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Westlake Legal Group > Education (Page 7)

Damian Green: Greater funding for social care requires a frank discussion with voters about priorities

Damian Green is MP for Ashford, and is a former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Whoever the new Prime Minister is (full disclosure: I’m a Boris Johnson supporter), they will need a lively domestic agenda to complement the final throes of this stage of Brexit. Which will mean tackling some of the burning injustices which were identified but not addressed by the outgoing administration. The grasping of social care must be an urgent priority.

For many years social care and its funding has been one of the most difficult subjects in British politics. In 2010, the Labour proposals were condemned by Conservatives as a Death Tax, and Labour were out. What goes around comes around, and in 2017 our own ideas, more generous than the existing system, were badged the Dementia Tax, and dreams of a large majority disappeared overnight.

It is one of the most personal issues possible, as many individuals suddenly find themselves having to provide a decent quality of life to a loved one with no proper guidance about how to do it, and what their entitlements are.

At the same time it is financially demanding. Essentially, the vast majority of people agree that we need to spend more on social care. Simultaneously, they are insistent that they should not themselves pay any extra tax. We need a serious national conversation about this (not staring in mid-campaign) and must face up to some unpalatable truths.

The current social care system is unsustainable not just financially but politically. It is too often opaque to those trying to understand it, with no apparent logic to the conditions which receive free NHS treatment, and those which do not. It is also apparently unfair in not rewarding a lifetime of prudence. Those who have saved feel that their savings will simply disappear, while those who have not saved receive the same level of care.

Less well-known is the fact that funding social care out of council tax means that local authorities are reluctant to allow too many care homes to be built. An ageing population means that already more than two fifths of council spending goes on social care. This figure will only increase over the years, so councils are fearful that all their other services will be swamped by the rising demands of the social care system.

The failures in social care put unnecessary extra pressure on the NHS. Indeed, the new, generous funding plan for the NHS depends on the assumption that we develop a social care system which keeps people out of hospital longer and discharges them in a smooth and timely fashion.

I recently published a paper for the Centre for Policy Studies “Fixing the Care Crisis” which dealt specifically with the problem of care for older people. There is at least as big a problem for working age people who need care, but let’s deal with one problem at a time.

A new system will need to meet four objectives. It will need to provide enough money to cope with an ageing population. It will need to be fair across generations and between individuals, ensuring that no one has to sell their own home, and ending the “dementia lottery”. It must lead to an increase in the supply of care beds and retirement housing. And ideally it should secure cross-party consensus.

We should look as a model to the pension system, where the basic State Pension has been increased significantly, while at the same time most people save additionally through their working years to provide comfort and security in old age. Auto-enrolment has been a great cross-party success story, encouraging millions more to save towards extra security in old age. The benefits will not come for decades, but they will be huge when they arrive.

Similarly, just as the basic State Pension has been improved in recent years I believe we should offer a Universal Care Entitlement, offering a better level of care both for homecare and residential care. For those who need residential care this would cover the core residential costs. Needs would be assessed locally but the money would come from central Government. This would take away the pressures on local councils.

Will this involve extra money? Of course it will. My estimate in the CPS paper is that providing decent care in this way would involve an extra £2.5 billion extra a year immediately, with increasing amounts as the demographics change over the years. Others put the figure higher. This is serious money, but not a big problem for the Treasury to find to improve a vital service. Any suggestions for an increase in tax or National Insurance will be controversial, as I have found, but politicians need to be honest about this. If the public want extra spending, the Government will have to raise more money to pay for it.

In addition, we need to find an acceptable way to allow those with the capacity to improve their own provision to do so. This would come through a Care Supplement, a new form of insurance designed specifically to fund more extensive care costs in old age.

This is analogous to the private pension system, which sits alongside the state system. It would allow people to buy insurance at the level they can afford to provide peace of mind. It would not be compulsory, (as pension auto-enrolment is not compulsory) so could not be stigmatised as a Death Tax or Dementia Tax. People could save for it over many years or make a one-off payment (possibly using equity release) at a suitable time in their lives.

These ideas would take the burden of social care funding away from local authorities, and even more importantly offer certainty and security to the increasing numbers who will need social care in old age. No one would have to sell their house and see their inheritance disappear. Everyone would have the chance of receiving better care. Fewer people would be left unnecessarily in hospital beds as they wait for social care to be available.

None of this is easy and it will take political courage. But it absolutely necessary if we are to provide peace of mind and security to frail elderly people who richly deserve it.

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Are AP classes really worth it for high school students?

Westlake Legal Group ap-classes Are AP classes really worth it for high school students? NoVA colleges Learning. Education counselors college preparation college counseling admissions acceptance
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Back in the 1950s, The College Board launched a new way for high school students to earn college credits: AP classes.

The high-level courses give students the opportunity to earn college credit by taking tests at the end of the year. Students who pass the tests submit their scores to colleges for credit consideration. But is the rigor that AP courses require worth the stress?

According to a study from The Pew Research Center, the pressure associated with getting into college has increased at a steady pace, with anxiety and depression becoming real side effects, leaving 17- and 18-year-olds to do whatever it takes to get into their dream school. 

Curriculum in high school is becoming more challenging, too. Over the last 10 years, the number of public high school graduates in the U.S. who have taken an AP exam increased by 65%, and those who have scored a 3 or higher (AP tests are ranked on a scale of 1 to 5; 3 and higher are passing scores) on at least one exam has increased by 63%, according to College Board Data from February 2019. 

Plus, the College Board data shows that last year in 2018, Virginia made it into the top 10 states with the highest percentage of public high school graduates scoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam. While the data reflects positively on the academic achievement of NoVA’s students, how much is too much and what are the tangible benefits for your child?

“What I encourage students to do is be the best version of themselves,” says owner and senior college counselor Cathy Ganley of ForWord Consulting, a company of educational consultants located in Northern Virginia. “They need to ask, ‘Are there leadership or volunteer opportunities available in the organization I am part of?’ Academically, the two most important things are GPA and rigor.”

The academic ability coming out of high schools in Virginia, according to Ganley, makes the playing field for getting into colleges within the state—such as Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, George Mason University and James Madison University—very competitive. 

While AP is the most common for-credit program offered, some high schools offer different ways to receive credit, including IB or dual-enrollment programs. All show college admissions counselors that the student is advancing in one way or another, according to Michael Walsh, dean of admissions at James Madison University in Harrisonburg.

“The commonality—whether you come out of Fairfax County or Green County or Southwest Virginia—is we like to see students take an above-average curriculum, and that includes honors, an IB, AP or dual-enrollment,” Walsh says. “It indicates to us that a student isn’t afraid of a challenge.”

There is also a risk to taking AP classes that students should be weary of, in that the grade in the course has a greater weight on an individual’s GPA than a high school-level class does, according to college counselor Miriam Schaffer of SpanOne, a California-based company with counselors across the country.

In Virginia, colleges only accept so many individuals from the various high schools in each county, according to Ganley, creating a need for students to differentiate themselves from the competition.

“When looking at schools in Virginia, that rigor is really important and you’re competing against kids from your own high school for those spots,” Ganley explains. “When a university is getting copies of transcripts they’re going to look at student A, who has taken four AP and a few honor courses, versus student B, who has taken one AP course and a few honors courses, and that can be the deciding factor.”

According to Walsh, though, it isn’t all in the course load.

“Kids are overdoing it,” he says. “I’ve sat on panels with individuals from highly selective universities and when a student says, ‘I’m going to take seven or eight AP courses,’ they always ask, ‘Why?’ It’s not healthy. We like to see them challenge themselves but we also like to see them have a life.”

Students who do choose to take collegiate-level courses tend to be better prepared for what lies ahead on a campus, including things like time management and appropriate studying habits, according to all three experts. 

When students are starting to take an interest in prestigious universities, Walsh recommends they reach out to the schools themselves to hear about what they expect because, often times, applicants rely on information from neighbors and older friends that isn’t always accurate.

“High school is really important in your overall development as a person,” Walsh says. “You have to have time to deal with the non-academic side, as well.”

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Should college students really be worried about the freshman 15?

Westlake Legal Group 15 Should college students really be worried about the freshman 15? parents parenting Nutrition Features healthy food Health & Nutrition freshman Education college students college
Photo by Gesina Kunkel

College eating habits are different.

Some students fly through the cafeteria seconds before class while others hang out in the on-campus coffee shop for hours. There’s food within reach (or a short walking distance) at almost any point in the day. And did we mention late night snacking?

Despite whether or not these behaviors are healthy for any given student, the widespread use of the phrase freshman 15 might not be as accurate as people think. According to a 2008 study titled The Freshman 15: Is it Real?, published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the US National Library of Medicine, researchers found an average weight gain of 2.7 pounds in 125 participants, with men more likely to gain weight than women, and freshman students being five times more likely to gain weight than the general population.

Lawrence Cheskin, M.D., professor and chair of nutrition at George Mason University College of Health and Human Services, has studied student eating habits for years, with an emphasis on weight management and community-based research, and has found that there is much more to know about the freshman 15.

We spoke with him about what students should know about their first year, how to be more aware of eating habits and where students can seek help if needed. Highlights from our conversations are below.

What should everyone know about the reality of the freshman 15?
The first thing students should know is that it is not destiny. There’s actually been studies that show a big range of weight gain or that some students don’t gain weight at all. So, it really is within your control. But the factors that tend to push it toward weight gain are that you’re being moved a bit out of your comfort zone, and people should realize, the food is going to change, your friends are going to change, what you do from day-to-day is going to change. We certainly want it to be as positive as possible, but it can also mean more junk food, more eating out, even the presence of alcohol. And you know, you’re becoming an adult and you’re going to make your own decisions, but it’s much better to make them with your eyes open rather than if it just happens because some of the people around you are behaving not so well in their diets or behaviors.

What are some eating habits students should be aware of, whether good or bad?
Well, on one hand, students should know that they shouldn’t really be gaining weight when they enter the college cafeteria (specifically at George Mason University), because the standard fare is nutritionally balanced and has reasonably good stuff to choose from. In fact, it’s somewhat higher in fiber than the average American diet, too. But on the other hand, if you’re sitting through three versions of your friends eating lunch, and you just keep sitting there as people come and leave your table, you can wind up passively over-consuming calories. Especially since, sometimes, just having food in front of us and available, even if it is reasonably healthy foods that are good choices, just the variety and the time you spend around food may make you consume more calories. Students need to be mindful or conscious in terms of their eating. Plus, eating slower is always a good option. If you’ve got to hurry because you have 10 minutes before you need to be in class, you’re most likely going to eat too many calories and not be aware than you’ve had or haven’t had enough to eat.

What about exercise? Does it help in terms of eating habits and fighting weight gain?
Forgive me, I am going to sound like I’m anti-exercise. I’m not at all, and students should get exercise often. But if you get into the habit of thinking, “It’s OK, I can eat without thinking about it and then just go to the gym and make up for it,” it’s not going to work very well. You’re not tying the two things directly together. You will most likely overeat calories by 500 because by working hard physically, it makes you hungrier and your body wants to replace those calories. And then when you eat those extra calories, you need some serious gym work to then burn those off too. It’s also partly the psychology of it. You have to be focused on the future. It’s not just about the pleasure of the moment.

There are also food delivery robots at George Mason. How do you think they have affected student eating habits across campuses that have them?
What a perfect example of how to choose wisely. Yes, you can have unhealthy food delivered to your door, but this service and the delivered food should be used mindfully. It really is about how much you have of it, how often you have it and how you balance it with other things.

Do you think parents should talk to their kids about eating habits when they go to college?
That kind of depends on you as a parent, knowing your kids and what they will respond to. It’s always better if they bring it up rather than if you push it on them. You have to know what your situation is and the best way to manage it in terms of parent-to-child communication. But, parents do play an active role by being good role models. For example, you can’t tell your child not to smoke cigarettes when you’re puffing on one yourself. That doesn’t go over well, and it’s the same thing with food. As a parent, you’re modeling it.

Is there anything else people should know about nutrition in college?
It is all within your control. No one is force-feeding you “bad” foods. No one is saying “You must eat this,” and a little bit of thought and planning can go an awfully long way. You can also avoid the situations that you know are triggers for you. You want to be social, but you can also get involved with your friends when they’re doing something healthier, like exercising for example. And if you think you might have problems controlling your eating on either end of the spectrum, whether it’s too much or too little, then student health services is a great place to turn. That’s one of the most important things to know.

For more information on Lawrence Cheskin and the research at George Mason University, visit gmu.edu. A new study on student eating habits called Health Comes First by the Mason Cohort (which offers gift card incentives to students who participate), will start in the fall 2019 semester.

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Intergenerational programs in NoVA bring seniors and children together—with benefits for both

Westlake Legal Group Senior-Feature Intergenerational programs in NoVA bring seniors and children together—with benefits for both Senior Living Senior parenting News & Updates Education Culture Features Culture children
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Mariam Dominguez’s father and father-in-law are both deceased, but her children, 6-year-old Sabrina and 3-year-old Josef, don’t lack for grandfather figure+++s in their lives.
As students at Merritt Academy in Fairfax, Sabrina and Joseph both participate in the intergenerational program, Seniors and Students Together, with The Virginian, a neighboring retirement community.

The program offers seniors and students a regular opportunity to interact with each other during activities like storytelling and singalongs for younger children, and sharing classroom lessons and community service projects for older students.

“(The students) come away with an understanding and respect of people who are different than they are,” says Christin Soly, executive director at Merritt Academy. “The children are growing and learning social and emotional skills. They’re learning manners and values. They learn that every person has something to teach. I’m a parent of four, and I see how comfortable my girls are with seniors.”

Merritt, which offers care and education for infants through eighth grade, is located adjacent to The Virginian, and shares a campus with a branch of Sunrise Senior Living Community, which is being renovated and is expected to reopen in 2021. The students also visit with seniors at The Kensington in Falls Church.

Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a DC-based nonprofit organization dedicated to intergenerational collaboration and benefits through programs and improved public policy, says both young children and seniors benefit greatly from interacting with each other.

“For young people, they have that extra someone who cares about them and invests in them. They learn soft skills, how to be patient, how to say thank you, how to accept people who don’t look like them. Children who are in intergenerational care are more accepting,” she says. “For older adults, it gives them a sense of purpose to feel like they’re useful. They have the opportunity to pass on their wisdom. Throughout our history and culture, it’s how we’ve passed on our stories, our wisdom.”

Indeed, teachers and administrators at Merritt Academy have seen their students benefit from the Grandfriends program, which started in 1991.

Students take part in a variety of age-appropriate activities that foster connections and offer opportunities to learn from each other. For example, 4-year-olds might play bingo, while third graders work with the seniors to pack lunches for homeless shelters. Some of the older children have interviewed their grandfriends about history.

“It was so much more interesting to talk about Veterans Day with people who had actually fought in wars,” is the sentiment expressed by several sixth graders, according to the school’s website.

Older students have also helped teach the seniors how to use iPads, social media and video chatting—all necessary components of corresponding with one’s faraway grandchildren these days.

Some of the youngest children, usually 2-year-olds, visit the Memory Care unit, which is where seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia live.

“Sending toddlers to the memory unit is good,” says Melissa Denny, special programs director at The Virginian, “because the toddlers aren’t going to remember either, but a second grader will get more frustrated.”

Westlake Legal Group Senior-3 Intergenerational programs in NoVA bring seniors and children together—with benefits for both Senior Living Senior parenting News & Updates Education Culture Features Culture children
© freeograph / stock.adobe.com

One of the oldest intergenerational engagement programs in the United States is the Foster Grandparents program, which launched in 1965. The government grant program pairs adults 55 or older with at-risk youth for the benefit of both. Since then, intergenerational programs in the U.S. have multiplied and expanded, from shared site programs to quasiregular community service visits, to home-sharing.

A Boston-based app, Nesterly, for example, pairs seniors with young adults who will rent a room at a reduced rate in exchange for helping with household chores.

In addition to benefiting both the children and the seniors, shared site programs—where a children’s day care or nursery school shares a building or campus with a senior living or day center—can provide relief for members of the sandwich generation, a term for the increasing number of adults who are caring for both their young children and aging parents at the same time.

“People will say, ‘It’s wonderful to have a place I can take my mother and my daughter,’” says Butts. “They know the grandchild will see the grandparent. They’re taking care of dependent care needs in a one-stop shop.”

Intergenerational programs can also play a major role in improving societal attitudes about aging, says Dr. Shannon Jarrott, a gerontologist and professor of social work at The Ohio State University.

“Older adults are largely absent (from a lot of pop culture) and are often negatively portrayed. There are many places that make it difficult for older and younger people (to interact productively),” she says. “We have an opportunity to present a counterargument to developing a fear of old age.”

Jarrott was previously at Virginia Tech, where she headed the Department of Human Development and was the director of Intergenerational Programs, spearheading and leading multiple research projects, including Neighbors Growing Together, a shared-site intergenerational program that was named a Program of Distinction by Generations United.

“We had all these university students coming through, as well as preschool-aged children and older adults,” she says. “It helped to assuage negative stereotypes the students had about (older people).”

Westlake Legal Group Senior-4 Intergenerational programs in NoVA bring seniors and children together—with benefits for both Senior Living Senior parenting News & Updates Education Culture Features Culture children
© Maria Sbytova / stock.adobe.com

Programs like Merritt’s Grandfriends help instill positive attitudes about aging from the time children are young.

“They learn how to be respectful, and how to observe and listen,” says Soly, including to seniors who might have trouble expressing themselves because of memory or cognitive issues. Spending time with aging adults, she says, also helps students normalize assistive devices like wheelchairs or oxygen masks.

When Mariam Dominguez’s mother had knee replacement surgery and needed to use a walker, her children recognized the equipment and its purpose.

“My daughter was familiar and she wasn’t nervous. She wanted to help,” says Dominguez.

While Merritt’s program is well-established, a new friendship is forming between the residents of Poet’s Walk, a memory care assisted-living facility in Leesburg, and Little Tree Huggers, a bilingual, eco-based, in-home day care and preschool nearby. On Earth Day, the two groups gathered for their first shared activity: planting flowers.

“It was fantastic,” says Lia D. Johnson, the founder and director of Little Tree Huggers. “It was really very exciting and very emotional at the same time. I think it rejuvenated (the seniors). The children are naturally compassionate and loving. They somehow become more patient in the presence of the elderly, and the seniors, in turn, are energized by the children and are very loving with them.”

Westlake Legal Group Senior-2 Intergenerational programs in NoVA bring seniors and children together—with benefits for both Senior Living Senior parenting News & Updates Education Culture Features Culture children
© Dobok / stock.adobe.com

One Poet’s Walk resident, whose family requested his name not be printed, presented the children with lollipops. “As soon as he saw there were children, he picked up his walker (and) ran to his room to gather the treats. He is very generous to the other residents as well,” says Amanda Hill, director of Resident Engagement at Poet’s Walk.

While finding opportunities for the residents of Poet’s Walk to interact with young children is a priority, Hill says, regulations can make it challenging to initiate programming with traditional nursery or elementary schools. As Little Tree Huggers is a privately owned day care, there was less red tape. And while the Earth Day event was the first visit between Poet’s Walk and Little Tree Huggers, the participants met one another with warmth and familiarity.

“I was actually kind of worried,” says Little Tree Hugger parent Sarah Donohue, of her daughter Madeline, who is 4-and-a-half. “I didn’t know how Madeline would react but she walked right over to the first fellow and said, ‘Hi, my name’s Madeline.’ The kids were like, ‘Do you want to plant with us?’ It was really cool to stand back and see how the kids jumped in.”

Dohonue’s children are fortunate to have great-grandparents who live nearby, but for many people, the DC Metro area is only home for a little while, so they might not have extended family nearby.

“I grew up with my grandmother in my house, so that gave me the passion to keep the program going,” says Denny, of Merritt Academy.

Likewise, says Hill, “In today’s world, families are more spread apart and it’s more difficult for the generations to interact with each other except for special occasions. I saw my grandmother a lot throughout my childhood. I have memories of visiting my great-grandmother in the nursing home as a child. It was always a positive experience.”

Indeed, research has found that creating opportunities for children and older adults to interact leads to positive experiences and outcomes for all parties. Seniors, Jarrott remarked, will often have their responsibilities taken away, however, a child can help them to feel needed, by asking for a story or just by needing a smile or some encouragement.

And for busy, harried parents, the grace older people often show to young children can be a blessing.

“People who have a lot of life experiences are very patient,” says Donohue. “As parents, we’re like, ‘Get in the car, you’re making me late’. It’s nice that (the seniors) have a lot of patience for kids who take 20 minutes to tell a story.”

“You might have a child who is acting out and an older adult who is lethargic,” says Donna Butts, “but you put them together in a room and they both rise up to meet the expectations of the other.”

This issue originally appeared in our July 2019 issue. For more family and senior living content, subscribe to our newsletters.

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Las Vegas Allows Parking Tickets to be Paid in Donations for Kids

The Las Vegas City Council has announced a plan for people to pay off their parking tickets while helping local kids.

The council voted unanimously to give people the option to pay parking fines issued between June 19 and July 19 by donating school supplies to the Teachers Exchange.

Items the city is willing to accept in lieu of fines include:

  • Pencils
  • Pens
  • Erasers
  • Dry erase markers
  • Index cards
  • Paper towels/Disinfecting wipes
  • Card stock
  • Copy paper
  • Storage bins
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Post-it notes

The supplies must be equal or greater in value to the amount of the fine, and only citations that were no threat to public safety are eligible.

Donations should be brought to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main St in Las Vegas within 30 days of the infraction and a receipt is required.

In July of 2016, the Las Vegas City Council authorized a program that established this occasional program allowing charitable donations in lieu of payment for parking fines.

The city tweeted about the program.

David Riggleman, Communications Director for the City told Yahoo Lifestyle that donations usually total between $1,000 and 2,000 when they run such programs.

“It is a way to encourage building community and to help non-profit associations in need. We also believe it makes paying parking fines more palatable if the donation is going to a good cause,” he says.

The post Las Vegas Allows Parking Tickets to be Paid in Donations for Kids appeared first on RedState.

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Steve Mastin: Here’s how our next Prime Minister can carry forward the Conservative education agenda

Steve Mastin is a state school history teacher and vice-president of the Conservative Education Society.

Whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, whoever is our Prime Minister has said that education is a top priority.

Much of the heavy lifting has been done and our educational reforms since 2010 have been impressive. I have been a state school teacher in South Cambridgeshire for 17 years, and I am proud of what the Conservatives have achieved.

Credit where it’s due, Tony Blair allowed a few schools to be free of local authority shackles. But we went further and offered that freedom to every state school in the country. If a headmistress can run her own independent school – ethos, pay and conditions, curriculum, behaviour – why can’t a state school headteacher? I am proud that many more children go to schools graded good or outstanding since we came to power.

Before 2010, students could re-sit exam after exam until they achieved the grade they wanted. Years ago, one of my students even remarked to me that she was going to miss my ever-so important history lesson to re-sit a maths exam because she was two marks away from an A* grade. This exam pressure on young people was wrong and we reduced the exams burden. I am proud of that.

Coursework grades were often inflated, and many conscientious teachers knew the open secret that other less scrupulous teachers ‘helped’ their students a bit too much. The system was devalued and we scrapped it.

Local Authorities would make excuses about why children who attended sink schools in deprived areas were achieving poor results. We freed schools to appoint no-nonsense headteachers who did not accept ‘low socio-economic background’ as a reason for failure. Now you find some impressive schools with tough headteachers in some of our most disadvantaged communities, with high expectations for every single child, and these children are rising to meet that challenge and finding opportunities to succeed.

We slimmed down the National Curriculum and allowed schools to surpass it, encouraging a renaissance in subject communities like my own of history. Finally, we reformed GCSE exams to ensure rigour and restore faith in students’ hard won qualifications.

More recently, we have focused on teacher workload. Senior leaders in schools have the power to create a culture where staff morale is high and teachers leave at the end of the day looking forward to the next one. But they can also create a school of drudgery through triple marking (where teachers and students engage in a dialogue in writing to each other about a piece of work) which has driven so many great teachers out of the profession.

Ofsted and the Department have said that schools should not be doing it, but this loathsome and counterproductive practice continues.

Which brings me to our leadership contenders. Both have highlighted education. Johnson has noted the “yawning funding gap” between pupils in London and the rest of the country, and wants to spend £5,000 more per pupil in outer-London secondary schools.

Whilst true, however, the gap between pupil spending in Essex and my own school in South Cambridgeshire is also “yawning”. Fair funding of schools is long overdue since it varies from county to county. In fact, the real-term cut in school funding is overshadowing all of our impressive and popular achievements since 2010. If we are not careful, school funding will haunt us into the next election. It must be addressed urgently.

Hunt said he would deploy mental health support teams in schools and colleges. He rightly recognises that schools are increasingly having to support the poor mental health of so many students. Teachers like me are experts at spotting a decline in the mental well-being of a young person. It is not spotting mental health concerns that is at issue; again, it is funding and support for those young people.

He also says we should unite young and old. I agree. So Conservatives should stop talking into an echo chamber and start engaging with young people like those I teach in South Cambridgeshire. They are engaged and passionate but drifting towards Corbyn’s socialist dystopia because they do not remembers the Seventies and Eighties. Hunt and Johnson need to make the case for education as a vehicle for social justice and mobility.

There is more to do. Here are three things our next Prime Minister could say about education to win the support of a supposed left-wing profession.

Let’s start with Ofsted. Nicky Morgan’s final act in the DfE was to appoint the impressive Amanda Spielman as Chief Inspector. Spielman has said that the curriculum taught in schools will now be examined. This is long overdue. In my career, I have been through five Ofsted inspections and at no point was I asked why I taught what I taught, or how this lesson fitted into the term or prepared pupils for GCSE.

I would like to go further. I would suggest that Ofsted should not observe a single teacher teach; not one. Unless, that is, the lead inspector has reason to doubt the judgement of the school’s leadership. For example, Ofsted should look at behaviour, safeguarding, and the views of parents, and compare these with what senior school leaders have claimed. If the claims are supported then Ofsted should also trust the leaders’ judgements about lessons and teaching and learning.

What is the point of inspectors observing short bursts of 30 lessons if there is no reason to do so? In any case, I do not want a former science-teacher-turned-inspector observing my history lesson; after all, I am not qualified to know what good science teaching looks like.

This is particularly pressing because ten years ago, when a school was judged to be outstanding, it was told that it did not need to be inspected again. So many ‘outstanding’ schools have been coasting for too long and may no longer qualify as truly outstanding schools. If inspectors do not have to inspect lessons, then they will have the capacity to re-inspect these outstanding schools.

We must hold our nerve on the English Baccalaureate (or E-Bacc). More students are taking rigorous exams in English, maths, science, a language, and either history or geography. The E- Bacc has rescued history in many schools where some students had been previously steered away from it because of its perceived difficulty. But music and art are now suffering due to their exclusion. If these subjects’ exams are now as rigorous as history’s, then they should be included in the qualification.

My final suggestion is that the university degree fees and teaching training fees should be waived for teachers who agree to give eight years to the state sector. The Armed Forces will fund your university placement if you agree to a return of service; teaching should be the same.

I stress, however, the state sector. If the taxpayer trains you then you should teach in a school that is funded by the taxpayer. If you choose to train and then get a job in an elite public school – and I have no problem with that – then Mr and Mrs Taxpayer from South Cambridgeshire should not fund your fees. You or your school or should pay them back.

Above everything else is school funding. Conservative councils rightly have a reputation for prudence and wise spending. Many headteachers in South Cambridgeshire are small ‘c’ conservatives and extremely careful with their budgets. Whichever foreign secretary enters Number 10, school funding must increase. No ifs, no buts.

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Damian Flanagan: What drives the Conservatives’ underlying problems? For answers, ponder our exile from the cities of the north.

So why am I even writing about this secretive group of no-hopers? Because they happen to be called “The Conservative Party” – and it currently runs the country. Also, I happen to be one of them, having recently taken over the running of the newly reformed Manchester, Withington Constituency Conservative Association.

The position of the Conservative Party not just in Manchester, but in cities across the North of England is so dire that it is probably beyond the imaginings of people in the rest of the country and certainly seems to be a blind spot for Conservative Campaign Headquarters. There hasn’t been a single Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for over 25 years, and until two years ago, the council was a hundred per cent Labour, with no opposition whatsoever – leading to zero scrutiny of any Council policies.

In the recent local elections,t he Conservatives sunk to a new low in Manchester, attracting just 6.5 per cent of the vote, half that achieved by both the Greens and Liberal Democrats, and barely 1/9th of the 58.8 per cent achieved by Labour.

The opposition to Labour in Manchester now consists of three Liberal Democrat councillors (who recently complained that the council was too “right wing”). There is also not a single Conservative councillor on the councils in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle…

So why should people elsewhere care about this? If Northerners like Labour so much, shouldn’t they just be allowed to get on with it?

You could argue that the local elections were an aberration and that people were venting their frustration with the Brexit stalemate in Westminster, that two unrelated issues – local government and national government – were being conflated.

Yet the crisis over Brexit and the full-scale retreat of the Conservative Party from many cities in the north of England are profoundly connected.

Think back to the last time that the Conservative Party enjoyed thumping majorities of over 100 in the House of Commons and was able to act decisively. You have to go back to Margaret Thatcher and the 1980s, a time when the Conservatives still had MPs in urban constituencies in places like Manchester, had a considerable group of representatives on the council there and could appeal to voters in northern cities.

Since being rooted out of those northern cities in the 1990s, the best the Conservatives have been able to hope for are slim majorities in general elections, leaving them highly vulnerable to party divisions over Europe.

Having the vision and doggedness to produce policies that re-engage with the inhabitants of places like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, Tyneside and Newcastle has seemingly not been in the mindset of anyone in the Conservative Party. That needs to change urgently.

The fact is that the Conservatives have for over 22 years been incapable of ruling without the support first of the Liberal Democrats and now of the Democratic Unionists. Parliament has been paralysed, Brexit frustrated and finally the Conservatives went begging to Labour for agreement with their policies. All these things are intimately connected to the fact that there has not been a Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for 25 years.

Imagine, though, that the Conservatives were to declare their determination to win back these “lost” Northern cities, starting by setting up a permament office in Manchester and sending some of their best people to find out what exactly is going on and to find a solution to the ingrained antipathy to Conservatives. Supposing we were to make it a marquee policy that we will not, as Conservatives, accept the age-old, north-south wealth divide – why should we? There is no reason whatsover why the north should be poor.

Let’s commit ourselves as Conservatives to those neglected northern cities by taking radical measures: offering tax incentives for companies to set up there and moving government departments north – the relocation of sections of the BBC to Salford and the creation of Media City there has been transformational in the economy of that area.

Let’s commit ourselves to the end of failing, inner city northern state schools which trap many children in a cycle of ignorance and poverty for life, and demand that minimal standards are met instead, and that we will closely monitor and put in targetted resources to these areas until that happens.

Imagine if people in the North began to think of the Conservatives not as the “Nasty Party” only concerned with their own interests and support base in the south, but rather as the visionaries who lifted them, once and for all, out of relative poverty and offered unprecedented opportunities, rediscovering the entrepeneurial drive and world-beating heritage of these post-industrial cities.

In Manchester, the populace are constantly told, over and over, that the source of all problems are “Tory cuts”. It is a matter of almost existential, religious belief.

The local governments of such cities as Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle – cities which once led the world as centres of invention and industry – tend to focus on a culture of welfare. There is little sense that a spirit of enterprise, self-reliance and sense of public good is required to guarantee a prosperous future: it’s this compassionate and engaged Conservative vision that the North needs to rediscover.

As Conservatives, we need to support and nurture such a vision. But we are not going to manage it as a London-centric organisation that just views the cities of the north as largely unwinnable provincial backwaters.

The Conservative revolution that needs to begin in cities across the North should also transform the Conservatives nationally. The Conservatives cannot be merely a party of the South and the countryside: it must strongly engage with the interests and concerns of England’s northern cities.

Many people think the great irresolvable fault line in British politics lies between Britain and the EU or else on the border of the Irish Republic. But delve further into what exactly is causing the underlying weakness and reliance on coalitions in Conservative governments, and you will see that it is the long Conservative exile from the cities of the North which is a chief cause of what is stopping the UK advancing forward with decisiveness and unity as a nation.

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James Hockney: The Timpson Review shines a light on the “burning injustice” of school exclusions

Cllr James Hockney represents Bush Hill Park Ward on Enfield Council.

At last, a light has been shone on the injustice of some schools off-rolling students and misusing the practice of permanent and fixed period exclusions. As I wrote on Conservative Home previously, increasing numbers of pupils are being excluded from schools – with students with special education needs (SEN) being over six times more likely to be excluded.

For over a decade, many have been calling for action, yet with little progress and scant media coverage. The Timpson Review has ensured that this is no longer the case. When the ‘Pledge’ on Sky News discussed this topic as a problem; you know that the mainstream media, at long last, has woken up to the situation.

The Timpson Review was requested by the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds MP at the behest of the Prime Minister, Theresa May MP, to seek answers on why some groups of students are disproportionally excluded from schools.

A study of Primary Schools in 2016/17 found that 85 per cent of them did not exclude any pupils, but 0.2 per cent of schools excluded over ten children in just one year. Furthermore, the analysis shows that 78 per cent of permanent exclusions issued were to pupils who either had SEN, or were classified as in need or were eligible for free school meals.

The report interestingly upheld the contention of off-rolling. Many of us have campaigned on the issue and have seen first-hand unofficial exclusions leading to permanent off-rolling. Most often, these cases involved a ratchet approach by schools, making families feel that they were the problem, and their child was no longer welcome/suitable/educatable or just a failure.

The drivers for this approach fell into four themes: leadership; lack of resource; lack of safeguards and; no incentive(s) for the school.

The report also upheld the view that whilst there are good examples of Alternative Provision (AP), in the main provision, there is a geographic lottery with low attainment rates for children. For example, only 4.5 per cent of children in AP achieve good passes in English and Maths GCSEs compared with national statistics.

In the long term, excluded children who complete Stage 4 in AP had a 30 per cent chance of being NEET (neither in education, employment or training).

The Timpson report is substantial and runs to over 100 pages with 30 recommendations. The one that has drawn the most attention is that the school, from which the student is excluded, will be responsible for the on-going education and wellbeing of each excluded child. This recommendation alone is a real game-changer. Previously schools had the perverse incentive that to off-roll or exclude failing, poorly behaved or absent students enhanced their overall ranking. Now they have to find ways of either keeping these students in the building and finding appropriate education there or ensuring the AP provision they chose is up to standard and successful. This clearly changes the education landscape.

There are other accompanying recommendations in the Timpson Report. One is that the DFE seeks to keep track of children leaving mainstream education. This is a new initiative in itself. Another is that the DfE must review the reasons for the exclusion. Previously, schools had been able to state ‘other’ rather than define the issue for the exclusion (one in five cases fell into this category). Another recommendation is that Ofsted has been charged with inspecting the way in which schools manage the educational provision of students classified as ‘children in need’ and excluded.

One possible solution to these issues is to have a ‘Practice Improvement Fund’. This will be monies to help Local Authorities (LAs), mainstream schools, special schools and APs work together in identifying and supporting children in need – with the recommendation stating required funding of ‘sufficient value, longevity and reach’.

The ‘Teacher Omnibus’ survey found that 18 per cent of teachers do not feel able to meet the needs of a child with SEN with 30 per cent stating that there is insufficient training provided to support SEN students. To alleviate this problem Timpson recommends that schools will receive £10m in funding to train and share best practice.

Local authorities will be expected to act as advocates for vulnerable children. This is significant as often there is no neutral panel to whom parents can appeal, get help, advice or support. Currently parents have to navigate a warren of forms to fill in, bureaucracy, blind alleys, unhelpful staff, staff who want to help but don’t know how and have the odds stacked against them in this complex and complicated system. To date many parents have found fighting for an appropriate education for their excluded son or daughter to be an uphill battle. Having a person or an organisation set up who understands the system will be an enormous help.

For too long Alternative Provision has been a one-way street – an education of sorts, with little oversight by the authorities with no intention on the part of the AP or the excluding school to return the student into the mainstream system. The recommendations provide the opportunity for AP to become part of the mainstream education system, rather than an adjunct.

One of the recommendations is to give Ofsted a role in examining how schools deal with children in need and score accordingly. However, there is still an accountability gap. According to the latest National Audit Office report, 1,620 ‘Outstanding’ schools have not been inspected for over six years, of which 296 have not be inspected for over 10 years. Whilst it is fair to say that the enhanced role that the report recommends for the DfE and LAs, it is still a potential gap in overview and governance.

It is also unclear how schools with high exclusion rates will be addressed. The report provides for across-the-board-support for schools; however, there should be an intervention process for Ofsted in schools that have an exceptionally high exclusion rate.

The Timpson Review is a substantive, evidence-based investigation with significant recommendations. It is notable that the review undertook speaking to over a 100 individuals and organisations, in addition to 1,000 responses in the call for evidence.

In response the government has committed to accepting all 30 recommendations in ‘principle’. If this means the totality of the recommendations this could lead to a substantive change that many of us have been campaigning for over a decade on.

The review was at the behest of the Prime Minister on this burning injustice. This could be a very real legacy for which many of us will be grateful.

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Robert Halfon: Under our new leader, we must prize social justice above social mobility

Robert Halfon is MP for Harlow, a former Conservative Party Deputy Chairman, Chair of the Education Select Committee and President of Conservative Workers and Trade Unionists.

Compassionate Conservatism courses through the veins of this Party. I know – I speak to colleagues and members every day. From educational attainment to lack of in-work progression. From family breakdown to fragile social care. From addiction to defunct housing. These concerns, and many more that disproportionately affect society’s most disadvantaged individuals, are deeply troubling for us all.

We are the Party of high school standards and aspiration. The Party that introduced the National Living Wage, the Modern Slavery Act, the Pupil Premium. Compassionate Conservatives believe in a strong safety net, but also in a dynamic welfare system that is ambitious for individuals, rather than one that writes them off.

Our Party is the champion of free trade and enterprise – the engine of prosperity for us all. But, we also recognise the state’s vital role in helping disadvantaged individuals overcome adversity so that they, too, can prosper.

All too often, however, our concerns about the most disadvantaged are not reaching the light of day. According to a recent poll by the Centre for Social Justice, just five per cent of low-income voters think the Conservative Party is “compassionate”. 72 per cent say the Party is not concerned about people on low incomes. 52 per cent believe that we “don’t understand what it is like to struggle”. And 57 per cent say Conservatives “only care about the rich”. These are damning statistics, and do not reflect my colleagues’ natural sentiments.

Meanwhile, the Left hoovers up recognition, despite the mirage of its self-declared monopoly on compassion. Take its proposals on welfare, which focus more on parking people on benefits than on encouraging aspiration. Or Corbyn’s plan to scrap tuition fees; an enormously wasteful and regressive measure that would suck precious resources out of the pot – resources that could instead be used to support the most disadvantaged. Or Labour’s misconceived notion that helping poorer individuals can only be achieved by taking down the rich.

It is time Conservatives claim compassion as one of our own. However, we cannot do so until we are clearer about what we mean by this.

Equality of opportunity should be right at the heart of our thinking. The problem, however, is that this has become synonymous with social mobility – a term that has become increasingly fashionable but loses sight of the bigger picture. At its core, social mobility implies the capability to move up the ladder of opportunity. But it is not enough just to focus on this. There are swathes of people who are not even at the foot of the ladder in the first place; people who are so far removed from the mainstream that the idea of progression and self-fulfilment is a distant fog.

If we are serious about creating opportunity for all, Conservatives also need to have an answer for these individuals and can only do so by thinking about social justice. This means addressing all the personal circumstances in somebody’s life that are shackling his or her ability to enjoy the opportunities that exist in society. In addition, we must tackle the things that cause people to crash into poverty, rather than the symptoms: educational failure, worklessness, family breakdown, unmanageable debt, addiction, disability, exposure to crime, poor housing.

If we fail to grasp this, we will fail the Conservative Party’s moral heritage. We will also, almost certainly, demolish our prospects of a working majority in the next general election.

The Centre for Social Justice has calculated that over 1.4 million poorer voters live in the 100 most marginal seats in the country. And in every single one of those seats, these individuals exceed the majority of the standing MP, in many cases by a considerable margin. Put simply, the Conservative Party cannot win the next general election without winning the hearts and minds of society’s most disadvantaged individuals.

The next leader must deliver Brexit, arguably, the most daunting task faced by a post-war Prime Minister. And he must do so swiftly and decisively. But this cannot define his premiership. Brexit was a symptom of a much broader restlessness in our society: the marginalisation of large numbers of people from prosperity. The answer to that is a bold, assertive domestic agenda that has social justice right at its core.

Whatever the outcome of the leadership contest, the victor must stitch together the ripped fabric of our society. He must reach out to those who are stuck on the side lines of prosperity. And he must reignite the compassionate instincts that lie at the heart of this great Party.

To make a start, our future Government should transform the current Social Mobility Commission into a Social Justice Commission, embedded in the heart of Downing Street. They must address all the concerns I have outlined, and more, to make sure Government brings every single person to the ladder of opportunity, not matter who they are, where they come from, or what difficulties they face.

The Commission should produce social justice impact assessments on domestic policy and legislative proposals. They should not only be a means by which negative effects are flagged but should be used to ensure that everything we Conservatives do is positively helping to improve the lives of those who need looking out for most.

As our Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said, delivering Brexit is about more than just leaving the EU. “The hard bit is yet to come. Because we’ve got to reflect why so many people voted the way that they did in the biggest democratic exercise this country has ever seen.”

What comes next is equally important, if not more so, and delivering social justice to all corners of our nation must be a focal part of it.

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