The three biggest headlines of the week
New COVID face mask rules explained as guidance in schools changes.
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Schools in England may suspend certain subjects to cope with COVID.
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Schools struggling to find staff to cover sick and isolating teachers. 
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View all this week's education news headlines
Policy news in brief (compiled by Steve Besley)
Latest guidance. The government updated its Covid guidelines in a series of publications as it confirmed its pledge to keep schools open as far as possible in the face of the variant. This included urging Year 7 pupils and above to wear face masks in classrooms while promising more air purifiers and additional support for Covid testing.
Joint Statement. Unions issued a joint statement on the impact of the variant ahead of the start of term, expressing a wish to wish to work with government to minimise Covid disruption, but calling for additional resources for staff cover, air purifiers and Covid testing.
The case for masks. The government published an evidence summary on the use of face coverings in education settings (albeit based on pre-Omicron data), suggesting that they can help reduce transmission ‘by reducing the emission of virus-carrying particles when worn by an infected person’ but acknowledging that their use can be problematic in some learning settings. 

Latest guidance. The government updated its Covid guidelines for FE providers ahead of the start of term to include recommendations on the use of face coverings in classrooms and teaching settings.
Skills Update. The Minister for FE and HE reported to Parliament on the various announcements about skills made just before Christmas – including the number of new Institutes of Technology; the number of short courses available from September; further details on the T level Capital Fund; and the additional funding for 16-19 provision.
Skills Bill. The House of Commons Library Service published a useful briefing on the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, setting out the key issues and associated debate and developments as it awaits the report stage in the House of Commons.

Latest guidance. The government updated its Covid guidance for HE providers ahead of the start of term to include advice on the use of face coverings in teaching settings; the position on confirmatory PCR tests; and quarantine arrangements for unaccompanied minors, particularly those who have travelled from or through a red list country and are coming to join an HE provider.
Exam design. The Times Higher reported on a trial being undertaken at Exeter University whereby specific computer-generated data sets are developed for each individual student as part of their exams to prevent any collusion or cheating, suggesting that this may be a way forward for online exams in the future.
First-in family. The HE Policy Institute (HEPI) published a new report looking at first-in family students, suggesting that it’s time to rethink using the concept as a measure of disadvantage, arguing that other measures could better reflect widening participation.

Build Back Better. Number 10 reported on the work of the Build Back Better Business Council which has been working with the PM’s Business Council over the year in support of economic recovery and the transition to net zero, focusing in particular on the three ‘growth pillars’ of infrastructure, skills and innovation.
A binding contract .Sir Keir Starmer set out the bones of a new contract with the British people in a keynote speech, promising to run a government on three principles: security (in jobs and health support,) prosperity (through skills and opportunities) and respect (to be valued for who we are and what we do).
Job churn. The Resolution Foundation and LSE’s CEP examined the prospect of economic change for the labour market and what this might for employees in a new report, arguing that the current small-scale structural change in the labour market was likely to be overturned by a combination of the pandemic, Brexit and transition to net zero, all of which needs to be planned for.

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Read Steve's complete education policy news for this week
Research, reports and studies published this week
Best Evidence in Brief: Effectiveness of a PD program in a repeated randomised study; Parent engagement in science education; School improvement meta-analysis.

Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI): Report re first-in-family students.
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In Parliament
Upcoming conferences, webinars and CPD opportunities
Westminster Forum: Key priorities for education recovery in the wake of COVID-19 (11 January - one-day online conference).

Inside Government: Understanding School Admissions and Appeals (18 January - one-day online course). This event qualifies for 20% EdCentral reader discount.

Bett 2022 - 19-21 January at the ExCeL

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Facts of the day
  1. On this day in 1840 the Penny Post was introduced.
  2. On this day in 1863 the Metropolitan Railway – ancestor of the London Underground – opened between Paddington and Farringdon Street.
  3. On this day in 1985 Clive Sinclair launched the C5 electric car, costing £399.

  1. On this day in 1753 Sir Hans Sloane died. His collection was the foundation of the British Museum, which opened its doors at Montague House six years later on 15 January.
  2. On this day in 1922 insulin was first used in the successful treatment of diabetes.
  3. On this day in 1973 the Open University awarded its first degrees.

  1. On this day in 1628 Charles Perrault, author of Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty, was born in Paris.
  2. On this day in 1948 the Co-op opened the first supermarket at Manor Park, London.
  3. On this day in 1970 a Boeing 747 landed at Heathrow after its first flight from New York.

  1. On this day in 1893 the Independent Labour Party (ILP) was formed by Keir Hardie to promote working-class representation.It was positioned to the left of Ramsay MacDonald's Labour Representation Committee (founded in 1900 and renamed the Labour Party) and affiliated with the Labour Party between 1906 and 1932.
  2. On this day in 1941 James Joyce, author of Ulysses, died in Zurich, aged 58. 
  3. On this day in 1989 the Friday the 13th virus struck IBM-compatible computers.

  1. On this day in 1878 the first demonstration of Alexander Graham Bell's newly invented telephone was given to Queen Victoria.
  2. On this day in 1898 Rev Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, died.
  3. On this day in 1989 Muslims in Bradford ritually burnt a copy of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

  1. On this day in 1559 Elizabeth 1 was crowned Queen of England.
  2. On this day in 1867 40 skaters were drowned when the ice broke on the lake in London's Regent's Park.
  3. On this day in 2001 the Wikipedia website was launched.

  1. On this day in 1604 King James I authorised a new translation of the Bible during the Hampton Court Conference.
  2. On this day in 1920 prohibition of the sale of alcohol began in America.
  3. On this day in 1979 the Shah of Iran was forced into exile in Egypt.
Awareness days from around the world

Veganuary, Dry January, Love Your Liver Month, Big Schools Birdwatch, National Blood Donor Month, National Hot Tea Month.

National Hobby Month, National Mentoring Month, National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, National Slow Cooking Month, National Soup Month, National Sunday Supper Month, 

National Braille Literacy Month, Walk your Dog Month, Clean up Your Computer Month, International Brainteaser Month, Celebration of Life Month, Get a Balanced Life Month, International Creativity Month.


Houseplant Week (UK), National Mocktail Week, National Pizza Week (US), Universal Letter Writing Week (starts the second Sunday of every January), Home Office Safety and Security Week (UK).

National Cut Your Energy Costs Day (International), National Save The Eagles Day (US), Clean Your Desk Day (International), National Bittersweet Chocolate Day (US), National Houseplant Appreciation Day (International), Peculiar People Day (US).

Poetry at Work Day (International), Heritage Treasures Day (International), World Sketchnote Day (International), National National Hot Toddy Day (US), Human Trafficking Awareness Day (US), National Milk Day (US), National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day (US), National Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day (US), Shop for Travel Day (US).

National Curried Chicken Day (US), Kiss A Ginger Day (International), National Marzipan Day (US), National Pharmacist Day (US).

Make Your Dream Come True Day (International), Public Radio Broadcasting Day (International), International Skeptics Day, National Peach Melba Day (US), National Rubber Ducky Day (US), Stephen Foster Memorial Day (US), National Sticker Day (US).

Dress Up Your Pet Day (International), International Kite Day, National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day (US), Ratification Day (US), STIQ Day (UK), Organise Your Home Day (International).

National Pothole Day (UK), National Bagel Day (US), National Kombucha (Booch) Day (US), National Hat Day, National Strawberry Ice Cream Day (US), Use Your Gift Card Day (International).

International Hot and Spicy Food Day, National Fig Newton Day (US), National Nothing Day (US), World Religion Day (International), National Religious Freedom Day (US), National Appreciate A Dragon Day (US).
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