Schools & early years

  • The Education Select Committee published their report into plans to open new grammar schools, saying the Government must demonstrate that these close the attainment gap between poorer children and their better-off peers. The committee called for a thorough impact assessment, with Chair Neil Carmichael MP saying ‘the focus on opening new grammar schools is, in my view, an unnecessary distraction from the need to ensure all our young people are equipped with the skills to compete in the modern workplace’.
  • The Telegraph reported that the Grammar School Heads’ Association has revealed the first of a new wave of grammar schools in England could be open by 2020. The Department for Education confirmed a meeting had taken place with Education Secretary Justine Greening, the Prime Minister’s adviser Nick Timothy, and School Standards Minister Nick Gibb.
  • Research by the Sutton Trust found clever pupils from poorer homes are lagging behind their as able but better-off peers in maths, science and reading. The Trust examined the 2015 results from international Pisa tests to look at the performance of the 10 per cent most able pupils in the UK and their socio-economic background. Analysis showed the attainment gap was higher between girls than boys.
  • A survey by the Wellcome Trust found that the poorest pupils in England are the most likely to miss out on practical science lessons, revealing that 36 per cent of GCSE students from the most deprived areas conducted practical work at least once a month, compared to 54 per cent in the wealthiest areas.
  • Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, won the election for General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. Barton won with 80 per cent of votes, but with only a 21 per cent turnout.

Further education & skills

  • City & Guilds published research revealing that a third of employers eligible to pay the apprenticeship levy were unaware of its existence. They surveyed 500 senior staff and found that only one third of employers planned to employ more apprentices following the introduction of the levy in April 2017.
  • The Greater Manchester University Technical College will close at the end of the academic year as it has been unable to recruit enough pupils and is no longer financially viable, after completing its £9million construction just three years ago. It is the seventh UTC to announce its closure.
  • Former Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote a comment piece for The Times, saying UTCs have failed because there has been a lack of academic rigour in technical education. Gove said ‘middle class politicians’, who did not want their children pursuing vocational education, had failed to investigate and account for failing UTCs.
  • A study by NUS and the TES found that apprentices from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are being denied thousands of pounds of financial support that is available for college and university students. They concluded that families could lose as much as £1,066 per year in Child Benefit, as apprenticeships are not classed as ‘approved education or training’ by the DWP.
  • The Institute for Apprenticeships announced it will charge apprenticeship assessment organisations for external quality assurance of new standards, despite Ofqual keeping the service free. The Shadow Chief Executive of the IfA, Peter Lauener, said ‘the principle of a regulator charging bodies in the industry for regulation is not uncommon’.

Higher education

  • The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) released figures that showed in 2015/16 there were 52,675 undergraduate HE enrolments on designated courses at ‘alternative providers’.
  • Spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings concluded that nine out of ten UK universities ‘restrict free speech’, giving 24 per cent a ‘red’ ranking, meaning a students’ union, university or institution ‘that is hostile to free speech and free expression, mandating explicit restrictions on speech, including, but not limited to, bans on specific ideologies, political affiliations, beliefs, books, speakers or words’.
  • University and College Union General Secretary Sally Hunt used a speech on education post-Brexit to say ‘the Higher Education Bill is utterly without merit; its only real objective is to make it easier for for-profit colleges to gain a foothold here’. She said she would continue to fight the Bill ‘because if experience from the US teaches us one thing, it is that it won’t be the kids from Eton and Harrow who get ripped off by the for-profit colleges’.

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