DCSFThe tarnished gold standard of A levels set to be replaced by Diplomas? - Ed Balls has announced plans for additional Diplomas in Science, Languages and the Humanities in order to increase the options for 14 to 19 year olds. Mr Balls told a group of business leaders and education professionals at the CBI Conference Centre recently that the expanded Diploma range could become the qualification of choice over the next decade.

Mr Balls also confirmed that an A-Level review scheduled for 2008 will now be postponed and that a first review of 14-19 qualifications will instead take place in 2013. 

Developed to meet the needs of universities and businesses, Diplomas are intended to secure a fully-rounded education for all young people at all levels of ability. They are intended to combine in-depth theoretical & practical study of specific subject areas, a strong focus on English, Maths & ICT skills and opportunities to apply their learning in work-related contexts. 

The government claims that all Diploma students will be able to communicate & analyse data at the highest levels, while at the same time developing a broader set of personal skills & attitudes that businesses and universities require.

There are already plans for 14 Diploma qualifications introduced over the next three years, with the first five Diplomas being offered for the first time in September 2008 to nearly 40,000 young people in almost 900 schools and colleges around the country.
Press release ~ Policy statement ~ QCA - Diploma ~ Support for Leaders ~ Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) ~ White paper - Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances ~ Statements of Content ~ DfES 14 – 19 Gateway ~ Get set for life website ~ Lord Leitch's report on skills ~ Learning and Skills Council  

ScotGovWhat Government is happy with another Government organising its elections? - First Minister Alex Salmond has responded to the report into the problems experienced on 3 May in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections, which were under the responsibility of the Scotland Office. 

Mr Salmond said: "In the organising of the election, Ron Gould concludes that the Scotland Office and the then Scottish Executive frequently focused on 'partisan political interests', and overlooked those of the voter, which is a damning indictment. And he recommends discussions to assign responsibility for Holyrood and Council elections to one body in the future, and suggests that the Scottish Government would be the 'logical choice'. 

Another issue is ensuring that local issues get a chance to be heard in elections to local government, by decoupling Council from Scottish Parliament elections".
ScotGov press release ~ Independent report on the Scottish Parliamentary and local elections ~ Statutory report on the Scottish Parliamentary and local elections ~ Electoral Commission press release ~ Press releases published by the independent Scottish Elections Review Team ~ Scotland Office press release 

DHReal service improvement or just musical chairs? - Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson has claimed that a new regulator for health & adult social care services will ensure good quality and safe care for the public. The Care Quality Commission will have a key role in tackling & preventing Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs), strengthening the current system of regulation by bringing together the experience & expertise of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and Mental Health Act Commission. 

Rather than just bringing problems to the attention of providers & government, the Care Quality Commission will now have a key role in tackling them by taking rapid & appropriate action against any health and adult social care organisation that is putting patients or service users at risk. The wider range of enforcement options available will include:
* increasing the frequency of inspection, including unannounced spot checks
* undertaking investigations
* issuing warning notices
* fining providers, or
* closing services 

They will be able to close down wards if necessary, making sure that they are thoroughly cleaned before they can be re-opened for patients. The powers of the Care Quality Commission will be included in the new Health and Social Care Bill, due to be introduced in Parliament this year.
Press release ~ Consultation and responses ~ Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) ~ Healthcare Commission ~ Commission for Social Care Inspection ~ Mental Health Act Commission ~ Health and Social Care Bill ~ National Patient Safety Agency 

MoJWe will belief it when we see it - A package of measures to enhance openness and increase public access to information, including a review of the ‘30-year rule’ and extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, has been announced by the Prime Minister.

The Government is also to consult formally on extending the application of the Freedom of Information Act (closes on 1 February 2008) to include a range of organisations that perform public functions. 

A review will also be launched ‘looking into the way we share & protect personal information in the public and private sector’ (to be published in the first half of 2008).  

As well as plans for the two reviews and new consultation, the Government is also publishing its response to the two consultations carried out earlier this year on:
* whether to amend the Freedom of Information Act, and
* Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 

The Government has listened to the views of those who responded and ‘decided not to proceed with proposals to amend the regulations’. 

The Ministry of Justice's reply to The Constitutional Affairs Select Committee's Report Freedom of Information: the Government's proposals for reform has also been published.
Press release ~ Draft Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2007 closed consultation and response ~ New FOI consultation: Freedom of Information Act 2000: Designation of additional public authorities ~ Second Freedom of Information annual report ~ Freedom of Information ~ MoJ – Freedom of Information ~ The National Archives ~ Office of Information Commissioner ~ Constitutional Affairs Select Committee's Report - Freedom of Information: the Government's proposals for reform ~ The Ministry of Justice's reply (should appear here shortly)

BIGIt’s the biggest yet - The Big Lottery Fund has unveiled the final shortlist for the People’s £50m Lottery contest, which will see a project of national importance win a one-off award of £50 million chosen by public vote – the largest Lottery good cause funding to be awarded in this way.

The final short list of projects has been announced and these projects will now face the public vote in early December 2007:
* Black Country Urban Park
* Eden Project: the Edge
* Sherwood: The Living Legend
* Sustrans – Connect2

Voting starts in just under 4 weeks and will take place online & by phone vote following the TV show on ITV1 – further details to be announced soon.
Press release ~ The People's 50 Million Giveaway ~ Black Country Urban Park ~ Eden Project: the Edge ~ Sherwood: The Living Legend ~ Sustrans – Connect2  

Industry NewsIts time for organisations to get real and stop using historical information systems to manage services - Billions have been thrown at UK public services in the last decade – often with little or no discernible impact. Hundreds of millions have been spent on ICT systems – often seemingly based on the concept that computerising a bad system will automatically turn it into an efficient system. 

The government has spent the last few years talking about ‘transforming’ itself and the way it does things – churning out endless policy documents and targets – which public sector organisations (PSOs) strive to meet (often to the detriment of service provision in general), yet what has really been achieved during that time?:
* Its claims to have saved billions in efficiency savings have had scorn & doubt poured on them.
* A hospital trust cannot even notice the fact that the monthly number of new patients with C. difficile has doubled.
* The recruitment of tens of thousands of new police officers is shown to have had little discernable additional impact on crime reduction targets.

All the above highlight the fact that however much ‘investment’ in public services the government of the day makes, they are probably wasting their time and ‘our money’ UNLESS they can monitor on a ‘real time basis’ (i.e. what is happening now, not what happened several months ago) just where the investment goes to and what are its effects.
Even more importantly they need to be able to identify where need is increasing (and even decreasing) in order to be able to direct the extra investment to the areas of greatest need in the first place.
Full article ~ Solutions for Government Enabling Transformation ~ Reporting Efficiencies in the Public Sector ~ CPA press release ~ Committee of Public Accounts - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of Progress ~ Gershon review ~ NAO - The Efficiency Programme: A Second Review of Progress ~ HC press releaseInvestigation into outbreaks of Clostridium difficile at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust ~ Ten years of criminal justice under Labour: An independent audit (1.8Mb) 

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