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

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

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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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)