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Priorities for a new government: advice from our academics

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 4 May 2017

The IOE blog has asked colleagues from across the Institute what’s at the top of their wish list. Their replies will appear over the next few weeks.

The Government’s key priority should be recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, and encouraging them to work in areas of particular need.
Not only are we facing shortages and retention problems, but research evidence shows that it is teacher quality that has the biggest impact on pupil progress and outcomes – and that this is particularly the case for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This of course relates to the Government’s Opportunity Areas initiative, which admirably seeks to spread and develop capacity in socially-disadvantaged areas. But without a supply of excellent teachers, we have lost the battle before starting.
Becky Francis, Director IOE
Apprenticeship and skills
The new government will need to join up its apprenticeship policy and initiatives with its strategy for tackling skills shortages and low productivity. They need to focus on increasing apprenticeships in key sectors, rather than on hitting generic numerical targets.
For example, industry needs more skilled people at level 3 and above in engineering and construction but apprenticeships in these areas have remained flat. Improving and increasing the skills pipeline will help boost the economy and provide a return to, and progression opportunities for, individuals. However, currently, the majority of apprenticeships lead to Level 2 qualifications.
The government should also make more use of public procurement as a powerful lever for influencing behaviour. For example, employers bidding for government contracts should provide information on their investment in training and apprenticeships that can feed in to commissioning decisions.
Last but not least, the government must remember that the vast majority of the workforce is already in industry and is aging.  Apprenticeships shouldn’t be the only game in town. We need tailored policy initiatives for encouraging re-skilling & up-skilling throughout life.
Alison Fuller, Professor of Vocational Education and Work
Special Needs
The perfect storm facing the English education system has the potential to affect the lives and learning of 1.2 million children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND). In an increasingly autonomous system, there’s only so much schools can do to overcome the challenges presented by reduced funding and the urgent need for greater capacity in the specialist sector. Change requires a compelling vision and central planning. The inconvenient truth about a system-wide move to selective education is that it entrenches disadvantage. Yet there’s clear and consistent evidence that inclusive approaches can confer substantial benefits for all learners. The next government should commit to working with the profession and others to map out and deliver a long-term strategic plan to remove the systemic barriers to inclusive education and develop sustainable practices that can better serve learners with SEND.
Rob Webster, lead researcher, Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants
Early years
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) should not be tied to the National Curriculum because young children need time, space and opportunities to play together so that they can develop emotionally, physically and cognitively.  Their assessment should be centred upon children’s own learning stories that make visible what they can do in relationships with others.  They should not be labelled by a reductionist baseline number which tends to show what they cannot do and has the tendency to lead to a constrained and limiting skills based curriculum
Guy Roberts-Holmes, senior lecturer, early childhood education

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One Response to “Priorities for a new government: advice from our academics”

  • 1
    Emeritus Profesor Rosemary Davis wrote on 5 May 2017:

    Agree strongly with Guy Roberts-Holmes response that EYFS children should not be exposed to assessments as at present. Obviously, teachers will want to know how or if children are progressing as failure to do so may signal special needs or some other environmental issue. Children in difficult circumstances may fail to progress and, similarly, traumatic events may even reverse previous gains. Such observations help to identify what action is needed, e.g. safeguarding issues, or modification of learning activities. Learning journals, photographic evidence of children at play/work and sensitive teacher observations are, I believe, more helpful to EYFS children than baseline-type or curriculum assessments.