Policy/Research Briefing

19th May 2017


Other Government

Forward Together: The Conservative Manifesto

Summary for Education: ‘At a glance’ (see BBC)


  • An extra £4bn into schools by 2022
  • Scrap free school lunches for infants in England, but offer free breakfasts across the primary years
  • No school will have its budget cut as a result of the new funding formula
  • At least 100 new free schools a year
  • End ban on grammar schools - conditions would include allowing pupils to join at "other ages as well as eleven"
  • Ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools
  • A specialist maths school to be opened in every major city in England due to new funding arrangements
  • Every 11-year-old expected to know their times tables off by heart
  • If universities want to charge maximum tuition fees, they will be required to "become involved" in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools
  • Introduce T-Levels
  • Change the rules to allow the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools
  • New faith schools will now have to prove parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school
  • Work to build up the investment funds of universities across the UK.


See also: Schools get five extra years to hit EBacc target under Tory plans, 18th May:TES

Department for Education: Statistics

Pupil absence in schools in England: autumn term 2016, 18th May 2017 (note this Autumn term only)

The overall absence rate for state-funded primary and secondary schools has increased from 4.1 per cent in autumn 2015 to 4.3 per cent in autumn 2016.

Absence due to illness has increased from 2.4 per cent in autumn 2015 to 2.5 per cent in autumn 2016. Illness remains the most common reason for absence, accounting for 58.4 per cent of all absences.

Unauthorised holidays have also increased, from 0.2 per cent of possible sessions in autumn 2015 to 0.3 per cent in autumn 2016.

The percentage of enrolments in state-funded primary and secondary schools that were classified as persistent absentees during the autumn term rose from 10.3 per cent in autumn 2015 to 11.4 per cent in autumn 2016.

The overall absence rate for pupils in pupil referral units (PRUs) has increased from 30.5 per cent in autumn 2015 to 32.2 per cent in autumn 2016. Their absence rate has historically been higher than other types of schools.

See also:  Number of pupils taking unauthorised term-time holidays rises by 12%, The Guardian, 19th May 2017


2019 performance tables: technical and vocational qualifications, 16th May 2017 (republished with updates)


Technical and vocational qualifications for teaching from September 2017 and reporting in 2019 performance tables. The full list of qualifications to Tech levels has been added this week.


EEF publishes independent evaluations of Switch-On, 18th May 2017: EEF


In Switch-on, delivered by Nottinghamshire County Council, teaching assistants were trained to deliver an intensive one-to-one literacy intervention for pupils struggling to read. The 10-week programme was made up of short reading sessions that aimed to support the pupils to become more confident and independent in their reading ability. 

An earlier and smaller EEF-funded trial of Switch-on involving 19 schools showed that it delivered an average of 3 months’ of additional progress for pupils struggling to read at the transition between primary and secondary school. The EEF funded this bigger trial to find out if these positive results could be repeated at a larger scale in 184 schools across the country.

The independent evaluators from National Centre for Social Research found that the children who received the Switch-on intervention in this larger trial made no more progress than the children in the ‘business as usual’ control group. The difference in results between the trials could be because the training model was altered so the programme could be run in a large number of schools nationally.

The EEF will now discuss with the Switch-on team options for developing and testing an alternative model for scaling the intervention that can be delivered in many schools, but with the same positive effects of the smaller trial.


Worth, J. and De Lazzari. G. (2017). Teacher Retention and Turnover Research. Research Update 1: Teacher Retention by Subject. Slough: NFER.

The NFER Research Update ‘Teacher retention by subject’ is the first publication in a series that form part of a new research project – funded by the Nuffield Foundation – which aims to to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics within the teacher workforce in England.

It is also one of the first pieces of research to explore differences in teacher retention rates in English secondary schools by the subject they teach.

Key Findings:

  • Rates of early-career teachers in science, maths and languages leaving the profession are particularly high.
  • High leaving rates of science and modern foreign languages teachers, and shortfalls in the number of entries to teacher training in these subjects compared to the Government’s target, may make it difficult for the Government to achieve its aim for 90 per cent of pupils to be entered for GCSEs in EBacc subjects.
  • The amount of curriculum time spent on science and languages has not increased since 2011. The lack of growth in curriculum time could be due to reduced teacher supply constraining schools from expanding provision in these subjects.
  • The amount of curriculum time for technology subjects has fallen dramatically since 2011. The leaving rate for technology teachers is higher than average, which might be driven by schools’ reduced demand for teachers as well as teachers’ own career decisions.


Brilliant children remind us that education isn’t a disaster area, 19th May 2017:TES


The author refers to the latest results of the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy, and teachers’ revelations about workload, which have cast a shadow over Scottish schools – but says- let’s not forget all the great work and the great pupils


Professor Graham Donaldson, addressing the annual conference of the Catholic Headteachers’ Association of Scotland said that he was “perplexed” by the SSLN data and Scotland’s similarly underwhelming performance in the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment. According to the international consensus on what works in education, he said, Scotland seemed to be doing just about everything right; yet clearly, in practice, all was not well.


Some, of course, question the validity of Pisa, and Donaldson warned against a one-dimensional view of success: he speculated, for example, that Curriculum for Excellence might be one factor behind falling youth crime statistics.

But let’s not downplay the testimony of the teachers in Parliament: the primary head quitting because the workload has left her “utterly exhausted”; the 48-year-old newly qualified computing teacher shocked that she often doesn’t have time to go to the toilet; the faculty head who said that, 15 years after its conception, teachers are still struggling to explain what Curriculum for Excellence is.

There was, however, a more uplifting event at the Scottish Parliament – please look up the clip of Jemma Skelding, the 12-year-old profoundly deaf pupil from Falkirk High School. Using British Sign Language, she became the youngest person ever to lead the weekly Time for Reflection, an honour usually given to religious representatives.

With that in mind, I can’t finish off any more eloquently than this tweet by Kenny Pieper, an English teacher and Tes Scotland columnist: “Politicians writing off a generation of Scottish kids, come into my school. Please. Meet our smart, polite, brilliant young people.”



The Communication Trust's manifesto for Speech, Language and Communication

With the upcoming election on the 8th June rapidly approaching, the Communication Trust is calling on all main political parties to ensure that a greater emphasis is placed on supporting children and young people’s speech, language and communication across the country.

Exclusive: More Sats 'chaos' as two thirds of moderators fail to assess pupils' work correctly, Helen Ward, 19th May 2017: TES


The author writes about the ‘worrying results revealed by Tes freedom of information requests lead to warnings that teachers will struggle to consistently assess KS2 pupils writing’.

She says:

New data uncovered by Tes suggests the government has failed to ensure the “more consistent, reliable approach” to moderating teacher assessments of writing it promised following last year's Sats chaos.

Two-thirds of moderators trained for this summer incorrectly assessed pupils’ work when tested earlier this year, results obtained through freedom of information (FOI) requests reveal.

Moderators have described the system as “crude”, “ridiculous” and a “farce”.

Teachers fear the problems will mean more chaos. They point out that if moderators who have been given extra training and guidance are unsure where standards are, then the teachers who will be the final assessors of most pupils’ work do not stand a chance.

Finding A Place For PSHE In Schools, C.Owen, Blog, Huffpost, UK, 17th May


The author speaks about the importance of a whole school approach to PHSE. She concludes:

‘PSHE is important because young people fail to learn the skills they need in a void of real information, with an overload of misinformation. If we are to teach them something of navigation and responsibility, we must give them the keys to access the world, but safely. On the one hand, that’s giving them instruction, knowledge and skills and on the other, it’s ensuring they are sufficiently physically, mentally and emotionally secure to succeed. Investment is needed, not just in terms of money, but further government support (beyond RSE) and, most critically, time. Things of value need time. Time brings depth. With a narrow, exam-focused curriculum, we are doing our children an injustice if we don’t invest in PSHE. Its teaching can help remove barriers, improve academic outcomes and help young people make informed choices. It surely isn’t asking too much to give them the information they might need to handle difficulties better and the space to consider them’.

See also :The UK's first university centre for improving mental health in schools is launched, 16th May: TES



Achievement for All: possible areas for considerations


Finding A Place For PSHE In Schools, C.Owen, Blog, Huffpost, UK, 17th May


The author speaks about the importance of a whole school approach to PHSE. Achievement for All, with whole school approach, through a focus on aspirations, access and achievement supports children’s well being