Britain's electricity supply has been left dangerously vulnerable by the government's plans to phase out nuclear power and rely more on gas and renewable energy. Wind and solar power are costly and intermittent sources of energy that cannot fill the gap left by nuclear, while planned gas imports rely on a complex cross-national network that is easily disrupted by political upheavals in any one of a number of countries.
Local authority officers, backed by proposals from Brussels, want to end the 20 year old deregulation of buses and bring bus operations back under their control, says transport executive Prof. John Hibbs OBE in a new ASI report. But that could mean less competition and higher taxes...
Showing the practical benefits that education choice has brought in other countries, the authors develop a no-nonsense plan to open UK education up to the same choice and competition that is already improving school standards in the most disadvantaged communities in Europe and the US. The plan aims to improve equality, access and diversity by allowing parents an escape from failing schools, empowering parental choice, and boosting the provision of new non-state community schools.
Around the world - Sweden, New Zealand, Germany, Netherlands - postal services have been liberalised and the public is getting better services at lower cost. Yet the UK - the pioneer of privatisation in the 1980s still lumbers along with a state-owned post office that is now losing large amounts of money. Ian Senior says it's time for the Post Office to embrace competition, develop new services, and start making money...and he identifies some precise opportunities to that end.
The government's vision of 'Broadband Britain' will never be achieved without fundamental reform in telecoms regulation. The report 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).
Four fundamental pillars of freedom, jury trial, Double Jeopardy, Presumption of Innocence, and Habeas Corpus, are threatened by an unprecedented alliance between populism (to sound tough on crime) and modernizing zeal. The net result will be to make the British people more vulnerable than ever to arbitrary action by the State. While it is important to tackle crime, sacrificing the liberties that protect the innocent will not help bring the guilty to justice. And every time an innocent person is convicted, the real culprit is left free to commit more crimes.
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, and not hardware, is what it's all about.
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.
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 UK efforts to improve its 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. Certainly, learning from Europe can bring profound benefits to the UK school system.
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.