Today’s Education in the media blog addresses the findings of Teach First's analysis into attainment, as well as looking at apprenticeships as we continue to work towards increasing vocational and technical education.
Teach First Analysis
Today, Wednesday 22 August, Teach First issued some analysis which drew a comparison between the number of disadvantaged pupils being excluded, and the number achieving the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). This was covered in the Times and the Independent.
Although statistics on exclusions and EBacc are correct in their own right, these measures are not directly comparable. This is because the EBacc statistics used in their analysis are based on pupils who are eligible to take GCSEs in 2016/17 and who were eligible for free school meals, but the exclusions statistics are based on all pupils in secondary schools who were eligible for free school meals.
We have seen a rise in pupils from a disadvantaged background taking the EBacc – up from only 9% of pupils in 2011, to 25% in 2017. In addition, research by the Sutton Trust in 2016 found that in 300 schools that had rapidly increase their EBacc uptake, pupils performed better in Maths and English at GCSE, with the change most marked in pupils eligible for the pupil premium.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Our priority is to make sure that all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them. We are seeing increasing numbers of disadvantaged pupils taking the EBacc and the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers has shrunk at various levels - 14% in the early years, 10% at age seven and 10% at GCSE level.
The Teach First conclusions are flawed as EBacc performance and exclusions rates are not directly comparable in this way.
While we know that there has been an increase in exclusions, there are still fewer than the peak ten years ago. We are clear that exclusions should only ever be used as a last resort and have launched an externally led review to look at how they are used and why certain groups are disproportionally affected.
Today, Wednesday 22 August, the BBC Today Programme ran a package on apprenticeships and as part of this, had an interview with Robert Halfon, Chair of the Education Select Committee.
During this interview, Mr Halfon suggested that the largest decline in apprenticeship uptake has been in 18-25 year olds. However, this is not accurate, as the largest drop in apprenticeship starts in our most recently-published figures (compared to those a year earlier) was actually in the 25+ age group.
Minister for Apprenticeship and Skills Anne Milton said:
In 2015 we set an ambitious goal of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020, and that remains our ambition. But whilst we do want to see an increasing number of apprentice starts, we will not sacrifice quality over quantity.
Our reforms to the apprenticeship system are about creating more opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to get the skills they need to succeed, but they are also about making sure those opportunities are high-quality.
Things are moving in the right direction with the number of people starting on our new, higher-quality apprenticeships rising significantly, and we will continue to work with industry to drive up numbers.