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Education in the Media: Monday 17 September 2018

Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the Education Secretary’s European tour, the new Student Minds Mental Health Charter, and Ian Bauckham’s interview about the reformed Relationship and Sex Education curriculum. We also address coverage about student loan interest rates.

IFS Report

Today, Monday 17 September, the Institute for Fiscal Studies released its inaugural annual report on education spending, in collaboration with the Nuffield Trust. The report focuses on funding for education all the way from early years through to higher education, and has received coverage from the Guardian, the Independent, i News, the Mirror and the Sun. This comes in the week the Education Secretary Damian Hinds is on a fact finding trip to Germany and the Netherlands – an opportunity for us to share knowledge, build relationships, and research the outcomes of other educational structures in fellow productive and enterprising economies.

Academic standards in the UK are rising. The proportion of pupils attending good or outstanding schools is now 86%, compared to just 66% in 2010. There are also 154,000 more six year-olds on track to become fluent readers since the phonics check was introduced, and the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has narrowed since 2011. In addition to this, over nine in 10 nurseries delivering childcare are good or outstanding.

We are also working to make sure that Further Education and Technical Education receives the funding it deserves. Our funding for post-16 skills is a signal of intent that we want to continue to improve standards and offer more opportunities. This Government is committing an additional £500 million per year for providers to deliver the extra requirements of T Level qualifications - the technical equivalent of A levels - when they are rolled out from 2020. In addition, the amount being invested in apprenticeships by 2020 will be double what it was in 2010.

We have recently announced a major review into Post-18 Education and Funding, to examine the efficiency of provisions and the level of funding. Level 4 and 5 provision will also be reviewed. The Education Secretary’s time in Germany and the Netherlands will also help us to evaluate what areas we are succeeding in, and where we can comparatively improve to assure we deliver a world-class educational standard across the board:

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We are striving for a world class education for everyone, whatever their background. The OECD report this week showed that we have got some of the best funded education in the world, with some of the best outcomes.

Despite the difficult decisions we had to make in 2010, the schools budget was one of only two budgets protected and since then we’ve seen 1.9 million more children being taught in good or outstanding schools – an increase from 66% of children in 2010 to 86% now.

Whilst we accept that there are pressures across the system we have protected base rate funding for 16 to 19 year olds until 2020, and are putting more money into our schools than ever before. We understand the pressures in Further Education, which is why our wide ranging review of post-18 education and funding is looking at how the system can work better for everyone, ensuring value for money for students and taxpayers.

We are introducing new gold standard T Levels - the technical equivalence to A levels – into colleges from 2020 which will combine classroom study and real-world industry placements in fields like manufacturing, digital, medicine and construction. These qualifications will be supported by £500 million every year.

More broadly, we want to continue the strong rise in academic standards since 2010 which is why we’re investing record funding in childcare, around £6bn a year by 2020, and core schools funding is increasing to £43.5 billion by 2020 – 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000.

You can read the Secretary of State’s Op-Ed regarding his European tour here.

Student Mental Health

Yesterday, Sunday 16 September, the Universities Minister wrote a letter to university Vice Chancellors in England, calling on them to prioritise student mental health. The Minister’s Op-Ed has been published by the Huffington Post.

A new mental health charter, initiated by Student Minds, will be launched in universities in an attempt to push this issue to the forefront. The Universities Minister fully backs this charter and hopes it will help improve the standard of mental health practises university-wide.

The Universities Minister, Sam Gyimah said:

Since I have been in post, I have made this issue one of my top priorities and I have heard first-hand from both students and institutions about the challenges they have faced in this area. With the new academic year upon us, I’m sure you would agree that good mental health and wellbeing underpins successful participation and attainment. Collectively, we must prioritise the wellbeing and mental health of our students – there is no negotiation on this. To make this happen, leadership from the top is essential.

A system-wide approach is also critical. That is why on 28 June I announced new wellbeing initiatives for our higher education institutions. These coincided with the mental health roundtable I hosted at the University of the West of England, Bristol, along with the university’s Vice-Chancellor Steve West, who I commend for the student wellbeing work he is leading there through his Mental Wealth First strategy.

I announced that the government is backing the University Mental Health Charter led by the mental health charity Student Minds which will encourage universities to demonstrate a level of excellence in supporting students’ mental health. This will be an ever more important feature of an institution’s offer to prospective students and their families.

You can read the minister’s letter in full here.

Student Loans

Yesterday, Sunday 16 September, the Sunday Times published an article which compared student loans with payday loan services.

The student loan system looks to support more students to benefit from higher education. This is why students do not have to repay anything until they are earning above £25,000, and interest rates do not impact on monthly repayments. We continue to work on delivering the most effective and affordable world class education at post-18 level, which we are continuing to do with our review of post-18 education.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Student loans are not the same as commercial loans– because students do not have to repay anything until they are earning above £25,000 and the interest rates charged do not affect their monthly repayments. Unlike other loans, all student debt – including accrued interest – gets written off by the Government after 30 years.

We have already made clear our review of post-18 education and funding will look at how students and taxpayers are getting value for money, including the role of interest rates.

Relationships and Sex Education

On Saturday 15 September, the Telegraph published an interview with Ian Bauckham, a key advisor on the reformed Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum. The Sun also carried comments from this interview.

Mr Bauckham expressed the importance of educating children about technology, and the safe use of social media and the internet.

The new RSE curriculum will be mandatory in schools from 2020, but some schools will be able to start teaching from next year.

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