It’s delusional to think tuition fees are fair. Poorer students are being penalised

14 July 2017

Universities minister Jo Johnson has argued, in this paper, that the university funding system is working well. After Damian Green went off script over the weekend and admitted that university funding needs reviewing, Johnson argued that the current system is both fair and effective. IFS statistics released this week, however, reveal gaping holes in this argument.

10 charts that show the effect of tuition fees

14 July 2017

University tuition fees in England have become a political battleground – with renewed calls that they should be scrapped.

When they were increased a few years ago to £9,000 they became a literal battleground, with activists clashing with police on the streets around Westminster.

Now they are going to rise again. But what has the impact of higher fees been? Have they cut student numbers? And are they worth the money?

It’s not fair to make profits out of loans to poorer students

14 July 2017

Guardian Letters on the topic of ‘Tuition Fees’:

It is shameful that the poorest students will now finish university with £57,000 in debt, more than those from better-off homes. Our research has shown that graduates will be paying back their loans well into middle age, affecting their ability to go to graduate school or afford a mortgage, and decisions on having children. It is grossly unfair that someone from a council estate should pay more than someone from a top boarding school. At good American universities, all costs are means-tested. That’s why we at the Sutton Trust have 260 students at 60 good US universities, all of which means-test. As our students are from homes with family incomes of less than £40,000, they qualify for grants which cover 100% of their costs. Surely we should take our lead from the US and means-test all costs associated with going to university.
Peter Lampl
Founder and chairman, Sutton Trust, and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation

Rise in poorer students dropping out of university

3 July 2017

Rising numbers of students from more disadvantaged homes are dropping out of universities in England before completing their studies, figures show.

The proportion of youngsters from disadvantaged families who do not continue after their first year has reached the highest level for five years, says the Office for Fair Access.

Official data shows that in 2014-15, 8.8% of young, full-time, disadvantaged undergraduates did not continue in higher education beyond their first year – up from 8.2% the year before. By comparison, in 2014-15, less than 5% of those from the wealthiest backgrounds did not continue their studies.

The Offa report says: “The gap between the non-continuation rates of the most advantaged and most disadvantaged students has widened in the past year.

“While more disadvantaged young people are in higher education than ever before, the numbers of those students leaving before completing their studies has risen for the second year in a row.”

The report says: “The significance of this for students is huge.

“Higher education can be a transformational experience that opens doors to rewarding careers and social mobility, but this is only the case if students achieve successful outcomes.”

Queen’s Speech: Grammar school expansion abandoned

21 June 2017

The creation of a new wave of grammar schools in England has been ditched from the government’s plans.

The Queen’s Speech says the government will “look at all options” for opening new schools, but that will not include removing the current ban on expanding selection. The controversial plan to stop free lunches for all infants is also absent. This takes away the biggest source of extra funding promised for schools in the Conservative manifesto.

The government, setting out its plans for the next two years, has not announced any legislation for education. This means dropping their most high profile proposed education reform – the expansion of selective education in England.

‘Isolated’ poorer students more likely to drop out, study shows

22 May 2017

Less affluent students in higher education are significantly more likely to experience problems with socialising and integrating than their peers from well-off families, says a major new study.

Only 33% of the students from D and E socioeconomic groups said they were well integrated with the students they lived with, compared with 50% of students from A and B socioeconomic groups. Only 34% of the group said they had friends at university whom they socialised with at least twice a week, compared with 48% of AB students.

Labour corporation tax hike could help schools but dent economy, says IFS

12 May 2017

Labour’s plan to fund higher school spending through increases in corporation tax could boost educational performance but would risk damaging the economy’s long-term growth prospects, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said.

The thinktank’s analysis of one of Jeremy Corbyn’s flagship policies shows that reversing the government’s planned cuts to schools’ budgets would be comfortably paid for by the extra revenue raised by increasing the main rate of corporation tax to 26%.

Under current Conservative plans, spending per pupil in England will be cut by 6.5% between 2015-16 and 2019-20 – the first real-terms fall since the mid-1990s. The IFS said higher pension costs meant schools’ budgets were likely to face an 8% reduction in total.

The 11-plus can ‘never be tutor-proof’, major grammar school exam board admits

8 May 2017

The 11-plus can “never be tutor-proof”, a major grammar school exam board has admitted, as one of the last remaining selective counties announced it was abandoning its five-year experiment with tests designed to be immune from coaching.

All 13 of Buckinghamshire County Council’s grammar schools are to re-instate GL Assessment as their 11-plus provider, despite axing it five years ago amid concern that its questions were predictable and therefore favoured wealthy parents who could pay for extra tuition.

From September 2018, exams written by GL Assessment will replace the current 11-plus papers, which are designed by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University in a way that is meant to be unpredictable and therefore harder to prepare for.

Kent grammar schools: Odds ‘loaded against poor pupils’

5 May 2017

The odds are loaded against children from disadvantaged backgrounds who apply for grammar schools in Kent, suggests a study.

Entrance tests for the county’s grammars “understate the true academic abilities” of poorer children, says the Education Datalab report. The “heavily” selective county will be a useful case study if grammars are rolled out nationally, says the study.

Kent County Council said it was working to boost social mobility in grammars.

Ministers have announced plans for a new generation of grammar schools in England by 2020.”We want to see more children from disadvantaged families get into grammars,” said Education Secretary Justine Greening in a speech last month.

But Education Datalab’s analysis suggests the selection process in Kent does not always identify “the most academically capable children”. The report uses data for children who sat the 11-plus in 2015, obtained under Freedom of Information law by Kent Education Network, which opposes selective education. The figures show 12% of free school meals pupils passed the test in 2015, compared with 30% of their better off classmates.

Current Vacancies: EMWPREP Project Officer (NCOP)- Applications close Sunday 7th May 2017

2 May 2017

We are pleased to be able to advertise a full-time post of EMWPREP Project Officer (NCOP). The new HEFCE funded National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) seeks to work with young people, via 29 geographically located consortia in disadvantaged areas, who are achieving the qualifications they need to put them on a trajectory for HE but subsequently take […]

MPs question government’s ‘grip’ on new school places

26 April 2017

MPs have questioned “how much of a grip” the Department for Education has on providing school places where they are needed in England.

The system is “increasingly incoherent and too often poor value for money,” says the Public Accounts Committee. And the government is spending “well over the odds” on free schools while other schools are in poor condition, says the cross-party committee. Ministers say free schools are key to meeting demand for school places. The government has pledged to open 500 more free schools, which are state-funded but independently run, by 2020 and has plans for a further 110.

The MPs’ investigation builds on a National Audit Office report in February which said billions were being spent on free schools while many existing school buildings were crumbling. The NAO said this was a “significant risk to long-term value for money”. The MPs agree that having enough school places in safe, high-quality buildings, where they are needed, is crucial.”Without this, parents may have less choice, pupils may have inconvenient journeys to school and the learning environment may be less effective, putting educational outcomes at risk,” they say.

Government tried to decide whether to label students from ‘ordinary working families’

19 April 2017

The Department for Education (DfE) has set out plans for measuring the education needs of students from “ordinary working families” – which it says makes up a third of all children.

The DfE published a consultation paper earlier this week which aims to find ways to provide “a clearer analysis of educational outcomes for ordinary working families”.

It comes in the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s repeated calls for the UK to address social mobility and help those who are “just about managing”.

While the paper says “there is no official definition of an ordinary working family”, it describes students fitting into the category as those who are not entitled to pupil premium, but who come from families earning “modest” or below median incomes.

Poor children returning to school ‘malnourished’ following increase in ‘school holiday hunger’

19 April 2017

The number of poor children going hungry during the school holidays is increasing to “heart-breaking” levels, teachers across the country have warned.

As many as four in five staff (80 per cent) reported a rise in “holiday hunger” over the past two years, with parents of children who qualify for free school meals (FSM) during term-time struggling to find the money to fund extra meals during school holidays.

In a survey led by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), 78 per cent of the 600 teachers polled said they recognised children arriving at school hungry. More than a third (37 per cent) went as far as to say pupils were returning after the school holidays showing signs of malnutrition.

Poor pupils ‘less likely to be at outstanding primary’

19 April 2017

Children from poorer homes in England are nearly half as likely to attend an outstanding primary school as richer children, research finds.

Only 15% of children from the poorest 30% of families currently go to outstanding primary schools, a study by education charity Teach First suggests. This compares to 27% of children from the richest 30% of families who attend a school rated highly by inspectors.

The government says it is making more good school places available.

The research is published as parents in England prepare to hear on Tuesday which primary school their child has been allocated.

The study, by education charity Teach First, analysed official data on income deprivation, known as IDACI, and information from Ofsted inspections. The results suggest the lowest-income families were also twice as likely to have a child at a primary school rated by Ofsted inspectors as “requires improvement” or “inadequate”.

Parents pay £52,000 more to live in areas with outstanding schools, new survey reveals

5 April 2017

Parents are paying more than £50,000 in order to move to catchment areas with outstanding schools, raising fears that the country’s top state schools are becoming selective according to family wealth.

A survey of more than one million homes across England has revealed that parents are paying vast property premiums to move home, with the average house in outstanding school catchment area costing £52,000 more on average than those near schools which require improvement.

In London, where competition for good or outstanding school places is the fiercest nationally, the price squeeze is even more pronounced – with parents paying upwards of £80,000 in order to move close to a top-rated school.

The research, published today by Rightmove, has intensified fears among education leaders that social mobility and attainment among deprived pupils is being exacerbated by the property market.

It’s better to be rich and mediocre than poor and bright in the UK, admits Education Secretary

3 April 2017

Lower-achieving pupils from rich families earn more than talented poorer children, the Education Secretary has admitted.

Justine Greening was speaking at a conference on social mobility, which she described as a “cold, hard, economic imperative” for the country.

Ms Greening drew on her experience growing up in Rotherham as she outlined the challenges faced by poorer families.

“Children from high-income backgrounds who show signs of low academic ability at age five are 35 per cent more likely to become high earners than their poorer peers who show early signs of high ability,” Ms Greening said.

She added: “Graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds who do make it to the top jobs still earn, on average, over £2,200 a year less than their colleagues who happen to have been born to professional or managerial parents – even when they have the same educational attainment, the same role and the same experience.”

Children in northern England being failed by educational divide, study finds

3 April 2017

Hundreds of thousands of children growing up in the north of England are falling behind their southern counterparts because of a stark educational divide, according to research by the office of the children’s commissioner for England.

The statistics show that where in the country a child goes to school has a marked effect on their attainment. Children in major northern cities do markedly worse than those in London or the south-east: in the Thames Valley Berkshire region, where the prime minister, Theresa May, has her constituency, 8% of 11-year-olds reached a higher standard at Key Stage 2, compared to just 3% in Liverpool and 4% in Leeds.

The figures will be published as part of the children’s commissioner Anne Longfield’s ongoing Growing Up North project, looking at how growing up in particular areas impacts on a child’s life chances. The study was launched in December 2015 and will make recommendations later this year to improve children’s lives and bridge the north-south divide.

Teacher encouragement ‘gives pupils long-term boost’

28 March 2017

Encouragement from teachers is key to keeping pupils engaged with education after the age of 16, suggests a study of more than 4,000 students in England. Middle-ability students and those whose parents lack qualifications benefit most from positive feedback, according to the Cambridge University research. The students were tracked for seven years from the age of 13 onwards. This is the first study of its kind to quantify the effect of encouragement on pupils, says the university. “When people speak of a positive school experience, they frequently cite a personal relationship with a teacher and the encouragement they were given,” said report author Dr Ben Alcott. “Our research helps quantify that impact and show its significance, particularly for addressing social mobility.”

Funding formula ‘fails to address double disadvantage’ faced by poorer pupils

20 March 2017

The government’s proposed national funding formula for schools fails to recognise the “double disadvantage” faced by pupils from poor homes in deprived neighbourhoods, according to the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation.

In a joint submission to a consultation on the government’s proposals two bodies have expressed concern that the formula “seems to advantage schools with low prior attainment ahead of schools with high deprivation”.

The government plans to use “additional needs factors” to allocate funding to schools.

The plans, out for consultation, would weight the funding associated with low prior attainment at 7.5%, whilst additional cash for pupils from disadvantage home and area deprivation would be weighed at 5.5% and 3.9% respectively.

Cross-party alliance takes on Theresa May over grammar schools

20 March 2017

Theresa May’s personal crusade to expand the number of grammar schools is in serious jeopardy today as senior Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs unite in an unprecedented cross-party campaign to kill off the prime minister’s flagship education reform.

In a highly unusual move, the Tory former education secretary Nick Morgan joins forces with her previous Labour shadow Lucy Powell and the Liberal Democrat former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to condemn the plans as damaging to social mobility, ideologically driven and divisive.

The formation of their cross-party alliance against grammar school expansion, which is opposed by about 30 Tory MPs, spells yet more political trouble for May on the domestic front. Last week, chancellor Philip Hammond was forced by a revolt in his own party into a humiliating budget U-turn over national insurance rises for the self-employed, and Conservatives lined up to oppose planned cuts in school funding.

Free school funding will create fraction of places pledged in budget, says Labour

15 March 2017

The government’s flagship education policy announced in the budget, to spend £320m creating 70,000 free school places, is likely to deliver only about a fifth of that number, according to the Labour party.

An analysis by Labour found that the money committed last week by Philip Hammond is meant to bring 70,000 places and around 140 new schools.

However, the party’s education team say, this works out at just under £4,800 per place. Department for Education (DfE) figures given to the National Audit Office (NAO) showed that places at secondary free schools cost £24,600 each on average, with £21,100 each for primary free schools.

Such a cost would thus instead bring between 13,000 and 15,000 places rather than the number billed by Theresa May in a pre-budget article on new education spending.

The DfE said it disputed the calculation, and that the £320m was for this parliament only, with the full amount to be spent “set out at a later date”.

The £320m for another generation of free schools has proved controversial, in part because some will be the first wave of new grammar schools in decades, despite grave doubts over their effect on social mobility.

Toby Young: Government should scrap 11-plus for new grammar schools

13 March 2017

The Government should scrap the 11-plus test to determine which children go to grammar schools – or force all pupils to take it – if it wants to improve social mobility, according to one of the Department for Education’s main champions for new schools.

Toby Young, the director of the New Schools Network (NSN), which plays a key role in delivering free schools and grammars, said the decision for which children go to grammar schools could be handed over to primary headteachers. Simply letting existing selective schools replicate themselves as they are will do nothing to improve social mobility, he added.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Mr Young said he believed “no more than five” grammar schools would open by the end of the current Government.

Murder mystery to DNA: researchers bring science to life in schools

13 March 2017

There’s been a murder in the medical school, a year eight class is told. A respected professor at the University of Southampton has been shot dead in the lab and the students of Hounsdown School must work out who did it. They can interrogate researchers, take fingerprints, collect DNA samples, and study bullets shot from a gun to catch the culprit.

This fictitious crime scene has been set up as a way to involve pupils in hands-on research. The class learns about forensics, while researchers collect data from the students about their attitudes towards science.

At a time of rising populism and questions by some about the role of experts, it’s important to show young people the value of research. Schools can team up with universities to involve pupils, both as test subjects and as active participants. But what makes these partnerships successful for schools? And what can pupils gain from the experience?

One benefit is that it can make science fun. At Hounsdown, based in Hampshire, students also participate in LifeLab, a “hospital classroom”. Pupils take part in hands-on sessions looking at health; measuring their blood pressure or heart rate, for example. The findings contribute to research into non-communicable diseases.

“The children really enjoy working with scientists,” says Gemma Hortop, a teacher at the school. “People tend to stereotype them as wearing lab coats and having frizzy hair like Einstein. So it’s good for them just to see science in the real world.” Projects like this also open young people’s eyes to research as a potential career choice, she says. “It’s made them re-think science and enthused them to see it beyond the classroom.”

Theresa May paves way for new generation of grammar schools

10 March 2017

Theresa May will pave the way for a new generation of grammar schools on Wednesday, as her chancellor uses the budget to push ahead with a controversial policy that is seen as a key priority for the prime minister.

Philip Hammond will plough £320m into expanding the government’s free school programme, creating 70,000 places in 140 schools, which will be free to offer selective education after the government passes legislation.

May’s pledge to end the ban on grammars during this parliament means that many of the new schools, which are largely due to open after 2020, could opt to choose pupils based on academic merit.

The chancellor will underline the government’s focus on selective education by also extending free public transport for the poorest children to grammar schools, covering those within two to 15 miles of their homes.

The news triggered an immediate backlash from groups representing teachers, asking why the money wasn’t going to existing state schools. They claimed that a funding crisis meant children faced being taught in bigger class sizes, with limited resources and fewer teachers.

Labour accused the government of “throwing more good money after bad” while the Liberal Democrats described it as an unbelievable decision in the face of “devastating cuts to school budgets”.

New GCSE grading system could spell chaos for sixth form recruitment and funding, leading head warns

10 March 2017

Students could miss out on sixth-form places while schools and colleges could lose funding due to confusion over the new GCSE grading system, a school leader has warned.

There is a lack of clarity over the change, according to the next general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), with many still in the dark over what will be considered a “good” pass.

Supporters have argued the move is necessary to allow more differentiation between students. But Geoff Barton, who becomes the ASCL’s leader on April 18, said more communication is needed. In his first interview, Mr Barton told the Press Association, “The trouble with a new system is that if people are looking to simply match it across to the old system, it’s not going to work.”

Active lessons can boost children’s learning and health

6 March 2017

The natural order of the classroom has always been for pupils to sit. Whether this involves, talking, discussing, working in groups, or listening to the teacher, most of the time this is all done from the comfort of a chair.

Most primary school children spend on average, 70% of their classroom time sitting down. Outside the classroom, the number of children walking to school has decreased and, at the same time, many more children are spending longer staring at screens. Children aged five to 16 now spend an average of six and a half day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995.

In light of these changes to children’s habits outside school, how children spend their time in school is becoming increasingly more important. And the UK government’s recent childhood obesity strategy recommends “active lessons” as one way schools can work towards providing children with at least 30 minutes of physical activity during the school day.

It is becoming increasingly clear that in adults a lifetime of sitting can lead to a higher risk of early death, type two diabetes, and heart disease. And while the evidence is still limited when it comes to children’s health, there is certainly an argument that, as sedentary behaviour habits are formed early in life, targeting children is a logical step.

Perhaps more important for schools is the growing evidence that points to a link between increased physical activity in the classroom and educational benefits. This includes improved attention to tasks, as well an increase in pupil’s enjoyment of lessons and motivation to learn. And for some pupils in certain subjects academic achievement has also been shown to improve.

Schools in England ‘to see first real-terms funding cuts in 20 years’

6 March 2017

Schools in England are facing the first real-terms cuts to their funding since the mid-1990s, a leading thinktank has warned.

Spending per pupil is to fall 6.5% by 2019-20, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), although it added that school funding had been well protected over the past two decades.

Sixth-formers have been facing a continuing squeeze on budgets, with spending per further education (FE) student falling by 6.7% between 2010-11 and 2015-16 and a further drop of 6.5% expected over the next few years. It means that funding for 16- to 18-year-olds is no higher than it was almost 30 years ago.

The IFS study examines education spending for different age groups – from early years to universities – over a number of years.

It found that the biggest spending increases over the past 20 years have been on schoolchildren in England, with £4,900 currently spent on each primary school pupil and £6,300 spent per secondary student. In both cases, this is around double, in real terms, the amount spent in the mid-1990s.

‘Disadvantaged’ A-level pupils offered free tuition to help get into university

6 March 2017

A-level pupils from poorer backgrounds will be offered free tuition to help get them into university in an effort to increase diversity.

The University of Birmingham is piloting a scheme through an online tutoring company to give 100 youngsters 10 hours of teaching for exams they will sit in the summer, the Daily Telegraph said.
The university already runs Access to Birmingham, a programme to help more local children from deprived backgrounds take another step in education.

Qualifying criteria include having parents with no experience of higher education themselves, living in areas in which few people go to university and having spent time in care.

Birmingham has already lowered its entry requirements for applicants coming through the scheme, making them two grades below the norm, but it has still found students are struggling.

Only around one in three pupils on the programme achieve the necessary marks, so places for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are often re-allocated to other children, the Daily Telegraph said.

Fast-track degrees may hit education standards, government warned

6 March 2017

Plans for fast-track degrees with higher annual fees risk adversely affecting the quality of education received by university students, the government has been warned.

The two-year degrees proposed by the government will cost the same as a three-year course, meaning annual fees for them will be higher. Ministers are expected to table a bill to lift the current £9,000-a-year cap on tuition costs so universities can charge higher annual rates.

Before the official announcement on Friday, concerns were raised about how education standards would be maintained and the workload fast-track degrees would impose on staff.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the proposals would do little to open up the university experience to more students but appeared to be aimed at helping for-profit companies thrive in the higher education sector.

Social mobility: Poorer children ‘making less progress’

6 March 2017

Poorer pupils are increasingly making less progress at secondary school in England compared with their more affluent peers, a study says. The Social Mobility Commission said poorer pupils were often overtaken by their better-off peers even if they had outperformed them at primary school.

The gap, which was most apparent in poor white children, has widened every year since 2012.

The Department for Education accepted it had “more to do” on the issue.

Researchers examined the GCSE results of pupils on free school meals and those who were not, across two sets of eight subjects. These results were then measured in relation to how the pupils had performed in their Key Stage 2 Sats tests, in their final year of primary school.

University applications ‘depends heavily on where you live’

17 February 2017

Teenagers’ likelihood of applying to university depends heavily on where they live, according to new figures.

The study, by the Press Association (PA) news agency, showed London had the highest application rate of 47%, while the South West had the lowest at 32%. It found four times as many teenagers in Wimbledon, south London, applied compared with Havant in Hampshire.

Universities UK acknowledged institutions should do more to boost social mobility within their regions.

Sir Peter Lampl, chief executive of the Sutton Trust education charity, said the “massive difference… reflects the fact that the chances of getting to university are very much dependent on where you live and where you go to school”.

The Sutton Trust – reports shows 3 year gap between poor pupils and their better-off classmates

15 February 2017

Three year attainment gap between poor pupils and their better-off classmates separates Britain’s brightest teenage girls.

Bright but poor pupils lag behind their bright but better-off classmates by around two years and eight months in maths, science and reading, according to new Sutton Trust research. The attainment gaps within the most able 10% of pupils are even bigger for girls than they are for boys, standing at about three years in science and reading.

Grammars ‘unnecessary distraction’, say MPs

15 February 2017

The government has failed to make a convincing case for opening a new wave of grammar schools in England, say MPs.

The education select committee has cast doubt on claims that they can help social mobility. There is also scepticism about whether an entrance test for grammars can be made “tutor proof”.

Neil Carmichael, the committee’s chair, says the focus on expanding grammars has become an “unnecessary distraction” from improving the school system.

The Department for Education has argued that removing the ban on opening new grammars will be a way of making “more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country”.

The cross-party committee of MPs, responding to the evidence gathered about plans to increase selective education, said ministers still needed to demonstrate how this would improve social mobility and close the gap between rich and poor pupils.

Schools can raise girls’ aspirations by partnering with businesses

6 February 2017

The absence of aspiration and understanding of opportunities that I see in some students from disadvantaged backgrounds – especially girls – is something I want to address directly. I believe the answer to the lack of female leaders within our society and businesses could partly lie with us in education, and we have found partnerships with the business community leads to stronger results.

At both our academies, Whalley Range high school and Levenshulme high school for girls, we have been lucky enough to be involved in the Inspiring Girls programme – part of a Business in the Community initiative with Alliance Manchester Business School. Almost 100 young women from six high schools across Manchester have graduated from the programme this year. We were particularly keen to get involved because it was an initiative that focused its efforts on encouraging girls of secondary school age to prepare for their futures.

University applications fall with drop in nursing and EU students

3 February 2017

University applications have fallen by 5% – with the decline driven by a drop in European Union students and a sharp fall in nursing applications. Fees in England are rising again, and it is the first fall in UK applications since fees were last increased in 2012. The Royal College of Nursing blamed the 23% […]

Cambridge intake no longer most privately educated

3 February 2017

Cambridge University now has fewer privately educated students than universities such as Bristol, Durham and St Andrews, entry figures reveal. Cambridge has only the ninth most privately educated intake, the Higher Education Statistics Agency figures show. Among mainstream universities, Oxford has the fewest state school pupils. The figures show the overall proportion of state school […]

Northern Powerhouse report: Schools need urgent attention

3 February 2017

“Urgent attention” must be given to improving education in the North of England, says George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse Partnership think tank. In its first report since being set up last year, the think tank identifies what needs to be done to “build a Northern Powerhouse”. “Many issues have been raised with us,” said the authors, […]

Treasury takes back £384m school funding

27 January 2017

The Treasury has taken back £384m originally promised for schools in England – at a time when head teachers are protesting about a cash crisis. The money had been announced last year to fund a plan to require all schools to become academies. But the Department for Education has revealed that when the compulsory academy […]

Universities must do more to tackle the unfair, elitist admissions system

27 January 2017

The University of Bristol has just announced its Bristol Scholars scheme, which will offer places to five students from every school and college in the Bristol area on the basis of their potential rather than their actual attainment. It is an innovative move, at least in England, and has already attracted criticism.

The reactions of the Times and the Times are predictable. But the scheme raises two big issues, as well as an opportunity for the sector. The first is philosophical: on what basis should universities select students? Is it a reward for endeavour at school or is selection based on the potential to succeed?

Theresa May to unveil boost to vocational education system

27 January 2017

Theresa May will move on Monday to reassure business leaders that they will not suffer skills shortages as a result of Brexit, when she places expansion of vocational education at the heart of a new proactive industrial strategy. Many businesses worry that the UK’s departure from the single market will not only damage their trade with Europe but will also make it more difficult to attract enough suitable workers.

Before Christmas, the Institute of Directors called on May to address the issue of skills shortages before Brexit and, as a first move, to guarantee the rights of more than 2.5 million EU citizens working in this country, to remain permanently. Some 40% of companies mentioned skill shortages as having a negative effect on how they viewed their prospects.

In a sign of her willingness to show that government must work in partnership with the private sector rather than take a “hands-off” approach, May will acknowledge the need to improve the UK’s productivity. She will also announce £170m of additional funding for institutes of technology to boost technical education, addressing its “historic undervaluation” by providing a credible alternative for young people who do not go to university.

‘Resource pool’ shows the best of outreach in higher education

20 January 2017

A new searchable pool of resources captures the legacy of the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach.

Between 2015 and 2016, HEFCE funded the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach. This £22 million scheme brought together universities, colleges, schools, and other advisers, to carry out outreach activity in their areas.

It supported 35 local networks, a network for all the London boroughs, 3 national networks to address national priorities, and 18 projects with a focus on particular issues. In total, the scheme has worked with 98 per cent of state-funded secondary schools and colleges.

The networks have also produced a rich and varied range of resources. And HEFCE has now published a resource pool, which brings them together for the benefit of the sector.

The projects address many fair access and outreach issues. The resources illustrate approaches which can be taken in different circumstances to nurture the potential of prospective students from different backgrounds.

Schools should encourage pupils with poor grades to mix with stronger students if they want to keep them in education, suggests a study

18 January 2017

Positive parental and friendship group influences are key to cutting drop-out rates, according to Arizona State University research. The researchers interviewed vulnerable students at a Chicago high school.

Parents’ influence fell if pupils had too much contact with other disaffected students, the researchers found. The researchers spoke to 125 pupils, aged 15 to 18, at a school with one of the worst drop-out rates in the city and analysed their records. They concluded that students’ academic achievement was directly related to the level of parental involvement “more than any factors”. But they also found that if vulnerable students had too much contact with peers with a negative view of education, “the effect of parental involvement on the dynamics of dropouts becomes negligible”.

‘Research schools’ for social mobility zones

18 January 2017

Education Secretary Justine Greening is to announce a wave of “research schools” to raise standards in disadvantaged parts of England. This will be part of an announcement of six more “opportunity areas”, where efforts will be focused to improve social mobility.

There will now be 12 opportunity areas in total and each will have a research school. These schools will encourage innovation and share evidence-based ideas.

The six new opportunity areas will be Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, and Stoke, identified as social mobility “cold spots”.

Confusion over numerical GCSE grades sparks publicity drive

13 January 2017

There is widespread confusion about England’s new GCSE grading system, says the exams regulator Ofqual. Starting this summer, GCSE grades A* to G will be phased out in favour of grades numbered from nine to one. However, around 70% of more than 400 parents and pupils surveyed by Ofqual did not understand the system.

Grammar schools offer ‘pitifully few’ places to poorer children

9 January 2017

Claims by Theresa May that grammar schools have proved to be great engines of social mobility have been undermined by figures showing that the vast majority of grammars admit only a tiny proportion of children from the poorest families.

As pupils return after the Christmas break, official figures show that in many grammar schools, less than 1% of the total pupil intake receives free school meals (an indicator of the poorest families). Only one of the 163 selective schools in England takes in more than 10% from this least well-off group.

Critics of May’s plans to expand the number of grammar schools – one of her few firm policy announcements since entering No 10 last July – say the figures expose her central justification for the controversial plans as entirely bogus, as better-off families tend to monopolise school places at the expense of the poor.

Social mobility promise ‘broken’ for ethnic minority children

6 January 2017

Black and Asian Muslim children are less likely to get professional jobs, despite doing better at school, according to an official report.

The Social Mobility Commission said it uncovered “stark differences” between how groups progress into work. Some minorities have higher jobless rates, although poorer white boys are least likely to go to university.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Commission, said the British ‘social mobility promise’ was being broken. “British families are told that if their children go to school and work hard, they will be rewarded with good jobs and opportunities. But for many groups this promise is being broken,” says the commission’s report.

Gap between richest and poorest accessing university widens

6 January 2017

The gap between the richest and the poorest students going to university has widened, according to new figures.

Statistics from the university admissions body Ucas show the percentage of people from the richest backgrounds going into higher education is increasing at a faster rate compared to those from the poorest.

Since 2014, the number of young people from the most deprived areas going to university has increased by 0.8%.Those from the richest backgrounds saw their chances of success increasing by more than three times that, 2.6%.

The figures show four in ten people from wealthier areas are able to access university while just one in ten from the most deprived backgrounds gain entry.

Bishop Grosseteste University graduates are most employable in UK

6 January 2017

New statistics from the Department for Education have shown that the Bishop Grosseteste University has the highest proportion of graduates in work or further study three years after graduating.

According to the figures released by the Department for Education, 88% of students who graduated from the university in 2012-13 were either employed or continuing their education a year later.

The study looked at all of the UK’s Russell Group universities, which included the likes of University of Oxford, University College London, University of Cambridge and Durham University.

The figures are the second in a series of higher education data releases from the Department for Education’s new Longitudinal Education Outcomes dataset.

BGU – which is one of two public universities in the city of Lincoln, England – was found to have the highest proportion of graduates in work or study across the UK, alongside St George’s Hospital Medical School in London, which also had 88% of graduates in employment or further education after a year.

Summary of HEFCE’s consultation on ‘Funding to support teaching in higher education’

21 December 2016

Outcomes of consultation on arrangements for supporting widening access and successful student outcomes, including progression to taught postgraduate study.

HEFCE’s document details the outcomes of their consultation on arrangements for supporting widening access and successful student outcomes, including progression to taught postgraduate study. It identifies the key points made by respondents and HEFCE’s responses to these points, including where we have made changes to the proposals outlined in the consultation.

The Nuffield Foundation: Analysing the socio-economic gaps in higher education

21 December 2016

The Nuffield Foundation recently hosted a seminar to promote findings from a research project it funded that investigated what drives the socio-economic gaps in higher education. Key findings include the fact that the gap at HE can be entirely explained by differences in attainment at age 16, so it is crucial to focus on increasing the GCSE attainment of students from poorer backgrounds if the higher education gap is to be reduced.

The researchers also found large socio-economic differences in who attends ‘high status’ institutions, and highlighted the importance of continuing to support students from lower socio-economic backgrounds once they arrive at university. For example, students from poorer backgrounds are less likely to complete their degrees and to achieve a first or 2:1 than students from richer backgrounds, even if they study the same course and enter the university with the same A level grades.

New HEFCE study explores how students’ background affects their ambitions after graduation

21 December 2016

A survey of the intentions of nearly 140,000 graduates finds few differences between what students from different backgrounds plan to do after graduation, but does find differences in how likely they are to fulfil their ambitions. The introduction of postgraduate loans might help to close the gap.

The Intentions After Graduation Survey (IAGS) asks final year undergraduate students at English higher education institutions what they plan to do after university [Note 1]. HEFCE has analysed how the responses of those graduating in 2016 compare with previous years, and also how the intentions of those who graduated in 2015 matched what they actually did.

The key findings of these analyses are about the intention to go on to postgraduate study. These include the following:
•Black and Asian graduates were less likely than white graduates to fulfil their intentions to go on to postgraduate study.
•Fewer students from disadvantaged backgrounds who said they would do postgraduate study actually did. Among those who intended to go on, the proportion who did so was 9 percentage points lower than for the least disadvantaged graduates.
•Over two-thirds of all respondents to IAGS in 2016 said that they would be likely or very likely to study at postgraduate level if a postgraduate loan of around £10,000 was introduced [Note 2].
•The factors most likely to deter students from continuing to postgraduate study were course fees and the overall cost of living. These concerns were greatest among students from the most disadvantaged areas, and these students were especially likely to say that postgraduate loans would encourage them to study further

Gap between rich and poor primary school pupils wider than it was 50 years ago

16 December 2016

The UK’s education class divide is wider now than it was half a century ago, new research has revealed, with children from poorer backgrounds already eight months behind their more privileged peers before starting school.

A study into international inequalities by the Sutton Trust found the UK falls behind Canada and Australia in terms of the literacy gap between pupils from the poorest and most affluent backgrounds.

Inequality levels are even larger in the US education system, where disadvantaged pupils are around one year behind before they even start primary school.

University lowers entry grades for disadvantaged

16 December 2016

A leading university is to increase its intake of disadvantaged students by offering places with reduced grades.

The University of Bristol is to accept lower exam grades from disadvantaged local pupils and applicants from schools with poor A-level results. Vice-chancellor Hugh Brady said this would be a “step change” in admissions.

The project is launched as admissions service figures show young people from poorer families are much less likely to apply to university. The Bristol project, to be launched by Education Secretary Justine Greening, is an attempt by the university to drive social mobility and attract a wider range of students.

Schools face cuts of £3bn, says watchdog

14 December 2016

State schools in England will have to find £3bn in savings by 2019-20, says the public spending watchdog. Schools face 8% budget cuts and about 60% of secondary schools already have deficits, warns a funding analysis from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The Department for Education is about to launch a new funding formula, which will see 10,000 schools gaining money and similar numbers losing.To ease the transition, those losing will have annual cuts limited to 1.5%.

Education Secretary Justine Greening will reveal later on Wednesday how the different funding rules will be applied – with suggestions that it could mean reduced budgets for schools in inner London. It is likely to mean bigger budgets for areas which have been less well-funded – with areas such as Barnsley and Plymouth highlighted as currently getting less than Hackney or Coventry.

“These historic proposals will mean schools are funded according to the needs of their pupils, not their postcode,” says Ms Greening.

Children of ‘just managing families left out by grammars’

9 December 2016

Lack of access to grammar schools is not confined to the poorest children, those from “just managing” families are also left out, research suggests.”There is a strong indication that families on below average earnings are not being helped by the current grammar school system,” said the Sutton Trust. Grammar schools in England should not expand until the government can ensure fair admissions, the charity argues. Ministers said their plans would address these issues.

The government’s consultation on proposals to lift the ban on opening new grammar schools ends on Monday. Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted that the plan will not represent a return to “the system of binary education from the 1950s” with a grammar in every town.

Private schools plan 10,000 free places for low-income pupils

9 December 2016

Private schools will offer to provide up to 10,000 free places a year to low-income families in England.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) says if the government pays £5,550 per place – the cost in the state system – the schools will cover the rest. This is expected to cost up to £80m. Some pupils would be tested for academic ability but the scheme would not just target the brightest children.

Chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw said the plan was not enough.The proposal, originally seen by the BBC and now confirmed, will be made in the ISC’s response to a government consultation on the future of education.

The scheme would be open to primary and secondary school-age children. But details about which families would benefit and what form the tests would take are yet to be settled and the scheme could not take place without the government’s approval.

London and south-east children far more likely to go to top universities

7 December 2016

Children in London and the south-east are 57% more likely to get into universities ranked among the top third than their counterparts in the north, according to research by the children’s commissioner for England.

Launching a year-long investigation into why many children in the north get left behind, Anne Longfield said the under-performance of secondary schools in the north of England was of “huge concern”, with poorer pupils getting significantly worse GCSE results. “London and the south-east is racing ahead,” she said. Longfield said she wanted to understand why the north-east had the best primary schools in the country, but the lowest adult employment rate: 71.1% compared with 78% in the south-east, according to September figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Of primary schools in Redcar and Cleveland, 95% are deemed “good” or “outstanding” by Ofsted. But the same local authority is in the bottom 20 of all 149 council areas in England when it comes to the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school.

The north-east is far better at helping young people into apprenticeships, however: 20% of school leavers in Hartlepool become apprentices, compared with just 4% in London.

Poorer white pupils underperform in later academic choices – study

5 December 2016

Students from white British backgrounds are often holding themselves back by making poor educational choices, with many shutting themselves out of better careers as a result, according to a study for the government’s social mobility watchdog. Researchers found that as much as half of the gap in admissions to highly selective Russell Group universities between children on free school meals (FSM) and their better-off peers could be a result of factors beyond academic ability. The analysis published by the Social Mobility Commission, headed by former Labour minister Alan Milburn, found that pupils with the same GCSE grades differed markedly in their later progress, with white British students from deprived backgrounds in particular choosing weaker academic subjects and institutions, and less likely to attend higher education than their better-off peers

Faith school push will not ‘help results’

2 December 2016

Plans to allow new faith schools in England to increase the share of pupils they take on religious grounds will not improve standards, a report says.The Education Policy Institute research body also said the move was unlikely to boost social mobility.

The proposal is part of a range of measures, including opening new grammar schools, aimed at boosting the number of places in high-performing schools. The government said faith schools were some of the best and most popular. And the Church of England, which is the biggest provider of faith schools in England, said its 4,700 schools offered “a distinctive blend of wisdom, hope, community and dignity”.

The Department for Education’s plans to allow new faith schools to recruit more than half of their pupils on religious grounds are based on the assumption that children do better in these schools.They appeared in the Green Paper, Schools that Work for Everyone, which sets out plans to allow successful schools to expand.

National Teaching Service dropped, government confirms

2 December 2016

A scheme to recruit good teachers to work in deprived areas has been dropped, the government has confirmed.

The National Teaching Service was announced by England’s then Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, in 2015. The plan was for 1,500 outstanding teachers and leaders to be deployed by 2020 “to the schools that need them most”, with a pilot in the North West. But following the pilot “we can confirm that we will not be progressing”, said a Department for Education spokesman.

The original plan was to send “the country’s best teachers and leaders to underperforming schools that struggle to attract and retain the professionals they need”, according to a speech made by Mrs Morgan to the Policy Exchange think-tank in November 2015. The initiative was part of a government plan “to give every child an excellent education”. “Too many places are lagging behind, meaning young people in these areas are not being given a fair shot,” said the government at the time. NTS staff would work with schools for a period of up to three years in a bid to drive up standards.

Children from poorer areas ‘make two years’ less progress’ at school

22 November 2016

Children from the poorest backgrounds who live in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the country leave secondary school having made almost two years’ less progress than their wealthier peers living elsewhere, according to a new report. The findings are based on a comparison of student progress in six regions of the country – recently highlighted by the government as areas of particularly low social mobility – with pupil progress elsewhere in England. And while the problem is long-standing, the report concludes that among disadvantaged children, the progress gap in these areas has “grown dramatically” in the last five years. The report, entitled Ambitious for Every Child and published on Tuesday, follows an announcement in October by the education secretary, Justine Greening, of a £60m investment in six so-called “opportunity areas” – Norwich, Blackpool, Derby, Oldham, Scarborough and west Somerset – to try to boost social mobility rates which remain stubbornly low.

Schools must focus on struggling white working-class pupils, says UK charity

11 November 2016

Schools are being urged to focus improvement efforts on struggling white working-class pupils who get the worst GCSE results of all the main ethnic groups, amid growing concern about stark disparities in attainment.

A study by the Sutton Trust education charity found that disadvantaged pupils from Chinese backgrounds were almost three times as likely to get the benchmark five good GCSEs as their white working-class peers.

While poverty continues to play a major role in educational outcomes, attainment among pupils from Bangladeshi, black African and Chinese backgrounds who are on free school meals (FSM) has improved dramatically in the past decade.

Apprenticeships ‘must address distinct needs of teens’

11 November 2016

The Institute for Public Policy Research wants lower level apprenticeships replaced by a pre-apprenticeship programme addressing 16- to 18-year-olds’ “distinct needs”. Its report comes as universities are awarded £4.5m to develop 5,200 degree level apprenticeships from September.

Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon said apprenticeship programmes and traineeships were part of the government’s strategy to ensure that people of all backgrounds and all ages “can get on the ladder of opportunity”. He said that the existing apprenticeship programme for 16- to 18-year olds would boost participants’ earnings, “by up to £74,000 more over their lifetime, thanks to the skills they gain”.He also argued that degree apprenticeships would “give people a real chance to earn while you learn putting you on the fast-track to a top career”.

Degree apprentice courses will include nursing, construction, cybersecurity, food manufacturing, health care science and early years teaching.

The IPPR report says level-two apprenticeships for younger learners “are often very job specific, do not include much off the job training, and from next year they will not be required to include a recognised qualification”.

“These sort of training programmes may make sense for adults who are already in work and looking to ‘top up’ their skills – however, they are not sufficient to help young people with relatively low levels of education get a foot on the career ladder,” it says.

Free school breakfast clubs boost maths and literacy results, study finds

4 November 2016

Providing free breakfast clubs for primary schools in disadvantaged areas boosted maths and literacy results even among those pupils who didn’t attend, according to new research.

The findings suggest that government funding of universal free lunches for school children in infant school in England may be more productive – and more cost-effective – if spent on breakfasts clubs instead.

Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Educational Endowment Foundation which supported the work, said: “The government has committed to spending £10m a year on healthy breakfast clubs, as part of their plan to tackle childhood obesity. They should consider using a free, universal and before-school model to benefit attainment as well.”

School-leavers ‘lack essential workplace skills’

4 November 2016

You’re 18 and leaving education, the world of work is at your feet. Or is it? Not so, according to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

A survey by the business group has found eight out of 10 British school-leavers “lack essential business skills” such as numeracy.More than 80% of young people require “significant training” before being put to work, according to the 4,000 finance professionals questioned. The figure is worse than last year, when 75% of school-leavers were said to need this level of help after being hired. The top areas of weakness for new recruits are people skills and business skills, followed by technical skills.

Teacher and Careers Advisor Conference Nov 2016- Loughborough University

19 October 2016

Loughborough University’s School and College Liaison Team are holding their annual Teacher and Careers Advisor Conference on 3rd November 2016. The conference will give teachers and advisors the opportunity to develop the necessary knowledge to support students through the UCAS application process. The day will include talks as well as the option to attend a workshop that is most beneficial to your role.

Just 2.6% of grammar pupils are from poor backgrounds, new figures show

19 October 2016

Just 3,100 of the 117,000 pupils who currently attend grammar schools come from families poor enough to be eligible for free school meals.

The proportion of students (2.6%) is lower than previously reported, and was last night seized upon by critics of the government’s plans for more selection in the state system.

The average proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals in areas that currently select on academic ability is thought to be around 18%.

Schools must focus on struggling white working-class pupils, says UK charity

11 October 2016

Schools are being urged to focus improvement efforts on struggling white working-class pupils who get the worst GCSE results of all the main ethnic groups, amid growing concern about stark disparities in attainment. A study by the Sutton Trust education charity found that disadvantaged pupils from Chinese backgrounds were almost three times as likely to get the benchmark five good GCSEs as their white working-class peers. Among poorer white children, meanwhile, just a quarter of boys (24%) and a third of girls (32%) achieve the benchmark of five good GCSEs, leading to calls for schools to target those pupils at risk of falling behind.

Universities urged to work harder to recruit disadvantaged students

10 October 2016

Universities should make greater efforts to spot talent among disadvantaged students and place special emphasis on encouraging white working-class men in order to widen access to higher education, according to a new report backed by British universities. The report – produced by the sector at the request of the government – found that “socio-economic disadvantage has more persistent and far-reaching impact on access to and outcomes from higher education” than any other single cause. But the study by Universities UK’s social mobility action group offered few concrete suggestions on how to overcome the effects of disadvantage, and instead called for further data collection, analysis and sharing of best practice between institutions.

Student loans ‘increasing the divide between rich and poor’

1 October 2016

University education in England is entrenching inequality, according to an academic study examining how the provision of limited loans exacerbates the difference in life chances of those with and without family wealth. The current system is predicated on students being able to supplement their income from family wealth and leaves those from less advantaged backgrounds to struggle, it is claimed. A mismatch has grown, the study says, between the anticipated benefits of a university education and the reality of poor living conditions while a student and the job opportunities on leaving.

Fall in state-school university entrants since tuition fees hit £9,000

3 August 2016

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner says government ‘slamming the doors’ on talented students on low incomes. The government is facing calls for an urgent review of student financing after official figures showed that the number of state school pupils going on to higher education had dropped the year tuition fees soared to £9,000. A report by the Department for Education showed that the percentage of state-educated pupils going on to universities and colleges in 2013/14 fell to 62%, from 66% in the previous year. They say the cost of university, which often also includes high rent, has become prohibitively expensive for children from low to middle income households. Student maintenance grants for students on low incomes were axed this week and replaced by loans.

Current Vacancies: EMWPREP Data Analyst

22 July 2016

We are pleased to be able to advertise a part-time post to provide support to the East Midlands Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Partnership (EMWPREP). The post-holder will assist in the extraction, manipulation and analysis of data to help evaluate specific outreach activities, as well as helping support the EMWPREP office on a day-to-day basis.

Boys ‘twice as likely to fall behind girls’ in early years

18 July 2016

Boys are nearly twice as likely as girls to have fallen behind by the time they start school, a report says. Save the Children says a quarter of boys in England – 90,000 – started reception class struggling to speak a full sentence or follow instructions. The report, based on a University of Bristol study, says children who start school behind often never catch up. A Department for Education spokesperson said “we are making a significant investment in the early years sector”. The report compared girls’ and boys’ scores in the early language and communication goals of the Early Years Foundation Stage assessment. This assessment is taken at the end of Reception by all pupils in England. Children are expected to be able to listen and express themselves effectively, showing awareness of listeners’ needs.

‘Does Cost Matter? Students’ understanding of the higher education finance system and how cost affects their decisions’

30 June 2016

A new national research project undertaken by NEON (@NEONHE) with support from the University and College Union (@UCU) has found that an increase in fees would see young people who are eligible for free school meals most likely to reconsider going to university, followed by non-white young people.

What is higher education?

17 June 2016

UK higher education (HE) offers a diverse range of courses and qualifications, such as first degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), and foundation degrees. It includes any qualification at Level 4 and above. A BA or BSc (Hons) degree is a Level 6 qualification.

How disadvantage is inherited

17 June 2016

The UK lags behind other EU members on social mobility, scoring lower than countries like Italy and Spain. Results from a study by the Office of National Statistics suggest that this may be the result of both “cycles of poverty” and “cycles of low education.” In the UK, there is a stronger link between the income of parents and that of their children than in many other developed countries. Economic mobility is relatively low in the UK, and educational mobility is, too. What explains the link? The ONS analysis suggests that a parent’s economic situation influences their children’s future earnings mainly through its effect on the child’s educational attainment.

OFFA comment on UCAS equality data reports

9 June 2016

UCAS has today published a set of reports which, for the first time, provides data on individual universities about applications and offer-making by sex, area background and ethnic group. Commenting on the reports, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “Publishing this data is a real step forward for widening access. It increases transparency, and helps universities to evaluate what they do so they can get to the heart of what has most impact.”

Gender gap in higher education ‘reaches record levels’

9 June 2016

The gap between the number of men and women entering higher education has reached “record levels”, with women more likely to enter 90% of the UK’s largest universities, new data released by Ucas reveals. Analysis of entry rates of 18-year-olds to 132 higher education institutions across the UK show women were over a third more likely to go to university than men in 2015, up from 27.5% in 2010.

Girls more positive about university than boys, new study finds

3 June 2016

Girls more positive about university than boys, new study finds. Study finds that by year 9 almost 65% of girls thought it was ‘very important’ to go to university, compared with 58% of boys. Girls as young as 13 are more likely to have a positive attitude towards going to university than their male classmates, according to new research published by education charity the Sutton Trust. The study by Oxford University found that by year 9 at secondary school, when children are 13 or 14, almost 65% of girls thought it was “very important” to go to university, compared with just 58% of boys.

After-school clubs ‘can improve poorer children’s education’

21 April 2016

Study finds pupils who take part in organised sports and physical activities are more likely to achieve higher results. After-school clubs can improve the academic performance and social skills of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, research shows. The study of 6,400 children in England found that those who took part in organised sports and physical activities at the ages of five, seven and 11 were almost one and a half times more likely to reach a higher than expected level in their Key Stage 2 (KS2) maths test at the age of 11. Disadvantaged children who attended after-school clubs also fared better than their peers who did not take part. They achieved on average a two-point higher score in their KS2 assessments in English, maths and science at the end of primary school. This is equivalent to two-fifths of the “attainment gap” between poorer children and those from more affluent homes.

Children of single parents ‘marginalised’ in higher education

11 April 2016

Offspring of lone parents are an overlooked group in widening participation, study suggests. The children of single parents are marginalised and must overcome expectations of failure to succeed in higher education, according to a study. Research by Jessica Gagnon, who recently completed a PhD at the University of Sussex, suggests that the offspring of lone parents are an overlooked group in widening participation and student support. While US studies have found that such children are less likely to enter higher education and to gain a degree, few quantitative studies of this kind have been carried out in the UK.At the conference of the British Sociological Association on 7 April, Dr Gagnon was due to present the results of interviews with 26 daughters of single mothers, which suggest that similar challenges may exist in the UK.

Education in England: Annual Report 2016

4 April 2016

Annual Report into the state of English education by Centre Forum (independent think tank).

The report charts progress towards a series of world-class benchmarks in Early Years, Primary and Secondary education

Key findings
1. Attainment is improving, but over 60 per cent of secondary and over 40 per cent of primary pupils are still failing to achieve a world-class benchmark.
2.As a result of the new, more challenging, GCSE examinations in 2017, we expect the number of pupils achieving a ‘good pass’ in English and Maths to drop very significantly.
3.There is a North/South divide at secondary school, with 44 per cent of pupils reaching a world class benchmark in London, compared with only a third in the East Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber.
4.The gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers remains significant, with 4 out of 5 disadvantaged pupils failing to achieve a world-class standard at secondary and more than half not reaching our primary benchmark.
5.The relative performance of White British pupils falls as they progress through school. In the Early Years, White British children are among the highest achievers but, by the time they finish secondary school, they fall ten places in the rankings to just below average.
6.Pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL) make significant strides throughout school.

OFFA comment on HESA 2014-15 non-continuation PIs

23 March 2016

Commenting on today’s Higher Education Statistics Agency performance indicators for non-continuation in higher education in academic year 2014-15, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “Universities and colleges have made significant progress in improving student retention in recent years, and retention rates in this country are very high by international standards. So I am disappointed to see that the trend of improvement has not continued in 2014-15.

New national outreach programme for students from disadvantaged backgrounds

23 March 2016

A new four-year outreach programme will help meet the Prime Minister’s challenging goal to double the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by 2020, as announced today by HEFCE.

Budget sets out academies plan and longer school day

16 March 2016

Chancellor George Osborne has used his Budget speech to say all schools in England will become academies and extend the school day. Schools must become academies by 2020 or have official plans to do so by 2022, he told MPs

Early Bird Discount and Accommodation Deadline – NEON Summer Symposium 2016

1 March 2016

NEON’s Summer Symposium, on the 9th and 10th of June at the University of Leicester, is themed around “Rethinking Widening Access: How do we improve outcomes across the student lifecycle?”. This topic is of particular importance in light of the Green Paper, BIS’ Ministerial guidance and OFFA’s strategic guidance on access agreements, all of which placed renewed emphasis on ‘outcomes’ and a ‘broad view of widening participation encompassing a student’s entire lifecycle’.

Social mobility index

1 February 2016

The Social Mobility Index compares the chances that a child from a disadvantaged background will do well at school and get a good job across each of the 324 local authority district areas of England. It examines a range of measures of the educational outcomes achieved by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and the local job and housing markets to shed light on which are the best and worst places in England in terms of the opportunities young people from poorer backgrounds have to succeed.

Regional school results gap ‘widening’

12 January 2016

Where children grow up in England is more likely to determine success or failure at school than in previous generations, a study suggests. The Social Market Foundation has examined test results of cohorts born in 1970 and 2000 and found regional differences have become much greater.Pupils’ results are highest in London and lowest in Yorkshire and Humber. “Where you live has become much more important,” said think tank director Emran Mian. The comparisons between the generations, based on school tests in primary school and exams such as O-levels and GCSEs, indicate that geography has become a much more significant factor in how high pupils are likely to achieve. For pupils born in 1970, the study says that location was much less of an influence, with a much a stronger link to factors such as social background. Family background and income remain important, but the study says “the geographic area a child comes from has become a more powerful predictive factor”.

Gender gap in UK degree subjects doubles in eight years, Ucas study finds

5 January 2016

Women outnumber men in 112 of 180 degree subjects, with females from poorer backgrounds 50% more likely to go to university than their male counterparts. Women now outnumber men in almost two-thirds of degree subjects, and the gender gap in British universities has almost doubled in size since 2007, figures show. The statistics, published by the university admissions service Ucas, show that men still dominate in areas traditionally seen as male, such as engineering and some sciences.

‘State of the nation’ report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission

17 December 2015

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is an independent statutory body which examines what is happening to child poverty and social mobility in the United Kingdom. This is the third State of the Nation
report that the Commission presents to Parliament. In this report we assess: what the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments are doing (our remit does not cover Northern Ireland); what progress is being made; and what we think will happen in the future. We also examine the contribution many others could make including employers and professions, schools and universities, parents and charities. We make a number of recommendations for action.

UCAS Undergraduate 2015 End of Cycle Report

16 December 2015

Our End of Cycle report evidences another record year for UK higher education with 532,300 students starting their studies in 2015. The increasing numbers are eye-catching, as are the improving rates of progression which take account of changes in the underlying population. But 2015 saw an unusual uptick in the 18 year old population in the UK which has flattered the totals. From 2016 until 2020, we expect the young population to continue to decline by around 1-2 per cent per year which will make it harder to continue recent rates of increase in volume.

Colleges face significant deterioration without urgent funding, warn MPs

16 December 2015

MPs have condemned the government’s record on further education (FE), saying it has been too slow to address the emerging financial crisis in the sector. A report by the cross-party public accounts committee said there were serious concerns about the future of FE in England, with many colleges in a dire financial state. It warned of “substantial further deterioration” without prompt intervention.

Measuring ‘Learning Gain’ must recognise context- HEFCE Blog

16 December 2015

Understanding how students benefit from their studies beyond their qualification has never been more important. But student experiences differ, which means we need a carefully tested and contextual approach. Being able to both measure and provide evidence about what students gain from studying for a higher education qualification, apart from the qualification itself, has long been a challenge for higher education sectors across the world.

How can universities do better for care-leavers?

14 December 2015

We know that young people who have been in the care are system significantly less likely to go to university than their peers. According to the Office for Fair Access (Offa) just 6% of care-leavers in England progressed to higher education in 2012, compared with 43% of the general population (aged 17-30). To highlight this gap, and to urge universities to do more to address it, Offa has published a new briefing, announcing a greater emphasis on care-leavers in the access agreements it makes with institutions.

Gaps in young participation in higher education

4 December 2015

HEFCE’s interactive maps of England show whether the level of young participation in higher education in different areas is higher or lower than expected. Or, in other words, it shows where there is an unexplained ‘gap’ in the level of participation. They are currently running a survey to inform their analysis of gaps in young participation in higher education. They invite comments from anyone with an interest. The deadline for responses is 4 January 2016.

Introduction of loans for masters students from 2016-17

26 November 2015

The Government’s Autumn Statement confirms the availability of £10,000 loans for students under 60 wanting to take masters degrees from 2016-17. HEFCE welcomes the introduction of the loans and looks forward to working with the Government to review how they affect participation at masters level.

Show me the evidence – how to shine a light on university access- HEFCE Blog

18 November 2015

Without evaluation and a strong base of evidence, outreach activity is operating in the dark. The response from the former head of admissions at a prestigious university said it all: ‘I would rather support more students than waste money on an evaluation.’ The strong rebuttal came after I suggested that the university evaluate its efforts to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds

Universities step up drive to close gender gap

14 November 2015

The gender gulf among undergraduates is growing, with females dominating in medicine, law and biology. Almost a third of universities are now running outreach activities targeted at young men as they try to tackle the growing gender gap in student applications, according to the Office for Fair Access. They are being offered taster subject sessions, talks with role models and mentoring through local football clubs to encourage them to consider a university degree.

Ethnic minorities substantially more likely to go to university than their White British peers

10 November 2015

All ethnic minority groups in England are now, on average, more likely to go to university than their White British peers. This is the case even amongst groups who were previously under-represented in higher education, such as those of Black Caribbean ethnic origin, a relatively recent change.These differences also vary by socio-economic background, and in some cases are very large indeed. For example, Chinese pupils in the lowest socio-economic quintile group are, on average, more than 10 percentage points more likely to go to university than White British pupils in the highest socio-economic quintile group. By contrast, White British pupils in the lowest socio-economic quintile group have participation rates that are more than 10 percentage points lower than those observed for any other ethnic group.These are amongst the findings of research undertaken by IFS researchers, funded by the Departments of Education and Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and published by BIS.

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