Today’s news review looks at coverage of a new report on selective schools and speculation on the effects of Brexit on higher education.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank yesterday issued a press release raising concerns that having more selective schools could lower results across the board.
The story was picked up quite widely with former Liberal Democrat education minister David Laws, now chairman of the EPI, speaking on Sky News, BBC Breakfast and the Today Programme this morning, Friday 23 September.
It was also covered in print and by the Times, Independent, Sun and the Guardian among others and on the websites of the TES, BBC and Buzzfeed.
What the EPI, and much of the coverage, fails to acknowledge is that the department is consulting on a plan to make sure that the education system works for all pupils and parents, regardless of their background. The consultation, entitled Schools That Work for Everyone, is still open and seeks views on how to make sure everyone has access to a world class education. We encourage anyone with concerns to play an active part in the consultation.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Every child, regardless of background or ability, should have access to an excellent education. We know grammar schools provide a good education for disadvantaged pupils, helping to all but eliminate the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, and we want more pupils from lower income backgrounds to benefit from that.
Our proposals are not about recreating the binary system of the past, which is what this report is based on. Our new approach would ensure any new selective schools prioritise the admission of pupils from lower income households or support other local pupils in non-selective schools to help raise standards. We are clear that relaxing restrictions on selective education can and should be to the betterment, not at the expense, of other local schools.
This is about creating more good schools in more areas, giving every child the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and we would urge everyone to look at the detail in the consultation and join that debate.
For more information on the consultation click here.
Brexit and the Higher Education and Research Bill
Today, Friday, 23 September, there have been reports on the impact of Brexit on universities as well as commentary on the Higher Education and Research Bill.
It is reported in the FT that legislation will ‘lower the barriers for new institutions offering degrees’. This is not the case. Our reforms will ensure that quality is protected at every stage, from the way we regulate new entrants, to how we will deal with poorer quality provision; poor quality or financially unsustainable providers will not be able to enter. There will continue to be robust criteria and assessment for obtaining all Degree Awarding Powers (including Probationary Degree Awarding Powers), building on the current peer review system, to ensure that a provider has the capability to set and maintain our high quality degree standards.
The Bill does not relax these standards or lower them in any way, nor remove the current independent decision-making and scrutiny approach. Allowing new providers to enter the market will offer students more choice and increase diversity and innovation in the sector. There are already new providers up and running offering the sort of innovative, flexible courses for students that we want to see more of, for example, Pearson College, offering specialised, high quality business degrees.
The Guardian also reported that in the Higher Education and Research Bill “public administration of universities devolves onto a new Office for Students, composed of government appointees”. The Bill actually makes clear that Office for Students (OfS) board members must have experience and knowledge that reflects the diversity of providers in the Higher Education sector. We are also very clear that the OfS will be an independent, non-departmental body, just as the current regulator, HEFCE, is now.
Much of the coverage also reports on concerns universities have on EU funding post Brexit. Our position on EU funding for students is clear.
A Department for Education spokesperson:
EU students make an important contribution to our world-class universities, and we want that to continue. While the UK remains a member of the EU, rules regarding the student loans EU nationals receive are unchanged - EU students currently eligible to receive funding will continue to do so for courses they are currently enrolled on, or about to start this Autumn.
The government will continue to work closely with the sector.
You can read more about higher education and research following the EU referendum in a statement from Universities Minister Jo Johnson here.