2016 saw some major education news, including a new education secretary in Justine Greening, the controversial re-introduction of grammar schools, banned by Labour since 1998, and the ominous threat of Brexit to international students and our entire higher education system.
What else happened? And what can we expect in 2017?
Last year, we saw the growth of a teaching crisis, with recruitment and retention rates suffering, a government climbdown on forcing schools to change into academies, changes to the charitable status of independent schools, local councils complaining to the government about funding issues, and of course that terrible photo of the Eton boys who met Putin at the Kremlin. And, shock-horror, we discovered that ‘screen addiction’ could be damaging to children’s health, both physical and mental. Who knew!?
Trump said he ‘loves the poorly educated’, Boko Haram released over 200 Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria, Michael Gove insisted we’re sick of listening to experts, and Finland decided to do entirely do away with individual ‘subjects’ and instead take a more holistic, topic-based approach to teaching. Sir Michael Wilshaw will no longer be the head of Ofsted, and Japan and Singapore still top global education rankings, while England moved up slightly by some measurements, despite failing to reach the same level as it did in the last assessment.
Global literacy rates are at 93%, higher than ever before.
But what does 2017 hold?
Despite opposition from members of her own party, as well as louder opposition from the Labour party, Theresa May looks set to open new selective grammar schools, despite their divisive nature and multiple reports suggesting they will only benefit the wealthy, if anyone. Applications from international students to UK universities are already down on recent years, and if Mrs. May sticks to her March date for triggering Article 50, this trend is likely to continue.
There has been discussion for a new deal for junior teachers to address recruitment and retention, although this would involve redistributing money, not actually putting more into the pot. Greening has also unveiled a new ‘funding formula’ for schools in England, where money is redistributed from better performing, better funded areas (namely London) to those in need of additional financial support. However, Google are aiming to bring Virtual Reality teaching methods to UK classrooms, in an exciting development for how technology can help develop the education sector.
A recent report announced that more primary school pupils than ever are being suspended for racism, while another article claims that anti-semitism in leftist groups is deterring Jewish students from applying to certain universities in the UK.
At the same time, schools have been encouraged to adopt an inclusivity policy, aimed at promoting understanding and tolerance towards those in the LGBTQ community, while teachers have been told to adopt the preferred pronouns for trans students. The free speech vs safe space debate has dominated university campuses, and shows no signs of letting up, with the NUS at odds with several student unions. More students than ever are coming to terms with mental health issues, which is positive in a sense, although health professionals suggest the NHS is not equipped to deal with the numbers, and universities need to do more to help students struggling with their mental health.
If nothing else, 2017 in education – as in every other field – promises to be an interesting ride.
Happy New Year, folks!
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about creative writing and everything that’s trending in education.