Department for Education

GCSE new grading scale: factsheets, 20th June 2017

The factsheets are for parents, employers and further and higher education providers, explaining what the new grades mean. In brief:

The old and new GCSE grading scales do not directly compare but there are three points where they align:

  • the bottom of new grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of current grade A;
  • the bottom of new grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of current grade C; and
  • the bottom of new grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of current grade G.

By 2020, GCSE exam certificates will contain only number grades.

Top 50 UK employers for social mobility, 21st June 2017

The top 50 UK employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace has been announced. The index is a joint initiative between the Social Mobility Foundation and the Social Mobility Commission, in partnership with the City of London Corporation and is believed to be world’s first ever social mobility employer index.

The Social Mobility Employer Index was developed in consultation with, and following feedback from social mobility experts and major employers. To enter, they had to answer questions about actions they are taking in at least one of the following sections:

working with young people; routes into work; attraction - innovative ways of reaching beyond graduates of the usual 5 to 10 universities many top employers focus their efforts on; recruitment and selection; data collection and internal/external advocacy.

The top 10 firms named in the index top 50 are: Grant Thornton UK LLP; KPMG UK LLP; Skanska UK PLC; Standard Life; Deloitte UK; JP Morgan; PwC; Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP; WM Morrisons Supermarkets Plc and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Key findings include:

  • Firms are now increasingly asking both new and current employees about their social background. a quarter ask if an employee received free school meals (26%); around 1 in 10 ask about parental occupation (7%) and the postcode where an employee grew up (11%)
  • Just under 1 in 5 of these firms (17%) now set social mobility targets as part of their business strategy
  • The firms collectively scored the highest on their work with young people, providing outreach activities for over 663,000 young people, nearly 10,000 work experience placements and over 5,000 mentors. But they score lowest on helping people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to progress in the workplace
  • Nearly three-quarters of the organisations (72%) are offering apprenticeships, but 77% are at levels 2 and 4 (GCSE or A level equivalent) which have been shown to offer lower returns for the apprentices
  • 96% of firms say they accept degrees from any university, but 61% of successful applicants attended one of the country’s most selective 24 universities (despite making up just 42% of the applications)
  • 11 Russell Group universities are visited by employers more than all the other UK universities combined and these 11 are all in the 20% of universities with the lowest percentage of state school students in the country

  • Some firms still take 100% of their recruits from the most selective universities

See also City A.M From Grant Thornton to Standard Life: Here are the UK employers making the most progress on social mobility

Justine Greening speaks at Social Mobility Employer Index launch, 21st June 2017

Justine Greening, speaking at the Guildhall, London, alongside David Johnston, Chief Executive of the Social Mobility Foundation, and Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, at an event marking the publication of Social Mobility Employer Index, spoke about the importance of employers enabling young people to ‘develop themselves and their ideas and their potential throughout their whole life, not just at the beginning of it’. She said:

‘…We don’t have to accept where our country has come from and where it is today and see that as the only course that we can take in the future.

…..I certainly remember from my own childhood growing up in Rotherham it was a very difficult time, actually……This steady realisation as quite a young child for me, that to get opportunity I was going to have to work a long time, and very hard, just to get myself into a position to be able to start to have some opportunities.

I knew also that the beginning of that was education and probably being able to go university.

….But what we want to see are companies and organisations in our country using and developing that further when those people become adults and get into the workplace.

We don’t want people to just be going into jobs.

…The launch of this Index today is about starting to put some numbers and evidence around how we can do that systematically and at scale.

It’s also about changing hearts and minds.

I think if all organisations were able to do this, if they were all able to have that business case that social mobility brings, the advantages from it, it would be one of the biggest rocket boosters that we could put under the UK economy in coming years…..

Academy conversion: important dates for schools converting on 1st July 2017

Department for Education- Further Education

Providing supported internships for young people with an EHC plan

First published October 2013, this guidance has been reviewed and republished by the Department for Education and confirmed it is up to date.

Stafford College removed from FE Commissioner intervention after merging with Newcastle-under-Lyme College on 1 November 2016.

The reports are produced in line with Department for Education commitments in ‘Intervention in further education – the strengthened intervention process’.

See the:

  • summary of the FE Commissioner David Collins’ findings and recommendations following his intervention visit to Stafford College
  • former Minister for Skills Nick Boles’ letter to the council setting out the outcome of the intervention assessment and confirming the next steps to be taken.

National achievement rates tables 2015 to 2016, republished 22nd June 2017 (first published 15th June 2017)

Update on the provision of comparable data to the 2015 to 2016 national achievement rates tables in the future.

FE data library: apprenticeship vacancies, 19th June 2017

June 2017 data reported to the end of May 2017 has been uploaded.

FE data library: apprenticeship vacancies archive, 19th June 2017

This statistical data set provides information through a number of reports on the number of apprenticeship vacancies and traineeship opportunities.

Apprenticeship vacancy archive updated with April and May 2017 files on 19 June 2017.

Other Government

Queen's Speech 2017, 21st June 2017

The Queen’s speech was relatively short, with little mention of education. Relevant points for education include the following:

My government will continue to work to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded. My ministers will work to ensure people have the skills they need for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future, including through a major reform of technical education.

….My government will reform mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the National Health Service in England.

….My ministers will work to improve social care and will bring forward proposals for consultation.

See also: Schools Week, Russell Hobby, 21st June

See also: Queen's Speech: Grammar school expansion abandoned, 21st June 2017 BBC: A Department for Education source said that the Queen's Speech was an unambiguous decision not to go ahead with creating more grammar schools. Other issues included: no new grammar schools; plans dropped to stop free lunches for all infants; no legislation announced for education; school funding plans to be put forward at a later date; changes to how individual school budgets are allocated will go ahead and technical education to be upgraded.


School workforce in England: November, 22nd June 2017

Key findings show:

An increase in the number and proportion of primary/nursery teachers in the 2015-2016 year (2.4 thousand; 1.1% increase)

A decrease in the secondary phase. The total number of FTE teachers decreased by 2.7 thousand; from 210.9 thousand FTEs in 2015 to 208.2 thousand FTEs in 2016. This represents a 1.3% decrease.

Between 2011 and 2016, the rate of entry into teaching has remained higher than the percentage of qualified teachers leaving the profession.

Within the nursery/primary phase, the total number of FTE teaching assistants increased by 3.2 thousand; from 174.5 thousand FTEs in 2015 to 177.7 thousand FTEs in 2016. This is a 1.8 per cent increase.

Within the secondary phase, the total number of FTE teaching assistants decreased by 2.2 thousand; from 52.3 thousand FTEs in 2015 to 50.1 thousand FTEs in 2016. This is a 4.2 per cent decrease.

Here teacher numbers are down for the fourth year in a row (208,200 in 2016, down from 210,900 the year before), and teaching assistant numbers down for the third year (50,100 in 2016, down from 52,300 the year before).

And this, despite secondary school populations now being on the up, as the population bulge that has been working its way through primary schools starts to reach secondary age.

See also: More teachers are joining than leaving the profession, but will it be enough to meet demand? Blog Sarah Lynch and Jack worth, 22nd June 2017: NfER

In this blog, the authors say there are considerable challenges ahead which could be addressed by recruiting more NQTs, supporting returning teachers and supporting existing teachers through CPD; they suggest encouraging teachers back into the profession may be a positive move:

Some statistics for thought: in 2016, the 43,830 new entrants included 24,120 newly qualified teachers (NQTs), 14,200 former teachers who returned to the profession and 5,510 teachers who were new to the state-funded sector (qualified teachers who have not taught in the state sector but may have taught in independent schools or overseas).

See also: With a workload problem that has been identified but not addressed, and funding pressures that are biting, are the effects starting to show in teacher workforce figures? 22nd June 2017: Schools Week – the article shows that 25% of newly qualified teachers have left by the end of their third year teaching.

National curriculum assessments: key stage 2, 2016 (revised), 22nd June (first published Dec 2016)

This has been updated to include unclassified special educational needs (SEN) figures in the national tables, along with unclassified ethnicity data.


Local area SEND inspection outcome letters, 22nd June 2017

Outcome letters from inspections of local area services for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities: Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire local area SEND inspection outcome letters have been published.

The following was identified as an area for development in Northamptonshire:

The extent to which mainstream schools meet the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities is variable.

Provision is improving and pupils spoken to during the inspection were typically very positive about their experience of school and felt well supported.

However, leaders recognise there is more to be done to ensure that this is more consistently the case across the area.

Parents’ understanding and experiences of the assessment process are very dependent on the school their child attends. Where teaching is not effective in meeting the needs of pupils, parents are understandably concerned. Unsurprisingly, parents sometimes believe that the only solution is to request that their child receives an EHCP, and are frustrated when informed that their child is not eligible. In some cases, this is compounded by poor communication between schools and parents about additional support that is already in place.

The following was identified as an area for development in Cambridgeshire:

Communication with parents and carers is too inconsistent. Parents and carers are frustrated that when they raise a concern, providers do not always listen. Some parents and carers consider that their child’s needs are not identified quickly enough and that providers do not ensure that specialist assessments take place as early as they should. Parents and carers receive mixed messages about what support is available, what is being done and what the processes are.


Improving the effectiveness of the child protection system overview June 2017, Molloy et al., Early Intervention Foundation

This project, a collaboration between EIF, the LGA and the NSPCC, with support from Research in Practice (RiP) and the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford, addresses three main questions:

  1. What has been shown to improve outcomes for children in the child protection system?
  2. What do we know about what local areas are delivering as part of the child protection system?
  3. What do we know about the overall effectiveness of the child protection system?

This overview report provides a summary of key findings and lessons from five detailed research papers, which have been published separately.

Overall findings suggest that where families are facing complex, multi-layered problems, an integrated package of support is almost certainly required. The evidence points to the value of parent focused interventions that are underpinned by clear logic models (theories of change) geared to strengthening parent–child interactions and reducing child conduct problems.

The components of this package must be identified following assessment of the needs of the family, and interventions must be targeted specifically according to these needs and the age of the children. The success of any intervention depends on a number of common elements, the most important of these being the quality of the therapeutic relationship between a practitioner and the child, parent or family.

The evidence suggests that strengths based approaches which acknowledge the challenges parents face are likely to be more effective than overly focusing on parental deficits, which is more likely to lead to resistance.

Offering the young a good deal, Economic Bulletin, Centre for Policy Studies, 19th June 2017

The election results highlighted the generational divide in voting, with labour being much more popular with voters under 50 than the conservatives. This economic bulletin considers what the Conservatives need to do to win the younger vote. In summary, some key points:

  • Labour would have added at least an extra £150bn to UK debt over 5 years. Younger people would be burdened yet this was not given adequate attention.
  • Labour’s pledge on tuition fees was elitist, asking non-graduates to subsidise graduates who on average earn £9.5k more per year. The policy’s cost would be equivalent to 2.8 percentage points on the basic rate of income tax.
  • The Conservatives need credible alternatives to Labour’s spending commitments.
  • The Government’s Housing White Paper was a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough for young families waiting to get on the housing ladder.
  • There is now a pressing need for the creation of an Office of Intergenerational Responsibility to assess the impact of legislation across the generations.
  • The Conservative Party needs to spell out the consumer benefits arising from leaving the EU.

Kettlewell, K., Bernardinelli, D., Hillary, J. and Sumner, C. (2017). University Technical Colleges: Beneath the Headlines. NFER Contextual Analysis. Slough: NFER

There has been significant public criticism of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) since their introduction. Despite this, there is little research on them. To address this gap, NFER has conducted research which examines the emerging data to assess what is really going on with UTCs. Our analysis reviews how successful UTCs have been in recruiting students, examines the characteristics of their students, and assesses their performance compared to their peers.

Key Findings:

  • UTCs are trying to recruit students at 14, which is a non-traditional age to move school. Against this backdrop, some UTCs are doing quite well.
  • In Year 7, absence rates for future UTC students were similar to their peers but by Year 9, a significant difference emerged, suggesting some students had challenges with engagement when they joined their UTC.
  • On average, UTC students perform worse than their peers in their previous schools when judged using the headline Key Stage 4 accountability measures, but…
  • ...The analysis suggests that at least some of this lower performance may be because the headline accountability measures do not recognise the composition or breadth of curriculum offered by UTCs. In addition, UTCs are only responsible for students in two of the five years that they spend in secondary education, but are held to account for all five years.

Writing for enjoyment and its links to wider reading, National Literacy Trust, 21st June

The research shows that children who enjoy writing and write creatively outside the classroom do better at school. They are more likely to write above the expected level for their age compared with children who don’t enjoy writing. The study published to coincide with national writing day involved 39,411 8-18 year olds across the UK.

Maths mastery makes setting according to ability irrelevant', Peter Boyd, 19th June, TES

The author describes a small scale piece of research exploring the impact of mastery approaches to maths (a method used widely in SE Asia) had on teachers. A small-scale collaborative study with teachers in the Deep Learning Alliance on Merseyside has focused on significant changes in teachers’ underlying beliefs during their adoption of the Maths – No Problem! Singapore Maths mastery programme.

Seven teacher researchers captured classroom video during a mastery maths lesson and were subsequently interviewed to discuss their teaching strategies. Pupil interviews and teacher focus groups provided further insight, including into the role of the textbooks.

Findings showed that being involved in the whole-class, collaborative and exploratory approach of the mastery maths scheme seems to be changing the underlying beliefs of the teachers. They are rejecting in-class grouping as simply being no longer relevant due to their new mastery approach and they tend to use mixed pairs of children for work on maths activities.

The teachers in the study created a maths classroom where struggle and mistakes were seen as normal and as a positive sign that good learning is happening. Welcoming struggle and mistakes as opportunities for learning is a key step in helping children to develop a growth mindset; a positive belief that the harder you work, the more intelligent you become. In the study, teachers showed signs of developing their own mathematical growth mindset, as well as projecting a growth mindset by setting high expectations for all children.

The textbooks seem to be very successful and are highly valued by the teachers but have the mastery approach built-in so that they avoid the dullness of lessons based on more traditional textbooks. 

See also: Closing the attainment gap in maths: a study of good practice in early years and primary settings (Achievement for All/ KPMG for the Fair Education Alliance) This provides case studies of a whole school approach to maths, including examples of mastery maths.

Are left-handed people more gifted than others? Our study suggests it may hold true for maths

Research published by Liverpool University suggests that left-handers seem to have, on average, an edge when solving demanding mathematical tasks – at least during primary school and high school. Also, being strongly right-handed may represent a disadvantage for mathematics. Taken together, they suggest, the findings show that handedness, as an indicator of connectivity between brain hemispheres, does influence cognition to some extent.

To get more reliable results, the researchers carried out a series of experiments including more than 2,300 students (in primary school and high school). The experiments varied in terms of type and difficulty of mathematical tasks.

Reflections on emotional health, well-being and character in education: what does it mean? Why is it important and what can it look like? (Research team from Canterbury Christ Church University/ Family Links for the Fair Education Alliance).

The Fair Education Alliance (FEA) - which represents over 85 leading business, education and voluntary organisations has published a new report, Reflections on Emotional Health, Wellbeing and Character in Schools,

The report identifies some of the reasons why emotional health remains a significant issue in the education system, where there is existing good practice, and provides support for school staff and policy makers to take action.

The group’s report follows their survey of 500 school staff about social and emotional health in education, highlighting the need for action. The key findings were:

  • Insufficient time (71%) and a lack of available budget (59%) were cited as the biggest barriers to addressing Social and Emotional wellbeing in schools.
  • 94% thought it was very important to identify children who require specialist support for wellbeing or social and emotional development.
  • Having clear next steps for pupil development (83%) and being easy to use (70%) were identified as being the key priorities for social and emotional wellbeing measurements.

A healthy state of mind: improving young people’s mental fitness, K. Channa, 21st June 2017: Localis

The independent think tank- Localis has published a report suggesting that the currant mental health system is failing children and young people. Whilst in almost all areas of health and care reform the dominant trend is to encourage people to be more independent and resilient, in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), something has gone badly wrong. The report argues for reform of the mental health system to provide greater support for the majority of young people who will not receive treatment from specialist CAMHS whilst ensuring that those in desperate need of clinical intervention receive immediate help.  


Starting Strong V: Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education, 21st June 2017. OECD

Findings across 30 OECD countries and economies show that, across almost all countries, 15 year olds who have had access to early childhood education and care, outperformed those who had not. Children from socio economic disadvantage benefit the most. The report highlights a number of recommendations: 

  • Better salaries and working conditions would attract or retain young people to the profession. Yet only in Austria, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Turkey and the United Kingdom are 25% or more of pre-primary teachers aged under 30.
  • Despite needing at least a bachelor’s degree in most countries, ECEC teachers earn less than their peers in secondary education or higher, and only 74% of the average salary of a tertiary-educated, full-time worker. Nine out of ten pre-primary teachers are women across the OECD, compared to around four in ten at the tertiary level.
  • Making quality childcare more affordable would help more mothers with very young children return to work and achieve a better work life balance. Above 70% of mothers in Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Switzerland work ─ these countries also have the highest shares of children enrolled in formal childcare.
  • Parental engagement is also key. Helping children learn at home and having more contact between teaching staff and parents is strongly associated with children’s later academic success and socio-emotional development.
  • Quality Early Childhood Education and Care will benefit disadvantaged children the most, particularly by providing the basis for successful lifelong learning and by fostering their socioemotional skills

Job advice for children in poverty a 'national disgrace', 22nd June 2017: BBC

A survey by Careers Wales - a Welsh minister-funded service charged with providing impartial careers advice - suggested just 1.3% of young people leaving school at 16 at the end of the last academic year went into work place training schemes, such as apprenticeships, a drop from 1.6% in 2012. Prof Egan, chairing the national child poverty conference near Cardiff, said the figures were a "national crisis" and young people were being let down.

Achievement for All: possible areas for considerations

More teachers are joining than leaving the profession, but will it be enough to meet demand? Blog Sarah Lynch and Jack worth, 22nd June 2017: NfER

The blog highlights the relevance of teacher CPD in supporting and retaining teachers. The Achievement for All programme provides a very good framework for teacher and leadership development.

Local area SEND inspection outcome letters, 22nd June 2017

In Northamptonshire, the extent to which mainstream schools meet the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities is variable. These schools would benefit from working with Achievement for All.

Starting Strong V: Transitions from Early Childhood Education and Care to Primary Education, 21st June 2017. OECD

Parental engagement was highlighted a s a key issue in children’s success. Helping children learn at home and having more contact between teaching staff and parents is strongly associated with children’s later academic success and socio-emotional development. Achievement for All leads the way with the structured conversation model which has helped schools and early years settings to effectively engage with parents. It has also been instrumental in children’s transition from setting to school.