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In the News

IfLFE teachers have their own roll call - Over 2,000 teachers & trainers have registered as members of the Institute for Learning (IfL) since its new website and online registration facility went live on 1 September 2007.

In line with new regulations that came into force at the beginning of September, all FE college teachers:
* have to register as members of IfL
* undertake at least 30 hours' continuing professional development (CPD) each year and
* abide by a code of professional practice
Teachers new to the sector from September 2007 are additionally required to become licensed practitioners and achieve Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status or Associate Teacher Learning and Skills (ATLS) status.  Although not mandatory for them, existing teachers are also encouraged to become licensed practitioners, as this becomes the future benchmark for the sector.
Teachers have a seven-month window in which to register, which means that existing teachers need to register by 31 March 2008.
These regulations form part of the Government's wider FE workforce reforms, which collectively support the National Improvement Strategy for FE designed to create a qualified workforce with a sustainable culture of professionalism.
CLGBut real power remains with the Chancellor who controls the means to raise funding - Hazel Blears has unveiled the first phase of guidance for new Local Area Agreements (LAAs), which are intended to ‘give local government more freedom to put greater energy, focus and funding on the issues that matter most to their communities such as tackling guns and gangs, getting people into work, improving maternity services and support for older people’.
All Local Strategic partnerships (LSPs) will now begin agreeing which priorities they want to tackle by engaging with their local communities.  The targets agreed with Whitehall will be limited to a maximum of 35, in a move that the Minister claims is ‘slashing the current myriad of Government targets’.
A full list of performance indicators to select priorities from will be published later this autumn, including some that are based on a citizen's perspective and satisfaction ratings to ensure that the views of local residents are integral to the process.
Negotiation of new LAAs will take place from autumn 2007 to spring 2008 in all areas.  They will last 3 years and be reviewed, or where necessary revised, annually.  The annual reviews will take account of performance information and the Comprehensive Area Assessment.
To ensure that LSPs can tackle cross-cutting issues, local partners, from schools to police to hospitals, will be required to work together to deliver better services under a new duty to co-operate in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill currently going through Parliament.
BERRAnother crackdown of ‘dodgy’ loans - John Hutton the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform has announced a nationwide crackdown on loan sharks and illegal lending.  New specialist teams have received funding of almost £3 million to hunt down loan sharks across England, Wales and Scotland. The new teams are part of the Government's drive to improve financial inclusion and sit alongside the £47.5m Face to Face debt advice projects.
More than 165,000 households facing debt problems, mainly in deprived inner-city areas, are exploited by loan sharks every year.  Victims are not only charged astronomical interest rates but very often face violence, intimidation or blackmail if they fall behind with payments.

The loan sharks crackdown follows the success of pilot anti-loan shark teams in Birmingham & Glasgow, staffed by specialist Trading Standards officers working closely with the police.  Since September 2004 these teams have identified more than 200 illegal lenders and shut down loan books worth more than £3m.
DCMSBut is the ‘explosion’ in gambling yet to come? - The Government has announced a review of the funding for gambling research, treatment & public education and reiterated its ongoing commitment to tackling problem gambling, as the Gambling Commission published a survey showing that levels of problem gambling have remained constant over the past seven years.
The study, published by the Gambling Commission, found that rates of problem gambling had remained at 0.6% of the adult population since the last survey in 1999.  The Government made clear however, that the report's findings are not grounds for complacency and that it remains focused on protecting children and vulnerable people.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has asked the Gambling Commission to carry out a review of the effectiveness and level of the current voluntary arrangements for the industry's funding for gambling research, treatment and public education.
DefraResearch is never a waste - A waste and resources evidence programme - Waste and Resources Evidence Strategy 2007-2011 - to help deliver the Government's ambitious waste policies has been outlined by Defra. It summarises the key areas where research will be commissioned and evidence sought over the next few years.
The programme will inform delivery of the Government's Waste Strategy for England 2007, which set out priorities on waste prevention, minimisation, recycling, recovery and energy production.
Among the many areas to be addressed are:
* How to best measure the carbon impacts of waste prevention & management
* How the Flycapture database can help identify the drivers for flytipping and effective ways of tackling it
* Whether there is a link between waste behaviour and age, income, or other social factors
* Whether producer responsibility gives the right incentives for product design & waste prevention, re-use and recycling
* What the environmental impacts are of biodegradable and degradable packaging
* What collection methods lead to high quality recyclates and whether high collection costs are offset by environmental benefits
* What has caused recent observations of a slowing in waste growth rates and how do we continue to support this trend
OfstedPoor teaching highlighted by absence - Attendance rates in secondary schools have improved overall since 2002, however unauthorised absence has not shown the same levels of improvement, according to a new report published by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).
The report - Attendance in secondary schools - found that the rise in unauthorised absence can be explained in part by the different ways in which schools authorise absence.  For example, some schools will mark a pupil who arrives late as absent if they don’t think the reason given is good enough while other schools would just mark them as late.
The report, based on a survey of 31 secondary schools and an analysis of inspection judgments on attendance in 2005/06, found a direct link between the quality of teaching and attendance levels.  The relevance of the curriculum offered to pupils was also a contributing factor.
The report also found that legal sanctions and telephoning student’s homes on the first day of absence have all been effective deterrents.  The survey found instances of improved attendance immediately after schools used sanctions.
ESRCA timely bit of research - Hot on the heals of an Ofsted report which found a direct link between the quality of teaching and attendance levels, Britain’s biggest-ever programme of education research has found at least some of the answers to the question of how to improve teaching & learning in schools.
Principles into Practice, published by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme, is in the process of being sent out to all schools in Britain. It sets out the 10 principles for effective teaching & learning which the TLRP has drawn up on the basis of over 20 research projects looking at all levels of school education.
As well as research reports and case studies, Principles into Practice includes a DVD of classroom activities & interviews illustrating the research and a staffroom poster of the ten principles for effective teaching and learning which TLRP has developed.

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General News

TfL: A new online ‘Penalty Checker’ service that will allow people to verify if the vehicle they are purchasing has any outstanding penalty charges for the Central London Congestion Charge has been launched by Transport for London.
This free service, which was brought about following feedback from customers, has been introduced to help those customers who are considering purchasing a new vehicle and are looking for assurance the vehicle they are buying has no outstanding penalties.
HLHomeless Link has applauded the Mayor of London’s commitment to affordable housing and changing lives for London’s most vulnerable citizens, following the launch last week of the Draft Mayor’s Housing Strategy for London with its substantial references to homelessness and solutions to address the issues, as it heralds a very significant move forward.

They also welcomed the Mayor’s strong support for solutions that will deliver ‘move on’ accommodation for people leaving hostels, including Homeless Link’s Move On Protocol.
FDA: Whitehall departments must practise what they preach and carry out their duties under race equality legislation, the FDA said in response to the final report from the Commission for Racial Equality which highlighted government departments’ lack of compliance.

FDA equalities officer Wendy Jones said:  Whitehall should be leading by example rather than perpetuating the inequalities it claims to be stamping out.  The report makes clear that some public sector organisations have done good work to monitor and improve equalities, but many government departments are not among them.

It is extremely disappointing that
Whitehall will not comply with its own laws.  We will be watching the legal proceedings by CRE and the Commission for Equality and Human Rights with great interest.”
On October 1 2007, the CRE will be replaced by the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
Natural England: The recovery of the bittern - one of Britain’s most threatened birds - has taken a tentative step forward in 2007 with news that male bitterns were recorded at more sites than any other year since 1990, when detailed annual monitoring began.
Significantly, the survey has revealed that these sensitive birds have been recorded nesting in the East Anglian Fens for the first time since before the Second World War.
Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB’s Conservation Director, said: “The spread of the bitterns into areas of newly-created reedbeds is a testament to all those involved with habitat creation, especially in the East Anglian Fens”.

Policy Statements and Initiatives

DfT: Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has unveiled the new pass that is intended to give older and disabled people free off-peak bus travel across England from 1 April, 2008.
Currently, people aged 60 & over and eligible disabled people are entitled to free off-peak bus travel within their own local authority area. But from April 2008 the Government will invest up to an extra £250m each year to extend the scheme to include off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England. The concession applies between 9.30am and 11pm on weekdays and all day weekends & bank holidays.
DIUS: Innovation Secretary John Denham has unveiled the location of the new Energy Technologies Institute (ETI). It will be at Loughborough University campus and it will be run by the Midlands Consortium (Universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham).
The new centre is intended to bring more focus, ambition and collaboration to the UK's energy, science and engineering drive.  The Government is putting up to £550 million into the programme over the next 10 years.  Joint investment from the private sector will, it is hoped, double funding to over £1 billion.


UK IPO: A public consultation (closes 14 December 2007) on proposals to introduce fast-track processing services for patent & trade mark applications has been launched. The consultation is being led by the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) and takes forward proposals made in the Gowers review of Intellectual Property.
No form of accelerated examination currently exists for trade mark applications.  The consultation proposes a new system which will enable applicants to request examination within 10 business days as opposed to the 4-6 week time a standard application will take.  A premium fee of £300 is proposed for a fast track application.
NA: The Office of Public Sector Information (OPSI), part of The National Archives, has launched a new online forum to engage with anyone interested in the re-use of government information for commercial benefit. The channel will allow re-users of public sector information to request the release of government data that may have economic value.
OPSI is inviting businesses, academics, public sector information campaigners and others who work with government to contribute to the creation of this new web channel and to share thoughts & opinions about the development of this new service.
Defra:  Restorers of vintage vehicles will be able to continue using the traditional paints their businesses need under new proposals published for consultation (closes12 December 2007).  Defra is seeking views on how an exemption from the European Paints Directive, secured for the UK's vehicle restoration businesses as well as for historic buildings, would operate via a licensing system.
The UK successfully argued for allowing limited continued use of some old style paints to protect the viability of our vintage vehicle restoration industry and the provision was extended to include historic buildings.  The licensing system would be self financing and would require those using the products to pay a licence fee covering the administrative costs of the licensing authorities.

Guidance Notes and Best Practice Guides

DH: Health Secretary Alan Johnson has outlined measures to help reduce healthcare associated infections in hospitals including new responsibilities for matrons, new guidance on clothing and the isolation of patients who are infected. Further options that may be needed to tackle healthcare associated infections will be examined in Lord Darzi's interim report into the future of the NHS, due to be published in October.
The new package includes the following measures:
* Clothing guidance will mean that hospitals will adopt a new "bare below the elbows" code by January 2008.
* New clinical guidance to increase the use of isolation for those patients who are infected with MRSA or Clostridium difficile.
* The National Patient Safety Agency will extend its successful cleanyourhands campaign to care settings outside hospitals.
* A new legal requirement will be placed on all chief executives to report all MRSA bacteraemias and C. difficile infections to the Health Protection Agency. Failure to report will be an offence.
CLG: Hazel Blears has unveiled the first phase of guidance for new Local Area Agreements (LAAs), which are intended to ‘give local government more freedom to put greater energy, focus and funding on the issues that matter most to their communities such as tackling guns and gangs, getting people into work, improving maternity services and support for older people’ – See ‘In the News’ section above.

Annual Reports

DCSF: Education Ministers Jim Knight and Bill Rammell have welcomed the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) confirmation that the educational performance in the United Kingdom overall 'remains strong'.
'Education at a Glance - OECD Indicators 2007' is an annual publication that compares international levels of participation, attainment and spending among OECD member states.
The OECD Economics Directorate assessed countries for the indicator on spending efficiency by analysing a country's educational institutions, structures and decision-making processes.  They did not analyse financial inputs against educational outcomes.
ScotGov: The third national Scottish survey of public attitudes to mental health, mental wellbeing and mental health problems has been published. The Well? What do you think? survey examines the views & experiences of a representative sample of adults in Scotland in relation to a range of mental health issues.
People with experience of mental health problems are less likely than others to feel they have people they can rely on in times of personal difficulty. People who have difficulty managing on low incomes and people who live in deprived areas are the most likely to experience poor physical & mental health and poor mental wellbeing.
Attitudes to mental health problems are generally improving - most of the gains made in 2004 have been consolidated. However, there is still more work to be done to foster more public understanding of, and tolerance towards, mental health problems and mental illness .

General Reports and Other Publications

FCO: The Government has launched a new report - The Economic Aspects of peace in the Middle East - which analyses the necessary conditions for economic progress in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
The Foreign Secretary said: "The starting point of the British Government's approach is clear.  There can be no lasting solution without security for Israel and a just settlement for the Palestinians.  So the UK is unstinting in its support for the principle of a two-state solution…….
"This report makes an important contribution to the peace process, identifying some of the most pressing economic priorities for the OccupiedPalestinianTerritories.  The most significant of these is easing restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods. Israel and the PA need to act urgently to fulfil their obligations in order to achieve this."
IPCC: The Independent Police Complaints Commission has published a report 'Police Road Traffic Incidents: A Study of Cases Involving Serious and Fatal Injuries', whichexamines all road traffic incidents (RTIs)  involving the police that caused serious & fatal injuries in the two and a half years from April 2004 to September 2006.
It analyses the trends in the data and looks at the nature & circumstances of RTIs in more depth. In addition, it aims to highlight any lessons that can be learnt for policy and practice to help prevent future incidents.
DCSF: Schools Minster Andrew Adonis has reiterated the Government's support for the growing number of school councils, saying that they (in both primary & secondary schools) can lead to better behaviour and help young people understand their rights & responsibilities.
He was responding to a new report - Real decision making? School councils in action – which is the result of research commissioned by the government to look at what schools are currently doing to harness the views of their pupils.
The findings will inform revised guidance and support the work of School Councils UK (SCUK) in promoting school councils in both primary and secondary schools.
ScotGov: The Flooding Issues Advisory Committee (FIAC) is calling for key organisations to work together to take a more strategic approach to tackling flood risk management and to ensure communities are adequately protected from flooding.
The Scottish government ‘will be introducing a new Flooding Bill to address the inadequacies of current legislation and allow a more sustainable approach to flood risk management’.
HC:  An analysis of the Healthcare Commission's national patient surveys of NHS patients in England has been published by the Picker Institute.
Commenting on the report, Dr Jonathan Boyce, the Healthcare Commission's director of surveys, said:  "This is a very useful analysis of our surveys.  It focuses on both trends over time and variations between trusts, allowing for good practice to be shared”.
ESRC: New research from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) reveals that direct payments are being operated & experienced, very differently in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making big differences to the uptake & operation.

Direct payments are funds paid by local authorities directly to disabled people and other community care service users, to buy-in their own support. Usually this takes the form of employing personal care assistants.

The payments, first introduced in 1997, have been controversial, as some have seen them as a covert means of privatising the delivery of public sector services, whilst for others they represent an important means of empowering those at the margins, of society by involving them as ‘co-producers’ of their services.

Legislation / Legal

ScotGovFixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), giving police officers the power to issue £40 fines for lower level offences such as breach of the peace, urinating in a public place and drinking in public where it is banned, have been rolled out across Scotland from this week. 
Tayside Police began piloting FPNs in April 2005 and the findings of an independent evaluation by the University of Abertay in Dundee, included:
* 73% of police officers agreed that FPNs saved them time.
* Tayside police estimated to have saved 1,300 hours over 12 months.
MoJ: A mixed picture of how community penalties are started emerges from a joint HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Court Administration report, published last week.
The two Inspectorates undertook a short focused inspection earlier this year to check that systems for recording & transmitting court results speedily & accurately to the Probation Service were working effectively.  They did this by tracking a sample of 212 cases from a number of courts and probation areas.
The inspection found that generally the system worked well, with Courts and Probation taking their respective responsibilities for ensuring that results were transmitted accurately.  However, despite this, in a small minority of cases the Order was either not started at all, or not started with the completely correct requirements.
SGC: An addendum to the Sentencing Guidelines Council's Compendium of Court of Appeal Guidelines has been published. It relates to the dangerous offender provisions and brings together key judgments, setting them in the context of the statutory provisions; the document also contains two flow charts to help in ensuring that the proper stages are followed in the decision making process.

EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

Natural England: Much of Northern Europe’s already fragmented habitats face a grim future due to climate change according to new research published by BRANCH.  Hampshire’s coastline will be squeezed by rising sea levels, whilst butterflies like the Adonis blue will run out of space in Kent and may become extinct.
The BRANCH project (Biodiversity, Spatial Planning and Climate Change) is an EU funded partnership between England, France and the Netherlands led by Natural England.  By launching their conclusions in Brussels, BRANCH partners hope to stimulate cross-border co-operation amongst member states to create ecological networks & linkages for wildlife to colonise in transit to the nearest Sites of Special Scientific Interest and larger Natura 2000 sites.

Business and Other Briefings

DWP: Minister for Pensions Reform Mike O'Brien has called on trustees to cooperate with measures to speed up Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) payments to people aged 65 & over. The payment process is to be simplified to get around delays caused by trustees not applying for FAS ‘initial payments’ to top up interim pensions paid by the winding up schemes.
To receive FAS help, trustees of qualifying schemes need to apply for payments, tell the FAS about people who are approaching or over 65 and return information including details on how much pension members had accrued within their scheme.
Where schemes wish to make payments at 80% levels themselves, the FAS unit will support trustees to calculate such payments.
The Government has committed to match any additional funds generated by the Young Review to increase FAS assistance further towards 90% of core expected pension.  Options for making better use of the assets in FAS schemes include bulk-buying of annuities or pooling the available assets in one fund.

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