Education Secretary outlines plans to provide opportunity for all – Friday 6 October 2017

This week I report on the Education Secretary’s plans to provide opportunity for all and ensure the country has the skills needed for a post-Brexit economy, provide a summary of the education highlights from the Conservative and Labour Party conferences and information on a new Mental Health Award for schools.

Measures to provide opportunity for all and build the skills needed for our economy
The Education Secretary Justine Greening has announced a series of measures to “provide opportunity for all and ensure we are building the skills needed to secure the nation’s prosperity”.

  • Additional support for University students – raising the earning threshold for student loan repayments from £21,000 to £25,000 and freezing tuition fees for 2018/19 at their current rate.
  • Getting great teachers in schools that need them the most – piloting a new student loan reimbursement programme for science and Modern Foreign Language (MFL) teachers targeted in the areas of the country that needs them most. Piloting new style bursaries in maths with upfront payments of £20k and early retention payments of £5k in the 3rd and 5th year of a teacher’s career. £30 million investment in tailored support for schools that struggle the most with recruitment and retention. Supporting trainer providers (including Multi Academy Trusts) with Northern Powerhouse funding to expand their reach in to challenging areas in the North that don’t currently have enough provision
  • Tackling inequality and boosting opportunity across the country – tackling the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers through a new national network of English hubs across the country with a specific focus on improving early language and literacy.  £6 million further investment to expand Maths Hubs to more challenging areas. The latest round of the £140 million Strategic School Improvement Fund to include a new focus on boosting literacy and numeracy skills in Reception year.  £5 million investment to trial evidence-based home learning environment (HLE) support programmes in the North of England which focus on early language and literacy.
  • Plans to transform alternative provision – working with school leaders, parents and local authorities to ensure it’s fit for purpose and ensures every child has access to good education, regardless of their background or their ability.
  • Building the next generation of skills needed for the economy to thrive in a modern, post-Brexit economy – diversifying the training and quality of qualifications on offer and ensuring the country remains at the forefront of higher education.

Education highlights from the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences 
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister addressing her party conference in Manchester, promised to continue the free schools programme and highlighted her concerns about the north-south divide in education. She reiterated the pledge to build 100 new free schools every year this Parliament.

Last week the Labour Party held their annual conference in Brighton with the Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner setting out the principles of a National Education Service – a cradle to the grave system that will set out the education that people can expect throughout their lives. Priorities included free high quality childcare for every 2 to 4-year-old, the implementation of a fairer funding formula, an end to the public sector pay cap, bringing back national standards for Teaching Assistants and support staff and investing £8bn in new school buildings and providing £13bn for existing school estates.

Ms Rayner did not elaborate on Labour’s plans for the free school system, nor did she provide any clarity on where the money would be found to fund the proposals.

New kitemark to show schools taking mental health ‘seriously’
Leeds Beckett University’s Carnegie Centre of Excellence for Mental Health in Schools has launched an award scheme to help schools show they are “taking issues of mental health and wellbeing seriously”.

The award aims to improve pupil and staff self-confidence, resilience and mental health. Improve pupil outcomes.  Create a culture of awareness of mental health, tolerance and acceptance, helping to reduce behavioural problems and promotes positive mental health strategies.

The award takes a whole school approach and covers eight key areas, each with a series of statements that the school will use to self-evaluate their current practice.  The school will work with associates from the centre who will help them to ensure that they meet a set of criteria through the development of a portfolio of evidence. The evidence will be verified against the three levels of bronze, silver and gold.  The cost of the award is £350 and it’s valid for 3 years.