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Education in the media: 7 February 2017

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Curriculum, Higher Education, Universities

Today’s blog looks at new guidance for universities and colleges on boosting the number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as a study by the Wellcome Trust on science teaching in schools.

New Offa guidance

Today, Tuesday 7 February, the Office for Fair Access (Offa) published new access agreement guidance for universities and colleges.

This outlines that higher education institutions must work closely with schools to attract more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. To ensure this happens, any college or university wishing to charge students higher fees in 2018-19 must first have an access agreement approved by Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education.

The guidance has been reported in a number of outlets, including Telegraph Online, the i and the Times Higher Education.

A Government spokesperson said:

We are committed to creating more good school places and universities have an important role to play - with many already helping raise standards.


But we want the whole sector to work with us to improve the quality of schools, so that more students of all backgrounds have the grades and the confidence to apply to the best universities, and be successful in their exams in the first place.


So we welcome this decision by the Director of Fair Access as an important first step towards creating thriving university-supported schools in every part of our country.

Science teaching in schools

The Wellcome Trust has today published its 2016 Science Education Tracker (SET), an annual survey on young people’s engagement in science based on a sample of over 4,000 state school pupils aged 10 - 13.

One of the key findings is that over one quarter of GCSE students take little or no part in practical science experiments. This angle has been picked up by PA, BBC Online and TES.

England already performs above the OECD average in science results in schools, thanks to the hard work of teachers and schools. We have also funded a number of programmes to improve take-up of STEM subjects at A-level, particularly among girls who are traditionally unrepresented.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We want every young person to fulfil their potential, irrespective of their background, and studying key subjects such as science is crucial to this.


As a recent international study showed, pupils in England recognise the importance of science to their future career prospects, and many hope to work in a science-related field. With the help of our rigorous new science qualifications and our £12.1m investment over the next three years to improve science teaching in schools, we are determined to help them succeed.

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