Today’s news review examines the National Audit Office’s report on apprenticeships, grammar schools, teachers from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, and the quality of packed lunches.
Today, 6 September, the National Audit Office (NAO) released its report on the apprenticeships programme. The report is balanced, but sets out recommendations to the Department for Education for managing the programme.
The NAO’s report was covered on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, as well as on BBC Online and in the TES.
The BBC suggested that our expanded programme does not align with the needs of the economy, however we are clear that apprenticeships are now more rigorously tested, last longer and are more responsive to the country’s economic needs.
The TES claims that we have not ensured all apprenticeships meet basic requirements, but it is important to point out that apprenticeship standards are developed by employers themselves, so they provide the skills employers know they need. The process for approving standards ensures that developing an apprenticeship is not unreasonably long and resource-intensive, while still being high quality.
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Robert Halfon said:
Our apprenticeship reforms give young people a ladder of opportunity, provide employers with high quality apprentices and deliver real benefits to the economy.
We are giving employers more power than ever before to design apprenticeships that are rigorous, robust and world class. The new Institute for Apprenticeships will ensure that apprenticeships are even more closely tailored to the needs of employers.
On Monday, 5 September, Ofsted Chief Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke about grammar schools as part of his speech at the London Councils education conference.
He said that giving the go-ahead for new grammar schools would be “retrograde”, which was picked up by the Guardian, BBC Online, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
The coverage reported that the Education Secretary Justine Greening was looking into the issue and referred back to the Prime Minister’s words over the weekend.
On the issue of Grammar schools, Number 10 has issued the following statement:
The Prime Minister has been clear that we need to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. Every child should be allowed to rise as far as their talents will take them and birth should never be a barrier. Policies on education will be set out in due course.
Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on the 17 July, Education Secretary, Justine Greening, said:
The setting which schools find themselves has actually changed quite dramatically. It's gone from really being a binary world in many respects to being an education world where there are many different schools now that have many different offers. So I think we need to be prepared to be open minded.
Black and ethnic minority teachers
On Monday, 5 September, the TES covered analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism on the number of teachers from black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds.
The report found that 7.6% of state school teachers in England came from BME backgrounds, this was compared to a quarter of pupils.
We recognise that classrooms must reflect the diversity of their communities, and TES reflected this.
It must, however, be pointed out that schools are compelled to promote social cohesion – all council-run secondary schools must teach citizenship and all schools are held to account for how well they promote the modern British values of tolerance and respect for other faiths and beliefs.
The Leadership, Equality and Diversity Fund aims to support under-represented groups, as defined by the Equality Act 2010, to gain senior school leadership positions. 14% of trainees who were on postgraduate teacher training courses in 2015/16 are from BME backgrounds, up from 13% the previous year.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
We trust school leaders to recruit the right teachers for their classrooms but we are clear that good teams should reflect the diversity of their communities. The percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) teachers is at its highest level on record, and the percentage of BME trainees on postgraduate training course continues to rise.
We are investing millions of pounds to attract the best and the brightest into the profession, regardless of their background, and we’re also expanding Teach First to get more top graduates into teaching in some of the most challenging parts of the country.
By supporting schools to recruit and retain the high quality teachers they need, we will ensure every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.
Today, 6 September, research examining the nutritional quality of children’s packed lunches was covered by The Daily Mail, the Guardian, and on ITV News and Sky News this morning.
The research was carried out by the University of Leeds, and suggests 1.6% of primary school pupils’ lunchboxes currently meet governmental nutritional standards.
Neither the Guardian nor the Daily Mail reflected our position on the issue. This makes clear that schools set their own policy for packed lunches and the introduction of the new School Food Standards.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Schools set their own packed lunch policies and we trust them to make the right decisions for their pupils.
However, we are clear that a healthy, nutritious meal at lunchtime has huge benefits for children. That is why we introduced the new School Food Standards, which ensure nutritious, tasty meals can be enjoyed by children that choose a school lunch, giving them the fuel they need to concentrate inside and outside the classroom and establishing healthy eating habits for life.
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