Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by Pearson (E 06)

Pearson is the world’s leading education company. In the UK, we work with schools, colleges, universities and employers to devise educational resources, qualifications and technologies which engage learners and help them to acquire the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to progress in their lives. Along with all awarding bodies, we develop and administer general, academic and vocational qualifications.

Education is one of the most contested areas of Government policy, and rightly so. Access to a high quality education is critical to the life chances of individuals and to the success of the UK as a thriving society and economy.

The tone and nature of the debate surrounding the Education Bill reflects that this legislation has the potential once again to bring dramatic changes to everyone’s experience of what it means to be educated in the UK – from the point of view of the child, the parent, the teacher and the employer. It is critical we get it right.

Pearson hope that all MPs will be turning their heads to look at this Bill in detail, and to ensure that what passes will foster in the UK a strong, resilient and collaborative education system of which we can all be proud, and from which everyone can benefit.

We think that this means an education system which keeps the demands of the future front of mind, which recognises and builds on existing good practice, and which provides stability without threatening innovation.

Pearson sees three key areas of policy which require further attention during the Committee stages of the Bill. We have included at the end of this briefing specific parts of the Bill in which these issues could be further explored:

· Securing the right range of educational opportunities for everyone

Learning in schools

The Bill and government policies such as the English Baccalaureate set out clearly the Government’s expectations on the academic knowledge they expect children to gain in schools. Yet we know that higher education and employers are asking for skills and competencies as well as the facts.

Although the Government has set out some plans for vocational and technical education through UTCs and has demonstrated a welcome commitment to apprenticeships, the question of how the mix of skills relevant to helping students make progress in their education and in their lives is to be developed in all children in the future is still unanswered. This question is especially critical given the pace of change in the demands of our own economy and globally; young people in the UK need to be adaptable, work ready and hungry to learn – whether they’re pursuing academic or vocational routes. Pearson has worked with partners including Russell Group universities, the National Enterprise Academy , Sector Skills Councils and Jamie Oliver to develop qualifications which deliver these qualities.

Feedback that we have received from head teachers, parents and pupils indicates that many in the school system remain unconvinced that the English Baccalaureate and new school accountability mechanisms will help children and school leavers to gain the skills they need to succeed in the 21 st century workplace. We’re hearing from teachers that they are concerned that the incentives produced by the new measure in league tables might actually have a negative impact on progression – due to declining relevance and reduced choice in what is on offer to students, and an increased focus on the most able. The recent Education Select Committee Report also reported the benefits of a mixed curriculum for behaviour, discipline and engagement in education.

- Pearson passionately believes in access to a range of vocational and academic options for every child, in every school, held in equal esteem and value.

- To prevent a reduction of opportunities for vocational, applied and practical learning, we believe the Bill should set out Government’s explicit support for this principle .

Learning in the workplace

Apprenticeships are an important dimension of any approach to developing skills in our workforce. The funding of additional apprenticeship places is therefore to be welcomed.

Pearson works with a number of large businesses and training providers across the UK to help them build apprenticeship programmes. The Bill hands powers to the Secretary of State to suspend funding for apprenticeships for two years in response to economic difficulties or other circumstances.

Though we agree that skills development should be driven by economic need and market demand we believe that clarity of the funding stream is vital to encourage business to invest in training their employees, and to support the education and skills sector to invest in developing new apprenticeship programmes. The provisions in the Bill to move to one certificating authority per sector for apprenticeships also need to be considered carefully to ensure they do not slow the pace of issue.

In an economy with fast changing skills needs, retraining opportunities should be readily available. We are therefore concerned about changes to eligibility for fee remission for vocational qualifications at Levels 2 and 3 for learners aged 19-24: this Bill may end up limiting opportunities for the NEET group of learners that we know are being hit very hard by the economic crisis. We are also concerned for the over 25s, who are currently eligible for fee remission but under the terms of the Bill no longer will be, though unemployment and inactivity remains higher for those aged 25-34 than at 35-49. All these proposed changes could discourage employers - particularly SMEs – from investing in skills for fear of having to bear the cost burden of the programme.

- To safeguard investment and innovation, the Bill should give further clarity on the terms and timescale for any decision to suspend funding for apprenticeships.

- It should also be made clear which Level 2 and 3 qualifications for learners aged 19-24 are eligible for funding, and what provision is being made for those aged 25+ who lack adequate qualifications or are looking to retrain.

· Putting technology centre stage

This Bill seeks to establish the framework within which high quality UK education will develop in the coming years. We therefore feel that the omission of technology in learning represents a worrying oversight in the Bill.

The opportunities for learning associated with technology are almost limitless. Technology enables teachers to engage our their students in learning more effectively, inside and outside of the school day, to develop more tailored programmes of learning for each and every pupil which frees up time and supports teachers and parents.

We know too that technology is an important driver of the 21 st century global economy – not only as an industry in itself, but as one of the keys to improving the performance of businesses across industries and public services. Our education system must therefore prepare our future workforce to use and improve technology.

- The Bill is an opportunity to set an expectation for schools to make the best use of technology – both as part of the curriculum they teach, and the services and resources they offer to pupils, parents and teachers.

· Learning from the rest of the world

As education and employment becomes more global, formalising the recognition and comparability of UK qualifications internationally is a welcome principle.

UK education has a strong and long held reputation globally, and correspondingly UK qualifications across academic and vocational options are held in high regard. As other countries increase their investment in education, they frequently look to the UK for guidance , seeing it as a gold standard. The BTEC, for example, is now on offer in 55 countries globally.

It is important to strike the balance between looking beyond our own borders to keep pace with global developments, and recognising the UK ’s own leadership position in this area.

- In fulfilling its new obligations, Ofqual should recognise and build on the work that awarding bodies are already doing to benchmark our qualifications against practice in other parts of the world.

- The UK should be drawing on its reputation for excellence to take the lead on developing a coherent international standard for qualifications.

About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s leading education company; the desire to help people progress in their lives through learning is what defines us. For more than one hundred years we have provided teachers with many of the tools they need – books, learning resources, qualifications and assessment services, and teacher support packages, through names including Edexcel, Longman and Heinemann.

Pearson, along with all awarding bodies, creates and administers GCSEs and vocational qualifications (e.g. BTECs). In the UK, we have a market share in each of about 21.3% (full course and short course GCSE volume) and 63% respectively.

Working in over 65 countries, Pearson’s international education business has built an international reach which enables us to support teachers and help learners to reach their potential. The scale and range which come from operating a publishing, technology and assessment business mean that Pearson is uniquely placed to provide joined-up support to improve outcomes and learning.

We believe learning should be personalised and engaging. It must be worthwhile too, underpinned by a rigorous approach which ensures high standards. These principles are embedded in our development of resources, qualifications and technologies at every educational level, and across our offer in academic and vocational qualifications, work-based learning and professional education.

Pearson is part of Pearson Plc.

February 2011


Potential Impact

Concerns & Questions


This provides new requirements for Ofqual to use international benchmarking when setting standards objectives.

Pearson is concerned that there is little clarity on the detail of international comparisons: What form will the reviews take? Which countries and what research methods will be utilised?

Pearson is already exporting vocational qualifications around the world. Revenue from BTEC qualifications currently exceeds £4m per annum and is growing at 28% this year.


With abolition of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, the Bill raises important questions as to how new qualifications will be developed and how schools’ curriculum will be deployed.

We would like to seek clarity from Ministers on how the criteria for new qualification will be developed in the future. In addition, how will Ministers ensure technology is at the heart of children’s learning.


Careers guidance in schools from the age of 14 which as currently must be on offer through Local Authorities but must be impartial and must, for 16-18 guidance, include information on all options including apprenticeships

Pearson would like assurances from Ministers that advice should include available options available to students in both traditional and modern subjects, on academic and vocational routes.


These clauses deal with Diplomas and remove the duty currently on Local Authorities and schools to offer additional entitlements in the form of new Diplomas.

We would like a commitment from Ministers that, in the absence of diploma entitlement, access to high quality vocational education in schools will continue.


These clauses amend recent legislation to establish three types of Academy: Academy schools, which are in effect existing Academies; 16-19 Academies; and alternative provision Academies.

It will no longer be a requirement that an academy has a specialty subject area and the bill also introduces a presumption that any new school established will be an academy.

Academies have greater freedom to select their curricula. In conjunction with Public Examinations regulations (which came into force in October 2010), Academies will be able to pick whether their students are entered into A-levels, GCSEs, vocational qualifications or even IB.

We would like to hear reassurances from Ministers that academies will continue to have the freedom to broadly manage their own curriculum, which has to date been characterised by a good balance in both vocational and academic subjects.


These make changes to the apprenticeship offer to ensure that provision and funding for 16-18 apprenticeships is prioritised.

Section 83C allows for the Secretary of State to suspend an apprenticeship offer if money’s tight; "where economic difficulties or other circumstances are so severe that it cannot be fulfilled."

Only one body will be permitted to issue apprenticeship certificates for a particular sector (as nominated by the SoS or his appointed certifying authority).

With new powers for the SoS to amend the Apprenticeship offer we would like further clarity on the terms and timescale for any decision to suspend funding for apprenticeships.

We are also concerned that this provision contradicts previous working assumptions that apprenticeships should respond to employers’ requirements. Indeed, Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) are charged with mapping market trends and skills needs in their own sector – will Minister commit to ensuring decisions are made in partnership with SSCs?

A move to one body to issue apprenticeship certificates could lead to a delay in candidate receiving their sector based apprenticeship certificate. Employers already complain about the delay in receiving these, so whilst a move to one issuing body may seem logical from a cost perspective employers would wish to see the process speeded up and not one that increases bureaucracy and delay.

Pearson would like further information on how the single body empowered to issue apprenticeship certificates affects the competitive nature of the market -  on what basis would this be decided? what sort of organisation would they be seeking to do this? Would there be a right of appeal against its decisions?


These deal with the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and restrict the entitlements on fee remission on first full level 2 and 3 vocational qualifications to those aged 19-24.

There is a need for greater clarity on which qualifications are now eligible for fee remission at Level 2 and 3.

And what provision is being made for those aged 25 and over who lack adequate qualifications or are looking to retrain.