Access to high-quality education reduces poverty and inequality by empowering individuals – to support themselves and their families, to participate in economic growth, to tackle ill-health, and to scrutinise government and society. Governments therefore have a responsibility to prioritise investment in education for reasons of both equity and efficiency: education enables the achievement of potential and also prevents the development of problems which necessitate greater expenditure further down the line.
The past few years have been a time of particularly rapid change in education policy in England. Among other developments, this period has seen a major expansion in the numbers of academies, alongside the introduction of free schools; a shift towards school-based initial teacher training routes; major curriculum and exam reforms; and a lifting of the cap on tuition fees for higher education institutions to £9,000 per year. Further change has also been promised, including the establishment of 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020 and the extension of entitlement to free early years education from 15 to 30 hours per week for working families.
Change can bring improvements and reform, but it can also result in perhaps unforeseen drawbacks. The present moment is a particularly important time for the changes of the past few years to be evaluated and critiqued in terms of both their short- and middle-term impact so as to inform the future direction of policy and practice. We know that major social inequalities persist in the UK; we also know that providing high-quality education for all is integral to tackling these. Delivering this in a way that is sufficiently flexible to meet the diverse needs of so many individuals presents major challenges, rendered all the more complex in a time of tightened budgets, when more is expected to be achieved with less and when plugging short-term gaps needs to be balanced with the long-term investment required for lasting reform.
In recognition of the critical importance of the opportunities and challenges presented by the current education policy landscape, CentreForum will be devoting the majority of its focus in coming months towards analysis in this area. To this end, we will be producing our first annual ‘State of the Nation’ report, assessing the extent to which the current performance of England’s school system matches its potential. Other projects will develop detailed proposals for raising the quality of early years education, improving standards in underperforming schools, and promoting effective teaching and leadership.
Our work is firmly grounded in collaboration with leading experts, practitioners and policymakers, to ensure that what we do accurately accounts for the needs and priorities of diverse stakeholders, and to maintain our position as an influential voice in political debates and policymaking. We will be holding consultations and seminars, conducting literature reviews, producing publications and hosting a number of high-profile speakers at our various events.
We very much value contributions from those who are interested in any area of education policy. If you would like to share your thoughts on our projects or are interested in becoming involved with our work, then please get in touch with Becky Johnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7340 1160.