Thursday, April 6, 2017

News: Greening on UK's productivity gap and "Left Behind Britain"

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Rotherham-born Education Secretary, Justine Greening believes that human capital is the missing ingredient in lifting the UK's economic productivity.

The Conservative minister, who attended Oakwood Comprehensive School and Thomas Rotherham College, addresses the recent Social Mobility Commission conference about transforming social mobility.

Having previously talked about finding and nurturing "rough diamonds," the MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields described a "massive generational opportunity" to invest and lift up this country's human capital as the economy is driven by knowledge and skills.

In the recent Budget, the chancellor, Phillip Hammond made clear that employment is up, but productivity remains stubbornly low. The UK is 35% behind Germany and 18% behind the G7 average when it comes to productivity.

Greening said: "Globally, nationally, and regionally, the evidence is now overwhelming - education and skills are and will be the strongest determinant of economic success. Human capital is the missing ingredient in lifting the United Kingdom's economic productivity.

"Our productivity as a country lags behind many advanced economies and skills are at the heart of how we address that. Looking within our own country, there are geographical differences. Because the most productive area of the UK is three times more productive than the least. What's behind that? Educational attainment is, according to CBI research, the single biggest driver of these productivity differences across the country.

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"Looking ahead, our success is going to depend upon whether as a country we make it possible for everyone to develop the skills and opportunities that they need to succeed in the labour market. And we have to do that on a very simple but powerful assumption, which is that talent is completely evenly spread around the country – it doesn't reside in one bit and not another, it's all over the place.

"We are simply missing a trick unless we finally start to level up those parts of the country where that talent isn't being tapped into. And we've got to make sure that we don't let anyone waste talent because of missed opportunities or social barriers. We have to make sure we don't let anyone's talent go to waste."

The first comprehensive school educated secretary of state for education studied at Southampton University, earning an MBA from the London Business School and used to work in business.

Greening said that she wants to see more progress in areas like where she grew up and has tasked her department to work in local, disadvantaged areas to tackle barriers to opportunity.

The MP, who is also Minister for Women and Equalities, discussed the National Fairer Funding Formula for schools which aims to address the unfair postcode lottery in how school funding is distributed in England. It has been criticised by Labour for being "neither fair nor funded" under analysis that showed how it could disproportionately affect more deprived areas.

The Department for Education, which now includes apprenticeships and skills in its remit, has three core priorities – tackling geographic disadvantage, investing in long-term capacity, and making sure the education system as a whole prepares young people and adults for career success.

Greening added: "With further and higher education and training now back inside the DfE, we have got a powerful opportunity to make sure that our education system is building the workforce that our country, and British business, needs. This has to be a central measure of our success. Education matters not just because it enables people to realise their unique potential – it matters too because it enables our economy and our country to fulfil its potential as well."

DfE website

Images: DfE


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