Conservative Party’s key education announcements – Friday 5 October 2018

This week I report on the Conservative Party’s education announcements at its annual conference, the publication of a Sutton Trust report on parental engagement and the launch of a new programme to connect UK schools with classrooms around the world.

Conservative Party’s Education announcements
The Education Secretary announced little that was new in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.  None of the new projects he mentioned are backed by new money from the Treasury, so they will need to be funded through the DfE’s existing budget. Projects included:

  • £10m behaviour training fund and new guidance – to improve training on behaviour for teachers to ensure they are able to manage behaviour and thrive in their primary task of teaching.  Ministers will also update government guidance on behaviour.
  • More careers leaders and employer networks – a further £5 million to go into training “careers leaders” in 500 schools, extending the number of schools affected to 1,300 and creating another 20 networks, making a total of 40.
  • English Hubs named – 32 schools have been named that will split £26.3 million to become “English Hubs”.  There are two in the North East, but they aren’t in North Tyneside.

Sutton Trust Report on Parental Engagement
In 2013 the Sutton Trust published Parent Power?, a landmark piece of work demonstrating how social class influences parents’ ability to support their children in their schooling.  Five years later Parent Power 2018 revisits the cultural and financial resources parents use to boost their children’s chances of educational success.

Based on a survey conducted by YouGov, the Sutton Trust found similar trends to those found in 2013.  From choosing the best school to attend, to paying for out of school extracurricular activities, better-off parents continue to have the upper hand when it comes to navigating the education system and preventing their children from falling behind in school.

The report also reveals new challenges.  The ‘hidden costs’ of education such as uniforms and travel expenses are an increasing concern for parents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, while schools are demonstrating increasing reliance on extra financial contributions from parents following recent school budget cuts.

UK aid to connect UK schools with classrooms around the world
Last month saw the launch of the Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning programme by the International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds and Love Actually director Richard Curtis.

The programme is co-funded by the British Council and unites pupils in the UK with school children in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It will offer grants to fund visits by UK and developing country teachers to the partner school and mobile digital platforms (such as WhatsApp and Zoom) will also be used to enable classroom-to-classroom activities between teachers and pupils.

The programme is for children aged between 7 to 14 years and schools can sign up by going to the British Council’s website and selecting the part of the programme they are interested in, or by emailing schools@britishcouncil.org.