Schools & Early Years

  • Ofsted’s Annual Report was published, highlighting that the ability of a school to maintain its performance or improve depends on effective oversight. The report also outlined the poor quality of education in more geographically and economically isolated parts of the country, including coastal areas. Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw commented that the failure to improve schools in the North and East Midlands has fuelled the sense of a divided nation.
  • The Department for Education published its response to its consultation on early years funding, outlining that the new funding formula will commence in April 2017 for the existing universal entitlement for three and four-year olds, alongside the increase to the average funding rate.
  • The Education Policy Institute published research on pupil attainment and faith schools, finding that while faith schools perform better than non-faith schools, they have proportionately fewer pupils with challenging needs. Moreover, EPI found that faith schools educate a lower proportion of disadvantaged children or those with special educational needs, and enrol a larger proportion of high attaining pupils.
  • The London Institute of Banking and Finance published the 2016 Young Persons’ Money Index, which revealed students believe they will be earning more than £47,000 a year by the time they reach 30, nearly £20,000 a year above the current average. The study also found that salary expectations are highest among male students, and that 58 per cent of students do not receive any form of financial education in school or college.
  • Research by the National Foundation for Educational Research examining the role and impact of Regional Schools Commissioners revealed that the number of new academies has increased since the introduction of RSCs in 2014. However, the research also revealed that the proportion of academies varies by region, with a growing gulf between the most and the least academised regions.
  • The Department for Education has published England’s results in the 2015 PISA rankings, an international comparison of the science, maths and reading performance of 15-year-old pupils. In maths, England is ranked 27th, the lowest since it began participating in the tests in 2000. In reading, the UK is 22nd, up from 23rd, while England’s most successful subject is science, up from 21st to 15th place – the highest placing since 2006, although the test score has declined. In Wales, 15-year-olds score significantly lower than the rest of the UK in all three subjects
  • Alongside the results, DfE announced a £12.1m investment in the teaching of science in schools until 2019. The programme will fund continued professional development for science teachers.

Further education & skills

  • Ofsted’s Annual Report found that, in some schools, vocational routes are being pushed to those with low educational attainment, and that apprenticeships have not successfully focused on sectors that are experiencing skills shortages. Ofsted also stated that forcing GCSE retakes in English and maths has resulted in a 156 per cent increase in the number of students studying these subjects, resulting in colleges struggling to recruit sufficient teaching staff.
  • The Mayor of London unveiled a £7 million Digital Talent Programme to help young Londoners access jobs in the digital technology and creative industries. The programme will focus on boosting the proportion of women and BAME Londoners in the industry. The programme will include work placements, training and tailored learning opportunities.
  • The CBI launched ‘Unlocking Regional Growth’, a campaign to improve productivity outside London and the South East. They cited statistical analysis showing that London is 30 per cent more productive than the national average. The CBI said that while the Government is prioritising faster road and rail links to improve productivity, ensuring that pupils get good GCSE or equivalent qualifications would be more effective.
  • FE Week revealed that over a quarter of apprenticeship providers have declined the opportunity compete for an SFA contract to deliver training to small and medium sized businesses from next May. Of the 1,753 providers who have applied to join the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, only 75 per cent have applied to deliver training to smaller, non-levy paying employers.
  • The Technical and Further Education Bill completed Committee Stage in the House of Commons. The Bill will now have its Report and Third Reading in the House of Commons on a date to be announced, and then move to the House of Lords.
  • The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry into the STEM skills gap, particularly looking at growth sectors such as big data. The Committee has invited written evidence on the action taken by organisations to close the gap, including apprenticeships, vocational courses, mentoring, teacher placements in industry, and establishing links between business and schools/colleges, by Friday 13 January.
  • Speaking at the NHS Confederation Conference, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP announced that from September 2017, up to 1,000 NHS staff will be able to enrol as apprentices nurses.
  • The Public Accounts Committee published its report on apprenticeships, raising concern that employers might ‘exploit the system’ with regards to the apprenticeship levy by misusing the levy funds or using it to reduce their wage bill. Also of note, the report recommends that the Department for Education makes better use of destination data so that it can more effectively communicate the value of apprenticeships to potential apprentices, schools, and careers service.

Higher education 

  • EY and Hotcourses published the 2016 Prospective International Student Survey, surveying 2,700 prospective students from 130 countries. The survey revealed that the US remains the favoured destination for prospective students, and that nearly two-thirds of students placed the US within their top three countries. The UK remained a favoured destination, with over half of respondents placing it in their top three.
  • The Department for Education published longitudinal educational outcome statistics based on students who graduated in 2009, finding that overall employment and further study outcomes five years after graduation varied little by subject studied, but earnings did vary by subject. The statistics revealed that while those who studied medicine or dentistry had the highest average salaries five years after graduation, while those who studied creative arts or design had the lowest.
  • The Government abandoned an ‘anti-advocacy clause,’ announced earlier this year, that would have prevented charities and universities from political lobbying if they receive public money. The decision followed outcry from the HE sector, which considered it an attempt to silence criticism from experts on political issues.
  • Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, warned of the scale of the funding challenge facing universities while providing evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee. Sim told the Committee that current funding levels were unsustainable and put the quality of university teaching and university research at risk. He cautioned that more than a quarter of universities in Scotland were in deficit in 2014/15 and the sector was reaching the point where they would no longer be able to operate.
  • The Social Mobility Commission released research showing that pupils from low-income families are much more likely to drop out of education after their GCSEs. When comparing students with identical GCSE results who live in the same area, poor teenagers were less likely to go to university, with just 24 per cent of children eligible for free school meals (FSM) attending higher education compared to 42 per cent of those from more privileged backgrounds.
  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed that Research Council studentships will remain open to EU students starting courses in the next academic year. The funding support will cover the duration of their course, even once the UK leaves the EU.

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