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.
Has the 2021 FE White Paper made a difference to the FE sector?
Despite all the turmoil in our education system since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been occasional glimpses of long-term policymaking at the Department for Education.
One of the best examples of this is the White Paper in January 2021 that set out a large package of reforms to Further Education, or FE, in England.
Like schools, colleges are used to being buffeted around by seemingly endless announcements from politicians, but the FE White Paper tried to bring about change on a significant scale – with the then Education Secretary Gavin Williamson describing the White Paper as a “blueprint for the future”.
So has the FE White Paper delivered much in the two years since its publication? Did it have the right ideas to start with? And have the challenges facing the FE sector changed since 2021?
Our guests today are Jo Maher, the Principal & CEO of Loughborough College, and Darren Hankey, the Principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education,
Two think tanks try to fix our childcare system
At the start of 2023, the cost of living crisis is still dominating the news. In recent months, the government has chosen to spend billions of pounds on reducing energy bills to ease the financial pressures on households.
However, ministers have paid much less attention to another significant strain on many families’ budgets: the cost of childcare.
In the UK, over a quarter of parents’ joint income is now spent on childcare – around three times higher than the average across developed countries. This is largely caused by the government investing much less in childcare than in other countries, leaving parents to make up the difference.
One survey found that almost two thirds of families are paying at least as much, if not more, on their childcare than they do their rent or mortgage. Worse still, childcare costs are rising fast at a time when few families can afford to spend more.
Unsurprisingly, this concerning picture has attracted a lot of political attention in recent months, and just before Christmas not one but two think tanks published reports on how they would tackle concerns over the affordability and availability of childcare.
And who better to talk us through these two new reports than the authors themselves.
Rachel Statham is the associate director for work and the welfare state at IPPR, a centre-left think tank.
And Bel Guillaume is a Research Associate at Onward, a centre-right think tank.
Is the government still interested in reforming Higher Education?
Thanks to a turbulent few months in British politics, it is easy to forget that earlier this year the government announced a sweeping set of reforms to the Higher Education system in England that could have a significant impact on both students and institutions.
However, two Prime Ministers later at the end of 2022, the policy environment has changed dramatically.
In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in November, universities were barely mentioned. What’s more, those sweeping reforms from the start of 2022 appear to have slipped off the radar, and the government doesn’t even have a dedicated Minister for Universities anymore.
In the meantime, the financial and political challenges facing the Higher Education sector have begun to pile up at a rapid rate.
So where have all the government’s proposed reforms from earlier this year ended up? Is the current government a fan or sceptic of the role of Higher Education? And do universities and other Higher Education providers want more attention or less attention from government in the coming months?
Our two guests can offer plenty of insights on all these questions from a policy and leadership perspective.
Professor Dave Phoenix is the Vice Chancellor of London South Bank University,
And Jess Lister is a Senior Policy Manager at the consultancy Public First.
Why are so many apprentices dropping out of their training?
On the 27th of November 2012, the then Coalition Government published a major review of the apprenticeship system in England, which had been led by the entrepreneur Doug Richard – hence the title ‘the Richard Review’.
The Review put forward a wide range of reforms to the design, delivery and funding of apprenticeships – all of which were intended to raise the quality, and eventually the quantity, of apprenticeships.
On the 28th of November 2022, almost exactly ten years after the Richard Review was published, EDSK released a new report that investigated whether the quality of apprenticeships has indeed improved over the last decade.
The main findings in our EDSK report do not make for comfortable reading. 47% of apprentices are dropping out of their course before completing their training, and of those who drop out, 70% report problems with the quality of their apprenticeship.
Just a few weeks before our report was released, the Learning and Work Institute published their analysis of apprenticeship outcomes that looked into, among other things, the reasons why some apprentices are not completing their training course.
So, what have these two separate investigations concluded about the factors behind the alarmingly high drop out rates for apprentices in England? What role should employers and training providers play in delivering high-quality apprenticeships? And what could potentially be done to keep more apprentices engaged in their training?
Who better to talk us through these reports from EDSK and the Learning and Work Institute than my EDSK colleague and co-author Eleanor Regan and Stephen Evans, the Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute.
What does the future hold for private schools in England?
“We shall withdraw charitable status from private schools and all their other public subsidies and tax privileges. We will also charge VAT on the fees paid to such schools” said the Labour Party manifesto. In 1983.
Here we are 40 years and many changes of government later with the Labour Party yet again calling for major changes to the way that private schools are treated.
Government-funded schools are certainly under immense financial strain, as we discussed in our previous podcast episode, but surely private schools cannot be blamed for the difficulties faced by teachers and headteachers working in state schools.
So why have private schools suddenly found themselves back in the spotlight after several decades of relative calm in the policy landscape? Are politicians right or wrong to question the value and role of private schools? And if a current or future Prime Minister does indeed change the way that private schools operate in England, will it lead to better outcomes for pupils across the country?
We are joined today by two guests who come at these questions from very different perspectives.
Barnaby Lenon is chairman of the Independent Schools Council and a former teacher and headteacher in the private school sector, and Melissa Benn is a writer, campaigner and co-founder of Private Education Policy Forum, which platforms research and debate on private schools.
Why are teachers and headteachers on the verge of strike action?
As you have probably noticed, the Government has been going through Education Secretaries at quite a rate – with five people having held the post since July of this year.
Given the chaotic political landscape in recent months, it is easy to forget that back in July, an important announcement was made about teacher pay.
In effect, teachers and school leaders were offered a pay rise of between 5 and 9 per cent. Far from being welcomed, the pay offer was widely criticised by those in the profession.
And the situation has got considerably worse since July, with major teaching unions now balloting their members on possible strike action over the coming months.
So what has happened to teacher pay in recent years? What impact has this had on schools and their staff? And with the prospect of more cuts being announced to the education budget this month, what could and should the government do next on teacher salaries?
To discuss this high-profile topic, we are joined today by Dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union,
And Richard Sheriff, the CEO of Red Kite Learning Trust, which includes 13 primary and secondary schools.