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Schools & early years

  • The Government tabled amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill, designed to require that all secondary schools in England teach relationships and sex education. Education Secretary Justine Greening said the changes would ‘teach children and young people how to stay safe and healthy, and how to negotiate some of the personal and social challenges they will face growing up’.
  • The Prime Minister announced that the Government plans to provide £500m divided between opening 140 new free schools and supporting infrastructural improvements to existing schools. Some of the new free schools are expected to be selective, as part of Theresa May’s commitment to opening new grammar schools.
  • A study by Teach First found that 43 per cent of pupils at England’s outstanding secondaries come from the wealthiest 20 per cent of families. Poorer pupils are also half as likely as the richest to secure a place at these schools, while only two thirds of secondary schools in the poorest areas are rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted, compared with 93 per cent in the richest area.
  • Research by the Sutton Trust found that the top 500 comprehensive schools in England take just 9.4 per cent of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), just over half the rate of the average comprehensive (17.2 per cent). The research claimed that about half of this gap is due to the location of high attaining schools in catchment areas with lower numbers of disadvantaged pupils.

Further education & skills

  • There were pre-briefed reports about this week’s Budget, including that the Chancellor will announce a £500m fund for new vocational qualifications; T Levels, with the aim of improving the reputation of work-based qualifications among employers. The T levels will be graded like A levels and take two years to complete, with 15 sectors to be offered by 2022, replacing 13,000 existing qualifications.
  • The Learning and Work Institute released research showing that young people eligible for free school meals are half as likely as non-FSM eligible young people to undertake a level 3 apprenticeship. The research also concluded that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are under-represented, and that, although women make up 52 per cent of all apprenticeships, they are more likely to be in low paid sectors.
  • The Department for Culture, Media and Sport unveiled its Digital Strategy, including plans to help adults who lack core digital skills to access free training. In total four million free digital skills training ‘opportunities’ will be offered by 2020. Lloyds Banking Group will give face-to-face digital skills training to 2.5 million individuals by 2020, Barclays will assist 1 million people with digital skills, and Accenture will partner with FutureLearn to develop a new national digital skills programme.
  • The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee released a report on the Government’s Industrial Strategy, which it described as lacking ‘the framework for future decision-making’. The Government’s skills proposals were deemed ‘deeply disappointing’
  • The Engineering Employers’ Federation published a report on the apprenticeship levy, arguing that more companies than expected are in the scope of the levy. The report also found that 34 per cent of manufacturers see no benefits to the levy and 61 per cent are concerned about the cost impact on their business.
  • The Careers Guidance (Access to Schools) Bill 2016-17, which would guarantee that pupils have access to careers advice from post-16 institutions, will progress to its second reading on 24th March. The Bill was introduced by Nic Dakin MP (Lab, Scunthorpe) under the Ten Minute Rule.

Higher education

  • Research by Universities UK found that international students coming to the UK to study generate more than £25 billion for the economy, including  £4.8 billion in tuition fees, as well as on and off-campus spending and the spending of their visitors.
  • MillionPlus published a report arguing that universities are uniquely placed as local partners and anchor institutions to support both devolution and the industrial strategy through their teaching, business support, strategic expertise, high-quality research, knowledge exchange activities, and graduates.
  • The Higher Education Statistics Agency released the income and expenditure data of higher education providers in 2015/16. The showed that total income for the HE sector in the last academic year was £34.7 billion, of which tuition fees represented 48.4 per cent.

Contact Lexington Communications’ Education & Skills Practice on education@lexcomm.co.uk and follow us on Twitter on @Lex_EduSkills

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