Schools & Early Years

  • The Local Government Association called for small council-maintained schools to be exempt from Apprenticeship Levy, saying that it will impact school budgets, unfairly hitting small councils. They noted that small academies and faith schools are exempt.
  • The Children’s Commissioner released the report, ‘Growing up digital,’ concluding that impenetrable terms and conditions give social media giants control over children’s data without any accountability. The report called for a digital ombudsman to mediate for children over the removal of content and the creation of a broader digital citizenship programme, as well as more transparent corporate behaviour.
  • The new head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, branded plans to create more grammar schools in England a ‘distraction’ from the real problems facing the education system. Spielman also told the Guardian that Brexit risks leaving education ‘further down’ ministers’ agendas.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May announced a package of measures to reform mental health support in schools, workplaces and communities. The measures included assurances that every secondary school will be offered mental health first aid training, as well as the introduction of trials on strengthening links between schools and NHS specialist staff.
  • The NUT and ATL released analysis demonstrating that cuts to funding for schools in England will hit hardest the children in ‘just about managing’ families. In primary schools, the cut in funding for every pupil between 2015/16 and 2019/20 will be £297 a year for the schools with the least JAMs, while those with the most JAMs will see a £447 cut.
  • Education Secretary Justine Greening MP announced a £50 million grant scheme to provide 9,000 new childcare places for 3- and 4-year-olds from next September. Over £2 million of the funding will be invested in six social mobility ‘coldspots’.

Further education & skills

  • The Department for Education announced that for the first time, deaf apprentices enrolled on vocational courses will no longer be required to pass the English functional school test, which had been compulsory. Instead, deaf students who fail or are unable to undertake the test will be able to complete the vocational courses by obtaining an alternative British Sign Language qualification.
  • Skills Minister Robert Halfon made his resolutions for 2017, on the apprenticeship levy, the Institute for Apprenticeships, National Apprenticeship Week, the Technical and Further Education Bill, further education colleges, and careers advice. He noted that the apprenticeship levy will come into force this year, and restated the goal of reaching three million apprenticeship starts by 2020.
  • DfE published draft strategic guidance for the Institute for Apprenticeships 2017-18. DfE also launched a consultation on the draft guidance, with a deadline of 31st January.
  • Yesterday, the Technical and Further Education Bill went to Report Stage and had its Third Reading in the House of Commons. Notably, Halfon, said that he will set out his plans for a careers education strategy in the coming weeks. The Bill will now pass to the House of Lords.
  • The Prince’s Trust released the findings of a survey of young people, which found that self-confidence amongst 16- to 25-year-olds has fallen to the lowest level in eight years, with two fifths more anxious than this time last year and 58 per cent reporting that political events had made them fear for their futures.

Higher education 

  • The Higher Education and Research Bill was debated in the House of Lords yesterday in a Committee of the Whole House. Much of the discussion focused on the Labour amendment which called for universities to remain ‘autonomous’ bodies which ‘must provide an extensive range of high quality academic subjects delivered by excellent teaching’. The amendment was pushed to a vote which saw the Government defeated by 248 to 221.
  • The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services released its Annual Graduate Labour Market and Student Engagement Survey, which found that over 70 per cent of heads of higher education careers services report a healthy graduate job market in 2016, despite Brexit.
  • The Association of Graduate Recruiters released research revealing that 52 per cent of graduate recruiters did not fill all of their vacancies last year, with five per cent of positions remaining unfilled. A total 7.1 per cent of positions were turned down by leavers, a fall from 8.2 per cent in 2015.
  • Analysis by the Times Higher Education revealed that leaders of Russell Group universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh, take home £19,000 more in salary and benefits than they did just two years ago, a 5.9 per cent increase. According to the THE, during the same period, university staff received a 1.1 per cent pay increase
  • The Higher Education Policy Institute warned that the Government’s plans to expand private providers in the UK’s university sector are a ‘risk too far’. The report claimed that the cost of student finance for these ‘alternative providers’ has quadrupled in four years to £382 million.
  • The Universities and College Union published the results of its survey of academics measuring support for the Bill. The survey revealed that 81 per cent of academics believe that plans to give new providers easier access to degree-awarding powers and a university title will have a negative impact on UK higher education.
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that Imperial College London and the London School of Economics have been awarded a share of £52 million to lead research in biomedical engineering and the social sciences under the fifth round of the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF).

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