Friday Five: private school fees, green skills, behaviour, ‘fair growth’, and kinship care


16th June 2023

ESDK investigate the implications of the proposal to charge VAT on private school fees

As part of ESDK’s larger research project on the future of private schools in England, this research note investigates the source and credibility of the often-cited claim that removal of the VAT exemption for private school fees would raise £1.6 billion a year. The authors trace the source of this claim to an article in the Fabian Review, published by the Fabian Society- in 2011. The Fabian Society article uses two central figures to arrive at the £1.6 billion figure: one, that there are 628,000 children being educated in the independent sector, and second, £2,500 per pupil would be raised by charging VAT on their fees. ESDK’s own calculations posit that the true figures are likely to be considerably lower. They claim that the number of children in private schools relevant for the VAT policy is likely to be lower, when nursery children are removed from the calculations. They also argue that by implementing this policy, it is likely that between 5 and 25 percent of pupils may leave private schools, and that must be factored into the calculations. They also calculate that money raised per pupil is likely to be lower than the £2,500 estimate, since VAT does not apply to food and accommodation expenses, and the school can reclaim some of its utility and maintenance costs from the government. 

The report calculates these figures for the year 2022 to estimate that the revenue raised from adding VAT onto fees is likely to be around £486 million a year- a third of what is currently claimed. At the outset, the research note makes it clear that they do not aim to produce a final answer to the question of exactly how much money will be raised but they hope that the figures and calculations presented in their research will provide a useful basis for further discussions on this high-profile matter. 

See the full research note here. 

Nesta report on how to increase the appeal of green skills and training 

Along with the Behavioural Insights Team, the research team at Nesta ran an online experiment to test whether various messaging framings and financial incentives could increase current and future workers’ interest and sentiment towards undertaking a green skills training course. In this experiment, around 4000 economically active adults (median age 41 years) and a similar number of recent A-/T-level or university graduates (median age 21 years) were shown a hypothetical green skills course advert. Participants were randomly assigned to see one of five messaging framings: a social impact + pro-environment impact framing, a job security+ demand framing, a pride+ future generations framing, or a simple control one. They were later re-randomised into one of four arms: three of these included an additional financial incentive to take up green skills training (a grant, a loan, and a subsidy) and final control one had no financial incentive. 

The research found that the framings did not significantly increase interest in the green skills training offer as compared to the control. About 50% of participants, both in the control and experimental groups, showed interest in taking up the green skills course. On the other hand, they found that the financial incentives significantly increased interest in the green skills training offer. The grant increased interest by 39.5 percentage points, the loan by 28pp, and the subsidy by 33.3pp compared with the control group. Data also showed that many think green jobs are important (74%) but few know what green jobs are available (43%) and where to look for them (42%).

The report makes a number of policy recommendations: to highlight financial incentives upfront, to consider the value-for-money or potential return from different types of financial incentives, to provide green career advice and bespoke green job matching services, and to offer a range of training times and formats to help people overcome barriers such as opportunity costs. 

Read the entire report here

DfE releases findings from the National Behavioural Survey for the year 2021-22

The National Behavioural Survey is designed to provide the Department for Education (DfE) with termly survey data related to pupil behaviour in mainstream primary and secondary schools in England collected from multiple respondent groups (school leaders, teachers, pupils and parents/carers). Key findings of the survey include: 

  1. School behaviour culture and policy 
    1. Majority of school leaders and teachers (82%) and pupils (91%) agreed that there was a common understanding of what good behaviour means in school. 
    2. All (100%) school leaders, 98% of teachers, and 91% of pupils reported that rules were applied fairly to all pupils at least some of the time. However, only 42% of school leaders, 23% teachers, and 19% pupils reported that this happened ‘all of the time’. 
  2. School environment and experience 
    1. When asked how often they felt safe at school, 41% of pupils said they had felt safe at school ‘every day’ in the past week. 
    2. Just under half of pupils (49%) said they enjoyed coming to school ‘every day’ or ‘most days’ in the past week, with this being lowest for Year 9 pupils at 41%.
  3. Frequency and impact of misbehaviour
    1. 62% of school leaders and teachers and 67% of pupils reported that misbehaviour interrupted teaching in at least some lessons in the past week. 
    2. Overall, 22% pupils said that they had been a victim of bullying in the past 12 months. Among pupils who reported that they had been bullied, the most common perceived reason reported for being bullied was the way they looked.  
  4. Responding to behaviour
    1. 94% of school leaders and 96% of school teachers felt at least fairly confident supporting pupils to understand how to behave well. 
    2. The interventions most commonly used by schools to manage behaviour were referrals to specialist services (92%) and targeted interventions such as mentoring and social/emotional learning (92%). These were followed by the involvement of specialised pastoral support staff (79%) and removal as a restorative measure (77%).

Our Head of Policy, Baz Ramaiah, feels that these stats undermine a common narrative in the press that schools are ‘soft’ on behaviour or that ‘behaviour is out of control’ in schools. Baz joined Eamon Holmes and Isabel Webster on GB News to argue against these takes here.

Read the full report here

Report from The Centre for Progressive Policy considers how the UK can create ‘fair growth’

Drawing on a new model built on a 10-year dataset on local drivers of productivity, The Centre for Progressive Policy argue that boosting skills and life expectancy in lagging areas and closing gender employment gaps could generate a further £160bn in economic output (around 7% of GDP).

The authors note that while participation in school and university education is high in the UK, there has been a decline in adult education. In the mid-2000s, over a quarter of the UK’s 25-64 year-old population had recently undertaken adult education and training. This figure fell to 14.8% in 2019. This compares very unfavourably with some other European countries, such as Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark, where ~30% of the population recently participated in education and skills training. In the UK, participation among those with qualification levels 0-2 is particularly low at 6.1%, compared to 23.7% in Sweden.

As is so often the case, a key issue here is funding. In the UK, real terms funding for classroom-based adult education fell by about 50% between 2009-10 and 2019-20. Overall, The Centre’s analysis suggests much more needs to be done to do to realise the ambition of lifelong learning.

The Centre notes that only three developed countries have a higher proportion of young adults (25-34) education to degree level than the UK. However, they argue that while we often talk about HE’s role in driving growth, Levels 2 and 3 may be just as important as Level 4+ in this regard. According to their calculations, a 1 percentage point rise in the share of the working-age population with skill level 2 increases productivity by £0.24 per hour, compared to £0.16 for the same rise in level 4+ skills. With this in mind, they call on the government to renew its focus on ‘relevant vocational and technical education’.

Read the full report here.

New report shows the employment challenges that kinship carers face and the consequences for young people in their care

A new report from Kinship draws on an online survey of 509 kinship carers to better understand the challenges kinship carers face in the labour market and the potential consequences for the young people in their care.

More than 162,000 children across England and Wales are looked after by kinship carers and yet these carers currently do not have any specific entitlements at work. This too often causes employment difficulties for kinship families. The survey found that some 41% of kinship carers had to leave work permanently and 45% were forced to reduce working hours after taking on kinship carer responsibilities. This can, of course, lead to financial difficulties for kinship families and their children. Indeed, over a third of kinship carers experienced more than a 50% drop in income after taking on caring responsibilities.

Alongside these worrying statistics, case studies reveal how insufficient support affects kinship carers and their children. For instance, Wendy, aged 70, explained that she would have stayed in employment if she were able to take paid leave and work flexibly. However, she was not given these options and had to quit her job, meaning her earnings dropped from £500 to £100 per week. She explained that “If I’d been able to keep my job the children and myself would have had better lives”, arguing that kinship carers should have the same rights as adopters and birth parents.

Kinship charity proposes a series of recommendations, including but not limited to:

  • A right to paid kinship care leave for all kinship carers
  • A mandatory financial allowance for kinship carers
  • Better local authority employment advice and support to kinship families

Read the full report here.

That’s all for this week. Please do share this blog if you found it useful and follow @Barristotle and @billyhubt for further commentary. You can keep up to date with all things CfEY through our our News and Events page and by signing up to our mailing list.