By Alan Lockey

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Viewed from almost any angle, the UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme — to give the furlough policy its official title — is a staggering departure in the state’s relationship with the economy. Not since the foundation of the welfare state in 1948 has a British government intervened so emphatically to ameliorate labour market outcomes. And even then not to subsidise employees’ wages directly, as now.

The policy’s vast scale is a story best told in numbers. According to HMRC data, at least 9.4 million workers have been furloughed; more than a quarter of the UK’s entire labour market. The cost to the exchequer stands at an estimated £14bn a month and, by the time the policy is wound down, this could even top £100bn. With the economy in freefall, there is only one way the government can fund this: borrowing. As such, the UK’s public deficit is expected to exceed 15 percent of GDP, a level not seen before in peacetime. …

Matthew Taylor’s RSA annual lecture, July 2020

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Most of us would like to see important aspects of our societies change: reducing local, national and global inequality; heading off the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change; renewing democracy; and enhancing wellbeing. Opinion pollsters find widespread hope that the Covid-19 crisis will be the midwife to a new and better stage for societies like the UK. But what kind of society should we seek to build? In my 2020 annual lecture as Chief Executive of the RSA, I combine ideas I have shared in previous years and apply them to the current moment. We could be entering a new era of social development. …

by Zayn Meghji, Josie Warden and Riley Thorold

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The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how ill prepared we are for crises, even for those that we know are coming down the line, be that the high probability of a global pandemic, or the impacts of climate change. It’s also highlighted the extent to which the shameful inequalities that already exist are painfully exacerbated without action.

With so much uncertainty, ways of thinking and acting devised in relative stability no longer seem up to the challenge. We need to be able to respond continually, and to adapt and evolve as we meet challenges. Much has been said about a ‘v-shaped recovery’ — bouncing back and continuing as we were — but this assumes nothing has changed, and that nothing needs to change. …

by Richard Brooks

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There were howls of protest in early June when parents in England discovered that zoos and pubs were set to reopen, but not their schools, or at least not for their children. Over the following weeks attention shifted steadily towards the impact of protracted school closures on children’s learning. After three weeks and a U-turn on free school meals, the government announced a £1 billion fund for one-to-one and small group tuition. There is still no clarity over how schools will reopen after the summer holidays.

Covid-19 has revealed deep weaknesses in the structure of the English education system. It has thrown new light on old issues of educational inequality and the impact of the home environment on children’s development. It has also tested to destruction the current model of ‘centralisation plus school autonomy’ and answered the question of whether we need a capable middle tier between the Department for Education and individual schools. …

by Colin Hopkins

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As we approach the end of the academic year, teachers, parents and children will all be thinking back on a unique experience that will have consequences well into the future.

Schools have demonstrated that they are absolutely at the centre of community life. Headteachers have been recognised by the general public as the civic leaders they rightly are. Parents have grown to appreciate the complexity of teaching and have gained an insight into the sophisticated array of skills that teachers apply in the classroom. …

by Bob Garratt

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In 1776 three publications, and one death, helped to shape our current company world. Adam Smith, published The Wealth of Nations, Jean-Jacques Rousseau published the Social Contract and a rebel group of British citizens published the American Declaration of Independence. Today these events remain highly relevant as we grapple with the question of what the post-Covid-19 company and board should be, whether private, public or not-for-profit.

Smith’s work was not a red-in-tooth-and-claw demand for unbridled capitalism. Half the book is concerned with ‘moral sentiment’ in the generation and distribution of wealth. Smith was an economist and the world’s first Professor of Moral Philosophy. He argued for a thoughtful balance between wealth generation and distribution. Rousseau, a Swiss philosopher, developed the concepts of ‘civil society’, the balance of ‘rights and duties’ between the individual and state power and the concept of the social contract. …

by Julian Sheather

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Someone was telling me recently about an old family friend; I will call her Mrs Lockyer. Although independent, and living on her own in Acton, West London, she has a lung condition that leaves her struggling to breathe. Her feet swell and she experiences spells of dizziness. For her, going to the shops is a once-a-week marathon. She has two children; one lives in Exmouth, the other in Holt, Norfolk. Before lockdown she would see them alternately; one month she would go to Holt, the next Exmouth. Her family, including more recently her grandchildren, are part of the fabric of her life. She knows she is at mortal risk should she contract Covid-19, but as neither her children nor grandchildren are vulnerable, left to herself she would visit them. Mrs Lockyer would rather run the risk of catching a virus that would in all likelihood kill her, than spend what may be the last months or years of her life without seeing them. …

While we all celebrate the NHS and bemoan the neglect of social care, we need also to look beyond the surface at the structural reforms that have contributed to an inadequate response.

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by Smriti Singh

by Sharliza Rahman

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Early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, international media lauded Singapore’s approach to containing the virus, calling it a success story even when Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, hesitated to call it so, because the fight was intensifying. Since mid-April, the numbers have increased steeply, and the media are now asking what happened. As a Singaporean currently based in Cambodia, I am following developments from afar. What is really going on behind these numbers?

Overall, the Singapore government took great care to protect its citizens and permanent residents in the initial phase. Singapore acted early in the initial period of January to February to contain this virus, with split team work arrangements implemented, comprehensive cleaning programmes carried out and temperature screening conducted at airports and most workplaces. Meanwhile, overseas Singaporeans were encouraged to return; I received messages from my embassy as well as friends connected to the Singapore Global Network to come back as it was considered safer to be ‘home’. A second wave of cases was brought in by returning Singaporeans and residents, mostly coming in from the UK and US (see Figure 1). …

by Matthew Taylor

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I have been ploughing through articles about leadership in a post-Covid-19 world. A great deal is from management consultants and/or published by Forbes and, while I don’t want to seem overly harsh, two, often related, characteristics stand out:

  • Crisis-enhanced confirmation bias; whereby everything in the crisis and its looming aftermath miraculously confirms all the ideas the consultant had before it started.
  • Motherhood and apple pie syndrome; whereby, thankfully, new circumstances demand the characteristics that all reasonable people would surely want leaders to demonstrate (such as agility, empathy, authenticity and humility).

These tendencies often combine with a third:

  • Conveniently Rememberable Acronym Patterning (CRAP for short) — in which lists of necessary leadership characteristics all fortuitously begin with the same letter, like ‘Adaptive’, ‘Agile’, ‘Authentic’, ‘Aspidistra’, or make up a suitably dynamic word like ‘SHARP’, ‘BEGIN’ ‘LEAD’ or ‘POMEGRANATE’. …

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