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Estelle Morris joins Education Guardian today. In the first of her regular columns, the former education secretary fears that ministers' priorities have changed for the worse Anyone remember that 1990s mantra, "standards not structures"? I do, mainly because those three words crept into almost every speech I made from about 1995 onwards. They were the headline for Labour's policy in the run-up to the 1997 general election and became the guiding light through much of the next five years. As a political slogan, it used to be up there with the greats - "end to boom and bust", "tough on crime ..." and all the rest. I doubt, though, if anyone will remember it five years from now. It's not merely a phrase that's gone out of fashion. It's been ditched because it no longer fits with the government's thinking. Labour's secondary school reform programme centres on structural change: 200 city academies, new models of governance, a diminished role for the local education authority, and private sector sponsorship, all leading to a system of state independent schools that is intended to offer more choice and diversity. Ruth Kelly's speech last week, in which the education secretary said parents would be given the power to set up schools, is another step in this direction. Maybe we shouldn't be too surprised. The record of politicians in education has always tended towards structural change in our secondary schools. In the post war era, we've been through grammar schools, technical schools, secondary modern schools, comprehensive schools, grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges (CTCs), community schools and now academies. Selection has been introduced and partly abolished; governance has been changed and changed again. We politicians are serial meddlers in the structure of secondary education. Standards not structures was meant to change all that. By the mid-1990s, we'd seen a decade or more of reform. Some of it was good, and much of it was contentious: the national curriculum, performance tables, assisted places, grant-maintained schools and CTCs. But, when you talked to parents and the wider public, what bothered them was that almost half of our 11-year-olds were behind in reading, writing and number work, and thousands of 16-year-olds were leaving school with no qualifications at all. The talk among politicians may have been about structures, but the concern of parents was about standards. So standards became the banner under which New Labour marched. Hardly revolutionary, you might think. Have you ever met anyone who is against raising standards? But it was not just standards. It was standards not structures. The structural issues that had to be dealt with - grammar schools, grant-maintained status - were handled with the lightest of touches and the minimum of fuss. Teaching and learning received full attention: the literacy and numeracy strategies, smaller primary school
classes, Excellence in Cities and investment in the professional development of teachers. It was a whole new way of politicians taking responsibility for our children's education. As a minister at that time, I've a hefty degree of self-interest in saying so, but commentators and parents agreed that primary schools - the focus of the government's attention early on - improved, some quite dramatically. A victory, you might have thought, for standards not structures. Well, apparently not. Like every generation of politicians before it, when it came to secondary school reform, New Labour turned to structural change. The argument goes something like this. Parents want a school that best meets the individual needs of their child. Changing the structure to create different types of school gives greater choice, one that will drive up standards and sort out the good from the bad. The popular schools can then expand and the ones that parents don't want to send their children to can be closed. So higher standards are achieved through structural change, diversity and choice. Don't get me wrong. I'm for choice and diversity and against uniformity - unless it's a uniformity of excellence. Celebrating the differences between our schools is just as important as valuing the common entitlement they are supposed to guarantee. No public service in the 21st century will flourish unless the customer is given power and influence. The question is whether choice and diversity are really the most powerful levers to do what needs to be done. When you look at the history of state secondary education, it's difficult to conclude that there's been too little structural choice and diversity. It's been the diversity in standards, not the diversity in structures, that's been our problem. We've never hit on a way of raising the standards of all schools to those of the very best. That is the challenge facing politicians. Unless there are universally high standards, choice isn't a matter of selecting the school that best suits your child. It becomes a race for the best the state can offer. That contest can be pretty hard-fought. And, not surprisingly, the same groups turn up on the losing side under any system that isn't based on universally high standards. Poor families lost out under selective education and they lose out under "choice". Have you ever heard of a council who moved a family so they could live closer to a popular school and have a better chance of getting a place at it? And what choice is there in rural areas? There's no getting away from the big question: what's the best way to raise standards in every secondary school? Is the sort of structural change on which the government has embarked likely to do so? I've no doubt it will give us more good schools, many in neighbourhoods that have suffered generations of underachievement. But will it realise the holy grail of making every school a good school, so that choice can mean more than simply distinguishing between good and bad? I remain to be convinced. Education is a people business. That's why so many of us can recall the teacher who changed our life. And that's why "Whose class are they in next year?" is just as important a question as "Is the school a specialist technology or humanities school?" There's only one thing that raises standards and that's when more teachers teach more effectively because they're better led and better trained and work in an environment committed to
learning. One of the greatest success stories in recent years has been the development of specialist schools. They don't achieve their success through structural change. It would be fanciful to imagine that merely designating an institution a specialist school makes it good. It's the ambition for specialist status that gives the school the incentive to focus on teaching and learning. That's why standards so often rise across the curriculum and not just in the specialist subjects. Specialist schools have turned teachers into researchers as well as users of research. They have delivered some of the finest professional development and, crucially, have the potential to touch every single secondary pupil. Another round of structural change won't by itself achieve universally high standards. Worse than that, it could be a distraction. Spending £5bn on 200 academies in the next five years and recruiting some of our best heads to run them is almost certain to bring success for the schools involved. Bringing in business skills isn't wrong. It makes sense to use outside expertise to complement the skills of teachers, though the white paper the government plans to publish soon will need to provide a framework for far greater accountability and openness for business sponsors than exists at the moment. But the risk is that all of this shifts the focus from what really will make the difference. Ministers are at their best when they prioritise and, although every department has a policy on everything, it soon becomes clear where ministers' priorities lie. Those priorities attract the best civil servants, and the most resources, time and energy. Structural change is now the number one priority at the Department for Education and Skills. Will it eclipse the battle for higher standards, as structural changes have done before? I offer three tests: · In five years' time, whose children will be going to these new academies? Will choice and market forces once again squeeze out the children of the disadvantaged whose schools they replaced? · With their independent status, will these schools contribute to the greater good of education in their locality? How will they work with other schools on issues such as exclusions? · Third, will the government spend as much time, effort and resources on teaching and learning in the rest of our secondary schools as it is investing in structural change in the 200? The success of academies depends on a positive response to these questions every bit as much as the improvement in their GCSE and A-level scores. Almost every article that has appeared under my name in the past 10 years has been either an explanation or a defence of Labour's policies. That's a consequence of collective responsibility and I loved it. But one reason I left the House of Commons was to free
myself to engage in political argument without always having to defend the party line. I know that comments of ex-ministers can be interpreted as justifications of their own records or misinterpreted as attacks on political colleagues. That's a risk I'm prepared to take. For the record, I believe the government's investment in education, and the priority it continues to give it, remains one of its greatest achievements. However, the way it spends the money it has committed demands a continuing and robust debate, and I'm glad to be able to make a contribution.
The UK government has dulled the glamorous sheen of Web 2.0 by pledging guidelines on how civil servants should exploit use social media for developing policies and getting their messages out to the public. The Cabinet Office has published an > on its information strategy, carried out by Tom Steinberg and Ed Mayo, which details Whitehall’s efforts to “get” social media in its efforts to communicate with we the people. The interim report’s appearance coincided with the setting up of a Power of Information Taskforce – which will include Steinberg – to flesh out the strategy and which was revealed in a speech by Tom Watson, MP, Labour’s minister for transformational government. In his speech, Watson argued that freeing up data “will allow us to unlock the talent of British entrepreneurs” while “engaging people – using the simple tools that bring them together – will allow the talents of all our people to be applied to the provision of public services”. Watson promised the COI and the Cabinet Office would “produce a set of guidelines that adheres to the letter of the law when it comes to the civil service code but lives within the spirit of the age”. We think this means Civil Servants need an approved way to dip into sites like mumsnet to share their wisdom on, for example, how to claim maternity benefits. We presume it doesn’t mean putting in place a bureaucratic procedure to ensure that all civil servants Wikipedia edits on Avril Lavigne have been signed off by the Cabinet Office and Number 10. Watson said draft proposals would be ready for the taskforce by the end of this week. Government also needed to adopt social media, Watson argued. “Whitehall is arguably Britain’s most important knowledge factory,” he said, “but we’re using out of date tools.” So, it would appear Sir Humphrey and pals will be forced to thrash out policy and career paths over blogs, wikis, forums and shared workspaces instead of over the port and cheese board. Watson also pledged to overhaul the way information produced by government bodies,
for example regulatory information or Ordnance Survey mapping data, is disseminated and charged for. “There has been a lively debate about whether the overall benefits to the economy and society are better served by giving the data away at marginal cost.” He said he had asked the Treasury and BERR to help build arguments in this area. More disturbingly, perhaps, Watson reminisced about how hard it used to be for “any community organiser or activist to “get people together to do something”. He recalled how he spent his formative years in “endless hours of turning the handle of a manual duplicating machine whilst my dad fermented [sic] revolution in the pub.” He went on to claim that “social media has removed the requirement for my son to turn the handle for his dad. It allows people to organise a demonstration or a lobby at a single click, with global effect.” Which is funny, as we’d never thought organising spontaneous demonstrations was part of the government’s remit.Suppliers would sell a package of measures that would save energy or enable their customers to produce it more efficiently, using, for example, heat pumps or micro-combined heat and power plants. It would extend the practice of subsidising energy-saving equipment for some, at the expense of all consumers. Suppliers of energy already have an energy efficiency commitment under rules laid down by Ofgem - which means they spend about nine per cent of fuel bills subsidising things such as low-energy lightbulbs and A-rated fridges - but this new obligation would go much further. The proposed new "cap and trade" arrangements would impose a cap on overall household emissions and allow companies to trade any amount of ''undershot'' below that target with other companies by selling them permits to emit carbon, or purchase more permits to pollute if they overshot. In other words, it would be like the European Union carbon trading scheme now in place for big companies, except that it would be the responsibility of the supply companies, not the domestic user, to reduce household emissions overall. The relevant Energy Review states: "The Government wishes to incentivise energy suppliers to engage more actively with customers in order to deliver greater energy efficiency in the home … We want to provide the right stimulus for them to develop new market opportunities to sell energy services, rather than just energy per se, so what the consumer buys are services for heating, lighting and powering their homes, in the most energy-efficient way practicable. "Our energy companies are willing to go in this direction - to change their whole business model - if we support them through the
Analysis of the studies reviewed showed that single or dual component incentive schemes are effective in encouraging positive health behaviours where a simple or single action is required, rather than a sustained health behaviour change. The Child Health Programme as described in the White Paper Choosing Health covers screening and immunisations which are single event health behaviours shown in our review as likely to benefit from the use of incentives to encourage uptake. The government target to reduce health inequalities as measured by infant mortality by 2010 focuses on interventions to improve services and support for pregnant women, new mothers and their babies. The highest rate of infant mortality is in children born to teenage mothers. We found non-financial incentives to be effective in encouraging teenage mothers to attend an early post-natal health clinic. The interventions were also shown to be effective in reducing smoking behaviours in the context of school-based competitions. These findings are based on a small number of studies, none of which were conducted in the UK, but they are consistent with other systematic review evidence. The incentives were mostly financial or gifts/tokens.
The review found no evidence that single or dual component incentive schemes are effective in improving either the levels of effort applied to educational tests or attendance levels in school.
Overall single or dual component incentive schemes do not appear to offer policy-makers or practitioners a simple route to ensuring general positive behaviour changes in young people. However, they may be useful in particular settings and for particular groups.
An earlier study  describes 37 schemes using incentives aimed at promoting a range of positive behaviours in young people. The schemes were mostly based in the UK, with some from the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Two were international in scope. Fifteen of the schemes targeted young people at risk; eleven provided direct cash incentives; and the others used a variety of different material incentives. 'Mechanism design' theorist Eric Maskin says policymakers can bridge gaps between company and public interests in areas such as greenhouse gases.
By staff reporter Li Xin When drafting environmental policies, governments should develop incentive schemes that encourage companies to make choices that are in the best interests of the public, said Eric S. Maskin, who won the 2007 Nobel Prize in economics. Referring to companies that balk at environmental rules, Maskin acknowledged “you can't force them to do things they don't want to do.” In an interview with Caijing on April 14, the soft-spoken economist explained in detail how environmental policymaking can be improved through “mechanism design theory,” a branch of economics he helped pioneer that involves shaping institutions or mechanisms to achieve social goals when the market fails to bring results. Maskin, 58, sees companies and the general public as major players in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But while the goal – cutting emissions – is widely agreed upon, the interests of the two players are often at odds. “Companies want to maximize their profit,” said Maskin. “What we don't know is how much it would cost a company to move one technology to another. That's one of the things that a mechanism should be designed to discover.” On the other hand, Maskin said, policymakers need to find out to what extent the general public is willing to cut personal consumption to reduce emissions. He suggested a consumption tax as a useful tool. In 2002 Maskin, together with two other economists, designed an emissions trading auction for the British government that involved 38 companies bidding for cash incentives totaling US＄ 500 million. The bidder with the largest amount of reductions would win the government subsidies. As a result, 34 companies won the auction and delivered 4 million metric tons of CO2 emission reductions. “Our mission was to get as much emissions reduction as possible with the US＄ 500 million,” recalled Maskin. “The British government considered the scheme a success.” Similar designs were used for a radio spectrum auction in the United States and sales of state assets in Eastern Europe. Maskin prefers auctions as an effective way to allocate resources, but admitted governments should not intervene in all circumstances. “Some agricultural markets work well left their own devices. Other markets need a moderate amount of government intervention, such as financial markets which need government intervention to make sure you don’t get stuck in a credit crunch,” said Maskin. “In some cases, markets are not going to work very well at all. Examples of that are public goods, like clean air and the global environment, which can't be provided through market forces alone. ” The Princeton University professor is optimistic that a global scheme can be achieved to address climate change, but emphasized that the scheme must meet the interests of all
participants. To get developing countries on board, Maskin thinks tools such as trade concessions and technology transfers can be used. “The agreement must be self-enforcing,” Maskin said. “If any country breaks its terms of agreement, it would lose all the benefits it is receiving.” Maskin was in China to attend the Boao Asia Forum on April 13 and 14. Addressing the forum, he called for government intervention to prevent a credit crunch in financial markets. Maskin and his family live in the United States in a house once occupied by Albert Einstein. The house is
Labour's plan to abandon renewable energy targets
Leaked documents detail strategy for climate change U-turn A wind farm in Northamptonshire. Photograph: David Sillitoe Ministers are planning a U-turn on Britain's pledges to combat climate change that "effectively abolishes" its targets to rapidly expand the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Leaked documents seen by the Guardian show that Gordon Brown will be advised today that the target Tony Blair signed up to this year for 20% of all European energy to come from renewable sources by 2020 is expensive and faces "severe practical difficulties". According to the papers, John Hutton, the secretary of state for business, will tell Mr Brown that Britain should work with Poland and other governments sceptical about climate change to "help persuade" German chancellor Angela Merkel and others to set lower renewable targets, before binding commitments are framed in December. It admits that allowing member states to fall short of their renewable targets will be "very hard to negotiate ... and will be very controversial". "The commission, some member states and the European parliament will not want the target to be diluted, though others may be allies for a change," says a draft copy of Mr Hutton's Energy Policy Presentation to the Prime Minister, marked "restricted - policy". The revelations came as scientists announced that carbon emissions were accumulating in the atmosphere far more quickly than predicted. The sharp increase found by the Global Carbon Project is attributed mainly to Chinese coal-burning and a weakening of the ability of oceans and forests to soak up carbon dioxide. The leaked papers admit to "a potentially significant cost in terms of reduced climate change leadership" if Mr Brown is seen to be driving a plan to let European member states fall short of their renewables targets.
They also reveal different priorities across government departments about how to get renewables to 20% of the electricity mix. Although Germany has increased its renewable energy share to 9% in six years, Britain's share is only 2%, with its greenhouse gas emissions rising. Last night campaigners expressed alarm at the new direction of government policy. "Gordon Brown is now in danger of surrendering any claim to international leadership on climate change and would rather support nuclear power and scupper the European renewable energy target," said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace. Mr Hutton will tell Mr Brown that there are severe practical difficulties about meeting the 20% target. These include persuading the Ministry of Defence and the shipping industry to accept more offshore wind power, as well as increased research and development costs for marine and tidal power. One of the main objections of government to meeting the renewables target set by Mr Blair is that it will undermine the role of the European emission trading scheme. This scheme was devised by the Treasury under Mr Brown and allows wealthy governments to pay others to reduce emissions. "[Meeting the 20% renewables target] crucially undermines the scheme's credibility ... and reduces the incentives to invest in other carbon technologies like nuclear power", say the papers. The government is clearly worried about its ambition to introduce more nuclear power as soon as possible. Mr Hutton will tell Mr Brown that he expects a second legal challenge by Greenpeace. "[It is] most likely to be on the basis of pre-judgement, concerns about waste, a flawed consultation process or inaccuracies." Analysis by Mr Hutton's department suggests it could cost the UK £4bn a year to achieve a 9% share of renewable energy by 2020. The shift in stance is due to be discussed at full cabinet next week. Last night a spokesman for the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said: "We don't comment on ministerial meetings with the PM."
About the GPII Scheme
The General Practice Immunisation Incentives (GPII) scheme commenced in August 1997 with the introduction of quarterly coverage feedback statements to general practitioners and Divisions of General Practice. GPII provides financial incentives to general practitioners (GPs) that monitor, promote and provide age appropriate immunisation services to children under the age of seven years. The overall aim of the GPII scheme is to encourage at least 90 per cent of practices to achieve 90 per cent proportions of full immunisation. The General Practice Immunisation Incentives (GPII) scheme provides financial incentives to general practitioners (GPs) who monitor, promote and provide immunisation services to children under the age of seven years.
The GPII scheme is made up of three components: • A Service Incentive Payment (SIP) - an $18.50 (not GST inclusive) payment to GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs), who notify the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR) of a vaccination that completes an immunisation schedule; An Outcomes Payment - practices that achieve 90% or greater proportions of full immunisation providing the practice attains 10 WPEs (Whole Patient Equivalents); and Immunisation infrastructure funding - which provides funds to Divisions of General Practice, State-Based Organisations and funding for a National GP Immunisation Coordinator to improve the proportion of children who are immunised at local, State and national levels.
The overall aim of the GPII scheme is to encourage at least 90 per cent of practices to achieve 90 per cent proportions of full immunisation. This milestone was accomplished in the May 2003 quarter.
Why was the GPII scheme developed
Reducing the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases is one of the significant public health achievements of the past 100 years. Comprehensive levels of vaccination have led to dramatic decreases in childhood diseases such as poliomyelitis and diphtheria. When the GPII scheme was implemented in 1998, it was considered that the number of children in Australia who were fully immunised was too low to prevent transmission of some vaccine-preventable diseases. For many children this resulted in sickness, hospitalisation, and sometimes death. Those who are not immunised, or not fully immunised, have a much higher chance of infection, which can lead to disease outbreaks and epidemics. The Federal Government has been committed to improving the nation’s childhood immunisation levels, and, in 1997, established the Immunise Australia: the Seven Point Plan. The GPII scheme was one of a wide range of initiatives introduced under the Plan.
The importance of general practice
GPs are one of the key groups able to improve the nation’s childhood immunisation level. They have significant levels of contact with the target group - children under the age of seven. Each consultation is an opportunity for monitoring a child’s immunisation status and for providing immunisation services if required. It is for this reason that GPs have been specifically targeted in this immunisation strategy. The GPII scheme is not simply payment for direct immunisation services. The incentives
are aimed at helping to improve the national immunisation level. This can be achieved by GPs actively encouraging and promoting immunisation generally, as well as providing immunisations themselves. This initiative is intended to augment the services provided by local governments and Public Health Units in order to help improve Australia’s immunisation level.
The role of the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR)
The ACIR is central to the effectiveness of the GPII scheme. It began recording details of all immunisations provided to children under seven years of age from 1 January 1996. The ACIR enables more effective management of the National Immunisation Program at National, State and Territory levels. It allows measurement of immunisation coverage rates in children as well as providing parents with an immunisation history statement when their children turn 1, 2, and 4 years of age and also on completion of 4 -5 year vaccination schedule. Parents can also request a statement at any other time. GPs and other immunisation providers receive payment for each notification of immunisation encounters forwarded to the ACIR, which completes one of the five immunisation schedules. The ACIR information is used to determine the immunisation status of children and accordingly amounts paid under the GPII scheme. GPs will appreciate the importance of providing timely and accurate information to the ACIR. Not only does it generate a payment for notification but, through this scheme, will directly affect the amount of payment GPs will be eligible to receive.
Management, review and consultation
The GPII scheme is administered by the Department of Health and Ageing, with day-today management by Medicare Australia. Development and implementation of the GPII scheme followed a consultative process, with the participation of the profession. A General Practice Immunisation Incentives Advisory Group provides ongoing input and advice to the Department of Health and Ageing on the scheme’s management. This committee includes representatives from the profession, State governments, consumers, Medicare Australia and the Department.
Applying for the GPII
The same application form is used for both the GPII scheme and the Practice Incentive Program (PIP). However applicants can use the form to apply for the GPII scheme only. Completed application forms should be sent to: Practice Incentives Program GPO Box 2572
ADELAIDE SA 5001 Fax: (08) 8274 9352 Ph: 1800 222 032 To obtain an application form please call the PIP enquiry line on 1800 222 032 (free call). Completed application forms cannot be lodged over the internet and must be mailed or faxed to Medicare Australia. Practices are able to submit changes to practice profile details via fax - (08) 8274 9352. Faxes advising of changes to practice profile or bank account details must be sent on practice letterhead, be signed by the nominated authorised contact person and witnessed by another member of the practice. Practices electing to utilise the fax option are not required to send the original document to Medicare Australia but should retain it for their own records and Medicare Australia audit purposes. In the event that the original copy of the document cannot be produced, the faxed copy by Medicare Australia will be recognised as the original document.
For more information about the GPII scheme, call the GPII enquiry line on 1800 246 101 (free call).
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