This blog post was written by Andrew Sturdy, Chair in Organisation and Management, University of Bristol and Ian Kirkpatrick, Chair in Management, University of York. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license, read the original article here.
The use of management consultants has grown enormously in recent years. In the UK, consultancy brings in around £10 billion a year in fees across the public and private sectors. And while not totally recession-proof, the numbers grew in the run-up to Brexit and then COVID-19. (Remember test and trace? Consultants played a major role.)
Consulting firms can provide advice and extra resources at short notice and can be very effective for the right task and client. But their use often brings controversy, especially when public money is at stake, over the value of outsourcing, for instance. This raises a number of questions. Does consultancy bring improvements such as increased efficiency? If not, how can we explain its huge growth?
In the NHS, there is a remarkable lack of clarity and transparency over how much consultancy is used and with what effects. This falls within broader concerns noted in a recent National Audit Office report on procurement across public services.
In our ongoing research on management consultancy in the NHS, we have started to address these issues.
Professor Rachel Murray (Professor of International Human Rights, University of Bristol Law School)
Jamie Evans (Senior Research Associate, Personal Finance Research Centre, School of Geographical Sciences)
Dr Tamsin Sharp (Visiting Research Associate, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol)
The Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) and UKRI support policy fellowships and internships in government departments and branches of Parliament. These placements can provide a wide range of benefits, from enhancing knowledge and understanding of how parliament works, to helping expand networks and developing transferable skills. PolicyBristol has been working with three researchers from different career stages to support them to apply for these positions and during the lifetime of the posts. In this blog, these researchers share some of the highlights and benefits of undertaking these roles.
This blog post was written by Marilyn Howard, Honorary Research Associate and Doctoral student in the School of Policy Studies, University of Bristol
Couples living together are often assumed to share income and manage finances jointly. This assumption underpins means-tested benefits, which treat a couple as if they were one unit, so that one partner’s income and assets affects the couple’s overall benefit entitlement.
Summarising existing research into money management and control in a briefing for the Women’s Budget Group , Marilyn Howard from the University of Bristol, and Fran Bennett from the University of Oxford, use these insights to explore the implications for how social security benefits are designed and delivered.
Oral language skills are critical for learning, and they matter now more than ever
Capabilities such as vocabulary knowledge, narrative skills and active listening are foundational for young children’s learning. Developed both at home and in school, these capabilities are known as oral language. Oral language is essential for young children’s learning, in particularly their literacy development and their ability to access the curriculum.
Oral language skills have always mattered, but they matter now more than ever.
The Covid-19 pandemic has widened the already stubborn ‘language gap’, that is the difference between the language levels of children from poorer backgrounds vs their more affluent peers. Ofsted have raised concerns that children hit hardest are ‘regressing in basic skills and learning, including language, communication and oral fluency’1. Recent research found that 92 per cent of teachers think school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic have contributed to a widening of the ‘word gap’ and that 94 per cent found it challenging to support pupils’ vocabulary development while teaching remotely during the first national lockdown2.
This suggests that the inequalities facing children in our school system are being exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Pupils from poorer backgrounds have suffered the most and face a greater loss of learning as a result of school closures3.
The likely increase in the disadvantage gap highlights the importance of school-based, early language interventions. Support for oral language offers an important means by which we can address the injustices worsened by the pandemic.
Dr Helen Manchester, Reader in Digital Inequalities and Urban Futures in the School of Education, University of Bristol
Dr Ola Michalec, Research Associate in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Bristol
Professor Morag McDermont, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the Law School, University of Bristol
In this blog, three academics from the University of Bristol share their experiences of civic engagement in 2020, outlining their perspectives on what went well, barriers they faced and their hopes for the future.
The need for universities to interact and work alongside their local communities has been underlined more so than ever in 2020.
PolicyBristol asked three academics who have been engaging with the wider community in Bristol to outline their experiences and hopes for the future.
Dr Ola Michalec currently sits on the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change (BACCC). This independent committee is made up of technical experts from industry, policymakers, and academics with expertise on climate change. Ola worked at the council before starting her research, so when BACCC was set up in 2019 she brought both policy and research experience.
Bristol City Fellowships is an innovative programme of fellowship opportunities for academics and practitioners working alongside communities at the margins, which aims to build inclusive cultures of collaboration in the city. It is a joint programme between the University of Bristol, Bristol City Office, and the Social Justice Project. Two of the fellows are Bristol academics – Dr Helen Manchester and Professor Morag McDermont.
Helen, Morag and Ola shared their perspectives with PolicyBristol who have coordinated their responses below.
UNESCO estimates that around 1.5 billion children were unable to attend school in the spring of 2020. Closed schools mean lost learning, lower skills and reduced life chances and wellbeing.
A strategy for closing this learning gap needs to be rapid, school-based rather than online, and provided in addition to regular school. Given the size of the learning gap, it requires significant investment. Most importantly, there must be evidence of its effectiveness.
The policy that best fits these criteria is small-group tutoring, based in schools. This is the focus of the UK government’s new flagship catch-up programme, available to state schools in England.
Written by Alexia MacDonald, PolicyBristol Associate Social Sciences and Law, Arts and Humanities.
Have you ever wondered who else might be interested in your research, other than your academic colleagues and students?!
The Register of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) is an extensive list of groups consisting of parliamentarians who share interests, knowledge and expertise. APPGs cover a diverse range of subjects from artificial intelligence to wrestling, and from historic vehicles to youth employment – so there is probably at least one that overlaps with your research area.
Launch of the film – Putting UK Drug Policy into Focus
And discussion with:
Professor David Nutt – Imperial College London
Ann Fordham – International Drug Policy Consortium
Dr Magdalena Harris – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Neil Woods – Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Dr Nuno Capaz – Lisbon Dissuasion Commission
Dr Prun Bijral – Change Grow Live
Followed by a Q&A
Chaired by Dr Adam Holland and Dr Emily Crick (University of Bristol)
5th November 2020
15:00 – 16:30 GMT
(16:00 – 17:30 CET)
Register for the free webinar here, along with the other online events of the European Harm Reduction conference
With the majority of children returning to schools this week, referrals to Children’s Services are expected to substantially rise. As Peter Walker reported in the Guardian, schools will play ‘a pivotal role in spotting neglect and abuse’.
After nearly six months away from the classroom, children who would have previously been identified as needing help and support have been invisible to staff in schools. According to the Department for Education, the number of referrals received by Children’s Services since schools closed due to the Covid19 outbreak, has seen a dramatic reduction of 18% (compared to the last three years).
The NSPCC states that schools are vital partners in the safeguarding and protection of our children. Staff in schools have the opportunity to observe children in a range of settings, inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers and other school staff can monitor children’s behaviour daily, over an extended period of schooling, whilst observing their interactions with peers and members of their families. They are uniquely positioned to detect concerns at an early point and share information which ensures children receive the support they need at the right time.
It is therefore essential that school staff are fully supported to recognise children who are in need of additional support, and be ready to respond to those who have been living with abuse or neglect, and are in need of protection.
A new policy report by Dr Vicky Sharley (University of Bristol) highlights findings from a recent study funded by Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales. The report looks at how school staff identify and respond to children they suspect are living with neglect (the most common reason for a child to be on a child protection plan in England). The report sets out key recommendations for best practice across schools and child protection services, and calls for policymakers to support schools and social workers in their unique but closely related roles within the safeguarding system.
The report also outlines a new approach for the development of effective inter-agency relationships to improve safeguarding outcomes. It is essential for children’s welfare that any concerns are raised at the earliest point possible. This requires more support for school staff and social workers to develop close working relationships and excellent communication channels. Recommendations are particularly pertinent at a time when children are returning to the classroom, having been ‘hidden’ from services for more than five months and referrals are expected to soar.
You can read the full report here. The key recommendations include the following:
- Head Teachers should be supported to establish effective learning communities within their schools so staff develop context-specific knowledge and expertise on how to respond to child neglect effectively within a school setting.
- Schools should recruit strategic staff who demonstrate commitment to developing expertise in child neglect to promote children’s wellbeing within the school setting.
- School staff who know the local community well should have opportunities to provide insights into the lives of children who are suspected of living with neglect.
- Social workers should routinely provide feedback to schools on the outcome of referrals made to child protection services and the rationale for their decision not to intervene.
- Social workers should ensure that Child Protection Conferences are not planned during school holidays, and that information is shared with new schools where children are transitioning to secondary education.
- Informal and formal opportunities should be made available to all staff to spend time in partner agencies to support development of knowledge and expertise about service provision.
- The local authority’s threshold guidance document should be used as a tool for reflective discussion across services, to inform professional decision making and foster a ‘shared language’, so school staff can more effectively articulate concerns in their referrals.
- The role of the School Social Worker responds to many interprofessional barriers between schools and child protection services, and should be established in all local authorities.
This study forms the basis of Dr Sharley’s ongoing research investigating interprofessional safeguarding practices across the United Kingdom. She would be happy to answer any questions about this study or discuss her ongoing and future work in this area.
“Challenging. The Brazilian Educational System is Huge”
This is written on the website of Todos Pela Educação (All for Education), an NGO that provides information about the Brazilian educational scenario in order to help boost quality and access to basic education.
Brazil has a history of elitism and oppression. Education was used as an evangelisation tool by the Jesuits to convert Indigenous Brazilians in the early colonial years, between the 16th and the 19th centuries. Till this day, many schools are run by religious institutions. In the 19th century, the elite either had the luxury of private tutors or sent their children abroad, particularly Portugal, for their studies while slaves traded in from Africa were not allowed any type of education at all. Black people are still marginalised as a consequence of structural racism.