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Whizz Education Quantifies Maths Lockdown Learning Loss

Whizz Education, provider of the leading virtual tutor Maths-Whizz, has quantified the lockdown learning loss in maths experienced by 5–13-year-olds in the UK.  Whizz Education’s research shows that 46% of the 1,721 children assessed experienced a learning loss, exhibiting an average of knowledge decline of eight months during the first lockdown.

Dr Junaid Mubeen, Director of Education explains: “Learning loss is such a loaded term. At Whizz we simply take it to mean a decline in students’ knowledge levels, which is hardly surprising in the face of severe disruptions this past year. Despite the tireless efforts of teachers to adapt lessons and provide remote classes, the global pandemic has had a drastic effect on pupils’ learning.

“We found that pencil and paper multiplication was the skill that fared worst, along with pencil and paper addition, both demonstrating more than six months of knowledge declines across the sample.

“Knowledge declines were less severe in topics such as integers, powers and roots and also decimals (5 months’ learning loss).  Children studying these topics are generally older, however, so these findings reflect similar studies we have conducted in other regions around the world, where younger pupils with a limited store of knowledge to draw on, suffered a higher degree of learning loss.

“It is also likely that those in our underserved communities have been hardest hit – a sad consequence of the pandemic is that it has exacerbated the attainment gap, with disadvantaged students falling further behind due to lack of access to online learning during school closures. We’ve observed this in both the UK and globally.

“While we recognise that some students have lost almost a year’s worth of maths knowledge, when addressing how best to move forwards it is important that teachers are not put under further pressure, or that students are made to feel penalised, for events which have, frankly, been out of their control.  We should not expect quick fixes; it will take months, even years, for students to regain any lost ground.  The emphasis needs to be on informal assessment of gaps and ensuring each student receives individualised support that addresses their specific knowledge gaps.  Virtual tutors can play an important part in the battle against learning loss, without inducing further burdens on teachers.

“At Whizz Education, we believe that every child deserves a learning experience that caters to their individual needs and pace of learning.  We work closely in partnership with schools to develop quality bespoke learning programmes delivered via our virtual tutoring platform, Maths-Whizz.  Maths-Whizz uses powerful AI to build a completely personalised plan for each child, and then continues to tailor it as they complete lessons.

“Maths-Whizz provides more than 1,250 pre-prepared lesson plans, assisting teachers to deliver measurable learning gains for children with a range of abilities.  Our research shows with just 60 minutes per week of Maths-Whizz over a six-week summer period, students can expect to acquire a 4-month learning advantage. This year of all years, this seems like too great an opportunity to pass up.”

 To find out more about Whizz Education and the Maths-Whizz virtual tutor please see: www.whizzeducation.com

How to Maximise the Advantages of Hybrid IT

By Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds

Recent research in the U.K. public sector shows a combination of cloud and local infrastructure will continue to be used over the course of this year, with up to 53% of services confirming they use hybrid infrastructure. In essence, hybrid IT is the integration of on-premises IT services and cloud-based services, and it includes any blend of software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), or platform as a service (PaaS) solutions with traditional IT infrastructure. More and more organisations are realising the value, practicality, and potential hybrid IT offers to grow proficiencies, services, and solutions.

Practically speaking, public sector organisations throughout the country are leveraging hybrid IT to deliver the performance, flexibility, and scalable infrastructure foundation needed to meet short- and long-term IT needs. Indeed, in response to the government’s pursuit of a “cloud-first” approach, over half of U.K. public services use hybrid infrastructure, with organisations gradually moving their infrastructure and services from on-premises venues to the cloud.

Though the flexibility of hybrid IT is one of the main reasons behind its growth, bringing dissimilar systems together can also significantly increase complexity. For instance, many IT teams will be familiar with the challenges of troubleshooting a service outage and spending more time working out the source of the outage than taking the steps required to resolve the issue.

This is just one example of a range of challenges involved in implementing and managing hybrid IT. So how can public sector organisations make the most of their hybrid IT investments to deliver service innovation and digital transformation alongside reliability, performance, and security?

Overcoming Hurdles

Among the most common challenges teams face in the development and integration of on-premises and cloud technologies is ensuring internal and external IT stakeholders can embrace new solutions and services. Education and training play a key role in maximising efficiency, but they can sometimes be sidelined compared to other priorities, resulting in users not knowing how to properly use new technologies.

To augment hybrid strategies, for example, many experts support splitting the IT organisation into two segments: one focusing on on-premises technology and another targeting cloud technologies. Though IT teams generally have the technical skill to execute on these goals, wider organisational functions—such as finance, HR, and compliance—may benefit from education about how on-premises and cloud services work together.

However, monitoring remains one of the key issues to address in successfully delivering efficient hybrid IT infrastructure. Configuring networks, moving data, and executing services in a hybrid infrastructure is relatively straightforward, but service monitoring continues to be one of the most critical responsibilities of an infrastructure team. Some parts of the hybrid cloud, for instance, are similar to traditional enterprise resources. However, the public cloud doesn’t provide insight into the physical infrastructure—in a private data centre, monitoring agents and integration offer detailed information about everything from the hardware to the hypervisor, guest, and application.

Making Monitoring Work

A smart approach to monitoring processes and technologies facilitates a reduced mean time to resolution (MTTR) for any services impacted by infrastructure failure. Every layer of abstraction reduces the ability to correlate physical hardware failure with service availability, and adding data centre clustering solutions (such as Docker and Kubernetes) results in additional layers of abstraction and increases the importance of effective monitoring.

Implementing monitoring tools supports an improved understanding of the underlying infrastructure. As an example, architects can mine monitoring data for capacity planning, using the insight to prioritise future investment plans. Additionally, monitoring tools provide the capability to design the placement of workloads based on organisational growth and a data-driven understanding of the hybrid infrastructure.

The reality for public sector organisations is hybrid IT is increasing in popularity every day, meaning there’s a choice they need to make. Teams either need to regard it as a foundation for their entire infrastructure or see it in the bigger picture as a springboard to further cloud adoption over time. Both options are a step in the right direction on the digital transformation journey, and whichever one they choose, incorporating detailed and focused monitoring capabilities into their approach can help organisations maximise system performance, reduce downtime, and plan for future requirements.

GLOS CRICKET THANKS BRISTOL NHS AND EMERGENCY SERVICE WORKERS WITH ENGLAND WOMEN ODI TICKET GIVEAWAY

International cricket is returning to the Bristol County Ground this summer and Gloucestershire Cricket is taking the opportunity to thank the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic by giving away tickets to blue light workers.

In a rerun of the 2017 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Final, England will take on India in Bristol on Sunday 27 June, which has been renamed ‘Thank You Day’, giving Gloucestershire Cricket the chance to acknowledge the commitment of the many thousands of local NHS and emergency service staff who have been working tirelessly over the past year.

England captain Heather Knight is looking forward to leading out her World Cup winning team at the County Ground and acknowledging the Bristolians who’ve gone above and beyond over the past twelve months. “So many people have been putting themselves at risk to look after others during the pandemic, it will be an honour to entertain some of them,” she says. “My brother and his partner both work for the NHS – as do many of my friends – and I’m hugely proud of them and all the medical staff who’ve been keeping hospitals going.”  Heather herself signed up to become a medical transport volunteer in March 2020 during the first national lockdown.

Heather’s teammate, England and Western Storm bowler Anya Shrubsole, who took six wickets in the ICC Cricket World Cup Final to secure victory for England, is also expected to be in action on 27 June.  She’s delighted to be returning to the County Ground and being part of the thank you effort. “I always love playing in Bristol, which is close to home for me.  Thank You Day is such a great initiative, it will be a real honour to play in front of the real-life heroes in the crowd,” she said.

The County Ground has played its own part in helping combat coronavirus by hosting both flu and COVID vaccination clinics during the winter and into the current cricket season.  Working In conjunction with the local GP centre, almost 7,000 vaccines have been administered at the ground to help protect local people and enable the country to return to normality as quickly as possible.

“I’m delighted that the club has been able to play a small part in the fight against COVID but the real heroes have been the blue light workers who have provided care and hope to so many,” says Will Brown, Gloucestershire Cricket CEO. “Thank You Day is our way of acknowledging their selfless efforts – we hope they have a great day out on us.”

”We are very grateful for the support of Blue Light Tickets, who have made the application process as straightforward as possible, and our thanks go also to Ticketmaster, who are waiving their usual administration fee to make the day completely free for our NHS heroes.”

William Campbell-Lammerton, Partnerships and Operations Manager at Blue Light Tickets, said:

“The work done by the blue light community during the pandemic has been nothing short of remarkable. Thank You Day is a fantastic cause for the South West and the UK, and it’s inspiring to see Gloucestershire Cricket’s generosity.

“I’m delighted that Blue Light Tickets has been able to support Bristol Cricket Ground in providing complimentary tickets to those that have given so much to us. The UK has an impressive cricket presence, and I can’t wait to see emergency service workers flock to Bristol’s historic ground for a fun-filled day out. The team spirit you experience at an in-person sports game is second to none, and as we emerge out of lockdown, what better way to start the summer than by watching a World-Cup winning team for free?”

To receive a pair of free tickets to the Royal London One-Day International, eligible NHS and emergency service workers can visit www.bluelighttickets.co.uk to register and obtain a unique reference number before booking through the Gloucestershire Cricket website: www.gloscricket.co.uk/tickets

Investing in Nature: An Emerging Institutional Asset Class

The Green Purposes Company, in partnership with Finance Earth, has today published a ground-breaking report on the urgent need to accelerate and scale up investment in nature.  This report is published at a critical time: we are facing an environmental crisis with global wildlife populations plummeting and the impacts of climate change increasingly being felt around the world.

It is estimated that the global need for biodiversity conservation financing will reach approximately $854 billion annually by 2030 in order to safeguard the natural environment. With current spending only around $130 billion per year, and predominantly provided by public and philanthropic sector organisations, private investment must be dramatically scaled to meet the over $700 billion annual financing gap.

Nature-based solutions (“NbS”) provide a rapidly growing opportunity to monetise and invest in activities to protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems, that address societal challenges while simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.

Today’s report outlines the findings of a global review of investments into NbS to explain market opportunities and identify recommendations for institutional investors seeking to participate and support the development of this emerging asset class.

Trevor Hutchings, Chair of the Trustees of the Green Purposes Company, said:

“Our social and economic wellbeing depends fundamentally on nature. Yet our investment in nature is not at anything like the scale needed to address environmental collapse and to meet net zero.  It is seen as a niche area, an immature market, and without the financial returns necessary to attract mainstream investors. This needs to change, and to change now.

However, like low carbon before, and with the right actions by institutional investors and policy makers, we believe that investing in nature will become mainstream – the next global financial asset class.”

James Mansfield, Managing Director of Finance Earth, added:

“This report maps investments in nature taking place around the world. It provides insights on this important market and some of the key barriers to uptake. Encouragingly, the report highlights that change is underway.  It identifies a number of exemplar projects, with some serious players entering the market, but the challenge remains how to scale whilst maintaining quality and impact.”

The report makes recommendations for institutional investors and policy makers which include:

  1. Engaging with the market to deliver investment – investors, developers and others must work together to bring forward a pipeline of investable and scalable projects.
  1. Developing market governance – there must be robust definitions, metrics, standards and verification to improve market confidence and prevent greenwashing.
  1. Public sector leadership – governments, business and institutions must step up to ensure a new policy and fiscal landscape rewards investment in nature, now and for the long term.

The Green Purposes Company is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. It was established by the UK Government, with Parliament’s backing, to safeguard the green purposes of the Green Investment Bank. It may also undertake supporting activities to promote the protection of the environment.

See here for more information: www.greenpurposescompany.com

Finance Earth is an environmental impact investment boutique, providing financial advisory and fund management services across the natural and built environment. Finance Earth has the leading UK track record of designing combined environmental and social impact funds: the team currently manages over £50 million of blended social and environmental impact funds and has designed over £500 million of impact investment structures. Finance Earth is a wholly employee-owned social enterprise, with 51% of profits being recycled into on-mission activities and investments.

See here for more information: www.finance.earth

REESINK OFFERING 10 PERCENT OFF TORO ROTARY BLADES IN MAY

Reesink Turfcare is offering 10 percent off genuine Toro rotary blades in May to ensure there’s nothing holding you back from delivering in the busiest season of the year. 

Never underestimate the importance of your rotary blades. If blunt or unbalanced, you can expect a poor cut and poor after-cut appearance, but also your machine’s performance, productivity, economy and longevity is impacted.

Michael Hampton, parts manager at Reesink, says: “One of the most important things you can do for the overall performance of your machine is to make sure the blades fit properly and are sharp. Otherwise, your machine has to work that much harder to deliver and it can even lead to recuts. It also has a negative impact on fuel economy and cause additional wear and tear to your machine.”

Toro’s genuine rotary blades are designed for success. The brand’s advanced research and development into this essential part means that when a Toro deck is paired with Toro blades a superior clipping dispersal and after-cut appearance is the result.

Not just that though, rigorous testing means they’re proven to be safer too and optimal grass dispersion for side or rear discharge and recycling movement for mulching decks is guaranteed.

So, what about choosing the right blade? Toro’s precisely engineered blades fit the cutting deck perfectly, but each is carefully crafted to specific turf needs.

Best suited to a grounds environment are the ‘No Sail’ (flat) blade as its particularly effective for areas that are not mowed as regularly making quick work of cutting down weeds. For later in the year, the ‘Atomic Sail’ works well for mulching up leaves or for use with a recycling deck to mulch the grass. So why not plan ahead and stock up now with 10 percent off!

Genuine Toro rotary blades are designed to work harder for longer, meaning you don’t have to. And knowing you’ll protect the health of the plant and get a great finish, ordering now will be time well spent. As always, parts are delivered within 24 hours of ordering, where stock available. Contact Reesink at info@reesinkturfcare.co.uk or call their Spare Parts team on 01480 226854.

YPO LOOKS TOWARDS POST-PANDEMIC SUCCESS WITH THREE SENIOR APPOINTMENTS

YPO, one of the UK’s largest public sector buying organisations, has made three appointments across its board and senior leadership teams, as part of a wider focus on stability and pandemic recovery for the organisation.

Julie Hawley will be taking the role of executive director of finance, Jacquie Lightfoot will be joining YPO as executive director of operations, and Darren Elvidge will be joining as head of technology.

The three new appointments emphasise YPO’s commitment to a year of recovery, following the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic. This period will provide a strong foundation for enabling future growth throughout the organisation.

Simon Hill, managing director of YPO, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Julie, Jacquie, and Darren to the team at YPO. It’s important that we have the best expertise available in positions that can benefit the whole organisation. These appointments will support our dedication to recover from the pandemic and will bolster our position for the future.”

Julie Hawley, YPO’s new executive director of finance

Finance

Julie Hawley, the new executive director of finance, joins YPO as a qualified accountant (FCCA) with over 30 years-experience in the office products industry. With a thorough understanding of supply chain and logistics gained early in her career, Julie joins from Office Friendly where she worked as a managing director. Julie is recognised throughout the industry having received the Professional of the Year award in 2018 from the Boss federation, and the EOPA European Professional of the Year in 2019.

Julie will lead the organisations finance function and will also be responsible for the HR and learning and development teams. Julie is passionate about people and development and is a strong advocate for bridging the gap between education and employment, and for investing in people and teamwork.

Operations

Jacquie Lightfoot takes on her new role as executive director of operations, leading the operations and logistics functions, following a lengthy career working for a number of FMCG blue-chip organisations and developing a strong cross-functional breadth of knowledge. Jacquie will also oversee IT at board level.

Jacquie Lightfoot, YPO’s new executive director of operations

Technology

YPO’s final senior appointment is that of Darren Elvidge, who begins his role as head of technology following 21 years working across the public and private sector. Beginning his career as a software developer at a start-up company that built YPO’s first ecommerce website, Darren joins from his previous position as systems, online and development manager at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

Part of Darren’s responsibility is to lead a technology and process transformation at YPO to enable the organisation to deliver even more value to its growing customer base.

To learn more about YPO visit ypo.co.uk

What next for social care?

Highland Marketing’s advisory board welcomed Jane Brightman, social care lead at Institute of Health and Social Care Management, to discuss the sector and its technology needs. A lot of hope is being pinned on integrated care systems, but when it comes to joining up health and care systems and putting the underpinning IT in place, cultural, structural and funding challenges remain. 

Jane Brightman

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone an unaccustomed light on social care. This has illuminated the commitment of many of those working in the sector and its importance to adults with disabilities, older people, and their families.

More harshly, it has highlighted some of its problems, including the difficulty that many people face in getting the care they need, shortages of funding, staff and technology, and the precarious position of too many care homes.

Ahead of his most recent Budget, think-tanks urged chancellor Rishi Sunak to use the limelight to announce a long-term funding plan for social care. But, in the event, he announced more stop-gap funding, while promising, again, that the sector would see its much-delayed green paper by the end of the year (analysis).

Jane Brightman, who has just been appointed to lead the Institute of Health and Social Care Management’s social care activity (interview), told Highland Marketing’s advisory board that this needed to happen. “I want the social care to have a long-term funding settlement and a ten-year plan like the NHS Plan,” she said.

How integrated will integrated care systems be?

For the moment, social care must carry on; and hope that the arrival of integrated care systems will make a difference. The recent white paper, Integration and Innovation, says they need to join-up both health services and health and social care which is run by councils, rationed by need, and means-tested.

However, while Integration and Innovation spends a lot of time discussing one aspect of ICSs – the NHS body that will be responsible for the shift to population health management and commissioning from provider collaboratives – it spends much less on the other – the health and social care partnership that will draw up an ‘overarching plan’ for public health, health, and social care.

NHS organisations and local authorities will be expected to ‘take note’ of the plan in carrying out their activities; but this isn’t a particularly strong requirement. So, as board member and former ICS chief information officer Cindy Fedell pointed out: “ICSs are an opportunity, but they are very NHS heavy.”

Funding flows (and blockages)

Then, there’s the money. Integration and Innovation makes some provision for strengthening the Better Care Fund and enabling the NHS and local government to pool budgets for joined-up care initiatives.

But, as advisory board chair and Salisbury’s previous mayor Jeremy Nettle pointed out, on the local government side there isn’t much cash around; and councillors may be reluctant to see any money that is available vanish into a system with no democratic accountability that is not at the forefront of voters’ minds.

“In Wiltshire, social care is our biggest expenditure, but we have 3,000 miles of roads and it is roads that people complain about,” he said. “Local authorities have been promised some extra funding for social care this year, but it hasn’t materialised. So, people are talking about pooling funds but there may not be funds to pool.”

When it comes to care homes, Brightman said the Care Quality Commission had determined that just 70 of the 18,000 providers were big enough to be a problem if they failed, while most of the rest are so small they will find it hard to contribute much to the integrated care agenda and the IT required to make it work.

Sitting behind all this, there is also that fundamental challenge that while the NHS component of care will be tax-funded, any social care component should be charged back to the individual. Which just adds a whole new layer of complexity to integrated care discussions.

One NHS and social care system?

Imaging expert Rizwan Malik said it was a shame that, for historical and political reasons, health and social care had ended up on separate tracks. “It just causes huge frustration,” he said. Mark Venables, chief executive of Highland Marketing, asked the board whether one solution would be for the NHS to take over social care.

Brightman said the idea has been floated in the past, but it would be “a huge job”. Labour has proposed creating a national social care service to run alongside the NHS, to provide scale and consistency. But recent governments have shown little interest in the idea.

Entrepreneur Ravi Kumar suggested some of the benefits of a national service might be delivered by creating a “social care brand” for the sector. But Brightman pointed out this had been tried.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock backed exactly this initiative when he wore a care lapel pin instead of an NHS pin to a Covid-19 press conference; and was promptly accused of ‘gesture politics’ and ridiculed for having nothing more practical to offer the sector (Independent news story).

Downstream action, upstream savings  

In practice, it is pragmatism that is most likely to drive integrated care. Brightman told the board: “The trick [to getting funding from the NHS] is going to be recognising that social care can do a lot to prevent hospital admissions and to support discharge.”

As an example, she noted that treating a urinary tract infection in the community is much cheaper than treating it in an acute hospital, where patients can deteriorate to the point where they need new care packages and end up as a ‘delayed discharge’.

However, she acknowledged, social care will need status and skills to secure this kind of investment; and deliver on it. This is one of the reasons that the Institute of Healthcare Management rebranded to include social care earlier this year.

The IHSCM is now looking to provide a ‘home’ and a voice for social care leaders and managers and, perhaps, to provide certified training for them (the IHSCM is exploring a partnership with a university that may have a suitable degree programme).

The issue of certification struck a chord with Andy Kinnear who, as an NHS chief information officer, tried to drive forward professionalism in informatics by helping to create FedIP, a membership and registration body. “NHSX is describing 2021 as the year of health and social care professionalism, and it is pushing this agenda hard,” he said.

“So having the IHSCM respond to that will fit with a story that is already playing out in other places. Because we do need to get together, as health and care professionals, to push the agenda forward.”

A sector that needs to be more digitally mature

When it comes to technology, the social care sector has a long way to go. In councils, social care is supported by a handful of small IT suppliers with care records that have been hard to integrate with NHS systems, even in big, national initiatives such as Child Protection – Information Sharing.

The CQC has drawn up a ‘what good looks like’ for digital records in the sector and has similar guidance for care homes. However, last summer, a survey discovered that a fifth of care homes had no wi-fi and that fewer than half of those that did had wi-fi in both communal areas and bedrooms.

During the pandemic, NHSX and NHS Digital worked with leading telecoms companies to address this and make sure care providers could run remote GP consultations, order prescriptions electronically, and enable residents to communicate with family and friends (Care Home Management story).

The digital agencies also gave care homes NHS mail addresses, which Brightman said had made a huge difference. “I have heard people say that, because they are emailing from an NHS address, clinicians take them much more seriously,” she said. “It’s a great example of why the sector needs to be more digitally mature.”

She added that her priority now is to “help providers understand data and security” and to get them through the Data Security and Protection Toolkit, or DSPT, which, before Covid, was required to get an NHSmail account, and is still required for “the holy grail – shared care records.”

Small steps, big challenges

The advisory board discussed how the structural and funding challenges facing ICSs that want to progress integrated care initiatives are likely to make themselves felt when it comes to deploying the technology needed to make them work.

Nicola Haywood-Alexander, who took up a post as chief information officer of NHS Lincolnshire six months ago, said she would like to integrate the IT teams working on different health and social care systems and fund enhancements to their software.

But the local authority and the ICS have made different outsourcing decisions, and it’s hard to secure money unless it can be banked for specific projects. “I’d really like to do more, because there is so much we need to do,” she said. “We need fibre, and satellite broadband, because sometimes on my patch I can’t get 3G or 4G, never mind 5G.

“We need single sign-on so people aren’t having to log-in to so many systems. I want to roll out workflow and productivity tools. I know the argument is that [social care] should help to fund them, but if they can’t that doesn’t help us.”

In the end, it’s down to people

Shared care records illustrate the challenge. ICSs will need shared care records to support teams working on different systems, generate data for population health management, and plug in digital patient services.

They have been told to have a ‘basic’ record in place by September; but it doesn’t follow that social care will be involved in that basic record and there is already evidence that in many areas it won’t be. James Norman, healthcare CIO at Dell Technologies and previous CIO at a large NHS trust, said national IT funds should be directed to ICSs to sort this out.

“I agree about raising the profile of social care and introducing standards, but at the end of the day we need to get money out to the service and into joint working,” he said.

However, Kinnear, who also has considerable experience of driving shared care records from working on Connecting Care in Bristol, argued that it’s mutual respect and goodwill not white papers, structures and funding rounds that will sort things out on the ground.

“In the end, this is about people and people working together to do things for patients and users who are not bothered about whether it is the NHS or social care or someone else entirely who is doing the job,” he said. “It is down to people in the health and care community solving things for the community.” 

Highland Marketing’s advisory board is: Jeremy Nettle, former global advisor for Health Sciences, Oracle Corporation; Cindy Fedell, former chief digital and information officer at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Andy Kinnear, former director of digital transformation at NHS South, Central and West Commissioning Support Unit; James Norman, healthcare CIO, EMEA, at DellEMC; Ravi Kumar, health tech entrepreneur and chair of ZANEC, and Rizwan Malik, divisional medical director of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and managing director of South Manchester Radiology. 

Highland Marketing is an integrated communications, PR and marketing consultancy with an unrivalled reputation for supporting UK and international health tech companies, built over almost 20 years. Read more analysis and interviews on the Highland Marketing website, follow us on Twitter @Highlandmarketng, or get in touch on: info@highland-marketing.com

Unemployment during COVID: Kingston leads effort to boost local economy as unemployment triples

Kingston Council has outlined its work to boost the local economy as new figures reveal that the pandemic saw local unemployment almost tripled last year.

A report for the council’s Response and Recovery Committee this evening shows the number of local people claiming unemployment benefits shot up from 2,115 to 6,090 in the year to November and that there was less than one job for every three jobseekers.

With Kingston’s jobless numbers expected to rise by a further 3,800 as government COVID-19 support for businesses comes to an end, the council is increasing its efforts to boost employment prospects across the borough.

The committee will look at the progress of the council’s Economic Recovery and Community Recovery Task Forces and agree future plans to help employment and skills for residents.

So far, the Economic Recovery Task Force has paid out almost £49m in COVID-19 support grants to nearly 9,000 Kingston businesses, with an additional £1.6m going to more than 350 local firms.

Teaming up with partners, including Kingston College, the taskforce has already enhanced the skills and employment prospects for young people through the launch of Work Match – a scheme which links people with available jobs – and rolled out the national Kickstart programme.

More than 400 jobs have already been set up via Kickstart, including 10 placements with council services. In addition, 16 roles have been found with Achieving for Children (AfC), the not-for-profit council-owned company that runs the borough’s Children’s Services. The company has also linked up with local schools and charities to develop around 120 more jobs across 30 different organisations in Kingston and Richmond.

The strength of partnership working throughout the pandemic is being galvanised through the Communities Recovery Task Force, with the voluntary sector taking a leading role in using their reach and contacts to help even more people access a range of opportunities.

Councillor Caroline Kerr, Leader of Kingston Council, said: “The majority of jobseekers in Kingston are looking for work in unskilled or semi-skilled roles. That’s why the excellent work the Economic Recovery and Community Recovery Task Forces are doing to link people with skills training as well as available jobs is so important.

“This is very much a team effort. The part played through these task forces by our partners in the business, education and voluntary sectors has been crucial to our early successes and will remain so as we look to rebuild our local economy for the future.”

First acts of new Government must be to establish a Wales-wide Covid inquiry – Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS

First acts of new Government must be to establish a Wales-wide Covid inquiry – Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS

Responding to Boris Johnson’s announcement that a UK wide Covid inquiry will take place in Spring 2022, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said,

“One of the first acts of this Labour Welsh Government should be to establish an independent Welsh inquiry into its handling of the pandemic.

“Whilst Westminster is waiting until the spring of next year to even begin the work, the Welsh Government could set its own agenda and lead by example by establishing an inquiry right away whilst memories are still fresh and initial findings could be ready by as early as the start of Autumn.

“An independent Welsh inquiry, running parallel to the UK-wide enquiry, could provide a sharper focus on how well the Welsh Government responded, the efficiency of its PPE procurement and test and trace systems, and crucially how we can better protect our citizens from future pandemics.

“Covid-19 will be with us for some time yet. We cannot wait until the pandemic is over. Lessons need to be learnt now. Such an inquiry should leave no stone unturned in answering, difficult questions fully and frankly. The people of Wales – especially those directly affected by the tragic consequences of the pandemic – will expect nothing less.”

BAE Systems Applied Intelligence: Cyber security concerns drive digital transformation in UK public sector

Digital transformation pushed to the top of the priority list for central Government

An estimated 60% of UK central government departments have an IT modernisation strategy in place and even more want to upgrade legacy systems due to security vulnerabilities, according to a new study from BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.

The recent research polled 250 IT managers in UK central governmental organisations to better understand their approach to cybersecurity. It found 75% were upgrading systems because of concerns about the vulnerability of legacy IT.

Public sector IT leaders are right to be concerned. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said they experienced a security incident in the past six months and over half of these (52%) came as a result of missing patches.

The lack of integration between legacy IT and modern security solutions was the top data protection risk highlighted by respondents (53%), although “managing risk” came top in the NHS (55%) and “securing traffic flows” was the number one issue for public administration officials (61%).

“One of the challenges is that security and IT departments too often work in siloes, with the former seen as the “department of no” which is slowing down the pace of digital transformation”, said Lorna Rea, Consultant for Central Government at BAE Systems. “In order for security not to be seen as a blocker to innovation, a balance must be struck to ensure public sector employees have the tools they need to collaborate and innovate, without driving up cyber risk to unmanageable levels.”

Public sector IT leaders want to start improvements by simplifying security architecture (45%), either by investing in new technologies and/or vendor consolidation. Similar numbers (45%) want to review current cyber risk management strategies to ensure they have the right balance between security and productivity.

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This year has already seen an increase in interest and focus on sustainability goals and reducing impacts organisations have on the environment.

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New school designed to meet the needs of young people aged 11-18 with a primary diagnosis of autism opens in Epping, Essex

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Continue reading New school designed to meet the needs of young people aged 11-18 with a primary diagnosis of autism opens in Epping, Essex