Schools & Early Years

  • The Chancellor, Philip Hammond MP, delivered his Autumn Statement, announcing that the Government will provide £50m of new capital funding to support the expansion of existing grammar schools in each year from 2017-18.
  • Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, delivered a speech at the Education Policy Institute conference, highlighting the ‘growing North–South divide that exists after the age of 11’, the fact that the most able disadvantaged children in non-selective schools are still not doing as well as they should, and the ‘poor quality of careers guidance and the parlous state of our post-16 technical and vocational provision’.
  • The National Association of Head Teachers called for MPs to ensure that all children from poorer homes are automatically registered for free school meals, by supporting an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, which would auto-enrol them.The Government response to the Women & Equalities Committee report on sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools revealed that they will not make it statutory requirement for schools to develop a whole school approach to preventing this behaviour. The Committee said they will hold a follow-up inquiry on the Government’s response.
  • The IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2015 was published, showing a fall in the maths performance of England’s 13 and 14-year-olds from tenth to 11th place, but a rise of one place in science performance. The results showed that Asian countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Taipei and Japan, continue to dominate in maths.

Further education & skills

  • In the Autumn Statement the Government announced it will devolve the adult education budget to London from 2019-20 and provide £13m to support firms’ plans to improve their management skills by implementing Sir Charlie Mayfield’s review of business productivity.
  • The Technical and Further Education began its Committee stage in the House of Commons, with the Bill Committee sitting twice.
  • FE Commissioner Richard Atkins, told TES that area reviews will not be ‘the end of the story’ for college reorganisation and that ‘limited’ funding for colleges means there will be more college mergers, even after the process ends in spring. Atkins said colleges may have to focus on certain specialisms.
  • The Skills Funding Agency launched a new project to raise awareness and prestige of quality apprenticeships in schools, targeted at years 10, 11, 12 and 13. The SFA will work with teachers, careers advisers, parents and governors. The programme will involve identifying and recruiting 1,000 Apprenticeship Champions in schools across England
  • The Department for Education published NEET statistics for July to September 2016. The NEET rate remained broadly flat for the 16-24 age group, rising by 0.1 per cent to 13.9 per cent. Within this, there was a fall in the NEET rate for the 16 to 18 age group and a rise for the 19 to 24 age group.
  • FE Week reported on comments by Keith Smith, Director of Funding and Programmes at the SFA, at the AoC annual conference earlier this month. Smith reportedly said that half of the apprenticeship levy will be paid by just 400 employers, despite the fact that 20,000 employers are expected to fall within the scope of the levy.
  • The Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry into the STEM skills gap, particularly looking at growth sectors such as big data. The Committee has called for written evidence by Friday 13 January.

Higher education 

  • In the Autumn Statement, the Government announced that funding of £100m will be provided until 2020-21 to incentivise university collaboration in tech transfer and in working with business.
  • In addition, the Chancellor announced the National Productivity Infrastructure Fund (NPIF), which will provide an additional £4.7bn by 2020-21 in R&D funding for:
    • An Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to support collaborations between business and the UK’s science base. The fund will be managed by Innovate UK and research councils.
    • Work to increase research capacity and business innovation.
  • It was announced the Higher Education and Research Bill will have its Second Reading in the Lords on Tuesday 6th December.
  • Labour’s Dr Rupa Huq MP led a Westminster Hall debate on the impact of Brexit on the HE sector. She highlighted uncertainty over freedom of movement and access to the single market and the potential impact on university staff and students from the EU. Minister Jo Johnson MP stressed the Government is giving ‘considerable thought’ to the matter.
  • Universities UK published a progress report on the concordat to support research integrity, first published in 2012. The report concluded that the main features of the concordat should be retained, and focus should be on ‘consolidating benefits, not changing course’.

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