On Blasphemy

Migration: a liberal challengeMaajid Nawaz
January 2015

In this essay, Maajid Nawaz, chairman of counter-extremism organisation Quilliam, argues that only liberalism can "shine through the fog" of Islamist extremism and must be actively promoted across communities, cultures and borders.

The essay warns that fear of causing offence has too often compelled Western liberals to keep quiet, or self-censor, rather than assert their majority position.

It forms the first in a series of papers addressing contemporary issues in public policy from a liberal perspective. Marking the 10th anniversary of the publication of the Orange Book, a selection of these papers will be published collectively in a forthcoming special edition publication, 'The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015-2025'.

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Progress matters in Primary too

Migration: a liberal challengeChris Thoung, James Kempton and Harriet Davison
January 2015

Under government plans announced in 2014, primary schools in England are set to be held to account by two new league table measures to replace the longstanding attainment measure.

The present measure requires 65% of pupils in every primary school to achieve level 4 in their SATs exams at age 11. But under the new tougher regime, the expected attainment level per school will be raised to 85%. Those primary schools that fail to meet this more aspirational standard will instead be held to account by an alternate measure tracking pupils’ progress over time.

The new progress measure will require a baseline assessment of pupils in their first half term of reception. This will be used to measure the progress pupils have made by age 11 compared to others who were assessed to be at a similar level of attainment at the start of primary school.

While welcoming the government’s push to raise standards for all pupils, CentreForum says that the new regime should be concerned chiefly with measuring pupil progress – as the government resolved to do at secondary school level in response to CentreForum’s earlier analysis.

To that end the report 'Progress matters in Primary too', supported by Pearson UK, argues that the attainment floor should be less prominent in the proposals, and recommends that pupil progress should become the principal league table measure for England’s primary schools.

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Read the summary of the report launch on 21 January 2015

Select media coverage: BBC News, Press Association, The TelegraphTES

A devolution dialogue: Evolution or revolution?

A devolution dialoguePaul Tyler and Nick Harvey
January 2015

In this report, parliamentarians Lord Tyler and Sir Nick Harvey MP develop two separate proposals for English devolution. Lord Tyler argues for ‘devolution on demand’, which would see local leaders able to demand legislative power from Westminster in Cornwall, London, or any area with a population of a million or more.

Harvey proposes abolishing existing local authorities in England, and replacing them with roughly 150 'local governments’ and 15-20 'regional governments'. They conclude their 'devolution dialogue' with a joint action plan to:

· Enact a Devolution Enabling Bill for England, in the next parliament

· Complete devolution to every area of England by 2020

· Establish an English Devolution Convention to determine the boundaries on which new assemblies or governments would be drawn

· Limit the number of regional assemblies to 20

· Ensure every assembly has enough members to provide a government and a scrutinising backbench

· Re-examine the effect of devolution on the House of Commons – 'the English Question' – after radical devolution is complete

· Review all local government structures, seeking to empower smaller councils beneath the new legislative assemblies with 'double devolution'

The new bodies would take wide-ranging powers from Parliament, including responsibility for housing, planning, tourism, education and NHS services.

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Perceptions of wellbeing and mental health in English secondary schools

Migration: a liberal challengeHolly Taggart, Stephen Lee and Laura McDonald
December 2014

This report contains the results of head teachers' survey conducted by the CentreForum Mental Health Commission. It identifies gaps in the treatment of mental health needs in schools across England, with 54% of head teachers finding their local mental health service to be ineffective in supporting pupils.

Almost half of the head teachers surveyed believe that their increasing workloads are impacting on their ability to identify pupils’ mental health problems at a time when mental health problems in schools are on the rise.

The survey also finds:

· Confidence in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) were even lower among head teachers at pupil referral units (37%) and special educational needs schools (43%)

· 47% of all schools surveyed say that an increased workload is lessening their ability to identify mental health problems at the earliest possible point.

· 65% of schools do not assess the severity of mental health needs among their pupils. Yet where such screening tools are used, 85 per cent of schools reported it to be effective.

Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister, said: "Schools would never ignore a child with a physical health problem, so the same should be true of mental ill health too. Early intervention is crucial in tackling mental health problems, which is why school leaders have a major role to play. In government we have already set up a cross government mental health task force to evaluate current provision, and the Liberal Democrat manifesto will set out our plans to ensure that children and young people can access the services they need."

Norman Lamb MP, Care and Support Minister, said: “I am committed to improving mental health care for children and young people – that’s why I’ve formed a task force to advise on improvements. Crucially, members include experts from the education sector and we’re engaging young people directly to get their views. We’ve also invested £3 million in MindEd, a website to help anyone working with children – from teachers to dinner ladies and sports coaches to Scouts leaders – to make sure children get the mental health support they need.”

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Select media coverage: Sunday Express, The Observer

Hypothecated taxation and the NHS

Migration: a liberal challengeIndia Keable-Elliott
December 2014

This report studies the merits of so-called 'strong hypothecation', where a particular tax funds an entire service, and 'weak hypothecation', where tax revenues are notionally earmarked for an area of government expenditure.

It concludes that strong hypothecation is the more viable of the two because it promotes accountability, transparency and trust in government. Weak hypothecation, on the other hand, has significant disadvantages.

An example of weak hypothecation is Labour MP Frank Field's proposal to increase National Insurance and then allocate the revenue raised to the NHS. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has made a similar argument.

But CentreForum finds that such measures would not guarantee increased government expenditure, because any subsequent spending reviews would not treat the earmarked revenue as additional to the health budget. The absence of a guarantee would lower public trust in the government that introduced the policy.

The report also highlights conflicting political motives among proponents of hypothecated taxation. While those on the left support earmarked tax increases as a means of raising revenue for the NHS, proponents on the right consider it an opportunity for a fundamental rethink on how the NHS should be paid for.

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Select media coverage: NewStatesman (Staggers)

Intergenerational fairness: What is it? Does it matter?

Migration: a liberal challengeTom Papworth with Adam Corlett
December 2014

Intergenerational fairness is in vogue. It is discussed in Sunday morning TV political debates. Senior politicians write books about it. It has even spawned its own think tank. Yet the use of the term in popular debate is imprecise, ill-defined and confused. Too often, discussions fail to distinguish between lifetime consumption smoothing and intergenerational predation. More worryingly, the debate evinces a lack of clarity about what is meant by “intergenerational” and “fairness”.

This report sets outs a theoretical framework upon which to base future explorations of intergenerational fairness in particular policy areas. As such, it seeks to define what intergenerational fairness is – and, crucially, what it is not – and asks whether it should be our main cause of concern.

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Access and equity: positioning alternative providers in higher education provision

Migration: a liberal challengeStephen Lee
November 2014

Alternative providers (APs) play an increasingly important role in widening access to higher education, promoting innovation in programme design and delivery, and enhancing student choice.

Yet there is a continuing perception among APs that they suffer from the lack of a “level playing field” in the way public and private institutions are regulated, inhibiting their capacity to operate effectively in the higher education market.

This report calls on government to implement a common regulatory framework for all higher education institutions in England. The proposed framework of regulation would include a commitment to parity of treatment in regulation and institutional review. There would also be a stronger focus on quality assurance and effective collaboration through accreditation and validation across different institutions.

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Select media coverage: The Guardian, Times Higher

A place of sanctuary? Creating a fair and efficient asylum system

Migration: a liberal challengeAlasdair Murray
November 2014

This paper shows how government can make the UK’s asylum system fairer and more efficient. It argues that the current system is anachronistic in that it was designed to manage a large influx of asylum seekers at the turn of the millennium. Asylum numbers have fallen sharply since then and, while the overall debate about migration has intensified, hostility towards those seeking sanctuary has mellowed somewhat. It is therefore an opportune time to reform some of the most draconian elements of the asylum process without undermining public confidence.

Drawing on sector expertise and the author’s own analysis the paper makes 21 recommendations in the areas of institutional reform; detention; destitution; women and children; and the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The intention behind each recommendation is to make the asylum system more responsive to today’s challenges – rather than those of previous decades.

‘A place of sanctuary? Creating a fair and efficient asylum system’ is the final publication of a three part series aimed at setting a liberal agenda in UK immigration policy. CentreForum previously published ‘Migration: a liberal challenge’ (January 2014) and ‘The business case for immigration reform’ (December 2013).

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Enhanced, sustainable devolution in a federal context

Toby Fenwick and Nikki Stickland
November 2014 

Queens Speech banner

Following the Scottish referendum in September 2014, Lord Smith of Kelvin was appointed chair of a new commission to take forward the devolution commitments on further powers for the Scottish Parliament. CentreForum's submission to the Smith Commission – whose website can be viewed here – makes detailed recommendations for a federal UK underpinned by an entrenched, codified and written constitution. Under CentreForum's proposals, the House of Lords would be replaced by fully elected upper house elected on a proportional basis. There would also be detailed procedures for future secession referenda, and the transfer of further policy and fiscal powers.

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Reading well by 11: modelling the potential for improvement

Migration: a liberal challengeChris Thoung
September 2014

The Read On. Get On. campaign has set an ambition that all 11 year olds in Britain should be reading well by 2025. Of the one in four children that are not currently reading well, a disproportionate number come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Disadvantaged children already face many challenges and not being able to read well further undermines their future chances of success. These pupils risk being left further and further behind. This can only accentuate the problem of low social mobility in the UK. The aim of the Read On. Get On. campaign is to promote reading as means to improve prospects for struggling children.

While a goal of all children reading well is clearly ambitious, the analysis in this CentreForum report commissioned by Save the Children shows that such a goal is achievable.

The report uses real pupil data for 2013 to model the effect of measures that are in the scope of existing public policy, from early years and through primary school. The research shows that there is substantial capacity for improvement already in the system. The Read On. Get On. campaign goal, of all children reading well by 2025, is within reach.

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Select media coverage: Daily Telegraph, The Times