Broadband Britain

The government's vision of 'Broadband Britain' will never be achieved without fundamental reform in telecoms regulation. Broadband Britain: Finding a Way Forward says that broadband could become a major driver of wealth creation within ten years, improving education and business performance. Britain lags behind, 21st out of the richest 30th countries in terms of broadband penetration. The institutes points to the need for a more aggressive regulatory regime that will deliver a level playing field for profitability in telecommunications. Opportunities created by this will give BT and its shareholders the option to review the break up of the service into two parts. One for services (Servco) and another for network infrastructure (Netco).

 

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Taking Liberties

This paper from Peter Lilley MP outlines his concern that four fundamental pillars of freedom – jury trial, Double Jeopardy, Presumption of Innocence, and Habeas Corpus – are threatened by an unprecedented alliance between populism and modernizing zeal. He says that the net result will be to make the British people more vulnerable than ever to arbitrary action by the State. In his view, though it is important to tackle crime, sacrificing the liberties that protect the innocent will not help bring the guilty to justice.

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Wired to Learn

The government wants to create the 'school of the future' with ICT-based learning in new-look buildings and at home. But existing government policy stands in the way of this vision. Teacher and ICT expert Tom McMullan identifies the blockages: too much focus on numbers rather than sustainability, low teacher confidence, dismal connectivity, and the lack of realisation that content, not hardware, is what it's all about.

 

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The report card on competition in schools

The year-by-year improvement in examination results owes more to the spirit of competition between schools than to Whitehall¹s increasingly centralized controls over them. Schools could produce still more improvements in the future if they were given even more freedom to manage themselves and compete for pupils. But there must be more focus on improving the performance of schools in poorer neighbourhoods, which have not kept pace with the general improvements.

Based on a study of 3000 state schools by two Lancaster University economists, the Report Card says the results of the competition between schools that has followed the introduction of league tables and other reforms in 1988 has been that:

- Parents have sought quality, moving their children to local schools that are higher up the league tables of exam performance;

- Exam performance has risen as schools feel the effects of this competition and try to outdo the achievement of other schools nearby;

- Larger schools perform better because they can be more flexible in how they use staff time; and

- The gap between rich and poor schools is widening, though not by much.

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Learning from Europe

This report is based on the experience of school choice policies in the Netherlands and Denmark, and shows how the policies of those two countries provide important lessons for efforts to improve the UK's school system. In the Netherlands and Denmark, school choice policies and per capita funding have been successfully implemented, the results being equal access for all pupils to independent schools, which today cater for 70% of pupils in the Netherlands and 12% (and increasing) in Denmark. These liberalised policies have been accompanied by higher performance by pupils in independent schools, higher parent satisfaction and lower per pupil cost.

 

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Education Cheque

Former Education Department special adviser Stuart Sexton says that parents should be empowered to seek out the most appropriate school for their children, and schools should be incentivized to meet their demand. But how, when many people cannot afford to become active ‘customers' in the education market?

Give parents an Education Cheque to cover the cost of their children's education. Let them choose the school they want. Let schools strive to satisfy parents, as customers. And let them use the parents' education cheques however they want in running and developing their schools. In other words, let the funding for schools come bottom-up from parents, not top-down through layers of Whitehall and local government.

 

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Customers not Bureaucrats

If we cut out Whitehall and local bureaucracy, we could give front-line head teachers another £1350 per pupil to spend. And wouldn't we get a more responsive, more local, more parent-focused school system as a result? Thinker and journalist Stephen Pollard argues that in value for money terms, when you add in all the bureaucratic costs, state education is now actually more expensive than private education. Why? Because too much of the education budget is wasted on inappropriate spending by distant officials. The answer? Devolve the budget to front-line managers. And do the same in health and social services while you're at it!

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Access to Achievement

The demand for private education is enormous - and not just from parents of the brightest students. But only a minority can afford it, because they already pay tax towards the state system. It's time to build a new system that supports parents who want the right school for their children's abilities - and needs - so that non-state education becomes accessible to all, says top private school teacher Chris Lambert in this ASI report.

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The Standards of Today

The former chief inspector of schools tells it like it is. Exams really are getting easier,more kids are leaving primary schools unable to read, and leaving secondary school without the skills needed to work or study. The quangos in charge of the exam system should be scrapped and the national curriculum torn up - leaving parents free to choose schools teaching different things in different ways. A must read - if you're one of the few that can.

 

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NHS Reform: towards consensus?

This report, which calls for an end to today's centralised health service and the adoption of competing european style social insurance system, has been endorsed by prominent health experts. The main thrust is that the government should neither provide nor finance health, it should merely regulate. Instead hospitals and doctors should be made fully independent of Whitehall, in the form of local trusts. Families would subscribe to one of a number of social insurers, who would then buy services from one of the independent providers. Ex-minister Frank Field says that "if the present government's reforms do not soon show signs of success, a system of competing health suppliers regulated by government and run on insurance lines will begin to be practical politics."

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