This week

The Office for Students is set to crack down on low value university degrees, according to The Telegraph. This is something we called for in our report A Question of Degree.

Will Tanner’s piece for The House was mentioned in The Guardian, in a piece arguing that the cost of living crisis has been a decade in the making. 

Senior Researcher Francesca Fraser wrote for Times Red Box on why we should not deprive children of art and sports lessons, and the value of taking children away from their desks for periods during the school day.

Director Will Tanner was quoted in The Independent in relation to rumoured staffing changes in Downing Street.

Happening today
Screenshot 9 - Onward Newsletter, 18/01/22

Manufacturing is a key component of the UK economy and harnessing the full potential of the sector will be essential as we undergo periods of advancement and innovation. 

The event will consider how we can use technology and digital transformation to rethink the capabilities of UK manufacturing. It is kindly supported by Vodafone.

You can sign up for the event here.

Onward is hiring!

We are growing our team here at Onward, and are looking for exceptional candidates to fill the following positions. Please do share with anyone who might be interested.

Onward Note

When I was at school, my favourite subject was maths, but I recognise I was in the minority. Many children endure maths, English and science in anticipation of more creative lessons like music, drama and sport.

So when Ian Bauckham, the chairman of Ofqual, says that schools should suspend music lessons so teachers can focus on the core curriculum, he looks to deprive many children of the very reason they enjoy school. Not only that, but he is undermining his own intentions, because evidence shows that enrichment contributes to wider learning and academic progress.

Francesca-Fraser-Onward

The point Bauckham misses is there is value in taking children away from their desks for a short period of the school day.

The Education Endowment Foundation estimates that participating in arts, such as dance, drama or music, can lead to up to three months of academic progress. While this benefit is visible at primary and secondary level, they note that arts-based approaches can be particularly effective in helping to re-engage older pupils in their learning.

The Social Mobility Commission agrees. In a study, they argue that participating in extracurricular activities — particularly music and sport — can be important factors in encouraging pupils to stay on in education after compulsory schooling. And the benefits do not stop at the school gates, they also find that outside the classroom is often where pupils learn the most soft skills, helping to boost career aspirations and employability.

We know that it is the least affluent pupils who ordinarily miss out on these benefits; poorer children are regularly priced out of the chance to play an instrument, learn ballet or compete in Sunday league football.

Research by the Musicians Union finds that families with a combined household income of less than £28,000 are half as likely to have a child learning a musical instrument as families with an income of more than £48,000. Meanwhile children from poorer families are less likely to be physically active than children from the most affluent families.

Extracurricular teaching, such as music, drama and sport is not a “nice to have”. It is vital. Removing it from the school day would diminish the already limited opportunity that the poorest pupils have to learn new skills and make new friends, with much less impact on more affluent pupils who can afford to participate outside of school.

Bauckham’s comments were made in response to the enormous strain schools are under because of staffing shortages as a result of the Omicron variant. It is difficult not to empathise with the many headteachers up and down the country who are facing tough decisions, doing everything in their power to keep children in lessons.

But what his comments suggest, intentionally or otherwise, is that lessons such as music somehow take away from core teaching, rather than positively reinforce it.

It is true that schools do not always have the resources to provide the breadth of extracurricular activities that children deserve, but there are ways around this. One option which Onward has suggested is ministers could stipulate a small portion of the pupil premium should be ring fenced for pupil enrichment, given the important role it plays in social mobility.

Another more radical option is looking (once again) at the length of the school day and the wasted potential of sending children home often as early as 2.45pm. Many multi-academy trusts, who have greater control over the length of their school day, have already adopted an approach of longer days precisely to offer wider opportunities for their students. It can be done and should be considered.

Pupils should be given the chance to make up their own minds about where their passions lie. Not just because it will make them happier students but because in doing so it can put them on a much stronger stead for their own futures, and we will all be richer for it.

Francesca Fraser, Senior Researcher at Onward

This article first appeared in Times Red Box on 14/01/22. You can read it here.

Policy Bites

More than 500 extra Community Payback staff are now being recruited to ensure that offenders are serving an extra 300 million hours of payback to their community every year. The £93 million move will see an extra focus on outdoor projects. Link

A landmark agreement that sets out how the UK and devolved governments will work together has been published. The Intergovernmental Relations Review sets out new structures based upon the existing values of mutual respect, maintaining trust and positive working. Link

Following Julian Glover’s independent Landscapes Review, proposals to boost nature recovery and safeguard England’s national parks for future generations have been set out by Environment Secretary George Eustice. Link

Quick Links
fair funding report onward featured image residential - Onward Newsletter, 18/01/22
Nicholas Boys Smith: Why the journey to more homes runs through South Tottenham | Conservative Home
A small community has shown how to intensify existing streets in a way that is sustainable, attractive and popular.
fair funding report onward featured image residential - Onward Newsletter, 18/01/22
Nicholas Boys Smith: Why the journey to more homes runs through South Tottenham | Conservative Home
A small community has shown how to intensify existing streets in a way that is sustainable, attractive and popular.
00009595 - Onward Newsletter, 18/01/22
What makes a good climate “nudge”?
Climate change is one of the public’s biggest concerns but NS polling shows that achieving behavioural change is no easy task.
00009595 - Onward Newsletter, 18/01/22
What makes a good climate “nudge”?
Climate change is one of the public’s biggest concerns but NS polling shows that achieving behavioural change is no easy task.
dual masthead placeholder 16x9 6a9822c61a - Onward Newsletter, 18/01/22
The Times & The Sunday Times
News and opinion from The Times & The Sunday Times
dual masthead placeholder 16x9 6a9822c61a - Onward Newsletter, 18/01/22
The Times & The Sunday Times
News and opinion from The Times & The Sunday Times