The Importance of Teaching: A ROTA brief on the Schools White Paper
The government has announced a wide-ranging series of reforms to education with the launch of the new Schools White Paper, The Importance of Teaching. ROTA welcomes the White Paper’s emphasis on the need to address attainment gaps and educational disadvantage. However, we are deeply concerned with the lack of emphasis in the White Paper on race equality and the duties schools should adhere to in relation to the Equality Act 2010.
We are also pleased that the White Paper identifies the need to address inequality in relation to exclusion. Yet it presents no adequate alternatives to exclusion. Similarly, the focus on free schools and academies overlooks research that shows these schools can exacerbate inequality. As a result, we believe there is considerable risk that the proposals will lead to a segregated schools system, with poorer services leading to poorer outcomes for BAME pupils. Read more here.
What affect will the higher education fee rise have on BAME students?
Broken bank windows. Toppled police vans. Burned effigies of the Deputy Prime Minister.
All in a day’s study.
The Lord Browne report – which has succeeded in convincing politicians to lift the cap on student tuition fees to £9,000 pounds – has produced more than just broken glass. It has aggravated differences between interpretations of the value of university.
Proponents like Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Universities Minister David Willets say the proposals will lead to greater social mobility. Proposals that include getting rid of upfront fees and charging higher earners more for education, they say, are fair.
Furthermore, they contend that slogans like ‘no fees up front’ and ‘buy two years, get one free’ are more than just marketing gimmicks.
Vince Cable, Business Secretary, said "we want as many students from disadvantaged backgrounds who want to go to university to have that life changing opportunity.”
A part of the plan says that all universities that wanted to charge higher fees would have to take part in a scholarship programme. This may be targeted at students who receive the government's new pupil premium when they are at school. It could also mean that their first year at university is free.
Maintenance grants for the poorest students, with household incomes below £25,000, will be increased from £2,900 to £3,250 a year. Those with a family income of up to £42,000 will be allowed a partial grant. The government will retain a higher maintenance grant for students in the capital.
Students counter that the rise in fees, alongside the unleashing of market forces on the university system, will heavily affect the most disadvantaged. Instead of democratising the university system and helping students, some say it will benefit prestigious universities the most.
Gareth Thomas MP, the Shadow Minister for Higher Education, said the proposals were a "tragedy" for students and would "plunge universities into turmoil".
A number of these changes will hit BAME pupils hardest.
According to David Lammy MP, the already limited numbers of black students in the UK’s most prestigious Russell Group Universities (which include Oxford, Cambridge and LSE) will be further reduced.
If you are a young person, email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how these changes will affect you.
Higher education changes add up to more difficulties for BAME students
BAME students could be deterred from attending university if the tuition fee increase is passed on 9 December, argued a number of Labour MPs in a Westminster debate last month.
If Russell Group universities decide to charge higher fees than other institutions, BAME pupils may seek to attend cheaper and less prestigious universities.
According to David Lammy MP, the limited numbers of black students in the UK’s most prestigious universities will be further reduced.
Lammy also highlighted the shocking statistic that only one Black Caribbean student was admitted to Oxford last year. Responding to Lammy, the Further Education Minister John Hayes MP acknowledged that this is “a cause for concern”, adding that he thinks it should be an issue the government should look into further.
Visit Runnymede’s Westminster blog to read more.
Runnymede will shortly be publishing a report on widening participation in higher education, which will be available to download for free from their website here.
Government decides not to Aimhigher
Aimhigher, a scheme aimed at getting more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into University has been scrapped.
Due to close in July 2011, the Aimhigher programme encompasses a wide range of activities to engage and motivate learners who have the potential to enter higher education, but may be under-achieving, undecided or lacking in confidence.
The programme particularly focuses on schoolchildren who live in areas of relative deprivation where participation in higher education is low.
As many as 2,500 schools, 300 colleges and 100 universities have been involved in the Aimhigher scheme.
The project received £136m in government funding in 2004. The figure had fallen to £78m by the time of the general election.
While the programme did not explicitly target BAME pupils, its focus on groups that are underrepresented in university and on those from disadvantaged backgrounds - among which certain BAME groups are overrepresented - implies it is likely to have been an important programme for BAME pupils in many areas.
The decision to end the Aimhigher programme came a day after demonstrations were held across the UK in opposition to the government's plans to charge students in England tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year.
In announcing the termination of this programme, University Minister David Willets said social mobility had stalled under the last government. In an attempt to reignite social mobility, the government are giving universities increased responsibilities to widen participation and investing more in improving access for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. He also said that there will now be a £150m National Scholarship programme.
Others have condemned the decision, saying that the scholarship programme money would be out-weighed by cuts to the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which is paid to the poorest students in sixth forms and colleges.
Educational Maintenance Allowance discontinued
The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is another progressive scheme that will be discontinued.
While not explicitly targeting BAME pupils, an earlier evaluation of the programme found that they were one of the groups that benefitted most from the allowance.
EMAs are means-tested allowances of £10, £20 and £30 paid to 16 to 19 year olds who stay in education and come from families where annual household income is below £30,810.
EMAs were introduced nationally in 2004 in order to reduce the UK’s high post-16 drop-out rate.
80 per cent of all EMA recipients receive the top rate of £30. To receive the top rate, recipients must come from families where the household income is below £20,810. From 2011/12, Education Maintenance Allowances will be replaced by an enhanced learner support fund that will be administered by schools and colleges.
EMAs are already strictly means-tested. Therefore tightening the eligibility criteria further can only harm already disadvantaged young people and is likely to impact on the participation of young BAME people in post-16 education.
Prior to the election, the Conservatives had committed to maintaining the EMA.
Government Departmental Business Plans
The government’s Departmental Business Plans, published last month, are summarised in this section. They include the Department for Education’s Business Plan, the Cabinet Office Business Plan, the BIS Business Plan, the Department for Work and Pensions Business Plan and the Ministry of Justice Business Plan.
If you have expertise in relation to any of the proposed developments or consultations, we encourage your input. If you would like to offer your input but do not have the time, please get in touch with Barbara Nea at email@example.com or on 020 7902 1177.
The Department for Education’s Business Plan
The Department for Education’s Business Plan contains a draft set of indicators for the education and children's services system on which the department will be consulting. The business plan will be refreshed in the light of that consultation in April 2011. Structural Reform priorities include improving support for children, young people and families, focusing on the most disadvantaged; increasing the number of high quality schools and introducing fair funding; reforming the school curriculum and qualifications; reducing bureaucracy and improving accountability and training and developing professionals who work with children:Improve support for children, young people and families, focusing on the most disadvantaged. Actions include:
1. Increase the number of high quality schools and introduce fair funding. Actions include:
Review and reform provision for children with special educational needs, disabilities and mental health needs – this includes plans for a Green Paper and a mental health strategy which is not yet available.
Improve arrangements for protecting children from harm – including the publication of Professor Munro’s child protection review and implementation of its reforms, to which ROTA made a submission.
Improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of the care system – including improving practice in children’s residential homes.
Improve opportunities for young people – this includes proposals to support a wider range of providers to offer services to young people; establishing pilot National Citizen Service (NCS) programmes in 2011 and 2012 and preparations to take the lead responsibility from 2013 for the national roll out of NCS; proposals to support vulnerable young people by refocusing youth services on early intervention; and an independent review to advise on how to address the commercialisation and premature sexualisation of childhood.
Take steps to end child poverty and improve the life chances of the poorest – including a new child poverty strategy.
Increase support for families experiencing difficulties.
2. Increase the number of high quality schools and introduce fair funding. Actions include:
Increase the number of academies and new University Technical Colleges
Introduce new free schools
Introduce a new Pupil Premium
3. Reform the school curriculum and qualifications, including more robust academic and vocational qualifications up to the age of 19. Actions include:
A review of vocational education.
Proposals for reforming qualifications, including a new English Baccalaureate.
4. Reduce bureaucracy and improve accountability. Actions include:
Reform and reduce the number of the department’s arm’s length bodies - including legislation to abolish the QCDA, and to reform Ofqual and Ofsted.
Work with Ofsted to reform the inspection regime for schools and local authority children’s services.
5. Train and develop the professionals who work with children. Actions include:
Reform initial teacher training and continuous professional development.
Improve social worker training, capacity and retention.
To find out more about these developments read our comment here.
Other initiatives include careers services and apprenticeship services. Through our representation on the education sub-group of the Ethnic Minority Advisory Group to the Department of Work and Pensions we will be seeking to inform the development these initiatives to ensure they are accessible and beneficial to BAME people and communities.
The Cabinet Office Business Plan
The Cabinet Office Business Plan states in its vision statement that ‘one of our central tasks will be building National Citizen Service (NCS) into a programme that helps build a more cohesive, responsible and engaged society’. Structural Reform priorities include building the Big Society, driving efficiency and effectiveness in government and reforming the political and constitutional system:
1. Build the Big Society. Actions include:
Empower communities by training a new generation of community organisers and supporting the creation of neighbourhood groups, especially in the most deprived areas – this includes the creation of the Communities First fund to support the creation of neighbourhood groups with small grants and endowments.
Support charities, social enterprises, small businesses and other non-governmental bodies to compete for opportunities opened up by public service reform – this includes the creation of the Big Society Bank using funds from dormant bank accounts.
Promote social action, including the introduction of NCS for 16 year olds – this includes the creation of an International Citizen Service; an advisory NCS coalition made up from the youth sector, business leaders and other supporters; developing plans with the Department for Education for NCS roll out from 2013; and an NCS commissioning process for 30,000 young people in summer 2012.
2. Drive efficiency and effectiveness in government. Actions include:
Support new forms of provision in the public sector, including mutuals, co-operatives, joint ventures and new forms of outsourcing.
Change the process for managing large projects – in order to maximise savings through stopping or re-scoping projects.
Reduce the number and cost of public bodies by abolishing or moving into government departments all public bodies except those that pass one of three tests: demonstrating that they are necessary for transparency, impartiality or because they undertake a technical function.
3. Reform the political and constitutional system. Actions include:
Work with Communities and Local Government (CLG) to ensure that reforms to transfer power from Westminster to local people are implemented, including options to give neighbourhoods and local authorities the powers and freedoms to lead economic growth and regeneration (alongside the Regional Growth Fund), the local government resource review and the strengthening of local democracy in the Localism Bill.
The BIS Business Plan
The BIS Business Plan includes as one of its priorities creating ‘a dynamic and efficient skills system with informed, empowered learners and employers served by responsive colleges and other providers in their areas’.
1. Build an internationally competitive skills base. Actions include:
2. Introduce a new system of loans for further education students, in parallel with reforms to funding of higher education. Actions include:
3. Enable people to choose their own learning, and empower and inform learners so they can hold colleges and providers to account. Actions include:
Launch an improved careers service to help people make informed choices.
Put in place Lifelong Learning Accounts to encourage learners to make informed choices and take up the funding they are entitled to.
The Department for Work and Pensions Business Plan
The DWP Business Plan includes priorities such as reforming the welfare system by introducing the Universal Credit and reforming housing benefit. Of particular interest are plans to offer work experience placements of up to 8 weeks to young unemployed people, including those from disadvantaged groups who lack experience or basic skills or face other barriers to work.
The Ministry of Justice Business Plan
The Ministry of Justice Business Plan includes proposals for a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ through a Green Paper which will see rehabilitation pilots targeted specifically at young offenders. The Department also intends to reform sentencing and penalties, including sentencing young offenders.