Schools & Early Years

  • Sir Michael Wilshaw, outgoing Ofsted Chief Inspector, criticised Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to expand grammar schools. He said that the policy would ‘actually lower standards for the majority of children’ and that it was ‘socially divisive as well.’
  • AQA announced that they will drop the art history A-level from 2018, becoming the last exam board to drop the subject. It is the latest in a series of curriculum changes that began under Michael Gove. The Association of Art Historians said that the loss of the A-level ‘means that for many prospective students of the subject that door will close and future opportunities will be lost’.
  • The Sutton Trust conducted a survey of 1,607 primary and secondary school teachers, which found that 43 per cent of state secondary school teachers would not consider advising their bright pupils to apply to Oxbridge. 19 per cent said it was because they thought it was unlikely the application would be successful, whilst 13 per cent didn’t think their pupils would be happy there.
  • The DfE published statistics that found that there has been a rise in the uptake of the Ebacc – 39.6 per cent of state pupils entered in to it 2016, up from 38.6 per cent in 2015. The numbers of those undertaking EBacc English, maths and languages are stable, while entries to EBacc science and humanities have increased.
  • Training Journal reported on figures from the Chartered Management Institute  and EY Foundation, which found that 88 per cent of respondents did not feel employers offered opportunities for personal development. The report recommended that employers and educators do more to help develop practical skills and confidence from a younger age. Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the CMI, said: ‘Making management and leadership skills part of the school curriculum will help bridge the gap between employers and the next generation of workers.’

Further education & skills

  • The DfE announced that Richard Atkins has been appointed to the role of FE Commissioner and will lead the Government’s work to boost the quality of further education in England. Atkins takes on the role from Sir David Collins who will be retiring in November 2016.
  • Simon Moffatt, Human Resources Director at Prudential, wrote an article in Training Journal, which argued that many employers running apprenticeships failed to communicate their value. Moffat cited research which found that 34 per cent of 16-18 year olds felt that going to university made them more employable than completing an apprenticeship.
  • Chris Kirk, an educationalist who has worked in the sector for more than 20 years, has been nominated for the post of Association of School and College Leaders General Secretary. Sian Carr, ASCL President, said: ‘We felt that Chris has the experience and skills to ensure that ASCL is able to play a key role in helping to shape future education policy and provide excellent representation for the association’s members.’
  • The Public Accounts Committee held an oral evidence session as part of their inquiry examining the value derived from apprenticeships. Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, argued that the focus should not just be on numbers of people undertaking apprenticeships but on developing a high skilled population that can contribute to economic productivity as well. Jonathan Slater, DfE Permanent Secretary, emphasised that the Apprenticeship Levy incentivised employers to invest in training, to ensure a return on their investment. He said that that this would subsequently address the skills gap.
  • FE Week reported that the Government may U-turn on plans to cut apprenticeship funding rates for young people in disadvantaged areas. The article claimed that the Skills Funding Agency will address the cuts in plans to be published later this month.
  • David Lammy MP, Labour’s former Higher Education and Skills Minister, called for a backbench business debate on the funding cuts to apprenticeships. FE Week reported that Lammy had stressed that there were ‘serious questions for the Government to answer.’
  • The TES reported on findings from the CIPD that the Government needs to promote high-quality vocational pathways into work to avoid the ‘graduatisation’ of the labour market. According to the report, there has been a significant increase in the number of graduates in traditionally vocational jobs over the last 35 years.

Higher education

  • The Government published a letter from Universities Minister Jo Johnson responding to Lord Stern’s review into the Research Excellence Framework. Johnson said the HE funding bodies will consult the sector on the proposals for the next REF exercise this Autumn. HEFCE has provided further details on its next steps, stating it expects to launch the consultation in November.
    • Further amendments have been tabled to the Higher Education and Research Bill. The amendments include:
    • Proposed changes to the board of the Office for Students
    • Clarifications around the role of UK Research and Innovation
    • A measure to ensure there is consultation before future changes could be made to UKRI or the Research Councils
    • A change to the definition of research to ensure it covers the full-breadth of research
    • Clarification around the business facing focus of Innovate UK
    • A measure to allow Research England to fund HE providers to support research, knowledge exchange and skills  provision
  • The Times reported on a Home Office study which found that only 1 per cent of international students break visa rules by refusing to leave after their course ends. The findings call into question past estimates which have suggested that thousands of foreign students ‘vanish’ every year after completing their degrees.
  • Universities UK published a poll revealing that only 24 per cent of people view international students as immigrants, and 75 per cent said they would like to see the same number or more international students in the UK. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, commented: ‘International students support regional economies, create jobs, supply high level graduate skills, and ensure the sustainability of many courses at a regional level.’
  • Dr Liz Marr, Open University’s Director of Teaching, wrote an article on Wonkhe’s blog, which advocated allowing challenger institutions to have a role in the HE sector. She said that to argue that ‘new provision is the pathway to hell ignores many of the very successful new providers’, such as FE colleges, ‘which have brought new opportunities to a much wider group of potential students’.
  • The DfE announced that EU students applying for a place at a higher or further education institution for the 2017 to 2018 academic year will continue to be eligible for student loans and grants throughout the duration of their course. Jo Johnson commented: ‘International students make an important contribution to our world-class universities, and we want that to continue’.
  • MillionPlus published a policy paper on Brexit, highlighting the value of EU students to UK universities and the wider economy, as well as noting the £836m research funding the UK receives from the EU. MillionPlus recommended that the UK should allow EU students to become temporary residents in the UK with minimal restrictions post-Brexit, providing that reciprocal arrangements are applied.
  • Bill Rammell, University of Bedfordshire Vice Chancellor, wrote a paper which asserted that the Government’s ‘obsession’ with introducing market competition to the HE sector ignored ‘the fundamental purpose of universities to serve the public interest.’ He called for restrictions on degree awarding powers and wider recognition of the civic benefits of higher education.

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