Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA, in a week in which the chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his first major economic statement, revealing that Brexit could leave a £58.7bn black hole in the budget, meaning the government will need to borrow more than planned over the next five years. Some Brexit-supporting MPs were quick to dismiss the OBR produced figures, criticising the organisation for predicting another “doom and gloom scenario”. Their anger will not have been helped by Tony Blair and John Major, who both suggested that there could be a second referendum on leaving the European Union. Brexit aside, a lot of the action this week has been on the European stage. In a surprise twist, Nicolas Sarkozy has been kicked out of the race to stand in France’s 2017 presidential elections after securing just 20% of the vote in his party’s primary. Meanwhile Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament since 2012, announced that he would return to German politics, fuelling speculation that he might challenge Chancellor Angela Merkel in the elections next year.
As reported in this week’s PA’s PA Autumn Statement special, the main announcements of interest to publishers included a commitment to invest an extra £2billion per year in research and development until 2020, an extra £10m to support arts and cultural heritage projects and an extra £50m to support the expansion of existing grammar schools from 2017-18.
In reaction, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the statement “places on record the abject failure for the last six wasted years and offers no hope for the future”. The Statement was also criticised by school head teachers for not addressing the funding pressures faced by many schools and colleges. Malcolm Tribe, the Interim General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said that the funding pressures on school are so serious “that some are struggling to deliver the full curriculum, courses are having to be cut and some six forms are closing”. He said the government must “urgently address these issues to ensure that schools have the resources they need to continue to raise standards”.
While many scientists and researchers welcomed the extra R&D spending, Richard Jones, a physicist at the University of Sheffield, suggested that it could indicate that the Government will not prioritise participation in future EU R&D. However the Guardian reports that officials at BEIS insist said that UK participation – in whatever form - remains a key item in the Article 50 negotiations to come.
The Publishers Association has launched the textbook challenge this week, a campaign calling for every child to have access to a textbook in every subject. The campaign was launched as an independent survey showed that 63% of primary and secondary teachers in English schools could be making more use of textbooks, while one in five don’t use them at all. This is despite the fact that more than 90% of teachers say they believe textbooks can improve pupil attainment and nearly 60% say that using textbooks helps reduce the amount of time they spend planning lessons.
The importance of using high quality textbooks to improve standards and reduce teacher workload is shared by Schools Minister Nick Gibb who has stated that “All the evidence shows that high-quality textbooks are good for teachers, students and parents” and that “textbooks work”.
At the PA/BESA Shifting Landscapes conference for education publishers, Laura McInerney, the editor of Schools Week, shared her thoughts on the future of the Department for Education under Justine Greening. She suggested that Greening might focus more on the Higher Education sector, because she said “schools are in a big complex mess” meaning that schools will be “squeezed for attention”. She added that Greening has a “business mind-set” and talks like a CEO.
But she predicted that this focus on management versus the political imperatives of No. 10 might mean that he said Greening is likely to come out worse from any clashes. She also predicted that Nick Gibb is unlikely to leave the Department anytime soon as he has “been there long enough to set stuff in motion that is hard to stop”. Also speaking at the conference, Lord Jim Knight, chief education advisor at TES, said that teachers and schools want quality content to work with, authored by credible authors, which he said was why they continue to purchase textbooks. He said that TES was keen to promote the impact of textbooks in the classroom through partnerships with publishers, asking if there could be a model where publishers and platforms like TES could work together.
Higher Education Bill
The Higher Education Bill passed a third reading in the House of Commons this week, meaning it will now progress into the House of Lords. MPs voted by a majority of 279 to 214 to approve the bill, two days after 15,000 students and lecturers marched through central London to vote against the government’s plans which would allow the best-performing institutions to raise their fees in line with inflation. Dr Roberta Woods, said that Labour had no problem in principle to putting a teaching excellence framework in place, but she said she was concerned that there was still no information in the bill about how TEF will work in practice and whether it will measure teaching quality, or use proxy measures. Gordon Marsden, the schools, said the bill still fails to take into account the realities of Brexit. He said: “The Government are not looking beyond Horizon 2020; they are not looking beyond the European structural and investment funding and the £2m that the Minister trumpeted today for the industrial strategy will not go too far in dealing with the immense problems we are going to have to face out of Brexit. Universities Minister Jo Johnson MP, said through the bill, the Government is “giving students more choice, driving up quality and ensuring our world-class research and innovation sector can maintain its standing in these evermore challenging times.”
One third pupils behind before primary school
Statistics from the Department of Education shows that almost a third of pupils are behind in their learning, literacy and numeracy level by the time they start primary school. The figures showed that children from poorer backgrounds were more likely to be lagging, with only 54% of children from disadvantaged families reaching a good level of development, compared with 72% of the age group overall. Save the Children described the figures as “shocking”, saying: “We know that children who start behind are more likely to stay behind throughout their lives with huge implications for the rest of their schooling. Their jobs, and even their future.” The figures showed that 28% of children were not performing as expected in literacy levels, however this was down from 40% in 2013 and from 30% last year. The government said the figures showed "a continued rise in numbers meeting the expected standards".
PA Director of Publisher Relations, Emma House, spoke at the Westminster Higher Education Forum seminar on Next Steps for Open Access and Open Data Research Policy. Emma highlighted the role publishers have played in contributing to the progress that has been made so far in delivering the Government’s Open Access policy objectives, pointing to the comment from Professor Adam Tickell, Chair of the UK Open Access Co-ordination Group, in his Independent Advice to the Minister on Open access to research publications delivered in February this year, where he noted that “the UK is making good progress in increasing access to scientific research outputs in ways that are compatible with sustainability and research excellence”. Emma also updated the audience on the range of cross-industry collaboration initiatives which are under way and how publishers are working closely together with industry partners across the OA stakeholder landscape on various projects and initiatives that each address the various elements of the OA journey.
The UN body tasked with global norm-setting in copyright met at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva for the 33rd time from 14 to 18 November. The agenda is hefty, but of most relevance to publishers are the talks about limitations and exceptions in ‘educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities’, and ‘libraries and archives’. UN decision making is ever slow, and some items have cluttered the agenda of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) for years; but WIPO watchers sense genuine, conclusive progress may be possible at the next session, from 1-5 May.
For the uninitiated, SCCR delegates are loosely divided into the ‘global north’ (developed nations, favouring IP frameworks that protect creators) and the ‘global south’ (seeking copyright reform that suit consumers). But the intricacies of world politics may be quietly redrawing these geographical lines. For instance, global south heavyweight Brazil altered tack slightly at SCCR 33, after watching the presentation of a huge study of copyright limitations and exceptions for educational activities in all 189 WIPO member states. The report found that all the countries have at least one exception and limitation provision for education, and that in total there are 1,553 separate provisions across the WIPO membership. Evidently, governments everywhere have already conceived of myriad ways to circumvent copyright legally so that educators can execute their function properly — what use then is an international legal instrument when the matter is already being competently managed at national level?
In previous SCCRs Brazil has come across as being ‘copyleft’ minded, but it seemed political change in Brazil had reached the country’s WIPO representative as well when he said: ‘In Brazil, this report will provide us with much food for thought in our ongoing internal debates about copyright law reform.’ It might not seem like much, but in diplo-speak this is a significant on-the-record remark from this delegate.
[with thanks to the International Publishers Association for this update]
This week we have:
Met with European colleagues to discuss our response to the Commission’s copyright reform package and the recent judgments from the CJEU on elending and out of commerce works; launched our #textbookchallenge campaign which promotes the valuable role textbooks can play in improving pupil attainment and reducing teacher workload; hosted our annual education conference with BESA (British Educational Suppliers Association); met with the Creative Industries Council to discuss innovation in the creative industries; attended the IPO’s working group on copyright education and awareness; met with colleagues at the BBC to discuss how the #lovetoread campaign went; spoke at the Westminster Higher Education Forum Seminar on Next Steps for Open Access and Open Data Research Policy; discussed reading for pleasure activity with partners from the Read On Get On Coalition.
Next week we will be:
Speaking at the International Copyright Law conference; attending the Moscow Non-Fiction Book Fair where the UK is guest of honour; attending a roundtable with the Secretary of State for Culture Karen Bradley and the Minister for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock taking a delegation of publishers to the Guadalajara Book Fair; talking to students at Plymouth University about the careers available in publishing; attending the Future Book Conference;