https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/02/18/education-in-the-media-monday-18-february-2019/

Education in the Media: Monday 18 February 2019

Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at a variety of stories on teacher pensions, universities, mental health and exclusions.

Teacher Pensions

Today, Monday 18 February, the i Newspaper splashed on claims that universities ‘could be pushed to brink’ by financial pressure from rising Teacher Pensions Scheme costs, with universities having to pay an extra £222 million over the next two years to meet the contributions increase.

We are clear that the the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is one of the most generous pension schemes in the country.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

The Teachers’ Pension Scheme is one of the most generous pension schemes in the country.

The Higher Education sector is diverse and different providers offer different pension schemes to their staff. Teachers’ Pension Scheme members at participating universities will receive the same benefit increases as all other Teachers’ Pension Scheme members.

The department ran a consultation to assess the impact of increased contribution rates on all relevant employers. The department is reviewing the responses and final decisions on funding will be made once those impacts are better understood.

Office for Students

Yesterday, Sunday 17 February, the Labour party issued a press notice about their plans to overhaul the Office for Students (OfS).This was covered by BBC Online and the Independent.

We are clear on the strong regulatory powers that have been granted to the regulator.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We set up the OfS to champion the interests of students, promote choice and ensure that higher education delivers value for money for both students and taxpayers.

We have given it strong regulatory powers to take action where it deems necessary, including financial penalties and even deregistration.

The OfS has already made a significant impact on the sector even though the OfS is not yet at full strength, with some of its powers due to come into force later this year. It is ensuring quality by placing registration conditions on providers, improving student wellbeing through their work on mental health support and driving social mobility by forcing universities to create access and participation plans to reach out to disadvantaged groups.

Teacher Mental Health

Today, Monday 18 February, the Independent ran a piece based on a survey on teacher mental health, the findings of which claim more than half of new teachers experience mental health problems.

The Education Secretary has previously spoken about his ambition to prioritise mental health for both pupils and teachers, and also reduce workload for teachers so that they can focus more on vital classroom time.

A DfE spokesperson said:

There can be no great schools without great teachers and we are committed to tackling issues that could affect teachers’ mental health and wellbeing. That is why supporting school leaders to make their cultures more supportive for every teacher –including for those at the beginning of their career – was one of the key principles outlined in the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy published last month.

Alongside this, the Early Career Framework will underpin an entitlement for every new teacher to receive support and professional development‎ in their first two years of teaching, as well as mentoring.

Exclusions

Yesterday, Sunday 17 February, the Daily Mail, the People and the Sunday Mirror reported on Freedom of Information findings on exclusions, which showed 2,760 “unteachable” pupils were suspended from school at least ten times last year. This was also picked up in a nib today in The Sun.

We are clear that exclusions should only be used as a last resort for tackling behavioural issues, and that it should not signal the end of a pupil’s education.

Department for Education spokesperson said:

Classrooms should be safe, calm and stimulating places for both our children to learn and our teachers to teach. We have given schools the freedom to develop their own behaviour policies and strategies according to their own circumstances.

To support school leaders we have announced a £10 million investment to share best practice and knowledge on behaviour management so that teachers can focus on the most important task – teaching.

While we know that there has been an increase in exclusions, there are still fewer than ten years ago. We have launched an external review led by Edward Timpson to look at how exclusions are used and why certain groups are disproportionally affected.

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