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
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
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
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
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
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