The Week, 23 September 2016

23 September 2016

This week the Liberal Democrats gathered in Brighton for their annual conference. As well as committing to a referendum on the terms of Brexit, the party proposed a new tax to fund health and social care, called for a rethink on social security given the changing nature of work, and reiterated their opposition to grammar school expansion.

William Mosseri-Marlio, Senior Researcher

Reformer of the week

Baroness Kramer, the Liberal Democrats’ economics spokesperson, for drawing attention to the benefits of automation and the ‘gig economy’, as well as the challenge presented by adapting employment services and employee protection to this new environment.

Reactionary of the week

Lord Lansley, the former Health Secretary, who argued that NHS spending should never fall below 7.3 per cent of GDP. Policymakers need to worry more about improving NHS productivity than spending inputs.

Good week for…

Earmarked taxation

On Monday, former Care Minister Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP announced the Liberal Democrats will be conducting a review into the merits of a dedicated health and social care tax.

Savings policy

On Thursday, data from the Office for National Statistics revealed membership of occupational pension schemes in the UK had reached an all-time high.

Public-private partnerships

On Friday, the Government announced a ‘cyber accelerator facility’ that will see tech start-ups work alongside civil servants to develop the next generation of cyber-security systems.

Bad week for…


On Wednesday, the Bank of England reported firms’ investment intentions had fallen over the last quarter.

Grammar school expansion (1)

On Thursday, allies of the former Education Secretary Rt Hon Michael Gove MP launched a new initiative to oppose the expansion of grammar schools from the Government benches

Grammar school expansion (2)

Also on Thursday, the head of Oxford University Professor Louise Richardson took a critical line on the idea that universities could run schools − a proposal that forms part of the Government’s plan to expand selective education.

Quotes of the week

“There is only one party now that believes in British business − large and small; that believes in entrepreneurship and innovation: the Liberal Democrats. We are the free market, free trade pro-business party now.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron MP, speaking on Monday

“Grammar schools are a policy based on myth, not evidence. Proportionately, these selective schools have the lowest levels of children from poorer backgrounds. Fewer than 3 per cent of grammar school pupils are on free school meals, compared to 20 per cent across England. I won’t deny that there are big challenges in the Welsh education system. But all of our polices will be targeted to raise standards and address the enduring injustice of the attainment gap.”

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, speaking on Monday

“The purpose of the [Sustainability and Transformation Plans] is to make sure the reform process achieves demonstrable progress in the next six months and to embed its approach in the service’s DNA − hence the incredibly ambitious target of getting most contracts for the next two years of service delivery devised, negotiated and signed in the next 15 weeks. The chances of success depend much, of course, on the progress secured to date. Nearly two years since the publication of the Forward View − or the Stevens plan, as the Government pointedly call it − its influence is a paradox. Everything and nothing seems to be happening.”

Thursday’s leader in Health Service Journal

Reform’s Week

On Tuesday, Reform published Academy chains unlocked. The report assesses results from the first survey of academy chain chief executives, and recommends reform to the funding and oversight of chains to raise standards across the country.

A number of blogs were written in support of the report:

On Tuesday, Amy Finch, Research Manager and Head of Education at Reform, argued for an independent commissioning body for academy schools.

Also on Tuesday, Tom Middlehurst, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at SSAT, argued that the education sector should re-evaluate the role of academy chains.

On Wednesday, Ben Dobson, Researcher at Reform, argued that subsidies for academy chains to grow should better incentivise the acquisition of challenging schools.

On Thursday, Elaine Fischer, Research Assistant at Reform, argued that the Government should abandon its proposal for parental petitions, and give academy chains the power to pay their governors.

The report received extensive media coverage on the day of its launch:

Amy Finch appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, arguing that paying school governors would allow professionalisation of governance structures and could fill skills gaps.

The Times published an article highlighting the report’s recommendation that revenue funding for academies should be allocated directly to chains. This was also discussed in a separate article in the Times Education Supplement.

Schools Week led with an article citing the report’s recommendation that responsibility for academy accountability should be taken away from government, and placed with a new independent schools regulator in a bid to tackle potential conflicts of interest. Amy Finch also wrote an op-ed for Schools Week in which she called for greater transparency in the commissioning of schools.

On Friday, Public Finance published an article considering the variable results in attainment between academies founded under different governments, as shown in Reform‘s report.

Reformer Blog

On Monday, Andrew Haldenby, Director at Reform, reflected on last week’s House of Lords committee on the long-term sustainability of the NHS, at which he gave evidence on productivity in the NHS.

On Friday, Charlotte Pickles, Deputy Director and Head of Research at Reform, argued that protecting welfare spending is not the lesson from Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP’s resignation.



No comments yet.