What a term. What a time. What to make of it all?
Summer 2016 and the end of the school year coincides with one of the most turbulent times in recent political history. Post-EU Referendum, we barely digest one piece of news and another seismic change hits the headlines.
Here at School Guide we've done our homework and created an at-a-glance guide to the key events of recent weeks that affect schools and schooling.
1. Our new PM
With new Prime Minister Theresa May at the helm, many are speculating over what the education landscape may look like in 2016/2017. Many say there are clues from her own state school experience as to where her educational priorities will lie.
In her roles as MP and shadow speaker for schools she has been known to stand up for grammar schools, greater parental responsibility for children’s behaviour and, most recently as Home Secretary, free schools with special emphasis on closer collaboration between police and crime commissioners to provide alternative free schools for troubled children.
Nine of the new cabinet positions Mrs May has appointed are held by MPs who attended selective schools. Not since Clement Attlee’s post war Labour government have their been so few privately educated cabinet ministers.
2. Bye bye Nicky Morgan, hello Justine Greening
Just what can we expect from the new Education Secretary? One of only a handful of state, non selectively educated MPs to have held this post, Miss Greening’s portfolio has been expanded to include further and higher education. With significant higher education costs, she may soon have to face the decision as to whether to increase tuition fees again.
Speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC yesterday, Miss Greening hinted at a modernised repeal of Tony Blair’s 1998 ban on selective grammar schools. Her new chief of staff Nick Timothy has also been an active supporter of state selective schools in the past and with little experience in education previously, it looks as though Miss Greening may satisfy herself by putting the new Prime Minister’s political persuasions into action.
Elsewhere at the Department for Education, Nick Gibb has retained his role despite voting for his colleague Michael Gove in the leadership race. Previously at the heart of curriculum reform, the man behind the tougher SATs and Year 1 Phonics tests appears here to stay along with the policies he's championed. He tweeted: “Delighted to be re-appointed to the DfE. Passionate about continuing the drive to improve academic standards in schools #phonics
3. What's the latest on academy conversion?
Back in March, the government announced that all schools must become academies but reeled back from the decision under pressure from headteachers. By May, Nicky Morgan had announced that good and outstanding schools could remain under Local Authority control if they chose to do so.
However, the government has also said that it will bring forward legislation to force all schools into academisation where it is proven that the Local Authority can no longer support its remaining schools or where a critical mass of academy schools in the area already exists. Think tank, CentreForum suggests this will result in 100% of all schools becoming academies by 2022 as planned.
4. The teacher's strike and those SATS results
On 5th July, one in three schools were closed due a National Union of Teachers strike over cuts in funding, pay and workloads. Five days later and with only 53% of pupils reaching the expected standards in reading, writing and maths under the new national curriculum, the same union called for the previous Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan to resign. They said that the demoralising results were not a failure on behalf of the pupils facing a new, more challenging curriculum, but a failure of the Education Secretary.
This year’s Year 6 had the biggest ground to cover when tackling the new more demanding curriculum, however, experts say that children approaching SATs in 2017 should be better prepared to achieve the expected standards.
5. Last but by no means least: Brexit
What will our separation from the EU mean for our education system? In the short term, the biggest concern for headteachers appears to be a delay in implementation of the white paper policies and the potential for more cuts to school budgets in a post-Brexit austerity budget, but in reality it is too early to tell just what leaving the EU will mean for individual schools.
More immediate practical issues revolve around European university loans, European exchange schemes such as Erasmus and UK student's status in European universities, however, the government and individual organisations have asked applicants to continue as planned for the 2016/2017 intake and more advice will be forthcoming once Brexit negotiations begin in earnest.