Prisoners’ basic skills: what happened to the Government’s commitment?

Brian Creese. 

The pace of academic publishing is something most researchers accept, but I’m sure that others feel, as I do, that the excitement of having findings published seems slightly historical as their research has moved on. Or in the case of prison education, everything has moved on. So delighted though I am by the publication of my article on prisoners’ basic skills levels I thought this might be an opportunity to outline developments since this was written.

A year ago, when I posted my initial report on prisoner basic skills, the world of prisoner education was very upbeat, even expectant. The surprise appointment of Michael Gove as Minister of Justice appeared unexpectedly positive. The Coates commission was collecting evidence and would subsequently come up with a series of recommendations which would win almost universal support from those working in prison education. Prisons were mentioned in a Queen’s Speech for the first time in decades and the topic of ‘prison reform’ was on everyone’s lips… Then came Brexit, Gove’s failed leadership bid and the emergence of a new Government, a new minister, a new set of priorities.

The Coates reforms, while still theoretically government policy, look ever more fanciful in Read more ›

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Posted in Further higher and lifelong education

England’s performance in TIMSS 2015: a 20 year story of improvement?

Toby Greany

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Survey (TIMSS) now provides 20 years-worth of internationally comparable data on the mathematics and science performance of primary and secondary pupils worldwide, and the contexts in which they learn. England has participated in the study, which is now in its sixth four-yearly cycle, since its inception in 1995.  The 2015 national report, which I and a team from the UCL Institute of Education authored for the Department of Education, can be found here: TIMSS 2015. Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, International comparisons, Schools

Why job insecurity is bad for our health


Francis Green

We live in uncertain times. Eight years on from the Great Recession of 2008, and still one in ten workers across Europe is unemployed – that’s 21 million people. Global growth is faltering and in Europe the “Brexit” decision threatens a prolonged period of adjustment at minimum. It is likely that there will be low growth in Britain for a while, if not a renewed recession, and repercussions elsewhere. What does this uncertainty mean for our well-being and for the demands placed on health systems? Can we do anything to alleviate the potential health fall-out?

For some time now we have known that health can be impaired through unemployment. It can lead to a loss of identity, because many see their job as part of what they are – even if they may sometimes curse it on a Monday morning when facing a long week’s hard work ahead. And of course unemployment also means a loss of livelihood.

But the problem of uncertainty goes well beyond just those people unlucky enough to lose Read more ›

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Posted in Social sciences and social policy

Higher education: how financial strategy took centre stage

glasgow u

Paul Temple.

Government decisions about student fee levels, research funding and all the other aspects of higher education finance, and how individual institutions respond to these policy choices, now form a central aspect of the study of higher education, in the UK and elsewhere.

But it was not always so: and one of the scholars who was largely responsible for bringing these matters centre-stage academically in the UK was Professor Emeritus Gareth Williams, who was honoured at a seminar held at the IOE this week. The event was structured around the book of essays written to celebrate his contribution to the study of the economics of higher education. The international significance of Gareth’s work is demonstrated by the fact that authors were from the United States, Germany and Canada, as well as from the UK.

As he remarks in his own commentary, Gareth began his work as an economist just at the time – the mid-1950s – when the economics of education was emerging as a distinct topic for study. He joined the IOE in 1984, after working for the OECD and then at the LSE. The Institute had by then become a leading centre for research in the economics of education under the leadership of Mark Blaug (1927-2011), a pioneering Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Further higher and lifelong education, International comparisons

Independent schools and social mobility: no easy answers


Geoff Whitty and Emma Wisby. 

There’s now just under a month for people to give their views on the government’s schools green paper proposals. If the impassioned public debate it has generated is anything to go by, Department for Education officials will have a lot of consultation responses to read. They will also have much thinking to do about how the behaviour of different parts of the education system would most likely change in response to the proposals, and the likely implications of that for achieving the aims behind them, especially Theresa May’s much vaunted commitment to increasing upward social mobility.

In broad terms, what the green paper proposals do is to accept at face value an existing hierarchy of secondary schools with regard to academic attainment: elite independent schools at the top, followed by grammar schools, high performing non-selective schools, and less well performing non-selective schools and a few studio schools with rather different ambitions at the bottom. They reinforce the legitimacy of this hierarchy by, in theory, removing the post code/house price or school fees barrier to the most academically able and engaged children accessing schools at the top end, regardless of background. Linked to this is an apparent intention to create more space ‘at the top’.

A particularly notable feature of the green paper in this regard is its ambition to harness the independent schools sector Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Evidence-based policy, Schools, Social sciences and social policy
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