Took this one down from the shelf for the first time in a while this afternoon…..

I often start presentations I’m giving to clients, or conferences, or board sessions, by saying that any government needs to do two things: achieve things; and stay popular. Normally, I pivot onto the second one, where I make the (in my mind uncontroversial, but often not to my audiences) point that popularity and politics go hand in hand, and if you want a politician to do something or not do something, having a sense of public opinion (or important groups’ opinions) on an issue is pretty important.

But the news Michael Barber is back in Whitehall, and setting up a…


“Yeah, I think that’s really good. Especially if it’s free because it costs quite a lot of money [ to do it privately]. But yeah, I think when they go back and they do get assessed and if they did need the extra support, I think that’s brilliant”

“I’d bite their hand off.”

“I’d sit next to her in front of the computer for this, whenever it was. Whatever it takes.”

It’s rare, when doing focus groups, to come across something this powerfully endorsed. But that’s what we heard across a number of groups which Public First ran, last week


One of the interesting things about education in London is quite how porous the flows of children are. Even at primary stage, 1 in 12 pupils in London not only doesn’t attend their closest school, but doesn’t even go to primary school in that borough.

This makes intuitive sense. A lot of London boroughs are very small and densely populated. And transport is very easy between boroughs (and indeed, free for young people). …


Politicians want to do two things when they make statements, or set policy. They want to do things which will improve outcomes. But they also want to say and do things which are popular, electorally. (This is often seen as distasteful, but it shouldn’t be — saying and doing popular things is how you get elected and stay elected, and without that you haven’t got much chance of doing stuff that will improve outcomes).

Both of those are difficult! Especially in Opposition, where the resources available to you to think and make up policy is much harder than in government.


One of the things I have been thinking about for a few years is how policy makers ameliorate some of the structural and policy issues around academisation. Indeed in 2016, having proposed full academisation while at Policy Exchange, I wrote about a way in which the “schools no one wants” problem could be addressed:

Government could require the RSCs to be a provider of last resort, via its own arms length trust, probably with a duty to make the school viable for re-brokering into another chain over time. Although I dislike the analogy, given that the schools in this instance…


There’s a nascent campaign floating around the various Labour left circles at the moment around Phasing Out Public Schools (POPS). Indeed I covered the launch in a sketch piece the other week, which some people seem to have taken offence at and claimed I was under some duty to write a factual news report about it. The group aims to put pressure on Labour to go further than their current proposals to put VAT on fees. …


[note: I originally wrote this in early Jan but parked it in my drafts folder meaning to come back to it; I’ve finally been prompted to do so by Angela Rayner’s speech yesterday]

Just before Christmas, a technical but very important announcement was made by the Office of National Statistics related to the treatment of student loans in the national accounts. If, unaccountably, you didn’t interrupt mince pies and merriment to read it, the very short version is that student loans are currently treated by the government as if they will all be repaid over time. Because of the 30…


The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of its teachers. So runs the well worn aphorism. But despite its ubiquity, it is still true (or mostly true: I think it more accurate to say cannot exceed the quality of its teaching)

But yet, it’s much easier for policymakers to try and drive improvements through structural changes, where the levers are more under their control. If I had a pound for every time someone made the point that Finland draw their teachers from the top 10% of graduates, I’d have enough money to make teaching competitive in…


This week, the DfE announced its new Curriculum Fund, whereby schools who teach a “knowledge rich” curriculum will be eligible to bid for up to £150k to further develop these proposals and create shareable materials. …


The Social Mobility Action Plan: Justine Greening takes her Place

First things first. The Social Mobility Action Plan is indeed a limited document. It isn’t a full White Paper of the kind that Secretaries of State normally produce (or even a Green Paper). And as such it is much narrower in its scope than Education Excellence Everywhere (NiMo’s ‘vision doc’) and certainly compared to Gove’s The Importance of Teaching. But in its defence, it doesn’t claim to be the type of all encompassing document that departments normally put out. Nor does it try to cover anywhere near the full breath…

Jonathan Simons

Js

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