Saturday, May 29, 2010

Revised Corporate Governance Code issued

This week the Financial Reporting Council launched governance the June 2010 revision of The UK Corporate Governance Code. While it is essentially obligatory for UK listed companies, its influence extends further as best practice or more – the previous versions have rippled through the public and third sectors informing both regulatory expectations and self-regulated codes of governance.

I will not try to summarise it prematurely. However, there do not appear to be any radical changes although some may ask why not given the recent problems at UK plc. For me a couple of issues stand out in the revised Code.

Firstly, the Code requires the boards of FTSE 350 companies to have externally facilitated evaluations at least every three years. This should, hopefully, lead to more rigorous self-reflection.

Secondly, the Code continues to promote board renewal with board members nudged to stand down after nine years. The Consultation queried the so-called “nine year rule”. (This still allows a degree of flexibility: non-executives can serve more than nine years but are subject to annual re-election.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Academies: what the papers (and commentators) say

Following this week’s Queen Speech The Guardian usefully carried an article on “What is an academy?” For a more partisan introduction (as well as recent news about open and proposed academies) there is always the Anti Academies Alliance.

I am not aware of any media commentators saying much about the uncertainty around how many school heads will opt for academy status. It was interesting to read in the FT that Michael Gove had cautioned against what the “dartboard politics” of announcing targets. On the other hand he clearly wants academies to be the “norm” at some point.

The unions obviously think Michael Gove is serious. In yesterday's Times the leaders of NASUWT, NUT, ATL and Unison had a letter published voicing their unions’ opposition to the Coalition’s policy and academies more generally:

We believe that an essential principle for all education reform must be that it raises educational standards. All of the independent evidence confirms that academy schools do not deliver better educational outcomes for pupils, cost more money, and create widespread inequality and social segregation.

On his blog former No10 adviser Mathew Taylor described how experience overcame his doubts about academies but he also expressed some skepticism about the Coalition’s new moves:

What had reconciled me to the Academy policy was, first, the way it channelled new capital expenditure into deprived areas and second, that the extra element of diversity and innovation would be good for the system as a whole. The new policy is different in both aspects. The redistribution element has gone, indeed it must be most likely that it will be more privileged schools and sets of parents who take up the new freedoms and funding streams. Second, rather than putting grit in the oyster of the local schools system the policy is now to smash the oyster entirely.

An key issue is whether the academies push will affect the time, attention and resources given to the free schools policy. The latter policy promises (or threatens) a supply-side revolution with an influx of new providers.

We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Housing and the Coalition: TSA lives on?

Before the election there was some uncertainty over whether Grant Shapps would have housing brief in a Conservative government. Last week Mr Shapps was given responsibility for housing in the Conservative-Liberal coalition. The tolling of bells for the Tenant Services Authority could almost be heard ...

Yet looking at the full coalition agreement, there is no reference to the abolition of the TSA. In fact there is not much about housing at all. A quick CTRL+F unearths a few references: abolishing Regional Spatial Strategies, converting farmyard buildings into homes, reviewing the Housing Revenue Account (again), using empty homes and promoting shared ownership.

I suspect things may get more interesting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Setting colleges free: the full coalition agreement

The full coalition agreement published yesterday does mention colleges.

The Government believes that our universities are essential for building a strong and innovative economy. We will take action to create more college and university places, as well as help to foster stronger links between universities, colleges and industries.

We will seek ways to support the creation of apprenticeships, internships, work pairings, and college and workplace training places as part of our wider programme to get Britain working.

We will set colleges free from direct state control and abolish many of the further education quangos. Public funding should be fair and follow the choices of students.

On quangos it sounds like the Conservative manifesto:

We will set colleges free from direct state control and abolish many of the further education quangos Labour have put in place. Public funding will follow the choices of students and be delivered by a single agency, the Further Education Funding Council.

While there is no explicit reference in the coalition agreement to reviving the FEFC, a re-arrangement of the funding bodies for post-16 education (excluding universities) may only be a matter of (legislative) time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The new coalition and education

The new coalition agreement (pdf available) has a section on education. It talks about schools and universities - but no mention of colleges. Maybe we will soon learn what is to happen to general FE colleges, sixth form colleges and the quangoes that fund them.