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Ben Jeffreys: Forget Brexit – the real reason to be excited by Johnson’s premiership is education

Ben Jeffreys is a secondary school history teacher, was parliamentary candidate for Cheadle at the 2010 General Election.

As a teacher in a state school, Conservatives might expect me to have become a recalcitrant leftist and argue an Old Etonian’s privileged education is actually a reason not to support him.

Nonsense. Eton is a stunning school that delivers an outstanding education. As do Charterhouse (Hunt), Dulwich College (Farage), Douglas Academy (Swinson), and Adams Grammar School (Corbyn). Attacking someone in public service for having been well schooled is, one might say, utter piffle.

There is actually only one issue of relevance in Johnson’s Eton education: he was a King’s Scholar. That fact is critical.

In 1440, King Henry VI founded Eton as a charitable foundation to provide education for 70 bright children from poor backgrounds. His intention was to educate these 70 children, first at Eton and then at King’s College Cambridge, to get talented but poor children working for the early English state. Ironic.

Alongside 1,200 Oppidans, there are still around 70 King’s Scholars, often from less privileged backgrounds, holding what is in effect an early state scholarship to study at England’s most privileged school. There may have been twenty Prime Ministers from Eton but Johnson is only the third King’s Scholar, after Sir Robert Walpole and Harold MacMillan.

This perhaps explains the highly traditional Conservative view that he has of education: that a good education opens the door to success, and therefore every individual, from every background, should be offered the very finest education possible and be allowed to make of it what he or she can.

This Prime Ministerial view was perhaps confirmed in the decision to give the three great Offices of State (Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, and Home Secretary) to three children from immigrant families who took their opportunities from a good state education.

The first, Sajid Javid, son of Pakistani immigrants, was educated at Bristol state comprehensive Downend. The second, Dominic Raab, son of a Czechoslovakian migrant Jew, was educated at Dr Challoner’s, a state Grammar School. The third, Priti Patel, a child of migrating Ugandan Asians, was educated at Westfield Technical College. The three then became banker, lawyer, and successful political activist. All succeeding from a state-funded education.

Johnson was always convincing on Education. As early as 2002, he spoke of his desire not to “denigrate the teaching profession – I was briefly a teacher in Australia and know how hard teaching is – I had a tough time of it”. He also referenced “a calamitous falling off in the respect in which teachers are held… we should give back autonomy to teachers”. Good stuff.

One of his earliest appointments in 2005 was as Shadow Minister for Education. In March 2007, he demanded “that all students in all schools have equal access to the vital utensils that they will need to get to higher education… we are seeing, time and again, the results of failures at early stages of education.” And let us not forget Johnson was one of very few Conservative MPs to vote against increasing tuition fees, in both January and March 2004 – another big plus.

In his leadership campaign, Johnson identified education as his central campaign issue. At his leadership launch he confirmed his world view, saying: “I believe in setting people free by equipping them with the education to achieve their dreams”.  Asked at the first leadership hustings for the first thing he would do on his first day in Downing Street, he replied: “We need to do more for education funding in our country and I think the current formula doesn’t work”.

There is certainly a funding problem to be resolved in our state schools. The Institute for Fiscal Studies exists to “promote effective economic and social policies by better understanding”. It recently reported on school funding. This report revealed per-pupil funding direct to schools in England fell by four per cent in real terms between 2015/16 and 2017/18, while total school spending per pupil has fallen by eight per cent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2017/18.

You notice this in schools via rotting toilets, tighter budgets, and pressure on Parents Associations to plug the funding gap. Reversing this, say the IFS, will need serious government intervention: an immediate investment of £3.8 billion and more to follow.

Johnson has promised to close the funding gap between London (where schools are given up to £6,800 per pupil) and schools elsewhere (where some given just £4,200 per pupil), pushing the minimum per capita funding to £5,000. Consider the benefits to state schools. In a school of 1200 students, £800 more per capita means additional annual income of £960,000. Serious money.

How might that cash be spent? The Government’s document “School Resource Management: top 10 planning checks for Governors” says “staff pay is the single most expensive item in the school budget. It typically represents over 70 per cent of expenditure”. Spending 70 per cent of additional income of £960,000 in this way would mean another £672,000 annually for staff pay.

The starting salary of an unqualified teaching assistant is £17,208. A newly qualified teacher starts at £23,720. So £672,000 could go a very long way in funding more teachers of Maths, English, Science, Arts, and perhaps Drama and Classics too, reducing class sizes and expanding opportunity. And don’t forget the remaining £188,000 of additional money, increasing the stock of text books, enhancing school libraries, and reviving tired facilities.

Arguably some greater clarity is needed for what the £5,000 figure represents. Government minimum funding is already due to increase from £4,200 to £4,800 in 2019/20. Is Johnson advocating a rise of £800 or £200?

Then there’s the difference between gross and net figures. Take Southend, for example. The Department for Education provides a Dedicated Schools Grant Allocation (the gross figure) representing £5,254.47 per pupil. However, once local overheads and central education services have been subtracted, schools actually receive minimum funding of £4,800 per pupil. Which of these will be guaranteed at the £5,000 level?

There’s increasing staff salaries, with the proposed 2.7 per cent pay increase. And in September 2019-20, employer contribution to teacher pension provision increases from 16.48 per cent to 23.68 per cent, this increase of 7.2 per cent being carried by school budgets. The annual cost for all schools is estimated at £880 million. An extra £4.7 billion has been put aside to help pay for this across all public services, but the schools share is only guaranteed for the first year. Will pensions gobble up the new money for schools?

These questions certainly need answers, but there is much to be optimistic about. Tony Blair famously said that his priorities were Education, Education, Education. But in this critical area, maybe it’s our new Prime Minister, a recipient of the earliest English state education funding, who truly has the passion to deliver.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

So we’ve had NHS, policing and immigration plans from Johnson. Stand ready for a schools spending pledge.

So Boris Johnson has pledged 10,000 new police officers, as well as a raft of tougher-sounding anti-crime policies, an Australian-style points-based immigration system (not to mention the relaxion of migration rules for scientists), and £1.8 billion for the NHS.  It isn’t hard to see where he will go next, and soon.

The remaining element of Dominic Cummings’s favourite set of policies – tax cuts for lower-paid workers – may have to wait for a publicity push, because these would need legislation, and the Government has no working majority.  Though the Prime Minister could try them on the Commons anyway, daring Labour to vote them down, as part of an Emergency Budget in October (if there is one).

What is likely to come sooner is a Government commitment to spend at least £5,000 on every secondary school pupil.  ConservativeHome understands that this announcement is written into this summer’s campaigning grid.  But we need no special briefing to work this out for ourselves in any event – and nor does anyone else.  For why peer into the crystal of Downing Street announcements when one can read the book: i.e: Johnson’s Daily Telegraph columns?

For it was in one of these, back during the Conservative leadership election, that he pledged “significantly to improve the level of per pupil funding so that thousands of schools get much more per pupil – and to protect that funding in real terms”.  The £5000 figure was briefed out separarely.  This promise was one of the two main big ticket spending items of his campaign, the other being that undertaking to raise police spending.

“It is simply not sustainable that funding per pupil should be £6800 in parts of London and £4200 in some other parts of the country,” the former Mayor of the capital wrote.  Just as the NHS spending announcement was framed by a visit to hospitals in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, expect any school spending news to be projected by a trip to schools in Leave-voting provincial England: all part of the push to squeeze the Brexit Party.

If that column is any guide, don’t be surprised to see a maths, science and IT element too – which would also be very Cummings – as well as a stress on “giving real parity of esteem to vocational training and apprenticeships”.  There is evidence that these are popular all-round, but especially among older voters.  Gavin Williamson is bound to have a supporting role, just as Priti Patel has had with the weekend’s law and order initiatives, but Johnson will lead.

Like his other spending promises, Johnson’s school pledge may not be deliverable in the event of a No Deal Brexit, and there are inevitably questions anyway about timescale anyway.  But if you want to know what more will be in his campaigning package, look no further.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Daniel Rossall-Valentine: Tech now underpins prosperity in every sector – so to thrive, we need more engineers

Daniel Rossall-Valentine is Head of Campaign for This is Engineering at the Royal Academy of Engineering, and Deputy Chairman of Sevenoaks Conservative Association. He writes in a personal capacity.

“It’s the same formula: it is education, infrastructure and technology —those three things”, so said Boris Johnson in June when interviewed by the Evening Standard about his agenda for government. According to Boris, those are the three principles which informed his time as Mayor of London and will be his priorities as Prime Minister.

These priorities are very welcome because they recognise the essential connections between three vital elements of wealth generation, and represent a more sophisticated view of economic growth than the one-dimensional and idealistic catchphrase of “education, education, education” which prevailed under a previous government.

The UK is involved in a long running battle to raise its productivity. We have long needed a better vision of what we need to do to boost productivity and I believe that this vision is now being developed.

Engineers and technicians must be at the heart of this new vision. Engineers are essential for innovation, they design, build and improve technology and have become central to national productivity, economic growth and living standards. Engineers are the people who turn scientific principles into practical application, social benefit and economic value. Our world is being unified in a new way; by a series of threats that know no borders. We face big challenges, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, malnutrition, biodiversity loss, cyber-terrorism and global warming, and technology is central to building solutions for each of these and making our world work better for everyone.

In truth, technology is not a sector anymore; it is now the driver of productivity and economic success (and indeed survival) for organisations in every sector. The analytical and design skills of engineers have become more and more valuable as the rate of technological change accelerates. No sector of the economy is now protected from the forces of technological change; healthcare, agriculture, retail, and education are just four examples of sectors which are currently experiencing rapid technological change; change that offers significant improvements in productivity and benefits for users.

Growing our domestic tech capacity offers great benefits to the UK. Tech firms have shown that they can scale very rapidly. The rise of “tech unicorns” (recent startups valued at over $1 billion) demonstrates the economic and social potential offered by tech. Engineering has been proven to be a very effective multiplier of economic growth. The UK should not be modest about its future in tech because we have significant advantages, including a trusted legal regime, access to capital and credit, access to support services, unparalleled access to tech customers, an educated workforce, world class universities, stable taxation and intelligent regulation.

However, the UK has one great and persisting tech weakness which threatens to impede our growth, and that is an inadequate number of engineers and technicians. The UK needs to grow its pool of engineering talent, to ensure that UK-based tech companies can remain in the UK as they scale rapidly, and to enable engineering companies to win big projects. If the UK doesn’t expand its pool of engineering talent we risk losing tech firms, tech projects and tech investment and the huge economic and social value that they bring. The proportion of jobs that require technical skill is growing and Britain should aspire to a growing share of this growing pie.

Young people are avid consumers of technology, but we need more of them to aspire to mastering the engineering that underpins the technology so that they can become developers, makers and creators of technology, rather than mere users. We also need more young people who combine engineering skills with the entrepreneurial and managerial skills that will enable them to form and scale business enterprises; so that the UK can capture an increasing share of lucrative engineering value-chains; and provide the GDP and employment that flow from end-to-end technology development. Increasingly people who are not tech-savvy are at risk of being automated out of a job, so the need for upskilling the UK in technical skills is pressing.

This technical skills shortage has long been recognised and a multitude of projects have been started to encourage young people to consider engineering. And yet despite the number of initiatives, the shortfall of talent has not only persisted but seems to have grown larger over the last decade. We also need to diversify our talent pool and ensure we are attracting young people from all backgrounds; because only a diverse profession guarantees the diversity of ideas that technical fields rely on.

The UK has made good progress in raising the profile of engineering in the last few years. The Industrial Strategy and Grand Challenges of 2017 were very welcome developments at putting technology centre-stage. The Year Of Engineering 2018 led to a very significant change in the perception of engineering amongst school pupils. This year-long Government campaign also encouraged greater collaboration between the many professional engineering institutions that make up the UK’s complex engineering landscape. We can be optimistic that the UK has got into the good habit of paying far more recognition to the engineers and entrepreneurs who enable, create and democratise the technology which improves lives, saves time and generates wealth.

Too often we allow our natural British reserve about talking about wealth to prevent us talking about wealth creation. Social benefit and commercial success are too often portrayed as trade-offs, when they are mutually reinforcing; the best technology delivers for investors as well as society-at-large. Technological success is a stool with three legs; technical progress, commercial success and social benefit. Technology is more than technology: technology is inherently social, and inherently financial, and we need more technologists who look at the full picture rather than the purely technical aspects of technology. Without profit, technology is the greatest creator of loss and debt known to mankind, and without social benefit technology can be a force of social division, rather than a democratising force.

To maximise the benefits of technology we need to close the technology skills gap, and this requires action by many players. We cannot rely on Government alone to solve this persistent problem. We know that too few young people are studying engineering related degrees and apprenticeships. One major factor is the image of engineering. Unfortunately, a number of unappealing stereotypes have become attached to the profession of engineering. Many young people assume that engineering involves hard, manual work, and male-dominated workplaces. Too many young people also believe that engineering is a narrow specialism that offers only a limited range of job opportunities. The problem is particularly acute with female students. Inspiring more girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers will not only help us to address the skills gap in science and technology, but it will also help us to create a more diverse workforce that truly represents the world we live in.

The UK has a great tradition of innovation and enterprise but only by unlocking the interest of our young people by presenting a positive vision of business enterprise and technology can we continue to succeed in this increasingly competitive field. One recent example of success is the This is Engineering campaign which was developed by a number of the UK’s leading technology companies and launched in January 2018. The campaign presents young people with positive, modern, authentic images of careers in technology and engineering, through the medium of short films which are available on many social media platforms. The films also highlight the societal benefits that new technology delivers, the team-work that technology and engineering projects rely on, and the creativity that is required at every stage in the design and build process.

By helping to promote careers in technology and engineering we can ensure that more and more young people see technology not just as a range of products to be consumed but also as a range of careers to be considered.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Virginia’s school system ranks as fourth-best in America

Westlake Legal Group graduate Virginia’s school system ranks as fourth-best in America schools school parenting News & Updates Family Education
Photo by MD Duran

Education matters. It can drive your decisions behind where you choose to raise a family, if you enroll your kids in public school or private institutions and more. For those in Northern Virginia, they don’t have to look far to ensure their children are receiving a great education.

On July 29, WalletHub, a personal-finance website known for ranking states across a multitude of topics, using studies and statistics, released its annual ranking of the country’s best and worst school systems.

Virginia made the top ten, ranking in as the fourth-best public school system in America, with high marks for math and reading test scores, student-to-teacher ratios, SAT and ACT scores, low dropout rates, bullying rates and percentage of threatened/injured high school students.

To determine the rankings, WalletHub compared the 50 states, plus Washington, DC, across two dimensions: quality and safety. Using 29 metrics, each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest quality of public schools.

The metrics analyzed include graduation rates, dropout rates, math and reading test scores, SAT and ACT scores, Advanced Placement scores, how safe students feel at school, share of students participating in violence and more. You can see each metric for the study here.

Data used to create the rankings were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Department of Education; National Conference of State Legislatures; National Center for Education Statistics; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative; Education Commission of the States; U.S. News & World Report; College Board; Ballotpedia; ACT and Zendrive.

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Adam Honeysett-Watts: After three years of gloom under May, it’s time for fun with Johnson

Adam Honeysett-Watts is Director of Conservatives in Communications and works in the financial technology sector. 

Before this leadership election got underway, I wrote that the next leader must be able to tell the Tory story – of aspiration and opportunity – and identified Boris Johnson as the person best-positioned to do that.

Having previously supported David Cameron and then Theresa May, I like to think I back winners – at least, in terms of those who reach the top. That said, while the former will be remembered for rescuing the economy – while giving people the power to marry who they love and an overdue say on Europe – the latter, much to my disappointment, has no real legacy. Johnson should avoid repeating that mistake.

His final column for the Daily Telegraph, ‘Britain must fire-up its sense of mission’, was jam-packed with the kind of Merry England* (or Merry UK) optimism that we experienced during the Cricket World Cup and that the whole country needs right now: “They went to the Moon 50 years ago. Surely today we can solve the logistical issues of the Irish border”. Quite right.

You’ve guessed it, I’m chuffed that Conservative MPs, media and members supported Johnson’s bid to become our Prime Minister. I’m looking forward to May handing him the keys to Number Ten and him batting for us after three, long years of doom and gloom. Sure, optimism isn’t everything – but it can set the tone. A detailed vision must be articulated and executed by a sound team.

Whichever side you were on before the referendum (or are on now), in the short term, we need to redefine our purpose, move forward with our global partners, unite the UK – and defeat Corbynism.

Mid-term, we should invest further in our national security and technology, improving education and life chances and encouraging greater participation in culture and sport, as well as boosting home ownership. Plus the odd tax cut here and there would be well-advised.

However, we must not put off having debates – for fear of offending – about controlling immigration and legalising drugs, and about funding for health and social care, as well as protecting the environment, for these issues matter and will matter even more in the future.

We should also avoid the temptation to ban political expression, alternative media and sugary foods, and celebrate instead free speech, press freedom and the right to choose.

Again, I look forward to Johnson peddling optimism and hope that people get behind him, because, ultimately, he will write our next chapter – and if we jump onboard and provide support, much more can be achieved by us all working together.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Frayne: The new Prime Minister won’t triumph on Leave votes alone. Here’s how he can win some Remain supporters over.

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

It’s not impossible that the Conservatives will need to fight both a general election and a referendum in the next year. It was therefore vital that the Party picked a candidate with a record of successful campaigning – and who believes in the Brexit cause. Jeremy Hunt ran a decent campaign and deserves a serious job, but Party members have chosen the right candidate.

While I’ve been making the case for Boris Johnson’s appointment on these pages for two years, his arrival in Number Ten complicates the Conservatives’ electoral strategy – and the Party must be considering how best to adapt it. They should be exploring full, Clinton-style triangulation.

I stress “explore” because the truth is, we don’t have a clue about where public opinion is at the moment. It would be an understatement to say the polls are a mess. We only know a few things: that the public remains completely divided on Brexit; that the broad Conservative base (activists plus regular voters) has fractured since the Government missed its own self-imposed Brexit deadlines; that there is a risk this broad base will remain fractured if the Government doesn’t deliver Brexit “on time” (although this timetable is probably more flexible than people have said), and that, until recently, the Party has been polling strongly amongst working class and lower middle class Leave voters in the Midlands and North – more so than amongst Remain voters in large cities and across the South.

Everything else is clouded in doubt. As Johnson arrives with his Eurosceptic reputation, we don’t know, for example, if the Southern and urban Remainers who have reluctantly stuck with the Conservatives will now peel off in great numbers to the Lib Dems; we don’t know if Johnson’s record will be enough to keep Midlands and Northern working class and lower middle class Leavers onside, or whether they will be watching the antics of Hammond, Gauke etc and now proclaim “they’re all the same”; we don’t know if there are particular, non-Brexit policies that will appeal to these Remainers or Leavers, and we don’t know if middle class Labour voters are getting sick of the failure of Labour to deal with anti-semitism within the Party ranks. We don’t know any of this and it is hard to say when we will. Not, presumably, until Christmas when Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for a while (itself an assumption).

But while there is great uncertainty, the Conservatives cannot just sit patiently on the sidelines and watch the action unfold before coming to a decision on their broad governing and campaigning strategy. They have to deliver Brexit  – but they also have to prepare and execute a programme that is going to be good for the country and, yes, let’s be realistic, for their own electoral prospects.

So what should they do? With the polls so messed up, all anyone can do at this point is to sketch out a governing and campaigning hypothesis on the basis of careful thought – and put it to the test.

For five years at least,  I have been advocating a strategy that focuses hard on working class and lower middle class voters in provincial England. I emphatically would not junk this approach; these voters will likely form the basis of the Conservatives broad base for the foreseeable future.

However, for positive and negative reasons, under Boris Johnson, this needs adapting. Positively speaking, these working class and lower middle class voters are, assuming that the Conservatives deliver Brexit (or are seen to die trying), temperamentally more positive towards Johnson than Theresa May.

And not just on Brexit; Johnson instinctively understands the importance of the NHS and schools, he understands public concerns about rising crime, he is unembarrassed about being English or about English history (something that has not been sufficiently explored) and he doesn’t obsess about political correctness. These voters aren’t “locked down” – far from it – but Johnson starts in a good place with them. More needs to be done to keep this voters onside, and I will be setting out some ideas on how in the coming weeks.

Negatively speaking, there’s no denying that Johnson starts in a terrible place with Remain voters full stop – and particularly those from urban, liberal-minded, middle class backgrounds. These are the people that associate – wrongly, but there we are – the Brexit cause with racism and intolerance. He is in a more difficult place than May with these voters, and it would be a disaster for the Party if vast numbers of them peeled away. Johnson needs a high-impact, high-visibility, immediate strategy for these voters – showing that he is the same person that ran London in an inclusive, centrist way.

Which brings us back to Clinton’s triangulating strategy of the mid-1990s. Back in those days, Clinton created a campaigning and governing strategy designed to appeal both to partisan Democrats and to floating voters that leaned Republican. Early Blair did the same, and this is what Johnson’s team should be considering. The Conservatives should deliver Brexit whatever happens, develop a longer-term strategy to turn the Midlands and the North blue, but also launch an assault for liberal-minded Remainers.

What might this entail? The Government is going to have to look again at increasing NHS spending – given the side of that bus, further NHS spending (with reform) is going to be hard to walk away from. It should look to develop a suite of environmental policies that incentivise good behaviour and that wrestle the issue away from the very hard left. The Government should also launch, along the lines of the GREAT campaign, a global PR campaign to encourage the best qualified workers to move to a modern, tolerant, post-Brexit Britain. And the Government should look at making it easier for new parents, at a time when they’re financially stretched, to secure loans for childcare. There will be many other alternatives, but you get the point.

The Conservatives must continue their transition towards becoming the provincial workers party, but the creative energy in the short-term should be directed South.

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John Penrose: The conventional wisdom about this leadership election is wrong. Hunt’s spending plans are neither unaffordable nor irresponsible.

John Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare and a Northern Ireland Office Minister.

If you listen to the sober-sided, serious economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, or to the Chancellor Philip Hammond himself, you’d think the Conservative leadership election is a horrible bidding war of doolally spending promises from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. Has the party of sound money lost its soul? Betrayed its heritage? Are Margaret Thatcher and Milton Friedman spinning in their graves as leadership contenders try to out-Corbyn each other with unaffordable spending promises?

Well no, not really. I can’t speak for Boris Johnson but, as someone who’s been involved in a lot of Jeremy Hunt’s policy development work, that’s not what we’re doing at all.

Let’s start with the charge that, if it was right to introduce austerity in 2010, we should do the same for Brexit in 2019. Otherwise we aren’t being consistent.

But the problem in 2019 isn’t the same as 2010. Brexit isn’t the banking crisis, thank goodness. And if the problem is different, the answers should be too.

By 2010, Gordon Brown was trying to keep the economy going with huge increases in public spending, paid for with ballooning debt. Something like one pound in every four the Government spent had to be borrowed, to be repaid by taxpayers later. If we’d carried on like that, pretty soon the country’s credit card would have been snipped up and the bailiffs would have been knocking at the door. So we simply had to throttle back, to stop spending money we hadn’t got.

But today is different. Public spending isn’t ballooning and borrowing is under control. We’re living within our means, and there’s even headroom for a bit more spending if we’re careful. We’ve come a long way, and it hasn’t been easy. You can understand why Hammond doesn’t want the next Prime Minister to blow it.

What are today’s problems, if they’re different from 2010? The biggest is that some – although certainly not all – firms are putting off growth-creating investments until after the Brexit fog has cleared. And that no-one knows whether our trade with the EU will be easy or awful once we’ve left.

So it makes sense to spend a bit of money to promote economic growth. Post-Brexit Britain needs a stronger, more dynamic, more energetic, turbocharged economy, so we’re prepared for the challenges of life outside the EU. And Jeremy Hunt’s plans to cut corporation tax to 12 and a half per cent, increase investment allowances and exempt small high street firms from business rates would do exactly that. They would spark economic renewal and investment in UKplc, making us more resilient in economic shocks and recessions, and more productive and efficient so we can grow faster too.

In other words, it’s OK to use different answers in 2019 than in 2010. But what about the charge that we’re making the same mistake as Brown, by spending and borrowing unaffordably?

Hunt is on pretty firm ground here, because he agrees we’ve got to keep the national debt falling relative to the size of our economy. That means borrowing can’t balloon, and we’ll always be able to repay our debts. And his business career helps here too, because his plans to turbocharge post-Brexit Britain’s economy would mean we’d be investing to grow. They’re sensible investments in our economic future, not pale copies of unworkable, hard-left Corbynomic plans.

Nor is he expecting to do everything at once. We’d need to raise defence spending progressively over five years, for example, to allow time to plan. Otherwise you’d simply waste money on the wrong things.

The same goes for fixing illiteracy. That will take ten years, building on the huge progress over the last decade that has seen more pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools than ever before.

And some of the plans would only be temporary, too. The pledge to help farmers adjust to a post-Brexit world has to be a hard-headed, short term plan to help re-equip machinery, buildings and breeding for new global markets, for example. Not a woolly, open-ended subsidy.

The plans have got to be about changing things, so we’re ready for a new world. Not expensively preserving the way they were before we voted to leave. Transformation and preparation, not status quo. But, for Hunt’s proposals at least, they are sound, practical, affordable ideas. And, most important of all, they’re thoroughly Conservative too.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Luke Tryl: The next Prime Minister must complete the education revolution

Lule Tryl is Director of the New Schools Network. He is a former Director of Strategy at Ofsted, and former Special Adviser.

While his forthcoming book will, no doubt, try and set the record straight, David Cameron must by now be resigned to the fact that he will largely be remembered for Brexit. More charitable types will cite the introduction of equal marriage, the commitment to 0.7 per cent of GDP to foreign aid, or his work tackling the budget deficit, but when it comes to Cameron’s legacy, most will likely miss the most important area of reform during his administration – education.

True, the Coalition Government’s education reforms are more closely associated with Michael Gove than David Cameron, and it’s undoubtedly true that both the policy innovation and determination to drive through reform came from Gove, Nick Gibb and Nicky Morgan’s leadership at the Department for Education (DfE). But the simple fact is, they were given the license to operate because they had a Prime Minister who, having been a Shadow Education Secretary himself, was a passionate believer in the cause of improving education.

I remember a meeting in 2015 as Nicky Morgan’s Special Adviser during the spending review negotiations in which George Osborne, then Chancellor, remarked “I don’t know whether it makes you lucky or unlucky, but education spending is one of the areas the Prime Minister will take most interest in”. It was a level of interest I saw throughout my time at the DfE. Fundamentally, Cameron, perhaps conscious of his own life advantages, recognised that there was no point in trumpeting the traditional Conservative mantra of meritocracy while we had a school system that simply didn’t offer equality of opportunity.

That is exactly what the reforms introduced by his Government did. On the standards side, changes to the curriculum ensured that all children, not just the privileged few, are exposed to the best that had been thought and said, new gold-standard qualifications genuinely prepare young people for work and further study, and grade inflation has been stopped; on the structures side, turbo-charging the academies programme has given more head teachers the freedom to run their schools in the way they know best and to support other schools. Arguably, most radical of all was the free schools programme which gave teachers, parents and employers who weren’t happy with their local schools the chance to demand something different for their community and open a new school.

Those reforms have worked. We now have 1.9 million more children in Good or Outstanding schools compared to 2010, more children are on course to become better readers thanks to the phonics check, and more will have mastered the 3Rs by the end of primary school. Across the country, free schools have brought in innovative practice, are the top performing schools at GCSE and A-Level, and are 50 per cent more likely to be rated Outstanding by Ofsted than other schools.

Unfortunately, as with so much domestic policy, Brexit sapped the momentum from education reform. This was compounded by the Government’s disastrous attempt to promote grammar schools, which undermined the central premise of earlier reforms – that every child should receive a rigorous academic education up until age 16 – while the surprising impact of school cuts campaigners on the 2017 election has meant that the debate has since been dominated by arguments around funding and workload rather than standards.

But the cause of education reform has never seemed more urgent. Most of us recognise that while much of it was about the EU, the Brexit vote was also about something else: communities that felt left behind, pushing back against a rigged system. A system where because of poor schools and lack of opportunity, parents no longer believe that their children will have better lives than they do. The Sutton Trust’s latest report confirmed what many already assumed – the top echelons of society continue to be dominated by those who were privately educated. And of course, while it is no fault of their own, the fact that both candidates to be the next leader of the Conservative Party were educated at elite public schools is not the greatest advertisement of the Party’s commitment to meritocracy.

That is why the charity I run, the New Schools Network, is urging the two leadership candidates to put education policy back at the heart of their Government.

Both candidates have committed to increasing school funding, and the case for extra resources for our schools is undeniable. But money alone isn’t enough. Simply throwing more investment at schools will not raise standards in and of itself.  The next Prime Minister also needs to complete the reform programme.  That means restoring the incentives for good schools to become academies so that they can share their expertise with underperforming ones. It means reaffirming the commitment to 100 new free schools a year, focused on the areas that need them most, and cutting down the bureaucracy that is stifling the next wave of innovative schools coming through. It means investing in alternative provision free schools for excluded kids, because every child deserves a chance to get their education back on track and to be kept safe from the risk of grooming and gangs.

The Government’s record on education since 2010 is one they can be proud of, but there is still much to do. The Prime Minister who gave a rallying cry against burning injustices may be on her way out of Downing Street, but the biggest injustice of all – the uneven distribution of educational opportunity – remains. Whether it’s Hunt or Johnson, the next Prime Minister should make it their number one priority that when their time comes to leave Downing Street, their legacy has been to finally tackle it.

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Alexandria-based Mom Made Foods to debut new lunch products

Westlake Legal Group Lunchwich-FEATURE Alexandria-based Mom Made Foods to debut new lunch products schools school parenting kids Food News Food family friendly Family alexandria
Photo courtesy of Mom Made Foods

Grab your nearest lunchbox; your kids might have a new favorite school-time meal.

Mom Made Foods, an Alexandria-based, woman-owned company that specializes in kid-friendly frozen dinners, is launching its newest product in early August in hopes of bringing healthy and convenient options to kids across the country.

“We’ve been thinking for years about the void in healthy lunchbox items that can save a parent a few minutes in the morning,” Heather Stouffer, founder and CEO of Mom Made Foods says. “There are options that are available, but they’re not at all healthy.”

That’s why Stouffer decided to create the “lunchwich,” a frozen sandwich that thaws out in time for children’s lunch breaks, and comes in four flavors: peanut butter and grape jelly, cheddar, cheddar mozzarella and cheddar turkey.

But according to Stouffer, the product is a bit different from the brands consumers know and love. The company worked for well over a year in research and development to make sure the lunchwich doesn’t have the same “junk,” as other products on the shelf.

“There’s a reason why so many products in the grocery store are so loaded with this junk,” says Stouffer. “Because it’s easier to create and sell.”

The “junk,” that she is referring to includes all of the ingredients that Mom Made Foods products avoid, including antibiotics, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, bleached flour, partially hydrogenated fats or oils, high fructose corn syrup and MSG.

“We started by looking at the list of requirements for natural food sections and locations such as Whole Foods, but our company standards go above and beyond the initial standards,” Stouffer says. “That’s why for the lunchwich, for example, we use whole wheat bread, organic grape jelly and our peanut butter only has one ingredient: peanuts.”

To test the waters of interest behind the lunchwich, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign in May. Not only did it reach its $10,000 goal, it raised $15,572 before the campaign concluded on June 20.

“We couldn’t be more excited about the feedback we received during the campaign,” Stouffer says. “We really needed a way to show the retail buyers that there was a great demand for this new line, and this could help kick their decision in the right direction.”

The company is still working on getting the product in stores, but it is currently available for pre-order online. Those who backed the campaign will start to receive their lunchwiches by mid-August.

The company has 15 products including the new lunchwiches, and Stouffer hopes to continue serving healthy, convenient meals to kids everywhere. For those wondering if kids will really enjoy them, just ask Stouffer’s two kids who she now claims are professional taste testers.

“We can’t forget our core element either,” Stouffer says. “These products are for kids, in fact. We want the product to be healthy, but we also want them to taste good.”

For more information on Mom Made Foods or to order your own lunchwiches, visit mommadefoods.com.

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Johnson’s August 3) Delivering campaign pledges – in so far as he can without a durable majority

It is now overwhelmingly likely that Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader and become Prime Minister.

He may well face a no confidence vote in September, and the Brexit extension expires at the end of October in any event.

So he and his new team will have to hit the ground running in August. We continue our series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.

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According to our weekly updated list, Boris Johnson has made some 25 policy pledges during the Conservative leadership election.  In the probable event of a general election in the autumn, he won’t be able to deliver on many of them.  And he will soon have a working majority of only three in any event.

Which surely rules out a Special Budget in September.  It would have to contain more provisions for No Deal, and wrapping them up in this way would only encourage MPs to vote them down.  He would do better to try any that he needs on the Commons piecemeal.

MPs would also vote down any tax cuts “for the rich” – a category who they would collectively argue includes those who pay the higher rate of income tax, the threshold of which Johnson has promised to raise.

It would be impossible in effect to cut income tax rates in time for a snap election anyway, though the Commons might nod through a rise in the national insurance threshold for lower paid workers, another of his pledges.

But just because Johnson can’t do everything – or even anything much that requires a Bill – doesn’t mean that he can only do nothing.

Governments have greater discretion on spending than tax.  So, for example, he could start to deliver on increasing funding per pupil in secondary schools and raising police numbers.  That would come in handy with an autumn election looming.

The latter move would go hand in hand with a battle with Chief Constables and others over the best use of new resources.  Voters want to see more police on the streets and more use of stop and search.  Johnson’s new Home Secretary should pile in.

And while he will have little legislative room for manoeuvre, he will be able to propose some relatively uncontentious Bills for September – settling the status, for example, of EU citizens.

Then there are measures that he could announce the new Government will not proceed with, as well as those that he wants to proceed with.  Theresa May is providing a growing list of the former.

Not to put too fine a point on it, he should take an axe to parts of her legacy programme – including, as Henry Hill has argued, the hostage to fortune that is the proposed Office for Tackling Injustices.

He will also want to show a direction of travel on some major policy issues.  We do not believe that refusing to commit to a reduction in immigration is sustainable.  As a starting-point to establishing control, he could do a lot worse than take up the Onward proposals floated on this site yesterday by Mark Harper.

There is a limited amount that the new Government will be able to do a in single month – not least when the new Prime Minister is bound to be out of London for parts of it, Parliament isn’t sitting, there is a new Brexit policy to get into shape, and the threat of a no confidence vote in September.

What Johnson can do is form a team, shape a Cabinet – of which more later – begin the Brexit negotiation’s new phase, and show what his priorities are: police, schools and infrastructure, with a particular stress when it comes to the latter on the Midlands and the North.

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