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Friday 8 March 2019: University dropouts, music education and International Women’s Day

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Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at university dropout rates, music education in schools and International Women’s Day.

University Dropouts

Yesterday, Thursday 7 March, the Higher Education Students Agency published statistics on university dropout rates for 2017/18 – showing that overall dropout rates have improved, but that the dropout rates between the most and least disadvantaged students has widened. This has received coverage from the Independent, the Telegraph, I News, the Sun, the Mail and the Mirror.

Yesterday, the Education Secretary announced a new provision in the form of a taskforce to help support university students with key challenges of their transition to higher education, including managing finances and finding your feet in the student community.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

We have made huge progress in ensuring universities are open to all, with record rates of disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in higher education, but every step we make on access is undermined if a larger number students then drop out of their courses.

No student starts university thinking they are going to drop-out and whilst in individual circumstances that may be the right thing, it is important that all students feel supported to do their best – both academically and in a pastoral sense. Today we have announced a new taskforce to help universities support students with the challenges that starting university can involve, but universities need to look at these statistics and take action to reduce drop-out rates.

If they don’t, we have given the Office for Students power to take action. I expect them to do that and challenge institutions to look at what support they can offer – particularly to disadvantaged and underrepresented groups – to turn these figures around.

Music Education

Today, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) published research, which claims that state school pupils are falling behind independent schools in giving pupils access to music lessons. This was covered by the Independent and in brief by the Sun.

We are clear that music is an important subject and that is why it is compulsory in the National Curriculum from the age of 5 up to 14. Art education programmes also receive more funding than any subject other than PE.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We want all pupils to have the opportunity to study music at school. That is why the subject is compulsory in the National Curriculum from age five up to 14.

We will be working with music groups and practitioners to refresh the national plan for music education. We have already started work to develop a high-quality model music curriculum, which the British Phonographic Industry welcomes.

Arts education programmes receive more money than any subject other than PE - nearly half a billion pounds to fund a range of music and cultural programmes between 2016 and 2020. This money is in addition to the funding that schools receive to deliver the curriculum.

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, and to mark this, the Guardian has run an op-ed by the Universities Minister Chris Skidmore who calls on universities to do more to promote women to leadership roles.

The Minister says that progress is being made but there is more that can be done to support talented women in progressing to top academic and leadership roles.

You can read the full article here.

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