There are a number of major trends affecting the education sector this year, so staff should be taking the time to prepare for any changes 2018 may bring.
There are few sectors in which standards and methods change and evolve as frequently as in education, and 2018 looks set to be no exception to this.
The opening months of the year have offered a clear indication that teachers and educators can expect to see a number of noteworthy changes to the way they work over the course of the year, as major Department for Education initiatives gather momentum and regulatory shifts result in new responsibilities and adjustments to the way the sector operates.
As such, it's worth those working in education take time to consider some of the most important trends that will be reshaping their industry in the coming months and decide whether their professional learning and development approach might need to be updated accordingly.
Over the last few years, the government has been taking steps to broaden and diversify the range of options available to students in terms of what kind of education they will receive and these efforts are set to gather further momentum in 2018.
One of the most important priorities is the ongoing push to enhance the standard of technical education in British schools, with the aim of offering a viable alternative to academic learning. As such, a review of Level 4 and 5 technical education will be conducted this year to examine how these qualifications can be made to better address the needs of learners and employers, while also laying the foundation for the introduction of ‘T levels’ in 2020 as an alternative to A levels.
With the government also looking to increase the uptake of coding courses and science, technology, mathematics and engineering subjects among female students this year, staff will need to be ready to play their part in making these changes a success.
Looking after the health and wellbeing of students has always been a priority for educational professionals, but 2018 will be the year in which many staff members see these responsibilities become formalised as part of their job description.
Educators will not only need to play a more hands-on role than ever before in making sure pupils and students are properly safeguarded and kept from harm, but also that their mental health needs are looked after – a vital priority, given the growing awareness of the impact that depression and anxiety can have on young people.
Schools and colleges will also be expected to help tackle the challenges posed by the ongoing national obesity epidemic, meaning staff will need to take the personal needs of their students more seriously than ever before.
Efforts to reform and modernise the way the school system is structured are likely to continue in the year to come, with further steps to allow more schools to become academies and additional free schools opening. As pupil numbers continue to rise, expect the government to adopt an evolving approach to ensuring places remain available to students who need them.
One of the more significant developments resulting from this evolution is the emergence of multi-academy trusts providing ‘all-through’ education, allowing children to receive tutelage from the same provider all the way from nursery school through young adulthood, leaving at the age of 18. This will create a new set of challenges in terms of planning the student journey, potentially requiring staff to assume new competencies and organisational capabilities to ensure a long, successful and nurturing relationship between students and educators.
The government is always looking for new ways to update the regulation of the education sector, meaning staff need to remain on the ball about what will be expected from them to maintain compliance.
In 2018, the sector has already seen the introduction of a new universities regulator, with the Office for Students replacing the Higher Education Funding Council for England as the main regulator for higher education. This new body will be taking action to ensure the interests of employers and students are properly represented, and that universities are held to account over issues such as ethical pay and free speech; professionals in this sector should be prepared to see their relationship to this new body develop over time.
Prime minister Theresa May has also recently announced a major new review of post-18 education, with the stated goal of improving accessibility and offering more choices in terms of high-quality technical, vocational and academic learning. It is hoped that this will lead to a more integrated and responsive approach to higher education, with the review expected to conclude early next year.
One of the biggest developments affecting the education sector this year is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a paradigm shift in data protection standards that is creating a significant impact for organisations of all shapes and sizes across Europe and beyond.
The new law, which affects every organisation holding personal data on an EU citizen, will usher in stringent new consent rules relating to the use and storage of sensitive information, as well as creating new requirements to report data breaches. Failure to adhere to these laws could result in a significant fine – and it's worth noting that the GDPR's impact will be unaffected by Brexit.
Since schools are habitually trusted with highly important data on vulnerable young people, it will be absolutely vital for those in charge to make sure they have taken the necessary steps to achieve GDPR compliance ahead of the May 25th implementation deadline. In a data-driven modern world, this is an issue that schools simply cannot afford to mishandle.