Oliver O'Hanlon
2 October 2013

UK Policy Update - October 2013

Lord Adonis Growth Review
Lord Adonis has been asked by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to conduct an independent growth review, which will feed into the Labour Party’s developing growth and industrial strategy. The review will focus on a number of areas including: high growth companies and sectors; long-term investment and responsible capitalism; government machinery for growth including regional delivery and leadership; infrastructure; innovation and skills.

The Science Council has arranged a discussion meeting with Lord Adonis, to be held on Wednesday 6th November at Hodgkin Huxley House to consider these issues and feed into his review. Further details of the meeting will be sent out in due course.

Schools and Education
A National Foundation for Educational Research report on science education argues that current GCSE science reforms is “precipitous and risky" and may not be the answer to improving continuation of science post-16, or to improving engagement and achievement pre-16.

Score (Science Community Representing Education) has indicated serious concerns over Ofqual’s proposals to move ahead with introducing new science A-levels for September 2015. Score is concerned that there has not been the necessary consulted on the content of the new A-level with learned societies.  The SCORE statement can be found on their website at www.score-education.org.

The Council for Science and Technology has written a letter to the Education Secretary Michael Gove on the subject of STEM education in schools. The letter provides advice on schools’ assessment of practical work in science and the governance and accountability of schools in relation to providing a broad science education.

Ofqual has published its 2013-2016 Corporate Plan, outlining three challenges: to implement proposed reforms to GCSEs, AS and A levels; to regulate vocational qualifications including developing arrangements for providing information on available qualifications; and to set and maintain qualification standards. 

The Prince’s Trust report ‘Abandoned Ambitions?has called for more investment in vocational education and training for young people leaving school with few qualifications. The research underpinning the report found that young people leaving school with few qualifications are more than twice as likely to believe that they will “never amount to anything”, and more likely to “abandon their ambitions” than their peers.

The Commission for Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce interim report has called for a greater focus on enhancing the quality of vocational education in schools. In the second phase of the Commission’s work, it will address the issue of how to encourage employers, schools and colleges to work closer together.

A report from the Centre for Social Justice think tank the causes of educational failure has found that an “unacceptable number” of children are leaving school with poor or no qualifications

The Husbands Review of Vocational Education and Training for the Labour Party policy review has recommended that professional bodies should have greater input into the design of apprenticeship schemes, and have guaranteed representation on the board of Sector Skills Councils. The review also recognises that professional registers “can help improve training standards and consumer confidence”.                

Higher Education
The Departmentfor Business, Innovation and Skills published the latest research on widening participation in higher education (HE).  The research shows that the proportion of pupils on free school meals at age 15 who then go onto HE has increased from 13% in 2005/06 to 20% in 2010/11.  The research also illustrates that in 2010/11 pupils from independent schools (86%) are more likely to progress to HE than state educated pupils (68%), although 90% of pupils from selective state schools progressed to HE.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published research on the relationship between education and economic growth, with UK graduates on average paid 160% more than those without formal education qualifications.

Universities UK has published a report on ’Where student fees go’ showing how reforms to higher education funding are changing the behaviour of universities.

Skills and Careers
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published research showing that the majority of apprentices and business view apprenticeships positively. 83% of apprentices said that an apprenticeship had boosted their career prospects, and 72% of employers said that apprentices had improved their product or service.

The charity Banardo’s report ‘Helping the inbetweeners: ensuring career advice improves the options for all young people’ argues that changes in policy has led to a decline in the quality and availability of careers advice both in and out of schools. The report also finds that the most at risk from losing out are the cohort of young people just above the NEET cohort. 

Ofsted’s thematic review of careers guidance has stated that the Department for Education does not prescribe clearly enough how schools should provide pupils with “independent and impartial advice”. Careers England has published a Policy Commentary on the review and a summary of the Government’s action plan.

In response to the report Skills Minister Matthew Hancock has called for schools, colleges and employers to work more closely together to provide both young people and adults with careers advice.

The National Union of Teachers has published a report ‘on a two-year study of gender stereotypes in primary and nursery schools. The Breaking the Mould’ study acknowledges that the “gender pay gap remains stubbornly hard to shift and women continue to be under-represented in sectors such as science, engineering and technology”.

Science and Industry
Business Secretary, Vince Cable spoke at the industrial strategy conference, describing progress on the government’s industrial strategy and to announce that projects from aerospace, chemicals, electronics and life sciences will receive £115 million of joint public and private investment from the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative.

Energy Secretary, Ed Davey spoke at the Royal Society to outline the Government’s policy on shale gas and ‘fracking’, stating that shale gas in the UK “can be developed sensibly and safely, protecting the local environment, with the right regulation.” The speech is accompanied by a report from the Department of Energy & Climate Change’s chief scientific advisor, Professor David MacKay on the ‘Potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with shale gas extraction and use.

The Government Office for Science has completed its review of the Treasury’s use of scientific advice, calling for the Treasury to develop a more consistent approach to its use of evidence, involving more external sources.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee published its report on ‘Water quality: priority substances’, calling for the government to take a more strategic approach to address UK water security issues.

The Technology Strategy Board  has published a progress report for the first seven Catapult innovation centres, stating that all seven will be fully operational by the end of 2013. The report also confirmed that centres for diagnostics for stratified medicines and energy systems will go ahead.

Sir John Armitt’s review of long term UK infrastructure planning for the Labour Party has called for a National Infrastructure Commission to be established to undertake evidence-based assessments of the UK’s long-term national infrastructure needs. 

Analysis from the archive