Friday Five: wraparound childcare, Labour’s ‘report card’ announcement, educational isolation, employer views on skills, and dormant assets funding


17th March 2023

Government budget includes ‘wraparound childcare’ in all primary schools by 2026.

This week’s major story was the government’s long-awaited budget, with big news on the education and youth policy front. The government has announced that by 2026 it wants all primary schools to be providing “wraparound childcare” between 8am-6pm.

At present, some parents may face barriers to work due to a lack of availability in wraparound care. With the government keen to get people into work and boost the economy, there is a clear rationale for the proposal.

At present, only £289m of “start-up” funding has been allocated and the long-term vision is unclear at this stage. Budget documents note that currently under two-thirds of primaries offer childcare both before and after the school day, so there’s a lot to be done to ensure universal access.

The government will also seek to address the very low uptake of the childcare component of Universal Credit (currently 13% of eligible households). At present, parents on Universal Credit in work can claim back 85% of their childcare costs in monthly arrears, which presents a challenge to some low-income parents when considering returning to work or increasing hours. As announced in the budget, the government will, in future, ensure that parents receive childcare cost support up-front.

Read the budget here.

Read Schools Week commentary here.

Labour announces plan to replace Ofsted grades with a ‘report card’

Over the weekend, Labour announced a plan to replace Ofsted grades with a ‘report card’. At the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) annual conference, Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Education Secretary, said that the move would ease the pressures on schools while providing useful information for parents.

While this position is certainly softer than the party’s 2019 pledge to scrap Ofsted, under Corbyn’s leadership, it would still represent a significant shake-up of the country’s high-stakes accountability system. The rationale here is that replacing labels like ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Inadequate’ with a suite of information on school performance will help parents make better-informed decisions about their children’s education.

We know from our Parent Voice report with Parentkind that parents place great importance on their children’s schooling and it is vital that parents can make informed school-choice decisions. However, as covered previously in Friday Five, FFT research raises questions about whether Ofsted grades are useful and sufficiently sensitive enough to context (e.g. geography, intake).

A move towards report cards could be a good way of addressing a significant issue we have currently, where ratings of ‘Requires Improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’ can lower school intake and exacerbate issues such as staffing and school budgets.

Read Bridget Phillipson’s speech here.

Read commentary from The Guardian here.

Blog explores a new way of measuring Educational Isolation

A new blog from Philly Ricketts, a doctoral student at Plymouth Marjon University outlines recent research concerning educationally isolated schools – schools characterised by geographical remoteness, socio-economic disadvantage and cultural isolation.

Ricketts notes that disadvantaged students in educationally isolated schools tend to do worse than their peers in urban and non-coastal schools. In such schools, a lack of geographical and cultural connectedness can lead to differences in schools’ access to resources, which, in turn, can affect young people’s outcomes.

While ‘educational isolation’ has received increased attention, notably from Ofsted, a new composite indicator will identify schools experiencing educational isolation. The measure, which draws on data from the DfE UK Census, and other sources, should help target those individual schools most in need of support.

Ricketts also argues that the measure could be used to inform government-backed place-based initiatives, such as the Education Investment Areas scheme. At CfEY, we’re already thinking about how such a measure could be used to develop a place-based understanding of school collaboration.

Read the blog here.

Annual survey of employers finds that employers have little awareness of the government’s flagship programmes for improving skills

The latest findings from the Confederation of Business & Industry’s (CBI) annual education and skills survey have just been released. Based on responses from 273 businesses (a smaller sample size than usual), the survey finds that:

  • Business engagement with the education and training system has not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels and is continuing to fall. 68% of respondent employers reported current links with schools, colleges, universities, and independent training providers (ITPs) compared to 71% in 2021 and 94% in 2019.
  • Over four in ten employers (42%) reported no barriers in engaging with schools, rising to over half for colleges (51%) and universities (53%) and over six in ten (63%) for Independent Training Providers.
  • 32% of respondent firms selected relevant work experience among their top factors when recruiting school and college leavers compared to 34% for graduates. Employers placed a greater emphasis on the literacy and numeracy skills of school and college leavers.
  • Around a third (32%) of respondents had no awareness of T Level qualifications. A similar proportion (33%) were slightly aware of the T Level brand, but not the current subject offer or the government’s future roll out plans.

The survey findings highlight a continued disjunct between the educational aspect of the government’s industrial strategy (done in the name of industry) and what industry reports understanding and wanting. This raises major questions about the government’s current pathway for achieving a ‘high skill, high wage’ economy as it has long promised.

Read the full set of survey results here.

Government respond to consultation on dormant asset funding – 81% of respondents feel young people should continue to be a primary focus for the scheme

The Dormant Assets scheme is a government-run programme with support of industry where funds from dormant bank accounts (haven’t been used in 15 years) have their funds released for use by the government. A large proportion of this funding goes towards government funding of charities. In total, the scheme has released £800 million in the last decade that has been given to the third sector. In 2022, £44 million was released through the fund with £20 million of that being invested in charities focused on lowering youth unemployment.

The government recently conducted a consultation of the general public on how funds extracted through the scheme should be spent. 81% of respondents stated that young people should continue to be a primary focus for the scheme. Youth came through as the cause with the broadest support, with the highest proportion (47%) of respondents ranking youth as their first priority, ahead of community wealth funds, financial inclusion, and social investment. Qualitative responses emphasised the idea of ‘young people as the future’ and having been given an especially rough deal by covid and recent government policy.

This tells us that there is strong civic interest in increasing funding to education and youth services. If so, the government should recognise this mandate to properly increase funding in those areas – not just to the tune of £20 million but a figure sufficient to restore the public services offer young people receive.

Read the government’s full analysis and response to the survey findings here.