Today’s Education in the Media blog focuses on access to university, a TUC report into childcare, and multi-academy trusts.
There has been widespread coverage today, Friday, 20 October, on access for black and ethnic minority (BAME) students to Oxford and Cambridge. The Guardian and The Today Programme have both covered reports of the lack of BAME students attending either of the universities.
Individual universities are responsible for their own admissions policies and in general we know that higher education institutions are actually opening their doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds, with record numbers attending. Despite this though, the department is taking steps to make sure that access to universities is widened. To charge full fees, higher education institutions must have an access agreement, agreed by the Office for Fair Access, which sets out the steps they are taking to promote social mobility and encourage students from disadvantaged background to apply.
The Higher Education and Research Act will also require higher education providers in future to have agreed Access and Participation plans across the whole lifecycle for disadvantaged and underrepresented students – meaning they need to focus on retention and participation of students, rather than just access to university.
TUC on childcare costs
Today, Friday 20 October, the Trade Unions’ Congress (TUC) released a report on the cost of childcare. The report was covered by The Today Programme, BBC Breakfast, The Times, BBC Online, The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mirror and others.
The government recognises that the cost of childcare can place a financial burden on families, and block parents who want to work from entering employment. Which is why we’ve recently doubled the free childcare available to working parents with three- and four- year olds, from 15 to 30 hours a week – worth around £5,000 per child per year. This is on top of 15 hours of free childcare a week for all three- and four-year-olds, and 15 hours of free childcare a week for two-year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.
As well as this, tax-free childcare – which is available for one-year-olds – is available to around 2 million households to help pay for childcare costs. This means that the government will contribute up to £2,000 per child each year, for children aged up to 12, to help towards costs. Parents of disabled children will receive extra support – worth up to £4,000 per child – each year and until their child is 17.
Children and Families Minister Robert Goodwill said:
Helping families access affordable childcare is at the heart of this government’s agenda, which is why we are investing a record £6 billion every year by 2020 in childcare.
As well as providing tax-free childcare to around 2 million households to help pay for childcare costs, we have doubled the free childcare available to working parents of three and four years olds to 30 hours a week, saving them thousands a year and helping them get back into work. Indeed, an independent evaluation of the early delivery of 30 hours’ free childcare found that 84 per cent of parents reported improved family finances as a result of the free childcare.
Multi-academy trust development and improvement fund
Today, Friday, 20 October, Schools Week reported on the £53 million multi-academy trust development and improvement fund, which has been launched to drive up standards in underperforming schools and close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils.
The story suggests that the department will not take academy trusts’ record of delivering school improvement into account when assessing applications for funding.
On the contrary, the Department for Education will take every trust’s record into account through a rigorous assessment of the trust’s school improvement model. A trust’s capacity to deliver improvement in all schools – not just those joining the trust – will be considered to ensure they can raise standards for pupils. The application form specifically asks trusts to set out how they will raise attainment of disadvantaged pupils, what support they will provide to underperforming schools, and how this has been previously achieved by the trust.
When the fund was launched on Saturday, 14 October, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, Sir Theodore Agnew, said:
Giving every child access to the best possible education regardless of circumstance is crucial to driving social mobility and ensuring there is no limit on anyone’s potential.
I am clear the most effective way to do this is by using the expertise and talent that exists in our school system. This fund is another way to get the methods that we know are having an impact into the areas that need them most.