Schools & Early Years

  • The Government published their response to the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy’s report on careers education. The Committee said the response was insufficient, accusing ministers of ‘burying their heads in the sand’ and highlighting the rejection of the recommendation for Ofsted introduce a specific judgement on careers information for secondary schools. Co-Chairs Ian Wright MP and Neil Carmichaels MP called on the Government to publish the ‘long promised’ strategy for careers.
  • The Times reported that Education Justine Greening MP is likely to abandon the ban on pupils taking term-time holidays, first introduced by her predecessor Michael Gove in 2013. The Department for Education is currently funding an appeal to the Supreme Court following a court ruling in Isle of Wight that challenged the policy, but the newspaper reported that greening may abandon it if the Government loses the case.
  • The Education Endowment Foundation published research concluding that free primary school breakfast clubs can boost attainment. The evaluation by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the National Children’s Bureau found that Year 2 children who attended a breakfast club delivered by children’s charity Magic Breakfast made two additional months’ progress in reading, writing and maths. This was in comparison to a similar group whose schools did not offer their pupils the same service.
  • The British Humanist Association published the results of a poll of 2,054 people, which revealed that 72 per cent of the public oppose religious selection in schools, while only 15 per cent of the public are in favour of it.
  • The National Union of Teachers and the Association Of Teachers & Lecturers published an analysis of the Government’s schools funding plans, warning that schools with the most disadvantaged children are likely to face the most significant funding cuts. They said that primary schools with the most deprived intakes would face losses of £579 per pupil, increasing to £784 for secondary schools.

Further education & skills

  • The Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, announced the Government’s White Paper on Prison Reform. The Government will seek to make prison governors in England fully responsible for education provision and introduce a core common curriculum across the estate. In addition, a new Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway will be created. Further information will be provided next year in a detailed education strategy.
  • The Skills Minister, Robert Halfon, appeared in front of the Education and Skills Sub-committee inquiry into apprenticeships. Halfon said the skills deficit in the UK was ‘horrifying’ and that the Government needed to use ‘rocker boosters’ to close the gap on European companies. He added: ‘Australia, Austria, Germany and Switzerland have three times as many apprentices as the United Kingdom, and only 10 per cent of people hold higher-level technical qualifications.’
  • Catherine Sezen, the AoC’s Senior Policy Manager for 14-19 and Curriculum, wrote in FE Week about concerns regarding Government funding of the Skills Plan. Sezen argued that the FE sector still requires detail about the transition year, such as whom it’s aimed at and how courses at levels four and five will work in practice.
  • The TES reported that the proportion of general FE colleges that have been classified as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted has almost doubled in the past year, with only one institution graded as ‘outstanding’. However, the overall performance of sixth-form colleges and independent learning providers inspected has improved when compared with 2014-15. An Ofsted spokeswoman said the performance of FE providers ‘varies considerably’.
  • The Chief Executive of the AELP, Mark Dawe, gave a speech at their autumn conference urging the Chancellor to use the Spending Review to increase spending on skills, to ensure that Britain’s workforce remained competitive post-Brexit. He said: ‘The FE and skills sector now needs a period of stability to get on with the job of meeting these challenges rather than endlessly dealing with an onslaught of Government reforms’.
  • Former Universities and Skills Minister David Lammy MP led a Westminster Hall debate on apprenticeships funding in which he raised concerns about FE sector cuts. Lammy also noted concerns that apprenticeships were not meeting basic quality requirements and that employers were hiring apprentices to avoid paying minimum wage.
  • The DfE published data showing that more pupils are in education, employment or training destinations after key stage 4, with this now accounting for 94 per cent, up two percentage points since 2013/14.

Higher education 

  • HEFCE announced a comprehensive package of support to ‘keep English university knowledge exchange operating at world class standard’, including the formation of a steering group for the framework bringing together university leadership, academic experts and expert practitioners. This will be chaired by Professor Trevor McMillan, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University. HEFCE also published guidance and metrics to support providers on the Year Two Teaching Excellence Framework.
  • Sir James Dyson announced that his company will be opening an educational institute at its Wiltshire headquarters, with the aim of eventually gaining full university status. Engineering degrees will be taught from September 2017 and academic learning will initially be provided by the University of Warwick alongside practical work at Dyson. The company will invest £15m into the initiative over five years.
  • Writing in The Times, universities Minister Jo Johnson said the institute would ‘help to tackle the chronic shortages of engineers that have long held our economy back’ and said the Government’s reforms would help open up the field to other new entrants.
  • Labour Peer Lord Soley led a  Lords debate on the potential impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on funding for universities and scientific research, noting that the Russell Group has argued for the UK to have continued influence over Horizon 2020 and other research funding programmes. Higher Education Minister Viscount Younger responded that that the reforms of the Higher Education and Research Bill would provide a ‘best-in-class regulatory system’ for higher education, and that the new UK Research and Innovation body would be a ‘strong voice’ on the global stage.
  • The Chair of the Economic Affairs Committee, Lord Hollick, wrote to Jo Johnson asking about the Government’s plans to sell student loans to the private sector and the decision to freeze the student repayment threshold.
  • The THE reported on concerns that UK-based researchers will move abroad following Brexit. The article noted that Germany, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland are expected to benefit from continuing uncertainty over research funding.’
  • Students at Cambridge University voted down plans to change the tradition of making exam results public. In total, 55 per cent said they wished to retain the ‘Class List, with an opt out, although the plans will still go to a vote among staff later this month

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