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EU News:  The problem with EU-wide data is that the figures are a statistical average which obscure wide variations between countries - EU countries have improved their education systems in key areas over the past decade, but they have achieved only 1 out of 5 benchmarks set for 2010, the European Commission's new progress report on education & training has revealed.

The EU has ‘succeeded’ in its target to increase the number of maths, science & technology graduates, with a 37% rise since 2000 – outstripping the target of 15%.  Significant, but insufficient, progress was made on reducing the school drop-out rate, increasing the number of pupils completing upper secondary education, improving reading literacy skills and increasing the share of adults participating in education or training.

Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said: "…..  But early school leaving continues to be a problem that affects 1 in 7 young people in the European Union and 1 in 5 pupils still have poor reading skills at the age of 15.  That is why education and training are among the core objectives of Europe 2020”.

The Commissioner is strongly urging Member States not to make cuts in education budgets despite the constraints they face due to the economic crisis.
Press release ~ Progress towards the Lisbon objectives in education and training - Indicators & benchmarks, 2010/11 ~ Education benchmarks for Europe ~ European strategy & co-operation in education & training ~ Tackling early school leaving. A key contribution to the Europe 2020 Agenda ~ EC: Early school leaving  ~ Guardian: Poor literacy and maths skills leave teenagers ill-equipped ~ The prospects of this year's school leavers (2009) ~ Education Mobility in England - The link between the education levels of parents and the educational outcomes of teenagers ~ The Fairness Premium ~ Press release: Using technology for learning ~ Futuretrack: Part-time Students from an Employer Perspective ~ Reading Matters ~ Third Sector National Learning Alliance ~ Ofsted: Tackling the NEET problem – how local authorities are getting young people back into education, employment & training ~ Removing barriers to literacy ~ Reading by Six: how the best schools do it ~ ‘Scimorph’ ~ STEMNET ~ Science Learning Centres ~ Skills for Life - Literacy ~ Ofsted: 20 outstanding primary schools - Excelling against the odds ~ 12 outstanding secondary schools - Excelling against the odds ~ An Independent Report to Government on Raising the Aspirations and Attainment of Black boys and Young Black Men ~ Family learning: An evaluation of the benefits of family learning for participants, their families and the wider community ~ BIG – Family Learning ~ Literacy Trust ~ Setting Up a Family Learning Programme ~ IDEA: Family learning programmes: solving the problem ~ ScotGov: Valuing Young People - Principles and connections to support young people achieve their potential ~ Reference Paper for Valuing Young People ~ CBI: Working on the three Rs - Employers’ Priorities for Functional Skills in Maths and English

NLGN:  Power to the people and lower bills too! - With the Coalition putting behaviour change or ‘nudge’ techniques at the forefront of its public service reform agenda, a new report by localism think tank the New Local Government Network (NLGN), illustrates that councils must identify & harness the energy of their most active citizens to help improve services, engage communities and save money.

The new report, Changing Behaviours, has identified a number of innovative case studies & pilot projects where councils have afforded citizens an increased role in re-inventing services, resulting in cost reductions for councils of between 15 – 20%.

However, the report also warns that government itself must radically change to initiate & maximise these approaches.  Greater resources & emphasis need to be invested in effective communication with residents and in putting support measures in place to enable a more active role for individual citizens in designing their public services.
Press release ~ Changing Behaviours: Opening a new conversation with the citizen ~  Power in People’s Hands: Learning from the World’s Best Public Services ~ Communities in Charge: Decentralisation and differentiation of charges and fees ~ Next Localism: Five trends for the future of local government ~ Community Budgets ~ Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 ~ Best value: new draft statutory guidance - Consultation (closes 14 June 2011) ~ Proposals to introduce a Community Right to Challenge: Consultation paper (closes 3 May 2011) ~ Proposals to introduce a Community Right to Buy - assets of community value: Consultation paper (closes 3 May 2011) ~ Local referendums to veto excessive council tax increases – Closed consultation ~  WAG: Improving public services ~ Efficiency & Innovation Board ~ Invest-to-Save Fund ~ Transforming Procurement through Home-Grown Talent ~ LGA: Local democracy campaign ~ CLG: Local Democracy links ~ Openly Local ~ ESRC: Graphic Partnership Brings Life to Council Data ~ How do quality accounts measure up? Findings from the first year ~ Expectations for the 2010-11 quality accounts ~ Accounting for quality to the local community ~ Capable Communities: Towards Citizen-Powered Public Services

ICOConundrum for shared delivery of public sector services; How to share common data while maintaining appropriate ‘chinese walls’ - NHS Birmingham East and North breached the Data Protection Act by failing to restrict access to files on their IT network, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced recently.  The breach led to some NHS staff at their own Trust and two other NHS Trusts nearby potentially being able to access restricted information.

The files contained information relating to thousands of individuals, including members of staff.  Although health records were not compromised as part of the breach, the files also contained some high level information relating to patients.
Press release & links ~ The Chinese Wall Security Policy ~ Top Business/Technology Issues Survey Results 2011 ~ Parliamentary Ombudsman criticises government agencies for data sharing blame game ~ IISS: The price of sharing data ~ Framework code of practice for sharing personal information ~ Closed MoJ consultation: The knowing or reckless misuse of personal data: introducing custodial sentences ~ The Information Commissioner’s response ~ Information Commissioner's Office ~ The right information, in the right place, at the right time: A study of how healthcare organisations manage personal data ~ Making a difference: Safe and secure data sharing between health and adult social care staff ~ NHS: Information Governance ~  e-Infrastructures for Identity Management and Data Sharing: Perspectives across the Public Sector ~  Agreement for Sharing Data Between Partners of the Warwickshire Direct Partnership ~ Overarching protocol for information sharing in Ealing ~ Grampian Data Sharing partnership

DefraAnd finally, just as one commoner turns into a princess, a common weed also ‘rises through the ranks’ to become a cash crop - A plant that used to be killed as a weed could soon be farmed for essential fatty acids.  Corn Gromwell is native to Europe, North Africa and across Siberia & Western Asia and has also been introduced into the USA.  Until recently it was best known as ‘a common weed in spring cereal crops’.

Innovative research sponsored by Defra it is rich in omega-3 and could potentially be grown commercially in the UK for the first time.  Essential fatty acids are needed to support our nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems.  They can’t be made in the body so have to come from our diets.  

Corn Gromwell contains stearidonic acid (SDA), an omega-3 fatty acid.and it will have the potential to be marketed as a supplement or included as an ingredient in foods.
Press release & links ~ National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB TAG) ~ Technology Crops Limited ~ Sustainable Arable LINK programme

Forthcoming Event: Retrofit – European solutions to a global problem | Guildhall | Winchester | 20th May - This year’s Radian Retrofit Conference, ‘Retrofit – European solutions to a global problem’, takes place at the Guildhall, Winchester on 20th May.

With more than 250 delegates booked, it promises to provide powerful networking opportunities and the chance to join the debate on how we can make the best use of available funding and encourage additional resources to accelerate the collective contribution to reduce carbon emissions. As the first housing association in the UK to receive funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for retrofit of social housing, we are well placed to stimulate the debate.
This event follows our successful conference in 2009 which was based on the Radian led 'Retrofit South East' project, supported by funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), when delegates gathered together to learn from Radian’s experience and expertise as a leading advocate and pioneer of advanced whole house retrofit solutions.

Click here for more detailed information on speakers and the programme, and to book your free place.

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