Government responsibility for educational matters is divided between the Department for Education (formerly the Department for Children, Schools and Families) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) . The Department for Education coordinates educational policy and is responsible for schools and other matters affecting children and families, including childcare and child protection. BIS is responsible for increasing the level of skills in the workforce, from basic literacy and numeracy to advanced level skills. It also funds and monitors the performance of further education (FE) and higher education (HE).
The education and public expenditure policies of the coalition government are likely to have an impact on employment within this sector. Non-school roles in education, for example, are being affected by a move to diminish the role of local authorities (LAs) in favour of greater autonomy for schools and to decrease the number of quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations) in the sector.
The coalition government is expanding the Academies Programme , increasing the number of schools with academy status. Academies have greater autonomy and freedom from LA control, including more discretion on budgets and employment of staff. It has also introduced Free Schools , which are non-profit making, independent, state-funded schools, newly established by partnerships which may include charities, businesses, universities, teachers and parents.
School standards remain a concern in education, with assessment and league tables occupying much attention. After many years with the focus on literacy and numeracy, there is now increasing attention on the numbers of students achieving the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), awarded for gaining GCSEs at grade C or above in English, maths, two sciences, a language and a humanities subject. This has led to an increase in pupils taking these core academic subjects, rather than more vocational subjects, which may have implications for teacher numbers in these areas.
The government has proposed reforms to teacher training, with a greater emphasis on schools-based routes than on university teacher training, and with higher entry requirements. At the same time there are proposals to fast-track ex-armed forces personnel into teaching and to exempt teachers in Free Schools from the requirement to have qualified teacher status (QTS). These changes, if implemented, will have implications for students and graduates considering becoming teachers.
The most significant issue in HE is the change to funding, with the introduction of student fees of up to £9,000 per annum from 2012. Further planned legislation will promote greater competition between universities, enabling new private institutions to receive government financial support, allowing degrees to be taught by one body and awarded by another and inviting universities to compete for extra student places. It is currently uncertain how this will affect student numbers and, consequently, the financial position of HE institutions and the employment prospects for their workforce.
Up until 2017, the numbers in primary education are expected to rise to their highest level since the late 1970s. Numbers in secondary schools have been declining since 2004 and are projected to continue to do so until 2016; from this date the current primary bulge begins to move up into the secondary phase. The government's commitment to raising the age of participation in education and training to 18 by 2015 will further boost numbers in secondary and tertiary education. These changes may in turn affect the numbers employed in the education sector, although several other factors also come into play.
The effects of economic changes are being felt in education at the present time but are much harder to predict in years to come. Current restrictions in public expenditure are likely to continue for some years, but governments are always keen to be seen to protect expenditure on education and services for children. School budgets have been largely protected, but many projects and services run by local authorities or charities have seen their budgets reduced. Overall, although the nature of employment may change, with more involvement of private and voluntary sector organisations, numbers employed in the sector may be more stable than in some other areas of public service.
This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.