Mind the gap

The attainment gap in education isn't closing. We need to work out why, says Ian Wybron.

GCSE figures released last week show that the gap in attainment between richer and poorer students is widening. Demos analysis of the latest figures show that, in 2013, 38.1% of children on Free School Meals hit the government’s benchmark of 5 or more A*- C grades at GCSE (including English and Maths), compared to 64.8% of all other pupils. This represents a national attainment gap of 26.7% - an increase of 0.3% on the previous year. Looking at the local level reveals more. Not only di...

Posted by Ian Wybron on 27 Jan 2014
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Mixed messages weaken families’ relationships

Jo Salter explains how current social policy undervalues the supportive role that family can play.

There is a growing tension between the role of public services in supporting families, and sanctioning their behaviour. This may strike some as an abstract, political problem, but in the daily lives of struggling families these mixed signals can cause doubt and confusion that serve to undermine trust in public services among their intended recipients and risk compromising their effectiveness. In research published by Demos today, which explores the relationship between families in Scotland f...

Posted by Jo Salter on 21 Jan 2014
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When the going gets tough

In trying to 'out-tough' the Tories on welfare, Rachel Reeves is losing the argument, writes Claudia Wood.

It is becoming clear that the run up to the general election will increasingly turn into a game of one-upmanship. With each populist pledge the Conservatives make regarding immigration or welfare, Labour is prompted to bring out its own version. In October, as Rachel Reeves took over from Liam Byrne as the shadow work and pensions secretary, she vowed that ‘Labour would be tougher on welfare than the Tories’. This approach confirmed the Conservatives’ success in reframing t...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 20 Jan 2014
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Creating competition

Taking on the banks' market dominance doesn't mean breaking up the banks, argues Jodie Ginsberg.

This week, the stranglehold that high street banks have over key bank services - like current accounts, small business lending, and mortgages - came back into view thanks to Ed Miliband's eye-catching pledge to break up the bigger banks. This would create more competitors, Labour reasons, improving services for consumers. There is no doubt we need more competition in financial services, but there are other ways to deliver competition - ways that may also be more effective in de...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 20 Jan 2014
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Government as 'shop steward'

Duncan O'Leary continues his series profiling the options for economic reform by Government, looking at jobs and low pay.

Last week I posted the first blog in a short series on what a new Department for Economic Reform might look to do and how. Below is the next instalment, on government as shop steward. Next week: government as industrial activist. Mission: Government as shop steward Diagnosis: Britain has a jobs problem – and the issue is quality, not just quantity. Structural changes have undercut the position of workers: globalisation means more competition for jobs, technology is replacing routin...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 17 Jan 2014
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We don't need another review into bank competition

Ed Miliband should reduce barriers to entry, not call for another review, argues Jodie Ginsberg.

Banking in Britain is not competitive – at least not in the way that you or I would understand. A market that works effectively is one in which consumers feel they have genuine choice. For most bank retail customers, and owners of small businesses, it is pretty unclear what that choice is. People are more likely to get divorced than change their bank account, or so the old adage goes. Even though it is now far easier to switch bank accounts – thanks to a new 7-day switching proc...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 16 Jan 2014
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The true cost of the cap

Claudia Wood debunks the myth of families winning the 'benefits jackpot'.

The benefit cap statistics released last week provoked predictable reactions – finding 33,000 households were subject to the cap led the Daily Mail to label them the ‘families who had hit the benefits jackpot’. It was implied those affected by the cap were somehow gaming the system, and were now being ‘caught out’ by the new rule. But in addition to the £26,000 benchmark being essentially arbitrary (based on average household income rather than an objectiv...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 14 Jan 2014
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Government as 'consumer champion'

Duncan O'Leary kicks off a series profiling the different options for economic reform by Government, starting with the 'consumer champion'.

Over the Christmas break, Jeremy Cliffe of the Economist floated the idea of a Department for Economic Reform in a future Ed Miliband government. The question of whether ‘super departments’ are a good idea has been discussed elsewhere, so I won’t dwell on it here. But the article does beg another question. What would be the mission of such a department under a government of any stripe – and which policy tools would it use? Over the next few weeks I will be posti...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 10 Jan 2014
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What are our MPs worth?

Duncan O'Leary with an alternative approach to MPs' pay.

Nobody said being a Member of Parliament was easy, but it is hard not to see the raging debate over MPs’ pay as a problem of Westminster’s making. The back-story is one of MPs’ pay being held down (by comparison with other professions) to keep the public happy, with a generous expenses regime to make up the difference. We know how that ended. The next idea was to ‘take the politics out’ of decisions on pay. Deciding how much our representatives should be paid wo...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 09 Dec 2013
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McCarthyism, good and bad?

David Goodhart reflects on Keith Vaz's question: 'Do you love your country?'

Keith Vaz's question to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger at the Home Affairs Select Committee 'Do you love your country?' has unmissable echoes of McCarthyism. But it is not, or not just, the 'bad' McCarthyism associated with extreme anti-communism and the casual smearing of the reputations of many good Americans for their alleged lack of patriotism. It is also the 'good' McCarthyism of a hitherto semi-excluded minority, Catholic Irish Americans, claiming their pla...

Posted by David Goodhart on 05 Dec 2013
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