Student loan repayment threshold rises

6 April 2018

Former students will be able to earn more before they have to start paying back their tuition fee loans. English and Welsh students who took out loans from September 2012 onwards – when fees in England rose to up to £9,000 a year – will now start to pay back when they earn £25,000 a year instead of £21,000. The government says the move could save graduates up to £360 a year.

My university journey: how it changed my life by Ruth Carlson

3 April 2018

Since joining the Office for Students’ (OfS) Board and Student Panel, I have often been asked about my motivations and my route to higher education. For me, it was simple. I knew I wanted to learn a skill and gain a profession; the one that suited my talents was civil engineering. I have been privileged with the opportunities of higher education and a wealth of experience at university. I am the youngest of six children and the first in my family to go to university. My parents always instilled a ‘can do’ attitude. Nothing was ever too big. I plucked a few strings of a guitar when I was 10 so my mum pushed me to get guitar lessons. I was similarly supported by many key people in my route to university.

EMWPREP NEWS – March 2018 // Issue 6

28 March 2018

EMWPREP News Team Team Update Very much like the British landscape, EMWPREP has been snowed under with work over the last two months. At the start of March partners received their interim reports, which provided a useful insight into how they have met their outreach targets at this point in the year. Please note that […]

A continuation of trends

15 March 2018

Latest data shows an increase in the number of degree students leaving higher education in, during or after their first year of study. What factors may be affecting this trend? Recent HESA performance indicator data has shown another increase in the proportion of degree students who are no longer in higher education a year after starting. The figure now stands at 7.5 per cent of UK domiciled full-time first degree entrants. This is the fourth successive year that this increase has occurred from its lowest level of 6.6 per cent in 2011-12. So what does the data tell us about what could be causing this increase?

Tuition fee value for money: ‘I feel ripped off’

14 March 2018

“I feel ripped off. They do the bare minimum and I honestly don’t see where my money is going.”

“I am in nearly £40,000 worth of debt and often wonder why I went to uni.”

These students, asked by the new Office for Students if university tuition fees represent good value, are among a significant majority – 62% – who say they don’t think it’s worth it.

The OfS finds only 38% of students in England think the tuition fees for their course are good value for money.

Course subject is a major factor which influences students’ perception of tuition fees, with computer science students, those doing physical sciences and law students the most likely to say that the tuition fees represented good value for money.

Those doing historical and philosophical studies, languages and creative arts and design are least satisfied with the value they have received.

‘Wasted potential’ of mature students

14 March 2018

A university group says that the government’s review of tuition fees in England should make a priority of finding ways to attract more mature and part-time students.

The Million Plus group says there is a “huge pool of untapped potential” among adults who missed out on university.

After fees increased in 2012, mature student numbers fell by 20%.

Les Ebdon, head of the university access watchdog, backed calls to reverse this “very worrying trend”.

Mature students – counted as people starting courses at the age of 21 or over – were among the most likely to be deterred by the raising of tuition fees to £9,000 in 2012, which have since risen again to £9,250.

Review shows that OFFA’s approach to evidence has driven change in access

14 March 2018

The Office for Fair Access’s approach to research and evidence has been successful in helping universities and colleges to improve higher education access and participation by working in more effective ways, an impact review published today has found.

The review, conducted by the consultancy Nursaw Associates as OFFA prepares to close at the end of this month, investigated how far OFFA’s Evidence and Effective Practice activities have met its objective to ‘support and challenge the sector to continually improve outcomes through the generation of and learning from robust evaluation, research and analysis’.

It determined that the higher education sector considers the research produced and commissioned by OFFA as
•highly valuable

and that support for the sector to develop good practice is seen as critical to securing further progress in access and participation.

The research included surveys and interviews with staff from universities, colleges and third sector organisations, and analysis of access agreements.

Geography should not determine social mobility

14 March 2018

Parental occupation, family income, early years education, “social capital” (ie who you know)… these are the sorts of things we traditionally look at when considering what shapes a child’s ability to do well at school and beyond.

Yet, these days, there’s a new and growing influence on the life chances of children across the country: geography. Last year, two reports published by the Social Market Foundation think tank laid out the painful truth. Where someone lives can determine their social mobility almost as much as their family background. Regional disparities in the UK are wider than any other western European nation.

Degrees courses to be rated gold, silver and bronze

12 March 2018

Degree courses are to be rated for quality, subject by subject, under a new pilot scheme which ministers say leaves universities “no place to hide”.

Individual subjects at different universities will be graded gold, silver or bronze by a new tool feeding in official data on teaching quality.

But students will not be able to use the rankings to choose their courses until 2020, when the tool goes live. Universities say the assessment of subjects must be effective.

The new system to rate teaching is part of the government’s attempt to get tough on universities, which charge students nearly £30,000 for a three-year degree, and have come under fire for paying their senior managers very high salaries.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said: “Prospective students deserve to know which courses deliver great teaching and great outcomes – and which ones are lagging behind.

“In the age of the student, universities will no longer be able to hide if their teaching quality is not up to the world-class standard that we expect.”

Forgotten, isolated and ignored: the rise of the commuter student

12 March 2018

Universities are failing to meet the needs of commuter students across the UK even though the number of students choosing to live at home is increasing.

A study conducted by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust in February 2018 highlighted that about 55.8 per cent of students under the age of 20 attend a university less than 57 miles from home, while only one in 10 students attends a university more than 150 miles away.

The report further highlighted that in 2014-15 (the first year of £9,000 fees), “over three quarters of the student body at the University of the West of Scotland (77.5 per cent) and Newman University (76.2 per cent) in Birmingham come from less than 91 km away and also live in their parental home”.

More than 50 per cent of undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Wolverhampton, Glasgow Caledonian University and City, University of London also commute to university, claimed the study.

In contrast to the aforementioned universities, however, “only 2 per cent of the student body at the Universities of Bath, Bristol, York and Exeter” live in their parental homes, while there are no reports of students “of this sort” who attended either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge, the Sutton Trust report reveals.

University drop-out rates in UK rise for third successive year

12 March 2018

Drop-out rates among university students who give up their studies within 12 months have gone up for the third year in a row, according to official statistics.

Figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that 26,000 students in England who began studying for their first degree in 2015 did not make it beyond the first year.

Rates vary widely across the higher education sector, with almost one in five undergraduates quitting by the end of their first year at the worst affected institutions, while at the other end of the scale fewer than 1% dropped out from Cambridge University.

The figures, which are the most recent available, reveal that in 2015-16 6.4% of home students starting a full-time first degree course in England quit before starting their second year, continuing an upward year-on-year trend from 5.7% in 2011-12

University offers science degree online for £5,650 per year

12 March 2018

The University of London is to announce a fully fledged undergraduate degree course completely taught online for £5,650 per year over three years.It is aimed at encouraging more part-time, working students, following a fall in their numbers after the increase in tuition fees in England.

There are plans for 3,000 students to take the computer science course.

It comes as the prime minister’s review of tuition fees aims to encourage more flexible and cheaper ways to study. The review follows concerns about the high cost of university, with average graduate debts of more than £50,000.

Mum’s the word for bridging the disadvantage gap

12 March 2018

One academic’s innovative idea for helping a deprived community? Ask parents what they need to raise their own aspirations – and then work with them to deliver it

Trisha Bennett has lived in Whitley for nearly four decades, so she knows it better than most. She has had a front-row seat for all the outside attempts to ‘save’ the people that live there. And there have been many, many attempts: the community development consultant says that the area has been “initiatived to death”.

“Whitley’s one of those places where if you saw it on paper, you’d see it’s this, it’s that, it has a reputation and all of that, but actually it’s a really strong community and people look out for each other,” she says. “You get that quite a lot in a deprived community – they might go and rob somebody the other side of town, but they’ll look after their next-door neighbour. It’s a rough diamond.”

On paper, the statistics are bleak. In the most deprived area of Whitley, employment and health are both ranked first. Not too bad, you might think. But this is on a local government scale of one to 98, where one represents the most deprived, and 98 the least. Males born in Whitley have a life expectancy that is 2.3 years less than the national average. For women, the gap rises to 3.9 years.

Poorer students three times more likely to live at home while at university, study says

12 March 2018

Disadvantaged students are more than three times as likely to live at home while attending university than their wealthier peers, a new study has found.

Moving long distances to study for a degree is largely the preserve of “white, middle class, privately educated young people,” the report from social mobility Sutton Trust suggests.

The study found that more than half (55.8 per cent) of young people n 2014/15 stayed local for university, attending institutions that were less than around 55 miles away from their home address.

PM to give speech on education to mark launch of post-18 education and funding review

18 February 2018

Theresa May will urge people to “throw away” the “outdated attitude” that university is the only desirable route for young people and that going into vocational training “is something for other people’s children”. In a speech in Derbyshire to launch a wide-ranging review into post-18 education, the Prime Minister will call for a parity of esteem between academic and technical options so we can “create a system of tertiary education that works for all our young people”

Job Opportunity- NEON Training and Events Officer

2 February 2018

NEON are seeking a Training and Events Officer to support our National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) are seeking a Training and Events Officer to support their national Access Academy training programme, national conference and our range of other seminars and summits. The role will involve extensive liaison with our members and senior stakeholders from across […]

Commuter students: locked out, left out and growing in number

30 January 2018

With soaring debt, and no maintenance grants, more than 50% of students at some universities now live at home. They are locked out of lectures or reprimanded by staff for being late when public transport lets them down. They are excluded from freshers’ week functions ticketed in halls and, if they do go on a night out, they are constantly checking their phones for the last train. Commuter students, living with their families, are not having an easy time in a system geared to the residential experience. But given the soaring costs of halls, staying at home can seem an attractive option. There is mounting evidence, however, that these students are missing out.

Number of white people accepted at universities drops despite overall rise in UK students

15 January 2018

Experts have called for a national debate about “culture and ambition in white working class families” after it emerged that the number of young white people going to university has declined over the past three years, despite an overall increase in admissions.

New figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)​ show the number of white students has fallen by more than 34,000 since 2013/14 – a decrease of 2 per cent – while in total enrolments rose by 1 per cent in the same period.

Other ethnic groups, meanwhile, saw significant increases, with the number of black students up by 11 per cent, Asian students by 12 per cent and those from other or mixed ethnic backgrounds by 18 per cent.

Justine Greening unveils new drive to improve child literacy in England

6 January 2018

Education secretary says schemes aim to ensure that ‘every child will get the best literacy teaching’. It is hoped a £5.7m investment will help boost literacy and numeracy skills in 469 schools around the country. Phonics roadshows and English hubs are among a range of measures announced by the government in an attempt to improve child literacy. The programmes will form part of the drive to tackle inequality and ensure “every child will get the best literacy teaching”, the education secretary, Justine Greening, has said.

University entrance rates for school leavers at a record high and four other key points from new Ucas research

11 December 2017

Ucas stats show how the pattern of young people going to university varies widely across the UK. A geographic breakdown of the entry rates of 18-year-olds into higher education in 2017 is revealed in new data released by Ucas, the universities admissions body, today.

Wellbeing stronger in higher education graduates

29 November 2017

HEFCE has published a report that shows graduates in the UK have a greater sense of personal wellbeing and life satisfaction than those without a higher education qualification. The findings show that individuals are more likely to feel that their life is worthwhile when they have completed a higher education qualification. Graduates also tend to measure their lives higher in terms of overall happiness than non-graduates.

EMWPREP NEWS – November 2017 // Issue 4

29 November 2017

EMWPREP News Team Team Update EMWPREP have been out and about over the last two months, leading partners’ annual institutional meetings and NCOP data officers meetings, and Emma Church has been involved with the OFFA conference. Meanwhile, work is continuing to ensure that we will be compliant with the new GDPR regulations and, at our recent […]

Students with BTECs do worse at university – here’s how we close the gap

29 November 2017

Every so often a new study tells us privately-schooled pupils perform worse at university than their state-schooled peers, or that there are huge gaps in attainment across measures of disadvantage, gender and ethnicity. Perhaps the most significant gulf, however, lies between students who arrive holding A-levels and those who have graduated with BTECs. Using data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency research shows that, over the past 10 years, 6% of students arrived at university exclusively with BTEC qualifications, accepted on the basis of their tariff score. This is meant to signify equivalent prior educational performance, regardless of the qualifications through which it was obtained. But student outcomes suggest otherwise.

Disadvantaged children face worse outcomes in some rich areas – report

28 November 2017

Children from deprived backgrounds face the worst prospects in some of the richest parts of the country, according to a damning new study that lays bare deep geographical divisions across Britain.

An annual report by the government’s own social mobility watchdog warns that while London and its suburbs are pulling away, rural, coastal and former industrial areas are being left behind.

Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, highlighted how the Brexit vote made the geographical divisions clear, but said the monumental task of leaving the EU had left the government with little capacity to tackle the underlying causes.

Why Evaluate?

21 November 2017

In the lead up to the “Why Evaluate? A widening participation symposium” run by OFFA and the University of Sheffield’s Widening Participation Research and Evaluation Unit (WPREU), EMWPREP were asked to write a blog in response to the question ‘Why Evaluate?’

Lessons from London: what it means to have a diverse student body

6 November 2017

Universities have been actively trying to increase the diversity of their student body for some time. At one end of the scale lies Oxford, where it was recently revealed that one in three colleges failed to admit a single black student in 2015. At the other end are many institutions in London, which collectively educate the majority of BAME students. Enrolled in the city’s universities are twice as many pupils who were eligible for free school meals as the next best-performing region, the highest number of mature students, and above-average participation by disabled students. But the capital’s success has also contributed to one of its failures: it has the highest drop out rates in the country.

A recent report from the Social Market Foundation observed that nearly one in 10 students in London drop out during their first year of study. It came only weeks after the first teaching excellence framework results, which include a retention measure, showed a clustering of London institutions in the bronze award category. While there has been much debate around how other regions can replicate London’s success in getting students from all backgrounds into university, it is essential that universities elsewhere learn from institutions in the capital about the challenges of keeping them there.

Can living abroad close the attainment gap for disadvantaged students?

3 November 2017

hen Fatima Afzal was offered a chemical engineering job in the US, she worried what it would be like to transfer to a country where people might never have seen a British Muslim before. She moved, and found her suspicions confirmed in an environment dominated by “very big alpha males”. It was challenging, but she coped. She credits her confidence to a placement year spent abroad, in Malaysia, during her undergraduate degree at Aston University: “If I hadn’t taken that first step I would be closing doors because of my own fear.”

It’s students like Fatima who are being targeted by a new campaign to double the proportion of students at UK universities undertaking placements abroad by 2020, to reach 13% of the student body. The campaign, run by Universities UK International, is particularly focused on getting universities to make international experience accessible for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, since they’re the least likely to study abroad.

David Lammy misses the point: to get to Oxbridge, you have to apply first

23 October 2017

David Lammy’s revelation about Oxbridge’s “apartheid” raises many pertinent issues, but yet fundamentally misses the point. As a current third-year student at Keble College of ethnic minority and state school background, I would argue that while the statistics presented are shocking, Oxford is not solely to blame.

Seven years have changed nothing at Oxbridge. In fact, diversity is even worse

David Lammy

Read more

Statistics are the basis of Lammy’s argument but he often approaches them in the wrong way. “There are more offers made to students from one school – Eton – than students on free school meals across the whole country,” he says. However, the issue is not about how many students from Eton are at Oxford, it’s about how many students from Eton applied to go to Oxford; it’s not about how many students from ethnic minority backgrounds are at Oxford, it’s about how many of these students applied.

Number of colleges charging £9K tuition fees on the rise

20 October 2017

Rising tuition fees for college higher education could deter ‘debt averse’ students from signing up

Given the fury that greeted the government’s decision to triple higher education tuition fees, it took a surprisingly short time for £9,000 a year to be accepted as the going rate for universities.

But Labour’s general election campaign pledge to axe fees completely has dragged the issue back into the spotlight.

The move proved popular among younger voters and appears to have bounced the Conservatives into revisiting the issue, with prime minister Theresa May pledging to undertake a “major review of university funding and student financing” at the party’s conference this month.

For now, at least, the maximum fee has been frozen at £9,250 per year for 2018-19. But while colleges have increasingly been seen as a more affordable source of higher education, new research by Tes has found that a growing number of FE colleges are looking to charge fees on a par with leading universities.

According to data from the Office for Fair Access (Offa), 13 further education colleges will be permitted to charge a maximum fee of £9,250 for 2018-19. A further 13 plan to charge £9,000 per year for at least some of their HE provision. In 2015-16, nine colleges charged £9,000 – the maximum allowed at the time.

Institutions charging more than £6,000 for courses have to establish an access agreement with Offa. The most recent figures show that 85 FE institutions have such an agreement for 2017-18 – an increase from 62 in 2016-17.

GCSE shake-up leaves many schools missing national progress targets

12 October 2017

The introduction of new GCSEs this summer means nearly one in eight secondary schools in England is likely to fall below the government’s floor for pupil progress, according to the latest national figures. The Department for Education’s provisional data for key stage four results reveal a messy picture caused by reformed GCSEs in English and maths taken for the first time this year, including a large jump in schools struggling to meet national progress targets.

‘It’s easier if you’re middle class’: first-generation students on going to uni

6 October 2017

Is higher education still the preserve of the middle classes or have tuition fees opened up access? What are the challenges of being the first in your family to go to university – and how does it shape your academic experience?

We asked four first-generation students about their experiences. From struggling to pay for books and scrambling for a rental guarantor to not wanting to let your family down, here’s what they said.

Dalal Barahman, 21, first year medical student at Manchester University

I’m one of seven and none of my six older siblings went to uni. I feel that perhaps they followed each other and this seemed like the safer option. A lot of people were telling me to go for something else – not in a malicious way, but because they didn’t want me to be rejected. They thought it’d be easier to get an apprenticeship or a job.

Money was an issue, but I was part of the Manchester Access Programme for students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds. They guide you through the application and the costs, and mentally prepared me for it all.

Two-year degrees: the solution to the drop in mature student numbers?

4 October 2017

Accelerated two-year degrees have caused a serious stir among universities. Many institutions – especially the more traditional – are concerned about set-up costs, including investment in facilities and additional staff required for teaching and admissions. Some have questioned the value of two-year degrees more broadly. It’s clear that they’re not for everyone – but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad idea.

Introducing two-year degrees in February, universities minister, Jo Johnson, said they would offer students greater levels of flexibility in learning. After his announcement, the Department for Education responded with a consultation. It elicited mixed views. While there were signs of demand from students and employers, traditional universities argued that the complexity of each year’s learning material in the three-year degree corresponds to the growing maturity of students over those years, and that this system can’t be adapted.

It is true that offering accelerated degrees is complicated. But for institutions unencumbered by these restrictions, these courses will provide a real opportunity to offer higher education to groups that could have been excluded.

How to improve the school results: not extra maths but music, loads of it

4 October 2017

Abiha Nasir, aged nine, walks quietly into the small classroom, takes a seat, adjusts her hijab and picks up the drumsticks. A shy smile spreads across her face as she begins to play.

She was just five when she turned up at Feversham primary academy’s after-school clubs, leaving teachers astounded by her musical ability and how her confidence grew with an instrument in hand. Last year, Abiha successfully auditioned for Bradford’s gifted and talented music programme for primary school children, the first Muslim girl to do so. The assessor recorded only one word in her notes: “Wow!”

Abiha’s teachers say her talent might have gone unspotted in many schools, where subjects such as music and art are being squeezed out by pressure to reach Sats targets and climb league tables.

Record gender gap in university places

4 October 2017

“I was never really put off by the fees,” says Maya Little. She is part of a surging number of young women beginning university this autumn, while the number of men going into higher education seems to have stalled.

When fees increased in England in 2012 to £9,000, demand for places carried on rising for women, but not for men.

The latest official figures show 55% of women entering higher education by the age of 30 compared with 43% of men. The proportion of women pursuing degrees has risen from 47% in 2012 – an annual increase of 18,000 more individual female students. But there are fewer male students starting this year than in 2011 – with the gender gap now at its widest ever point.

Tuition fee repayment earnings threshold to rise to £25,000

4 October 2017

Low-earning graduates will benefit from a delay in their student loan repayments under a Conservative scheme designed to defuse the political damage over tuition fees and attempt to woo younger voters.

Speaking at the start of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Theresa May announced plans to raise the income level that triggers student loan repayments for recent graduates in England from £21,000 to £25,000 a year.

The change is likely to apply only to those graduates who took out the higher rate of student loans introduced in 2012, which perversely means that earlier graduates will have higher loan repayments even if they are on the same income level as later graduates with much higher debts.

Social capital: the new frontier in widening participation at universities

2 October 2017

UK universities have made progress with widening access to higher education in recent years. But while there are further advances to be made, there is an increasing realisation that focusing on entry to university is not enough. The combination of the opportunity to study and academic achievement doesn’t guarantee a good job. Evidence at Queen Mary University of London suggests that our graduates do not always succeed personally, nor make a societal contribution, to the extent that their talents and educational qualifications should enable.

QMUL is a Russell Group member based in the east end of London. Over half of our UK undergraduate students are local, 90% come from state schools, 60% are from an ethnic minority, half are in receipt of direct financial support from QMUL, and 27% come from households where the annual taxable income is £10,000 or less.

Tuition fee repayment earnings threshold to rise to £25,000

2 October 2017

Low-earning graduates will benefit from a delay in their student loan repayments under a Conservative scheme designed to defuse the political damage over tuition fees and attempt to woo younger voters.

Speaking at the start of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Theresa May announced plans to raise the income level that triggers student loan repayments for recent graduates in England from £21,000 to £25,000 a year.

The change is likely to apply only to those graduates who took out the higher rate of student loans introduced in 2012, which perversely means that earlier graduates will have higher loan repayments even if they are on the same income level as later graduates with much higher debts.

Graduate employment tracking set to be rolled out across Europe

2 October 2017

European Union states will be encouraged to produce comparable data on graduate employment to ensure that degrees remain relevant to the labour market.

While the vast majority of the EU’s involvement in higher education is now focused on either funding research and innovation through the Horizon 2020 programme or mobility through Erasmus+, there are signs that the next multi-year funding framework will seek to tackle other issues.

Speaking at the European University Association’s first forum on learning and teaching at Pierre and Marie Curie University, Sarah Lynch, head of sector (higher education) at the European Commission’s directorate-general for education, youth, sports and culture, said that improving tertiary education had risen as a policy priority for the commission in recent months.

Almost half of all young people in England go on to higher education

2 October 2017

Tony Blair’s pledge that half of all young people should go on to higher education is within a whisker of becoming true as official figures revealed that 49% of those in England are expected to have entered advanced studies by the age of 30.

The government’s measure of higher education participation has reached its highest level since the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees in 2012, equalling the previous record of 49% since the annual estimates were first produced in 2006.

The figures show that the participation rate rose by 1.4 percentage points last year, thanks to a 10,000 rise in the number of those aged 17-30 going to university for the first time in 2015-16, including full-time and part-time learners.

New EEF report: Good literacy skills crucial to closing attainment gap in Science

22 September 2017

Testing theories through experiments and trials is crucial for pupils to learn science and could improve results for disadvantaged pupils in primary and secondary schools, according to a new report published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Royal Society today.

Researchers from the Department of Education at the University of Oxford reviewed the best international research to identify the interventions and approaches for which there is evidence of a positive impact on young people’s learning outcomes, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They found good evidence that the ability to reason scientifically – by testing hypotheses through well-controlled experiments – is a strong predictor of later success in the sciences and that programmes that allow pupils to design experiments that test the impact of one thing on another can develop this skill. Many effective programmes give teachers training to guide their pupils’ scientific reasoning by setting questions that can be investigated and getting them to design fair tests.

The researchers found that the strongest factor affecting pupils’ science scores is how well they understand written texts. According to the report, poor literacy skills can affect how well a pupil is able to understand scientific vocabulary and to prepare scientific reports. This suggests that strategies to boost disadvantaged pupils’ reading comprehension could have a positive impact on their achievement in science too.

Number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE falls to lowest level in a decade, report finds

22 September 2017

The number of pupils taking arts subjects at GCSE has fallen to the lowest level in a decade, as schools encourage bright students to shun “soft” subjects. The uptake of arts subjects has seen a drastic decline in recent years, according to an analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

Their report analyses the uptake of GCSEs in arts subjects – including art and design, drama and theatre, music, dance, and performing arts – over the past ten years.

Researchers from the EPI examined the impact of the English Baccalaureate (Ebacc) on subject choice, which was introduced by ministers in 2010 to counter the “dumbing down” of GCSE choices and promote “core” subjects.

Historians will laugh at us when they look back at our university application system

21 September 2017

In the future we will laugh at things we currently take for granted. How we all carry around big slabs of glass as phones and then act surprised when we smash them. Or how we let people get sick, rather than using data analytics to predict illness and get in early. But a special sort of befuddlement will be retained for the future historian looking back at how we run university entry.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of young people apply to university using a system built on smoke and mirrors. They apply before they take their exams and their teachers attempt to guess what grade they might get, to help universities to select their undergraduates. These “predicted” grades are notoriously inaccurate – only one in six applicants achieve what is surmised. While most teachers are busy over-predicting, they under-predict for young people from poorer families, which leads to injustice, lost opportunity and a lack of diversity in higher education.

Five things that could happen next with tuition fees

21 September 2017

Tuition fees in England are under intense scrutiny – with a huge amount of confusion about what is going to happen next.

They’re meant to be increased even further – but there is a feeding frenzy of briefings suggesting that they are more likely to be reduced.

It’s a case of the politics of a minority government – and competing power bases – becoming more important than policy.

No one wants to be left holding an unpopular policy when the music stops – and Downing Street and the Treasury, as well as education ministers, will want a fee system that is more attractive to voters.

So what are the options?

Achieving change through partnership – what does success look like for the National Collaborative Outreach Programme?

19 September 2017

Developed to change the lives of young people in some of the most disadvantaged areas of England, the National Collaborative Outreach Programme is nine months old. So what does success look like for the programme and how have things been going? The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) is an ambitious £60 million-a-year programme that aims to increase the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education.

Director for Fair Access and Participation announced

7 September 2017

The Department for Education has today (8 September 2017) announced the appointment of Chris Millward as the first Director for Fair Access and Participation of the Office for Students (OfS). The OfS is a new public body, established by the Higher Education and Research Act 2017. Once fully operational in April 2018 the OFS – which will replace the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) – will regulate the higher education sector and place students’ interests at its heart.

A solution to the row over tuition fees – bring back maintenance grants- Debate

7 September 2017

The cost of going to university has been widely debated and discussed in recent months. It’s now clear that the concerns raised by students, graduates and their families need to be addressed. At the same time, the debate needs to be grounded in evidence – we need to understand what the issues really are, and what is the best way forward in resolving them. The current undergraduate funding system in England is not broken, and the evidence supports this. It allows all those who are qualified and wish to enter higher education to do so – there are no arbitrary restrictions on student numbers. It is a socially progressive system and supports students from all types of backgrounds to enter university. It feeds the current and future demand for higher level skills, and this is essential for the UK’s economy to grow, be internationally competitive, and to raise living standards for all.

‘We need a step change on widening access to university’

6 September 2017

Universities have just two more years to double their proportion of disadvantaged students. They’re making progress, especially on widening access. But Les Ebdon, director of the Office for Fair Access, thinks the target is unlikely to be met at the current rate. In particular, he is calling upon universities to do more to tailor their efforts towards specific groups.

Top universities ‘incredibly slow’ to take more disadvantaged students – report

5 September 2017

England’s leading universities have made “incredibly slow” progress in widening access to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, despite spending hundreds of millions of pounds on schemes designed to widen access to their undergraduate courses. A new report by the independent thinktank Reform ranks 29 “high-tariff” universities for their progress in accepting disadvantaged students. It finds that only the best-performing university, the London School of Economics (LSE), managed to increase its proportion of disadvantaged students by more than one percentage point annually during the period of assessment, 2011-15.

More than 20,000 sixth-formers leave school before finishing A-levels

2 September 2017

More than 20,000 pupils left their school’s sixth forms before completing their A-level courses, new analysis shows, after revelations that some schools have systematically pushed pupils out for failing to achieve top marks. About 13% of the 160,000 pupils taking at least three AS-levels at state schools nationally did not go on to complete year 13, equivalent to 20,800 pupils, according to analysis by Education Datalab.

Warning over ‘looming secondary school place squeeze’

1 September 2017

A potential shortage of school places looms ahead in secondary schools in England, councils are warning.The Local Government Association says schools will be thousands of places short over the next few years as a population bulge moves up from primary. It says schools in 12 councils will be over capacity by 2018, rising to nearly half of councils within five years.

But the Department for Education attacked the figures as “thoroughly misleading”.This is the sixth year in a row that town hall bosses, who are responsible for ensuring sufficient places, have warned of a future squeeze. This time, the LGA says schools could be nearly 8,000 places short by September 2018 and 125,000 short by 2022.

Record numbers of women going on to university this year

1 September 2017

Teenage girls are now more than a third more likely to go to university than boys, according to new figures, as the gap between the sexes reaches record levels.

In total, upwards of 30,000 more women than men are set to start degree courses this autumn, official Ucas data shows. The difference is the largest ever recorded by the university admissions service by this point in the year.

The figures show around 6,600 fewer students have been places on courses this year, compared with the same point last year.

GCSE confusion caused by grading, league table and cohort changes

24 August 2017

This year’s GCSE results are notable for the confusion that has surrounded the introduction of the new 9-1 grading system. Pupils and teachers are unsure about the equivalence of numerical and letter grades, as are employers, who, according to some of the big business lobby groups, will now be faced with candidates holding a mixture of both. There have also been mixed messages from universities, with reports that different institutions are planning on taking different approaches as to whether a grade 4 or 5 will satisfy their minimum GCSE requirements.

Proportion of students getting good GCSE grades falls after reforms

24 August 2017

The proportion of pupils achieving good GCSE passes in England has fallen this year, amid a blizzard of changes in exams and gradings, including a new nine-point scale in the key subjects of English and maths. There were weaker results in history, maths and geography than last year, but the picture was complicated by changing patterns of entries and some substantial increases in numbers taking the tests as schools adjusted to the new process.

If degree apprenticeships are to widen access, we need to raise awareness

18 August 2017

Newspaper headlines this week have been dominated by A-level results and the fall in university acceptances. But few talked about the alternative higher education routes available to these student – specifically degree apprenticeships. These valuable programmes could play a major role in widening participation in higher education, plugging the UK’s widening skills gap and closing the gap in attainment levels between the richest and poorest students. Yet awareness of them is still unacceptably low. This needs to change.

Increase in first generation university students

16 August 2017

Over the last six years the number of students who are the first generation in their (immediate) family to attend university has grown. In 2015-16, 50 per cent of full-time first degree entrants were first generation.

Mixed results at every level of the British education system

16 August 2017

In his damning critique of universities aping business practices, Jonathan Wolff notes that “most universities are held together by a core of academics and support staff who preserve the authentic values of teaching and research” (Everything must be measured: how business practices have tainted universities, 8 August). BUT he also recognises that goodwill has a limit and that target-setting and insecure contracts risk eroding our successful higher education sector.

‘One in five’ youngsters born in poorest areas go to university

14 August 2017

Teenagers in some parts of England are up to 18 times more likely to go to university than their peers in other areas, a study suggests. On average, around one in five youngsters born in England’s poorest postcodes go on to higher education, compared to around half of those from homes in the wealthiest postcodes. The new study, by education charity Teach First and the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, argues that poorer youngsters are still facing hurdles that their richer peers do not have to overcome, and calls for more action to boost the numbers of disadvantaged young people going on to study for a degree.

Alternatives to university: there’s more to life than a degree

14 August 2017

Finishing your A-levels and marching straight into university isn’t for everyone. For those looking to further their education or join the workforce, there’s a vast number of paths to explore. “University is good but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” says Jez Booker, marketing manager at online guide Not Going to Uni. “A fair chunk of young people have a very clear idea of what they want to achieve and what professional role they want to follow in their lives. Others have the self-knowledge that they are more practical types – they want to get their hands dirty, so to speak.”

Wrong A-level choices prevent poorer students gaining elite university places

12 August 2017

Students from poorer backgrounds may be held back by their A-level subject choices when applying for respected degree courses, such as law, at leading universities. New research suggests that those taking vocational A-levels in law, accounting or business are less likely to attend elite universities than students who opt for traditional academic subjects such as sciences, mathematics, languages, history and geography.

Switching on to social media matters on clearing day

12 August 2017

Clearing day used to be about spending hours on the phone – often on hold or in a queue. And although clearing hotlines are still a big part of the process, universities are realising that if they are going to reach the text-happy generation, it makes sense to open up social media, live chat and text to start the application process and even make offers.

Number of pupils planning to go to university ‘at lowest level in 8 years’

10 August 2017

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed who said they were unlikely to go to university cited financial concerns, such as student debt, as their reason. Fewer young people now aspire to attend university, according to a new poll, with many citing financial concerns or saying they simply do not like the idea. Around three-quarters (74 per cent) of […]

Colleges ‘should play a key role in widening access to university’

10 August 2017

Transfer agreements between colleges and universities should be expanded to include a wide range of institutions and degree programmes, report urges. A greater policy focus on further education colleges could help to widen access to higher education in England, according to a new study. The cross-national research, by academics at Columbia University and UCL Institute of Education/Birkbeck College, assesses how England and the US could tackle disparities in higher education access and success.

OFFA calls for transformational change in fair access to higher education

10 August 2017

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has highlighted the need for much greater progress on improving access to higher education for people from under-represented groups, in a briefing on the current biggest issues in fair access in England, published today [Thursday 10 August 2017].

Patterns and trends in UK higher education 2017

24 July 2017

This year’s publication of this annual report covers the ten-year period following academic year 2006–07, and looks at a variety of areas covering students and staff at, and finances of, UK higher education institution. The report’s findings include that the total number of students in 2015–16, at around 2.3 million, is broadly the same as in 2006–07 but underlying changes have seen a shift in the student body and what is studied. There has been growth in younger and female students and those from a disadvantaged background, or non-UK domicile: part-time study has continued to decline.

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% […]

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