Whereas Eric Pickles’ Communities and Local Government Department sometimes seems sandwiched between the British Property Federation and the National Trust, there is little sign of any sandwiching of policies on which the Department for Education and Business Innovation and Skills have embarked.

The significant feature emerging from all proposed Primary, Secondary, Further and Higher Education reforms is that Michael Gove and David Willetts are driving these forward in a very personal way. Messrs Gove and Willetts don’t deliver speeches written by their Private Offices. They clearly write their own. Michael Gove’s speeches to the Policy Exchange on Monday 20 June, at the Durand Academy on Thursday 01 September and to OFQUAL on Thursday 13 October, were major policy deliveries.

Overview

As following shows, these Gove and Willetts declared policies are not fiddling around at the policy margins. They are pressing hard for really fundamental change.  This is only a rough summary of the policy areas where big changes are proposed:

  • Revised Early Years Foundation Stage. EYFS is a comprehensive statutory framework that sets standards for learning, development and care of children from birth to five.
  • Personal, Social, Health and Economic education. A programme of learning opportunities and experiences to help children and young people grow and develop as individuals and as members of families and of social and economic communities.
  • Criteria for 14-16 ‘league tables’. Only “highest quality qualifications” will be included in the new school league tables.
  • School revenue funding and capital reform. Fundamental changes to both of these – as shown below.
  • Regulation of the teaching profession. The Education Act, which received Royal Assent on Tuesday 15 November 2011 abolishes five quangos: the General Teaching Council for England, the Training and Development Agency for Schools, the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency and the Young Person’s Learning Agency. The Act gives new powers to the Secretary of State as a consequence of some of these changes
  • Teacher pensions. Reforms are included in other public sector pension reform proposals. For teachers the following changes are proposed:
  • Moving from a final salary pension to a career average pension scheme
  • A phased increase to teachers’ Normal Pension Age in line with changes to the State Pension Age
  • A rebalancing of employee and employer contributions to provide a fairer distribution between members and other taxpayer.
  • FE Reform and FE loans. On 16 November 2010 the Government published two documents which set out a radical new strategy for further education and skills, Skills for Sustainable Growth and Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth.  Though its proposals for further FE Reform in “New Challenges. New Changes” of Tuesday 16 August 2011 have received less coverage, some of these are covered in a Huckfield Blog below, “Employers, Skills and Qualifications – Wolf Points the Way”. “New Challenges, New Chances” and associated documents contain proposals to take this strategy further by making detailed proposals in areas ranging from informal adult and community learning to data requirements on colleges
  • Adult and Community Learning. But four previously separate funding allocations (Personal and Community Development Learning, Family Literacy, Language and Numeracy, Wider Family Learning and Neighbourhood Learning in Deprived Communities) are now combined into a single allocation.  They are now “de ring fenced”. Providers are now free to decide how they meet commitments and respond to local communities. Consultation is taking place as part of “New Challenges. New Chances”
  • HE White Paper. Friday 11 November 2011 was the deadline for the first “margin bids” for 20,000 lower cost places in the White Paper “Students at the Heart of the System of Tuesday 28 June 2011. 202 bids were received for a total of 35,811 student places. 34 bids were from HE institutions and 167 bids from FE colleges for students on higher education courses
  • Regulatory framework for HE. This “Technical Consultation” concluded on Thursday 27 October 2011. HEFCE now becomes a regulatory rather than funding body and will need extended powers for the private sector.
  • Early Repayment mechanisms for student loans. BIS is running a series of consultations on early repayment on the grounds that “it is important that those on the highest incomes after graduation are not able unfairly to buy themselves out of this progressive mechanism by paying off their loans early”
  • Open Data. The Departments for Education and Business, Innovation and Skills seek to provide much more data about schools, achievements and impacts. DfE has already “opened up” much of this on its website
  •  Other reviews, including consequences of the summer riots, administration of examinations, teacher training and recruitment, the UCAS tariff, inspection arrangements for the FE Sector, Colleges in the Community and professionalism in the FE Sector.

 

Themes Continue Through Different Education Levels.

It is interesting that some of the themes for change in these reviews will be carried through from one stage of education to another. The principle of the Pupil Premium, introduced by the Coalition Government, may be carried through into the proposed reform of FE Funding. Interestingly, the House of Commons BIS Select Committee Report on Reform of Higher Education has suggested that this principle might even be followed through into HE.

School Funding

Finally, a note on school revenue funding. It was only after the “Schools Funding Crisis” in 2003, when Charles Clarke discovered that Education Department funding was not necessarily being spent on Schools, that there came the introduction of Dedicated Schools Grant in 2006/2007. The current schools grant is based on a “spend plus formula” which has been maintained.

Since school reform funding proposals are beginning to reach the headlines, a future blog will give more background.