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Social mobility filtered through the lens of an individualistic ‘meritocracy’ is not good enough

Posted: 01/10/09

Beware of concepts that seem, superficially, to have political endorsement from across the political spectrum. There will invariably be something about that concept that is slippery, hard to pin down and, consequentially open to misinterpretation.

A few years ago, the cry went up for ‘community'. The word become the subject of endless seminars and think-tank reports, was talked about with erudition by Etzioni and Puttnam, was deemed to be the Holy Grail for society, and specifically, and as an objective behind various regeneration schemes (‘New Deal for Communities'). And then it vanished!

Where, today, is the rigorous new thinking, the… » Read more

 

One mascot doesn’t equal social mobility

Posted: 29/09/09

Rivalry between schools can be unhealthy and nostalgia for grammars misplaced.

The architecture of education in my corner of inner London has been utterly transformed in recent years. Three new Academies are now up and running. Another school has just been selected for re-building as part of an extended school pilot, which will see primary and secondary education, health and child care integrated in one site. St George's school, which some time ago achieved notoriety as the place where head-teacher Philip Lawrence was murdered, is now praised for its achievements. Gateway primary, which draws its pupils from one of… » Read more

 

Independent Enquiry offers a devastating critique of Westminster Council’s role in local education

Posted: 22/09/09

The scale of change and improvement in the local education system has been so profound that many people have forgotten the position we were in a decade ago.

This was the task list in the late 1990s: create 3 new Academy schools to replace the faltering North Westminster Community School, in what was without doubt the most complex and challenging secondary school re-development project in Britain (close a large school scattered across three sites, and with all the children still in place, re-open as three new schools in new buildings); launch a £150 million renovation and rebuild scheme for many… » Read more

 

If we don’t learn the lessons of history we are doomed to repeat it

Posted: 22/09/09

When the Chief Executive of Goldman Sachs says that public anger about banker's bonuses is both ‘understandable and appropriate', it is time to listen. When he argues, as he did in a major speech to a banking conference in Frankfurt last week, that some of the means by which the financial services sector made money are ‘socially useless', it is time to act.

No-one but a fool would argue that banking, insurance and financial services are unnecessary. As we have discovered to our cost in the last two years, when credit dries up, business and industry suffer, jobs are lost,… » Read more

 

If we don’t learn from the lessons of history we are doomed to repeat it

Posted: 21/09/09

When the Chief Executive of Goldman Sachs says that public anger about banker’s bonuses is both ‘understandable and appropriate’, it is time to listen. When he argues, as he did in a major speech to a banking conference in Frankfurt last week, that some of the means by which the financial services sector made money are ‘socially useless’, it is time to act. No-one but a fool would argue that banking, insurance and financial services are unnecessary. As we have discovered to our cost in the last two years, when credit dries up, business and industry suffer, jobs are lost,… » Read more
 

Reform of housing benefit subsidies should be approached with caution

Posted: 03/09/09

Unglamorous. Little loved. A workhorse of the benefit system. Housing Benefit gets little attention, even with a price tag of £18 billion a year. Receive it- as 4.4 million people do- and you may find yourself locked into the kind of complexity that gives means-testing its bad name, since almost every change in earnings requires a recalculation of entitlement. Do without housing subsidy, and both poverty and homelessness would soar. Seek to change it, as the government are, and one wrong move could be calamitous (no less a man than Beveridge, architect of the post-war welfare settlement, put off reform… » Read more

 

Westminster City Council must publish secret report

Posted: 27/08/09

Westminster City Council has a policy of charging full market rents for all properties let to charities and voluntary organisations. As a result: organisations like Westminster Children’s Society have to find tens of thousands of pounds to pay rent to the Council- and this means childcare fees have to go up, even in the recession. (Earlier this year I revealed how the rent on one St John’s Wood nursery alone exceeded £50,000 a year) small groups are struggling to pay their rent and have to cut back on services and jobs as a result money awarded to these groups to… » Read more
 

The Conservatives’ crude slash and burn policies are no solution to the downturn

Posted: 27/08/09

Behind the Punch and Judy knockabout of party politics, there are serious issues about how the fallout from the global financial crisis needs to be managed. These have massive implications, especially for the majority of middle and lower-income earners in this country, and there is a grave danger that the way in which these things are being debated is almost calculatedly obscuring the truth. It is obvious that the national debt has to be reduced in the longer term, by a combination of growth in the economy and controls on public spending. But this still leaves crucial questions to be… » Read more
 

Tories have to decide if they are serious - do they want to spend more money or less?

Posted: 22/07/09

One day the Conservatives, locally and nationally, are calling for massive public spending cuts. The next, they are complaining that the government is not spending enough money! The latest example of their spending hypocrisy concerns the Adult Education College, which has fallen foul (hopefully only temporarily) of a massive over-commitment on the Learning and Skills Council budget. The Adult Education College needs a new, modern home and I have already met with them to discuss our campaign to get back on track. I would genuinely like to see this investment which will back up the £100 million plus now being… » Read more
 

Policing the G20

Posted: 14/07/09

On 29th June the Home Affairs Select Committee, on which I serve, published the findings of its investigation into the policing of the G20 protests in London. The policing of the G20 Protests was a remarkably successful operation; more than 35,000 protesters demonstrated in the centre of London with a police presence of several thousand, yet there was a minimum of disruption to the City. Aside from a few high-profile incidents, the policing of the G20 Protests passed without drama. However, these incidents and the tactics that led to them caused considerable adverse comment and have the potential to seriously… » Read more
 

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