Schools & Early Years

  • Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, attempted to dispel the belief that English schoolchildren are over tested by branding it a ‘myth’.
  • I CAN and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists launched an inquiry into why almost half of children with speech and language difficulties are not being identified by schools. The inquiry will be a follow-up to the 2008 Bercow review, which emphasised how essential it was for speech and language difficulties to be picked up early. A call for evidence has been launched, with a deadline of the 16th March.
  • The House of Commons Education Select Committee announced a second evidence session on primary level assessment on 18th January. The Committee will question academics and research organisations on the changes to primary assessment introduced in 2016.
  • The ATL, GMB, NAHT, NUT, UNISON and Unite warned that changes to the schools funding formula will result in schools being ‘short-changed’, and that ‘some schools in poorly funded areas which are already struggling to make ends meet will see no uplift in their finances. In some cases they may even see reduced budgets’.

Further education & skills

  • The Technical and Further Education Bill had its First Reading in the House of Lords. The Bill will now be read a second time on a date to be announced.
  • The Government published its response to the then BIS committee’s report on The Government’s Productivity Plan. The Government stated that, from May 2017, apprenticeship funding will be simplified and it will be made to be more employer-led, so providers will need to be more responsive to what employers need.
  • The Conservative MP for Richmond, Rishi Sunak, called for the UCAS system to be extended to apprenticeships in order to give apprenticeships closer parity of esteem with higher education. Sunak said that while an apprenticeship may result in superior career prospects, many parents perceive university to be more prestigious, and that schools can be ill-equipped at connecting local businesses with students to provide apprenticeship opportunities.
  • Labour MP and former Education Minister David Lammy wrote in The Times calling for the Government to bring back night schools. Lammy wrote that the ‘political class’ has been ‘obsessed’ with teenagers either going to university or starting apprenticeships, but argued this ‘narrow perspective’ ignores the potential of lifelong learning.
  • The Government published its response to the Science and Technology Committee’s report on Digital Skills. Alongside this, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, wrote to Digital Minister Matt Hancock MP, expressing disappointment over the ‘absence’ of the ‘long promised’ Digital Strategy.
  • In an interview with TES, Lord Sainsbury, Chair of the Government’s independent panel on technical education, said that there has been ‘too much focus’ on apprenticeships in recent years. He said that purely apprenticeship-based training does not allow for fluctuations in the economy and argued that technical routes should be offered alongside apprenticeships.
  • Rural England published a report into rural services, finding that young living in rural areas are losing out on vital access to education and skills development, with only half of pupils in England’s rural areas able to reach an FE institution by public transport or on foot in a ‘reasonable travel time’. The State of Rural Services 2016 found that learners in rural areas spent about £18 a week on travel, compared with about £15 a week in urban areas.

Higher education 

  • The Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry into research integrity. The inquiry follows-up on a POST note indicating a rise in misconduct and mistakes in publishing research, as well as the Committee’s 2011 inquiry into peer review.
  • Following the Government’s defeat in the House of Lords on an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill, Universities Minister Jo Johnson MP wrote in the Telegraph arguing in favour of the Bill. Johnson stressed that the Bill will entrench academic freedom, adding: ‘Those who would dig their heels in now ignore a central truth about our higher education system – our universities did not get where they are by accepting the status quo.’ The Bill continues to be debated in a Committee of the Whole in the House of Lords this week.
  • HEPI, alongside Kaplan, published detailed modelling on the impact of global changes, including Brexit, on demand for higher education. The report indicated that a further ‘crackdown’ on international students could result in a cost to the UK economy of £2 billion a year.
  • Providing evidence to the  Education Select Committee’s inquiry into the impact of Brexit on higher education, Oxford University’s Head of Brexit Strategy Professor Alistair Buchanan, said that Brexit offers the opportunity to reinvent previous collaborations. He added that Britain’s membership of the EU had ‘sidelined’ Canadian and American researchers.
  • The Department for Education released statistics on the enrolments and qualifications obtained by higher education students and providers in the UK for the 2015-16 academic year. More than 104,000 students graduated with a first in 2015-16, a five-fold increase on those achieving the grade in 1999.

Contact Lexington Communications’ Education & Skills Practice on and follow us on Twitter on @Lex_EduSkills