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PA's PA 26th September

PA's PA 26th September

Welcome to this week’s PA’s PA in which a year on from the Government losing a motion to take action against Syria, Parliament has been recalled to vote for air-strikes in Iraq (the ayes will have it by a very clear margin). 

Labour conference

Labour conference was a somewhat muted affair with any positive announcements the Party had made overshadowed by its leader ‘forgetting’ two rather major (at least, in the eyes of voters) sections of his speech – those covering immigration and the deficit.  There remains a distinct lack of detail for a party aiming to form the next government in eight months’ time and it was hard to shift the impression that certain members of the front bench are concentrating rather more on a different election – one that might take place post 7th May!

Shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, spoke at a number of fringe events and used the opportunity to restate a number of policies announced over the summer.  He confirmed that Labour would reverse the decision to do away with AS levels but that the curriculum changes would remain.  He also confirmed that Labour’s number 1 education priority on coming into office would be around technical and vocational education, that under Labour the free school programme would end, all teachers would be required to be qualified, and the pupil premium would remain as would free school meals for 4 – 7 year olds. 

Richard Mollet formed part of a panel at a fringe event organised by the National Literacy Trust.  The event, entitled “Vision for Literacy 2025: equipping young people with the skills they need” provided an opportunity to raise a number of the recommendations in the PA’s manifesto launched last week.  Other speakers included Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, Sue Wilkinson of The Reading Agency and Gareth Jenkins from Save the Children.  PA member Pearson sponsored an event with the Sutton Trust which considered how education is a vehicle for social mobility. 

Policy Exchange used one of its fringes to launch its report Primary Focus.  The authors believe that the best solution to the “perfect storm” being faced by primary schools  - with a fifth of head teachers approaching retirement age, continuing cuts in local authority funding, and the introduction of a rigorous new national curriculum and assessment systems, which will put additional pressure on teachers – is for them to be converted into academies. 

Labour Digital report

The Labour Digital group has published its report ‘Number One in Digital’ which aims to ensure that  the UK is the “leading digital nation of the 21stcentury”.  The Group was created at the request of Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP and was launched in March 2014.  It is a grassroots network of over 300 digital professionals chaired by Lord Mitchell, a former technology entrepreneur.  The full report can be read here.  Amongst its 82 (!) recommends for the next government, some of which chime with proposals in The PA’s Publishing for Britain, are:

  • Publish an annual ‘Technology Impact Assessment’ that forecasts how new technology will impact different sectors on the economy
  • Undertake an annual review – with impact assessments -  of the IP landscape “to guarantee that legislation, regulation and legal codes keep place with technological developments”
  • Create a UK Digital Board comprised of minister and “digital experts” to report to the Prime Minister


The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, acting on intelligence from The PA, has suspended the domain of pirate site Onread.  This is the first site dedicated to book piracy which has been seized by PIPCU.  Visitors to the site are now presented with an announcement from the City of London Police.   


The CJEU (Court of Justice for the European Union) has ruled on the Technische Universität Darmstadt v Eugen Ulmer KG case which concerns the scope of the copyright exception for libraries’ digitisation activities. The court’s judgment says that if a publishers’ existing contract is silent on such activity then the library can digitise the work for users to access at dedicated onsite terminals (even if a digital version is offered) under the exception for libraries. Whether subsequent activities of the user, such as printing out copies or making copies on a USB stick, are exempted depends on the national implementation of the private copying exception provided in the Information Society Directive.   Given that the new UK exception (coming into force on 1stOctober) requires users to have lawfully purchased the work on a permanent basis the PA believes that such activities are not covered here but are seeking clarification from the IPO that its interpretation matches ours. 


The Government’s programme of reform of GCSEs and A levels continues with a consultation on the subject content for further new GCSEs and one A level which will be first taught in 2016. The revised content for these subjects (GCSEs in citizenship studies, cooking and nutrition, drama, and design and technology; and AS and A levels in drama and theatre) aims to prepare students better for further and higher education, and employment.    The consultation closes on 20th November.  Ofqual is consulting in parallel on the assessment arrangements for all these subjects and their consultation can be viewed here. GCSE and A level religious studies content will be consulted on later this year although the Mail on Sunday reports on a disagreement between Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles over whether Muslim schools should be forced to teach about Christianity. 

The Telegraph reports on concerns of Mike Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s Director of School Standards, that pupils are missing out on a broad and balanced curriculum due to primary schools placing an overemphasis on the three Rs at the expense of children’s understanding of other subjects.   This concern has prompted Ofsted to consider reforming its inspections so they place a lesser focus on English and Maths in order to strike the right balance between these subjects and others such as art, music, history and geography. 

Following the introduction of computer science into the national curriculum, The Economist reports on the fact that the government has found only about £3m to train 200,000 or so teachers in the necessary skills needed to teach the subject.

The Telegraph reports on how OCR’s new maths GCSE syllabus will see pupils sitting more than four hours of exams and having less access to calculators.  As part of tougher GCSE maths rules, pupils will be expected to cover ratio, proportion and know key formulae by heart.  It also reports on a call by Antony Beevor for history to be made compulsory after a study found that a large number of adults believe the D-Day landings took place in Germany, not Normandy.   

Writing in the Guardian Nick Gibb draws attention to the latest results from the Government’s phonics check which shows that thousands more six year olds are reaching the required standard in reading.  The results showed those passing the test had risen from 69 to 74% since last year - a rise of 24,000. It means that since the test was introduced three years ago, the number passing it has increased by 102,000. The Minister writes, “There can be no excuses for letting children leave primary school unable to read. Eliminating illiteracy is an important goal which we are on track to achieve. But it starts in the reception class in primary school and with the systematic teaching of phonics”. 

And finally….

You may not be into golf, Nigel Farage, or betting; but thisvideo is worth a look nevertheless…

This week we have been at Labour Party Conference meeting MPs, advisers and stakeholders.  Next week we will be at Conservative Party Conference where the PA will be on a panel with the IP Minister and the PM’s IP Adviser; meeting the UK IP Attaché in India, the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers, UK Trade and Investment, and attending the inaugural meeting of the IPO’s new copyright advisory panel.