Steve Besley's Education Eye: week ending 11 November 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:

Nearly there.

The all-important Autumn Budget is due to be announced next week. The Treasury has been working away all week with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR,) topping and tailing the fine details, as headlines have been full of stories about cuts and fiscal holes. 

Headteachers this week became the latest group to make their case for more funding. There’ve been plenty of others ... 

Below is a quick run through some of the things education is looking for from the Budget. But first, here are the main education-related headlines for the week:

  • Education briefs. The DfE finally confirmed the divvying up of responsibilities among the new ministerial team. Nick Gibb picked up the schools brief as before, Baroness Barran continues with academies – though her remit now extends to student loans – while the newbie, Claire Couthino, took on children and families. Rob Halfon faces the biggest in-tray: skills, FE, HE, adult and international education. To quote one tweet: ‘good luck on seeing that lot through’.
  • Summer 2022 exams. Further data on this summer’s exams were published this week. They include the provisional results for A levels and other 16-18 qualifications. Also details on the use of access arrangements this year from Ofqual. 
  • School funding. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) became the latest education body to highlight the extent of the funding challenges in schools. Their survey reported that many schools might have to consider cutting staff, teaching assistants and pupil support. As they put it: 'Education is truly in a perilous state'. Costs are going up faster than money coming in.
  • Two new projects. A couple of interesting new projects were announced this week. First, Ofsted was called on by the government to look into careers guidance for young people across schools and FE. It will report back next autumn. Second, with concerns continuing about how best to enable eligible people back into work, the Institute for Employment Studies announced a new 18-month Commission to look into employment support systems.
  • COP 27. Climate change has of course been one of the big topics of the week, and education has been using the occasion to highlight some of its work. Universities UK, for instance, blogged about the progress being made by its member institutions, where 75% have now signed up to scope 1 and 2 net zero targets. Training providers have set up a new Green Skills Advisory Group to work on green skills. And schools are working to the Sustainability Strategy, published earlier this year in the wake of COP 26.

Links to these and other stories below as usual.

But back to the much-anticipated Autumn Budget, and a checklist of what education is hoping for. 

For schools, the current worry is rising costs after a period of real-term cuts. Cost-of-living increases, energy hikes, unfunded wage increases, catch-up costs, and inflation, have all contributed to making life difficult for many. The IfS pointed in a briefing in the summer to a ‘coming crunch’ for school funding, something that education bodies generally have been highlighting for some time. 

Some unions have made specific demands – the NASUWT for instance is calling for a 12% wage rise for teachers – but a letter from 13 leading education bodies on 22 October as the Conservatives were about to select a new PM, provides a useful summary of what schools generally are hoping for. It listed four priorities:

  • A commitment to returning funding in real-terms to 2010 levels.
  • A commitment to increasing school and college funding in line with inflation.
  • Wage increases to be fully funded.
  • Energy relief support to be available beyond next March.

As former DfE adviser Sam Freedman remarked this week, it looks like a more formidable team of ministers has returned to the department, but the problem they face is not just a lack of time, but a lack of money. Ministers as well as schools will be hoping for some relief when the Chancellor opens his red box next week.

For colleges, it has been a similar picture of coping with long-term cuts and rising costs, despite some recent investment from the government. Just last week, the IfS suggested that further cuts could be disastrous: 'Cuts are likely to be extremely hard to deliver in colleges and sixth forms, which have already seen large cuts and where spending per student has still not returned to its 2010 levels'.

letter dated 18 October from the chief executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) to the then Education Secretary listed eleven areas where help, in the short-term at least, was needed. These included:

  • Increasing funding rates over the next two years to cover inflation.
  • Reallocating budgets to increase funding rates, especially in skills shortages subjects.
  • Increasing bursary funds to help with the cost-of-living.
  • Help with energy prices beyond next March.

The letter went on to look at longer-term, post 2025, priorities. 

Suggestions here included: additional funding to support growing numbers of 16-19-year-olds; support for employer investment in skills training; improvements to the apprenticeship system; improved capital funding; support for adult learning; and indexing funding rates to cover inflation. It’s a substantial list.

For higher education, an immediate high priority is the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on students. In their cost-of-living report in the summer, the NUS reckoned that 'a third of UK students have £50 or less to live on per month after paying rent and bills'. Last month, the millionplus group suggested some 300,000 students could be at risk, while others have seen the cost-of-living as a factor in the recent drop in student applications.

It’s an issue that’s been taken up by Universities UK and the Russell Group, among others, with support for the return of maintenance grants and an increase in hardship funds. University UK’s call for hardship support for incoming students this year can be seen in a letter published on 21 September here.

More specifically, Russell Group universities have called for more support for research, and science and innovation. Their submission to government was published on 19 October, as the then government was preparing for the 31 October statement. It included six proposals:

  • Delivering on the commitment to invest £20bn in R/D by 2024/5.
  • Support for science and innovation generally, including for European research.
  • Collaboration such as that through the Horizon programme.
  • An unspecified funding package to make up for the loss in fee income. 
  • Support for student needs. 
  • Visa reforms. 

There are plenty of other demands of course including from across the public sector as a whole. 

‘Santa or Scrooge?’ as one headline put it this week above a picture of grim looking Chancellor. We’ll soon know. 

The top headlines of the week

  • ‘Child speech delays increase following lockdowns’ (Monday).
  • ‘Thousands of English schools in grip of financial crisis plan redundancies’ (Tuesday).
  • ‘University staff to go on strike this month’ (Wednesday).
  • ‘A level disadvantage gap widest since records began’ (Thursday).
  • ‘Inflation will erode funding for early years care, finds IfS’ (Friday).


  • COP Statement. The Prime Minister briefly addressed the COP 27 Conference where he committed to the funding and ambition set out at COP 26 and pledged future support for green investment and green skills.
  • Business Manifesto. The British Chambers of Commerce provided a list of 17 key policies, including tackling the labour market and investing in infrastructure, as it set out a Business Manifesto designed to help both government and business manage current challenges.
  • Future jobs. The Resolution Foundation and LSE published their latest report as part of their major Economy 2030 Inquiry, looking on this occasion at the impact of technology on the labour market arguing that fears that it might wipe out many jobs had not been realised but that on the downside, jobs exposed to automation often faced greater risks and lower pay.
  • Regional gaps. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) highlighted a growing regional economic gap in its latest briefing, suggesting that areas like the N.E., E. Midlands, and Yorks and Humber were all set to perform poorly over the coming 12 months with the economic gap between London and the N.E. set to widen accordingly. 
  • Discrimination in the workplace. The Resolution Foundation examineddiscrimination in the workplace, suggesting from survey evidence that it was ‘widespread in today’s labour market’ with 20% of people reporting experiencing it, calling as a result for laws to ensure stronger enforcement. 
  • Business Schools. The British Academy called on business and management schools to put purpose and problem solving at the heart of their teaching as it examined in a new report how best such schools could help train the next generation of leaders in dealing with current challenges. 
  • Money worries. The Money and Pensions Service reported on its recent survey among UK adults about savings, showing that one in six of those surveyed have nothing set aside for a rainy day and one in ten have just £100 or less, urging those in need to seek free help where possible. 
  • Anxiety Nation. The Jospeh Rowntree Foundation examined rising insecurity in Britain today suggesting growing problems with both material insecurity and poor mental health leading to people becoming increasingly anxious, calling as a result for better understanding, support and mental health provision.

More specifically ...


  • Funding matters. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) published the results from its recent survey of school leaders in England on the funding challenges they face with half looking at reducing the number of teachers or teaching hours and others concerned about cutbacks to levels of pupil support.
  • School Cuts. The website, used to publicise the issue of school funding for the 2017 general election, re-launched this week inviting people to sign up to an open letter to the PM calling for cuts to be reversed, pay awards funded and funding levels restored. 
  • Summer 2022 exams. The government published provisional data on this summer’s A level and other 16-18 exams showing the average point score down on the previous year but still higher than pre-pandemic but the disadvantage gap at its widest level so far.
  • Access arrangements. Ofqual reported on access arrangements for this summer’s GCSE and A/As exams which saw over 500,000 access arrangements approved largely to allow for extra time.
  • Careers guidance. Ofsted announced that it had been called on by government to conduct a thematic review of careers guidance for young people across schools and colleges looking at the quality, provision and effectiveness of the current system with a report due next autumn.
  • Alternative provision. Ofsted reported on the growing numbers of primary school pupils ending up in alternative provision largely due to difficult behaviour, acknowledging that often it was only for a short time and often with a positive outcome but highlighting also issues about regulation and quality provision. 
  • MAT survey. The Education Policy Institute reported on the initial findings from its multi-academy trust (MAT) survey finding a mix between central and institutional decision making when it comes to financial and workforce management, with further research into decision-making, pupil exclusions and outcomes all planned. 
  • Progress 8. FFT Education Datalab looked into the question of whether taking more qualifications led to higher Progress 8 scores suggesting that on the surface this looked to be the case but that digging deeper, other factors such as pupil intake and regional differences may also come into play.
  • Maths support. The exam board AQA announced the acquisition of Blutick, an app that can provide support in the teaching and assessment of maths at Key Stages 3,4, and 5 through worked examples, video tutorials and online mocks.


  • Adult participation. The Learning and Work Institute published its latest regular report into adult participation in learning showing on the positive side adult participating in learning at levels (42%) not seen for a couple of decades, with the increase in lockdown learning a likely factor, but on the negative side, regional and class divides persisting.
  • Employment support. The Institute for Employment Studies announced the launch of a new Commission, set up with funding from abrdn and overseen by a group of ten leading commissioners, to help create a better system of employment support and services for those looking to access the labour market. 
  • Annual report.The Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) published its annual report and accounts for the 2021/22 year, a year which saw it gain a new chief executive, a new remit and distribute £65bn of funding as it worked to meet its five strategic objectives of funding, regulation, oversight, skills, and customer experience and technology, while remaining 0.6% within budget.
  • Annual report. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) reported on its work and accounts for the 2021/22 year pointing for example to its Levy support for over 22,000 apprenticeships, its grant support for nearly 270,000 training courses, and its work around mental health, careers guidance and work experience, all within a tight operating budget.
  • CITB priorities. The DfE published former Skills Minister Andrea Jenkyns’s letter setting out the priorities for the CITB for the coming year, listing five largely familiar areas around skills, quality provision, diversity and programmes for young people. 
  • ECITB priorities. The DfE also published the 2023/24 priorities for the Engineering Construction Board pointing to four areas including quality provision, the transition to net zero, provision for young people and workforce diversity.
  • Skills Bootcamps. Ofsted published the results of its thematic survey completed earlier this year into the second wave of Skills Bootcamps finding ‘most learners satisfied’ but some questions over teaching quality and assessment, concluding with a list of recommendations around expectations, quality and accountability.
  • Cyber security. JISC published its latest snapshot of cyber security in UK FE with data collected this summer showing most (94%) colleges prioritising it as a high risk with phishing/social engineering seen as the top risk followed by ransomware/malware but with 24/7 cyber security cover still seen as rare.
  • Green skills. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) announced the setting up of a Green Skills Advisory Group, to be chaired by the CEO of NOCN and with a focus on providing resources, careers guidance and workforce development for the green skills economy.
  • Apprenticeships. The Gatsby Foundation published a recent report looking into what constitutes an apprenticeship and how this compares across different countries including England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark, concluding that with its apprenticeships covering far more of the labour market and at higher professional levels, England remained ‘an outlier’. 
  • Skills shortages. The Edge Foundation published the latest in its series of Skills Bulletins focusing on this occasion on the issue of skills shortages, what’s being done and what needs to be done around this, including focused careers guidance.
  • Future talent. Major publishing bodies including the Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Associations announced the launch of a new campaign, formally launching next February, to attract underrepresented 14-19 yr olds to consider opportunities in the publishing and bookselling industry.


  • R/D MOU. The government announced that while discussions on the Horizon programme continued, the UK and Switzerland had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together on research and innovation in areas such as ‘deep science’ and ‘deep tech’. 
  • Industrial action. The UCU confirmed that industrial action will take place over three days in November (24, 25 and 30,) will cover 150 universities, will be ‘the biggest ever to hit UK universities’ and has the support of the NUS. 
  • Student hardship. i news reported that Russell Group universities were pledging to provide ‘tens of millions of pounds’ in financial support, with most committing to double their Student Hardship Funds to help students cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
  • Harassment and sexual misconduct. The Office for Students (OfS) published a commissioned evaluation report into its ‘statement of expectations,’ published last year to help institutions manage issues of harassment and sexual misconduct, with the report concluding that progress in tackling such issues had been mixed, more data and momentum was needed, and a number of recommendations around leadership, training, monitoring and regulation needed considering.
  • Work life balance. The Times Higher reported on work-life balance in a new survey undertaken in September by over a 1,000-university staff in 70 countries suggesting that flexible work patters arising out of the pandemic had proved beneficial to many although workloads remained an issue as was the blurring of the lines between home and work.
  • Governance. The HE Policy Institute (HEPI) published a report on university governance highlighting the challenges they increasingly face and calling for greater clarity on their roles and increased opportunities to develop and widen the skills needed.
  • Cyber security. JISC published its latest snapshot of cyber security in UK HE with data collected this summer showing virtually all (97%) universities now prioritise it as a high risk with ransomware/malware seen as the top risk followed by phishing/social engineering but with 24/7 cyber security cover still seen as rare. 
  • Climate change. Universities UK used the occasion of the latest COP Conference to highlight the work being done on climate change in UKHE, noting for instance that most universities have clear strategies to reduce emissions and many are signing up to net zero targets with others planning future research albeit with costs a continuing factor.
  • International education. The Times Higher reported that former Universities Minister Chris Skidmore was drawing up plans to draft a proposed new international education strategy that might better reflect the changing nature of national and international provision. 
  • Still worth it. Universities UK responded to a recent report questioning the value of some degrees by pointing to evidence on the increase in graduate jobs both currently and for the foreseeable future, as well as the higher salaries most graduates receive.

Tweets and posts of note:

  • “I got on the bus and a child I did not recognise but clearly recognised me loudly whispered to the people he was with “THAT’S MISS S!!” Then the girl with him started playing truth or dare and said “I dare you to go and say hello” and he went “nah… but she’s so awesome” | @londonteacher
  • “History teachers, is there anything worse than that horrifying split second when you glance at a worksheet and think you’ve made a typo with King Cnut?” | @MsQuinnHistory
  • “I’m a celebrity is on way too late when you’re a teacher.. can’t keep my eyes open past 9 o’clock” | @Miss_Gprimary
  • “Hi all, There was, yet another, error in this week’s newsletter. The sentence in question should read: “Next term, the PE Department is hoping to organise a skiing trip”, not a “skiving trip”. We thought the 36 of you who expressed an interest in going should know this” | @NewbieSlt
  • “The absolute audacity of our 7 month old to keep us up most of the night then repeatedly yawn in our faces as soon as we take him downstairs” | @brassoteach

Memorable quotes

A selection of quotes that merit attention:

  • “It's now harder to climb up the wealth distribution – the rungs of the ladder have grown wider” – the Institute for Fiscal Studies continues its research into inequality.
  • “We will leverage up to £100 billion of private investment to support almost half a million high wage, high skilled green jobs” – the PM confirms a commitment on the green economy..
  • “Very disappointed” – Rishi Sunak on Matt Hancock’s decision to join ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.
  • “It’s well documented that Robert Halfon’s two favourite words in the English language are ‘degree apprenticeships’” – Public First’s Jessica Lister reminds HE about their new minister’s interests.
  • “Certainly, there remains a minority of tertiary education providers that are not as well protected as they should be” – JISC reports on cyber security in F and HE. 
  • “Universities are well-prepared for industrial action and will put in place a series of measures to protect students' education, as well as other staff and the wider community" – Universities UK responds to news of industrial action in the sector.
  • “We want careers in the mainstream of school and college life” – former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on becoming Chair of the Careers and Enterprise Company.
  • “The only things left to cut are things that will have a real immediate impact on children” – the NAHT reports on its latest school funding survey. 
  • “The beauty of distance learning is that you can learn wherever you are in the world – and for Adele that could mean on a tour bus or while she waits outside the school gates to pick up her son” – the OU pitches for Adele to take her proposed English Lit degree with them.

Important numbers

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

  • 1.1%. The fall in household income in the UK for Q.2, compared to 0.8% across the G7 countries according to the latest figures from the OECD.
  • 17.2%. The pay gap between non-disabled and disabled workers, according to new analysis from the TUC. 
  • 53,000. The number of new recruits needed a year to meet growing demand, according to the construction industry.
  • £750,000. The amount of money being made available for the delivery of the UK Youth Parliament for the next two years, according to the government. 
  • 54%. The number of schools in England that face going into a deficit if they don’t make further cuts, according to the NAHT.
  • 92.6%. The attendance rate for schools in England for w/beginning the 17 October, according to latest government figures.
  • 42,341. The number of Yr 1 pupils in England in 2021/22 needing extra speech and language support, according to research from the BBC. 
  • 11%. The number of respondees looking to buy second hand Christmas gifts or from a reselling platform, according to a survey by Deloitte. 
  • £682. The increase in the average grocery bill this year, according to Kantar.

Everything else you need to know ...

What to look out for next week:

  • Anti-Bullying Week. (Monday 14 November to Friday 18 November).
  • Education Committee witness session with the Careers and Enterprise Company (Tuesday 15 November).
  • EdTech World Forum. (Tuesday 15-Wed 16 November). 
  • Association of Colleges Annual Conference. (Tuesday 15 to Wednesday 16 November).
  • Westminster Hall debate on increasing the number of male teachers in primary schools (Wednesday 16 November).
  • Schools and Academies Show (Thursday/Friday 17/18 November).
  • Autumn Budget Statement (Thursday 17 November).

Other stories

  • Anti-Bullying week. Next week is Anti-Bullying Week. It’s an important annual week in the education calendar, 80% of UK schools apparently take part and among the activities for the week is the traditional Odd Socks Day. The week is co-ordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance and its brochure for this year has some important details. It suggests for instance that on average one child in every classroom experiences bullying each day. On a more positive note, a host of celebrities have added their names to the campaigns, They range from Ant and Dec to many footballers. A link to the brochure is here
  • More on working from home this week with new research showing that young people especially are embracing it. The research comes from King’s College London and King’s Business School and covers London workers only. Those surveyed reckon remote working makes them feel more positive and better able to do their jobs. Nearly 40% are thinking about leaving the capital – perhaps understandably given house prices. But there are downsides as well. Many say it’s harder to build a rapport with fellow workers and also that it can be hard to put yourself forward when doing it remotely. A link to the research is 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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