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Education insights: New Turing Scheme announced, concerns over exam rebates raised and university applicants predicted to rise

As we head into August, we explore responses to exam boards rebate offers as schools begin to recover from the issues caused by the pandemic. We also look at the government’s new schemes, which include more support for apprenticeships and a new study abroad scheme.

£7 million fund launched to support new flexible approach to apprenticeships   

Sectors including the creative, agriculture and construction industries can now bid for a share of a £7 million fund to support the creation of new flexible apprenticeships. The fund will be available across England between 2021-22 and 2022-23 and enable apprenticeship agencies to apply for funds ranging from £100,000–£1 million. Although the fund can be applied for by any apprenticeship agency, for applicants to be successful they must provide details of how they will provide a ‘high-quality apprenticeship’ experience to secure funding. It’s encouraging to see more funding being introduced to support apprenticeships, as we know through our work with the Gatsby Foundation how important they are in providing young people with valuable skills to use in a range of sectors. 

Lack of government Covid plan for English schools ‘unforgivable’, says report  

According to reports from the Institute for Government, the government has “learnt no lessons from the first COVID-19 lockdown”, leading to a case of "pause, rewind, repeat" when it came to school closures and exams. The report states that the government refused to draw up contingency plans to protect schools and exams before a second lockdown and ultimately this is seen as an “unforgivable” error that left teachers and parents in England to deal with “chaos”. A department for education spokesperson has responded to say, the government did “act swiftly at every turn to minimise the impact on children's education and help keep pupils in face-to-face education as much as possible”.   

40,000 students to study across the globe as part of new Turing Scheme    

The government has announced that 40,000 students and pupils are set to study and work abroad under new student exchange programme called Turing Scheme which will span 150 countries. Over 120 universities, as well as schools and further education colleges across the UK, will be awarded grants from the £110m Turing Scheme – which will see 48% of places go to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, as it aims to improve social mobility across the UK. It’s great to see young people being encouraged to explore the opportunity or working and studying abroad, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

GCSEs 2021: Heads call for DfE to top up exam rebates   

Headteachers have warned that the current exam rebate system is in a “muddle” and are calling on the government to provide more support. They want to ensure that all schools receive at least a 50 per cent rebate on their exam fees this year, following another period of cancelled exams. Major exam board Pearson Edexcel have offered to pay back 33% of its fees, with AQA only offering a 26% fee rebate. The Association of School and College Leaders has called for a formal review from Ofqual into exam fees this summer and states that the English government needs to “step up to the plate and follow the examples set by its Welsh counterpart”. We hope to see schools receive an increase in rebate on their exam fees in response to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Spike in demand for university places expected by 2025

The number of university applicants is expected to rise from around 700,000 a year to more than a million in the next four years. Competition for university places is already growing, with statistics showing a 4% rise in applicants this year compared to 2020. Clare Marchant, chief executive of UCAS, said there’s been “more attraction to courses which have an obvious career path”, such as law, nursing, computing, and teaching. She also highlighted the importance of ‘giving students all of the options in a very transparent way” when they are making decisions about their education. It will be interesting to see if the number of university applicants does continue to rise as predicted, especially as we recover from the disruption caused to universities due to the pandemic and see a push towards other routes into further education.

About the author

Lizzie Ferris

Lizzie has a first-class BA Honours in English Language from Sheffield Hallam University. She has spent over 6 years volunteering and working with young people and is passionate about making a positive impact in young people’s lives.

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