Issue 102 | January 2020

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A happy new year and a happy new decade to our readers. We hope you all had a restful Christmas break.


As we near the half way point in the academic year here at Click we wanted to remind you about how we can support your Teaching, Learning and Assessment improvement and observation process.  Our Associates are very experienced in observing against the current standards and frameworks, and are adept at coaching leaders and managers to get the best out of their learners.

Click can help with:

  • Learning walks and lesson observations (including JLO’s), with summary feedback on key findings
  • Lesson observation moderation and training for quality and curriculum managers
  • Staff development and coaching

If you would like to know more then please contact us at


One of the challenges facing the new Conservative government is the projected increase in the number of 16-18-year olds in England. A population bulge has been working its way through the primary and secondary sector for more than 10 years and of this growth it is expected that by 2027, the number of 16-18-year olds likely to be participating in full-time education will rise from a current 1.1 million to around 1.4 million. Schools Minister for England, Nick Gibb, has already acknowledged that one of the issues the government will have to deal with in the coming years is how to prepare for this increase in student numbers. Mr Gibb admitted that to accommodate the growth ‘…extra up-front investment will be needed, for example, to build new classrooms’ and went on to say, ‘…we will need to look carefully in the Spending Review at how we can help colleges to prepare for the increase in student numbers anticipated’. There are, of course, several ways to cater for the demographic upturn, including building more new schools with sixth forms, adding sixth forms to existing 11-16 schools, ensuring existing institutions with post-16 provision recruit to capacity, in addition to providing the funding to allow existing, high-performing FE and sixth-form colleges to expand. It will be interesting to see the relative extent to which each of these strategies are favoured by the government. More information on the projected increase in pupil numbers can be found at:


Emma Hardy has been appointed as Labour’s new Shadow FE and HE minister for England, replacing Gordon Marsden, who was amongst those who lost their parliamentary seats in the recent general election. Ms Vardy became MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle in the 2017 general election and in the last parliament was a member of the House of Commons Education Select Committee. She is a former sixth-form college student, a primary school teacher and a full time organiser for the National Education Union (NEU). In May 2018, she joined Hull College staff on the picket line during strike action. Meanwhile, Angela Raynor, the Shadow Education Secretary for England, has announced her intention to run to become the Labour Party’s deputy leader. If you should want to know more about Ms Vardy this can be found at:


Ofsted has published its 2018/19 Annual Report. With reference to FE and skills, the report says that:

  • There is a gap between the knowledge and skills required for the economy and current provision. This applies, in particular, to a lack of training for low-skilled workers.
  • The FE and skills sector needs to work much more in tandem with the government’s Industrial Strategy.
  • Some FE colleges are steering too many of their students towards courses where there are limited job opportunities.
  • The performance of the FE sector as a whole has remained static, however there were some changes in the overall quality of provision for different types of provider, as follows:
    • The overall proportion of general FE colleges (GFEs) rated good or outstanding in their most recent inspection increased from 76% in 2017/18 to 78% in 2018/19.
    • The proportion of community learning providers rated as good or outstanding increased from 88% in 2017/18 to 91% in 2018/19.
    • The proportion of independent learning providers (ILPs) rated good or outstanding fell from 78% in 2017/18 to 76% in 2018/19.
  • The number of apprenticeship providers has risen dramatically since the levy was introduced in 2017.
  • As of August 2019, Ofsted had inspected around half of the1,400 providers delivering apprenticeships and carried out monitoring visits to 334 new providers. Around 20% of these new providers were found to be making insufficient progress in at least one area.
  • Of the apprenticeships started in 2018/19, 15% were in health and care, and 12% were in business management. These two areas also accounted for almost 50% of higher level apprenticeships.
  • There were too many cases of apprentices training for jobs they had already been doing for a number of years. Many did not consider themselves to be an apprentice, or even know that they were one.

A copy of the Ofsted Annual Report for 2018/19 can be found at:


Comments made in the 2018/19 Annual Report above about too many young people being on courses that lead to limited job opportunities seems to be borne out by research carried out by the charity ‘Education and Employers’. The research was based on a survey of 7,000 teenagers and has been published in a report entitled ‘Disconnected: Career aspirations and jobs in the UK’. The report suggests that around 17% of 17 and 18-year-olds surveyed said that they wanted to work in art, culture, entertainment and sport, and for more than half of these young people (51%), this was the only sector in which they expressed an interest in working in. However, the sector accounts for only around 3.5% of all jobs. The report concludes that ‘…this disconnect means far too many are destined for disappointment’. The report can be found at:


FE providers judged as ‘outstanding’ have been exempt from Ofsted inspection since 2012. However, following revelations that this meant that many providers had not been inspected by Ofsted for more than 10 years the DfE has now launched a consultation on a proposal to remove the exemption from September this year. After that, it is proposed that all colleges and providers graded as ‘outstanding’ will be subject to the usual inspection cycle and will re-inspected within a maximum five year period. The proposals have in general been welcomed by college leaders. The consultation period ends on 24 February and a copy of the consultation document can be found at:


Although Ofsted says that it remains interested in introducing campus inspection grades for larger, more geographically disparate colleges, Paul Joyce, Ofsted’s Deputy Director for FE and Skills, has confirmed that such grades will not be introduced in 2020.


Earlier this month, Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted Chief Inspector for England was interviewed on LBC (‘London’s Biggest Conversation’) radio by Nick Ferrari. During the interview, a person from Southampton called to talk about the burn-out that many teachers are currently facing and said. ‘I don’t know the last time you were in a school as a teacher, but I challenge you to go and work as a teacher for a term… to find out how difficult the job now is nowadays’. Ms Spielman then surprised listeners by admitting that she had never actually been a teacher. Ms Spielman is, in fact, a chartered accountant, who earlier in her career worked for firms such as KMG Thomson McLintock and Kleinwort Benson. She has also been a director of Newstead Capital and Bridgewater Business Analysis and has worked as a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting in the United States. Her involvement in education began in 2005 when she became a founding member of the management team at Ark Schools and became involved in the establishment of numerous academies. Also, from 20011 to 2016, she chaired the examinations and qualifications regulator Ofqual before being appointed as Ofsted Chief Inspector for England in January 2017. You can watch the exchange between Ms Spelman and the LBC listener at:

And should you should want to know more about Ms Spielman, this can be found at:


An Ofsted inspector visiting the site for a planned new school in Birmingham had already pulled a window off its hinges, spotted staples holding up peeling wallpaper, found exposed wires and evidence of rodent activity and had discovered he was able to open a third floor window so wide a pupil could fall out, when a fire alarm was activated. At this point the inspector attempted to leave the building. The inspector first tried to get down the stairs, but struggled to do so because several adults were ignoring the alarm and going up the stairs. When the inspector did eventually reach the ground floor he found two sets of fire doors. However, these were either locked with a padlock, or tied up with electrical cable from the inside and boarded up from the outside, and as a result of this the doors could not be opened. The inspector then concluded that the premises were not safe and inspection was terminated. When asked to comment, the leaders of the proposed school suggested that this was merely a drill and that evacuation was not necessary. It is thought unlikely that the permission needed to open the school will be granted. The Birmingham Mail article covering this story can be found at:


The DfE has announced the appointment of five new National Leaders of Further Education (NFLEs) and four more National Leaders of Governance (NLGs). This brings the combined NFLE and NLG number to 19. They will report to the FE Commissioner staff and provide support for college management teams and governing bodies deemed by the Commissioner to require such support. More information is available at:


At the end of the government’s 2012 Review of Apprenticeships, the review chair Doug Richard, said, ‘Today, we bundle a number of different activities into the apprenticeship programme, unnecessarily complicating the system, diluting the brand, reducing value for money, and at times detracting apprenticeships from their core purpose and from where they can make the greatest impact’. Fast forward to January 2020 and a report published by the education think tank EDSK entitled ‘Runaway Training’, suggests that the same is still true today. The EDSK report says that employers ‘have quickly realised that any training course, new or existing, which they label as an apprenticeship can gain access to the £3 billion annual funding generated by the apprenticeship levy’. The report goes on to say that, ‘Pretending that all forms of training are apprenticeships is misleading, damaging to the apprenticeship brand and poor value for money’. As a result, says the report, the apprenticeship system is ‘descending into farce’ and that ‘… employers and HE providers are abusing it by rebadging existing courses and degrees for their own financial gain’. This is a claim that reflects earlier concerns about the potential for abuse of the system expressed by both Ofsted and the National Audit Office (NAO). The EDSK report goes on to say:

  • Around £1.2 billion of public funding has been wasted on fake apprenticeships’ that have taken up half of all starts since the apprenticeship levy was introduced in May 2017’.
  • Employers have spent more than £550 million of levy funding on rebadged management training and professional development courses for experienced employees, some of whom ‘did not even realise they were on an apprenticeship scheme’. This, says the report, is evidenced by the fact that, ‘The team leader/supervisor apprenticeship programme currently accounts for almost 10% of apprenticeships’ and that ‘Chartered Manager and Department Manager training apprenticeships have each consumed around a further £100 million of levy funding’.
  • £174 million has been spent on Level 7 accountancy/taxation professional apprenticeship programmes, with one provider being allocated almost £40 million in just 9 months to deliver a controversial management consultancy apprenticeship.
  • Other roles such as retail manager, senior insurance professional, marketing manager and HR consultantare self-evidently not entry-level positions but they continue to consume the levy funds that could instead have been used to support young people’.
  • Universities have used around £450 million for degree apprenticeships, ‘even though these degrees can already be funded through the student loan system’. There has even been ‘…an overt attempt to re-label university academics as apprentices in order to use up the university’s own levy contributions’, adding that, ‘If you typically need a PhD to be accepted onto this levy-funded training course it confirms that the programme bears no relation whatsoever to any genuine apprenticeship’.
  • A further £235 million of levy funding has been used to deliver various low-skill and generic jobs now badged as apprenticeships. This, says the report, ‘…includes working on a shop checkout, working in a fast food restaurant and serving drinks in a bar’, adding that ‘…outside of apprenticeships, such roles are advertised as offering minimal training and low wages, which is why they do not meet any established definition of an apprenticeship either in this country or abroad’.

The report concludes that:

  • There is an insufficiently clear definition of what an apprenticeship should be, so much so that the ‘brand itself has arguably become a meaningless concept’. The Department for Education (DfE) therefore needs to introduce a new definition of an apprenticeship, benchmarked against the best technical education systems in the world.
  • The term ‘apprenticeship’ should only be used for courses at Level 3, which should be fully-funded by government (like A-Levels). All low-skill and generic training courses that do not meet this new definition should be scrapped immediately.
  • The apprenticeship levy should be renamed ‘the Technical and Professional Education Levy’, and all existing apprenticeships from Level 4 to Level 7 should be renamed ‘Technical and Professional Education (TPE)’.
  • Bachelor’s degrees and master’s-level and above courses labelled as apprenticeships should be excluded from the scope of the levy.
  • Ofsted should be the sole regulator for all apprenticeships including provision in universities. Currently, Ofsted and the Office for Students (OfS)share responsibilities for inspecting apprenticeships, with the latter monitoring higher level apprenticeship, which is ‘hugely problematic, since the OfS has no expertise in the area and does not have the power to enter premises to conduct on-site inspections’.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Tom Richmond, Director of EDSK, and a former ministerial advisor at the DfE said, ‘The sad truth is that some employers and universities are abusing the system for their own financial gain. On that basis, our report calls on the government to urgently intervene by scrapping all ‘fake apprenticeships’. Only then will we have any chance of building a credible, respected and trusted apprenticeship system in this country’. He said that the report has been intentionally released ahead of the upcoming Spending Review, which will set the apprenticeship budget for the next five years. A copy of the report is available at:


Meanwhile, a proposal for the first Level 8 apprenticeship aimed at ‘Clinical Academic Professionals’ within the Health and Science sector has been approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) for further development. Once fully developed by the trailblazer group, the standard will be submitted to the DfE and IfATE for funding and permission to recruit apprentices to the programme.


A survey of 135 apprenticeship training providers (ATPs) carried out by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), has revealed that:

  • 50% said their funding allocation was not sufficient to cover both the cost of existing apprentices and of new starts for small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • 40% said they are now having to reject SMEs looking to recruit apprentices.
  • 29% of providers said that they have significantly reduced recruitment for SMEs and are now focusing on delivering apprenticeships for levy-paying employers.
  • 31% said they have stopped recruitment of apprentices for SMEs altogether.

The AELP says that if the position revealed in the survey were to be extrapolated to cover the nearly 700 ATPs in membership of the AELP, it would mean that up to 40,000 SMEs are being adversely affected by the levy funding shortfall. As a result, the AELP has called for the restoration of the £1.5 billion apprenticeship budget that was available to SMEs before the levy was introduced in April 2017. In response to this, a DfE spokesperson said, ‘To support smaller employers to take advantage of the benefits apprentices can bring to their business, from this week we are making funding available for up to 15,000 additional apprenticeship starts and giving smaller employers access to training through our digital apprenticeship service’. (See the section below for more information on this). More on the AELP survey findings can be found at:


Partly in response to these concerns, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has revised its rules to enable more ATPs to gain direct access to levy funding for non-levy payers. The new arrangements mean that non-levy paying SMEs will be able to access funding for training either through an ATP with an existing ESFA contract, or via the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS) through a new mechanism called ‘Reserve my funding’. This will allow non-levy paying SMEs to reserve funding for an apprenticeship in advance of recruitment of a new apprentice or an offer of an apprenticeship to an existing employee. The SME must then turn the reservation into a firm commitment once the ATP and the apprentice details are confirmed. When this has been done, funds will be available to pay for the training from the start of the apprenticeship. However, to allow the ESFA to manage this spending, and to ensure that the apprenticeship programme overall remains affordable, it will initially only fund SMEs for three apprenticeship starts each, and these must be on apprenticeship standards, not frameworks. More information on this complex process can be found at:


Meanwhile, Jennifer Coupland, the new Chief Executive of IfATE has called on the government to provide a further £750 million to support apprenticeships in SMEs. Ms Coupland said the apprenticeship levy has meant SMEs have had to cut their training by 10%, while larger firms that are levy-payers have been able to increase their training by 20%. But is the apprenticeship levy really going to be overspent? This is the question asked in an article recently published in ‘FE News’ (not to be confused with ‘FE Week’) which suggests that rather than being overspent, the apprenticeship budget could actually be underspent by as much as £2 billion. The article claims that a response received from the DfE to a Freedom of Information (FoI) Act request says that in 2019 Employers paid a combined total of £2.8 billion into the levy, while they spent just £864 million of this. The article goes on to argue that unspent levy funds could actually be greater than this since the underspend (if there really is one) only refers to the total value of expired levy funds in accounts registered with the Apprenticeship Service, and because levy-paying employers are not obliged to open accounts (and not all have) around a further 10% could be added to the underspend. A copy of the article can be found at:


Increases in NMW rates are recommended by the Low Pay Commission, after consultation with key stakeholders such as employers and unions. Any changes to the NMW are usually announced in the Autumn Budget, but this did not happen in 2019 because of the general election that took place in December. The changes in the NMW from April 2020 have now been announced and are given below:

Year/Age 25 and over 21 to 24 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
April 2019 £8.21 £7.70 £6.15 £4.35 £3.90
April 2020 £8.72 £8.20 £6.45 £4.55 £4.15

The NMW for apprentices will increase by 6.4%, which is four times the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation last November (1.5%). Apprentices will be entitled to this rate if they are either aged under 19 or are in the first year of their apprenticeship. If apprentices are aged 19 or over and have completed the first year of their apprenticeship, they are entitled to the NMW for their age. Both the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) say the increase ‘should be manageable’ and is ‘…unlikely to have any significant effect on firms’ plans to recruit apprentices’. But they did call on the government to ‘consider the impact these changes could have on those firms who are struggling to make ends meet’. More information on NMW increases due to take effect from this April is available at:


The Apprenticeship Pay Survey is published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) each year. The results of the latest survey (2018/19) has revealed that almost one in five apprentices (19%) were not being paid the NMW for their age. This percentage has remained relatively constant since 2016/17 and is 1% higher than in 2017/18 (when it was 18%). The 2018/19 report says that:

  • Non-compliance with the NMW was lowest for apprentices aged 25 and over (13%), compared with apprentices aged 16 to 24 (22%). However, non-compliance was lowest for management apprenticeships (7%), possibly reflecting the fact that many management apprentices are already full-time employees.
  • Apprentices beginning their apprenticeships were less likely to receive non-compliant pay with only 11% of those who had been on their course for a year or less being paid less than the NMW for their age group, compared with 25% of those who had been on their course for more than a year.
  • Apprentices who said that, on average, they received at least one day a week of formal training were more likely to receive non-compliant pay (22%) than those who said they did not receive at least one day of formal training each week (16%). This is thought likely to imply that in some cases employers are failing to pay apprentices for time they spent on formal training.
  • Median basic pay amongst Level 2 and Level 3 apprentices was £7.10 an hour. For Level 4 and above apprentices, the median basic hourly pay was higher at £10.94.

With specific reference to gender equality, the survey also revealed that:

  • Female apprentices were less likely to receive the NMW for their age (22% of women compared with 18% of men).
  • The gender pay gap for apprentices has widened. In 2018/19, male apprentices on Levels 2 and Level 3 programmes were paid nearly 6% more than their female counterparts (£7.90 per hour compared to £7.47), whereas in 2016/17, the gap was just 3.6% (£7.10 per hour compared to £6.85).
  • Predominantly female apprentices on hairdressing programmes had the lowest mean weekly wage of £163, while the mean weekly wage of predominantly male apprentices on electro technical programmes was £337.
  • 57% of male apprentices received formal training off-the-job training, however only 40% of females did.

A copy of the BEIS 2018/19 Apprenticeship Pay Survey can be found at:


A survey commissioned by the DfE in 2018 found that 14% of female college students had been unable to access period products at some point in the previous year due to affordability, and that this had impacted negatively on their course attendance. In response, the DfE has agreed to provide the funds to address ‘period poverty’ by enabling colleges and schools in England to provide a range of sanitary products free of charge for their students. The DfE preferred supplier of these products is the Personnel Hygiene Services Group and products can be ordered by using an online portal, or via email or phone. Whilst very welcome, some observers have argued that it would be even better if the government would do more to mitigate the effects of poverty in general. More information on the scheme can be found at:


The DfE has invited expressions of interest from high performing FE providers to help deliver the third wave of T-Levels in 2022/23. Eight new T-Levels will be introduced in that year to join the ten T-Levels that will already be on offer from 2020 and 2021. The DfE has said that the selection criteria has been developed with the aim of expanding the number of providers delivering T-levels ‘to help build the momentum for T-Level delivery’. This approach is different to that taken previously, when the ESFA aimed to select a relatively small number of providers so that the agency could maintain the level of support needed by T-Level providers in the early stages of their introduction. All providers that are currently delivering to at least ten ‘qualifying’ students per T-Level subject can apply to deliver the third wave in 2022/23. Qualifying students include those that are age 16-18, on Level 3 technical or vocational qualifications, with at least 360 guided learning hours, from within the sector subject areas for the relevant T-Level. All providers must be rated by Ofsted as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and must have at least ‘satisfactory’ financial health. The closing date for applications for 2022/23 is 28 February and more information can be found at:


Following the release of DfE data showing a continuing contraction in the numbers of adult learners, the Learning and Work Institute (LWI) published the results of a survey that says that participation in adult learning has now fallen to the lowest level on record. The LWI has been tracking the number of adults taking part in education or training in the UK since 1996 and its latest survey (for 2018/19) shows that:

  • Since 2010 adult participation has fallen by 3.8 million.
  • The fall in participation has followed a significant cut in public spending on adult education (excluding apprenticeships) of 47%.
  • There are persistent inequalities in participation, with the adults who could most benefit from participating in learning being the least likely to do so.
  • Those in lower social grades, those with fewer years of initial education, and those furthest from the labour market are amongst those most under-represented in adult learning.
  • Participation declines with age, with older adults being significantly less likely to participate in learning.
  • There are stark gaps in participation between the nations and regions of the UK. Participation in Scotland at 38% is much higher than in England at 33%, Wales at 30% and Northern Ireland 22%.
  • The gap between the best and worst performing English regions has widened, with 39% of adults in the south east of England participating in education compared to 24% in the north east.

In response, the LWI has called for a ‘national mission’ to be set up to reverse the decline, ‘backed up by sustained additional investment, and a cross-government strategy’. Although there has as yet been no specific mention of any increase in adult education spending the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said £600 million a year for 5 years will be provided to create a new ‘National Skills Fund’, part of which will fund a ‘right to retrain’. A copy of the latest LWI report on adult participation can be found at:


Candidates who do not manage to achieve at least a grade 4 in GCSE English or mathematics when they leave school are required to re-sit the qualifications as an ESFA condition of funding requirement. Those with a grade 2 or below have to continue to study the subjects, but can either re-take the GCSE or take an approved stepping-stone qualification instead. The percentage of students achieving a grade 4 in their GCSE re-sits in November 2019 has remained low and has broadly dropped overall, compared with November 2018. There were almost 98,000 entries across the two subjects in November 2019, but unlike with the summer series of GCSE results, no national figures are published in January. Instead, the main examination boards publish their own results separately. These reveal that for GCSE English Language, the percentage of re-sit candidates achieving a grade 4 or above in November 2019 was:

  • AQA: 30.8% (compared with 32.8%in November 2018)
  • Edexcel: 36.8% (compare with 34.1% in November 2018)
  • OCR: 49.9% (compared with 41% in November 2018)

And for mathematics, the proportion of students achieving a grade 4 or higher was:

  • AQA: 27% (compared with 27.7% in November 2018)
  • Edexcel: 26.5% (compared with 27.6% in November 2018)
  • OCR: 23.9 per cent (compared with 25.2% in November 2018)

Those students who failed to achieve a grade 4 or above in their re-sits in November will be required to take the exams again in the summer.


Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s 2019 Review of Post-16 Mathematics recommended that, ‘In view of the low GCSE re-sit success rates and new GCSE requirements, the DfE should review its 16-18 re-sit policy with the aim that a greater proportion of students without a grade C or equivalent attain appropriate mathematical understanding by age 18. Specifically, there should be fresh consideration of appropriate curricula and qualifications for these students and the extent to which current policy incentivises these to be offered’. Following on from this, an organisation called ‘Mathematics in Education and Industry’ (MEI) was established with funding by the Nuffield Foundation to work in consultation with key stakeholders to develop a new curriculum in mathematics for post-16 GCSE students. It was intended that this new curriculum would place a greater emphasis on applying mathematics in realistic contexts and would form the basis for an alternative to the existing GCSE mathematics curriculum.

The MEI has now published its final project report which contains a proposal for a new mathematics GCSE curriculum for post-16 re-sit students that does focus on the mathematics needed for everyday life and work, but which also has sufficient rigour to meet the requirements of a GCSE qualification. The report says that proposed new post-16 mathematics GCSE would be available at Foundation tier only (Grades 1-5). It would also include a paper that could be taken early as a ‘stepping-stone’ to the full GCSE suggesting a partial return to the modular approach to GCSEs which was scrapped under former education secretary Michael Gove. This, says the MEI, is appropriate for the majority of re-sit students because more than 90% of re-sit GCSE Mathematics entries are for the Foundation tier. The MEI goes on to say that those re-sit students assessed as being likely to benefit from taking the Higher tier (Grades 4-9) are best served by re-sitting the standard GCSE Mathematics. The proposals have been welcomed by college and employer representatives, but the DfE has yet to comment. The MEI report can be found at:

And a copy of the report of the Smith Review of Post-16 Mathematics can be found at:


More than 947,000 educators currently work in state-funded schools and colleges in England, and research has shown that the wellbeing of teachers affects both their attitude towards remaining in the profession and success rates of their pupils and students. However, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has published the findings of research into teacher wellbeing in England that seems to indicate that teachers’ mental health is worsening, anxiety levels are increasing and job satisfaction is falling. The key findings are as follows:

  • Despite high levels of job stress reported, the sense of wellbeing of the average teachers has actually increased over the past seven years. However, over the same period, their job satisfaction has fallen.
  • Secondary teachersreport lower levels of wellbeing and job satisfaction than primary and early years teachers, but also lower levels of anxiety.
  • Special-school teachers have the lowest levels of anxiety and score amongst the highest in their sense of wellbeing and job satisfaction.
  • However, further education lecturersstand out as having the lowest sense of wellbeing and job satisfaction, probably reflecting the fact that FE has suffered the greatest cut in funding of any phase of education over the past decade. In addition, FE senior leaders were found to have the highest levels of anxiety.

A copy of the EPI report can be found at:


In the same way that they are urged to increase gender, class and racial diversity, universities are now also being urged to tackle the apparent lack of ideological diversity among their staff. This is thought to be a general characteristic but to provide specific examples of this, a lecturer at Cardiff University referred to people who voted Conservative at the last election as vermin and another accused Conservative voters of being ‘completely devoid of a social conscience’. The university has now launched an inquiry following a number of complaints about the two incidents, but in another example, an academic tweeted immediately after the latest general election, Let me be gracious. All the people celebrating now are the most entitled, embittered, sneering, nasty, selfish, racist, foul f**kwits’. There have also been reports of Brexit supporting academics being intimidated and victimised by colleagues to the point where, earlier this year, a former lecturer at Lincoln University took his employer to a tribunal after he claimed that left-wing colleagues had ‘hounded him out of his job’. These incidents are the latest in a number of cases that have come to light about an alleged lack of balance and impartiality resulting from the prevalence of overt and potentially aggressive left-wing views on university campuses in Britain. The Adam Smith Institute has previously warned of the dangers of ‘group think’ in British HE institutions and a survey commissioned by the Institute claimed that eight in ten university lecturers have an overt ‘left-wing bias’. The survey findings have been published in a report entitled, ‘Lackademia: Why do academics lean Left?’, a copy of which can be found at:


In its latest Annual Review, the Office for Students (OfS) warns universities against bringing inappropriate pressure to bear on students through ‘aggressive sales tactics’, such as the offer of laptops, ‘conditional unconditional’ examination-grade offers, financial inducements and exaggerated claims about their degree courses that result in students’ expectations being raised unrealistically. The report also says that universities need to take action to address of ‘pockets of poor practice’ in the HE sector in order to protect the sector’s world-class reputation and warns that those failing to do so could face the imposition of financial penalties and even de-registration as an accredited HE provider. The OfS has also announced that it intends to undertake a review of the HE admissions system to consider the extent to which there is fair access to universities for disadvantaged young people. Figures recently published by the DfE showed 26% of young people eligible for free school meals progressed into higher education, compared with 45% of those better-off students not eligible for free school meals. White British boys eligible for free school meals had among the lowest entry rates, with 13% progressing to higher education. The proportion for girls eligible for free school meals from black African families was 67%. The OFS Review can be accessed at:


In 2019, 28% of all university students were awarded a first-class honours degree. This has prompted the Times newspaper to use data produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) to produce an extrapolation which suggests that if degree grade inflation continues at its current rate, within the next 38 years all UK universities will be awarding first-class honours degree to all of their students. Some universities, says the Times, will be doing this by as early as 2030. The extrapolation also suggests that by 2033, the lower second class honours degree (2.2), once regarded as a good honours degree and now regarded as a disappointing grade, will be almost extinct. Access to the Times article is restricted to those who take out subscriptions, but a synopsis of the article content can be found at:


As of March 2019, graduates in England owed £121 billion on their student loans. This amount is expected to rise substantially over the coming years, peaking at £450 billion by 2050. How much of this loan debt will actually be repaid remains the subject of speculation, but many observers think it may be less than half the amount outstanding and public sector deficit figures have already been amended to reflect this. Meanwhile, as of the start of this month, graduates will be able to access their loan details online, allowing them to see and manage more up to date information about their student loan balance. The new online service is part of a number of improvements intended to modernise and streamline the SLC repayment system. The new service will largely replace annual paper statements, although those who prefer the existing paper statements will still be able to receive them. Graduates are being encouraged to switch to direct debit payments, rather than continue with automatic deductions from their salary (which, from April 2020 will be 9% of everything a graduate earns over £26,575 a year). More information is available at:


The OFS has announced that it is launching a review of the extent to which the £1.3 billion of public funding that goes to the HE sector in England each year in direct government grants represents ‘value for money’. While most university funding is received through tuition fees, the government still provides a significant amount of direct funding in the form of grants to be used for such things as subsidising subjects that are more expensive to teach (e.g. medicine, science and technology), and to help fund improved access to HE for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The review will also consider how teaching funding subsidies will be allocated and what more could be done to provide support for the subjects the government considers to be a priority for the economy. However, the review will not consider the Augar Review proposal that annual tuition fees in England should be reduced from £9,250 to £7,500 per year. More on this can be found at:


Earlier this month, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published its 2018/19 HE student statistics report. Amongst other things, the report reveals that:

  • The number of students in UK higher education reached a record high of 2.38 million.
  • The number of female students continues to increase at a faster rate than for males. 57% of all HE students in 2018/19 were female and there are now around 340,000 more women in HE than men.
  • In terms of ethnicity amongst UK (as opposed to international) students, the biggest increase has been Asian students, with numbers having increased by 20% since 2014/15.
  • The number of black students has risen by 17% since 2014/15.
  • The number of white students remains at slightly below the figure in 2014/15.
  • Only 12% of students came from came from low participation neighbourhoods in 2018/19, the same proportion as in 2014/15

With reference to international students, the report highlights that number of Chinese students at UK universities has increased by 34% since 2014/15 and currently stands at around 130,000. More students from China now study in the UK than students from any other country, either inside or outside the EU. Chinese students also now make up a significant proportion of the total number students at many UK universities. For example, 1 in 5 students at Liverpool University are Chinese. Although they are important source of fee income, many of these students are state sponsored, prompting concerns about the potential influence of the Chinese government on campus. A copy of the 2018/19 HESA report can be found at:


MPs voted against an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill tabled by Liberal Democrats that would have required the government to seek to negotiate continued full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ education programme. However, a DfE spokesperson said that negotiations with the EU for the UK to continue its participation in the scheme could still take place, regardless of the amendment being voted down. A spokesperson for the DfE said, ‘The government is committed to continuing the academic relationship between the UK and the EU, including through the next Erasmus+ programme if it is in our interests to do so’, and went on to say that the UK government had ‘repeatedly made clear that it values international exchange and collaboration in education, which is why we are exploring participation in the successor scheme and preparing for a range of potential outcomes’. Membership of the EU is not a requirement for participation in the scheme, with many other countries from outside the EU (e.g. Israel) currently taking part in it.  More information on the Erasmus+ programme can be found at:

Meanwhile, speaking at the Education World Forum in London earlier this month, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary for England announced a one-year extension to a £2.5 million school exchange programme which allows children from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience other countries’ cultures and to improve language skills. He said he wanted British education to be the ‘envy of the world’, and outlined ambitions for the Government’s International Education Strategy which, he said, aims to increase international student numbers and strengthen the UK’s collaboration on education with overseas partners.


The Principal of a local FE college had decided to re-organise the college. For reasons none of the staff could quite understand, a part of the re-organisation involved the Catering Department being merged with the Music and Performing Arts Department. To help embed this bit of the merger, the Principal instructed the Head of the newly combined department to come up with some innovative ideas to reflect the ethos of the two former departments, whilst at the same time cutting costs and generating additional income. Not having the remotest clue how to do this, the Head of Department asked the staff if they could come up with any ideas. They couldn’t, so they asked their students who, unlike them, had lots of ideas. One idea, put forward by a group of catering students, was that they should create new food products and dishes and name them after various celebrity musical performers. This idea was accepted enthusiastically by the staff, who of course presented it to the Head of Department as if it were their idea. But, as you might imagine, there were inevitable teething problems. For example, the ‘Ozzy Osbourbon Biscuits’ were found to crumble too easily, the ‘Rolling Scones’ were found to be ‘rock’ hard, nobody wanted ‘Black Eyed Peas’ with their fish and chips, the ‘Meatloaf’ meat loaf, and the ‘Meatles’ beefburger proved unpopular with vegetarians and vegans, and the ‘Stormzy in a Teacup’ and ‘Ice T’ beverages  did not go down too well with the predominantly senior citizen users of the college restaurant. However, the students also developed a vegetarian food creation they decided to call the ‘Elvis Costello Mediterranean Sausage’, the primary ingredient of which was olives. The new dish surprised everyone by becoming an instantaneous success. It was a popular choice with both meat eaters and vegetarians in the college restaurant, it was a hit with students and staff in the college refectory, and was by far the best seller in the college shop. The Principal was delighted with this, and in particular with the significant increase in sales revenue, for which the Head of Department naturally took all the credit. Because the new dish was such an earner, the Principal asked for assurances that ‘Elvis Costello Mediterranean Sausage’ would continue to be available on college restaurant and refectory menus, and remain on sale in the college shop for the foreseeable future. ‘Oh yes’, replied the Head, ‘Olive salami is here to stay…’.

My thanks (and probably your groans) for this one goes to my good friend James Hampton, former principal of Yeovil College and former Chair of Governors at Bournemouth and Poole College.

Alan Birks – January 2020

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