Shocks & Stares » Education http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares H&K\'s Financial & Professional Services Team Blog Tue, 19 Mar 2013 08:00:56 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 FPS’ Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/fps-friday-fiver-5/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/05/fps-friday-fiver-5/#comments Fri, 27 May 2011 19:49:23 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=145 In case you missed it, President Obama was in the UK this week to talk essential relationships, cyber crime and have a barbeque in the Number 10 Rose Garden. In honour, of his visit this weeks’ fiver looks at the visit and the UK’s special essential relationship with the US.  Thanks to Dave, Clare, Rachel and Melanie for contributions.

Essentially …

Whilst Foreign Policy and the six point plan, were the main items on the agenda, surely the most interesting aspect of Obama’s visit was the upgrading of the UK’s ‘Special Relationship’ with America to an ‘Essential Relationship.’ Essential. Never mind our credit rating, we have an essential relationship with America! As Matthew D’Ancona pointed out earlier this week, it has a certain ring of indispensability to it. I’m less sure Obama’s deficit reduction plan can be described as Osbornian, as D’Ancona suggested, but you have to hand it to Cameron he pulled the rabbit out of the hat with that one.

Deficit indifference

Governments should “live within their means” but also sustain growth by investing in education, and the pace of deficit reduction “may end up being different”. Uncritical certainly from the President, but hardly the ringing endorsement David Cameron and George Osborne were hoping for with regards to their economic strategy.

They were probably also hoping for better revised Q1 GDP figures from the ONS than the ones that materialised this week at roughly the same time as the meat was cooking on the barbie. Traditionally, the revised figures show an increase in GDP for the quarter over the first, partial set of figures released. That didn’t happen this time, with growth remaining at 0.5%. More worryingly, household spending contracted 0.6% and business investment practically hid in the corner shivering, as it shrank 7.1%.

The Government remains committed to cutting hard and fast in order to shrink the deficit and get the country back on track without a large credit card bill hanging over it. Judging by the economic data and reaction to it, the jury is still out on whether this will work or not – which is perhaps why the President hedged his words to such effect.

Inspiring relationships

Michelle Obama re-affirmed her own ‘essential relationship’ with old friends during the visit when she was re-acquainted with girls from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School. The EGA girls were visiting Oxford University as part of a programme to encourage them to aim high. Mrs Obama, herself a graduate of Princeton and Harvard, encouraged them to not “be afraid to take risks, ask questions, ask stupid questions, don’t be afraid to trip, fall and don’t be afraid to get back up.”

Wise words indeed from the First Lady and something all of us can take heart from. Media coverage of the meeting praised her as an inspiring role model for these young girls. But do our young people need to wait for a visit from a foreign leader’s wife to feel inspired? It strikes me that inspiration comes in all sorts of guises from dignitaries to teachers, to a school system and society that encourages successes achieved on merit. I cannot help thinking that more of our young girls would be inspired if the education system were fairer and society willed them on.

However, today’s announcement that under radical changes to admissions, some secondary schools will be able to select pupils on the basis of family income fills me with dread. If we want to inspire our young people, there has to be a better way than judging them on their parents’ finances.

Right all along?

Photo: Jacob Whittaker

There was a time when being British was all about keeping a stiff upper lip through adversity.  We were a bit stuffy, grumpy, and proud of it (with the exception of Ken Dodd). But if this week’s stats from the OECD are to be believed the old stereotype has been blown out of the water – we’re actually much happier than most of our European neighbours, including those where the weather is supposedly much nicer.

Of course our BFFs across the pond are way ahead, with the ‘pursuit of happiness’ in their constitution, but recent events have given them a run for their money (Will & Kate, less than a year to go to the Olympics, plus some cracking Aviva (client) sponsored ITV dramas on the telly).  Even Obama seemed to be using his visit to the UK to give a PR boost to the start of his election campaign, after all the yanks did seem to love the Royal Wedding more than we did.

Cheeriness is starting to look like part of a new national character, even a driver of government policy with the government launch of a new way of measuring it earlier this year.  Yet whilst the OECD’s figures do seem to suggest that money doesn’t necessarily make you happy, it will be interesting to see whether the next GDP figures show it can work the other way around.

Obama and the ostrich generation

When all the fanfare and noise from the military 41 gun salute to welcome Obama’s visit abates, we hope that the two leading western premiers might spare a thought for the lot of their respective domestic pensioners. They don’t need to look hard or delve deeply to find incontrovertible evidence of the pensions malaise and bleak future that faces many prospective pensioners in the UK and US and indeed across most Western economies.

The worrying statistics roll in on an almost daily basis. According to an international survey released by HSBC this week six in ten Britons have no financial plan for their retirement – due to a “cycle of dependency” and suffer from an equally self-deluded belief that they will enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Across the Atlantic, prospects are equally stark in the US. New findings from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) latest public policy institute report reveals that many older Americans, employed and unemployed, may never recover financially from this latest recession, although here, half of them do actually realise that they won’t have enough money to live on in retirement.

This dearth of planning contrasts with upcoming economies in the East, where a class of “prosperous pensioners” is merging. The respective expectations on annual growth showing  further downward revision for the UK economy (now a paltry 1.4%, with the US at only 2.6), is in stark contrast to buoyant growth rates in Asia’s flagship economies – China 9.2%, India 8.5%.

Worrying indeed.

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FPS’ Friday Fiver http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/04/fps-friday-fiver-3/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/2011/04/fps-friday-fiver-3/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2011 17:24:07 +0000 Edward Jones http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/shocksandstares/?p=79 Nearly the weekend. First, here is this week’s Friday Fiver…

Thanks to DC, Daisy, Rachel and Nick for contributions.

Is the economy looking up?…

Economic figures this week were better than predicted, but is this just a pause for breath before the storm?

Here’s a question for you. If GDP growth is so flat (or even in reverse as it was last winter), then how can it be that unemployment fell according to the latest figures? Wednesday’s announcement from the ONS stated that total unemployment was down from 8% to 7.8%. Here’s another question for you as well. If global commodity price rises (particularly food and oil) are showing no sign of slowing down, then how can it be that inflation fell against most predictions according to the latest figures? The ONS’ figures on Tuesday recorded a drop in the Consumer Price Index from 4.4% in February to just 4.0% in March.

So what’s going on? Well, the fall in unemployment was definitely welcome, but it may be shortlived. The reason for this is the continued fear that new jobs created in the private sector may not be able to keep up with the large redundancies likely being made in the public sector as the government trims spending – it’s a bit like pouring water into a bucket at the top, and it flowing out through holes in the bottom; the problem is, we can’t pour water in fast enough.

And on inflation? Well, it turns out that we can thank retailers, and especially supermarkets, for the slight fall in inflation. According to the ONS, the level of discounting by shops is at an all time high as they try to maintain the flow of customers in through their doors (this might explain why my local Co-op has been running a 50% off wine promotion almost non-stop since Christmas). The question is, how long will these promotions continue to entice consumers? Especially when growth in wages continues to lag behind inflation, reducing the amount of disposable income we have to spend on the high street.

AV your say…

It’s not been a good week for the No to AV campaign with a survey revealing nearly half of the electorate supports the alternative voting system.  The controversial ad campaign warning us that if we vote Yes soldiers and babies will die or, according to Baroness Warsi, make us complicit in the rise of British nationalism, hasn’t deterred 45% from saying they would vote Yes.

Perhaps they should have opted for the slightly cuddlier celeb approach like the Yes campaign whose leaflet proudly lists off celeb supporters including Tony Robinson, Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, Colin Firth and Stephen Fry. Their involvement in politics may be limited, but something they did has worked if 2,199 voters now put the Yes campaign 12 points ahead of the No camp.

Of course if you are in the No camp you won’t believe these results anyway and will view any survey produced by the Yes supporting think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) with immense suspicion. Or you could use the comically Blytonesque phrase ‘dodgy shenanigans’ to sully the Yes campaigns’ reputation as Mr Osborne did this week- accusing them of receiving more than £15m in contracts from the public purse.  And so the mudslinging continues in what has already been an acrimonious debate (sigh) only three weeks to go!

Journalists follow journalists on twitter. But What do they say?…

Two great infographics. Both covered by the Guardian’s datablog. The first was developed by Tony Hirst showing journalists’ following habits on twitter. The infographic indicates journalists tend to prioritise following their colleagues within the same news outlets.

And secondly, Tweetminster have teamed up with the Guardian to produce this infographic on what the UK Media tends to talk about. All fairly intuitive, but it’s interesting to see it broken down.

Above all else we think they both look great.

What price £ducation?…

In those halcyon days pre 1998, going to Uni seemed so much simpler. No tuition fees, plus those lovely maintenance grants you could blow, unwisely, in the union bar. Fast forward to this week and government adviser Professor Theresa Rees labelled as ‘barking’, the system where what you have to pay for your university degree will depend not only on where you study but also which part of the UK you’re from due to differences in devolved funding decisions.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills stepped into the fray on Thursday announcing that higher education students attending 83 of their approved ‘alternative providers’ can now borrow up to £6,000 toward the cost of their tuition fees, in an attempt to boost competition.  This is unlikely to leave the mainstream unis quaking in their boots however, with many willing and able to charge the maximum of £27,000 for a three year undergraduate course (bursaries for the under-privileged aside). Given the overwhelming demand for places at these universities, it will take much bigger market forces to make them more self-conscious about their pricing.

When football club owners go offside…


Sometimes you have to feel a little bit sorry for football managers. Whilst the financial rewards are undoubtedly pretty big, so too are the egos of many of your players, the pressures from unrealistic expectant fans and the chances of stress related heart disease. It’s a tough job at the best of times but in an era of billionaire owners is it becoming even more difficult?

Carlo Ancelotti cut a pretty lonely figure on the touchline during Chelsea’s disappointing performance at Old Trafford this week. You’d think he’d be happy given the fantasy football transfer strategy of Roman Abramovich but it seems that increasingly top managers are having to deal as much with boardroom tactics as they are the opposition’s. Like any group of businessmen, this merry band of football club owners is driven by return on investment and throughout many of their careers they’ve a history of calling the shots and generating success.

However investing in sport is arguably a little bit different. Firstly owners, except in the rarest of circumstances, don’t have the underlying knowledge or experience of their respective team managers. Success is to some extent out of their hands and as a result there must be implicit trust in the owner/manager relationship. Each must understand their role and when boundaries get crossed performance is likely to be compromised.

As in many situations, too many cooks can spoil a broth and when owners start interfering in team selection and tactics even the seemingly most appealing of jobs can slowly begin to look like a poisoned chalice.

I’d imagine the majority of football club owners would be less than receptive to allowing their manager to advise them on what stocks or shares to buy or which emerging market might be best suited to their latest investment strategy. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both yourself and your workforce is a fundamental in business and the Roman Abramovich’s of this world could do with a bit of reminder.

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