Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Unemployment rate down to 7.4%

UK unemployment has fallen to 7.4%, its lowest level since 2009, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics. This figure is for the period August to October, and is down from 7.6% for the three months to September.

The drop represents a reduction of 99,000 for the number of people out of work, now down to 2.39 million.

Esther McVey, the Employment minister, said: “When people said unemployment would rise; when they said there would a double dip economy, that did not happen. The reverse has happened.”

The Bank of England (BoE) has said that it will not consider raising interest rates until unemployment is down to 7%.  The base rate is at 0.5% - its record low – where it has been since March 2009. However, BoE governor Mark Carney has said that an unemployment rate of 7% or lower would not automatically mean an interest rate increase.

ONS figures show that the number of people aged 16 and over in work is 30.09 million, a quarter of million higher than the period May to July.

A drop in the unemployment rate and a rise in the number of people employed is good news. Let’s hope those trends carry on into 2014.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Disruptions hinder learning in our classrooms, says Ofsted

Ofsted has said that minor disruptions and inattentive pupils have been tolerated for too long in schools in England and are hindering progress and learning.

Given that England has been slipping down the international rankings of literacy and numeracy, it seems good to me that someone has come and acknowledged that there’s a problem.

Yet teaching unions did not seem to agree with the views of Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw. Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “Its combative words do more harm than good.”

Sir Michael said there was “a culture of casual acceptance of low-level disruption and poor attitudes to learning.” He said that kind of culture was “a million miles away” from the cultures seen in successful Asian countries.

He said: “We're also seeing unlucky children with the same sort of background, who are born in the wrong area, live in the wrong place, go to the wrong sort of school where there's poor leadership, with head teachers and teachers with low expectations of what they can achieve.”

Dr Bousted said: “The lessons from this country and from abroad are clear - treating teachers with professional respect and fostering a climate for school-led collaboration is what helps children learn.
"Ofsted, however, is severely inconsistent in the quality of its inspections, which leaves it undermined and seriously out of touch.” Her own combative words.

It seems to me that:
  • Something is wrong.
  • That something needs to be identified.
  • Actions need to be put in place to correct that something.
  • All parties involved should agree those actions and work together to make things better.

Can't we at least agree to work together to make things better?

Friday, 6 December 2013

We keep on working through economic shifts

Political tub-thumpers will argue about George Osborne's Autumn Statement for a few days.

The Right will tell us how the cuts have worked and we've all made sacrifices together for the greater good as the economy improves.

The Left will tell us that any improvements are based on flimsy house price rises, an unpredicted rise in customer spending, that we're all worse off, and the recovery is slower than Osborne predicted.

All good stuff, and the politicos will enjoy the distractions from buying Christmas presents.

For most of us, though, the bottom line is that times are still tough and we're working as hard as we can to pull through this. We understand that the country's finances have been in a bad state since 2008. We hear that the Eurozone is suffering too, and about the rise of China's economy compared with that of the US. We hear that the UK's economy is improving, that energy prices are for ever on the rise. We're grateful that petrol prices have been stable for a couple of months.

For those of us who run our own small business, we look for smarter ways to work as technology moves on apace (one example this week: car tax discs will be scrapped), and we look for better ways to advertise our services among the tangle of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blogs, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest - where will it end?). We also try and predict what will shape our business and the work we do in years to come. And we work as hard as we can.

Predicting the way the economy will turn is beyond us (and them!).

We'll continue to work through it.