• In Focus

    Higher education: Contribution to the economy and levelling up

    The economic output of the UK higher education sector is estimated to be at least £116bn and graduates often experience better employment outcomes than non-graduates. Improving skills features in the government’s levelling up strategy and ministers have said that higher education institutions play a vital part in supporting regional economies. However, some stakeholders have criticised the government’s plans to restrict access to certain higher education courses and for not putting enough emphasis on the benefits provided by the sector.

  • In Focus

    Anaesthesia associates and physician associates

    The government is planning to legislate to bring physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs) under the regulation of the General Medical Council (GMC). Although there is support for regulating these roles, there are concerns that patients do not always understand that PAs and AAs are not doctors. A House of Lords committee has also highlighted that the legislation would allow the GMC to set and change rules without parliamentary oversight.

  • In Focus

    Long-term plan for housing

    The government’s long-term plan for housing includes a range of policies it says are aimed at regeneration, inner-city densification and housing delivery across England. In December 2023, the government announced the next stage of its long-term plan, including revisions to the ‘National planning policy framework’ (NPPF). This briefing summarises government housing policies within the long-term plan and NPPF revisions, as well as recent criticism of the government’s plan from parliamentarians.

  • In Focus

    Poverty in the UK: Government policy

    There were approximately 11 million people in the UK in relative poverty (before housing costs) in 2021/22. Many people on low incomes receive cash benefits, such as universal credit, and other benefits such as free school meals. In its levelling up strategy the government set out measures to address poverty; these include increasing the number of high-paying jobs and improving access to good quality education and skills training.

  • In Focus

    Mental health, wellbeing and personal development in schools

    Schools are required to provide support for the mental health and wellbeing of pupils. Sex, relationships and citizenship education are also included in the national curriculum. This briefing considers the government’s policy on mental health in schools and the current requirements for personal, social, health and economic education. It also summarises recent scrutiny of exam pressure in schools and citizenship education by House of Lords committees.

  • In Focus

    RAAC in school buildings: Concerns, risks and government response

    In the summer of 2023, shortly before the start of the autumn term, three UK schools experienced sudden roof collapses. The collapses have been attributed to reinforced autoclave aerated concrete (RAAC), a lightweight material used in their construction. The Department for Education advised all education settings to close areas with RAAC. The government has subsequently announced some support measures for affected schools, but education unions are calling for more.

  • In Focus

    Contribution of the arts to society and the economy

    The government estimates that creative industries generated £126bn in gross value added to the economy and employed 2.4 million people in 2022. A range of research is also examining the way in which creative industries and the arts can positively impact wellbeing, for example through public health interventions. In June 2023, the government published a ‘Creative industries sector vision’ which included a commitment to an additional £77mn in funding.

  • In Focus

    Financial education in schools

    Financial education forms part of the school curriculum across all UK nations. However, concerns have been raised that financial education is not being adequately provided in UK schools. Research has shown the positive impact that financial education can have on the financial literacy of children and young people. Some financial organisations and charities have called for more to be done to support schools to deliver financial education.

  • In Focus

    Performance of maternity services in England

    The government has described the NHS as one of the safest places in the world to give birth. However, multiple reports and independent investigations have highlighted ongoing problems in maternity care in England. This article summarises recent findings on the performance of NHS maternity services in England, as well as recent government and NHS policies aimed at improving the quality of maternity care.

  • In Focus

    Dementia care

    Growing numbers of people in the UK suffer from dementia. Because dementia costs are often associated with social care needs, as opposed to medical treatment, those with dementia are often required to fund the cost of their own care. This has led to calls for more parity between health and social care where dementia is concerned. The government has committed to significant reform of the funding thresholds for social care in England, but these are now not expected until 2025.

  • In Focus

    UK biosecurity: Infectious disease threats

    This briefing considers the impact of factors such as globalisation and climate change on the prevalence of various infectious diseases in the UK affecting humans, animals and plants. The briefing also summarises the government’s ‘Biological security strategy’ (June 2023), which provides the overarching framework for mitigating biological risks among other area-focused strategies. The government has also said that import controls are an important element of the UK’s biosecurity regime.

  • In Focus

    Adding new vaccinations to the NHS national immunisation programme

    The NHS national immunisation programme in England offers vaccinations against a range of illnesses. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends additions to the programme. The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee has noted that the pace of adopting new vaccines can be affected by several factors, including product availability. The government’s new vaccination strategy seeks to address some of these concerns, as well as focusing on increasing vaccine uptake.

  • In Focus

    Quality of religious education in schools in England

    Religious education (RE) is a compulsory subject in English schools. However, Ofsted has said the subject is often an afterthought and that in many primary and secondary schools RE is of poor quality and is not fit for purpose. Organisations from the sector, such as the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education, have called for a national strategy for religious education.