Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Research Seminar: ‘The UK’s Productivity Puzzle: what do Workplace Data tell us?’, 4 November 2014

October 15th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

Dr Alex Bryson, National Institute of Economic and Social Research

3.00 to 4.30 pm, Tuesday 4 November 2014, Room 709a, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAL


The era of sustained economic growth enjoyed in the UK for nearly two decades was reversed almost overnight with the 2008 banking crisis.  Stock market crashes throughout the world were precipitated by investor uncertainty, firms suffered from sudden credit tightening, and demand for goods and services started falling.  Whilst many of these immediate responses to the banking crisis were common across the world, each country faced specific difficulties due to differences in the nature of their economies and institutions and the position they were in when the crisis hit.  The UK economy has performed particularly poorly in the intervening six years.  Output per head remains below its pre-recession peak due to a combination of remarkably sluggish GDP growth and higher-than-anticipated employment levels. This presentation reviews the literature on the UK’s productivity “puzzle”, examining some of the main culprits or suspects that may explain recent trends.  The second section contributes to the empirical literature by testing some hypotheses in new ways, in order to shed further light on patterns of productivity growth among British workplaces over the period 2004-2011. The third and final section looks to the future and comments on the prospects for UK productivity growth over the next decade or so.

Alex Bryson is Head of the Employment Group at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research where he has been working since October 2008.  He was previously Research Director at the Policy Studies Institute where he has worked for nineteen years.  He is also a Research Fellow at IZA, at Rutgers and at the Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.  His research focuses on industrial relations, labour economics and programme evaluation.  He is on the editorial board of the NIESR Economic Review and was previously an editor of the British Journal of Industrial Relations.   In 2005-2006 he was the Wertheim Fellow at the Harvard Law School and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The seminar is free to attend, but prior registration would be helpful: to register, please contact


Research Seminar: ‘Higher Education Reform under the Coalition’, 14 October 2014

October 1st, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

Professor Andy Westwood, Guild HE

3.00 to 4.30 pm, Tuesday 14 October 2014, Room 709a, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAL

In this seminar, Andy will look at the main areas of Higher Education reform enacted by the Coalition government since 2010; their impact; and what it means for the future. He will also look at prospects for further reform after the 2015 General Election as well as which political party – or combination of parties – may be in Government at that time.

Andy Westwood is the Chief Executive at GuildHE, one of two formal representative bodies for Higher Education in the UK. He came to GuildHE from Whitehall where he spent five years as a special adviser to ministers in the Treasury, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government. Andy is a Professor of Politics and Policy at Winchester University, President of the OECD forum for Social Innovation, and Chair of the LLAKES Advisory Board.

Attendance at the seminar is free, but prior registration would be helpful; to register, please contact

LLAKES Research Seminar, 30 September 2014

September 13th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

‘The Role of Education in Shaping the Disability-Wealth Penalty’

Dr Abigail McKnight, London School of Economics

2.30 to 4.00 pm, Tuesday 30 September 2014, Room 826, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAL


This seminar will draw on the findings from a recently published working paper comparing the private wealth holdings of disabled people with their non-disabled peers -  ‘Disabled People’s Financial Histories: Uncovering the disability wealth-penalty’ (CASE paper 181).  This paper identifies a “disability wealth gap” but also shows how differences in wealth accumulation between these two groups need to be understood from a lifecycle perspective that takes into account the dynamics and persistence of disability.  The seminar will focus on understanding the role education plays in contributing to divergent patterns of wealth accumulation over the lifecycle.

Dr Abigail McKnight is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics.  She has researched many aspects of inequality and disadvantage, mainly related to the labour market.  This has spanned research on low wage employment, evaluation of active labour market programmes, earnings inequality and mobility through to the graduate labour market and household wealth.  She recently published, with her co-authors, the findings from a major international study of inequality, examining trends, impacts and policy effectiveness across thirty countries spanning a period of thirty years Changing Inequalities in Rich Countries and Changing Inequalities and Societal Impacts in Rich Countries; both published by OUP 2014.

CASE paper 181 is available at

To register for this event, please contact


LLAKES Autumn Research Seminars – Outline Programme

August 26th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

The outline autumn programme for the Autumn 2014 LLAKES Research Seminar series is now available:

30 September 2014: “The role of education in shaping the wealth-disability penalty”, Abigail McKnight, LSE. Room 834, 14.30-16.00.

14 October 2014: “Higher Education Reform under the Coalition”, Andy Westwood, GuildHE. Room 709a, 15.00-16.30

4 November 2014: “The UK’s Productivity Puzzle: What do Workplace Data tell us?”, Alex Bryson, NIESR. Room 709a, 15.00-16.30

11 November 2014: “Findings from the ‘Hard Times’ project: division and isolation following the tornado effect of the economic slump”, Gabriella Elgenius, SOAS. Room 639, 15.00-16.30.

25 November 2014: “The Challenges of a Knowledge Economy”, David Soskice, LSE. Room 728, 15.00-16.30.

9 December 2014: “Conducting in-depth interviews with hard-to-reach youth: the benefits and challenges of peer-to-peer interviewing”, Avril Keating, IOE. Room 784, 15.00-16.30

Further details about each event will be posted closer to the respective dates. All seminars will be held at the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0ALTo book a place at any seminar, please e-mail





Free schools opening in poor neighbourhoods but not reaching the poorest children

August 7th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments


Free schools are failing to serve the neediest children in their areas, according to a new study from the Institute of Education (IOE), London.

It shows that schools in this flagship Government programme are opening in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, but are taking fewer poor children (those receiving free meals) than the other local schools.

“The net effect is that the free secondary school pupils themselves are close to average for all English secondary schools, and the free primary school pupils very slightly better off,” says the study, published by the ESRC-funded Centre for Learning and Life Chances (LLAKES) and led by Francis Green, Professor of Labour Economics and Skills Development.

In addition, primary children who enter free schools are academically ahead of their peers. They have significantly higher levels of attainment than the average not only for their neighbourhoods, but for the country as a whole. “When it comes to evaluating the performance of primary free schools, it will be important to examine their value added, rather than their academic outcomes, which are likely to be better than average because of their intakes,” the researchers advise.

“It appears that, so far, the places in Reception at free primary schools are being filled by children who are somewhat less disadvantaged and more advanced in their development than the average. This outcome may be disappointing for the government, which had hopes that its free schools policy would be a vehicle for delivering social justice,” says Professor Green.

The report, published today, is the first academic study analysing the social composition of all the primary and secondary free schools over the first three years of the Government’s controversial programme. “By cumulating three years’ worth of intakes, we are now in a position to obtain robust findings. Using the National Pupil Database we examine available data for 88 primary and 63 secondary free schools that had opened by September 2013,” the paper explains.

Key findings are:

  • The government’s anticipation that free schools would emerge in disadvantaged neighbourhoods is, on average, vindicated: looking at the neighbourhoods of free schools, one can see that there is a slightly higher proportion of children entitled to free school meals (FSM) when compared to the rest of England: 22% compared with 17% at secondary level, and 18% compared with 16% at primary level.
  • However, critics’ concerns that the schools might become socially selective are also supported. Within the neighbourhood, fewer pupils actually attending the free schools were eligible for FSM – only 17.5% for secondary schools and 13.5% in primary schools. The net effect is that the free secondary school pupils themselves are close to average for all secondary schools, and the free primary school pupils very slightly better off.
  • In terms of prior achievement, there is a marked difference at primary level: the free schools children have a distinctly higher Foundation Stage Profile mean score (0.33) than elsewhere in the neighbourhood and the rest of England where it is close to zero. The difference is statistically significant at a high level.

A research briefing on The Social Composition of Free Schools after Three Years by Francis Green, Rebecca Allen and Andrew Jenkins is available here.

To speak to Professor Green contact him on / 020 7911 5530.

Or contact Diane Hofkins, / 07976 703455

Or contact the IOE Press Office: / 020 7911 5556

Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES): This Economic and Social Research Council-funded research centre investigates the role of lifelong learning in promoting economic competitiveness and social cohesion, and in mediating the interactions between the two. Key areas of research include: i) the social and cultural foundations of learning, knowledge production and transfer, and innovation, within the context of a changing economy, and ii) the effects of knowledge and skill distribution on income equality, social cohesion and competitiveness. It has a programme of multi-disciplinary and mixed method research, which addresses these issues at the level of the individual life course, through studies of city-regions and sectors in the UK, and through comparative analysis across OECD countries. More at

Economic and Social Research Council: The ESRC funds research into the big social and economic questions facing us today. We also develop and train the UK’s future social scientists. Our research informs public policies and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. Most importantly, it makes a real difference to all our lives. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.

Institute of Education

The IOE is a world-leading university specialising in education and the social sciences. Founded in 1902, the Institute currently has more than 7,000 students and 800 staff. In January 2014, the Institute was recognised by Ofsted for its ‘Outstanding’ initial teacher training across primary, secondary and further education. In the 2014 QS World University Rankings, the Institute was ranked number one for education worldwide. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the publications that the IOE submitted were judged to be internationally significant and over a third were judged to be “world leading”. The Institute is part of the University of London.

Professor Lorna Unwin awarded OBE

July 25th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

The LLAKES Centre congratulates Professor Lorna Unwin – formerly Deputy Director of the Centre, and currently Honorary LLAKES Professor – on her award of an OBE in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for services to vocational education and training.

Workshop on OECD Survey of Adult Skills

June 6th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

Tuesday 17 June 2014, 12.00 noon to 3.30 pm

Room 642, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

This event, organized by the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) draws on inputs from experienced researchers with a shared interest in enhancing the levels of knowledge and skills of the adult population.

The OECD Survey of Adult Skills (SAS), carried out as part of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) assesses levels of competence of over 160,000 people in 24 countries across three main domains: literacy, numeracy and problem solving. While the strengths and weakness of the methodology are open to discussion, the results provide a useful baseline for comparative analysis and policy development. This workshop will address several aspects of the SAS results, and will attempt to develop conclusions for policy recommendations.


 12.00 noon – 12.45 pm              Buffet Lunch

12.45 pm – 1.00 pm                    Welcome and Introduction

1.00 pm – 1.45 pm                      John Field

Understanding lifelong learning: the case for a generational approach

 1.45 pm – 2.30 pm                     Andy Green and Nicola Pensiero

Adult Skills Inequality Compared across Countries: The Evidence from the OECD Survey of
Adult Skills and other International Surveys.

 2.30 pm – 3.15 pm                    David Mallows and JD Carpentieri

                                                       Using PIAAC for policy: do the numbers add up?

3.15 pm – 3.30 pm                    Summary discussion and close

Please register for the event by e-mailing



Pre-Election discussion contributions by LLAKES Professors

May 29th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

The Institute of Education has published a collection of think pieces from leading experts at the IOE, putting forward
in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. Two of these items are written by members of LLAKES: collection of think pieces from leading experts at the IOE, putting forward
their views

Professor Karen Evans – Safeguarding adult learning at the local level

Professor Alison Fuller – Towards expansive apprenticeships for youth transition.

Probing the roots of adult underachievement

May 28th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments


Why do English-speaking countries – including England, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic – do relatively poorly on international comparisons of adult skills? A symposium of senior academics and practitioners from across the UK and Eire this week set out to answer this question and find ways to boost opportunities in their countries.

Andy Green, director of the Centre for Learning and Life Chances (LLAKES) at the Institute of Education, London, said social class background was still exerting a powerful influence on the skills of England’s adults. He led a study showing that the gulf between the highest and lowest achievers in literacy and numeracy is exceptionally large. The gap is widest for young adults. Along with the US, England has the widest gap for this age group of all the 24 countries recently surveyed by the OECD. For all working-age adults In England, the difference in numeracy scores is wider than in all but two countries (France and the US). Northern Ireland’s skills gap is almost as wide as England’s, Professor Green found.

The symposium, hosted by the Higher Education Research Centre (HERC) of Dublin City University in association with LLLAKES and the Royal Irish Academy, brought together researchers and policy makers with a shared interest in enhancing adult skills.

Professor Maria Slowey, director of HERC, said: “The relatively poor results for adults in Ireland point to the need to find ways to widen access to education and training across all levels, and at all stages of life – a ‘second chance’ for many who never enjoyed a ‘first chance’.”

The symposium, “How to tackle intergenerational equity gaps in knowledge and skills?” offered an opportunity to locate Ireland in a wider international context. OECD’s PIAAC study — which assesses the skills of more than 160,000 people in 24 countries in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving – was a key focus for discussion.

Professor Green’s analysis of the OECD evidence and other skills surveys shows that in England there is a particularly strong relationship between adults’ skills and their parents’ education levels. The education system itself has produced “exceptionally unequal skills outcomes” going back to the 1950s, which have been exacerbated by “an especially strong influence from social background” on children’s choices and opportunities, he told the symposium. “This is the primary cause of the relatively high inequality in adult skills in England today”.

He said: “These findings matter, because skills have well-known effects on labour market and wider social outcomes. Over the last quarter century the UK as a whole has experienced one of the fastest increases in wage inequality in the developed world.”

However, his analysis suggests that high quality vocational education helps to reduce inequality. He told the symposium that dual systems – such as Germany’s highly-respected approach involving both in-company training and education at vocational schools – helps reverse the inequality deriving from the education system at age 15. In addition, countries where there is high participation in vocational education and training also tend to have more equal skills distribution ­– though there are other contributing factors.

“It’s a Herculean task to bring down educational inequality when economic inequality is increasing internationally,” he said.

Speakers from both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland said that, unlike in England, where young adults score no better than older people, 16 to 24-year-olds’ basic skills surpassed those of people aged 55-65.

Donal Kelly, from the Republic of Ireland’s Central Statistics Office, said adults aged 16-24 perform 20 points higher on literacy than adults aged 55-65, with 12.9% of 16-24 year olds found at the lowest levels of literacy compared to 27.8% of 55- to 65-year-olds. Studies continue to show that early school-leavers are most likely to perform at low levels – but today just 6% of those aged 16-24 are in this category, compared with almost half of 55- 65-year-olds.

Victor Dukelow, joint head of analytical services for the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, said that a comparison of the results of the International Adult Literacy Survey, conducted in 1996, and PIAAC, conducted 2011/12, shows that  literacy was improving. The proportion of the working population functioning at the lowest levels of literacy had fallen from 23% in 1996 to 18% in 2012. In addition, Northern Ireland was getting closer to the OECD average, although it still remained in the bottom half. The gap had reduced from 11 points (on a 500 point scale) in 1996 to 4 points in 2012, and it was improving at a good pace compared to other countries. Nevertheless, there is a clear recognition that much more progress is required if Northern Ireland is to match the best performing countries in these important skill areas.

Meanwhile, John Field, emeritus professor of lifelong learning at Stirling University, told the symposium that Scotland lacks the information it needs to boost adults’ skills and job prospects because the country decided not to take part in the PIAAC study.

“Not only do we lack a firm evidence base for evaluating skills distribution and comparing it internationally; we are as a result missing from the international conversation over the lessons from the survey,” he said.

Professor Field suggested it was a difficult time for those interested in improving adult skills in Scotland because the Scottish Government had focused its attention and money on full-time education, particularly higher education. “The two big losers from this focus are adult learners and people who want vocational education. We have seen a significant decline in numbers in both groups.” The number of part-time further education students in Scotland’s colleges fell by almost 200,000 in the five years up to 2012-13.


Editors’ notes

1. The OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) report can be found here.

2. To speak to Professor Green, or for more information please contact Diane Hofkins, / +44 (0) 7976 703455. Professor Field can be reached on +44 (0) 7725 739475

3. The IOE: The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specialises in education and related areas of social science and professional practice.  In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, two-thirds of the Institute’s research activity was judged to be internationally significant and a third judged to be “world leading”.  Its performance places it in the top 10 universities nationally for research.  In 2013, Ofsted judged the IOE’s Initial Teacher Training provision for primary, secondary and further education to be ‘Outstanding’ across the board. In the latest QS world rankings for Education, the Institute is placed 7th; on the indicators of research quality and impact, it is placed 3rd, alongside Harvard and Stanford.  More at

4. Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES): This Economic and Social Research Council-funded research centre investigates the role of lifelong learning in promoting economic competitiveness and social cohesion, and in mediating the interactions between the two. Key areas of research include: i) the social and cultural foundations of learning, knowledge production and transfer, and innovation, within the context of a changing economy, and ii) the effects of knowledge and skill distribution on income equality, social cohesion and competitiveness. It has a programme of multi-disciplinary and mixed method research which addresses these issues at the level of the individual life course, through studies of city-regions and sectors in the UK, and through comparative analysis across OECD countries.

Green, A., Green, F. and Pensiero, N. (2014) Why are Literacy and Numeracy Skills in England so Unequal? Evidence from the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills and other international surveys, published by Llakes, can be found at:

 5. ESRC:The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s total budget for 2013-14 is £212 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. More at

 6. Dubin City University delivers more than 200 programmes to over 12,000 students across its four faculties DCU’s excellence is recognised internationally and it is ranked among the top 50 Universities worldwide (QS ‘Top 50 under 50’ 2013). In the last eight years, DCU has twice been named Sunday Times ‘University of the Year’ in Ireland.

DCU’s Higher Education Research Centre (HERC) is an interdisciplinary research group, led by Professor Maria Slowey, Director of Higher Education Research and Development in the Office of the Deputy President and Registrar. The Centre undertakes and promotes research in the broad field of higher education and lifelong learning in collaboration with colleagues across DCU, linked colleges and partners in other universities in Ireland and internationally. The particular focus is on policy orientated research that brings the research community together with those engaged in policy and practice in higher education from public, private and NGO sectors, as well as representatives of civil society: stimulating debate and facilitating collaboration.

For further information contact: Maria Slowey


Research Seminar and Book Launch, 11 June 2014

May 27th, 2014 | News | 0 Comments

 ‘Youth, Politics and Protest in the European Union: reflections on the European Parliamentary elections’

James Sloam, Royal Holloway University of London

3.00 to 4.30 pm, Wednesday 11 June 2014, Room 731, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAL

Public involvement in traditional political institutions has declined significantly over the past few decades, leading to what some have seen as a crisis in citizenship. This trend is most striking amongst young people, who have become increasingly alienated from mainstream electoral politics in Europe. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming evidence to show that younger citizens are not apathetic about ‘politics’ – they have their own views and engage in democracy in a wide variety of ways that seem relevant to their everyday lives. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, young Europeans have borne the brunt of austerity in public spending: from spiralling youth unemployment, to cuts in youth services, to increased university tuition fees.

In this context, the rise and proliferation of youth protest in Europe is hardly surprising. Indeed, youth activism has become a major feature of the European political landscape: from mass demonstrations of the ‘outraged young’ against political corruption and youth unemployment, to the Occupy movement against the excesses of global capitalism, to the emergence of new political parties. This paper shows how these common trends actually manifest themselves quite differently, from one country to another and amongst different groups of young people (e.g. rich and poor). It also shows how the recent 2014 European Parliament Elections reflect the general frustration with mainstream electoral politics, as young European search for a mouthpiece for their ‘indignation’.

James Sloam is Reader in Politics and co-director of the Centre for European Politics at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is co-convenor of the specialist group and working group on young people’s politics in the UK Political Studies Association and American Political Science Association, respectively. He has published widely in the area of youth politics in journals such as Parliamentary Affairs, West European Politics and Comparative Political Studies. Shorter pieces on youth participation can be found on the Fabian Society and LSE Europe blogs and Political Insight magazine.

The seminar will be followed at 4.30 pm by a book launch, in Room 736, for Education for Citizenship in Europe: European Policies, National Adaptations, and Young People’s Attitudes, written by Avril Keating, and published by Palgrave Macmillan. Refreshments will be served, and discounted copies of the book will be available.

Attendance at these events is free; please book places via