(UK) "Current school system failing to deliver for some of most vulnerable pupils"

Aug 9, 2022, Challenges in education facing the new Prime Minister

What position will an incoming prime minister inherit?

The education system is struggling to recover from Covid and the significant impact on children’s learning resulting from school closures and pupil/teacher absences. Recent results from National Curriculum Tests at the end of primary school show that only 59% reached the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2021/2022, compared to 65% in 2018/19.

Progress has been particularly slow for young children who are learning to read and those from disadvantaged backgrounds – the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has widened.

Debate has focused on whether the government is doing enough to support children’s learning recovery, as well as their mental health.

There is also a looming teacher supply crisis and uncertainty over whether the government’s recent 5% pay increase for experienced teachers in 22/23 will be sufficient to retain them in the profession. There was a temporary increase in applications to teacher training during the pandemic (as other career options were more limited) but numbers applying this year are forecast to be significantly below target. High teacher vacancy rates put pressure on teachers and leaders and threaten the quality of education.

Underpinning both of these issues is the question of school funding. The schools’ budget is increasing from £49.8 billion to £53.8 billion between 2021/22 and 2022/23, but per pupil school funding will still be lower in real terms than it was in 2009/2010. …

Following a Schools White Paper in March, legislation is now making its way through Parliament. The policy measures are designed to achieve some ambitious objectives – to increase the percentage of children achieving expected standards at primary school to 90% and the average grade at GCSE to 5, by 2030. But there are questions over whether there is enough funding available to achieve these objectives and much debate over the appropriate structure of the school system. …

The recent Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision Green Paper highlighted how the current school system is failing to deliver for some of the most vulnerable pupils. The government will need to tackle long-standing challenges to ensure these pupils have access to appropriate support and opportunities. …