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Education in the media: 30 September

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Adoption, Looked after children, School tests, Universities

African American male teacher working at his desk

Today’s news review looks at coverage of plans to change the way the quality of university teaching  is assessed , results of the national phonics screening check and new looked-after children statistics.

League tables for universities

On Thursday 29 September, we published announced plans for a more rigorous process to assess universities on teaching quality through bronze, silver and gold ratings, as part of the Teaching Excellence Framework.

This is the first time that higher education providers will be rated on the quality of teaching, part of the Government’s commitment to raise the standards in our universities, give students more choice and improve graduate outcomes.

These changes have been covered in The Times and The Guardian.

The BBC Online and the i coverage speculates over how much fees could rise.  We have made clear that universities will not be able to increase their fees unless they pass rigorous quality standards.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:

By setting out clear incentives for universities, the framework will drive up quality in the sector at the same time as improving student choice and crucially, graduate outcomes – so that we can be confident we have the skills employers need now and for the future.


The framework will also give students clear, understandable information about where the best teaching is on offer and for the first time, place teaching quality on a par with research at our universities.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

These reforms are designed to put teaching quality and job prospects at the heart of higher education, ensuring students get value for money.


Universities will not be able to increase their fees unless they pass rigorous quality standards. We have always been clear that as the framework develops it will become increasingly robust, with additional criteria, such as university’s retention and graduate employment rates, introduced into the judging process.

Phonics screening

Yesterday, Thursday 29 September, the results of the national phonics screening check were published.  The results show a continued rise in pupils meeting the expected reading standard. The proportion of pupils reaching the expected standard in phonics was 81% in year 1 and 91% by the end of year 2, rises on last year of 4% and 1% respectively.

Phonics teaching – which involves pupils sounding out and blending the sounds of the alphabet into words – is the most effective method of teaching reading to children. Since the introduction of the check in 2012, there are 147,000 more six-year-olds on track to become excellent readers. It should also be noted that our reforms are supporting a narrowing of the educational attainment gap, regardless of economic background or gender.

The results were covered in The Guardian, with a guest article from Nick Gibb published in the Telegraph online.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said:

The government is determined to make this country work for everyone, not just the privileged few. Ensuring all primary school children can read fluently by the time they leave primary school is fundamental to this ambition.


Thanks to the hard work of teachers, our continued focus on raising standards and our increased emphasis on phonics‎, there are now an additional 147,000 six-year-olds on track to becoming fluent readers. While this is a huge achievement, we know there is more to do. We will work with schools and local authorities to ensure even more young people have the knowledge and skills they need to get on in life.

Adoption figures

Yesterday, 29 September, new figures were published on looked after children in England.

One of the key findings is the 12% decrease in the number of looked after children adopted. This was expected due to a decrease in the number of placement orders, following a legal ruling from the family court judge, Sir James Munby.  The Children and Social Work Bill, which is currently going through parliament, will make sure that adoption is prioritised when it is in the best interests of the child.

The findings were reported in The Guardian and The Times.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

It is right that we make sure children are protected and that we aspire to have every child grow up in a loving, stable home. Our Children and Social Work Bill will make sure the long-term needs of children are prioritised when courts are considering placement options. This is backed up by our £200 million investment to improve the adoption system, including making sure adoption is always prioritised where it is in a child’s best interest.

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