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Education in the Media: Thursday 31 January 2019

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: early years, Free schools, Technical education, Universities

Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at unconditional offers, maintained nurseries, free schools and technical education.

Unconditional Offers

Today, Thursday 31 January, UCAS released their End of Cycle 2018 report. This was covered by the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Mail and the Times, who focused on the latest data included on unconditional offers.

Universities are expected to be responsible in their distribution of unconditional offers, for the best interests of prospective students as well as the wider system.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

While there are some cases and subjects, like fine art, where unconditional offers have long had a place, I have been clear that the steep rise in unconditional offers across a wide range of subjects is disturbing.

But what is particularly alarming in the UCAS data out today is the huge variation across institutions in their use of unconditional offers and the proportion of ‘conditional unconditional’ offers pushing students into making a university their first choice.

I believe this widespread practice is not in the best interests of students and could even be harmful to their future and achievements. OfS data show that students who accept unconditional offers are more likely to miss their predicted grades by two or more grades, ultimately putting them in a worse off position. Your academic achievements stay with you and even with a degree, employers will still look at your A Level grades.

That’s why I am urging universities to use their offers responsibly and not simply use unconditional offers to get students through the door. In today’s report institutions have provided context with their figures and where they cannot be justified I have made clear to the Office for Students that they should use the full range of powers at their disposal to take action.

Maintained Nurseries

Today, the Labour party released a report on maintained nurseries, which suggests that a number of nurseries could close due to funding in the coming years. This has been covered by the Independent.

The department has a range of regular and one-off research projects, some of which are ongoing and some which have already been published. These provide us with insight into various aspects of the provider market, the impacts of the 30 hours policy, market size, workforce, pay and costs.

The department and MHCLG wrote to all councils in 2015 to encourage them to use their powers to grant business rates reductions to support access to local high quality childcare provision, and since 2016 the Government has introduced a range of business rates reforms and measures in England worth over £13bn over the next five years.

1.3 million children are now benefiting from some funded early education, including 94% of all 3- and 4-year olds.

Minister for Children and Families Nadhim Zahawi said:

We want every child to have the best start in life which is why we are spending more money than ever before to support early years education and childcare – around £6 billion a year by 2020.  However, we recognise the need to monitor costs and the childcare provider market.

Maintained nursery schools make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of some of our most disadvantaged children, which is why we are providing local authorities with around £60million a year up until 2019-2020 to protect maintained nursery schools funding. The position beyond this will be determined by the next Spending Review.

Free Schools

Today, the Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced a new wave of free schools to create thousands of new school places across England. This was covered by TES.

The latest round will target areas with low educational standards and a strong need for new places, and is part of a programme of expansion that is on track to add 1 million more places this decade – the fastest growth in school places for two generations.

The Education Secretary has called on high performing schools, sponsors, charities, community groups and parents to come forward with proposals for new schools.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

Free schools have helped to raise standards for pupils in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country by handing power back to head teachers and school leaders and empowering communities. Many parts of the country have already taken advantage of the Free School Programme – and have reaped the benefits - but I now want more young people benefit from a great free school opening in their area.

I have seen for myself some of the great work Free Schools do and their innovation and a different way of thinking about teaching and learning are a fantastic addition to our education system. Last week I called for more schools to convert to an academy to benefit from the additional freedom and autonomy that academies offer. I have the same message for any group considering applying to open a free school: you are best placed to make the right decisions for pupils and local communities, so I want you to help young people make the most of their talents.

You can read more about the expansion here.

Technical Education

Today, TES has published a piece by Sir Gerry Berragan, Chief Executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Sir Gerry writes in his piece about the work being done in technical education, including the upcoming implementation of T Levels from 2020.

You can read the piece in full here.

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