Friday Five: tuition fees, Progress 8, tech in education, teacher pay, SEL and the labour market


4th August 2023

1. Higher education minister commits to not raising university tuition fees

With the government confirming a tuition fee freeze until at least 2024/25, Robert Halfon – Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education – has said he will not advocate for raising England’s tuition fee cap, despite universities’ warnings about funding issues.

While former Conservative minister Lord Johnson of Marylebone recently warned that funding issues may result in universities “falling over”, Halfon told Times Higher Education that most universities are in a good place financially and have received lots of government support. It is now seven years since the fee cap was last raised, meaning fees are effectively now at £6,020 in 2012 money, causing a strain on universities’ income. However, Halfon argued that “If you compare what universities have had to to the FE sector, there’s no comparison”.

Halfon also weighed-in on the government’s war on so-called ‘low-value’ degrees, which we covered a couple of weeks ago. He deined that the aim here was to reduce the number of students going to university. Instead, he said that it should provide assurance to applicants as they will know that “if they are going to do a [degree] course they are going to have a good outcome”.

Read the Times Higher Education article here.

2. FFT analysis of Labour’s proposed changes to Progress 8 

An article by the chief statistician at FFT analyses the possible impact of changes to the Attainment 8 and Progress 8 metrics proposed by the leader of the opposition. According to the announcement, Labour proposes the addition of a dedicated slot for creative and vocational subjects within these measures. The author notes that over 80% of pupils entered a creative or vocational subject in 2022. If a separate slot for creative and vocational courses were introduced, calculations show that there is likely to be minimal difference in Attainment 8 scores for pupils who have already entered a creative or vocational subject but a marked difference for those who do not. Analysis shows that it is pupils with the highest levels of prior attainment who were the least likely to enter a creative or vocational subject in 2022. Changes to Progress 8 reports are likely to be relatively small as well. The author emphasises the need to be honest about the point scores that are assigned to qualifications, especially because policy changes can lead to a surge in the number of pupils entering for a creative or vocational subject.

Read the full article here.

3. UNESCO report considers tech’s role in education, including smartphones

A new UNESCO report looks at technology’s role in solving key educational challenges across the world. There’s a lot in here, spanning topics like inclusive technologies for students with disabilities, content creation and adaption, and teaching and learning impact, among others. The report offers some useful reflections on the role of mobile phones in education. UNESCO notes that even among the poor, the mobile phone has a high level of ownership and is “the device with the greatest reach that can be potentially applied to education”. Indeed, two thirds of the poorest households in low- and lower-middle-income countries own a mobile phone.

Here, the authors make a distinction between basic mobiles, feature phones and smartphones. They observe that mobiles can help disadvantaged children and youth to distance learning opportunities, as we observed during COVID. However, they acknowledge that evidence on the efficacy of mobile applications designed to improve learning is mixed. Moreover, online learning efficacy is, of course, reliant on student access to devices and the internet – two-thirds of the world’s children do not have an internet connection in their homes.  Despite great efforts to reach students during the pandemic, “at least 31% of students, or almost half a billion students worldwide from pre-primary to upper secondary level, could not be reached by remote learning due to lack of access to necessary technology or targeted policies geared towards their needs“.

UNESCO also noted that screen time can carry a range of risks, including to children and young people’s mental and physical health. As covered in The Independent, the report calls for smartphones to be banned from classrooms and also notes the need to maintain the “social dimension of education”.

Read the UNESCO report here.

Read The Independent article here.

4. Education unions call off strikes at 6.5% pay rise but warn that this will not correct decade of real-terms pay cuts 

School strikes in England have been called off after teachers and school leaders in four education unions voted to accept the government’s 6.5% pay offer, ending fears of widespread disruption in the autumn term. After the government improved its offer, members of all four unions agreed to accept the deal on the table, which will mean an across-the-board 6.5% pay rise from September, with a slightly higher increase for new teachers to bring their starting salary up to £30,000 a year. The pay offer was accepted by 86% of NEU members and rejected by 14%. The unions remain concerned about the excessive workload for teachers and long hours and express concern that the pay rise was not enough to correct a decade of real-terms pay cuts. The union warned that their campaign for a better-funded education system will continue to operate. 

See The Guardian article here

5. IFS report on the impact of parents’ experience of labour market during the pandemic on children’s social and emotional development 

A new IfS report investigates the impact of labour market fluctuations in parents’ lives on the social and emotional wellbeing of children during the pandemic. Nearly half of parents reported that their child had more socio-emotional difficulties in February 2021 than a year earlier. Of families who experienced changes in the labour market, there was an even split between households where at least one parent was unemployed, households where at least one parent was furloughed most of the time, and households where working was interrupted with shorter bursts of furlough. The report finds that children whose families experienced at least one change saw, on average, their socio-emotional development worsened by about 9% of a standard deviation more than those whose families remained consistently employed or unemployed throughout. This indicates that it was the stability of parents’ labour market experiences that was an important determinant of children’s socio-emotional development, rather than being in any particular economic state.

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.