of the impact of the lockdown on learners has yet to be fully realised. Some important reports from the Education Policy Institute, Institute for Fiscal Studies and Social Mobility Commission have pointed the way but it looks like being a long and hard road, particularly for the more disadvantaged.
On to the Westminster Hall debate on BTEC qualifications.
This came in response to a petition seeking to ensure BTECs and other vocational qualifications remained funded and available following the government’s review of L3 qualifications and the positioning of T levels.
As the proposer put it 'The petition is about choice, and not forcing students to choose between studying only A-levels or T-Levels from the age of 16'. A good number of MPs swung in behind the motion, citing examples from their constituencies about the impact of BTECs on jobs, prospects, and social mobility for young people.
The new Under-Secretary, Andrea Jenkyns, a former BTEC student herself, responded on behalf of the government. She ran through many of the familiar arguments about the need for a high-quality technical education system, “We are unashamed about raising the quality of technical education in this country,” the potential for BTECs to be taken as part of a mixed programme with A levels; the phased approach being taken; and the recognition that many applied general qualifications will still be available; ending up by reinforcing that “I want to reassure everyone across the House that we are not withdrawing funding for all BTECs".
Not everyone appeared convinced.
The top headlines of the week:
- ‘Schools see a third of pupils absent as children stay at home in record-breaking heatwave' (Monday).
- ‘DfE announces 5% pay rise for most teachers in 2022/23 (Tuesday).
- ‘Ofsted denounces continued use of online teaching in latest education recovery research' (Wednesday).
- ‘KS1 SATs will be scrapped from 2023/24, STA confirms' (Thursday).
- ‘Government plans for teachers’ pay risks funding crisis, say unions’ (Friday).
- Project update. The Infrastructure and Projects Authority published its latest annual report on progress in government projects, listing ten in education including the national tutoring programme, T level rollout and Institutes of Technology where delivery concerns remained.
- AI report. The government gave an update on its National AI Strategy ten months on, pointing to progress being made and action planned under each of the three pillars (investment, transition and governance) of the Strategy.
Drones. The government set out a new vision for airborne autonomy/drones, aiming to have commercial drones widely operative by 2030 serving businesses and public utilities, proposing a number of ambitions around funding, support, skills and regulation to help get there.
- ARIA appointments. The government announced the appointments of the first CEO and Chairman of the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) due to be set up later this year with a remit to fund and lead on innovative research and scientific activity.
- STEM Inquiry. The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee announced an Inquiry into people and skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) with a call for evidence by 6 Sept.
- Media literacy. The government encouraged organisations and local government bodies to apply for funds from its new Media Literacy Task Force Fund to help with media literacy initiatives and projects for the hard-to-reach.
- Labour marketdata. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published latest labour market data for the UK for March-May 2022, showing the employment rate up and economic inactivity rate down but regular pay levels declining.
- Labour market assessment. The Institute for Employment Studies published its regular assessment of the latest labour market details noting that while employment, unemployment and economic inactivity all continued to improve, in some cases this was only marginally and regular pay levels had fallen noticeably over the last quarter.
- Public sector pay. The Institute for Fiscal studies (IfS) reflected in a new comment piece about public sector pay arguing that it shouldn’t be used to combat inflation or to support distributional objectives rather it should be used ‘to attract, retain and motivate’ staff to deliver efficient public services.
- Poor diets. The Food Foundation published a damning report into UK food policy suggesting that unhealthy diets were having a damaging effect on both people’s lives and the environment, and with only one in four schools in England meeting school food nutritional requirements and concerns about long-term clinical issues, serious action needed to be taken by government.
- Children’s policies. The British Academy published the final report about its work on childhood policy focusing on the themes of children’s voices and children’s rights and setting out seven principles that need to be taken into account for children’s policy making.
- Book capital. UNESCO announced Strasbourg as World Book Capital for 2024 following ACCRA next year as they take on the role to promote reading and book activities.
More specifically ...
- Teachers’ salaries. The government announced pay levels for teachers from this September representing an increase of 8.9% starting salary for teachers outside London, 5%-8% for early career teachers and 5% for more experienced teachers, but from existing budgets.
- Pay Review Body. The Teachers’ Pay Review Body set out the context and thinking behind its recommendations on pay this year, noting the potential for further review particularly around pay progression, career paths and pay structures, and teacher shortages.
- Future funding. The government published details of school funding including that for high needs for 2022/3 and 2023/4 as it continues the transition to the National Funding Formula, with increases to both high needs and overall school funding, and additional support directed at disadvantaged pupils and remote schools.
- National Tutoring Programme. The government announced three new delivery partners for the National Tutoring Programme as it released figures ‘estimating’ that 80% of schools are now participating in the programme.
- Education recovery. Ofsted published its third and final report into the effects of the pandemic on schools based on latest inspection evidence, acknowledging the increased catch-up work being undertaken by schools but pointing to continuing concerns in some cases about the effects on Yr 6 transition, SEND pupils, those taking exams and recovery generally.
- Publishers’ concerns. The Publishers Association and related bodies called on the government to reconsider its plans for creating a new arms-length curriculum body, arguing that it could undermine the current ‘educational resources ecosystem.’
- GCSE inequalities. The Education Policy Institute looked into educational inequalities in England and Wales across GCSE results suggesting that only limited progress had been made over the past decade in closing the gap particularly in Wales where the gap remains wide.
- Dear Education Secretary. The Association of Colleges (AoC) wrote to welcome the new Education Secretary setting out five priorities for consideration covering staff pay and recruitment, an inflation upgrade for capital funding, ONS reclassification, employer partnership workings, and T levels.
- Public sector pay. The AoC responded to the latest pay award for teachers suggesting it may be miserly but was likely to widen the pay gap with staff in the college sector where things remain even more tight.
- Education recovery. Ofsted published its third and final report into the effects of the pandemic on the FE sector based on latest inspection evidence noting the efforts being made by providers to aid recovery but highlighting continuing concerns about the continuation of some remote learning, programme disruption facing apprentices, the squeezing of English/maths time, pressures on those taking exams and the difficulties of recruiting staff.
- More consultation. The government launched a second round of consultation on the FE funding and accountability system primarily looking at the implementation for its proposals for moving to a single Skills Fund with simpler rates from 2023/4 and applying a multi-year settlement with flexibility for innovative provision, along with a provider performance dashboards, dedicated accountability agreements, an expanded FE Commissioner role and a greater focus generally on responding to local skill needs.
- Free courses evaluation. The government published the results of a commissioned report into its ‘Free Courses for Jobs’ offer launched last year to help adults gain a L3 qualification, finding increasing support and take-up for the provision but poor promotion, limited prior learning, family demands and different regional markets all as issues.
- BTECs. MPs held a Westminster Hall debate on BTECs and their role within a reformed L3 qualification system with many MPs citing case study evidence about the importance of BTECs to learners and providers in their constituencies with the government acknowledging in summary that BTECs still had a role to play, albeit within a reformed system.
NEETs. The Learning and Work Institute in association with the Prince’s Trust and HSBC UK reported on the context for young people not in education, employment or training (NEET,) suggesting that while overall numbers have improved post-pandemic, the numbers that are economically inactive (unable to look for work due perhaps to sickness or disability) have grown, posing the need for more tailored support.
- T level delivery. The government amended the eligibility requirements for T level providers so that those without an Ofsted designation or requiring improvement would be able to offer more T level choices from Sept 2023.
- T levels capital fund. The government published the list of successful candidates under wave 4 of the T levels capital fund and due to start in Sept 2023.
- Mental health consultation. Youth Employment responded to the government’s latest consultation on mental health and wellbeing, highlighting the extent of the issue among young people and calling among other things for workplaces to have a dedicated mental health first aider.
- Education and skills landscape. Leading bodies including the CBI, Gatsby and DfE published a little guide for employers of the education landscape with case studies showing how technical education is changing and how they could get involved.
- QAA demits. The QAA announced that it was rescinding its role as the Designated Quality Body (DQB) in England, citing the fact that the current approach in England is “not consistent with standard international practice for quality bodies” as laid out in the European Standards and Guidelines.
- Post Horizon R/D. The government outlined alternative UK R/D plans if collaboration under Horizon Europe does not materialise, pledging to use committed Spending Review money to create a system built around ‘a flagship talent offer, end-to-end innovation and global collaboration’ with a multi-faceted transition programme of support and investment to ensure continued activity.
- Student loans. The House of Commons Library Service published a helpful primer on student loans in England setting out the background to loans, current trends, repayment and level of student debt and arguments for reform in the light of Augar.
- Grade inflation. The Office for Students (OfS) outlined in a new briefing, the context around the increase in the awards of 1stand 2:1 degrees particularly under the pandemic, the issues around this and what it and the sector was doing to address the implications through data and monitoring.
- Short courses. The OfS invited bids for funding under its Study Support Bursary Scheme designed to help students in need participating over the next three years in the HE short courses trial.
- UKRI review. The government published the results of the review into the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) public body, suggesting that “it has partially met the objectives that were set at its formation but that gaps remain” recommending among other things a simpler structure and clarity of its role in levelling up.
- Medical Degree Apprenticeship. The Institute for Apprenticeships announced the launch from Sept 2023 of a new Medical Doctor Degree Apprenticeships, able to match the same standards as in a traditional route but at the same time open up the profession via more diverse routes of entry.
Tweets and posts of note:
- “Seeing lots of hot weather advice to men to wear dresses (which is fine, you do you) but is no one going to warn them about chub rub?” | @CantabKitty
- “I'm not saying the heat is affecting people but I just saw a document @markmleach has been working on and he'd used Comic Sans” | @dkhernohan
- “Love all these people saying ‘shut the schools, they don’t do anything in the last week anyway!’ I’ve got a thrilling lesson on the life cycle of a plastic bag to deliver to year 10 I’ll have you know” | @jwalms93
- “With a lot of schools lowering staff dress policies this week - can we finally agree that it’s ridiculous for male members of staff to have to dress like they’re at a wedding or going to court to teach children” | @mrgibsonict
- “With the news that Luton Airport runway melted in the heat, May I suggest fixing it with Weetabix? I can confirm that when dried on a bowl it’s completely impossible to remove so an excellent tarmac replacement” | @RobinAStephens
- “In this heat, pretend you're on holiday abroad by drinking beer at 8am and then going to Asda wearing a bikini and flip flops to buy 4 giant bags of crisps and a bottle of water” | @Pandamoanimum
- “have found a flaw in my "work from the seaside" genius plan and it is that, when by the seaside, I no longer have any interest in work” | @youngulgarian
- “I need a keyboard shortcut for "Please take me off your email distribution list" | @susiemesure
A selection of quotes that merit attention:
- “I leave it to you to imagine who at this stage I would like to send into orbit” – the PM opens the Farnborough air show.
- “Overall then, the labour market continues to see a toxic combination of falling real terms pay, high worklessness and labour shortages” – the IES reflects on the latest labour market data.
- “We are discussing with Universities UK, and others, whether there is another body that could be designated when the QAA’s role comes to an end' – the Office for Students responds to QAA’s decision to stand down as Designated Quality Body.
- “Atleast half of a panel should be in-person in future” – The Times Higher reports that conference organisers are considering encouraging speakers to present in person where possible.
- “I support BTECs so much that even my daughter is going to do one next year” – Emma Hardy MP adds a personal touch to the Westminster Hall debate on BTECs.
- “The competitive new starting salary will help attract top quality talent and further raise the status of the teaching profession” – the government announces pay deals for teachers from September.
- “This pay offer will do nothing to recruit, retain and value teachers and protect our children's education” – the NEU response on the pay deal for teachers.
- “You’ve got children who never had any time in reception, or in the early years – and that’s a big part of your life missing” the education recovery tsar on the effects of the pandemic.
- “All the current evidence indicates that the Department is pursuing a major market intervention into the school resources market which teachers neither want nor need” – publishers challenge government plans to create a dedicated curriculum resources body.
Not-to-be-missed numbers of the week:
- 25c. A proposed legal limit for safe working conditions, according to the GMB union.
- 9.4%. The UK CPI inflation figure for June, up from 9.1% in May driven largely by fuel and food according to latest figures from the ONS.
- 2.8%. The fall in regular pay over the period March-May this year, according to the ONS.
- 40. The number of hours a week that students typically spend on their laptops, half of it on streaming, social media and online shopping, according to a survey from NVIDIA.
- 1,511,900. The participation rate by adults in adult skills training including apprenticeships for the third quarter of this academic year, up 4.6% on last year according to latest government figures.
- 29. The number of colleges in England lining up for strike action over pay, according to the UCU.
- 5%. The pay deal for more experienced teachers in England from September, according to the government.
- £56.8bn. The core schools budget for 2024/5, up £7bn on last year according to the government.
- 1.8m. The number of courses started under the National Tutoring Programme between last Sept and 26 June this year, according to latest government figures.
- 7%. The number of breakfast cereals marketed to children said to be low in sugar according to a new report from the Food Foundation.
Everything else you need to know ...
What to look out for next week:
- Parliament begins its summer break (Friday 22 July – Monday 5 Sept.)
- Reflections on policy making. The Edge Foundation recently hosted a roundtable with three former Permanent Secretaries from the DfE, namely Sir David Normington, Lord Michael Bichard, and Jonathan Slater. They discussed education policy, what had worked and what hadn’t, what good policy looks like and what they hoped for in the future from education policy. Asked to name a success each from their watch, they listed the London Challenge, Sure Start, and Opportunity Areas respectively. As to the future, a big wish was the need to prioritise voc/tech education. A link to the commentary is here
- How do you get your news? Ofcom’s latest report into how we get our news underlines current trends. Adults are buying fewer newspapers and young people are relying more on social media channels. More precisely 24% of adults now use print newspapers for their news, down from 35% in 2020, while 29% of teenagers rely on Instagram and 28% on TikTok and YouTube respectively. ITV news and BBC news came next in order for teenagers. How far this is seen as a good or a bad thing depends on your point of view. Trust remains a key factor. Not all teenagers trust TikTok’s news content for instance, fewer than a third apparently. A link to the report Is here
Finally, there will be no Education Eye next Friday 29 July. It will appear more intermittently over the summer break with the next edition targeted for Friday 5 August.
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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.