Today’s blog looks at the government’s plans to open up to 30 new free schools, the publication of international data on education policy and performance, plus work underway by the Office for Students (OfS) to improve university access.
Free School places
Today, Tuesday 10 September, the Prime Minister unveiled plans for up to 30 new free schools, expected to create over 20,000 new places across the country.
More than 500 free schools have been opened since 2010, creating more than 133,000 school places, with more than 220 set to open in the coming years. Of those inspected by Ofsted, 84% have been rated good or outstanding.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
Free schools help to ensure children are getting the best education possible - offering exceptional teaching, encouraging strong discipline and providing families with more choices.
I want to see even more of these excellent schools open, particularly in areas most in need of more good and outstanding school places.
Today the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published its annual volume of international comparisons of education policy and performance across 46 OECD and partner countries. This year’s ‘Education at a Glance 2019’ focuses particularly on higher education but provides country-by-country data across the education sector.
We are pleased that some of the key findings on education across the UK include:
- The UK remains top of the G7 for public spend on primary and secondary as a percentage of GDP;
- The UK is the second most attractive destination for international students after the US;
- Tertiary educated young adults (aged 25-34) enjoy the highest employment rates in the G7; and
- Early childhood education is nearly universal from the age of 3, much higher than for many other countries.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
Our education system is designed to deliver a quality education for young people of all backgrounds – giving them the grounding they need to make the most of their lives - which is why it is so important we get it right at every stage of their journey.
As the OECD’s findings show, we are top of the G7 for government spending on primary and secondary education, which we are boosting with an additional £14 billion in school spending between now and 2022/23. This is alongside the biggest reform to teacher pay in a generation, rewarding new teachers with one of the most competitive starting salaries in the graduate labour market.
We are determined to build on our spending record by ensuring our schools are achieving the highest possible outcomes. This means that outstanding schools will no longer be exempt from routine Ofsted inspections, schools that are consistently underperforming will receive a new programme of school leadership support and a specialist academy trust will be created to turn around the most challenging schools.
Improving university access
On, Monday 9 September, the Office for Students (OfS) announced the first round of access and participation plans from 41 institutions. The story has received coverage in the Daily Mail, the Independent, the Telegraph and the Morning Star.
Access and participation plans aim to increase the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The OfS will be monitoring universities’ progress against targets in their plans, which set out how institutions will tackle gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
The doors to our universities need be as wide open as possible so that anyone with talent and potential has the chance to benefit from our world-leading institutions and become best version of themselves they can be.
These access and participation plans will play a vital part in making this happen, but now we need to see that action take place – and quickly. As a society we cannot let this wasted potential go unchecked a minute longer.
I am clear to universities that this is not just about widening access but also helping to tackle drop-out rates and improving attainment and progression from higher education. I will be watching carefully to see how these plans are now delivered and I will support the OfS in any action it takes if universities are not delivering against their commitments.