Ofsted: If they cannot read, they cannot learn - The best primary schools teach virtually all their children to read, regardless of ‘their social and economic background, ethnicity, language spoken at home, special needs and disability’ – an Ofsted report reveals. However, nationally, 20% of children leaving primary school do not reach the standard expected for reading & writing.
The report - Reading by six: how the best schools do it - highlights the good practice of 12 outstanding schools across England representing a diverse range of communities that show it is possible for all schools to achieve the highest standards. Success in the 12 schools was based on a determination that every child will learn to read, together with a step by step approach to teaching reading, writing &spelling systematically through phonics.
All schools in the report were highly consistent in their approach to teaching reading, even though there were some differences in the programmes and other resources they had chosen to use. The common thread in all the schools’ approaches to teaching reading & writing are summarised in the report in terms of leadership, rigour, consistency, structure, monitoring, assessment, support and shared commitment.
TfL: The visible signs may have gone (Smog), but some of London’s air is still polluted - The Mayor's plans to improve London's air took a step forward with the launch of a trial to clean up the air in the Capital's most polluted areas. Recently, Transport for London (TfL) began the UK's first trial of the application of dust suppressants at 2 sites identified, as locations with high levels of particulate matter (PM10).
PM10 is produced mainly by engine emissions along with tyre & brake wear and can exacerbate respiratory conditions in the elderly & very young. London is at danger of breaching European Union legal limits for PM10 at a few central London locations that are subject to high level of traffic, so the Mayor has pledged to tackle these areas with a package of clean-up measures. The Mayor's final air quality strategy will be published later this month (consultation on this closed on 13 August 2010).
The dust suppressant is a solution made up of Calcium Magnesium Acetate that literally sticks the particulate matter to the carriageway and prevents it re-circulating in the air. The biodegradable saline solution will be sprayed (in very small amounts) on roads in the 2 trial sites, several times a week (as deemed necessary). The trial will last for 6 months and is hoped to reduce PM10 where it is used by 10-20%.
DH: But is it suitable for everyone? - Everyone eligible will get a personal budget by 2013 so they can be in control of their own care and more carers will get breaks, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow announced last week. This is part of the Government’s plans for adult social care (A vision for adult social care: Capable Communities and Active Citizens) just published by the Department of Health.
Personal budgets allow people & their carers to tailor services to meet their specific needs and carers can use them to take a well earned break. They were introduced in 1996, but currently only 13% of people who might need one have one. The Government expects councils to provide personal budgets to 1m eligible people, preferably as a direct payment, by 2013.
The vision is the first of 3 pieces of work, along with the forthcoming reports of the Law Commission next spring and the independent Commission on the Funding of Care and Support next summer, that will feed into the development of a White Paper on social care in autumn 2011 and future legislation.
Alongside the Social Care Vision, the Department of Health has launched Transparency in Outcomes: a framework for adult social care - a consultation (closes on 11 February 2011) on a new strategic approach to quality & outcomes in adult social care.
NAO: Money wasted on poor practice could be funding cancer drugs - Improvements & efficiencies have been made in key areas of cancer care since the Cancer Reform Strategy was published in 2007, according to a National Audit Office report. However, a lack of high quality information on costs of cancer services and their outcomes inhibits substantial further improvements.
The NAO's report examines how effectively 3 of the Strategy's actions to drive delivery have been utilized to improve services for patients. The actions examined were:
* improving the quality of information
* strengthening commissioning
* making better use of resources
The performances of PCTs still vary significantly and there is scope for greater efficiencies, worth hundreds of £ms each year, in the delivery of care. For example, by reducing the average length of stay in hospital to the level of the best performing PCTs, efficiencies worth some £113m a year could be achieved.
High quality information is essential to be able to commission services successfully and to monitor performance. However, data on chemotherapy activity & outcomes are poor and the introduction of a national chemotherapy dataset is almost 2.5 years behind the original commitment made by the DH.
ScotGov: How much longer will Scotland enjoy free services that England doesn’t? - The Scottish Budget for next year will ‘protect jobs, frontline services and economic recovery’, Finance Secretary John Swinney told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament last week. The budget also provides for a living wage of £7.15 an hour where the Scottish Government has pay responsibility and protects the lowest paid in the public sector.
WAG: Wales spreads the pain - The Minister for Business & Budget, Jane Hutt, last week laid the Welsh Assembly Government’s Draft Budget for 2011-12. It ‘underlines the Assembly Government’s commitment to protecting health, social services, schools and skills – and provides vital help for the most vulnerable people in our society; support for children and older people; and a boost for our fragile economic recovery’.
EP President Jerzy BUZEK said: ….. The intransigence of a few Member States ……….. The European Parliament presented a very moderate position and in the end, we did not ask for one euro more than what the Council was proposing. Parliament's only condition was to have a serious agreement on rules and procedures implementing the Lisbon Treaty to avoid future budgetary crises”.
Industry News: Payroll Outsourcing: The Future? - The next few years are due to see a major reduction in public spending as the coalition government implements cuts of £84bn accompanied by tax increases of around £29bn This new environment will create a much tougher climate for procurement in the public sector with greater emphasis being placed on costs coupled with increased pressure to look at all overheads and capital projects and ensure they offer value for money.
It is these pressures that have led many organisations, including many government departments, to seriously consider outsourcing. The ability to reduce overheads and avoid capital expenditure whilst also improving effectiveness and efficiency, makes outsourcing an interesting proposition.
It is already proving popular amongst councils up and down the country and with HMRC having been instructed to find resource savings of 15% by Chancellor George Osborne – Outsourcing is likely to play a big part in that.
An increasingly popular function to outsource is payroll, with many organisations in both the public and private sector using a provider to deal with a historically time and labour intensive work area.
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