Policy Sandra Booth

Policy Briefing – March, 2019

In National Apprenticeships Week, Robert Halfron MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, says GCSEs are pointless and should be scrapped. Questioning the continued relevance of GSCEs, he’s suggesting a broader curriculum including a mix of arts subjects. The Department for Education continued to defend GCSEs as “gold standard” exams. Elsewhere, the sustainable future of journalism, on-line ethics, how best to manage information flows, immersive technology and social media access for young people, were the subject of a Select Committee and the DCMS Cairncross Review. Ministers visited Silicon Valley to discuss better regulation with major social media and content providers who have joined the debate. UKRI announce a £200m project to create 16 new Centres for Doctoral Training and 1000 new research posts in Artificial Intelligence. HESA announce a review of HEBCIS.

Labour party confirm they see education as a public and societal good, would reintroduce maintenance grants, abolish fees and pledge to overhaul the OfS. Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner outlined plans for reforming higher education in a speech at the University and Colleges Union annual conference, calling for an end to ‘the failed free market in higher education’ and proposing a different role for the regulator with powers to intervene on pay and academic diversity and on preventing financial collapse. College Chiefs warn FE is underfunded compared to HE and that T levels will operate at a loss without more funding.

Whilst the main parties disagree on the kind of higher education ideology and system we want; either market driven, competitive or socially driven and community-based, ‘Place’ remains an important concept in education provision and has been recognised as such by the number of universities signing Civic Agreements. Over thirty universities have reaffirmed their commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their local towns and cities at the top of their priorities. The Commission calls for £500m to fund the civic mission of universities and for an additional £120m to be added to the Strategic Places development fund.

The Future for TEF

Universities UK (UUK) and the Russell Group call on the government to reconsider plans for TEF subject-level assessment following the challenges arising from the pilots in around 50 universities. UUK believes plans for subject-level TEF should not proceed until the limitations of the methodology, its resource burden, and whether it delivers any value or contribution to student decision-making, have been fully considered.

The Report finds the TEF definition of excellence is weighted heavily towards final employment outcomes, without full consideration of a student’s overall study experience and the wider benefits of teaching and learning for students, society, citizens, communities and cultural capital.
The Response also suggests awareness of the TEF is low among students, is complicated to understand and is not used effectively to aid decision-making.
Subject-level TEF could cost close to £250,000 per university to administer and, many argue, will still not tell us much about the quality of teaching. Meanwhile the Royal Statistical Society has written to the DfE outlining their major concerns with the statistical validity of TEF.
CHEAD’s response highlighted the difficulties in focusing on teaching intensity and the importance of independent practice time alongside contact time.


The Augur review has been pushed back to May.

The Russell Group and several charities who have suggested that institutions may have to offer fewer university places if tuition fees are cut and there is no additional government funding. The CBI said a cut in tuition fees would be a gross abrogation of responsibility. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has provided its outlook for the 2019 Spending Review outlining continued cuts for unprotected areas in 2020-21.

Education Minister Damian Hinds MP and DfE highlighted both Creativity and Performing as essential foundations for character building. DfE want every child to build up their character and resilience by having access to a variety of activities to stretch and challenge themselves. However, there are no bursaries available for Initial Teacher Education for Art and Design. OFSTED will also be tasked to evaluate a “broad and balanced” curriculum as part of the new inspection framework.[UNIQID]