Impetus Insights - June 2023

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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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The theme of this month’s edition of Impetus Insights is winning and awards.

Huge congratulations to Tim Morfin, CEO at our charity partner Transforming Lives for Good. In the King’s birthday honours, Tim was awarded an OBE “for services to Disadvantaged Children and Young People”. Meanwhile Sister System won the Children and Youth category at the Charity Awards.

Turning from our charity partners to Impetus, our 2022 fundraising film won three Telly Awards - Gold in Cause Marketing; Gold in Social Impact; Silver in Directing. I know readers will be familiar with what Impetus does and why it matters, but our award winning three minute film is still worth a watch and a share. A shout out to Robin in our comms team who makes the films happen.

Of course, this winning theme was picked due to West Ham’s success in the Europa Conference League. There really isn’t anything relevant about that, but I really am very happy about it, and I wanted to share.

Enjoy reading,


In this issue

  • Our thoughts on the last month’s news and announcements, from tutoring to the Labour Party, to what we’re working on.
  • Some things we enjoyed reading on ill health and the labour market, behaviour in schools, and desirable personality traits.
  • Some things to look forward to over the next month – including a Parliamentary tutoring event, various report launches, and summer reception season!
  • If you get to the end, there’s a set of useful frameworks for you.

    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.

    • We’ve announced some forthcoming work with Public First, School-Home Support, and our charity partner, Khulisa, exploring what’s driving the much higher absence figures than pre pandemic. This is perhaps a good opportunity to outline some of the other things coming soon: you’re invited to our tutoring event in Parliament with Gillian Keegan in July and our party conference drink receptions (details to follow). By the end of the year we’re also hoping to have the first of two reports with the Education Policy Institute on exclusions, and the first report in the next phase of our Youth Jobs Gap research. Do let me know if you want the inside track on any of these things before they are released!
    • Keir Starmer is in the process of announcing the missions his government would seek to address. We look forward to the fifth and final mission on “opportunity” in particular. Based on what we’ve heard so far, Steve and Sophie (aka the Impetus Bristol contingent) wrote for LabourList about how the third sector will be a vital partner to any mission-led Starmer government. “Mission-led policy making through harnessing the strengths of a partnership between public and the third sectors has huge potential to deliver real change to people’s lives. It could be the solution to long term policy failure that has been staring us in the face.”
    • In tutoring news, the DfE has increased the subsidy schools can apply for next year as part of the National Tutoring Programme, from 25% to 50%, something our charity partners have called for. There isn’t any new money for this, so there’s two ways of looking at it: schools with a fixed budget to contribute to tutoring find that money goes further; schools wanting to use the maximum tutoring subsidy they are allowed will find that money goes less far. On the basis there are probably more schools in the first category than the second, I’d say this is good news.
    • Labour’s been talking about tuition fees, with Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson saying graduates will pay less under a Labour government. The Times thinks this is likely to be via a stepped repayment system, where higher earning graduates (ie, people later in their careers) pay more. The modelling linked to above also includes more money for students in the form of maintenance grants (on top of loans), which regular readers will know is near the top of the Impetus wish list in this area.
    • Free school meal eligibility continues to increase: 23.8% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, up from 15.4% in 2019. What no one ever seems to report is, this increase doesn’t represent quite such a massive increase in need – basically, as part of the rollout of Universal Credit, no one stops being eligible for free school meals any more. Impetus is an evidence and data led organisation, and this is a nice example of why a proper understanding of data is important, rather than simply following the most straightforward narrative from data taken out of context.
    • During Mental Health Awareness Week, our former charity partner Place2Be hosted a cross-sector roundtable, bringing together leading figures from the education, health, justice, and voluntary sectors, to discuss the impact of school exclusions. The group, including our investment director Danny, discussed the connection between poor mental health and exclusion. Speakers focussed on identifying practical solutions to reducing exclusions and suspensions and ways to better support children and young people in schools. Exclusions is such an emotive debate, and it was great to be part of something that very explicitly focussed on what really matters: ensuring every young person gets the support they need to succeed.

      Top reads

      Here’s our roundup of some of the most useful and thought-provoking reads across a range of interesting areas...

      • The Public Accounts Committee has had a detailed look at education recovery. An important spotlight on the fact the attainment gap between young people from better off backgrounds and their peers has grown. They recommended a better understanding of absence issues – our Public First project is well timed! – and an openness to increasing tutoring subsidy if tutoring levels drop in the coming years.
      • The Resolution Foundation published a paper looking at the increase in young people who are NEET because of ill health. The analysis finds a higher concentration of young people who are neither earning nor learning due to poor health in non-urban areas – partly driven by a sorting effect in who moves to cities. The paper also finds an association between low qualification levels and chance of being workless due to health: 79% of 18-24 year olds who are NEET due to poor health only have GCSE or below qualifications. With 185,000 young people out of work for health reasons, papers like this that help us better understand the shape and distribution of the issue provide important detail for policymakers. Our senior policy advisor Phoebe was one of many nerdy types who fed in.
      • And in a similar vein, you may have seen national media headlines about the link between nursing vs bottle feeding babies and GCSE outcomes. Stuart Ritchie has a great twitter thread explaining why those headlines are a bit misleading. And here’s a relatively accessible blog picking apart a recent piece of academic work. Impetus places a high value on research, but it’s nice to be reminded every now and again that research is often contested and can be read critically. While we might default to accepting what "the research says" there is almost always a layer of difference beneath this, and for those colleagues who need to truly understand things, it's this layer that is often most fruitful.
      • HEPI surveyed admissions professionals about personal statements. Having spent approximately 417 hours drafting my personal statement, I was pained to see the average time spent on each statement is two minutes. 39% are read for one minute or less. And then I thought about how long I spend on the average cover letter… HEPI are pretty down about UCAS’ proposed reforms to statements (basically, it doesn’t align with what admissions staff use them for) and recommend two short questions focussing on motivation and academic potential and other activities and experiences.
      • Interesting DfE research on behaviour in schools. Quite apart from findings about behaviour (only 41% of pupils said that they had felt safe at school ‘every day’ in the past week – gulp), I noted the disparity between 92% of school leaders reporting that their school had been calm and orderly ‘every day’ or ‘most days’ in the past week compared to 70% of teachers… and 55% of pupils. Young people, of course, are very much the experts on this topic.
      • A new paper measures firms' demand for workers' personality traits expressed in job ads and finds that firms primarily demand workers who are extroverted, conscientious, and open-to-experience. Our Youth Jobs Gap research found young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to be NEET as their better off peers, and that half of this is due to qualifications – what’s the other half? Well, based on this, I would hypothesise that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be extroverted than their similarly qualified but better off peers, and that’s probably a factor.

        Look ahead

        30 June is a very special day… Employability Day!

        w/c 3 July is Youth Employment Week all week (obviously)

        4 July Ayesha will be at the EPI Reception in the evening

        5 July it’s the Parliamentary launch of the Youth Futures Foundation’s Youth Employment Toolkit AND the APPG Youth Employment report launch on place based approaches AND, in the evening CfEY’s celebration of resilience and recovery (we’re sending Ayesha to that too)

        6 July we get LEO statistics on graduate outcomes

        6/7 July is the Wellington Festival of Education

        12 July is our tutoring celebration in Parliament

        13 July is the official statistics on widening participation and in the evening the NPC summer reception

        20 July EPI launch their report on Education Priorities in the Next General Election

        And finally...

        The second-best compliment I ever got was when someone described me as “a good conceptual thinker”. (The best was “you have a very morish personality”). So I like the Centre for Public Impact’s collection of useful frameworks and models for thinking about large scale social change in partnership with governments. Worth book marking and having a flick through if you get a quiet Friday this summer.

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        Ben Gadsby is Head of Policy and Research at Impetus.

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