Inside Your Ed

EDSK

This podcast from the education and skills think tank EDSK takes a look inside the latest stories from across the education system in England including schools, colleges, universities and apprenticeships. You can find out more about EDSK at edsk.org or on Twitter @EDSKthinktank.

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What is sitting in the new Education Secretary's in-tray?
Sep 8 2022
What is sitting in the new Education Secretary's in-tray?
The “education prime minister” was how Liz Truss described herself during her leadership campaign this summer, and she offered plenty of proposals for how she would change things from primary schools up to universities.  To help deliver her education reforms, Kit Malthouse has been appointed as Education Secretary – the fourth person to take on this role in the last 12 months. Although I’m sure everyone is now hoping for greater stability at the Department for Education, the rapidly changing political and economic landscape is unlikely to make the new ministers’ lives any easier. The new Education Secretary’s in-tray will be piled high with policy problems, financial problems and implementation problems, so he will have little time to gather his thoughts before having to make some important and potentially significant decisions. So how will Kit Malthouse navigate these stormy waters? What could and should he prioritise across schools, colleges and universities? And how easy will it be to deliver any new policies in such a difficult environment? To try to answer these questions, we brought together two policy experts just before Kit Malthouse was appointed so that they could give us their verdict on what awaits our new Education Secretary. Our two experts were Jonathan Simons, the Head of Education at Public First, a consultancy, and Andy Westwood, Professor of Government Practice at the University of Manchester.
What is sitting in the new Education Secretary's in-tray?
Sep 8 2022
What is sitting in the new Education Secretary's in-tray?
The “education prime minister” was how Liz Truss described herself during her leadership campaign this summer, and she offered plenty of proposals for how she would change things from primary schools up to universities.  To help deliver her education reforms, Kit Malthouse has been appointed as Education Secretary – the fourth person to take on this role in the last 12 months. Although I’m sure everyone is now hoping for greater stability at the Department for Education, the rapidly changing political and economic landscape is unlikely to make the new ministers’ lives any easier. The new Education Secretary’s in-tray will be piled high with policy problems, financial problems and implementation problems, so he will have little time to gather his thoughts before having to make some important and potentially significant decisions. So how will Kit Malthouse navigate these stormy waters? What could and should he prioritise across schools, colleges and universities? And how easy will it be to deliver any new policies in such a difficult environment? To try to answer these questions, we brought together two policy experts just before Kit Malthouse was appointed so that they could give us their verdict on what awaits our new Education Secretary. Our two experts were Jonathan Simons, the Head of Education at Public First, a consultancy, and Andy Westwood, Professor of Government Practice at the University of Manchester.
Is the government's COVID recovery plan having the desired effect?
Aug 5 2022
Is the government's COVID recovery plan having the desired effect?
“After schools shut their gates on Friday afternoon they will remain closed until further notice. This will be for all children, except for those of key workers and for children who are the most vulnerable.” So said former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday 18th March 2020.  Most pupils eventually returned to school in September of that year after six months out of the classroom, only for more closures to follow in January 2021. Even though many pupils have now been at school since March last year, absence rates have remained higher than usual and the research studies outlining the scale of ‘learning loss’ have continued to pile up. As we’ve reached the end of another challenging academic year, we thought now was a good time to reflect on the various plans and initiatives that have tried to counter the effects of the pandemic. Do we know what impact two and a half years of disruption has had on children and young people? What measures has the government put in place during the pandemic to prevent pupils from falling behind, and were they the right measures? And what needs to happen in the next academic year starting in September to make sure that the COVID recovery effort stays on track?  To discuss these important questions, I’m joined today by Professor Becky Francis, the Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation,  And Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol.
Is the government right to reform qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds?
Jun 29 2022
Is the government right to reform qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds?
You don’t often see teaching unions, schools, colleges, universities and education charities publicly join forces to resist a new government policy, but the debate over the future of qualifications for 16 to 19-year-olds in England has done just that. In 2016 when the government published their plans for T-levels, the new technical qualification for 16 to 19-year-olds, it raised an obvious question: what would happen to all the vocational and technical courses that were already in place? It wasn’t long before it emerged that the government’s vision was for young people to only have three options after age 16: A-levels, T-levels and apprenticeships. This meant that many popular courses such as BTECs would have to be cut to make room for T-levels. But the story is far from over. Over the last 12 months the government has re-confirmed their plans, then stated that they were in fact not going to get rid of BTECs, then delayed their plans, then said they would only get rid of a few BTECS, and now they’ve confirmed that 160 qualifications including 38 BTECs will indeed be removed. So where has this back-and-forth left the qualification landscape for 16 to 19-year-olds? Are there good reasons to reform the system, as the government has repeatedly claimed? And why have so many organisations lined up against the government’s plans to scrap many existing qualifications? To share their thoughts on this contentious issue, we are joined today by Ian Pryce CBE, the Chief Executive of the Bedford College Group, and LJ Rawlings, the Chief Executive of Youth Employment UK.
Will the government's SEND proposals improve the lives of pupils and families?
Jun 16 2022
Will the government's SEND proposals improve the lives of pupils and families?
At the end of March, the government published two significant documents in the space of two days. First came the government’s plans for the future of the state school system in England, which grabbed plenty of media attention.  Next came their new consultation on how to improve the support available to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (or SEND for short), which may not have hit as many national headlines but it could end up being far more consequential for pupils and families. The consultation document claimed to “outline a vision for a more inclusive, consistent, transparent and accountable SEND system”. As the consultation is still ongoing, we thought now was an excellent time to find out whether the government’s proposals really can deliver such grand and broad objectives. So what changes does the consultation propose? Has the government correctly identified the problems in the current system, and will their plans deliver the scale of change that so many parents, pupils, teachers and school leaders want to see? To help answer these questions, we brought together two special needs experts to hear their thoughts and insights. First, I spoke to Annamarie Hassall, the Chief Executive of the National Association for Special Educational Needs, about the potential benefits and drawbacks of the government’s proposals.  And second, I spoke to Tania Tirraoro, the founder and CEO of the Special Needs Jungle website, to understand what parents and carers need from a future SEND system.
How can we prevent young people from falling out of our education system?
May 19 2022
How can we prevent young people from falling out of our education system?
As the UK economy slowly emerges from the pandemic, the government has already begun withdrawing many of the schemes that it introduced to support young people over the last two years. This includes the demise of the Kickstart programme, which subsidised jobs for young people who were unemployed, as well as the incentive payments for employers who recruited apprentices during the pandemic. But the truth is that for some young people, their difficulties are far from over. Even a return to life before the pandemic will not be enough to improve their chances of making a successful transition from education into employment. On May 17th, EDSK launched a major new report that begins with a simple yet troubling fact: on current trends it will take over 150 years before there are no longer any young people who end up ‘not in education, employment or training’, otherwise known as NEET. So why is it that despite endless initiatives and policies from successive governments, the proportion of young people in England who become NEET after leaving school or college has barely changed over the last two decades?  And what could we do differently in future to reduce the number of young people who fall through the cracks in our education system?  To help us unpack this seemingly intractable policy problem, we are joined today by my EDSK colleague Eleanor Regan, who co-authored our new report, and Becci Newton, who is the Director of Public Policy and Research at the Institute for Employment Studies
Will future students win or lose from the government's plans for Higher Education?
May 5 2022
Will future students win or lose from the government's plans for Higher Education?
Who would have thought - you wait three years for a government response to an independent review of the Higher Education system, and then two responses come along at once. Unsurprisingly, when ministers recently published their plans for the Higher Education, or HE sector, the headlines were dominated by the decision to freeze tuition fees at £9,250 for the next three years as well as some controversial changes to student loans. However, alongside those eye-catching decisions, the government opened a consultation on a separate set of proposals that they claim will “improve outcomes, access and value for money of investment in higher education by students and taxpayers.” As the government’s consultation closes on Friday 6th May – the day that this episode is published – we thought it was a good opportunity to take a closer look. So what changes has the government proposed in their consultation? What justifications have ministers provided for these changes? And how easy will it be to balance the interests of students and taxpayers as the government tries to simultaneously improve outcomes, access and value for money? To give us their views on whether the government’s proposed reforms are the right or wrong solutions, we are joined by two senior figures from the HE sector. Diana Beech is the Chief Executive of London Higher, the umbrella organisation representing 40 universities and higher education colleges across London And Alistair Jarvis CBE is the Chief Executive of Universities UK, which represents 140 universities across the UK.
What have we learned after five years of the apprenticeship levy?
Apr 6 2022
What have we learned after five years of the apprenticeship levy?
One of the most common criticisms of politicians and policymakers is that they keep chopping and changing between different policies, making it hard for any idea or approach to build momentum and recognition among those it is trying to reach. On that basis, perhaps we should be glad that the apprenticeship levy – which was introduced in 2017 – is still very much alive and kicking as it celebrates its fifth birthday on April 6th 2022. The levy is, in effect, a payroll tax of 0.5 per cent for any UK employer with an annual wage bill of over £3 million. Simple as this sounds, the apprenticeship levy has been a source of heated debate and discussion ever since it was devised. So what have we learned from the first five years of the apprenticeship levy? Who seems to have benefitted from the levy, and did anyone lose out? And how easy is it to separate out the impact of the levy from other major changes to apprenticeships in recent years –  particularly the decision to replace apprenticeship frameworks, which were essentially a bundle of separate qualifications, with apprenticeship standards in which employers set out the skills, knowledge and behaviours that apprentices will learn during their training. To give us their take on whether or not the apprenticeship levy has been a success, we are joined today by Neil Carberry, the chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, and Dr Anna Morrison CBE who is the founder and director of Amazing Apprenticeships.
What role do wealth and privilege play in university admissions?
Mar 9 2022
What role do wealth and privilege play in university admissions?
The ‘Varsity Blues’ cheating scandal in the United States, which began almost exactly two years ago to the day, is one of the most astonishing education stories in living memory. The rich and famous, including Hollywood actresses, hedge fund managers and a number of chief executives, paid vast sums, sometimes over a million dollars, to fraudulently boost their children’s prospects of getting into the most prestigious US universities. Mercifully, we are unlikely to witness a scandal of this scale and brazenness in this country. However, that does not mean all is well with our university admissions system. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, otherwise known as UCAS, was created in 1993, and the application system – which includes predicted grades, personal statements and academic references – has remained largely unchanged ever since. Yet there have been increasing concerns in recent years that applicants from poorer households may struggle to compete with other students for university places, particularly at the most popular and selective universities.  At EDSK, we published a report in 2020 called ‘Admitting Mistakes’, which called for major changes to the admissions system because the evidence showed that wealth and privilege can indeed help you get into your preferred degree course. So, to give us their verdict on whether or not we should be worried about the role that money can play in our university admissions system, we are joined today by Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, or HEPI, and Dr Lee Elliott Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter.
How could you 'level up' our education system?
Feb 24 2022
How could you 'level up' our education system?
In his foreword to the Government’s new ‘levelling up’ plans, the Prime Minister declared that “From day one, the defining mission of this government has been to level up this country”  - which raises the question of why it has taken over two years to find out what ‘levelling up’ actually means. But at long last, the government has revealed all – or so they claimed. The Prime Minister accepted that we live in – and I quote – “a country in which the place of your birth is one of the clearest determining factors in how you’ll get on, what opportunities will be open to you, even the number of years for which you can expect to live.” This is clearly unacceptable – so what plans does the government now have to ‘level up’ the education system to help address these longstanding issues? Are their plans likely to prove sufficient when tackling such deep-rooted problems, and if not, what should ministers be doing instead? To help us understand how, when and where the government is likely to succeed or fail in their quest to ‘level up’ education in England, our two guests are experts in the economics of education and what it means for learners of all ages. Luke Sibieta runs his own education economics consultancy and is also a Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. And Dr Claire Crawford is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities at the Institute of Education.
What could and should go into the 2022 schools 'White Paper'?
Jan 26 2022
What could and should go into the 2022 schools 'White Paper'?
A new Education Secretary was appointed a few months ago, and the government feels that now is the time to reshape the schools system by publishing a White Paper, which describes their proposals for future policies and the legal changes needed to deliver them. The year, of course, is 2010 and recently appointed Education Secretary Michael Gove is about to launch his ambitious plans that would reshape state schools in England for years to come. Fast forward six years and another White Paper emerged when Nicky Morgan was Education Secretary in 2016, and here we are another six years on in 2022 awaiting a new White Paper on the schools system – this time courtesy of Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi. So why does the government think that a new approach is needed to running state schools? What problems is the White Paper going to attempt to solve? And what can be learned from the previous two White Papers that may guide ministers towards a better set of proposals and away from potential pitfalls? To give us their verdict on what has happened in the past when trying to reform state schools as well as what should happen in future, we are lucky enough to have two guests who have worked on education policy at senior levels inside and outside government. Natalie Perera is the CEO of the Education Policy Institute, an independent research institute which she co-founded in 2016. And Sam Freedman is a senior advisor at Ark Schools and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Government.
Has the government done enough to support young people during the pandemic?
Dec 21 2021
Has the government done enough to support young people during the pandemic?
Looking for your first ever job can be a daunting experience at the best of times. Looking for your first ever job in the middle of a global pandemic will only make things harder. In recessions, unemployment among young people is normally one of the most visible casualties. In the economic downturn that followed the financial crisis in 2008, the proportion of 16 to 24 year olds who were out of work and outside of education reached 20%. As COVID-19 began to spread last year, the government was understandably keen to avoid a repeat of this situation, not least because young people spending time not in education, employment or training – often known as NEET – can have long-term scarring effects on their ability to find a sustainable job. Now that we have a full set of statistics for what has happened in our labour market over the first 18 months of the pandemic, it is a good time to ask whether young people have received enough support during this period of unprecedented change.  Has the government invested enough in young people? Did ministers roll out the right support at the right time? And if a young person enters the labour market now, what are their chances of finding a good job? To help us look back over the last 18 months and what it has meant for young people, our two guests are from organisations who work tirelessly to understand and improve young people’s prospects: Harriet McCann is the Head of Policy at the Youth Futures Foundation, and Tony Wilson is director of the Institute for Employment Studies.
Are T-levels the right answer, and if so, what was the question?
Dec 7 2021
Are T-levels the right answer, and if so, what was the question?
In terms of name recognition in our education system, two brands are hard to beat: A-levels, which were created back in 1951, and apprenticeships, which have been around for quite literally hundreds of years. However, the question of what should sit between A-levels and apprenticeships has been debated and contested for a long time, and not in a good way. The two most recent attempts to fill the gap between A-levels and apprenticeships – first, GNVQs and NVQs in the early 1990s; and then ‘Diplomas’ in 2007 – both failed despite considerable political and financial investment.  If one were to add Applied A-levels, Vocational A-levels, AVCEs, the TVEI, YTS and CPVEs to the list of failures then the history of vocational and technical qualifications quickly turns into an acronym graveyard.  Now, the Government appears to be insisting that in future 16-year-olds in England should only really have three options: A-levels for those who want to attend university, apprenticeships for those who want to move into employment, or a new ‘T-level’ if a student wants to train towards a specific occupation. So are T-levels the right answer, and if so, what was the question? Will T-levels succeed where so many others have failed? And why is the government so keen to remove huge swathes of existing qualifications as they roll out these new T-levels across the country? To share their views on the introduction of T-levels and what it means for the rest of the qualification landscape, we are joined by two guests who have been following T-levels from the very beginning: Dr Fiona Aldridge is Head of Skills Insight at the West Midlands Combined Authority, and Neil Thomas is the Chief Executive & Principal of Dudley College of Technology.
Why are the government's plans to reform teacher training so controversial?
Nov 24 2021
Why are the government's plans to reform teacher training so controversial?
The government does not often find itself in a war of words with the likes of Oxford University and Cambridge University, yet that is precisely what has transpired over the past few months.  But their public disagreements have nothing to do with tuition fees, student loans or university funding. Instead, it is the government’s proposed reforms to the way teachers are trained that has generated a considerable amount of friction. Anyone who wants to become a teacher in England has several options available to them in terms of how they train. For example, you can train at a university through a 1-year post graduate certificate in education, or PGCE.  Alternatively, you could train on the job in a group of neighbouring schools or colleges. Both these options are known as Initial Teacher Training (or ITT for short). So why has the government decided to reform the way that teachers are trained? What are the potential benefits and risks of what they are proposing? And why is it that the government’s plans have met such vocal opposition? To give us their perspective on the government’s proposed changes to Initial Teacher Training in England, we are joined by two guests who take a very keen interest in how we train teachers and how that training is delivered. John Blake is the Head of Public Affairs and Engagement and the former Curriculum Research and Design Lead at Ark Schools, a large multi-academy trust. And James Noble-Rogers is Executive Director of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, a membership organisation for universities involved in teacher education and education research.