Yesterday the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a landmark referendum result. The result has already led to the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said he will step down by October this year. While the result was announced this morning, it will be at least 2 years before the UK actually leaves and exactly how and when this will happen is currently unclear. Mr Cameron’s resignation creates uncertainty with regard to decision-making in Government and also wider uncertainty that the two years (at least) negotiation to leave the EU will bring.
What does this mean for education?
Those supporting the ‘remain’ campaign have said that Britain is home to many of the world’s leading universities, its education system out performs some bigger European countries and Britain’s place in the EU is inextricably linked to this success. Universities UK (the representative organisation for the UK’s universities) has argued that there are 125,000 EU students at British universities generating more than £2.2bn for the economy and creating 19,000 jobs. 14% of academic staff come from other EU nations and research funding from Brussels is worth £1bn a year. It added that the quality of research is enhanced through EU co-operation, benefiting the economy and helping British academics to tap into a “continent-wide” pool of knowledge.
The European Social Fund (ESF) has also been cited as an example of how the EU can provide better learning opportunities to young people, as it has funded support for young people aged 14-19 who were not in employment, education or training and who may have had barriers to learning. Erasmus+ is a well-known programme allowing 250,000 students to undertake cultural and educational exchanges throughout Europe over seven years and this scheme provides Britain with funding of around €1bn over this period.
Those supporting the ‘leave’ campaign have said that Britain’s exit will not deter EU students from applying to British universities and if numbers of EU students were to fall, the increase in international fees applied to those who wanted to study in the UK could help plug a funding gap. The campaign has also countered claims that leaving the EU would end government plans to expand apprenticeships. They say the stronger economy brought about by Britain’s exit would fund apprenticeships and training. Fears over generous EU grants to universities would also be allayed by campaign promises over how current subsidies would be spent.
Does this now mean that all EU funding of research will end? that EU funding for apprenticeships and training will end? and that Britain’s membership of Erasmus+ is now uncertain? It has been intimated that current spending commitments will be honoured until the end of the current EU budget in 2020. We will need to see how the next few weeks and months pan out to get comprehensive answers to these questions.
This week I provide an update on the findings from the latest Education Select Committee meeting, report on the end of SGOSS providing governor search services and the DfE’s recommendation for the new HMCI for Ofsted.
15 June 2016 Commons Education Select Committee meeting
Earlier this week both the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter and Ofsted’s Chief, Sir Michael Wilshaw gave evidence to the Education Select Committee on Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). Sir David discussed his plans to perform ‘health checks’ on MATs that want to take on more schools, saying they will focus on standards and improvement, how much trusts improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and that they know “exactly how strong their great schools are and how weak their weakest ones are”.
Sir David also reported that since September 2014, 119 academies had been re-brokered because some of them were performing no better, or minimally better, than the failing schools from which they had taken over. Of those schools, 68 had gone from a multi-academy trust to another multi-academy trust and 51 and gone from a single academy trust to a multi-academy trust. He indicated the “re-brokerage solution” was an important tool for Regional Schools Commissioners challenging under-performance, but it was also disruptive, expensive and affected the children at the school. That was why Regional Commissioners tried to get involved with struggling academies before they got so bad that there was no other option but to find another sponsor and new management.
End of School Governors One Stop Shop (SGOSS)
From 31 August this year the Department for Education funding for SGOSS will be come to an end and it will no longer provide the school system with governor search services. The service will be re-directed to an expanded Education and Employers Taskforce which operates the Inspiring Governors service.
DfE recommends new Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector for Ofsted
On Friday last week the Secretary of State for Education recommended Amanda Spielman for the post of HMCI of Ofsted. If appointed, she will replace Sir Michael Wilshaw in December. Ms Spielman, co-founder of the academy chain ARK, is no stranger to governance having been Chair of Ofqual since 2011 and a board member of Brunel University, Floreat Education and Stemnet.
At present, this is only a recommendation for appointment and it will now be scrutinised by the Education Select Committee, who will present their conclusions to the Privy Council for consideration.
This week I highlight the publication of the APPG’s report on the impact and effectiveness of financial education in schools, a report from the CBI calling for a greater focus on science in primary schools and the recruitment of new Deputy Directors for the eight Regional Schools Commissioners offices.
Call for better financial education for young people
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Financial Education for Young People has published its report on the impact and effectiveness of financial education in schools. The APPG commissioned its fourth inquiry in this area to assess the extent and impact of financial education teaching since its introduction into the English secondary national curriculum at the start of the 2014/15 academic year. As a result of the inquiry, the APPG has made the following recommendations for policymakers:
- strengthening school provision by introducing financial education at primary level and ensuring teaching focuses on real-life contexts;
- improve teacher confidence and skillset by embedding financial education in the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Framework and schools having a financial education ‘champion’ to coordinate and promote learning;
- encouraging coordination between financial education providers by HM Treasury ensuring that the reformed money guidance body is able to coordinate, identify and signpost best practice of financial education across the sector;
- measuring long-term impact by commissioning a long-term study on the effectives of financial education interventions and the UK to participate in the OECD’s evaluation of financial literacy to enable global benchmarking.
Business leaders call for greater focus on primary science
This week the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) published a report calling for a greater focus on science in primary schools. The report highlights that the supply of science skills doesn’t currently meet demand and this has the potential to hold back economic growth. It suggests increasing young people’s engagement with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects is an important part of overcoming the problem, but argues that too many children are switched off to science by the time they leave primary school. The report’s recommendations include:
- developing a new science education strategy covering all levels of education;
- ensuring professional development for science is of a high standard in primary schools and that it’s undertaken on a regular basis;
- all primary schools having a subject leader for science to drive a continual focus on the subject;
- as part of CPD developing the opportunity for teachers to spend some time in businesses and universities to enhance their understanding of the theory and application of science;
- helping governing boards get to grips with STEM provision in their schools.
Eight new deputy directors to lead the Regional Schools Commissioners offices
The Department for Education is to appoint eight new senior civil servants to head up the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) offices and help handle their rising workload.
The Deputy Directors will “complement senior leadership teams” in each of the eight RSC offices, but they will not be Deputy RSCs and won’t have the decision-making powers specific to RSCs.
The staffing expansion comes as RSC offices prepare to take on extra work with the Government’s proposals to academise coasting schools, as well as schools in council areas deemed underperforming or unviable.