Friday Five: Education recovery, science teacher recruitment, mental health after Covid, and how many children missed school on strike day?


10th February 2023

Hello hello! It’s been another eventful week in the world of education and youth policy. Catch-up on some of the key reports, analysis and commentary with this handy round-up, courtesy of our policy team.

1. The National Audit Office finds that the DfE has made inconsistent progress on educational recovery, with disadvantaged pupils missing out the most 

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) analyses the £3.5 billion the Department for Education (DfE) has invested in educational recovery and assesses its impact. The report focusses on the two most costly recovery policies – the National Tutoring Programme (£1.1 billion) and the Recovery Premium (£1.3 billion). 

The NAO find that the NTP has consistently failed to meet its targets for reaching disadvantaged pupils with one-to-one or small-group tutoring. Relatedly, they include data analysis showing that disadvantaged pupils are recovering their learning more slowly than their non-disadvantaged peers. 

The NAO also find that the Recovery Premium uplift of an extra £145 of funding per pupil premium student has not been effectively monitored by the DfE. The result is a lack of clarity over how this money has been spent. However, this lack of monitoring is traded off against the lower administrative burdens that receipt of the premium had on schools during the busy and stressful time of the pandemic. 

The report concludes that the DfE should research whether withdrawal of the NTP subsidy from schools will lead to significant falls in the use of tutors by schools. This research prior to withdrawal is vital – as we argued in our ‘Levelling Up Tutoring’ report, it’s likely that the NTP will need a further year of funding and school subsidies in order to achieve its intended effect. 

Read the full report here

2. Although most schools were at least partially open on last week’s teacher strike day, disadvantaged pupils were less likely to attend 

Analysis produced by FFT Datalab using the sample of schools in their attendance tracker has provided uniquely detailed insights into how schooling was disrupted by last week’s teacher strikes.

According to FFT’s analysis, attendance was much higher in primary schools on strike day, with 57% of primary students in class. By contrast, only 23% of secondary pupils were in school with attendance highest among year 11s and year 7s, but lowest among year 9s (at 10%). 

Disadvantaged pupils were 5% more likely to be absent on strike day in primaries and 7% more likely in secondaries. For primary schools, this difference can mostly be explained by low attendance in the schools that sampled disadvantaged pupils attend. However, this is not the case at secondary and captures the impact that strike days can have on the disadvantaged. 

Nevertheless, as our head of policy Baz Ramaiah argued to Julia Hartley Brewer on TalkTV last week, the short term disruption to disadvantaged young people’s learning caused by a few strike days this year is nothing compared to the ongoing disruption to their learning caused by the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching. 

Read the full blog here

3. A survey from the Royal Society of Chemistry reveals the worrying state of science teacher recruitment and retention

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has released its inaugural Science Teacher Survey, looking at the rewards and challenges of working in science education in the UK and Ireland. The survey reveals a range of insights concerning workload, understaffing, and professional development, among other topics.

As we’ve often discussed in these threads, the state of science teacher recruitment is deeply concerning and The Science Teacher Survey only affirms this. 30% of surveyed mainstream state schools in the UK and Ireland report teacher understaffing in chemistry.

The survey also reveals that 18% of teachers in mainstream state schools are planning to leave within five years (excluding age/retirement), with stress/exhaustion burnout (35%), workload (30%), and lack of work/life balance (23%) among the most popular reasons for considering leaving.

Another finding that really stands out is that despite nations following different curricula, 73% of teachers in state mainstream secondary schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland reported covering too much content as a challenge at Key Stage 4.

Read the headline findings here.

4. A DfE ‘State of the Nation’ report finds an ‘inconsistent recovery’ in young people’s wellbeing and mental health

The DfE’s annual ‘State of the Nation’ report combines government publications, academic work, and outputs from the voluntary and private sectors, with insights for policymakers, practitioners, parents, and all those interested in improving young people’s wellbeing.

Trends suggest that young people’s subjective wellbeing appeared to dip in 2020 but recovered close to pre-pandemic levels the year after, remaining at similar levels in 2022. In the 2021/22 academic year, most wellbeing measures remained constant but anxiousness among primary and secondary-age pupils appeared to increase on the previous academic year.

In recent years, there appears to have been an increase in the proportion of children and young people reporting low happiness with their health. There has also been an increase in rate of probable mental disorder among 17-19 year-olds – from one in six  in 2021, to one in four in 2022.

The report also shows that household finances are of concern, with around ⅓ of parents and carers reporting struggling with school costs. This chimes with our report with Parentkind, which reveals the financial barriers parents face when looking to support their children with their education.

Read the full DfE report here.

5. The government’s new Children’s Social Care strategy does not go far enough, according to  the author of the Children’s Social Care Review and the former Children’s Commissioner

Following the government’s launch of its long-term children’s social care strategy, John MacAlister, author of the Review of Children’s Social Care, has argued that the government needs to do more to further schools’ safeguarding role.

MacAlister, who proposed a series of reforms back in May 2022, feels that guidance changes in the next two years will further schools’ safeguarding role but more needs to be done to give them a “seat at the table” when it comes to safeguarding.

We covered the Children’s Social Care strategy in last week’s round-up. Presently, the government is planning to consult on key features of the strategy, so it remains to be seen how many of the MacAlister Review’s recommendations will make it into legislation.

For Anne Longfield, the former Children’s Commissioner, “The time for consultations is surely now over” and the government should press on with immediate improvements and a fully-funded long-term plan.

Read the full article here.

That’s all for this week! If you found this blog useful, please be sure to share/tweet it and follow @theCfEY@Barristotle and @billyhubt for future editions.