The decline of education?

There is something amusing (read ‘worrying’) about the man who runs our schools. Michael Gove is that man. He’s the bloke in the picture.


He seems to have a bit of an issue with statistics though. He certainly has an obsession with them.

His stated aim is that he wants, “every school to be as good as the best“. This is lofty and ambitious stuff. Of course there is a bit of an issue with this – schools are placed in league tables. By definition these tables rank all the schools except the first as not “being as good as the best”. So they can’t all be as good as the best. It doesn’t work like that.

Then there is his desire that all Schools should be “above average“. Herein lies a further problem – this is a mathematically impossibility. A bit like the fact that 49.99% of the population are below average intelligence.

At least we know where he does his research – someone did a Freedom Of Information Request to establish where he got the notion that “British teenagers were ignorant about key historical dates“. You might have imagined that this was some exam board feedback – but alas no – it was that PR surveys by Premier Inn and UKTV Gold were the source of his “evidence”.

Worryingly this man has a teflon coat having been at the start of Camerons Government from the beginning…

The City Message?

At MIPIM this year what struck me more than anything was how mixed the Nottingham message is. I suspect we are trying to be all things to all men and in a very crowded market-place this is not enough to differentiate ourselves.

Another unique feature for the city

Another unique feature for the city

We have in this fair city some amazing assets. We have some really good things in the pipeline around infrastructure (trams and trains in particular). But I’m not sure we have a clear message, a clear story or a coherent offer.

We need to make sure we become known for something other than the tram.

I have been thinking about this and I think the answer is either in ‘education’ or the ‘creative quarter’.

Our two Universities and two colleges (shortly to become three) are leading in the their class. Education is key to our future growth – it develops the best talent and, if we can keep the graduates or leavers here they can develop and grow. Although these are really good for the City they still don’t differentiate us.

But the creative quarter could. This is a group of talented individuals who work in that sector that is as big or small as you want it. It ranges from textile makers to TV programme makers. From Artists to Gamers. This does differentiate us. I think the answer is that we should really embrace the creative quarter and all who sial in her. We should make sure they get the support from the City they need – and we should shout from the roof tops about them.

The best talk I attended at MIPIM this year was that of Brian Cox. This was not a man who spoke about a place being open for business, but rather a man who spoke passionately about his area of interest – physics. He tied in the story of his life with the city he lives and works in – Manchester.

We need a Brian Cox character – and I’m sure there are lots of them.

Nottingham 2011 census statistics

The census data is being released gradually – it is possible to spot some interesting trends for Nottingham The comparisons are 2001-2011.


We have lost 22% of the white Irish population and 8% of white British. Against this background there has been an increase of 643% black or black British and a 498% increase in Asian or Asian British people in the 10 year period.

Across the Country, ‘white British’ fell by 7% to 80% in the 2011 census. The largest of the other ethnic groups were Asian (6.8%), black (3.4%), and Chinese (0.7%). 2% of people claimed to be mixed race.

Muslim and Hindu religions have seen increases of over 100£% – whilst Christian followers fell by 12%.

Across the UK 25% of people said they had no religion.

In 2001 the tope employment categories for men were – manufacturing, real estate and construction. 10 years on wholesale and retail has knocked manufacturing off the top spot into sec on. My industry has gone altogether from the top three! Construction remains in third. The girl categories have all grown – but remain in the same order : health and social work, wholesale & retail and, in third, education.

Nationally the wholesale and retail trade was the largest employer of all people aged 16 to 74 – 4.2 million. This was followed by health and social work (3.3 million), education (2.6 million), and manufacturing (2.4 million).

Student households were up by 48% but single person households were down by 17%. As you can see from the graph – Nottingham sits behind Oxford and Cambridge in terms of student population.

It’s hared to reconcile all of this data – the place doesn’t seem that much different – perhaps you do notice the students more? they certainly contribute to the economy. As for the ethnic changes – I can’t say I have noticed, but these are big swings.

Nottingham University – a critical component of the City!

I mentioned in some tweets and in my blog at the weekend that I had spent a lot of my day on Friday at the University of Nottingham. It was their Impact campaign launch last week – five days of engaging with lots of people – inside and outside of the University. Friday was about sustainable futures – so of great interest to me!

The opening of the new University Brewing Sciences building by David Greenaway

My day started at the Sutton Bonington campus and the formal opening of a new Bio-energy and Brewing Science Building. It was great to go back into a Brewery – its where my career started all those years ago. The smell of hops reminded me of Home Brewery and Kimberley Brewery. Modern brewing kit is a bit more high tech than I remember it being. Gone are the copper mash-tuns!

After my lunch (which you know about) we had a number of talks from the researchers involved in some real life projects at the University. It is amazing how far the University permeates the community – not just here but on a Global stage. We were reminded that much of what has been achieved at Nottingham was as a result of a massive investment by Jesse Boot in 1928 – £200,000 (estimated to be worth around £9m today).

I couldn’t help but reflect on how important the University is to us as a City. It really does add something which so often is of low visibility, but of huge importance.

My last hour was spent listening to Prof Martyn Poliakoff – who deserves his very own blog post! It was entertaining and informative. And world leading…

The City is very lucky to have this Institution. I am not sure we always realise this?

SET conference – the lectures – day 2

It was day 2 yesterday of this International conference in Istanbul.

The gala dinner on Monday night was a fairly spectacular affair – dining outside by the poolside. The food was good – but there was just too much of it! I found myself with an eclectic mix of people – doing all manner of research. Some of them were speaking yesterday… We ran through an impressive list of technologies – PhotoVoltaics, Bio-Mass, Phase Change Materials. I wonder how they are going to react when I tell them later today that they don’t add value to a building (sorry if that spoils the story!)

But yesterday was a bit more pragmatic – and I enjoyed this. Some of the technical talks are just that – technical and theoretical at the extreme! But listening to speakers who are doing ‘real-work’ is fascinating. Some of the delegates here really are pushing our knowledge boundaries.

One of my concerns about some of the sustainable technology is that it can be seen as an afterthought – a sort of ‘green bling’. the market doesn’t like it. One of the speakers from the School of Architecture in Naples spoke about some of the wind turbine designs her students have been doing – to be incorporated into the building designs. Whilst much of her talk was about conceptual ideas it is surely how we should proceed in the future. We need to incorporate the technology into our buildings – not just bolt it on.

There were other talks where they reverted back to this statistic I mentioned yesterday – that 70% of the population will live in cities by 2040. This is going to have a huge demand on space – and the way we use that space. We heard about natural daylight solutions – and how buildings are being adapted to take account of high-rise. Light-wells are back – and I couldn’t help but think that we haven’t moved on that much in over 100 years… I looked around a building last week with a light-well – it was built in 1880!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Biomass, , , Istanbul, Lecture, Naples, PhotoVoltaics, SET, Technology

The housing problem….

When they came to power Labour had a battle cry, “Education Education, Education”. It became Blairs war cry.

They saw it as a way of improving the nation – a way of creating wealth, especially as manufacturing was pretty much low ebb. An educated workforce could work in the services sector – hardly the roots of Labour, but perhaps something that New Labour needed to become to shift the then incumbent Tories.

Kids though need somewhere to live and do their homework? And those who don’t may well suffer against kids who do. You can see where this is headed – the haves and have nots. Those with good housing allowing the education mantra tom come good and those without perhaps not?

Health is known to be affected by the quality of housing. Poor housing = poor heath.

The problem we are now seeing is that those trying to get on the housing ladder are struggling to do so. An average 3 bedroom house in my local area will set you back and it seems that most Building Societies are looking for a minimum 10% deposit. That’s £15,000 out of taxed income – and often beyond the reach of young people. It could take years to save – or a benevolent parent?

We may be seeing a generation who simply can’t afford to buy their first home.

The Government target for housing is 240,000 new homes each year – and this year it looks like there will be less than 100,000 built – adding to the growing shortfall. And shortfall generally means higher prices – so don’t expect good news any time soon.

The new mantra should perhaps be “housing, housing, housing”? It’s as fundamental as education…

Regeneration in 2011 and beyond?

I spent a really interesting day last week at the University of Nottingham School of Architecture and Built Environment.

Masterplanning a new town at Ningbo China

We are offering them a site we manage to use as a basis for a competition next year; the site is real, has lots of constraints and opportunities and should be quite a challenge – I will fill in the details later.

But one of my old colleagues – and now a client – was also there at the meeting – Nick Ebbs. He is an evangelist on regeneration and lectures on occasion at the Universtiy. We were discusiing the direction in which regenersation is heading. And in particular the change of direction needed. The old world order of razing everything to the ground and then starting again has probably gone for the time being. Or for good?

The reason is two-fold. Firstly, there isn’t the money around to wholesale replace – so a mend and make do approach is more appropriate. Re-use of buildings is de-rigeur. We can now adapt buildings in a very sustainable way and hopefully this is more affordable.

But there is a second consequence from this refurbishment / repair / re-use – and that is that we don’t lose our sense of place or history. That is quite important. One of the striking things I saw in China was that they are simply building whole new ‘places’ from scratch. They have very little reference to what was there before – and the reason that some of our Cities and towns are so interesting is that they have grown organically, they change over time – new gets cut into the old. The places have a character – like lines on a face. You can’t build that – it becomes pastiche and obviously fake – like the Duckworths House!

So there is a new way in which we can regenerate places – but it is much more difficult than a blank sheet of paper!

But we always did like a challenge?

Students and the economy

Last week when I assessed for the RICS, one of the candidates spoke about the investment market for student accommodation – where there had clearly been a boom in recent years. I was interested in his view about the future of the sector – and particularly post-tuition fee increases. It was clear that there had not been a slow-down so far, but I think we had a consensus view that things might change.

Income from businesses per university in a city, 2004/08

I have vlaued thousands of student aprtments in the last few years – so maintain a keen eye on what is happening.

I have always had a view that, as a generality, students have a finite amount of cash. After drink and food (in that order) they have a little left for rent. The increase of tuition fees up to a maximum of £9,000 each year has to have an effect – in my view.

I was interested to see that the Centre for Cities published a report last week in which they looked at the effect of the student market on a City’s economy.

In Derby – £173m is estimated to come from students into the local economy – representing 3.2% of the City’s total economic activity;
In Leicester it is £333m representing 3.6%;
and in Nottingham £548m representing 4.5%.

You will see that the sums are not inconsiderable. And any reduction in ‘spending power’ could have an impact.

The conclusion of the report is that the impact a University on the local economy is in attracting students as consumers and through to their employment; that Universities play an important role in corralling knowledge, and; spin-outs from Universities are important – not high in number, but high in value.

The Centre are going to revisit the report in 12 months so it will be interesting to see what impact there has been on the local economies. My guess is that we will see a dip in the contribution – except perhaps at Wine Rack?

Business and Education

I blogged yesterday about the Education vote in the House of Commons.

A few weeks ago I took part in another ’round table’ discussion – this time hosted at the new University of Derby Corporate Centre – completed earlier this year. It’s a great facility for Derby.

The subject of the discussion was the relationship between University’s and Business – particularly in relation to training need. Representatives from business and the University were present. Whilst business is often critical of the education sector – typically for not being aligned with training need, I was not convinced that this was entirely fair. I think local Colleges and Universities are becoming more adept at providing training needs in their markets. There are more vocational courses and short-courses available. Education is changing in line with requirements.

Educational establishments play a key role in preparing students for the workplace. Up-skilling is a key as well.

What came out of the discussion, however, was that finding good candidates – especially in the manual trade sectors – is proving difficult. When good candidates are found they are really keen to further themselves and there may then be a lack of suitable specialist courses. Of course specialist courses, by their nature are going to have limited appeal which will test the funding stream. This sounds like a vicious circle – we need specialists, we can’t find them, we can’t afford to teach them so we stop offering the courses – result … no specialists!

My view is that Business, more than ever needs to help the sector – we need to work closely with them, we need to offer our help. It’s no good us standing on the sidelines throwing stones.

John Henry Newman in a series of essay in 1909-14 suggested that a University was “a school of knowledge of every kind, consisting of teachers and learners from every quarter” and “a place for the communication and circulation of thought”. It was the last part that caught my attention – a circulation of thought. We need to give something back to the sector?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged , Insider, University of Derby

U-turn if you want to?

So today is the great Education Vote in the House of Commons. We get to hear of student tuition fees will increase.

To help the Liberal Democrats in their pondering…

Manifesto Pledge – Page 5 – “Don’t settle for low politics and broken promises, be more demanding…”

Manifesto, Page 8 – “… we need to be clear and honest…”

Manifesto Pledge page 39 – “Scrap unfair university tuition fees for all students taking their first degrees..”

Manifesto – page 96 – … we must be honest with people ..”

Derek Deedman – web page and the Pledge. – “There is one thing that sets the Liberal Democrats apart from other political parties; this is that when we say we will do something during election campaigns we then do it in government.”

Oh dear.

It seems that Mr Clegg and his sidekick Vince Cable have told the National Union of Students that they needn’t really worry as Students won’t really have to pay it all back – because the payment doesn’t hit home until you earn £121,000 and after 30 years you don’t have to pay any more anyway.

So, I am just wondering where the honesty is in this. We are lending students the money but telling them with a wink that they should just ignore it?

As I have suspected for a long time don’t believe what you read in Manifesto’s. And I may just buy the book….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged , LibDem, Nick Clegg, Tuition Fees, Vince Cable