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Education in the media: 10 November

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Apprenticeships, Attainment gap, Equalities

Today’s news review examines a report into white working class boys’ GCSE performance, Equal Pay Day and concerns about lower-level apprenticeships.

Sutton Trust

Today, 10 November, the Sutton Trust published research which claims that white working class pupils achieve the lowest grades at GCSE of any main ethnic group.

The research, which showed that on average a quarter of boys achieve five good GCSEs compared to a third of girls, was picked up in the Guardian, the Sun and the Daily Mail both online and in print, and in the TES.

In all of these articles, the Sutton Trust’s calls for the Government to focus on struggling white, working class boys is given prominence. However, what the DfE is doing to help this demographic is not reflected.

In particular, we have plans to expand the grammar school system, as figures published in Parliament reveal the difference a selective education can make for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The latest year’s figures show that white male students eligible for free school meals were almost 30% more likely to go on to higher education if they attended a grammar school, compared to their counterparts in non-selective schools (70% as opposed to 54% in 2014/15).

White male students eligible for free school meals were more than three times more likely to go to one of the Russell Group universities if they attended a grammar school, compared to their counterparts in non-selective schools (30% as opposed to 8% in 2014/15).

Looking at all pupils eligible for free school meals, they were more than twice as likely to achieve 5 A*- C GCSEs if they attend a grammar school compared to their counterparts in non-selective schools (96.7% as opposed to 44.1% in 2014/15).

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We want to make this a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, and education is at the heart of that ambition.


Thanks to the government’s reforms over the last six years, more than 1.4m more children are in schools that are rated good or outstanding than in 2010. This year alone we are investing £2.5 billion through the Pupil Premium to tackle educational inequality, and the attainment gap is narrowing at primary and secondary level through our measures to improve reading and maths skills.


But we know there is more to do, and that’s precisely why we have set out plans to make more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country - including scrapping the ban on new grammar school places, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools.


We know that grammar schools have a track record of closing the attainment gap between children on free school meals and their better off classmates, and 99% of grammars schools are rated good or outstanding. We want all children, whatever their background, to be able to go as far as their talents will take them.

Equal Pay Day

Today, 10 November, is Equal Pay Day – the day when women effectively start working for free for the rest of the year compared to men, due to the gender pay gap.

The day, which is being led by the Fawcett Society and the Trade Union Council, has been covered by the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sky News, BBC Online, the Guardian and the Sun.

What is missing from much of this coverage is what the Government is doing to close this gap. While legislation for equal pay has been in place for 46 years, we know that there are lots of factors which create a gap between men’s and women’s salaries.

To help eliminate this, we are introducing requirements for all employers with more than 250 members of staff to publish their gender pay and gender bonus pay gaps for the first time ever from April next year.

We are also working with business to have 33% of women on boards by 2020 and eliminate all-male boards in the FTSE 350. Additionally, the amount of free childcare available to working parents of three- and four-year-olds is being doubled. We believe this will help to remove the barriers that can prevent women from returning to the workplace.

These improvements build on the changes Government has already introduced to support women in the workplace. These include extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, introducing a new system of flexible parental leave and increasing the National Living Wage, of which two-thirds of recipients are women.

A Government spokesperson said:

No woman should be held back just because of her gender. We now have the lowest gender pay gap on record and that’s as a result of the changes we’ve made so men and women can share their parental leave, our work to get more women into the top jobs at our biggest companies and our drive to get more girls taking STEM subjects at school that will get them into more lucrative professions when they are older.


But we know there’s more to do. That’s why we are requiring employers to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gap for the first time from April and we are giving working parents up to 30 hours of free childcare from next September, meaning women can go back to work and progress in their careers after having children if they choose to.


Today the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggested that lower level apprenticeships are not up to standard and as such are holding back social mobility.

The report recommends that the Government phase out Level 2 apprenticeships for 16 to 18-year olds and replace them with a separate pre-apprenticeship programme.

This was met by opposition in the media, with FE Week writing that Level two apprenticeship should not be cut, rather they should be funded more. BBC Online and TES also covered the report.

It is important to note that we are supporting 16-18 apprenticeships through extra funding to training providers and employers which recognises the additional support that young people may need.

We work with employers and training providers to help young people in the transition to work. Young people have a range of opportunities to choose from depending on what suits their interests and abilities. These can be from classroom-based academic and technical routes through to training based largely in work environments.

Level 2 apprentices can earn up to £74,000 more over their lifetime, thanks to the skills they gain. This goes up to £117,000 for Level 3 apprentices and £150,000 for higher levels.

Additionally, we announced yesterday, 9 November, that we would be giving £4.5 million to universities and colleges to provide new degree apprenticeships. These are set to open the door to careers in everything from nursing to construction and food manufacturing. This was covered in the TES.

Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon said:

We are determined to ensure that people of all backgrounds and all ages can get on the ladder of opportunity. That is why we introduced traineeships, which are backed by business, and provide young people with the vital work experience and skills they need to gain an apprenticeship or a job.


We want to transform this country into an apprenticeship nation and Level 2 apprenticeships are a key part of that. Level 2 apprentices can earn up to £74,000 more over their lifetime, thanks to the skills they gain. We are also supporting young people into full-time jobs with training through 16- 18 apprenticeships – providing sustainable careers, with proven returns on future earnings and employment.


We have recently gone even further to encourage employers to hire young apprentices by committing to pay training providers £1,000 each when they take on a 16 to 18-year-old.

Find out more about The Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund.

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