Social, political and economic factors influence education policy

A wide variety of factors will influence educational policy, these include social, political and economic. A social factor influences a considerable number of individuals within society, a political factor relates to government policy and practices, and finally, economic factors include aspects that affect the economy, specifically financial matters.

“Just 17% of those working in Technology in the UK are female” (Women In Tech, 2017), the lack of women is normally associated with social factors, such as lack of girls enjoying Maths and Technology at school, technology related jobs being unsuitable for parenthood (Cech & Blair-Loy, 2019) and reports that women fear rape and sexual harassment within technology related jobs (Keane, 2016). Another factor to consider is that “a study last year shows that India has a higher percentage of women in tech” (Vigo, 2019), this presents poorly for the UK government. As a result, the UK government has begun a series of initiatives with the goal to encourage women to enter technology related fields. The impact of this is the local authority has funds available that provides the opportunity for organisations to bid for the project that will involve the creation of specialist courses in technology available for women.

The UK ranks relatively poorly in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ranking for Maths (27th) and English (21st), this is a significant political factor as it is embarrassing for the UK government and may be an influence on votes in an election campaign. A review was conducted by Professor Alison Wolf (Wolf Report) that discovered that the “current funding system encourages colleges to put students through a lot of qualifications – but not to continue to improve their core skills in English and maths if these are lacking.” (Harrison, 2011) In response the Department for Education introduced compulsory Maths & English classes for those students who did not possess a GCSE in both Maths and English at grade C or above. This was enforced by making it a requirement for teaching establishments to receive funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). If a student does not have, isn’t working towards their Maths and English GCSE or doesn’t attend the required Maths & English classes, the teaching establishment doesn’t receive funding for that student. The result of this change has been the “number of students achieving both GCSEs after age 16 has more than doubled, from 9 per cent (21,721) in 2014 to 21 per cent (46,886) in 2018.” (Fino, 2019) This is in spite of criticism from Ofsted (Ofsted, 2016), timetabling issues caused as a result of the additional Maths and English classes required and that students don’t want to do a specific course as a result of Maths and English being a requirement.

A very clear economic factor was the small number of students attending further education from low income families, as a result in September 1999 the UK Government with labour party in power introduced the now dissolved Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). Students received a weekly allowance of up to £30, paid every 2 weeks based on household income. There were three tiers of assessment, students with a household income under £20,817 were entitled to £30 per week, students with a household income under £25,521 and above £20,817 were entitled to £20 per week and students with a household income of under £30,810 and above £25,521 were entitled to £10. The requirement for students was that they were in education for 12 hours per week, any missed lessons would void that week’s payment. The Education Maintenance Allowance is now closed in England in 20/10/10 but still available in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In England it has been replaced with several bursaries for very low-income families. The result of the Education Maintenance Allowance was that the number of students staying in education increased by 5.9%, the Liberal Democrats party and Conservative party accused the Labour party of bribing young people.

In 2008 following the recession the UK Labour government was concerned with the high levels of young people that were not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), the proportion continued to rise and “peaked in July-September 2011 when 16.9% of 16-24 year olds were NEET (1.25 million people).” (Powell, 2018) This was a significant social factor as “studies have shown that time spent NEET can have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health, and increase the likelihood of unemployment, low wages, or low quality of work later on in life” (Powell, 2018). As a result, the Education and Skills Act 2008 came into force in 2013, which raised the school leaving age to 18 in 2015. Whilst there was a positive impact of the new legislation “in 2016, the proportion of 15-19 year-olds who are NEET in the UK was higher than the OECD average, but it was less than the OECD average for 20-24 year olds and 15-29 year olds.” (Powell, 2018) This figure has improved further with “783,000 people aged 16-24 were Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) in the second quarter of 2018, 11.2% of all people in this age group.” (Powell, 2018) A large negative social factor as a result of the new legislation is that a large number of young people now enter college and sixth-form who would have previously got a job and are now feeling forced to stay in education, lacking motivation and choice and are unlikely to perform well.

Britain is a particularly multicultural country and while the vast majority support and promote the diverse society, there are threats that are “voiced in opposition to multiculturalism, against a multireligious, multi-ethnic existence” (Educare, 2017), these are the views of extremists and can result in the events seen in the 7/7 central London bombings conducted by four separate Islamist extremist suicide bombers, the murder of Mohammed Saleem who was fatally stabbed by Pavlo Lapshyn, who later detonated bombs near mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton as he wished to start a “race war” and the murder of Lee Rigby, a British soldier in 2013. As a result of these events and the social and political implications, the UK government introduced the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which contains a duty on specified authorities to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Schools, colleges and universities are included within the list of authorities if over 250 students are enrolled at the establishment. The impact of the legislation is the introduction of “a helpline which allows members of the public to express concern about people who have been subject to and embracing of extremist opinions.” (Educare, 2017) Alongside the helpline, and in addition to teachers’ existing safeguarding training, specific prevent training is now a requirement, with the aim being that teachers will spot warning signs in students and make use of the helpline. Ofsted are responsible for ensuring that colleges and schools are complying with Prevent and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.

The Wolf report by Professor Alison Wolf also highlighted that “hundreds of thousands of young people are doing vocational courses which do not lead to university or a job” (Harrison, 2011), this highlights how many of the vocational courses available do not reflect what is required in industry and are not fit for purpose. The impact was that colleges introduced a program of study for their students with the goal of tailoring study for each student. The program of study focused on practical, in-depth and real experience, strongly emphasizing employability. This was achieved by ensuring students had a single core aim, such as computing or music, rather than a string of unrelated qualifications and students must hold, or be working towards, English & Maths GCSE grade 4. The program of study also included non-educational elements, such as work experience and volunteering, along with the essential elements of the program of study. Following the Wolf report, along with other reports such as the Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning report and the Richard Review, each of which addressed a different area of the education system and strong demands from business for technical and practical skills, the Sainsbury Review was commissioned, chaired by Lord Sainsbury. The Sainsbury review was designed to overhaul the technical education system within the UK, rather than tweaking elements to create a system that is simple for students, employers and parents. The aim is to have “fewer qualifications, aligned with apprenticeships and developed by employers” (The Edge Foundation, n.d.) this will be implemented with “fifteen simple routes, ranging from construction to digital” (The Edge Foundation, n.d.).The result of the Sainsbury Review is the Skills Plan produced for schools and colleges as an “ambitious framework to support young people and adults to secure a lifetime of sustained skilled employment and meet the needs of our growing and rapidly changing economy” (Boles, 2016). In 2011 the UK government introduced the Localism Act, resulting in the decision-making being devolved to local powers, the goal being to provide power closer to the beneficiaries whilst being flexible. This has resulted in multiple bids being required for individual contracts and local councils awarding funding to only their local organisations which has created divisions. This devolution relates closely to the UK Government deregulating various teaching requirements, allowing colleges the ability to set their own standard, an example of this is the removal of the teaching qualification requirement in Further Education. The impact of this is that the career of Further Education lecturers has been devalued, although many teaching organisations still require a teaching qualification.

Analyse the impact of current educational policies


Boles, N. (2016). Post-16 Skills Plan. London: Department for Education.

Cech, E. A., & Blair-Loy, M. (2019). The changing career trajectories of new parents in STEM. PNAS.

Educare. (2017, May 1). What is Prevent Duty and Why is it Crucial for Schools? Retrieved from EduCare:

Fino, J. (2019, May 3rd). English and maths GCSE resit policy helping tens of thousands. Retrieved from FE Week:

Harrison, A. (2011, March 3). Vocational education not good enough, says Wolf report. Retrieved from BBC News:

Keane, B. (2016, MAR 18). Rape fears and harassment, but bright spots for women in tech, too. Retrieved from Crikey Business:

Offord, P. (2017, Apr 10). Decision to retain forced maths and English GCSE resits ‘extremely’ disappointing. Retrieved from FE Week:

Ofsted. (2016, December 1). Ofsted Annual Report 2015/16. Retrieved from GOV.UK:

Powell, A. (2018). NEET: Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training. London: House Of Commons Library.

Society for Education and Training. (2018). Code of Practice. London: Society for Education and Training (SET).

The Edge Foundation. (n.d.). The Sainsbury Report. Retrieved from The Edge Foundation:

Vigo, J. (2019, Feb 23). Women In Tech: Inconvenient Truths And Changing Perspectives. Retrieved from Forbes:

Women In Tech. (2017, APRIL 23). Increasing Demand for Women in IT. Retrieved from Women In Tech:

Author Profile

James Barron
My first experience of teaching was in 2016, when I was asked to
deliver a talk to a group of 16-year-olds on what it was like to start
your own business. I immediately knew I wanted to become more
involved in teaching but I didn’t know where to start as I had not
previously considered a career in education. A few weeks later I
agreed to teach a class of Chinese students from the Shanghai
Technical Institute of Electronics and Information, who had travelled
to the UK to learn English and Software Engineering, after that I was
hooked. Within the next few years, I taught hundreds of students of
many different nationalities, aged from 16 to 60, and from
levels 2 to 6. I focused my time teaching with Bath University and
Bath College for several more years until I felt a change was in order.
For the last few years, I have taught remotely with several private
training organisations, provided dedicated one to one coaching
sessions, provided consultancy on teaching and assessment practices
and written about my experiences as a teacher. I plan to continue
with my current activities for the foreseeable future but I’m always
open to new teaching experiences.

Leave a Comment