Edward Timpson – 2011 Speech about Children in Care

Below is the text of the speech made by Edward Timpson, the Conservative MP for Crewe and Nantwich, in the House of Commons on 10 February 2011.

Mr Speaker, I should like to begin by thanking you for granting this short but none the less invaluable and timely debate on improving outcomes for children in care. With Eileen Munro’s final report on child protection due out in April, the spotlight on looked-after children in this country is rightly intensifying, as we strive to narrow not the gap but the chasm that still exists between the life chances of children in care and others. As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on looked-after children and care leavers, I was disappointed not to be able to contribute to the recent excellent Backbench Business Committee debate on disadvantaged children, which was opened with great force by my hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds). I am therefore delighted to have this opportunity to speak up for all those children and young people in care.

I also declare an interest as a non-practising family law barrister specialising in care cases and, perhaps more importantly, as someone who shared their home for more than 30 years with 90 foster children and two adopted brothers. I have no doubt that that experience not only shaped and hardened my strong sense of social justice but propelled what some would argue was my misplaced desire to come to this place and fight for better outcomes for children in care. Indeed, I had no hesitation in using my maiden speech almost three years ago to do just that.

I want to pay a warm—and, I stress, in no way sycophantic—tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who is replying to the debate today. He has shown a profound interest in and deep knowledge of this subject. In government, he has embarked on the direct, purposeful, common-sense programme of reform that he advocated in opposition. As he has said, the programme is committed to

“infusing the entire care system with a culture of aspiration, hope and optimism for each young person”.

I am sure that his recent appearance before the all-party group, when more than 100 passionate young people came to Parliament to make their views known directly—and, on occasion, quite forcefully—to the Minister, did not put him off his stride. Instead, I am sure that the experience provided him with ample proof of the importance of the work that he has undertaken.

I am sure that much of what I am about to say will sound as though I am teaching the Minister to suck eggs, but I hope to persuade him that, in supporting his efforts, there is even more we can do to help children in care to overcome the odds that are still so heavily stacked against them. Let us look at the facts. Looked-after ​children are four times more likely than others to receive the help of mental health services, nine times more likely to have special needs requiring assessment, support and therapy, seven times more likely to misuse alcohol and drugs, 50 times more likely to end up in prison, 60 times more likely to become homeless, and 66 times more likely to have children of their own who will need public care. As if that were not enough, there are four times fewer children in care getting five good GCSEs including English and maths than their peers.

The financial and societal cost of those appalling statistics is heavy. According to Demos’s recent report “In Loco Parentis”, published last year, a young person who leaves care at 16 with poor mental health and no recognised qualifications could cost the state more than five times as much as one who leaves care with good mental health and strong relationships and who goes on to university or an apprenticeship and finds a job. The costs to society are, perhaps, immeasurable.

I recognise that there are a number of counter-arguments to the picture that I have just painted. We must exercise a degree of caution about making direct, unqualified comparisons between children who have been through the care system and those who have not. In too many cases, children who enter the care system are already deeply damaged by their early-life experiences, which even the best possible care might be unable to unravel and overcome by the time they reach adulthood. We must therefore be careful to view such children’s outcomes in that context.

We must also acknowledge the tremendous amount of fantastic care and support that is benefiting thousands of children in care every day. I have seen it and lived with it myself; I have witnessed at first hand what good parenting and appropriate emotional support can achieve. We should not forget that there are many children whose time in care was an enriching life-changing experience that led to a successful career and a fulfilling personal life. We need to be better and more open about accentuating the positive work that is done and not drag all those who work in the care system down with the structural failures within it.

In many ways, we do not have a single care system, but more of a fragmented patchwork of care systems where good practice thrives in some parts of the country, despite the design of the system. In other areas, however, as noted in the Select Committee report on looked-after children during the last Parliament:

“The quality of experience that children have in care seems to be governed by luck to an…unacceptable degree”.

Let us be clear. As I know the Minister accepts and appreciates, there is no quick fix. This is going to require a cross-party commitment over a generation to build a care system that is proactive, responsive, joined up and brimming with high-quality multidisciplinary support, giving a real and enduring priority to improving outcomes for children both in and on the edge of care.

As Sean Cameron and Colin Maginn lay down in their paper of March 2007:

“The challenge for social work is to provide the quality of care and support that is to be found not just in the average family home, but also in the most functional of families.”

So how do we achieve that end?

Based on strong body of evidence and research by Demos, the three main factors associated with achieving the most positive experiences of care and the best ​outcomes for looked-after children are: first, early intervention and minimal delay; secondly, stability during care; and, thirdly, supported transitions into independence. This is backed up by Mike Stein of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who similarly identified the priorities for ensuring resilience and well-being for looked-after children in later life as preventing children entering the care system through pre-care intervention, improving their care experience and supporting young people’s transitions from care.

The fact is that we need a comprehensive response at all stages of childhood, but there is unquestionably in my mind, amid a growing consensus, the need for a strong emphasis on and commitment to early intervention and prevention, which are absolutely key. The hon. Member for Nottingham North (Mr Allen)—a standard bearer for all things early intervention—said in his latest report, which was commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that

“we need to rebalance the current culture of ‘late reaction’ to social problems to help create the essential social and emotional bedrock for all children to reap the social, individual and economic rewards.”

To that end, I welcome the Government’s financial commitment to that programme through the early-intervention grant, the expansion of family nurse partnerships and the widening of free nursery care for two-year-olds. Like others, I would also want to highlight the superb work done by Home-Start in my Crewe and Nantwich constituency and across the country to help families struggling with the demands of very young children. They deserve proper and longer-term support, so I look forward to the Minister taking the opportunity today to reiterate that to local authorities in no uncertain terms.

By getting in early before problems become entrenched, Action for Children and the New Economics Foundation have calculated a potential saving to the economy of £486 billion over 20 years—imagine that. Just as relevant would be the transformation of life chances for so many young people. The brutal truth is, however, that even with more targeted and consistent preventive work, there will still be children who need the state to intervene in their lives. For them, stability is the foundation stone.

Young people who experience stable placements providing good-quality care are far more likely to succeed educationally, to be in work, to settle in and manage their accommodation after leaving care, to feel better about themselves and to achieve satisfactory social integration into adulthood than young people who have experienced further movement and disruption during their time in care. With stability comes the security as well as the time for children to develop those all-important secure attachments, but much of that is undermined by frequent and disruptive moves, which are too often a feature of a child’s experience in care. As one year 8 child in care put it:

“What was the point in trying to please people, because you would just get moved on again?”

Children need and want a sense of belonging, of family, to feel reciprocal emotional warmth and to have someone who loves them unconditionally and believes in them.​

It is true that in recent years there has been a small drop in the number of looked-after children with three or more placements during the year, but there is still a long way to go. We are short of about 10,000 foster carers. Given that foster placements make up about three quarters of all care placements, and given that in 2010 the number of looked-after children stood at 64,400—up 6% on 2009—a relentless recruitment and retention drive for foster carers remains crucial if we are to increase the prospect of providing every child with the right placement, rather than providing the right child for the placement.

However, foster carers are only part of the stability equation. The recruitment and retention of social workers continues to cause concern, which is the driving force behind the Government’s new “step up to social work” scheme. With a high staff churn rate comes more instability for the child. That is not new. Lord Laming, Moira Gibb and, most recently, Eileen Munro have produced reports in the last few years that pinpoint the tick-box culture that has spread its tentacles across social work and has sapped the morale and professional judgment of social workers. Eileen Munro hit the nail on the head when she said:

“Compliance with regulation and rules often drives professional practice more than sound judgment drawn from freed up social workers spending meaningful time interacting and building a trusting relationship with children, young people and families.”

As the Minister has said previously, taking a child into care is not a science but a subjective judgment. To be able to make that and other judgments correctly requires experience, consistency, and the time and space that make it possible to really understand the needs of a particular child. A change of social worker every five minutes will not lead to good child-focused decisions. But it does not have to be that way.

I am conducting a cross-party inquiry into the educational attainment of looked-after children, with the welcome support of the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and Lord Listowel. A few weeks ago we visited Hackney children’s services to observe the way in which children’s social care in the borough had undergone a complete shift in the culture of practice and management by reclaiming social work through the establishment of social work units. There are teams consisting of a social worker, a family therapist, a children’s practitioner, a unit co-ordinator who takes all the red tape out of the hands of the social worker, and a consultant social worker who, under the old system, would have gone into management and had little or no contact with children of families, but is now using his or her experience on the front line.

The results have been dramatic. We have seen a reduction in the number of looked-after children from 470 to 270, a reduction in the number of agency staff from 50% to just 7%, a 50% reduction in sickness levels, a 5% reduction in overall costs, high levels of morale, and a strong increase in academic achievement among the children in the care of those teams. That example of best practice shows what is possible at a lower cost. Other local authorities have shown an interest in copying the model, but let us make sure that they all know about it. The Government have rightly embarked on a trial of flexible assessment time scales enabling social workers to exercise their professional judgment more effectively, and I note that Hackney council is among those taking part.​

Despite those welcome initiatives, the lines of accountability in local authorities remain cluttered, blurred and confusing. Local safeguarding children boards, directors of children’s services, children’s trusts, children in care councils, virtual school heads, corporate parenting boards, independent reviewing officers and others are all there to champion the voice of the vulnerable child, but, as Roger Morgan, the children’s rights director, will confirm, many children in care feel that their voices are lost in the myriad management decisions being made in their name. The problem needs to be sorted out. I would welcome a commitment from the Minister to look formally into how the voice of children in care can be better and more clearly represented, so that all who act as corporate parents have them constantly at the forefront of their thoughts, words and deeds.

I mentioned my current inquiry into the educational attainment of looked-after children. I do not want to pre-empt its outcome, but the very fact of its existence demonstrates the central role that education plays in improving outcomes for children in care. Evidence that the inquiry has taken from young people in or leaving care suggests strongly that when they have had a stable educational experience not only are their prospects of future employability and independent living greatly enhanced, but their self-esteem, confidence and belief in themselves are significantly boosted. That is why I am reassured by the Government’s guarantees that all looked-after children will receive the pupil premium, and that that additional money will be attached—metaphorically speaking—to all children wherever their education is taking place. However, it would be remiss of me not to add a further plea to my hon. Friend the Minister. If it is right that the personal education allowance is to be rolled into the pupil premium, I urge him to make robust representations to his ministerial colleagues in the Department and the Treasury and to put to them the compelling case for looked-after children to receive an additional sum—a pupil premium-plus, as it were—to reflect their often acute problems, and therefore their heightened need for one-to-one support, psychological input such as cognitive behavioural therapy and other specific interventions relevant to ensuring their prospects at school are not compromised in any way by their looked-after status.

Good quality support does reap rewards. We need only look at the achievements of the Horizon centre in Ealing, which was opened by the Minister and which I recently visited. Through offering young people in and leaving care a safe space where they can get financial, emotional and psychological support, and education and training, the centre has helped to increase the number of children in Ealing borough going to university from 7% to almost 20%. It is an example to others that the transition from care into independence can be successful with the right level and length of support. The so-called cliff-edge that many children leaving care face needs to become a thing of the past, and be replaced by an appropriate and incremental release of support backed up by a safety net when needed, something their peers—who on average do not now leave home until the age of 25—often take for granted, me included. Why should looked-after children be any different?

If time had allowed, I would have wanted to cover much more ground, but before giving the Minister his opportunity to reply, there are four specific issues I want him to respond to in detail, if not today, then at a ​later date. First, we need to widen the range and choice of care. At present, about 14% of looked-after children are in a residential setting. That may be too high, or it may be too low; I simply do not know. Yet in Denmark and Germany more than half of looked-after children are in residential care. Why the huge difference? Is residential care in our country now seen as a placement of last resort? As my hon. Friend the Minister has said, there is scope for seeing whether a greater use of children’s homes is appropriate. The Select Committee report on looked-after children to which I have referred stated that

“the potential of the residential sector to offer high quality, stable placements for a minority of young people is too often dismissed. With enforcement of higher standards, greater investment in skills, and a reconsideration of the theoretical basis for residential care, we believe that it could make a significant contribution to good quality placement choice for young people.”

Indeed, the New Economics Foundation report, “A False Economy”, estimated that for every pound invested in providing an appropriate residential placement leading to good outcomes, a return of between £4 and £7 was created for the economy. With the continued shortage of foster carers and the hit-and-miss aspect of matching children to the right placement still prevalent, I invite the Minister to consider seriously the case for a full and proper national review of residential care, to ensure we can be confident that we are offering children the right placement for them, not simply the only placement available.

Secondly, on looked-after children in custody, I urge the Minister to look urgently at ending the continuing and unjustified anomaly whereby, unlike a child placed under a care order, a looked-after child who was voluntary accommodated prior to custody loses their looked-after status on entering custody and therefore the support of their social worker and other key professionals. I know that people’s minds have been on prisons for another reason today, but this is a serious issue that merits action. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister spoke in favour of putting this discrepancy right during the Committee stage of the Bill that became the Children and Young Persons Act 2008, so I hope that now he is in a position to do something about it, he will do so.

Thirdly, I echo the words of Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the family division, who has called for the prioritising of children’s cases in court above all other family law proceedings, especially judicial decisions on placement in care and adoption. I am aware that there is currently a review of all aspects of family law, so I hope this plea from our most senior family judge does not go unheeded.

Fourthly, more than 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are being looked after by local authorities, but there continue to be concerns about their access to fundamental services such as education, as well as their vulnerability to trafficking. I know the Minister is vexed by this issue and trust he will look into it closely.

I do not doubt that this Government and all previous Governments of whatever political hue have been, and are, determined to improve outcomes for children in care. So am I. With the tightening of purse-strings, the temptation for some will be to continue on a course of crisis management. My message to the Government, local authorities and all those who work with children in care is this: “Be bold, be smart and, above all, show you really care.”​

Michael Gove – 2011 Speech on Moral Purpose of School Reform

michaelgove

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State for Education, in Birmingham on 16 June 2011.

Thank you Tony for that kind introduction.

The last time we met was in New York when we were discussing school reform and, in particular, teacher performance.

I remember arguing that teachers had nothing to fear from lesson observation – not only was learning from other professionals the best way to improve, confident performers should relish the opportunity to show what they can do.

After all, I argued, other inspirational professionals are used to being watched while they work – great footballers, I said, like Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, don’t object to people paying them attention when they do their thing.

Perhaps, in hindsight, I could have chosen a happier parallel – but Tony you are one professional who always performs with effortless grace – thank you.

And thinking of outstanding performances which are a joy to watch, Steve, can I thank you for a brilliant and inspiring speech…

You incarnate the virtues of great leadership.

Clarity of vision.

Generosity of spirit.

Energy in action.

And, above all, clear moral purpose.

Together with Vanni, Toby and the rest of the leadership team at the National College you have responded to every challenge we’ve given you with the enthusiasm, optimism and ambition of great public servants.

I am in your debt.

I mentioned that you bring a clear sense of moral purpose to everything you do, Steve.

Throughout your career you have aspired to give children and young people new opportunities, richer futures, a sense of limitless possibility.

And it’s about moral purpose that I want to speak today.

Knowledge is power

The moral purpose that animates the work we all do. Ministers, officials, school leaders, teachers.

What unites us is a belief that lives can be transformed by what goes on in schools. The precious moments spent in the classroom, the interactions between professionals and students, the process of teaching and learning – can shape futures like nothing else.

Just last week I was talking to one young man at the secondary school nearest to my home, Burlington Danes in London’s White City Estate. A teenager who had been persistently in trouble, going in the wrong direction and who saw in the environment around him no incentive to work hard, no penalty for indiscipline, no encouragement to learn. Until that school was taken in a new direction by a new leader, the amazing Sally Coates.

She made sure every moment every child spent in her school was worthwhile – focussed on learning – with a clear expectation that every child could surpass their family’s expectations. That young man is now on course to study engineering at Cambridge and his life has been transformed immeasurably for the better.

And what Sally has done in Burlington Danes, so many of you are doing across the country. Changing schools for the better, spreading opportunity more widely.

I am uniquely fortunate to be Secretary of State at a time when we have the best generation of teachers ever in our schools and the best generation of heads leading them.

People like Dana Ross-Wawrzynski at Altrincham Grammar Schools for Girls, who not only runs one of the most impressive schools in the country, but is also creating a trust in East Manchester that is already rapidly boosting the performance of a number of other local schools.

Or Ray Ruszczynski at Chellaston Academy, a superb National Leader of Education, working in a collaborative group with Landau Forte Academy and West Park School, as well as providing a wide range of support to Sinfin School.

Or Dame Sue John who has turned Lampton Academy into an inspiring example of how a school can succeed in a tough area, while also spearheading the London Challenge initiative which has so helped improve education in our capital.

Heroes and heroines whose vocation is teaching – the noblest calling I know.

All of us in this hall share something, I suspect. All of us, I am sure, were inspired by a teacher or teachers who kindled a love of knowledge, a restless curiosity, and a passion for our subject when we were young.

And all of us, I believe, want to excite the next generation – as we were excited – by the adventure of learning.

Introducing the next generation to the best that has been thought and written is a moral enterprise of which we can all be proud. Giving every child an equal share in the inheritance of achievement which great minds have passed on to us is a great progressive cause. Shakespeare’s dramas, Milton’s verse, Newton’s breakthroughs, Curie’s discoveries, Leibniz’s genius, Turing’s innovation, Beethoven’s music, Turner’s painting, Macmillan’s choreography, Zuckerberg’s brilliance – all the rich achievements of human ingenuity belong to every child – and it should be our enduring mission to spread that inheritance as widely as possible.

Because it is only through learning – the acquisition of intellectual capital – that individuals have the power to shape their own lives. In a world which globalisation is flattening, in which unskilled jobs are disappearing from our shores, in which education determines income and good qualifications are the best form of unemployment insurance, we have to ensure every child has a stock of intellectual capital which enables them to flourish.

Making opportunity more equal

But there is one area where the sense of moral purpose which guides us as leaders in education must impel us to do more.

As a nation, we still do not do enough to extend the liberating power of a great education to the poorest.

As Barack Obama has persuasively argued, education reform is the civil rights battle of our time.

In Britain, as in the USA, access to a quality education has never mattered more but access to a quality education is rationed for the poor, the vulnerable and those from minority communities.

Each year there are 600,000 students passing through our state schools. 80,000 of them – the poorest – are those eligible for free school meals.

Of those 80,000, in the last year for which we have figures, just 40 made it to Oxford or Cambridge. Fewer from the whole of the population on benefits than made it from Eton. Or Westminster. Or St Paul’s School for Girls.

We know that we are not playing fair by all when, in the last year for which we have figures, just one child from all the state schools in the whole London Borough of Greenwich makes it to Oxford.

My moral purpose in Government is to break the lock which prevents children from our poorest families making it into our best universities and walking into the best jobs.

That is why this Government is spending two and a half billion pounds on a pupil premium to ensure that every child eligible for free school meals has two thousand pounds more spent on their education every year.

That is why this Government is investing in more hours of free nursery education for all three and four year olds and 15 hours of free nursery education for all disadvantaged two-year-olds.

And that is why this Government is investing in an Education Endowment Fund which will, like Barack Obama’s Race to the Top Fund, provide additional money for those teachers who develop innovative approaches to tackling disadvantage.

Because the scandal which haunts my conscience is the plight of those students from the poorest backgrounds, in the poorest neighbourhoods, in our poorest-performing schools who need us to act if their right to a decent future is to be guaranteed.

We still have one of the most segregated schools systems in the world, with the gap between the best and the worst wider than in almost any other developed nation.

In the highest-performing education nations, such as Singapore, around 80% of students taking O-levels get at least an equivalent of a C pass in their maths and English.

And we should remember that Singapore has only been independent for around fifty years, it has no natural resources, is surrounded by more powerful nations, is a multi-ethnic society and its students sit exams in English – even though their first language will be Malay, Tamil or Chinese.

Here just over half of students get a C pass in GCSE maths and English. And the half which fail are drawn overwhelmingly from poorer backgrounds and are educated in poorer-performing schools.

So, at the heart of our comprehensive reform programme for education is a determination to learn from, and emulate, those countries which are both high performers and succeed in generating a much higher level of equity across the school system.

Thanks to the pioneering work of thinkers such as Michael Fullan, Michael Barber and Fenton Whelan, and the data gathered by the OECD through its regular surveys of educational performance, we can identify the common features of high-performing systems.

The best people need to be recruited into the classroom.

They then need to be liberated in schools set free from bureaucratic control.

Given structures which encourage collaboration and the sharing of the benefits innovation brings.

Held to account in an intelligent fashion so we can all identify the best practice we can draw on.

And led in a way which encourages us all to hold fast to the moral purpose of making opportunity more equal.

I want to say a little about each.

We’re getting more superb teachers

We’ve moved quickly to get more high-performing graduates into teaching by funding the doubling of Teach First over the course of this parliament and expanding the fantastic Future Leaders and Teaching Leaders programmes which, with the support of the National College, provide superb professional development for the future leaders of some of our toughest schools.

Shortly we’ll be publishing our strategy for Initial Teacher Training. This will further emphasise our commitment to boosting the status of the profession by toughening up the recruitment process and ensuring that all new teachers have a real depth of knowledge in their subject.

We’ll be making sure this covers the whole spectrum by, for example, providing additional funding for more placements in special schools, so as to give more teachers specialist knowledge in teaching children with special needs.

We will also explore how excellent schools can be more involved in both initial training and the provision of professional development. Contrary to what some have said this is not about excluding higher education from teacher training. There are many excellent centres of ITT and losing their experience is not on my agenda.

But I am keen that we make better use of headteachers’ and teachers’ experience. That’s why I, like Steve, am so excited about the development of Teaching Schools.

I believe Teaching Schools have the potential to generate higher standards than ever before. Over 1,000 expressions of interest and 300 applications is a very positive sign of your enthusiasm. The first 100 Teaching Schools will be designated next month but the partnerships being developed between schools and with higher education are already having a powerful and positive impact on the system.

We’re empowering school leaders to innovate

Putting our best schools in charge of professional development is, though, just one way in which we’re handing you control of the education system.

We’ve reduced central Government prescription for all schools to make your lives easier and give you the space to focus on what really matters.

The hundreds of pages of forms you had to fill in to complete the FMSIS process. Gone.

The vast Ofsted self-evaluation form that took weeks to fill in. Gone.

Performance Management guidance has been cut by three quarters and capability procedures simplified so you can deal with inadequate staff quickly and effectively.

Behaviour and bullying guidance has been cut from 600 pages to 50 so as to give you complete clarity over your powers and duties.

Over the next few months we will be publishing shortened guidance in a whole host of other areas. In total, departmental guidance will be more than halved.

And, I hope you’ve noticed we’ve stopped the endless stream of emails that use to emanate from the Department.

Beyond these changes we’ve implemented for the benefit of all schools, we’ve also given every school the opportunity to take complete control of its budget, curriculum and staffing by applying for academy status.

When I spoke to you last year there were 203 academies. Now there are 704 and a further 814 schools have applied. By the end of the year more than a third of secondaries will be academies. This is a much faster rate of conversion than I, or I think anyone else, had anticipated and testament, I believe, to school leaders’ desire for genuine autonomy.

Many of you who have converted in the past year have already used your freedoms to great effect. For example:

Premier Academy in Milton Keynes has extended payscales – so that good teachers can choose to remain in the classroom rather than move into management to increase their salaries.

And, like other schools such as Wakefield City Academy, they have used resources previously held by their Local Authority to employ a dedicated pastoral support worker on-site to ensure that children with social and educational needs get complete continuity of care.

Others are following some of the larger sponsor groups like ARK and Haberdashers in extending their school day and the academic year.

Yet others like the Kunskapsskolan schools in Richmond are developing exciting new curriculum models.

And many converter academies have found they are able to buy services for a significantly lower cost than those provided by their local authority.

For instance Broadclyst Academy Primary School has cut the costs of their payroll system in half and has ploughed the money back into teaching. Watford Grammar School for Girls and Hartismere Academy have found procuring small improvements to be significantly cheaper and quicker.

This is creating a new relationship between schools and Local Authorities. As we know, in some areas LAs have been genuine drivers of innovation and improvement: they have seen their role as champions of excellence; identifying struggling heads and governors; brokering peer-to-peer support; and forging partnerships with local universities or major employers to drive up standards.

But in other areas this has not been the case. And this is now beginning to change, as LAs react to schools’ new powers by improving the quality of their offer to ensure academies buy back services and engage with local initiatives. As one academy head explained recently to the Guardian:

Under the old regime, nothing had ever been done about some things that weren’t good enough, whereas now, there’s an awful lot of activity at our Local Authority to make sure services are good enough so that we will buy them in.

And some healthy competition isn’t just improving Local Authorities. A study just published by academics at the London School of Economics, looking at academies opened by the last government, shows not only that they have improved significantly faster than other schools, but also that other schools in their locality have seen results improve.

We’re embedding a culture of collaboration

But competition isn’t the main driver of improvement in the system. What we’re seeing, as Steve put it, is collaboration driving improvement but with a competitive edge. Indeed I would go as far to argue that genuine collaboration is harder without that competitive edge to inspire the need to improve.

So I’m hugely encouraged by the renewed focus on partnership between schools I’m seeing at the moment. I’ve already mentioned how impressed I am with some of the alliances put together by aspirant Teaching Schools. But that’s just one area of activity.

For instance, all of the new converter academies have, between them, agreed to support over 700 other schools and we’ve begun the doubling of the National and Local Leader of Education programmes to support fellow heads.

I am particularly pleased to see that a number of these softer collaborative relationships are evolving into hard federations.

I have always thought that many of the best academy chains are those that have grown out of a single outstanding school with a visionary leadership team. Just look at what Dan Moynihan has done at Harris; or Sir Kevin Satchwell at Thomas Telford; or Sir Peter Simpson at Brooke Weston; or our new Schools’ Commissioner Elizabeth Sidwell at Haberdashers.

What these leaders share is that were given a rare opportunity as headteachers of CTCs to use their longstanding autonomy to develop a powerful educational model that could then be readily applied to new schools when the last Government launched their academy programme.

Now, with our offer of academy freedoms to all outstanding schools and leaders we have created the opportunity on a much larger scale for great leaders to expand their vision across a group of schools.

The process of allowing outstanding schools to convert has created a new generation of academy sponsors dedicated to turning round under-performing schools.

For example, Morley High School, led by NLE John Townsley, converted in January and will start sponsoring Farnley Park School in Leeds next year. And Sandy Hill Academy in Cornwall – one of the very first converters – is now in the process of taking on Trevebyn Primary.

I hope many more of you will take advantage of this opportunity over the coming years.

A proper national framework of accountability

Of course in this new educational landscape – where far more schools have significant autonomy and improvement is driven not by Government but by great schools working with others – proper accountability becomes even more important than ever.

That’s why we’re currently overhauling the Ofsted framework to focus on the four core responsibilities of schools – teaching and learning; leadership; attainment; behaviour and safety – as opposed to the twenty-seven different categories in the existing framework.

I am particularly keen that under the new framework Ofsted inspectors are able engage properly with schools, as opposed to focusing too strongly on data alone. I want them to be able to view more lessons; talk to more teachers and hear what students and parents have to say. And I want inspectors to engage not just during inspections but subsequently so that schools feel they have some guidance as well as a judgement.

We also need to change the way we use data in our pursuit of accountability. As Professor Alison Wolf’s review on vocational education has made clear, the introduction of large numbers of vocational equivalents to the GCSE performance tables in 2004 has led to widespread gaming of qualifications. The 4,000 per cent rise in the number of such qualifications taken in just six years is testament to this.

She has proposed measures to combat this issue which we are now implementing – including much tighter criteria for courses that wish to be considered equivalent to GCSE. But this particular problem is symptomatic of a wider issue. As long as most data is hidden from the public and the profession governments can manipulate what they do choose to release so as to mislead.

That is why we’ve already begun a major transparency revolution. We’ve started the process of publishing all the information the Department collects – including an additional 14 million lines of exam data this year. In future this will include more data on how schools are improving the results of the disadvantaged – both those in receipt of the pupil premium and those with low prior attainment.

I don’t expect, of course, that many parents will personally search through all this new material, but we are already seeing third parties finding new ways to present this data. Moreover educational researchers will have an unprecedented opportunity to investigate what’s really going on in the system.

It also means that any new performance measures Government does seek to highlight – such as the English Baccalaureate – will only have an impact insofar as they resonate with parents. Initial surveys suggest this measure does have real resonance. Which is unsurprising as it simply seeks to replicate the sort of academic core that is expected in almost every developed country in the world: for children on both academic and vocational routes post-16.

A moral commitment to helping those most in need

Crucial to a proper framework of accountability is a set of clear expectations for schools. As the OECD say: “PISA results suggest that the countries that improved the most, or that are among the top performers, are those that establish clear, ambitious policy goals.”

In last year’s White Paper we took a tougher line on under-performance than ever before by raising the floor standard for secondary schools to 35 per cent of pupils achieving five GCSEs at A*-C including English and maths. We wanted these standards to be as fair as possible, so schools which show pupils making superb progress from a low basis are exempted.

But that still left 216 secondary schools below this floor. We have taken action, in partnership with many of you in this room, to ensure their performance is turned round.

In the next school year at least 88 schools, and counting, will be placed in the hands of new academy sponsors with a mission to end a culture of poor performance. That is more under-performing schools converted to academies than the last Government ever managed in a single year and more than they managed in their first eight years combined.

So I’m hugely encouraged by our progress. But I don’t believe, and I hope you don’t either, that 35 per cent of kids getting five decent GCSEs should be the limit of our ambition.

To compete with the best in the world, we have to raise our expectations not just once but continuously. In Poland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand more and more students are graduating from school and going on to university. In Singapore more than 80 per cent of young people taking O-levels now achieve 5 passes – the equivalent of C grades in GCSE. In South Korea an incredible 97 per cent of students graduate from high school.

So if we are to aspire to a world-class education system then we need to raise our sights beyond 35 per cent. And in doing so we cannot allow ourselves to have lower expectations for more disadvantaged parts of country. Of course I accept that schools in such communities face harder challenges but I also know that these challenges can be met. Deprivation need not be destiny.

Look at Perry Beeches in Birmingham. 25 per cent of children are on Free School Meals and 41 per cent have special needs. Yet in three years they have moved from 21 per cent five A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths to 74 per cent.

Or Paddington Academy – which jumped from 34 per cent to 63 per cent five A*-C with English and maths in just one year. At Paddington 51 per cent of children are on Free School Meals and 65 per cent are identified has having some kind of special need.

Or Woodside High School in Haringey, a school Steve spoke eloquently about in his speech, where almost no children at all achieved 5 A* to C with English and maths 5 years ago and where over 50% will hit that benchmark this year. Again this is a school where 55% of children are on free school meals and 38% have identified special needs.

Now that we know this level of achievement is possible in schools like these, and in many others similar to them, we must surely make it our expectation for all schools. To do any less, I believe, would be a betrayal of our young people.

So next year the floor will rise to 40 per cent and my aspiration is that by 2015 we will be able to raise it to 50 per cent. There is no reason – if we work together – that by the end of this parliament every young person in the country can’t be educated in a school where at least half of students reach this basic academic standard.

I realise that in stating this aspiration some will criticise too strong a focus on testing. Let me be clear: I do not think the only responsibility a school has is to help students pass exams. An outstanding school will look after the pastoral needs of its pupils; will provide a wide range of extra-curricular activities, and play a role as a broader part of its community. But it must also endow each child with the basic entitlement of intellectual capital any citizen needs to make their way in the world. A GCSE floor standard is about providing a basic minimum expectation to young people that their school will equip them for further education and employment.

Primary

And we must also have a similar level of expectation for primary schools. The last Government’s academies programme was never extended to primaries, even though it was Andrew Adonis’s clear ambition.

And after an initial focus on primary schools in its first five years, the last Government lost momentum. So in the White Paper I also introduced a meaningful floor standard for primaries for the first time: that 60 per cent of pupils should achieve Level 4 in English and maths at Key Stage 2 or make an average level of progress.

Of course primary test scores are more volatile than those in secondaries due to the smaller size of schools, so one has to treat data with additional care. However, analysis of this new floor standard reveals that there are more than 200 schools that have been under the floor for five years or more. Indeed more than half of these have been under the floor for at least ten years.

A further 500 or so schools have been under the floor for three of the past four years.

These schools have let down repeated cohorts of children. Again I appreciate that it is harder to reach this standard in some parts of the country than others. But again we know that it is possible:

Look at Berrymede Junior School in Acton where 58 per cent of children are on Free School Meals and 31 per cent have a special need. Here over 80 per cent of pupils have achieved Level 4 in English and maths in each of the last three years.

Or Woodberry Down in Hackney with 51 per cent on Free School Meals and 34 per cent with special needs where 80 per cent reached Level 4 in English and maths last year.

Or Cuckoo Hall Academy in Edmonton with 37 per cent on Free School Meals and 34 per cent with special needs where an incredible 95 per cent of pupils achieved the Level 4 benchmark last year.

Or dozens of others in similar circumstances. Given that we know it can be done and it is done, we surely must make it our minimum expectation for all primary schools that they will not consistently fall below a 60 per cent floor.

So, as an urgent priority, we will start work on turning around the 200 schools that have most consistently underperformed by finding new academy sponsors for them so that most can reopen from September 2012. We want to work closely with the schools involved and their local authorities to make this happen.

The Education Bill currently working its way through Parliament will give the Department the power to intervene to turn around underperforming schools where authorities are recalcitrant or try to stand in the way of improvement. But wherever possible we want to find solutions that everyone can agree on – as we have done with the vast majority of the secondary schools that will become academies next year.

Beyond this we want to support Local Authorities in turning round the 500 schools who have fallen below the floor in at least three of the past four years. Several months ago I asked Local Authorities to draw up plans showing how they intended to improve their weaker schools. These have now been submitted and some of them are very impressive showing clear leadership and engagement with the problems of long-term underperformance.

In his speech Steve mentioned Wigan’s plans to commission groups of schools to run improvement activity across the authority and he underlined how schools across Manchester are working together to embed the success of the Greater Manchester Challenge. In Devon and Suffolk the Local Authorities have worked to help schools become academies while maintaining a strong network between the schools.

But there will be other local authorities that need some support – financial and logistic – from the centre. So, over the coming months, we will identify areas – either whole authorities or parts of larger authorities – that have a significant number of underperforming schools. We will help these communities dramatically transform primary education in their area.

Conclusion

And there is an urgent need for us all to act.

We have just suffered the worst financial crisis since 1929.

Our economy is weighed down by a huge debt burden.

Europe has major problems with debt and the euro.

Meanwhile there is a rapid and historic shift of political and economic power to Asia and a series of scientific and technological changes that are transforming our culture, economy and global politics.

If we do not have a school system that is adapting to and preparing for these challenges then we will betray a generation.

Our school system needs to have innovation embedded in its way of working. That is what our reforms provide – the opportunity for our school system to adapt rapidly to technological change such as the amazing revolution of iTunesU, whereby Harvard and Oxbridge publish their most valuable content free, extending the scope of knowledge available to all children.

Only by learning from other nations, and by giving school leaders the freedom to shape their own futures, liberated from outdated bureaucratic structures, can we ensure we benefit from the other, increasingly rapid changes technological innovation will bring.

And while globalisation brings many benefits to our citizens, it also bears particularly heavily on the poor and the young.

Across the Western world countries are struggling with youth unemployment at the moment.

And for all those of us who feel that the moral purpose of our work is to find a fulfilling outlet for the talents of our young people, there is a special tragedy in seeing young lives unfulfilled.

There are things Government can do to ameliorate this in the short term. And we are acting, not least through my colleague Iain Duncan Smith’s work programme.

But if we are to grasp this issue properly then we must deal with the root causes of the problem.

And that is our shared responsibility.

For those root causes can be found in the first years of a child’s life.

We know that a child who struggles at Key Stage One will struggle to do well in their Key Stage Two tests. And we know those children with the greatest difficulties are drawn overwhelmingly from our poorest neighbourhoods.

And we know that those same children who don’t have Level 4 English and maths when they leave primary school are much less likely to achieve five good GCSEs than their more fortunate peers.

And we know that the same young person who doesn’t get the equivalent of five good GCSEs is much more likely to be NEET at 16 or 17 and much less likely to be in secure employment thereafter.

We are fortunate to be in the most fulfilling employment anyone can have. To be engaged in the education of the next generation is to be given a chance to liberate thousands from the narrow horizons which have limited mankind’s vision for centuries.

But if we are to make good that promise then we need to recognise that we will all have to work harder than ever before – work to attract even better people into teaching, work to innovate more determinedly, work to identify talent more zealously, work to collaborate more intensively, work to raise aspirations, standards, hopes…

But in this work lies the promise of a reward greater than is given to any other profession – the knowledge that we have guaranteed the life of the next generation will be better than our own.

Michael Gove – 2011 Speech to the Education World Forum

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Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State for Education, at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London on 11 January 2011.

There could be no better way to start 2011 for me than by welcoming you all here to London.

Because this second decade of the twenty-first century will be characterised by uniquely daunting challenges – but it also holds out amazing opportunities.

The challenges are so daunting because they are global in scope and as testing as any our generation has known.

But the opportunities are even greater because there is the chance – in this generation – to bring freedom, opportunity, knowledge and dignity, material plenty and personal fulfilment to many more of our fellow citizens than ever before.

The great Italian Marxist thinker once enjoined on his followers an attitude he defined as pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

What he meant was that we should be clear eyed about the difficulties we face, but undaunted, determined and resolute in our belief they can be overcome.

Our world does face huge problems.

A resurgent wave of ideologically motivated terrorism and renewed conflicts between peoples threaten millions. Our global environment is threatened by resource depletion and thoughtless exploitation. A dramatically growing, and increasingly youthful, world population chafes against constraints which deny millions the chance to live their dreams. Economic growth has been spread inequitably and nations which are adjusting to reality after years of folly are finding the process, inevitably, painful.

But bumpy, indeed turbulent, as the journey ahead might be, we are also fortunate in knowing what the best route not just to safety, but to plenty, will be.

It is the pursuit of knowledge.

Nothing is so effective a solvent of hatred and prejudice as learning and wisdom, the best environmental protection policy to help the planet is a scientific innovation policy which rewards greener growth, the route to fulfilment for the next generation is dedication to study, hard work and restless curiosity and the single most effective way to generate economic growth is invest in human and intellectual capital – to build a better education system.

So, in that sense, in talking to those who lead the world’s education systems I have the unique privilege of talking to those who will lead the world out of the dark valley we are currently navigating and onto sunlit uplands where opportunity beckons.

It is, certainly, a special privilege to be involved in shaping education policy at the moment. Because as well as laying the foundations for a world which is better, we are also ensuring that we live in societies which are fairer.

For most of our history people have been victims of forces beyond their control.

Accidents of birth – like where individuals were born, both geographically and in class terms, as well as what their parents did for a living – proved overwhelmingly likely to dictate people’s future.

But education is the means by which we can liberate people from those imposed constraints. It allows individuals to choose a fulfilling job, enrich their inner life and become authors of our own life stories.

And that is why education reform is the great progressive cause of our times.

The Education World Forum is so important because it demonstrates our shared belief that we can educate our children to an ever higher standard and achieve the levels of fairness and social mobility that have long eluded us.

In the coming days, we have an opportunity to talk in detail about the issues that we face, share our expertise and strengthen the bonds between our countries. I’m also delighted that many of you will have the chance to see for yourselves the very best of the British education system.

I am pleased that so many young people in Britain today are enjoying a superb education – and pleased that in many areas we have made progress over the years. In particular, I am overjoyed that we have so many great teachers and headteachers who are playing an increasingly important part in transforming our system for the better.

But I am also conscious that in the world of education, by definition, the quest to improve never ends.

Education is a process of continual learning, of crossing new boundaries, exploring new territory, restless curiosity and perpetual questioning.

And as I have been in this job one of the things I have learned is that we can only improve our own education systems if we make them as open to new thinking, as free to learn, as flexible and innovative, as possible.

Because with every year that passes we are privileged to enjoy new insights about how best to organise schools, how best to inspire pupils, how to use new technology, how the brain absorbs knowledge, how teachers can best motivate, how parents can better support, how governments can best invest.

And we are uniquely fortunate that speaking at this conference are two men who have done more than any others to help us understand what works in the world of education. And by listening to them we can see how much further we all have to go.

Yesterday, you heard from a man I recently have described as the most important man in the British education system – but he could equally be the most important man in world education.

Later this morning, you will hear from the man who is vying with him for that accolade.

Neither will teach a single lesson this year, neither are household names, neither – unsurprisingly – are education ministers – but both deserve our thanks and the thanks of everyone who wants to see children around the world fulfil the limit of their potential.

They are Andreas Schleicher and Michael Barber.

Andreas Schleicher is a German mathematician with the sort of job title that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy – head of the indicators and analysis division (directorate for education) at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

On the face of it, a job description like that might seem like the title of the bureaucrat’s bureaucrat – but in truth Andreas is the father of more revolutions than any German since Karl Marx.

Because Andreas is responsible for collating the PISA league tables of international educational achievement. He tells us which nations have the best-performing education systems and then analyses that data to determine why that is the case.

When the first PISA league tables were published they demonstrated, to the amazement of the German political classes, that their education system was nowhere near the position of world leadership they had fondly imagined.

The phenomenon of discovering just how relatively poorly the German education system performed was termed ‘Pisa-Schock’ and it stimulated a furious debate about how Germany could catch up.

In the US, education experts described the 2006 PISA report as our generation’s ‘Sputnik moment’.

The evidence that 15-year-olds in the Far East were so comfortably outperforming American pupils in maths and science sent the same shockwaves through the West as the Soviet Union’s surprise satellite launch in 1957, an event which prompted a radical reform of science education in the US.

But just because you come top in PISA these days doesn’t mean you rest on the laurels Andreas fashions for you. Far from it.

What characterises those nations which are themselves top performers – such as Singapore and Hong Kong – is that they are restless self-improvers.

They have also eagerly examined every aspect of Andreas’s research to see what their principal competitors are doing with a view to implementing further changes to maintain their competitive edge.

Sir Michael Barber is another visionary educationalist.

In the early part of the last decade, he played a direct role in shaping the English education system as a leading advisor to Tony Blair’s government. As a result of policies that he helped introduce – including an uncompromising focus on literacy, floor standards for school performance and higher standards for teacher performance – improvements were undoubtedly made.

But, rather like Tony Blair, Michael has arguably had an even bigger influence globally than at home in recent years. His seminal 2007 report, How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top, which he produced for McKinsey provided those nations that were serious about education reform with a blueprint of what they needed to do to catch up.

And his recent report, How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better, provides further invaluable insights for all nations aspiring to improve their education system or hoping to remain amongst the best.

No nation that is serious about ensuring its children enjoy an education that equips them to compete fairly with students from other countries can afford to ignore the PISA and McKinsey studies.

Doing so would be as foolish as dismissing what control trials tell us in medicine. It means flying in the face of the best evidence we have of what works.

And just as the evidence that Andreas and Michael has gathered has influenced education reformers in North America, Asia and Scandinavia, so it is influencing the Coalition Government here in Britain.

Not least because it shows that we are falling further and further behind other nations. In the last ten years, we have plummeted in the world rankings from 4th to 16th for science, 7th to 25th for literacy and 8th to 28th for maths.

These are facts from which we cannot hide. But while they may encourage a certain pessimism of the intellect, the examples of transformed education systems which Andreas and Michael have highlighted, certainly encourages optimism of the will.

From Shanghai to New Orleans, Alberta to Hong Kong, Singapore to Helsinki, nations which have been educational back markers have become world leaders.

And our recently published schools White Paper was deliberately designed to bring together – indeed, to shamelessly plunder from – policies that have worked in other high-performing nations.

It was accompanied by a detailed evidence paper, The case for change, that draws on the insights generated by successive PISA studies and McKinsey reports.

And it is based on the three essential characteristics which mark out the best performing and fastest reforming education systems in the landmark PISA and McKinsey studies.

Importance of teaching
First, the most successful education nations recruit the best possible people into teaching, provide them with high-quality training and professional development, and put them to work in the most challenging classrooms.

Our schools White Paper was called The importance of teaching because nothing matters more in improving education than giving every child access to the best possible teaching and ensuring that every moment of interaction between teacher and student yields results.

We are committed to raising the quality of new entrants to the teaching profession by insisting they are better qualified than ever before, we are determined to improve teacher training by building on intellectual accomplishment and ensuring more time is spent in the classroom acquiring practical teaching skills, and we plan to establish new centres of excellence in teaching practice – teaching schools modelled on our great teaching hospitals – so that new and experienced teachers can learn and develop their craft throughout their careers.

We have learnt from Finland – a consistently strong performer in PISA studies – about the importance of attracting the very best graduates into teaching, which is why we are expanding our principal elite route into teaching, Teach First, as well as providing extra support for top graduates in maths and science to enter teaching.

And we are increasing the number of national and local leaders of education – superb heads who lend their skills to raise standards in weaker schools – so that the best support the weak in a concerted effort to improve education for all children, not just some.

The principle of collaboration between stronger and weaker schools, with those in a position to help given the freedom to make a difference, lies at the heart of our whole approach to school improvement.

Greater autonomy

The PISA and McKinsey reports clearly show that the greater the amount of autonomy at school level, with headteachers and principals free to determine how pupils are taught and how budgets are spent, the greater the potential there has been for all-round improvement and the greater the opportunity too for the system to move from good to great.

The Coalition Government agrees that headteachers and teachers – not politicians and bureaucrats – know best how to run schools.

That is why we’ve announced a review of our National Curriculum with the aim of reducing prescription and are taking action to shed all unnecessary bureaucratic burdens on schools.

It is also why we’re freeing schools from central and local bureaucratic control by inviting them to become academies.

Schools are taking up our offer because they recognise the huge benefits that being an academy brings – more autonomy, more resources, less bureaucracy and an opportunity to thrive, free from interference from government.

Since the start of the school term in September, more than one school has converted to become an academy every working day. As of last week, more than 400 academies are now open and enjoying many of the same freedoms which are enjoyed by schools in the best-performing education systems. And many more are in the pipeline.

Alongside this, we are also further extending autonomy and choice by making it easier for teachers, parents, academy sponsors and other groups to start their own free schools.

In Sweden, free schools have driven up standards in those schools but also in neighbouring schools too.

And as the OECD points out, two of the most successful countries in PISA – Hong Kong and Singapore – are among those with the highest levels of school competition.

But while increased parental choice can help tackle ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations’, which continues to blight the life chances of many children from deprived backgrounds in particular, it does not need be the enemy of cooperation.

Our plans foresee schools collaborating on a scale that has never been witnessed before, which is why all new academies are also working with weaker schools to help them improve.

And this week will see a major advance in that drive.

We will identify those of our schools most in need of support – those where attainment is poor and where students are not making progress.

These are the schools whose children most need our help – those underperforming institutions where opportunity is restricted.

We will work with these schools – all of which have great potential and all of which will have staff ready to accept the challenge to improve.

We will provide them with extra resources.

But on condition they work with us to develop tough, rigorous, immediate plans for improvement.

Those plans will involve weaker schools being taken under the wing of high-performing schools, entering academy chains, changing the way they work, implementing reforms to the curriculum and staffing and putting in place new, tougher approaches to discipline and behaviour.

This drive will be led by an inspirational former headteacher – Liz Sidwell – who has experience of the state and private sector and who has helped turn round underperforming schools as well as setting a benchmark for excellence in the state system.

Proper accountability
The reason we’re able to identify great heads like Liz – and the schools which need her help – is that we have, over time, developed ways of holding schools, and education ministers, accountable for the money they spend.

Because the other, central, insight from the PISA and McKinsey reports into what makes great education systems so successful is that they all use data to make schools accountable and drive improvement.

Data allows us to identify the best so we can emulate it, and diagnose weaknesses so we can intervene before it’s too late.

I know that some in the education profession fear that data has been used – perhaps I should say abused – to constrict the autonomy which we know drives improvement.

But the lesson from PISA is that autonomy works best when it’s combined with intelligent accountability. That means making comparisons which are fair. And trying to limit the extent to which measurements can be ‘gamed’ by those in the system.

It’s because it’s so important that the public can make fair comparisons between schools that we are revamping performance tables to place more emphasis on the real value schools add as well as the raw attainment results they secure.

Pupils need qualifications to succeed in life, so I won’t shy away from saying we expect more and more young people to leave school with better and better qualifications. That is non-negotiable.

But we must also recognise that schools succeed when they take children from challenging and difficult circumstances and ensure they exceed expectations and progress faster than their peers.

And because we want to limit the extent to which accountability mechanisms are ‘gamed’ we will also ensure much more information is put into the public domain so that schools can be compared on many different criteria.

That will help schools which believe they have special qualities, undervalued by current performance tables, to make the case for their particular strengths.

And I expect that we will see new performance tables drawn up, by schools themselves, by active citizens and by professional organisations which will draw attention to particular areas of strength in our school system.

In this year’s performance tables we are introducing a new measure – the English Baccalaureate – which will show how many students in each school secured five good passes in English, maths, science, languages and one of the humanities.

It’s been introduced this year to allow us to see how the schools system has performed in the past – in a way which manifestly can’t have been gamed.

And I expect it will reveal the way in which past performance tables actually encouraged many many great schools and great heads to offer certain non-academic subjects rather than more rigorous academic subjects.

I am open to arguments about how we can further improve every measure in the performance tables – including the English Baccalaureate.

But I am determined to ensure that our exam standards match the highest standards around the world.

And in other high-performing nations there is an expectation that children will be tested in a wide range of subjects at 16.

In Singapore children sit compulsory O Levels in their mother tongue (which will be Chinese, Malay or Tamil), in the English language, in maths, in combined humanities, In science and in at least one other subject.

In Germany graduation to sixth form follows on from passing exams in German, maths, English and three other subjects.

In Alberta there are compulsory tests at age 15 in maths, science, English, French and social studies.

In France the brevet diploma is awarded at age 15 depending on performance in tests of French, maths, history, geography, civics, computer science and a modern foreign language.

In Japan there are tests at age 15 in Japanese, social studies, maths, science and English.

In the US at age 17 there are exam requirements in English, maths, science and social studies.

And in the Netherlands at 16, 17 or 18 students are expected to pass tests in Dutch, English, social studies and two other subjects – such as science, classical culture or a second modern foreign language.

England’s current expectation that only English and maths be considered benchmark expectations at 16 marks us out from other high-performing nations.

I am delighted to have a debate about how we both broaden and deepen our education system, but we cannot be in any doubt that while reform accelerates across the globe no country can afford to be left behind.

I’m in no doubt that what we are attempting in England adds up to a comprehensive programme of reform for schools here – but if we are to learn one thing from the groundbreaking work done by Andreas Schleicher and by Sir Michael Barber, it is that whole-system reform is needed to every aspect of our education system if we are to build a truly world-class education system.

It is only by paying attention to improving teacher quality, granting greater autonomy to the front line, modernising curricula, making schools more accountable to their communities, harnessing detailed performance data and encouraging professional collaboration that a nation can become one of the world’s top performers.

The evidence shows us it can be done.

And the challenge facing us in 2011 is to follow the path which the evidence, so patiently acquired by Andreas Schleicher and by Sir Michael Barber, tells us can liberate our children.

What better New Year’s resolution could any of us make this week.

Michael Gove – 2011 Speech to the National College

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Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Gove, the then Secretary of State for Education, in Nottingham on 13 September 2011.

It’s a special pleasure to be here in Nottingham this evening – it gives me an opportunity to say some very heartfelt thank yous.

To Vanni Treves, Toby Salt, and, above all, Steve Munby, for the visionary leadership they have shown at the National College;

To their team – some of the most gifted and committed people in education today;

But above all to you – the heads of the first 100 Teaching Schools.

You are 120 of the best school leaders in England – which means 120 of the best school leaders in the world.

And 120 of the most important people in this country.

The history of educational improvement in this country has sometimes been written with references to parliamentary Acts – whether it’s Forster’s, Fisher’s, Butler’s or Baker’s.

And implicit in that narrative has been the assumption that educational improvement in this country has been driven by politicians – usually Liberals or Conservatives.

Whereas of course, the truth is entirely different.

Educational progress in this country has not been driven primarily by politicians.

It’s been driven, generation after generation, by teachers.

And especially headteachers.

People like you.

From Arnold of Rugby to Wilshaw of Mossbourne,

From Roxburgh of Stowe to Wilkins of Outwood Grange,

From Rae of Westminster to Ross-Warzynski of Altrincham…

The pioneers who have redefined what we think of as excellence in education have always been teachers…

And the reformers who have consistently raised our expectations of what education can achieve have always been headteachers…

But there has been one change – even in my lifetime…

The biggest names in contemporary education

The most influential leaders

The bravest reformers

Are now, overwhelmingly, in the state sector not the private…

So when people ask me the question – how will you improve our state schools

I always answer – by relying on our state schools…

And, specifically, by relying on you in this room.

So – no pressure there….

And, looking around this room, I feel a special sense of confidence that in your hands state education is in the right hands.

Every time Governments have given great leaders more room to exercise autonomy, they’ve taken an inch of freedom and made a mile of difference to thousands of young lives.

Look at the City Technology Colleges set up after 1988. These all-ability comprehensives enjoyed much greater independence than other schools. Headteachers exercised new-found power to extraordinary effect. Despite being overwhelmingly located in poorer areas, the CTCs achieved – and continue to achieve – great results: the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals in CTCs who earned five or more good GCSEs at grades A* to C is more than twice as high in CTCs as it is for all maintained mainstream schools.

Of course, the autonomy enjoyed by schools like the CTCs, and indeed Grant-Maintained Schools, was eroded after 1997.

But the best minds in the last Government knew that was a mistake. And when they were given the chance to shape policy we saw autonomy return and school leaders back in charge.

Andrew Adonis knew it was headteachers, not councillors, not ombudsmen, not advisers or consultants, who made schools succeed. So he cut through the red tape, and established the London Challenge, Black Country Challenge and Manchester Challenge. In every case strong heads were teamed with schools in challenging circumstances and they achieved great results.

Alongside those school improvement programmes, another, even more radical set of changes gave school leaders an even greater opportunity to make a difference.

The Academies programme gave great heads the chance to totally transform underperforming schools by taking them out of the local authority embrace, bestowing on them all the freedoms CTCs had, and then giving them the chance to take more schools under their wing through chains and federations.

And those Academy chains have achieved amazing things. School leaders like Dan Moynihan at Harris, Barry Day at Greenwood Dale, David Triggs at AET and Paul Edwards at the School Partnership Trust have spread excellence far beyond their own individual schools and transformed hundreds of lives for the better.

And inspirational as those individuals are, they are not exceptional. We know that given the right level of independence many, many school leaders can match them.

The evidence proves that if you empower those at the frontline they can exceed your expectations. A few months ago, academics at the London School of Economics published a landmark assessment of the Academies programme.

They found three things. First, that “Academy conversion generates… a significant improvement in pupil performance.” Second, that this improvement is not the result of Academies ‘creaming-off’ pupils from nearby schools: the fact that more middle-class parents want to send their children to their local Academy is a consequence of the school’s success, not a cause. And thirdly, beyond raising standards for their own pupils, Academies also tend to raise pupil performance in neighbouring schools.

Like CTCs and the Challenge schemes, Academies showed what amazing things can be achieved when heads are put in the driving seat.

And the international evidence confirms this.

The highest-performing education systems are those where government knows when to step back and let heads get on with running their schools. Rigorous research from the OECD and others has shown that more autonomy for individual schools helps raise standards. In its most recent international survey of education, the OECD found that “in countries where schools have greater autonomy over what is taught and how students are assessed, students tend to perform better.”

In Singapore, often considered a model of authoritarian centralism, the Government has nonetheless deliberately encouraged greater autonomy in the school system – and dramatic leaps in attainment have been secured as a result. Schools where principals are exercising a progressively greater degree of operational freedom are soaring ahead.

In Alberta, Canada, a diverse range of autonomous schools offer freedom to professionals and choice to parents. As a result, Alberta now has the best performing state schools of any English-speaking region.

And in America – where the Charter Schools system implemented by New York and Chicago is one of the most radical models of school autonomy – headteachers are turning around the lives of hundreds of thousands of the most deprived children. To take just one example… Harlem Success Academy 1 in New York has a pupil intake of amongst the most disadvantaged in the state. Yet the school now performs at the same level as New York City’s gifted-and-talented schools – all of which have tough admissions requirements, while Success randomly selects its pupils by lottery. With New York and Chicago leading the way, more parents across America are demanding Charter Schools in their local areas.

Freedom works; and the word is spreading.

And what is also spreading – and with your help will spread even further – is the superb practice your schools exemplify.

When one looks at the best heads and the best schools in the country, several common characteristics leap out.

First, uniformly high expectations.

Our nation has suffered for generations because we’ve presumed that only a minority are capable of academic excellence. But the amazing performance of the best state schools proves otherwise.

As the Prime Minister pointed out last week, when comprehensives such as Walworth Academy in South-East London and Burlington Danes in Hammersmith, with almost half their students on free school meals, can get 70 and 75 per cent of their students to pass five good GCSEs including English and Maths, then its clear politicians have been consistently underestimating what our young people are capable of.

But you know that. Great heads, like you, recognise that giving many more young people a rigorous academic foundation will provide them with the basis for a brighter future, whatever they choose to do.

The OECD has reminded us today that the higher the level of academic knowledge, the greater the economic, professional and cultural opportunities open to any child.

And as Alison Wolf pointed out in her ground-breaking report on vocational education, premature specialisation, particularly the abandonment of core subjects before the age of 16, limits the opportunities all children deserve to enjoy.

RH Tawney was right when he said: “what a wise parent would wish for their children, so the state must wish for all its children.”

And any wise parent today will be aware that both prestigious universities and discriminating employers especially value students with qualifications in rigorous subjects such as Maths, English, the sciences, foreign languages and the humanities.

So inspired by the example you have set, we looked for ways to work with the grain of parental expectations and to meet the demands of employers and colleges.

Together I believe we can encourage more state schools to give their pupils an even more rigorous academic grounding. Which is why we have introduced the English Baccalaureate: a suite of rigorous GCSEs that, we believe, gives every young person more choices in the future.

I know that many of you agree: the proportion of pupils receiving the E-Bacc at the schools represented in this room is much higher than the national average.

The E-Bacc has already prompted a welcome uptake in the number of pupils choosing to study history, geography, foreign languages and the sciences.

There has been a particular increase in the number opting to study the three separate sciences at GCSE. In a recent survey undertaken by the Department the numbers doing physics chemistry and biology GCSEs appears to have risen by more than 100 per cent.

Of course, as I have learned during my short time in this job, no good deed goes unpunished.

And schools like yours, which perform superbly academically and thus give children amazing opportunities, are sometimes damned as exam factories. Gradgrindian institutions where children are shackled to their desks until they’ve managed to clear the C/D borderline and then starved of any access to culture, enlightenment or entertainment until they’ve got their A*.

But the truth we all know is that, overwhelmingly, those school that do well in exams are those schools that have also got other things right.

Schools that understand that citizenship is not simply a subject that you teach for one hour a week, but far more an approach towards others which you embody every minute of the school day.

Schools that encourage their staff and their pupils to see themselves as a part of a wider community; to volunteer; to show respect for others; and to exhibit the qualities that exemplify great citizens of the future.

Schools that can see the importance of competitive team sport extending beyond physical fitness – into character building and an ambition to be the best.

Schools that appreciate the need to foster creativity – in graphic art, in design, in music, in dance, in drama and in literature, while at the same time recognising that their pupils can only truly be creative when they’ve mastered the basics.

Schools like your schools.

These virtues, these values are obvious to any visitor – well before you’ve had the chance to inspect the pupil attainment stats and see how performance compares with Fisher Family Trust expectations.

That’s why I think its important for me, as a politician, to emphasise that the most important things that happen in a school can’t be captured in national curriculum programmes of study and will never be measured in league tables, can’t be legislated for, regulated into existence or implemented as part of a National Strategy.

What they can be, however, is observed, applauded, celebrated and replicated.

Which is why your role is so important.

Because Teaching Schools can exemplify these virtues, evangelise for these values and ensure they become widespread.

You can show that what is sometimes called the tacit – or hidden – curriculum is as important in making a school outstanding as performance in any test demanded by the national curriculum.

I want to work with you – and the National College – to spread great practice in these areas.

And I have asked Ofsted to ensure that is made easier. By using its reports to celebrate more often what is special about our best schools – by moving away from verdicts based on data to judgments based on wide, extensive and nuanced observation.

But let me be clear – that is not a retreat from telling hard truths to administering soft soap.

Your schools are all rated ‘outstanding’ in Ofsted’s ‘teaching and learning’ category. But it is a worry to me that so many schools that are still judged as ‘outstanding’ overall when they have not achieved an outstanding in ‘teaching and learning.’ I intend to ask the new Chief Inspector to look at this issue and report back to me with recommendations.

These are just a few of the ways in which you have influenced our approach.

And I want schools across the country to learn from you too. That’s why I am absolutely delighted that you have decided to take up our offer of becoming Teaching Schools.

There is a growing trend amongst world-leading education systems toward more classroom-based teacher training. Research undertaken by McKinsey’s in 2010 looked at eight high-performing education systems around the world. What they found was that the best systems embed professional and talent development in schools.

And that’s no surprise to me. Because that’s where the real experts in education – teachers and leaders – tend to be found.

In Finland trainees receive extensive classroom teaching practice under the guidance and supervision of experienced teachers.

In Singapore I saw trainees learning how to improve their craft and strengthen their classroom management skills by observing the very best teachers at work in the classroom.

In China I found that every classroom was treated as an open space with teachers welcoming observation so they could learn from watching others, and being watched themselves.

All of these nations currently outperform us educationally and the emphasis they place on both intensive school-based classroom training and continual school-based professional development is at the heart of their success.

Higher education institutions will continue to make a significant and important contribution to teacher training. But we want schools to play a much bigger role.

As employers, schools should have greater responsibility for recruitment; be more involved in the provision of quality placements; and have more say in the development of content for training.

There are already ways for schools to be involved in teacher training, and some of you here today are participating in these schemes. But we want to make it easier for more schools to get involved. So we will allow schools to recruit trainees and then to work with an accredited teacher training provider to train them to be qualified teachers.

Schools will be expected to employ these trainees after graduation. So there will be an incentive on the part of the schools to recruit the very best – thus driving up the standard of prospective teachers further.

And the enhanced prospects of securing a job in a great school will entice even more high-quality applicants.

And as a further incentive to attract top graduates into the schools that most need them, trainees who are recruited and selected by schools with a high proportion of pupils on free school meals will receive a larger bursary than other trainees.

Having a more direct involvement in initial teacher training means that schools will also get a greater say in shaping what teachers learn.

And I want your views on how we can, together, improve the subject knowledge of teachers in critical areas.

The science and maths communities have been clear that they would like to see much more teaching of science as three separate subjects in secondary school.

It provokes the question why the National Curriculum for science is not currently divided along subject lines. Why should we have a science curriculum that’s split into areas like ‘The Environment, Earth and Universe’ and ‘Organisms, Behaviour and Health’? Why not have biology, chemistry and physics? Of course, I don’t wish to pre-empt the National Curriculum Review, but I do want your views on how we can ensure the quality of science teaching continues to improve.

If our National Curriculum Review does conclude that science should be taught as three distinct subjects, this would obviously have knock-on effects on teacher training and the way that courses are funded. Many members of the science community argue that teacher training has hitherto focused too much on general science teaching, and that this has encouraged generalists at the expense of specialists. The physics community have found this particularly problematic. They say that many physics and engineering students want to train as physics teachers – or physics and maths teachers – but are put off by the way that training is currently organised, because many physicists and engineers do not want to teach chemistry or biology.

At a time when we desperately need more physics teachers, it makes sense to think of ways we can make entering the profession more attractive. With only 0.4 per cent of engineering graduates going into teaching, we need to look at how we might tap in to that pool. The Institute of Physics’ new pilot PGCE in Physics and Maths is exactly the sort of innovation we need and we strongly support it. We want to see more such innovations and, as Teaching Schools will have a greater involvement in course development, we look to you for new ideas.

Another topic on which I’d be interested to hear your thoughts is the issue of specialist primary teachers. Most state primary teachers are trained as generalists. But some of the best state primary schools in the country insist on discrete subject teaching in KS2. And one of the things many parents value about private primaries is that they often have specialist teaching from an early age. Obviously, I am alive to the practical difficulties of demanding too high a degree of specialism in, say, small rural primaries. Nonetheless, I think the idea is worth exploring further, and I will be discussing with the TDA how we could prioritise courses that train primary specialists – especially in maths and science.

Improving ITT is crucial, but while I am evangelical about the need to attract even more high quality people into teaching I am equally determined to improve the support we give to those already in the profession.

And I believe no institutions are better placed to provide superb continuous professional development for teachers than your schools.

At the moment, too much CPD provision is, frankly, a bit scattergun. There are a lot of great programmes being delivered, but there are also a number of less good schemes. It’s difficult for every school to know what constitutes a worthwhile investment. That is one reason why we see the level of spending on CPD vary so much between schools.

Teaching Schools can help, not only by advising other schools on great CPD services they’ve used, but also by providing such services themselves.

Teaching Schools can use their close relationships with other schools to develop CPD programmes that genuinely fit existing demand. And other schools will choose whether or not to take advantage of these programmes, making Teaching Schools accountable to their peers.

As with initial teacher training, the National College will be responsible for quality assuring the work Teaching Schools do, and will remove accreditation from any school not meeting the standards. CPD is yet another area where we’re moving to a model that puts schools in control. We’re letting heads buy in – and help create – the services they really want.

And one area where we are convinced the demand exists for improved support is at the level of middle leadership. Specifically at department head level.

That is why we are introducing a new programme – Specialist Leaders in Education – to ensure outstanding middle leaders, whether heads of department or those at assistant and deputy level – can help other schools and in turn prepare themselves to step up to the next level.

There will be 1,000 SLEs in the first year, rising to 5,000 by the end of 2014. Part of Teaching Schools’ role will be ‘talent spotting’ the best senior and middle leaders and helping them earn SLE status. This will involve providing them with training, mentoring and support – while at the same time deploying them to improve neighbouring schools. Through such programmes, the wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience in this room will be passed on to the next generation of heads.

One in four existing headteachers will be eligible to retire in the next four years. We need to ensure that there are enough dynamic, committed young headteachers to take their place in the future. And with our SLE programme we can help ensure that succession planning in all schools becomes easier. So more gifted professionals can take on the special responsibilities, and enjoy the special sense of pride, that comes from being a headteacher.

Of course for all of us in education the driving moral purpose behind our work is the belief that every child has a talent which deserves to be identified, nurtured and stretched.

And we all know that children only have one chance at education.

That’s why I have made it clear that this government will not allow underperforming schools to simply carry on as before. That’s why we’ve raised floor standards and why we’re taking new powers in the education bill to intervene when schools are in trouble.

Where children are being failed, action will be swift. And Teaching Schools will be central to our reforms. You all have the capacity to help enhance the leadership, improve the teaching and fix the behaviour problems in our most challenging schools.

And it’s not only in our most challenging schools that you can have a transformative effect. As the Prime Minister pointed out last week, there are far too many coasting schools in the country, with a level of performance we still term satisfactory but we all know isn’t good enough.

Teaching Schools have the capacity to form partnerships with these schools, providing them with advice and support. Many of these schools will themselves have the capacity to improve but they need encouragement, a guiding hand, and the setting of higher expectations. We’ll be saying more, shortly, about how we ensure progress is made. But your role will be critical.

Looking at the road ahead can sometime be unnerving. The enormity of the challenges we face can be daunting: for all the advances we have made – and are making – in education, thousands of children are still being failed. And events such as the summer riots can test our faith further: schools are being confronted with a more complex set of challenges than ever before.

Yet looking around the room today, it’s impossible not to be optimistic about the future. Each one of you is living proof that one person can make a difference to the lives of thousands. And by listening to you, by trusting you, by handing power to you, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

Nick Clegg – 2011 Speech on an Open and Confident Society

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Below is the text of the speech made by Nick Clegg, the then Deputy Prime Minister, on 3 March 2011.

Today I want to talk about the UK as an open, confident society. It is by being confident – confident in ourselves, in our communities, and in our values – that we can remain an open, liberal nation.

I am pleased to be delivering this speech in Luton. Luton has had to endure being associated in the national consciousness with some very grim imagery indeed. The ugly public posturing of Al Muhajiroun and the English Defence League. Memories of the train station where the 7/7 bombers boarded a train for London, before detonating horror in our capital.

But I hope today to draw attention to a different Luton; Luton as the home of some of the most vibrant campaigns against racism, extremism and Islamophobia.

In particular I would like to thank the members of the Luton Commission on Community Cohesion, which is a superb example of the way in which a community can work together. The town has remained true to its original vision of ‘sticking together’, working across age, religious and ethnic boundaries to promote a tolerant, strong, vibrant community. That is why I think Luton is the perfect place to set out my vision for an open, confident Britain.

It is quite clear that this vision faces serious challenges. Most obviously, the grave threat of home-grown terrorism. One of the most important tasks for the Coalition Government is to guard against this danger. But we also face the potential rise of racist groups like the BNP – not only on the streets but in our democratic system too. The Prime Minister has recently argued that we need to assert confidently our liberal values. I agree. Politicians have a huge responsibility to lead by example, and engage in the often difficult arguments around immigration, multiculturalism and liberty. That is why I think the PM was absolutely right to make his argument for ‘muscular liberalism’.

I also think the Prime Minister was right to make a sharp distinction between religious belief and political ideology. Religious devotion is completely separate from violent extremism. The overwhelming majority of devout people of all faiths reject violence and terrorism. There is some evidence that those Muslims who do turn to violence have a shallower understanding of Islam than Muslims who may have radical views, but reject violence.

The enemies of liberty are those people who have closed their minds, closed off the possibility that there may be other valid ways to live, other than their own. They believe they have discovered the prescription for how to live – which everyone should follow. Closed minds can lead to closed communities, to extremism, and in some cases to violence.

There are nationalistic or racist extremists, like the members of the English Defence League, or the BNP. There are black extremists like the Nation of Islam. There are Muslim extremists like the members of Islam 4 UK. Very often these groups have a symbiotic relationship with each other, maintained by the media: extremist Muslim groups giving birth to extremist white hate groups, and vice versa.

My point is this. We need a perfect symmetry in our response to crime and violent extremism. Bigots are bigots, whatever the colour of their skin. Criminals are criminals, whatever their political beliefs. Terrorists are terrorists, whatever their religion.

This means that those of us who want to live in a liberal society must confront hateful views and practices regardless of who expresses them. The Government is committed to tackling hate crimes against any group – gay people, Jews, women, black people or Muslims.

Let me say something here about the specific issue of Islam and violent extremism. There is a corrosive tendency, not least in some parts of the media, to confuse the tenets of Islam with the actions of terrorists.

As my colleague in the Coalition Government, Sayeeda Warsi has argued: ‘a worrying argument that forms the basis for justifying Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred is the idea that Islam is a particularly violent creed.”

The core liberal values – freedom of speech and worship, democracy, the rule of law, and equal rights regardless of sex, race and sexuality – are as compatible with Islam as with any other religion.

It is better to be a citizen of present-day Turkey – a Muslim majority country – than in one of the Communist-era countries that crushed both these values and religious life in equal measure.

Of course, there are issues that many Muslims in this country feel strongly about: issues like Palestine, Iraq, Kashmir and Guantanamo Bay. I understand these concerns. And the Government takes them very seriously indeed.

But let us be absolutely clear. No matter what criticism anyone has of British foreign policy, the way to express that criticism is through the ballot box, by raising your concerns with your MP, and by taking a public stand – never, ever, by violence.

I would also like to pay tribute today to Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani Minister for Minorities, who was murdered by violent extremists in Islamabad yesterday. Mr Bhatti was fearless in his pursuit of tolerance, and liberty, continuing to argue for freedom of religious expression even though he knew this would put his life in danger. A reminder, if one were needed, that liberty can extract a much higher price than most of us are likely to pay.

We need to deepen our understanding of the roots of violent extremism. It is a difficult task. In a moment I will address the interaction of individual, community and ideological influences. But I want to deal first with the specific question of economic insecurity.

As I have said, openness and confidence go hand in hand: remaining open to different cultures and attitudes is easier for people, communities and nations that are confident of their own position.

This means that fear and insecurity are among the most dangerous enemies of openness and liberalism.

There is also no question that insecurity – whether economic or social – creates more fertile ground for violent extremism. During these challenging economic times, we will have to work even harder to fight violent extremism in all its forms.

Recent research by the Searchlight Educational Trust on attitudes towards immigration and multiculturalism shows that there is a minority at both ends of the scale with either straightforwardly positive or negative views about immigration and multiculturalism.

But in the middle are groups who are either culturally fairly conservative or who are concerned mainly with the economic implications of immigration. This last group – labelled ‘identity ambivalents’ by Searchlight – is the most worrying in the current climate. Economic difficulty could tip some of them into the negative camp.

At this point, the question becomes one of economic judgement. I strongly believe that acting decisively on the deficit is the surest way to restore economic confidence, relieve people of the burden of debt and put the country back on track. Delay will carry more cost, and more risk, than decisive action. Prevarication on the deficit will worsen economic insecurity, not alleviate it.

But a turn to violent extremism cannot be explained simply in economic terms. There are much deeper and more complex forces at work. The scholar Louise Richardson describes the causes of terrorism as ‘a lethal cocktail containing a disaffected individual, an enabling community and a legitimizing ideology’.

This is right. And it means that our response to violent extremism has to engage at all of these levels, too. So an open, confident society is made up of free, responsible individuals; strong, resilient communities; and a muscular, liberal ideology.

At all three levels – individual, community and society-wide – it is vital to pursue ‘smart engagement’. This means calibrating Government action in the following ways:

targeting resources in a way that clearly promotes liberal objectives
maintaining a clear distinction between social policy and security policy
distinguishing between violent and non-violent extremism
supporting free speech, but taking the argument to the bigots; and
implacably confronting violent extremism
Let me start with the rights and responsibilities of individuals. In an open, liberal society, individuals are free to live in the manner of their choosing, so long as they do not harm others.

And in today’s world, individual identity is much more fluid. With advancements in communications technology, more freedom of movement and greater economic interdependence between nations, there is a much wider palette from which identities can be drawn. The increasing complexity of questions of identity makes it even more important to balance individual liberty and collective responsibility.

Freedom for individuals is one of the core values of the Coalition Government. That is why we have ended the injustice of 28-day detention without trial; why we have crushed the ID database; why we are ending the house arrest of Labour’s Control Orders; why we are giving people not charged of crimes the right to get their DNA off police databases; and why we are curtailing arbitrary powers of police to ‘stop and search’.

We are, in short, rebalancing the relationship between the state and the individual citizen. But we are clear that individuals need to take responsibility, too. Freedom not only comes hand in hand with responsibility, it requires it. As the liberal leader Jo Grimond said: ‘Freedom entails the acceptance of responsibility. Responsibility is meaningless without freedom.”

So while we will support the freedoms and human rights of individuals, we also insist that individuals meet their obligations towards wider society, and take their share of responsibility for the maintenance of liberal societies.

And while we have an unquenchable commitment to individual liberty, we have an equal commitment to safety and security – and I think the results of our recent counter-terrorism review struck the right balance.

Of course individuals do not live in a vacuum. We must always recognise that we are, in Bikhu Parekh’s words, “a community of citizens and a community of communities”.

The role of peers and communities in acting against or cultivating violence is clear. So we need an approach that empowers individuals – but builds communities too.

The former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said earlier this week that “we need to build the resilience of local communities to reject the politics of hatred.” I agree with him.

That is why this government is working so hard to help build stronger communities. At times, national security considerations will still require national action. But unlike the previous Government, we do not believe that strong communities are built from Whitehall. That’s why we have removed the ring fences around Local Authority budgets, allowing for local discretion; why we are introducing elected police commissioners so that policy can be locally accountable; why we are, through community budgets, giving power to localities to determine their own priorities; and why we are putting public health in the hands of local authorities. Strong communities are communities with more power over their own destiny.

But it is also crucially important to maintain a clear distinction between initiatives aimed at combating extremism and those focused on the broader task of community cohesion. The last Government’s conflation of social policy and security policy was damaging. It resulted in Muslim communities feeling stigmatised, and money being wasted.

That is why the Government is currently reviewing the Prevent programme, to ensure that money to curb violent extremism is targeted in the right way, and on the right groups. By treating Muslim communities and organisations as homogenous lumps to be variously hectored, preached at, showered with praise and money, or ignored, the previous Government created negative perceptions among British Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

We should ensure that public funds do not support any organisations promoting violence. We must engage with religious organisations in a smart way focusing our attention on those that support our essential liberal values.

We will also challenge extremism across the board, ending the previous Government’s exclusive and unhelpful focus on Islam. It does not matter if you are a far-right extremist, someone who perverts a religious faith, or someone who uses violence in support of other ideological ends – we will challenge you, take you on and defeat you.

The third battleground against violent extremism is at the level of ideas, values and ideology. The dangerous ideas that underpin violent extremism must never be allowed to go unchallenged.

That is why I thought the PM’s argument in favour of ‘muscular liberalism’ was absolutely right. Liberalism is not a passive, inert approach to politics. It requires engagement, assertion. Muscular liberals flex their muscles in open argument. There is nothing relativist about liberalism.

If we are truly confident about the strength of our liberal values we should be confident about their ability to defeat the inferior arguments of our opponents.

Smart engagement means engaging in argument at public events, where appropriate and at the right level. Of course these are always difficult decisions to make. But to take one example, the Global Peace and Unity conference attracts around fifty thousand British Muslims each year and is an important opportunity to engage in argument – and so Andrew Stunell, the Government’s Communities Minister did this year. Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, also spoke at the event.

Now there may well have been a small minority of organisations and individuals at that event with deeply unpalatable, illiberal views.

But you don’t win a fight by leaving the ring. You get in and win. The overwhelming majority of the people attending this conference are active, engaged and law-abiding citizens. We don’t win people to liberal ideals by giving ourselves a leave of absence from the argument.

Equally, smart engagement means being extremely careful about decisions to proscribe individual organisations. There are occasions when that is the right course of action. I have to say that, for me, agreeing to the proscription of the Pakistani Taliban was a straightforward decision.

But proscription must always be a last resort, never a knee-jerk reflex. That is why the Pakistani Taliban is the only organisation we have proscribed since entering Government. And that is why, consistent with our agenda for smart engagement and as part of the Government’s review of Counter Terrorism powers, we decided against increasing the government’s powers to proscribe.

Because of the requirement to engage in argument, liberal democracy means hard work. Open, liberal societies are not self-creating, or self-maintaining. Democracy, free speech and human rights have to be won – and tragically, often paid for in blood. We need only look to North Africa to see proof of that.

Once established, liberal societies still need to be renewed and re-established, generation after generation. It has been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. But it is also eternal labour – working to maintain the culture and institutions of liberal democracy.

Liberal societies do not expect everyone to live in the same way, or believe in the same things; conformity can crush liberty. But in liberal societies, all of us must defend the freedoms of others, in exchange for freedom for ourselves. In an open society, values compete but do not conflict.

This is the background against which we have to consider the issues of multiculturalism. We have to be clear what we mean here. Where multiculturalism is held to mean more segregation, other communities leading parallel lives, it is clearly wrong. For me, multiculturalism has to seen as a process by which people respect and communicate with each other, rather than build walls between each other. Welcoming diversity but resisting division: that’s the kind of multiculturalism of an open, confident society.

And the cultures in a multicultural society are not just ethnic or religious. Many of the cultural issues of the day cut right across these boundaries: gay rights; the role of women; identities across national borders; differing attitudes to marriage; the list goes on. Cultural disagreements are much more complex than much of the debate implies. If you will forgive the phrase, they are not quite so black and white.

So: smart engagement in defence of an open society. An unending determination to keep doing the hard work of maintaining our liberal society at home. Encouraging the birth and growth of liberal societies abroad. Smart engagement, appropriate and proportionate, to take on extremist ideas, alongside a ruthless determination to find and punish those who promote or take to violence.

Maintaining a liberal, open nation also demands a fierce allegiance to shared values. The values of liberal citizenship. The values of responsibility, tolerance and openness.

In the end, these values are the only weapons that can defeat the terrorists and hate-mongers, at home and abroad.

Violent extremists of all kinds are the enemies of open societies. We will wage an unceasing battle against them. And we will win.

Thank you.

Vince Cable – 2011 Mansion House Speech

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Below is the text of the speech made by Vince Cable, the then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at the Mansion House in London on 3 March 2011.

My Lord Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for the honour of inviting me to this important event. I recall my first political invitation to discuss the future of the City: a dozen years ago, as an unknown MP and a minor spokesman for a third party far removed from power, when I was sounding off about banks in the wake of the Cruickshank Report.

I appreciated your courtesy then, as now, and also admired your capacity to finger potentially troublesome politicians at an early stage.

You will have noticed that I have moved on and for the last 9 months I have been busy in government. Indeed, my department has completed an extraordinarily challenging spending review: our contribution to deficit reduction. We have succeeded where our predecessors failed with a clear programme to stabilise and privatize the Royal Mail. We have put in place unprecedented higher education reforms. I could go on. However, our central task is the one I set out in my very first speech: to put growth at the centre of the government’s work and growth to provide employment.

Last autumn, we turned down the easy option of putting out yet another government paper about growth. The last administration churned out such documents every year or so, and failed to achieve anything resembling sustainable growth. We know business wants action, not words. That is why instead we embarked on a Growth Review, an exercise every bit as rigorous and challenging as its spending equivalent. It has challenged every department to get behind the growth agenda, critically examining every policy that might get in the way or hold back our vision for private sector recovery.

It won’t be easy. We inherited some big problems: the biggest budget deficit in the G20; a badly damaged banking system; households as well as the state burdened with excessive debts; and our finest economic minds divided as to whether we are most threatened by inflation or deflation.

And just to add to the challenges of government we now have the prospect of a fully fledged energy and commodity price shock squeezing real wages and pushing up inflation.

In my more wistful moments I do see the continued attractions of writing books explaining how we got into this situation rather than being in government trying to dig our way out of it. But what defines this government is a collective willingness to make difficult decisions in pursuit of a wider, long term, national interest. If I am less popular in some quarters than a year ago that is some sign that I am doing my job.

And let us not be under any illusions. Britain’s escape from the near-death experience of financial collapse and deep recession is not the same as recovery. That will be difficult even if we continue to behave sensibly. Indeed, I confess to a certain exasperation with commentators and opposition politicians who, for reasons of ignorance, amnesia or mischief, assume away the past and expect that the Government can somehow guarantee an immediate, miraculous, return to rapid economic growth through some all-encompassing plan. Developed market economies can’t be made to grow like Soviet style diktat. It isn’t like that.

But what we can do is set out the principles and commitments that underlie our vision for the economy. Over the next few weeks leading up to the Budget you will hear the concrete, difficult steps this government is taking to ensure sustainable growth. We do this in the knowledge that there are good and bad ways for the economy to recover.

Our central task- and mine in particular – is to strengthen a framework in which the private sector can grow the economy out of its current problems; and to do so without returning to credit-financed private consumption, a dangerous property bubble and unsustainable government deficit financing. As Einstein is meant to have said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

There is, however, no Delia Smith cookery book providing a simple recipe for producing growth, let alone in the abnormal post-crisis environment which we inhabit.

In the short term, the main drivers are monetary and fiscal policy but these are necessarily constrained. We therefore have to work with the other policies open to us to stimulate private sector dynamism; encouraging what Keynes called the “animal spirits” of entrepreneurs.

Fortunately, both parties in the Coalition have a commitment to liberal economic policy. The agenda I set out six years ago still applies and is integral to our growth strategy: free trade; deregulation; removing the barriers to investment.

Trade & investment

Let me start with openness and international competitiveness. Britain is a small part of a growing world economy and will prosper by exploiting growth opportunities in expanding markets. At present exports are doing relatively well mainly thanks to a 20% depreciation. But this cannot continue for ever, and instead we need to expand the areas where we are world beating – which currently include advanced manufacturing, creative industries, financial and professional services.

In addition, we must retain our position as the destination of choice for international businesses: we are currently in the world’s top three recipients of FDI and the recent news of big investment in steel by SSI and in the car industry supply chain by Tata (Jaguar Landrover), Ford, GM-Vauxhall, Nissan and others is very encouraging.

And openness relates to people as well as capital. This government has, successfully I think, got the balance right between providing reassurance to the public that borders are under control and providing a welcome to visitors be they businessmen, skilled workers, tourists or students. It can’t be said often enough that the vast majority of people who come here are good for Britain and good for London in particular.

Being fleet of foot internationally also requires a recognition that the centre of gravity of world economic growth has shifted decisively from the developed world. Bizarrely our own trade with the BRICs remains less than our trade with Ireland. This is a glaring sign of our current patterns of trade being misaligned for future world growth.

To rectify this anomaly, I’ve been part of five trade missions since becoming Secretary of State, to India (twice) and to China, Brazil and Russia. Each time we have celebrated successes – Pearson and Hawk aircraft in India, GSK in Russia, and deals worth more than £3.5bn with China, with major science collaborations and energy initiatives in Brazil. More generally we are building up long term relationships, and through the EU we are pushing hard on both the Doha agenda and for free trade agreements as with Korea, India and Japan.

I am very conscious that one part of my job description is being President of the Board of Trade. The Trade & Investment White Paper, published last month, is an attempt to give definition to work in this field: talking to business, listening to their requests, and acting with a new package of support for exporters – especially SMEs with a bigger suite of short-term credit products.

Deregulation

A second and related part of our growth strategy is to prevent the government getting in the way of private sector recovery: reducing the burden of unnecessary regulation. Successive governments have made ritual commitments to reducing red tape but have added to it, inconveniencing businesses large and small.

From the longstanding retailer who estimates that he spends ten times longer on form filling than twenty years ago, to the care worker who was bizarrely asked to train as a taxi driver in order to be allowed to drive the people in her care into town.

There is of course often a powerful economic rationale behind some of the regulations that really bother business. The proposed rules giving shared parental leave and flexible working largely reflect good industrial practice and contribute to the flexibility of the labour force. Indeed, our employment laws stand up well to international comparison – our flexible labour markets are one reason for unemployment being so low relative to, say, Spain and helped us during the recession. We have to find a way nevertheless of ensuring that small business is not handicapped by tiresome form filling.

Within my own department I have already taken action, to remove regulations which impede the ability of businesses to expand and take on people. This includes a review of labour market regulation specifically to stop cases reaching employment tribunals without a prior attempt at reconciliation and restricting access for unfair dismissal cases to the employed for two years rather than one.

But the problem goes much further. In the past, Whitehall has rewarded people for coming up with new regulations, and never for scrapping them. While ‘One in one out’ is gradually changing this culture, I acknowledge that this is so far stemming the flow rather than reversing it. Another useful step forward has been the steps we have taken to stop ‘gold plating’ EU regulations and fight damaging regulatory impositions from the EU like the Working Time Directive. Working within Europe at an early stage is a labour the fruits of which will show over the long term.

Above all, we are working to achieve the aims of regulation in a less burdensome way. For example, we inherited an Equality Act that in some ways is useful, by streamlining a mass of existing rules and laws. Without in any way compromising our clear belief that equality is not just right but good for business, we are, for example, not pursuing mandatory gender pay reporting but are developing a voluntary approach.

SME exemptions

But, to repeat, the most important reform to regulation must be to recognise that it is the smallest companies that bear disproportionately the heaviest burden from new rules. They can’t afford dedicated staff to measure and note down whatever the government demands. As Secretary of State for Business, I am targeting regulation which hampers small business in particular.

For example, the UK gains a real advantage from upholding high standards in audit and accounting. But small company rules are stricter in the UK than in almost every else in the developed world. We will change the law to simplify small company audit rules, saving UK companies up to tens of millions in unnecessary audit fees. And we will reduce the costs for subsidiaries of larger companies.

Small companies should also benefit from less complex financial reporting requirements; so we welcome the Accounting Standards Board consultation on the reporting requirements for 35,000 medium sized companies. If you agree with me about how important this is, now is your opportunity to speak up.

Planning

Another aspect of regulation in the UK is a particular impediment to growth. The planning system has been a major barrier not only to social mobility through its effect on house prices, but to business expansion. The market in land is dysfunctional, distorted both by a slow and prescriptive planning regime, speculative hoarding, and a less than effective tax system.

Development, and in particular badly needed construction, is paralysed, often in parts of the country which need it most. I hear countless stories of perfectly reasonable developments being thwarted by bizarre planning rules.

For example, I was recently told of a derelict barn that was denied the planning permission to convert into a bed and breakfast, because it lacked public transport. Now, until chickens start commuting, I don’t think barns will normally have bus links. But that is still no reason to let them rot as they are.

Thousands of such small decisions add up to a huge missed opportunity for the economy. And sometimes obstruction prevents the transformative economic opportunity from taking place: the retailer that regenerates the town centre, or the international headquarters that instead decides to head elsewhere.

That is why the government is bent on planning reform. Contrary to what you may read, Eric Pickles and I are at one on this. We want local communities to benefit from growth, and the standard answer to be Yes, not No. That is what we promise to deliver.

Infrastructure and GIB

But a growing economy isn’t just about government getting out of the way. Government has a major role even when slimmer and less intrusive. For example, there is a very large deficit in infrastructure provision – energy supply; transport; telecommunications; waste disposal.

In particular, there is considerable evidence that the risks inherent in new low carbon investment are such that banks and financial institutions can’t fill the gap. This is why we are delivering a Green Investment Bank, capitalised initially with a billion pounds but evolving into a bigger institution, to tackle risks associated with green infrastructure which the market can’t currently adequately finance, and thereby unlock further billions from the private sector.

The capital is there. Indeed, British institutional investors repeatedly express their frustration at their inability to fund infrastructure projects which will provide their clients with a good, long-term rate of return. They need the government to show the boldness required to facilitate this. We will do that.

Skills and innovation

The government’s long term plan for growth is reliant on skills and cutting edge innovation. Innovation is key to success in developed economies: turning scientific ideas into commercial technological applications. Against a really tough spending round we protected science from cuts, thereby ensuring that we did not cut off research vital to our long term future.

We also recognise that scientific progress often happens through disruptive technologies which mean small firms and academics working in entirely new directions. And they often need help: with the technological infrastructure such as the Wave Hub in Cornwall for marine energy, or the Composites centre in Bristol. This is what our proposed Technology and Innovation Centres will be.

If we want to match our competitors in advanced industries, we also need to address a massive challenge in skills. Around 15 per cent, that’s 5 million adults in England, are “functionally illiterate” a reading age of 12 or below. There is a mass of evidence unfavourably contrasting the performance of the UK economy in producing intermediate level skills with competitors like Germany, not helped by a damaging cultural mindset which says that vocational training is inferior to academic learning and that apprenticeships belong to a bygone era. We are reversing that prejudice and are investing heavily in apprenticeships by prioritising our spending.

Finance

And finally, there is one sector in which government and private sector have collided painfully: financial services, particularly banking. Anyone waiting for my banker jokes will have been disappointed. Rather, I have serious points to make.

There were problems with balance sheets bigger than the British economy, and which were too big to fail. We discovered that banks are global in life but national in death, which is why their fate is now in the hands of national regulators and politicians.

I have been working with the Chancellor to try and find a constructive way forward. My first priority was to ensure that the rapid deleveraging should not choke off, or make prohibitively expensive, the supply of credit to good British companies, especially SMEs. Supporting growth has been our overriding priority. I think the agreement which we reached three weeks ago is helpful in that regard.

I was very pleased also to see also that the £2.5bn Business Growth Fund will fill a growth capital gap for large SMEs and mid-caps in financial markets first identified in the 1930s but never fully addressed before. We are also going to make pay systems more transparent. And the absolutely central issue of bank structure is being actively considered by Sir John Vickers and the Banking Commission. The issue was summarised well by the Governor of the Bank of England the other day: “our role is not to stop banks failing; it is to make sure that if they fail they do not contaminate the rest of the economic and financial sector”.

I should say that in supporting this agreement I chose to disregard the advice of commentators and supporters who told me not to touch the agreement with a barge pole. Nonetheless I believe it was right to try; that we shouldn’t let the best be the enemy of the good; and that we have to take political risks in order to get the British economy moving.

That is the spirit with which the Coalition, and my party in particular, approach the formidable task of economic management that we have inherited. Our Growth Review exemplifies this approach, and will continue to for duration of this. Vigorous, targeted action where the government can make a difference; combined with robust and unsentimental withdrawal of Government from unnecessary interference. This is what you should hold me and my colleagues accountable for.

I would now like to propose a toast to the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress.

Chris Huhne – 2011 Speech to CentreForum

chrishuhne

Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Huhne, the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to CentreForum on 3 March 2011.

A blueprint for our energy future

In autumn 2000, more rain fell on England and Wales than at any time for 230 years. 10,000 homes and businesses were flooded.

In 2003, a heatwave gripped Europe. Drought and wildfires put health services and national infrastructure under huge pressure.

Thousands died. Forests were destroyed by fire, and crops by drought. Energy and transport were hit hard.

We can’t say for sure that climate change caused these extreme weather events. But the science tells us that as our climate changes, the likelihood of these events increases.

In 2004, research suggested human action had doubled the risk of a European heatwave.

And now, for the first time, scientists have been able to say what role global warming played in a major flood.

Using new methods, researchers found that human greenhouse gas emissions may have roughly doubled the chances of the autumn 2000 floods.

That is a significant step up the ladder.

We can now clearly link extreme events to the rise in man-made greenhouse gases. And we can put a number on how much more likely they are.

Costs of climate change

We can also see just how costly they will be.

The floods in 2000 cost the UK insurance industry £1.3 billion. Since then, the cost of flood damage has tripled compared with the previous decade.

In 2009, the Association of British Insurers said – and I quote – ‘our assessment of climate change convinces us that the threat is real and is with us now’.

If there’s one thing insurers know about, it’s risk. When they say it’s time to take action, we should sit up and take notice.

Global deal

Of course, the UK is responsible for fewer than 2% of the world’s carbon emissions. But this does not let us off the hook. The consequences of climate change will not respect our borders.

Food security, water shortages, environmental refugees; the potential knock-on effects are on a global scale.

That is why we must do everything we can to secure a global solution.

We are making good progress.

The UN climate change talks at Cancun were the most important since Kyoto.

For the first time, both developed and developing countries made a political commitment to cut emissions below their present path.

We made good on the bellwether issues:

– agreeing that the average global temperature increase should be kept below 2 degrees

– strengthening the reporting of emissions reductions with a genuine peer-review process

– establishing the Green Climate Fund to get resources to developing countries

– moving forward on forests and land use

The agreements at Cancun prepared the ground for a global deal on climate change. But we must be realistic: this will take time.

And after the mid-term elections in the US, Senate ratification of any climate change treaty will be difficult.

But a deal will happen.

Why am I so confident?

Because around the world, there is too much invested in tackling the problem.

It would be crazy not to prepare for a low-carbon future.

In fact, in many ways it is already here.

The future is here

In 2009, the world’s biggest energy consumer poured $34 billion into its low-carbon economy.

China now leads the world in solar photovoltaic production. Six of the biggest renewable energy companies in the world are based in China.

Last year, 1 million people sat the Chinese civil service exam. The most popular job was ‘Energy Conservation and Technology Equipment Officer’. 5,000 people applied.

China will build 24 nuclear power stations in the time it takes us to build one. By 2020, their nuclear capacity will have increased tenfold.

They will lay 16,000 kilometres of high-speed rail track in the time it takes us to go from London to Birmingham.

They have the highest installed hydro capacity and the most solar water heaters in the world. And they are forging ahead on wind power.

So China knows what’s coming.

And despite what the mid-term elections suggest, so does the US.

Last year, despite serious lobbying – and lots of money from special interests – the Californian public voted decisively to support the State’s ambitious climate change laws. The eighth-largest economy in the world is still committed to going green.

And the Northeastern States are leading the way on renewables, on emissions and on energy efficiency. They’re investing in renewable heat, trading carbon, and legislating for clean energy.

The US Navy will get half of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by the end of this decade. They’ve already flown fighter planes powered by biofuels, and they’ve already launched their first hybrid power ship.

President Obama used his State of the Union speech to call for a reinvention of energy policy. He challenged the best minds in America to come up with clean energy ‘Apollo projects’. And he set a new goal: for 80% of America’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2035.

Conventional wisdom has it that China and the US are not signed up to the green agenda.

But if you look at what they do, not what they say, a different picture emerges.

Policymakers around the world understand that climate change is real, is happening, and is worth defending ourselves against.

Low-carbon future

The best thing we can do to help adapt to climate change is to stop it happening in the first place. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

So although we must keep pushing for a global deal on climate change, we must also do everything we can at home. We can’t expect to convince other nations of the need for change if we can’t change ourselves.

That is why we have to move further and faster to a low-carbon economy.

This makes obvious environmental sense. Today, I will set out why it makes economic sense.

But first, let us understand our destination.

What does a low carbon economy look like?

Saving energy

First, it does not waste energy.

We have the oldest and least efficient housing stock in Europe. We use more energy heating our homes than Sweden, which is nearly 5 degrees colder on average.

Our homes may be our castles. But they shouldn’t cost a king’s ransom to run.

Across the country, boilers are firing up earlier than they need to. Burning more gas than they have to. Producing more emissions than they should do.

And all because our homes leak heat and waste carbon.

A quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the home. Our housing stock is costing us the earth.

That’s why the Green Deal is our flagship programme. It’s a self-financing home improvement scheme to bring our houses into the 21st century.

Householders will pay nothing up front. Businesses will do that for them, getting their money back from the savings on energy bills not just from the present occupier but from the next tenant or owner as well. And the Green Deal will be targeted at trigger points – like when people move home and do lots of work anyway – to encourage uptake.

Right across the country, homeowners and tenants will get deep energy efficiency improvements without having to front up the cash.

From 2012 onwards, when the Green Deal begins in earnest, energy saving packages worth thousands will be installed in millions of homes.

And there will be a subsidy for hard to heat homes, and those in fuel poverty. No-one should fear winter – or winter energy bills. We are determined to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty, not just stick plasters on the symptoms.

And we are looking at how we can apply the Green Deal model to businesses, too – enabling them to cut carbon, and cut costs.

It is the most comprehensive energy saving plan in the world. There has never been anything quite like it.

Have no doubt: this can make a real difference. Heating is the second biggest driver of energy demand in Britain.

And British Gas research shows that householders who put in energy efficiency measures cut their gas consumption – and their bills – by 44%.

Better insulated buildings will do much of the work for us. But we must also look at renewable heat technology.

More electric air and ground-source heat pumps, drawing warmth from the outside world to heat the indoors. More biogas boilers, and more solar thermal.

Electric future

So the first principle of the low-carbon economy is that it saves energy.

The second is that it will be overwhelmingly electric.

A century ago, the streets of New York were served by a thousand electric taxis. Since then, cheap oil and technological change drove electric cars off the roads.

Now, the pendulum is swinging back.

Every month, new electric cars are coming to market. The shift from the petrol pump to the electric plug is already underway.

In the low-carbon economy, we will turn to the grid to heat our homes and charge our cars.

Meeting demand

That means a big increase in our demand for electricity. It could double by 2050.

And that demand must be met with secure, affordable low-carbon supply.

But our current energy system is not up to the job.

We will lose a fifth of our generating capacity over the next 10 years, as our ageing power plants shut down.

We cannot afford to replace them with more of the same.

By the end of this decade, the UK must cut our carbon emissions by 34% on 1990 levels.

We must generate 15% of our energy from renewables by 2020, up from 6.7% in 2009.

With long lead-in times and high capital costs, we must act now to secure a low-carbon supply.

Otherwise, we face an energy crunch.

Three pillars

Our plan for low-carbon electricity rests on three pillars.

The first pillar is renewable energy. Like onshore and offshore wind, biomass, energy from waste, solar, marine and micro hydro power.

The second is new nuclear – without public subsidy.

Half of my Department’s annual budget is spent cleaning up after past generations of nuclear and coal. Next year, it will reach two-thirds.

Never again. That is why we are passing the cost of nuclear liabilities on to developers, who will pay the full cost of waste disposal and decommissioning.

And the third pillar is clean coal and gas, delivered by carbon capture and storage. Giving us flexible and reliable energy – without the carbon consequences.

The portfolio approach

Together, these technologies will power Britain to 2050 and beyond.

So why haven’t we picked one or two?

Because the future is uncertain.

No-one knows what the most successful low carbon technology will be in thirty years time.

The only way to keep the lights on and the skies clean at the lowest possible cost is to build an energy portfolio.

It is exactly the same principle as a pension fund. When we’re planning for the future, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket.

It would be equally irresponsible for us to try and play god with the country’s energy future.

Prepared for the future

So instead, we must create a policy framework that lets us discover and then use the lowest cost options.

That means thinking about a range of scenarios.

At one end may be a world where fossil fuel prices are exceptionally high. In that scenario, we could rely more on renewables and nuclear.

At the other end of the spectrum, some argue that plentiful gas from unconventional sources will cause gas prices to tumble. Then we might need an energy mix with more clean gas, with carbon capture and storage.

Open options

Our policy is about keeping our options open between technologies, but ensuring that we are on the road to the low carbon economy. We have set a direction; we will let innovation get us there.

So we will put our money on the table.

Funding innovation and research, in DECC and in the business and transport departments.

Through the Green Investment Bank – a new institution to fund the scaling up and deployment of green technology and clean energy projects.

EMR

And through our consultation on electricity market reform, which sets out how we will encourage low carbon investment, guarantee security of supply, and provide British consumers with the most affordable electricity.

Under our proposals, all low carbon technologies will benefit from support by virtue of being low carbon. That is the compensation for what Nick Stern calls the greatest market failure of all time. A guaranteed feed-in tariff for all.

There must also be a premium payment for early stage technologies. Pioneer technologies will benefit from extra support in the prices that we pay for electricity, just as they do now through the Renewable Obligation. Those furthest away from full commercialisation will get the most.

Our consultation also proposes a capacity payment, to make sure we can meet peaks in demand – like the infamous ad break in Coronation Street, when everyone gets up to put the kettle on. This will support all four ways of keeping the lights on: Water pumped up hills off peak and released on peak, interconnection with European partners which have different peaks, demand management from companies arranging short-term switch-offs of freezers or fridges, and cheap gas and coal plant – with carbon capture and storage.

We will also send out a clear signal with an emissions performance standard, to keep our power plants clean.

And the Treasury is consulting on a carbon price floor, to underpin our signal to the marketplace – and to encourage low-carbon use of existing plants.

Cost horizons

Getting those signals right will be critical.

It is difficult to overstate the scale of the investment challenge. Ofgem estimates we need £200 billion of new investment over the next decade to secure our supply as our ageing nuclear and coal power plants shut down.

We need to make sure as much of that investment is low-carbon as possible. It will be a historic missed chance if we lock in a new generation of high carbon electricity plant.

If we get the market framework right and give energy companies certainty, they will provide that low-carbon investment. But they are not the Salvation army. They will need to convince big investors – like pension funds – that the UK energy market IS not just stable, but also offers a good return.

We must be clear about this: there will be a cost to the consumer.

But it will still be cheaper than the alternatives.

And in the long term, the fundamentals of the low carbon economy are not going to be expensive.

Nick Stern estimated that the overall costs of avoiding dangerous climate change at no more than 2% of GDP by 2050. So if our economy doubles in forty years, that means a 98% increase instead of a 100% increase. It would barely be noticeable.

Even that calculation depends on other factors.

If we relied on oil and gas, and their prices were around $80 a barrel and its equivalent for gas, then consumers would pay more under our policies – about an extra 1% on their bills by 2020.

But the oil price reached $100 a barrel in January, which just happens to be the point at which our economists calculate the British consumer breaks even. And the oil price, as we see, could well be higher.

In the medium term, the US Department of Energy forecasts $108 a barrel by 2020.

If oil prices continue on this trend, and gas prices rise to meet them, then our consumers will be winning hands down.

Paying less through low carbon policies than they would pay for fossil fuel policies.

Green economy

There’s another economic advantage, one that makes a powerful case for the low-carbon revolution: insulation from oil and gas price shocks.

I asked economists at DECC to look at how a 1970s-style oil price shock would play out today. They found that if the oil price doubled, as from $80 last year to $160 this year, it could lead to a cumulative loss of GDP of around £45 billion over two years.

This is not just far-off speculation: it is a threat here and now. And the faster we move to a low carbon economy, the more secure and stable our economy will be.

Opportunities too

This transition to the low carbon economy does not just protect against the threats. It opens up a world of opportunity.

The global low-carbon market is worth more than £3 trillion. It is projected to reach £4 trillion by 2015. The UK share of that market is currently worth more than £112 billion. It could be much larger.

At home and abroad, the opportunities are huge. For jobs, exports, and growth, the future is green.

We are already feeling the benefits.

In the Humber, where Siemens have taken the first steps towards building wind turbines on British shores, with 700 jobs.

And nationwide. Last year, British Gas announced its plan to ‘go early’ on the Green Deal, investing £30 million and creating 3,700 new jobs.

As the Green Deal kicks in, it will bring a significant economic boost, driving growth in manufacturing and supply chains across the country.

The number of people employed in insulation alone could soar; from 27,000 now, to 100,000 by 2015 – eventually rising to a peak of 250,000.

Recovery from a deep recession is not a respooling of the same old movie. The old industries do not just bounce back. It’s about new industries leading the way – just as it was in the 1930s, when manufacturing of cars and electrical goods helped us fight our way out of recession.

Britain can lead the way. Our scientific, research and engineering strengths will stand us in good stead.

Look at our record on Carbon Capture and Storage, where British scientists top the tables when it comes to research.

We can turn that laboratory lead into an economic lead.

The International Energy Agency predicts the world will need 3,400 new coal and gas plants by 2050 if we are to keep global warming below 2 degrees.

That’s why we must lead the way in demonstrating that CCS works on a commercial scale. It will be a major new export opportunity

Low-carbon leaders

And green growth is why we are pressing for greater EU ambition on emissions.

The carbon price set out by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is not high enough to drive the change we need. It must be higher.

We want to see a much stronger emissions target. Instead of a 20% cut in emissions by 2020, we should aim for a 30% cut.

Two years ago, we had already made it to 17%. Going to 30% will add just 11 billion euros to the costs that were originally estimated of going to 20%. In an economy the size of Europe’s, that’s small change.

This is not to send some global signal. It is not negotiating by putting a new concession on the table. It is in our own economic interest.

The faster we move, the bigger and better our low-carbon industries will be, and the greater the share of that expanding world market. Clear green signals will spark more green investment.

A recent report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that more demanding greenhouse gas targets could increase Europe’s GDP by more than €600 billion, creating six million jobs. Why? Because there is spare capacity and unemployed people. Green growth will fuel the recovery.

Growth is going ex-carbon.

Conclusion

We must be realistic: rebuilding our energy infrastructure and rebalancing our economy will take time.

Because the capital investments are so huge, and the replacement cycle so long, change will sometimes seem glacial.

But it will come. And in the long term, getting off the oil hook will make our economy more independent, more secure and more stable.

Because the cost of investing in low-carbon energy and security of supply pales in comparison to the costs of dangerous climate change and energy dependency. And there are real economic opportunities up for grabs.

Already, we are making progress.

Carbon emissions are down. The international negotiations are back on track. The Green Deal is on the way. We are rebuilding our electricity market. Green growth is here to stay.

The transition to the low-carbon economy is underway.

It is up to us to see it through.

Iain Duncan Smith – 2011 Speech to Age UK

Ian  Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith

Below is the text of the speech made by Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to Age UK on 8 March 2011.

Introduction

I’d like to thank Age UK for the invitation to speak to you today.

I want to use this opportunity to be absolutely clear about my priorities for the pension system.

When we came into office we were faced with the challenge of securing the incomes of today’s pensioners.

We acted immediately to introduce the triple guarantee, meaning that someone retiring today on a full basic state pension will receive £15,000 more over their retirement by way of basic State Pension than they would have done under the old prices link.

We also committed to a permanent increase in Cold Weather Payments.

And we protected other key areas of support for pensioners, including free eye tests, free prescription charges and free TV licenses for the over 75s.

Having put incomes on a firmer footing, we moved to secure older people’s rights to work.

We are phasing out the Default Retirement Age from April of this year, despite concerns from some in the business community.

I believe this sends out a message that age discrimination has no place in modern British society.

I’m proud to say that we fought for these reforms against the backdrop of the worst fiscal position in living memory.

Our public debt alone is the equivalent of over £14,000 for every man, woman and child.

We’ve had to take tough decisions, but I believe that we have managed to protect the areas that matter most to today’s pensioners.

And I should use this opportunity to pay tribute to my colleague Steve Webb, Minister of State for Pensions, whose work since we entered office has been nothing short of remarkable.

It is a real privilege to work closely with someone who is so passionate about pensions and the issues facing older people in this country.

Next generation

Of course we cannot be complacent.

There is always more to be done to help the poorest in retirement.

However, having worked to put incomes and rights for today’s pensioners on a firmer footing, we must also turn our focus to the next generation.

The challenge is immense.

A diminishing group of younger workers will have to work longer just to help fund the pension promises made to their parents, even before they invest in their own future.

The comparison with previous generations is stark.

When the State Pension Age was set back in 1926 there were around nine people of working age for every pensioner.

Today, there are only three people working for every pensioner, and by the second half of the century it will be down to nearly two.

For the first time in more than 30 years our children are expected to have retirement incomes which will fail to keep up with average earnings in the rest of the economy – despite our decision to restore the earnings link in the State Pension.

This is our children’s legacy – unfunded obligations and insecurity in private pensions.

Few will be able to look forward to a guaranteed income in retirement.

The numbers saving in Defined Benefit pensions in the private sector have more than halved in the last 20 years and have been on an inexorable downward trend.

There are currently only one million active members in open private sector Defined Benefit schemes, down from five million members in the mid 1990s.

But, because the numbers in Defined Contribution schemes have so far failed to take up the slack, fewer people than ever are saving in any form of scheme at all.

Indeed, less than half of the entire working age population is currently saving in a pension.

Even those who are saving face an uncertain retirement.

This is because contribution rates are weak, and annuity rates have fallen significantly since the late 1990s.

They can only be expected to fall further as life expectancy increases.

And the next generation will not be able to rely on bricks and mortar in the way their parents have been able to.

While 70% of today’s pensioners own their homes outright, their grandchildren are struggling to even get a foot on the housing ladder.

The average cost of property for a first-time buyer has increased by 40% in real terms in the last decade.

It’s no wonder our children are increasingly cynical about saving.

And they won’t be able to afford a stable and secure retirement unless we do something radically different.

Acting in the long term

So it is absolutely imperative that we take steps to secure the position of the next generation.

It would be easy to shirk our responsibilities.

But what will we say to the next generation if we don’t act now?

That it was too difficult?

That there were no votes in securing our childrens’ pensions?

That attitude must be consigned to history.

Otherwise we will bear responsibility for the burdens on our children.

Surely we have to act now to secure their future?

Parallels to welfare reform

But this challenge isn’t unique.

After all, this is, in many ways, the challenge that confronted us when we looked at welfare reform.

We could have continued with the short term option – increasing child welfare payments at budget after budget and triumphantly announcing the number of children we had pushed just over the poverty line.

But we knew that if we were going to make a real difference to people’s lives – transforming them rather than just maintaining them – we had to tackle the problem at its roots.

In welfare this meant simplification of the system.

And it meant getting rid of the perverse incentives which rewarded the wrong choices and meant that work didn’t pay.

The challenge in pensions is exactly the same.

We have to fundamentally simplify the system.

And we have to make it crystal clear to young savers that it pays to save.

Private Pensions

We have made a start by pushing ahead with plans for auto-enrolment, building on the groundwork laid by Lord Turner back in 2005.

By providing a low-cost and dependable pension scheme for those who wouldn’t otherwise put money aside, we can start to push up savings rates and move away from a culture of debt.

This should ensure that between five and eight million people start saving or save more, and it will enable us to start the process of rebuilding confidence in private pensions.

It will also challenge other providers to look hard at their service charges, at the way they communicate information to their customers, and at the quality of the product they are providing.

Auto-enrolment is as much about cultural change as improving saving rates.

All of those who have played such an important role in the development of the existing UK pension system have to recognise that the world is changing, and they need to start working in the interests of the next generation.

They need to get their shoulders to the wheel and help make this new retirement system work.

State Pension

But this alone will not be enough.

Auto-enrolment cannot solve the savings challenge on its own, and we have to be prepared to look at the other side of the equation.

We now have to look at the State Pension.

For the two go together, and what we do in one affects the other.

Just like the chaos in the benefit system, piecemeal changes to state pensions have turned what started as a relatively simple contributory system into a complex mess.

S2P, Serps, graduated retirement pension, the additional state pension – these are names designed to strike fear into the heart of a young saver and confusion in almost everyone else.

The system is so complex that most people have no idea what any of this will mean for them now and in their retirement.

And for those on the lowest incomes, the complex rules governing Pension Credit have been a barrier to claiming the money they so dearly need.

That is not to mention the demeaning nature of the means-test, which we know puts people off from making a claim, as well as acting as a disincentive to save.

Means-testing

Too many people on low incomes who do the right thing in saving for their retirement find those savings clawed back through means-testing.

When they reach pension age they discover that while they have foregone spending opportunities and made plans to be self-sufficient, others, who haven’t saved a penny, are able to get exactly the same income as them by claiming Pension Credit.

Think about how this could affect auto-enrolment – low income savers will rightly be frustrated if they reach retirement and find they have paid in for nothing.

Confused and uncertain, they may never even get that far, choosing instead to opt-out of saving altogether.

We have to change this.

We have to send out a clear message across both the welfare and pension systems – you will be better off in work than on benefits, and you will be better off in retirement if you save.

Conclusion

I seek a debate on the next generation of pension reform.

Having acted immediately to protect the incomes of today’s pensioners, we have to turn our focus towards the next generation – tomorrow’s pensioners – and start working hard to secure their future.

I want a State Pensions system fit for a 21st Century welfare system, which is easy to understand and rewards those who do the right thing and save.

My Department has been working closely with colleagues at the Treasury on options for reform.

As the Chancellor made clear late last year, he is keen to look at options for simplifying the pension system, and that is precisely what we are doing.

We have worked together on this and he has been seized of the importance of this project from the start.

The Chancellor is determined to lift the burden of debt from the shoulders of our children and our children’s children, and to enable them to pursue, at the very least, the opportunities we have been fortunate enough to avail ourselves of.

Surely we cannot let this opportunity to put right the mistakes of the past pass us by?

That is why we seek your support to get this right.

Too often we forget that this isn’t just a system for those who are currently retired, but also for those who will need it in the years ahead.

That is why, together, we must make it work not just now but down through the generations, and make sure we leave hope and stability for those generations to come.

Tim Loughton – 2011 Speech to Fostering Network

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Below is the text of the speech made by Tim Loughton, the then Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, on 22 November 2011.

I must start by paying my thanks to the Fostering Network. I admire it hugely and I am grateful to Robert, his team and all your members for their support over the last year.

In particular, let me thank you for your involvement on the Foster Carers’ Charter and for the excellent guide you have developed on putting it into practice. Finally, let me pay special thanks to the Fostering Network for its support to local services in their recruitment of foster carers.

The unique skills and dedication of carers are absolutely essential to improving the lives of looked after children. And the Government is very clear that we must attract more skilled people into fostering as a top priority.

I saw a quote in the Guardian earlier this year in which a carer described her six years of fostering as “a very humbling job”.

I meet foster carers up and down the country all the time in my work – and I can assure you this modest, unassuming assessment of their role is characteristic of most.

So, I am delighted we are now working with the Fostering Network to help local services recruit more of their calibre through programmes like Foster Carer Fortnight.

In the last month, we have stepped through the gears once again.

And there has been a lot of positive media around adoption with the launch of Give a Child a Home. Unfairly I think, fostering missed out on some of the headlines.

Let me start therefore, by saying that this Government is as committed to fostering as ever.

We did not publish Give a Child a Home to promote one service over another.

We published it to get to grips with improving outcomes for kids in care. Whether it be in fostering; residential homes; special guardianship orders; or – for a small proportion – adoption.

The Fostering Network’s role in reducing that gap between young people in care – and those living outside of care – has been particularly pronounced over the last year.

Together, we launched the Foster Carers’ Charter in March. We published the revised regulations, guidance and national minimum standards in April.

We rolled out the Fostering Changes parenting programme. And we have secured very nearly £2.5m in funding between 2011 and 2013 for multi-dimensional treatment foster care and KEEP, which help foster carers respond positively to the needs of the children in their care and address the treatment needs of foster children – particularly those with more challenging problems.

But of course we always need to do more, not least at a time of growing numbers of children coming into care.

And I thought the importance of your work was very effectively underlined at the launch of the report from the Safeguarding Children Research Initiative yesterday.

Once again, we saw that the majority of vulnerable children who are abused and maltreated at home, go on to do better in terms of their well-being and stability when they are placed in the care of councils.

For many of these children, this is thanks to the sensitive and expert care provided by their foster carers. In fact, we know that the vast majority of looked after young people – 74 per cent – are living with foster carers.

But as I say, we understand that there is more to do. In particular, there is the need that the report correctly identifies for more specialist provision – to help children overcome the difficulties they experience.

So, I can assure you now that next year will be just as busy as the last.

Amongst other things, we will be rolling out extra support to the most vulnerable children. We will be looking for better ways to support foster carers. And we will be working hard to support both fostering agencies and local authorities.

Let me take each of those areas in turn. Starting with vulnerable children.

We know looked after children need three things in place to achieve their potential. First, they must receive good parenting from every person involved in their lives. Not least foster carers.

Second, they need to be listened to and be given a real voice: a real say in the decisions that affect their future.

And third, there must be stability in their lives.

We are now tackling each of these areas and making good progress.

For example, we are working to improve young people’s health; placement stability; the successful transition to adulthood; and the daily experience of being in care.

I am also holding quarterly, face-to-face meetings with four groups of young people: those in care, those who have been adopted, children in residential homes and care leavers.

And I have set up the Tell Tim website where looked after children and foster carers can write in and let me know their concerns direct.

Finally of course, we are making huge strides to improve standards in education for our most vulnerable children.

Almost every time I meet young people in care, they tell me they need to enjoy the same opportunities in the classroom as their peers.

I am clear that this should mean providing extra support at every step of their education journey.

So, in the early years we are providing a weekly entitlement to 15 hours of free early education to all two year olds in care. Giving them the opportunity to learn, play and gain the necessary skills to do well when they start school.

We are allocating extra funding to schools to support the most disadvantaged pupils through the Pupil Premium. This will be allocated to all children who have been looked after for more than six months, as well as pupils on free school meals.

We are ensuring looked after children have an entitlement to the new 16 to 19 bursary, worth £1,200 per year – £400 more than they would have received under the Education Maintenance Allowance.

And we are funding local authorities to provide a minimum £2,000 higher education bursary to any care leaver starting a course of higher education – up until their 25th birthday.

Why is this activity so important? It is important because a decent education is absolutely core to giving looked after children a level playing field in opportunities.

My chief concern however – as minister for safeguarding – is to make sure children reach the school gates in the first place, and are ready to learn when they do.

We launched Professor Munro’s review of child protection just a month after taking Government. And from the start, we wanted it to be different.

Unlike other reviews of child protection, it was not commissioned as a knee-jerk response to a crisis.

We gave Professor Munro all the time she needed to conduct a considered review, consulting the frontline, as well as children and young people.

We are currently working our way through her recommendations. But I’m pleased to say I have already put in place three key principles for our work:

First, reducing bureaucracy and prescription.

Second, being child-centred.

And third, trusting skilled frontline professionals to use their judgment.

On this last point, I am unequivocal that the issue of trust is as relevant to fostering as it is to social care.

Foster carers are consummate professionals and we need to treat them as such. For too long, this simply hasn’t happened.

In the same Guardian article I mentioned at the start, Helen Clarke from the Fostering Network makes the point that ‘no-one becomes a foster carer for the money.’

I don’t dispute this. But I am very clear we must support families who open their doors to vulnerable children better than we have done in the past.

We want this to happen in three ways: First, through trust. Second, by ensuring they are not let down financially. And third, by providing proper training.

We introduced the new statutory framework and Foster Carers’ Charter to underline the importance of valuing foster carers, trusting them to take everyday decisions about their foster child, and involving them in care planning decisions.

I have a map on my office wall reminding me exactly which areas have signed up – and which haven’t. In the new year, I will be doing a full audit of sign up to the charter and the Government will be gathering and disseminating good practice.

I want all fostering services to be able to show that they have used the charter to engage with their foster carers, foster children and other partners on how to improve fostering services in their area.

The anecdotal evidence I have so far is positive. I know Foster Care Associations around the country have been doing excellent work with local authorities to develop the charter and support local improvements.

But I’m deeply concerned that foster carers are still telling me the revised fostering guidance is being followed well in some areas, poorly in others.

My main bugbear is the lack of movement in some communities on the delegation of authority to foster carers.

I was quite explicit about the importance of effective delegation of authority in my letter to directors of children’s services in August last year. Asking them to ‘give the maximum appropriate flexibility in making decisions relating to children in their care’.

The Fostering Network has produced an excellent toolkit to help councils improve their practice in this area. And the Foster Carers’ Charter also refers to proper delegation to foster carers.

I appreciate the difficulties for authorities who have to keep one eye on the legal framework governing parental responsibility.

But we know proper delegation is vital to foster carers’ providing excellent parenting. And children in care have told me it is vital to giving them the same opportunities as their peers.

There is no reason why a child should miss out on a school trip. It simply accentuates the feeling of difference between one child and another.

In my book, this is a simple matter of trust. And I am of the belief that if someone has taken the decision to look after another person’s child, the very least we can do is treat them as adults.

Quite clearly, this includes Government and that is why we are taking action in three significant areas.

First, we are calling on councils to end the sclerotic red tape that prevents people stepping forward to become foster carers.

Personally, I am particularly pleased that my colleague Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister, is issuing guidance shortly to councils, making it crystal clear they should consider how their actions will help people looking to adopt or foster a child.

Currently there is a Catch-22 situation that is blighting prospective parents’ and carers’ efforts to do either: legislation rightly requires adopted and fostered children to have their own bedroom.

But currently it is often difficult for prospective foster carers to obtain a larger council house before their application to adopt or foster is approved.

The new guidance on allocating council homes will break down the barriers between different council departments, and ensure the needs of children will be considered. Along with the needs of those waiting to adopt or foster.

The second area of Government support is a financial one. And I am delighted that our plans for the Universal Credit recognise the uniquely valuable role they play.

Like now, we will be disregarding fostering payments when we work out carers’ entitlement to benefits, so families don’t lose out because of their goodwill.

Single foster carers, or nominated members of a fostering couple, will not be expected to search or be available for work until their youngest foster child reaches 16. And if needed by the foster child, this may be extended to both members of a couple or until the child leaves care.

Importantly, we also plan to introduce new provisions so that where a carer intends to continue fostering, they will be allowed up to eight weeks between placements before being expected to look for work.

The third and final area is training.

We understand that fostering is a 24/7 job that requires great skill. And I am pleased the Government is promoting the use of evidence-based interventions that help carers deal positively with the complex needs of looked after children.

Among the interventions that we know work best are Multi-dimensional Treatment Foster Care and KEEP. The feedback I have looked at over the last few months from both MTFC and KEEP has been strong. Amongst other quotes, I have seen the following from a foster carer: “KEEP has taught me how to see behind the behaviour and anticipate possible problems.”

And on MTFC, a quote from West Sussex Council saying: “We feel passionately that the MTFC model could be of much wider value to children”.

I am very clear that we must continue to support foster carers to do the best possible job. To make them feel valued. And to recognise the life changing role they play.

The final area I want to look at today, is support to fostering service providers and local authorities.

I am deeply concerned that there is still a great deal of local variation at the moment in outcomes for looked after children.

I can name one part of London where only 49 per cent of looked after children were in education, employment or training at 19. Equally, I can show you areas in the capital where 83 per cent are in education, employment and training .

This is my great frustration. There are some local authorities doing outstanding work on fostering. But we are terrible at spreading best practice in this country.

I took the decision to publish local authority performance tables to shine a light on this variability. One of the indicators will be on placement moves. And we will be taking tough action to deal with councils who are failing.

I opened a centre in London four-and-a-half years ago called the Ealing Horizons Centre. It provides fabulous ‘one stop shop’ support to children in care in the borough for things like school, counselling and career advice.

Some of the results it has achieved for their 400 plus children are quite extraordinary. Particularly in areas like the rates of children going on into higher education ,18 per cent as compared to a national average of six per cent of looked after children.

If outcomes and stability for vulnerable children are to improve, local authorities need to look at the way they strategically plan and commission services for looked after children.

And they need to look at best practice and spread it more widely. Can Ealing be replicated in Leeds, Manchester or Birmingham? Or perhaps there are elements that can simply be cherry picked.

On foster care specifically, I honestly don’t care whether a council uses in-house fostering services, agency services, or a combination of the two – just as long as they use the best services.

I will say this though, many independent fostering providers I have seen are at the cutting edge of innovation and I can promise you they are worth looking at.

The Fostering Network and its members are leading this innovation through the work they are doing with KPMG to trial social pedagogy in foster care. We piloted social pedagogy in children’s homes and I am a firm admirer of the child-centred, holistic approach it takes to service delivery.

My one piece of advice today is that local authorities should not turn a blind eye to this. As strategic commissioners, they need to make sure markets are effectively developed and managed (including both in-house and external placements) to ensure the very best outcomes are achieved.

At the very least, I want a level playing field between local authorities, and independent fostering agencies.

There are more than 65,000 looked after children in this country. 48,500 of them are in foster care. If we don’t spread best practice more widely and encourage innovation, the gap in outcomes between the top 10,000 and bottom 10,000 will continue to remain unacceptably large.

Over the next 18 months, I will do everything in my power to support councils, foster carers and fostering service providers to narrow those gaps. But in return, please do let us know where changes need to be made. And please do work to flatten out the huge gap in outcomes between local areas.

Let me finish by again stressing this Government’s commitment to foster care. This is a long journey. But we have taken important first steps in the last 18 months. I want those steps to become a sprint in the years ahead. And I want outcomes for looked after children to be transformed in the process.

Thank you.

Maria Miller – 2011 Speech on the Child Poverty Debate

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Below is the text of the speech made by Maria Miller, the then Minister for Disabled People, in the House of Commons, London on 28 March 2011.

Introduction

Good morning.

It is a great pleasure to see so many people here today focused on the issues of child poverty.

There are few more important – or emotive – topics in politics.

We all know that tackling the problem demands far more than warm words or political posturing.

We recognise that money matters whether it is measured in relative or absolute terms.

Yet we also know that dealing with child poverty demands more than just thinking about poverty in cash terms.

Poverty of aspiration… lack of life chances… and inequality of opportunity are all powerful factors too.

So let me say right now that this Government is determined to tackle the underlying causes of child poverty – not just the symptoms.

Indeed, this is already the starting point for so many of the actions we are taking to promote greater social justice across society.

It lies at the heart of our welfare reforms.

And in the long run, it is the only way we will deliver the fairer and more responsible society we all want to see.

Centre for Social Justice

Before he became Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith spent years examining exactly these issues with the Centre for Social Justice.

Under his lead, the Government fully recognises that far broader social issues are at play – debt, addiction, family breakdown, educational failure, and worklessness, to name but a few.

Any one of these topics represents a huge social challenge in its own right.

Every person in this room will have worked with families trapped in situations where they feel it is very difficult to break out and where benefits alone are not going to provide the answer.

Families where feeding an addiction has become a greater priority than feeding the children.

Working with people frightened about Payday loans hanging over their head.

Or picking up the pieces after a childhood spent in the care system.
These are the type of challenges many of you deal with day in, day out.

I am sure we can all agree, it is only by Government accepting that there are not going to be many quick fixes that we can start to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges – and then work together to find ways to meet them.

Accepting that there are a whole host of issues to tackle along the way also helps us to understand how best to deliver for the poorest.

If I take just one statistic, I could point to the fact that we have spent £150 billion on Tax Credits alone since 2003.

Yet despite the apparently vast resources being aimed mostly at families with children, real progress on child poverty all but stalled in the years that followed.

We all know what the results are today:

– 2.8 million children still living in relative poverty

– 1.6 million children still in absolute poverty

– and almost 2 million children living in workless households – one of the worst rates in Europe.

Clearly, simply throwing money at the problem has not worked.

I believe in the principles underpinning the Child Poverty Act and the Government is determined to meet the challenge it sets.

So we need a new approach.

That means moving away from the goal of getting every child one penny past an arbitrary income threshold.

And instead, it means focusing on helping each child to move out of poverty in the real-world sense.

That is why we need to start looking at child poverty through a sharper lens and start tackling the underlying issues of poverty such as education, debt and worklessness.

Work not welfare

This is also why the Government is so focused on tackling welfare dependency.

The benefits trap presents a very real barrier to many of the poorest in our country.

They become isolated from broader society.

They get stuck in a rut where aspiring to work and a better life actually represents a real risk to income levels.

And as if all that were not bad enough, it costs the taxpayer a fortune to maintain this broken benefits system.

This is why we are so committed to fundamental welfare reform.

Completely re-thinking our approach to people on incapacity so that we don’t abandon them to a life on long-term benefits.

Re-inventing welfare to work with one of the biggest work programmes this country has ever seen.

And just as importantly, re-writing the incentive base for jobseekers through the Universal Credit to make sure work pays.
The introduction of the Universal Credit on its own is forecast to lift some 600,000 working age adults and 350,000 children out of poverty.

Yet it is the long-term behavioural changes inspired by the three legs of these welfare reforms that we expect to have a bigger impact.

We will move toward a benefit system that is there to support people when they need it, but without trapping them in a cycle of inter-generational poverty.

We will move those who can work back toward employment so that we reduce the number of children who think it’s normal to have no-one in the house heading out to earn a living in the morning.

And at the same time, we will work to tackle some of the other big issues that too often leave children trapped in poverty.

Other interventions

One of those is educational attainment.

This is an area that has been flagged by both Graham Allen and Frank Field in reports commissioned by the Government to help us find new ways of making a positive impact on the life chances of children.

I think everyone here today can agree just how important education and early intervention are in tackling child poverty.

That’s why, for example, the Department for Education is targeting extra money at pupils from deprived backgrounds – pupils we know are at high risk of poorer outcomes.

This is a key priority for the Government, which is why we are increasing the funding available under the Pupil Premium to £2.5 billion.

At the same time, we recognise the huge role that Local Authorities play in influencing the life chances of children.

As a result, we are allocating £2.2 billion this year under the Early Intervention Grant to help local leaders act more strategically and target investment early, where it will have greatest impact. This will help fund new investments such as early education and 4,200 extra health visitors to build stronger links with local health services, which can make all the difference in early years.

And of course, we are also reforming the Child Maintenance system to ensure that we put child welfare firmly at the centre of our policy approach and prevent the State from exacerbating potential disagreements between parents.

Conclusion

These are just some of the many actions this Government is already taking to help children in the UK escape the poverty trap and the consequences that too often follow.

We have to make taking action on child poverty a continuing priority – just as we have in these first 11 months of Government.

The Child Poverty Strategy is a document that will bring together the details of all these policies and plans and it will be published very shortly.

What I can tell you is that the Government takes child poverty extremely seriously and we have quite deliberately waited to publish our Strategy at the right time – not some arbitrary deadline set by the previous administration.

Rather than rush the strategy out as just another piece of Government business, everyone involved has been determined to make sure it is right so that we can deliver the change that this country needs.

This reinforces just how highly child poverty features on this Government’s policy agenda.

As a new Government taking a fresh approach to child poverty, there is a real determination to do our best.

It is the only way we will achieve the joined-up approach we will need to make a real impact on children’s lives – in Central Government, at Local Authority level and across the Third Sector and civil society.

Clearly, we have a great deal to do. But I am convinced that by working together, we can deliver the right solutions for the children of Britain.

That is the challenge – and I look forward to meeting it with you.

Thank you.