Skills Imperative 2035 WP3 1
25 May 2023 Urgent action needed to prevent skills shortages and potential impact on the economy and employment
Essential employment skills required by employers now are set to become even more important in the future, according to a new report. The report says that while many occupations will experience greater demand for specialist knowledge and skills, it is transferable skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving and decision making that will be vital for powering the economy and individual careers in 2035. This might reflect, in part, the fact that transferrable skills such as these, are harder to automate. Demand for these essential employment skills is expected to grow significantly between now and 2035 as they will be in even higher demand across the labour market than they are already. Furthermore, almost 90 per cent of the 2.2 million new jobs that will be created in England between 2020 and 2035 will be professional and associate professional occupations, such as scientists and engineers. These roles will require higher levels of proficiency in these essential employment skills. Given the skills shortages that currently exist across the country, these projections suggest that the situation will get even worse in future without action. It is therefore imperative that central government works with local authorities, employers and educationalists to help the workforce develop these skills in tandem with the knowledge acquired in schools. A limited supply of these skills in the future could hold back economic growth, increase friction in the labour market and put some groups at significant risk of unemployment, resulting in widening inequality. The publication is the latest in a suite of papers under the NFER-led Skills Imperative 2035: Essential skills for tomorrow's workforce, a five-year research programme funded by the Nuffield Foundation. This latest analysis, carried out by Sheffield University in collaboration with NFER, identified the six skills expected to be most demanded by employers in the next 15 years. They are: Collaboration Communication Creative thinking ‘Information literacy’ (skills related to gathering, processing, and using information) Organising, planning and prioritising work Problem-solving and decision making The country currently has over a million job vacancies, with many business groups repeatedly warning that chronic labour shortages in some sectors and occupations threaten England’s ambitions for economic growth. Jude Hillary, the programme’s Principal Investigator and NFER’s Co-Head of UK Policy and Practice, said: “The demand for the top six skills is projected to increase between 2020 and 2035. The implication is clear; the future labour market will need a greater supply of these skills than it has today. “To meet these future demands we need an urgent government-led, cross-sector approach to increase the development and availability of these skills across the workforce. The Government should support more workers to acquire the skills to ‘move up’ the occupational hierarchy and take action to ensure young people have higher average levels of these skills than previous generations.” Dr Emily Tanner, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation said: “This data-driven approach to identifying changes in skills demand makes an important contribution to the field and provides the robust evidence needed to shape skills policy and practice.” The report also projects that: Demand for the more than 150 skills outside of the top six most used skills in 2035 is also changing. Around 70 per cent of these skills are projected to increase in demand over the period 2020 to 2035. These include skills such as ‘Developing and Building Teams,’ ‘Providing Consultation and Advice to Others,’ and ‘Developing Objectives and Strategies’. Thirty per cent of these skills will reduce in demand over the next 12 years. These include physical and sensory skills, which have, historically, primarily been used in the primary and secondary sectors (i.e. agriculture, extractive industries, manufacturing and construction). Demand for these types of skills has been in decline over the last few decades as the economy has increasingly become dominated by services. This trend is set to continue. Changes in the composition of the labour market will also drive increases in the demand for a wide range of specialist skills by 2035. However, while demand for some specialist skills has increased markedly, they still do not appear as highly in the rank order of the most important skills across the labour market in 2035. In the next stage of the research programme, we aim to estimate what the future supply of these essential employment skills will be in 2035 and predict where skills gaps are likely to arise - including identifying which groups are most at risk of lacking the essential employment skills needed. We will consider what actions are needed to support these groups to transition to other opportunities, and move on to investigate how the education system can support the development of the essential employment skills needed in future.
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STRB 23 24 Statement
21 May 2023 NFER statement on STRB proposed pay increase for teachers
Following the news that the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) is proposing a 6.5% increase in teacher pay for the 2023/24 academic year, NFER’s School Workforce Lead, Jack Worth, said: “For recruitment and retention to improve it is critical to have a pay award that ensures teacher pay increases faster than pay in the rest of the labour market. With NFER's latest forecast indicating unprecedentedly low recruitment into teacher training this year, this reported STRB recommendation is a good first step. However it is crucial for the government to ensure that schools have the funds to pay for any increase and also that this pay award be accompanied by a long term plan to continue to improve the competitiveness of teacher pay."
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PIRLS 2021 Northern Ireland
16 May 2023 Pupils in Northern Ireland continue to demonstrate high levels of reading literacy
Almost a quarter of pupils in Northern Ireland who participated in an independent international comparative study demonstrated advanced reading skills. The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2021, which has been published today, shows that 23 per cent of pupils reached the Advanced international benchmark in reading. This was the third highest percentage internationally; below Singapore (35 per cent) and the Republic of Ireland (27 per cent). Only three per cent of pupils in Northern Ireland failed to reach the Low international benchmark. In comparison, the international average was six per cent. The research highlighted variation in performance by pupils’ characteristics and background. Girls continue to outperform boys in Northern Ireland. This was a similar pattern found in almost every nation which participated in PIRLS. The gender gap in Northern Ireland was 24 scale points in 2021. Concerningly, this is higher than in 2016 (18 scale points) and 2011 (16 scale points). An increase in girls’ attainment over time has driven the widening of the gender gap. Additionally, pupils eligible for Free School Meals in Northern Ireland were more likely to have lower reading literacy than their peers from a more advantaged background - highlighting the real need to eradicate the link between socio-economic disadvantage and attainment.   The research also shows that pupils who participated in PIRLS 2021 in Northern Ireland achieved higher results than those in 52 of 56 other PIRLS countries. Northern Ireland’s pupils were significantly outperformed by pupils in just two countries, Singapore and the Republic of Ireland. It should be noted that a delay in data collection in Northern Ireland (from May/June to September/October 2021), due to the Covid-19 pandemic, meant pupils were at the beginning of Year 7, as opposed to the end of Year 6 as for many other countries and, on average, four to five months older in PIRLS 2021 compared to previous cycles. Therefore, it is important to interpret comparisons with caution because this introduces additional factors that may positively or negatively affect overall attainment, such as more contact time in the classroom, involvement in recovery programmes and summer programmes, but also the potential for a loss of learning over summer. The study conducted in Northern Ireland by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and organised worldwide by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) takes place every five years. It provides data about trends in reading literacy over time and assesses the knowledge and skills of pupils aged nine to 10 in just under 60 countries. Rachel Classick, NFER Research Manager and lead author of the report, said: “Northern Ireland pupils are still performing really well in PIRLS, demonstrating high levels of reading attainment despite clear disruptions to pupils’ learning caused by the pandemic. “However, there is still evidence of significant differences between groups. The performance of pupils who are eligible for free school meals compared to those who are not clearly shows the disadvantage gap remains and must be addressed. Although a gender gap is evident in most PIRLS countries, Northern Ireland must look at the increased differences between boys and girls.” The study also found that in Northern Ireland: There was a relatively wide spread of reading attainment. The scores for low and high attainers have remained similar between 2016 and 2021 but there has been an increase since 2011, most noticeably for higher attainers. This has resulted in a wider distribution and is likely to be a driver in Northern Ireland’s significant increase since 2011 in overall score. Pupils appeared more confident in reading than the international average; (47 and 43 per cent of pupils respectively were Very confident readers) but liked reading less. The proportion of pupils who Very much like reading (28 per cent) in Northern Ireland was lower than the international average (42 per cent) and lower than in 2016 (39 per cent). This large decrease between 2016 and 2021 in Northern Ireland mirrors what is seen in other comparator countries such as the Republic of Ireland and Poland. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is also thought to have had an adverse impact on children’s learning in Northern Ireland. The survey shows that 31 per cent of pupils had parents who reported that their child’s learning had been adversely affected A lot; 54 per cent Somewhat adversely affected; and 11 per cent Not at all adversely affected. Teachers appeared to be less satisfied with their job than was seen internationally. Less than half of pupils in Northern Ireland had teachers who were Very satisfied with their job (46 per cent). This was lower than the international average (61 per cent) and lower than in 2016 (62 per cent). There was also an increase over time in perceived limitations on their teaching such as pupils lacking pre-requisite knowledge and skills, and pupil absence. The full national report for PIRLS can be found here.
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Future Of Post 16 Qualifications 1
28 April 2023 NFER statement in response to the Education Committee Report: The future of post-16 qualifications
Following the publication of the Education Select Committee report on the future of post-16 qualifications, NFER Research Director on education to employment and social mobility, Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, said: “We strongly support the report’s emphasis on the need for caution and further evaluation on the effectiveness of T Levels as the primary technical route to further education and employment. Our own research indicates the qualification has issues in terms of accessibility and suitability which present new challenges and barriers for young people, especially those who are disadvantaged. We therefore support the call for a delay in the removal of funding for tried and tested Applied General Qualifications (AGQs) until the evidence confirms T Levels are an effective pathway and a vehicle for social mobility. “We echo calls for the Government to commission a review of the long-term decline in 16–19-year-old apprenticeship starts. Evidence on the impact of this decline is clear – the number of opportunities for young people transitioning from education to employment is being severely hampered. Finally, we welcome the call for a review of 16-19 funding, including offering more targeted support for disadvantaged students. The FE sector has been subject to decades of underfunding and investment is urgently needed to ensure the delivery of post-16 education and training which gives young people the right skills for the future.”
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DFE ITT Targets Statement
27 April 2023 NFER statement on the latest DfE Initial Teacher Training targets
Following the publication of the Department for Education’s (DfE) new Initial Teacher Training (ITT) targets, NFER’s School Workforce Lead, Jack Worth, said: “The DfE’s published targets for this year’s initial teacher training (ITT) recruitment suggest even more new teachers will be required to meet schools’ future need for teachers compared to last year. DfE now expects to need more trainees than last year in subjects that are already struggling to recruit the required numbers, which will further compound the challenge of ensuring an adequate supply. “Our updated forecast for ITT recruitment this year, based on applications so far, shows we are now expecting to recruit less than half of the secondary teachers that schools need. We anticipate that all secondary subjects except history, classics and PE will be below target this year. Without an urgent policy response to make teaching more attractive, schools will face increasingly intense shortages over the next few years, which are likely to impact negatively on the quality of education.”
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