Rise in school teacher vacancies in England
It has been reported that nearly one in 100 full-time teaching posts in England were either vacant or only temporarily filled in 2014, according to an analysis of Department for Education figures. Teaching vacancies are up a third since 2014 and the proportion of teachers with the relevant post-A-Level qualification has dropped slightly over the same period. However, Schools Minister Nick Gibb has insisted that there is no recruitment crisis, commenting instead that there is a ‘challenge’ and that this is being managed. Teaching supply expert Professor John Howson has responded to the Schools Minister, commenting that Gibb’s stance is ‘rubbish’. He goes on to highlight that comparing the Government’s statistics for teaching vacancies cannot be done adequately as they are now collected at a different time of year and exclude Christmas vacancies. Ros McMullen, Executive Principal of the David Young Community Academy in Leeds, said that Gibb’s comments showed ‘how out of touch ministers are’. The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has commented that encouraging recently retired people to go into teaching could solve the teacher shortage.
Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan announces former Blair adviser as head of new careers company
It has been reported that former Tony Blair adviser, Claudia Harris, has been appointed to lead the new Careers and Enterprise Company. She will be the first Chief Executive of the company which was set up last December to improve links between schools and employers. Harris is a former partner at McKinsey & Company and, from September 2005 to August 2006, worked for the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in its health team.
Increase in formal testing at schools
Cherry Ridgway, curriculum and assessment specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, has said that pupils are facing an increase in formal assessments during their time in secondary school, with a dramatic increase in the number of schools where children did a formal assessment every year. Ridgway commented that some schools were using the test results to decide on ability sets, especially given the emphasis on exams in the reformed GCSEs. However, Professor William Locke of the UCL Institute of Education has cautioned against relying on test results, saying that the margin of error is ‘quite substantial’ in GCSE papers.
Exam focus damaging pupils’ mental health, says NUT
Constant focus on exams is damaging pupils’ mental health and self-esteem, according to a National Union of Teachers’ report. The paper by Professor Merryn Hutchings of London Metropolitan University said that the wellbeing of students was being compromised due to ‘high-stakes testing’. Lucie Russell, director of campaigns at the mental health charity Young Minds backed the report and commented that many of the young people that they work with ‘feel completely defined by their grades and that this is very detrimental to their wellbeing and self-esteem.’ The report also argues that the increased focus on exams is harming the relationship between pupils and teachers. Deputy General-Secretary of the NUT, Kevin Courtney, said that the culture of a school has now been shaped to meet Government targets and that this is ‘damaging children’s experience of education.’
CBI rejects Professor Wolf’s proposal for apprenticeship levy
The CBI has rejected the recommendations made by Professor Baroness Alison Wolf last week for an employer levy to fund apprenticeship growth. Neil Carberry, Director for Employment and Skills at the CBI, said that the suggested levy would not help with the quality of apprenticeships or help to involve smaller employers whose support is needed to reach three million apprenticeship starts. AELP Chief Executive, Stewart Segal also said that they do not believe that levies or taxes are the right way to encourage training, unless a group of employers want to adopt their own system. Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the AoC, commented that while levy systems can raise a contribution to the cost of training, it is important that they are not bureaucratic or likely to induce tactics similar to tax avoidance. A spokesperson for BIS said that the report will be reviewed and is a valuable contribution to the debate.
Guide to the Skills System launched in the Lords
A new guide to the skills system was launched in the House of Lords on Monday. The guide is aimed at Parliamentarians and the wider policymaking community, and covers the public funding system, calling for improved careers advice and for policymakers to better define how they expect different types of employers to engage with the skills system. The article features comments from the FE sector on the report, including a response from Dr Lynne Sedgemore of the 157 Group who said that over the next five years ‘we must take proper stock of what is working well and push forward with policies which we know can deliver high-quality education and training for all.’
Javid refuses to rule out college closures in wake of cuts during grilling from MPs
Business Secretary Sajid Javid’s has refused to rule out college closures as a result of the cuts to the adult skills budget. During Business Questions in the House of Commons last Tuesday, Javid chose to criticise Labour’s record rather than guarantee the future of FE colleges. Shadow Business Secretary Chukka Umunna said that in order to increase productivity, the appropriate choices need to be made and said it should be seen as alarming that colleges are facing a solvency crisis.
Call for US-style grade point system for UK undergraduates
Universities Minister Jo Johnson has said that UK graduates should be marked on a US-style points average system so that employers can more easily select job applicants. Johnson suggests a 13 point grade average that would encourage consistent behaviour and make it ‘less easy to coast’ within the 2:1 band. However, universities may resist this suggestion as they have previously been keen to maintain their autonomy with regards to defining academic standards. Johnson’s suggestion was rejected by Russell Group Chair Sir David Eastwood, who said that UK universities have a high international standard that offers high quality teaching.
Universities push for higher fees
Universities have called for the limit on tuition fees to be lifted so that they can rise with inflation. Universities UK have said that since the rise in 2012, the value of tuition fees has been declining in real terms. Vice President of Universities UK, Janet Beer, added that tuition fees need to be maintained in real terms as it is ‘essential to allow universities to continue to deliver a high quality learning experience for students.’ Megan Dunn, President of the National Union of Students said that ‘Universities UK’s call to upgrade the tuition fee cap is further evidence this funding system is failing’ and that the proportion of graduates unable to pay back student loans is increasing at a rate which means that tripling tuition fees would result in ‘zero financial reward’.
Study finds students with vocational background less likely to gain to degrees
A Higher Education Academy commissioned report found that those with a vocational background may need more support in university and are less likely to achieve a first or 2:1. The research indicates that this difference may be more apparent in research-intensive universities. However the study also finds that those from a vocational background may feel more self-motivated and capable than their counterparts with A-levels. Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the HEA said that this research shows that more needs to be done to support the learning of students with a vocational background while they are in higher education.
- The Oslo Summit on Education for Development – Malala Yousafzai and Nawaz Sharif will attend
- The Chancellor will deliver the Budget
- The House of Lords Select Committees will host Oral Evidence Sessions on social mobility which Head of Apprenticeship Growth from DfE/BIS will attend
- The OECD will publish Harmonised Unemployment Rates
The Stonewall Education for All Conference at which Nicky Morgan will speak
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