Impetus Insights - October 2022

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Welcome to Impetus Insights... a place where we discuss ideas, articles and interesting reading about education and employment policy - and what we think it means for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. We'll be sharing this every month alongside news and updates about our own policy work. We’d love to hear what you think of this edition, and what you’d like to see in future newsletters.

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At Impetus, we’re all about building things that last, and this month, I have been thinking a lot about longevity. At one extreme, the last Chancellor was in office for 38 days. At the other, it’s the 100th birthday of the BBC – an institution that has seen technologies and governments come and go.

On a scale of Kwarteng to Auntie, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) could go either way. At Conservative Party Conference, new Minister Jonathan Gullis sounded keen to ensure it works and tutoring gets embedded in the system, but I worry that the NTP he has inherited isn’t quite set up to succeed. We released a report this month looking at some of the important elements that risk being missed in the current setup. You can read more about it in TES.

One area we’ve flagged is better data about whether the programme is working. The picture is complicated, though the recent release of the evaluation of year one, which we helped EEF deliver, is illuminating. Unsurprisingly given the cancellation of exams and the January 2021 school restrictions, there was no headline “improved attainment”. But higher amounts of tutoring were associated with better outcomes, which is an encouraging sign that this is a case of “no evidence” rather than “no impact”.

As always, the reality is pretty boring: it’s not enough to simply announce a National Tutoring Programme, it has to be implemented well if it’s to have a positive impact. Let’s hope the NTP is closer to the BBC than the recent fiscal event on that score.

Enjoy reading,

In this issue

  • Our thoughts on the last month’s news and announcements, from our HE third sector forum to positive news from Labour party conference.
  • Some things we enjoyed reading (and watching!) on education, employment, and towns.
  • Some things to look forward to over the next month (some where you’ll learn things, and some where you’ll meet some people).
  • If you get to the end, there is an opportunity for anyone with an idea that will transform education!

News and views

Our focus here, as at Impetus, is on the outcomes that we know work to improve the life chances of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – educational attainment, access to higher education and sustainable employment.

This month we held our first third sector forum on “what next for fair access and participation?” We were very grateful that John Blake, the Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students came along to hear from providers about the third sector’s role in this vital mission. You can read more about why we’re doing this in our blog.

Our senior policy advisor Phoebe wrote for CityAM about how getting young people into work should be a central part of the government’s economic and political strategy. I hadn’t realised that more than half of young people who are NEET say they are able to and want to work, and that 84 percent have career aspirations over the next three to five years. A reason for optimism? This month’s data continues to show that inactivity remains a bigger issue than unemployment.

Lots of promising ideas coming out of Labour party conference this year. Breakfast clubs in every primary school was particularly welcome (it’s something we called for in our 2019 manifesto – a long time ago now!). We funded Magic Breakfast for several years to help scale up their proven intervention, and hopefully Labour will seek to implement this model. Also interesting to see apprenticeship levy reform on the agenda. We’re worried about young people who aren’t yet “work ready”, so hopefully a Labour government would enable this funding to be spent on pre-apprenticeship work.

Over the summer I went to a really interesting Cambridge Assessment Network roundtable on equity in education, alongside our charity partner West London Zone and several others. It got me thinking a lot about things that are valuable yet hard to put a value on. Loic Menzies’ write up about the importance of relationships will give you a flavour. Hopefully by next month I will have been able to turn my reflections (currently 2000 words worth!) into something readable…

Some interesting data on phonics and key stage 1 attainment, which again highlight the disadvantage gap. On phonics, attainment of the expected standard fell from 71% to 62% for disadvantaged pupils and from 84% to 80% for other pupils. This gives a gap of 17 percentage points, up from 14 percentage points in 2019. At key stage 1, reading, attainment fell from 62% to 51% for disadvantaged pupils and from 78% to 72% for other pupils (gap up 3 percentage points); in writing attainment fell from 55% to 41% for disadvantaged pupils and from 73% to 63% for other pupils (gap up 4 percentage points); and in maths, attainment fell from 62% to 52% for disadvantaged pupils and from 79% to 73% for other pupils (gap up 4 percentage points).

Top reads

Here’s our roundup of some of the most useful and interesting reads in the world of education...

A “recommended watch” rather than a “recommended read”, but in case you missed it: when Branwen Jeffreys asked for our input on BBC Panorama’s “Why kids miss school”, we knew exactly who to connect her to. Our charity partner Football Beyond Borders do excellent work on this – it’s why we back them – and it was lovely to see them in the final edit. We've recently announced three new charities in the social and emotional skills space so look out for more from us on this in the future.

Sarah O’Connor was right to highlight in the FT that one of the great untapped areas of the labour market isn’t the unemployed, it’s the economically inactive. This is the group of young people we’re most worried about, as they can’t currently access support in the way unemployed people can.

The good people at Education Datalab have looked at the link between absence and the KS2 attainment gap. As a data nerd I am always interested in the link between attendance (which is really well measured in real time) and meaningful outcomes.

SMF’s “Let’s talk about Towns: Building a better understanding of town vitality” is a slightly tangential option but I was intrigued to see in the summary they sent me that their “people and skills metric is the best predictor of economic vitality”. We care about education and employment outcomes, but part of the reason we care is they really matter!

I’m going to recommend probably every paper EDSK ever write, purely because they do proper first principles, blue sky thinking - enabling the rest of us to focus on technocratic tweaks. On a serious note, their work always makes me think deeply about the purpose of the systems we’re operating in. Here’s their report on employer investment in skills and the apprenticeship levy.

EdTech is always trendy, but whenever I go to things like the BETT conference I am always left feeling slightly underwhelmed. So government research on Implementation of Education Technology in Schools and Colleges is interesting. “Schools and colleges recognised that it was more challenging to quantitatively measure the impact of technology implementation on learner and staff outcomes in a robust way, although they were attempting to do so in some cases.” If anyone has any thoughts about how to nail that, do get in touch…

Look ahead

This IFS event on 27 October about building a more equal education system looks interesting.

On 2 November Phoebe will present to the ERSA Youth Hubs forum about our Youth Hub blueprint. Do drop her a line if you want to get nerdy about Youth Hubs.

On 9 November our friends (and fellow Youth Employment Group co-chairs) Youth Employment UK are hosting a Good Youth Employment Symposium in Birmingham. Not enough people in the sector hold symposiums (symposia)?

On the evening of 16 November Skills Builder are launching their impact report with a Parliamentary reception. If you’re interested in the essential skills young people need to succeed, get in touch with Erica, even if there aren’t spaces left for the launch she’s a good person to speak to!

On 22 November we’re supporting CfEY’s National Tutoring Summit alongside our charity partners, Action Tutoring and The Tutor Trust.

And finally...

The Fair Education Innovation Award – Open for Applications!  

Apply: Do you have an idea that will transform education, even the playing field and support children to succeed? Do you want funding and support to help you turn your idea into reality? The Fair Education Alliance are looking for the next big ideas that address the root causes of inequality in education and want to hear from you! With nearly a decade of experience supporting over 800 innovators to develop and pilot their ideas, the Innovation Award takes a networked approach to nurturing innovation – harnessing the power of our alliance of 240 members to enable the best new ideas to thrive.  

Attend the summit: They are also offering free expert workshops and 1:1 support for early-stage innovators on everything from legal structures, business planning and impact measurement through to branding and selling to schools at their Summit on 24 November. Register here.

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Ben Gadsby is Head of Policy and Research at Impetus.

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