Friday Five: digital divide, teacher retention and recruitment, childcare access, school absence, international exams


22nd March 2024

1. New research reveals the extent of the UK’s digital divide 

Nearly half of UK families with children lack the necessary digital skills or access to devices, data, and broadband they need, a new study by Liverpool and Loughborough Universities and the Good Things Foundation has found. The UK’s digital divide disproportionately affects ethnic minority families, families with a disabled parent, and those from deprived areas or who have low socioeconomic status. The report also highlights the importance of digital skills, particularly for parents, to protect families from online risks.

Schools in this country are not immune from the digital access crisis – our research with Microsoft found that just 1% of primary state schools provide devices that teachers can take home, compared to 38% of private schools.

Read the full article here

2. NFER Teacher Labour Market report provides fresh reminder of the scale of teacher retention and recruitment crisis

Retention and recruitment are two keywords that feature in every discussion on education sector policy in England. Bad news – the latest National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) Teacher Labour Market report suggests these two words aren’t leaving our collective lexicon anytime soon. Key findings from this year’s report include:

  • Secondary ITT recruitment failed to meet even half of the government’s target in 2022/23.
  • ITT leaving rates have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Teachers’ working hours increased significantly in 2022/23, which the report attributes in part to work generated by poor pupil behaviour.
  • Teacher pay growth is slower than earning growth in the wider labour market outside teaching

The full report is here.

3. Decrease in access to childcare shown in new survey

Despite the increases announced in childcare and early education funding in the Spring Budget, costs for childcare continue to rise across the UK. The Childcare Survey 2024 reports a 7.4% increase in childcare costs across Great Britain, along with concerns about additional charges for funded places, which may exclude disadvantaged families. The availability of childcare has decreased, particularly for children under two and for disabled children. England’s system is patchy, with gaps in provision for families in rural areas and those needing childcare during atypical hours. Concerns arise about the ability of the current system to expand funded entitlements, with challenges in meeting demand and recruiting skilled staff. The report points out that increased universal childcare may lead to decreased provision for children with special educational needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Read the full report here

4. New data on how absence changes as pupils get older

The FFT Education Data Lab has published new analysis on how absence changes as pupils age, with some interesting findings. Headlines were drops in absences for pupils moving from reception into year 1, and significant rises in absences for pupils going from year 7 into 8, and year 8 into 9. At all secondary school ages, absences for girls rose much higher than absences for boys, and the same was seen for pupils on free school meals compared to their peers. 

In the context of wider policy discussions around pupil absence at the moment – the Labour Party are particularly keen to place school absence at the centre of their educational policy – this data offers fresh insight into the issue.

The full blog is here.

5. Commentary questions the efficacy of international assessments

How international assessments are used and popular conceptions of what they measure needs to be rethought, a group of researchers has argued. Their paper looks at the history of intelligence testing and argues that how some recent studies have interpreted international test scores is inaccurate and misleading. Misinterpreting international assessment results can reinforce racial hierarchies and promote a deterministic view of intelligence. Rather than measuring intelligence, the researchers argue international assessments should be used to study how well students learn, and how much they progress individually.

The full commentary is 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 @conorcarleton for future editions.