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31 March 2017
Brexit overshadowed a big week for education and health reform.
On Tuesday the Public Accounts Committee warned that the Department for Education is ill-prepared for the for the coming period of falling per-pupil funding. That may be true, but the PAC should have said much more about the unjustified disparities in school funding, and the opportunities to deliver greater value for money.
On Friday, the NHS leadership revealed that its plans for reform are well behind the schedule set out in 2014. Simon Stevens was however right to say that there will always be trade-offs in the use of NHS money. The debate should be over those trade-offs, not denying their existence.
Andrew Haldenby, Director
Clive Betts MP, for advocating radical reform of social care funding in his Committee’s report this week.
The Public Accounts Committee. Its role should be to advance value for money in public spending, not merely assess whether Government objectives will be achieved in their own terms.
On Tuesday, the NHS leadership argued that common painkillers, gluten-free foods and travel vaccines should no longer be available on prescription when patients could buy such products for themselves. Medicines that have cheaper alternatives should also not be prescribed.
On Friday, the Communities and Local Government Committee recommended that all options should be considered in the review on social care funding. That included social insurance and the moving of funds from benefits such as the state pension and the winter fuel allowance into social care.
On Friday, the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy argued that the Government should measure the success of its apprenticeship programme by outcomes (for example the employment rate of apprenticeships) rather than numbers of students enrolled.
On Monday, the Public Accounts Committee warned that the Department for Education does not have policies to ensure that schools can cope adequately with the coming period of falling per-pupil funding. Given academic evidence, the PAC was wrong to say that a slight increase in class sizes will undermine standards. With good teaching, larger class sizes do not affect attainment for most children. Savings made could fund smaller classes in some cases.
On Thursday, the Plain English Campaign warned that the NHS is riddled with “jargon and gobbledygook” and may even be using impenetrable language on purpose to hide plans from the public.
On Thursday, a major Reform conference revealed that real progress is being made in improving the operation of the whole criminal justice system through the use of digital technology.
“…in Brexit Britain social mobility is now no longer a ‘nice to have’, a ‘good thing to do’. It is a cold, hard, economic imperative for our country.”
Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education, speaking on Thursday
“Apprenticeships are vital if we are to close the skills gap, which could grow wider post-Brexit. We must train our young people for jobs that the economy needs, but the Government has failed to show how its three million target and levy will help achieve this. Ministers must recognise that apprenticeships are a means to an end and not an end in themselves. They need to place greater emphasis on outcomes, focussing on areas of the economy where training is most needed, and ensuring quantity does not trump quality.”
Neil Carmichael MP, Co-Chair, House of Commons Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, speaking on Friday.
On Thursday, Reform held a conference titled ‘where next for criminal justice reform?’ Speakers included Justin Russell, Director General for Prisons, Offender and Youth Justice Policy at the Ministry of Justice, and Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner.
Last Friday, Louis Coiffait, Head of Education at Reform, spoke on BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ to discuss whether children today are being taught the right skills to cope with the changing labour market.
This Friday, Louis appeared on BBC Radio 2’s ‘Jeremy Vine Show’ to discuss what can be learned from schools that are doing new things to achieve better outcomes, while spending less.
On Tuesday, Andrew Haldenby, Director of Reform, discussed the questions raised by NHS England’s plans for Accountable Care Organisations in the NHS.
This week Reform published a number of blogs that were first featured in the brochure for our criminal justice conference: