48 percent

Well the result is in.

As someone who voted Remain, the result is devastating.

I was in Stockholm during referendum week taking part in an EU Erasmus Plus funded project working with organisations from Sweden and Germany; a cross-country/cross-project initiative looking into peer to peer learning.  (If you are interested please visit the website www.sharetoknow.net).  Knowing the cultural and organisational benefits that have accrued from this project already, I am horrified that the vote will take us out of a structure that has made this possible.   During the trip we were all talking about how we might develop the work we have been doing, submit a further bid for funding and broaden our collaboration.  I cannot see how the door is not now closed on this for the London based team.

I started the referendum campaign listening to coverage and shouting ‘liar, liar pants on fire’  (amongst other things!) at most of what was coming out of the Leave campaign.  Towards the end I simply could not listen to it any more, and it was at that point I reached the conclusion that the Leave campaign would win.  Even believing that this would happen, did not make the actual news any easier to handle.  I feel I am in mourning.

A few ‘Leavers’ have spoken to me and they say things like “well we will see what happens”.  Well quite a lot seems to have happened so far:  £200bn wiped off stock value; the pound falling to an all time low;  Scotland looking to revisiting the independence issue; the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jr – son of the most staunch Unionist that ever walk this earth – advocating getting an Irish passport.  And that was all in the first day post the vote.

And we also have the spectacle of  Nigel Farage confirming what many of us already knew, that the £350m per week we send to the EU is not really £350m because of the money we get back,  and the campaign strapline that it could be used for the NHS was a ‘mistake’.   Click here to see the interview.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has resigned leaving the Conservatives to look for a new leader who will then become Prime Minister supposedly to steer us through the Brexit arrangements.  But given that this person, whoever they will be, will have no legitimate mandate, how credible their leadership can be is open to question.  But then holding a general election to confirm their manifesto is yet another de-stabalising factor, as if we have not got enough going on.  To plunge the country into a general election would hardly help the situation in my view.

There are people reporting that they voted Leave but now they know the result want to vote Remain.  How they can not have understood the nature of the Referendum beggars belief, but they somehow failed to understand the enormity of the question they were posed and the consequences whichever way they chose to vote.  It was not some sort of  mid-term by-election that you can use to deploy a protest vote.

What this referendum has done not just through the xenophobic rhetoric that was used by many during the campaign, but through the result itself, is divide the nation.

I have heard so many people talking about getting our country back; there was an 80 odd year old man on the TV crying and saying how glad he is “to get my country back”.  But what sort of country has he got back.  The referendum has put the divisions into sharp focus, indeed much of the campaigning was predicated on creating division between people and institutions.  The regional differences, the age of those supporting Leave and Remain and far from the vote being decisive it was in fact very close.  And as I write this over 1.7m people have signed a petition calling for a second referendum.

May we live in interesting times.

Top ten things to know about the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme

Tax-Free Childcare will be available to around 2 million households to help with the cost of childcare, enabling more parents to go out to work, if they want to, to provide greater security for their families. Here’s the top ten things to know about the scheme…

You’ll be able to open an online account 

You’ll be able to open an online account, which you can pay into to cover the cost of childcare with a registered provider. This will be done through the government website, GOV.UK.

Tax-Free Childcare will be launched from early 2017. The scheme will be rolled out gradually to families, with parents of the youngest children able to apply first.

You’ll be able to apply for all your children at the same time, when your youngest child becomes eligible. All eligible parents will be able to join the scheme by the end of 2017.

All eligible parents will be able to join the scheme by the end of 2017.

For every 80p you or someone else pays in, the government will top up an extra 20p 

This is equivalent of the tax most people pay – 20% – which gives the scheme its name, ‘tax-free’. The government will top up the account with 20% of childcare costs up to a total of £10,000 – the equivalent of up to £2,000 support per child per year (or £4,000 for disabled children).

The scheme will be available for children up to the age of 12 

It will also be available for children with disabilities up to the age of 17, as their childcare costs can stay high throughout their teenage years.

To qualify, parents will have to be in work, and each earning around £115 a week and not more than £100,000 each per year

The scheme is designed to be flexible for parents if, for example, they want to get back to work after the birth of a child or work part-time.

Any eligible working family can use the tax-free childcare scheme – it doesn’t rely on employers offering it 

Tax-Free Childcare doesn’t rely on employers offering the scheme, unlike the current scheme Employer-Supported Childcare. Any working family can use Tax-Free Childcare, provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

The scheme will also be available for parents who are self-employed

Self-employed parents will be able to get support with childcare costs in Tax-Free Childcare, unlike the current scheme (Employer-Supported Childcare) which is not available to self-employed parents. To support newly self-employed parents, the government is introducing a ‘start-up’ period. During this, self-employed parents won’t have to earn the minimum income level.

The scheme will also be available to parents on paid sick leave and paid and unpaid statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave.

If you currently receive Employer-Supported Childcare then you can continue to do so

You do not have to switch to Tax-Free Childcare if you do not wish to. Employer-Supported Childcare will continue to run. The current scheme will remain open to new entrants until April 2018, and parents already registered by this date will be able to continue using it for as long as their employer offers it.

However, Tax-Free Childcare will be open to more than twice as many parents as Employer-Supported Childcare.

Employers’ workplace nurseries won’t be affected by the introduction of Tax-Free Childcare.

Parents and others can pay money into their childcare account as and when they like

This gives you the flexibility to pay in more in some months, and less at other times. This means you can build up a balance in your account to use at times when you need more childcare than usual, for example, over the summer holidays.

It’s also not just the parents who can pay into the account – if grandparents, other family members or employers want to pay in, then they can.

The process will be as simple as possible for parents

The process will be light-touch and as easy as possible for you. For example, you’ll re-confirm your circumstances every three months via a simple online process; and there will be a simple log-in service where parents can view accounts for all of their children at once.

You’ll be able to withdraw money from the account if you want to

If your circumstances change or you no longer want to pay into the account, then you’ll be able to withdraw the money you have built up. If you do, the government will withdraw its corresponding contribution.

More information will become available ahead of the scheme being introduced so parents making childcare decisions are able to consider all their options.

EU research funding

I picked up this article on the government website – the reference to EU funding of research caught my eye.

The UK received €7 billion under the last Framework Programme (2007 to 2013). That made the UK one of the largest beneficiaries of EU research funding. In the current funding round, Horizon 2020, the UK has secured 15.4% of funds, behind only Germany on 16.5%, and with the second largest number of participating organisations.


The full speech is below:

Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, sets out his vision to ensure the UK remains a global leader in science and engineering.

Delivering the annual Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) lecture, he highlighted the importance of the UK’s international research partnerships and the strength of ties with European research partners.

In the speech, he announced new funding to put the UK at the forefront of international research and inspire the next generation of world-class scientists. These include:

  • doubling the Newton Fund for international research from its current £75 million per year to £150 million per year by 2021, meaning a total investment of £735 million from 2014 to 2021. The fund will enable UK scientists to partner with academics and researchers in developing countries and emerging markets to support their economic development and the UK’s research base.
  • a new government partnership with the Wellcome Trust to deliver the £30 million Inspiring Science Capital Fund (with £20 million from government and £10 million from the Wellcome Trust). Science centres and attractions across the UK will be able to bid into the fund to refresh and refurbish exhibitions and infrastructure to inspire young people from all backgrounds to engage with science and consider a STEM career.​

Addressing an audience of 400 scientists and engineers at the prestigious event at the Royal Institution, Jo Johnson said:

”Our global scientific impact far exceeds our size as a nation, and our scientists and engineers stand tall on the world’s stage.

We want Britain to be the best place in Europe to innovate, and by protecting the science budget we’re giving the clearest signal that science and innovation sit at the very heart of this government’s economic plan.

Extending the Newton Fund provides a unique opportunity for UK academics to work with partners around the world to address some of the biggest challenges of our time.”

Best in Europe, Best in the World

In his speech, Jo Johnson highlighted the strength of the UK’s research partnerships with Europe and the rest of the world. He said that around half of all UK research publications now involve international collaborations, and European countries provide some of the UK’s closest research ties.

Mr Johnson said:

”Because of the excellence of our research base, it is no surprise that the UK is one of the most successful players in EU research programmes.”

The UK received €7 billion under the last Framework Programme (2007 to 2013). That made the UK one of the largest beneficiaries of EU research funding. In the current funding round, Horizon 2020, the UK has secured 15.4% of funds, behind only Germany on 16.5%, and with the second largest number of participating organisations.

Global challenges

The Newton Fund supports British academic collaboration with international partners aimed at extending the reach of the UK’s research base and forging links with developing countries that have strong scientific ambitions. Established in 2014, 181 programmes have already been supported through the Newton Fund, from tackling the impact of climate change on rice production in Vietnam to reducing Malaria cases in Colombia. Projects are co-funded by the partner country, helping to unlock further investment.

The Newton Fund complements the £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund, announced at the Spending Review, which presents an opportunity to deploy the UK’s world-class research capability to address the challenges facing the developing world.

Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers

In his speech, the minister set out the importance of inspiring the next generation of scientists. He announced a new £30 million Inspiring Science Capital Fund – £20 million from government and £10 million from the Wellcome Trust – which will support the UK’s science centres and attractions, offering schools and families hands-on experiences of science and engineering by bringing ideas, research and inventions to life.

The Inspiring Science Capital Fund will enable Science Centres and other attractions to grow their STEM outreach activities through the creation of new exhibitions, as well as science laboratory and education spaces to better accommodate schools and visiting groups. Applicants will need to demonstrate how the funding would help them to engage underserved and underrepresented audiences.

The government has already established several STEM initiatives to encourage more young people into relevant careers, including 31,000STEM Ambassadors from science and academia across the UK (including Britain’s first astronaut Tim Peake), and the National Science and Engineering competition.

Science budget allocations

In the recent Spending Review the government committed to protecting science resource funding in real terms from its current level of £4.7 billion a year for the rest of the parliament. It also committed to invest in new scientific infrastructure on a record scale – delivering £6.9 billion, meaning a total investment of £30.4 billion in science to 2019 to 2020.

Jo Johnson indicated in his speech that allocations for the Research Councils will be made next month and invited the whole research community to engage with Research Council and Innovate UK as they develop their delivery plans.

Notes to editors:

Jo Johnson delivered the CaSE annual lecture, “Making Britain the best place in the world for science” on Wednesday 27 January 2016. The speech will be available on Thursday 28 January 2016.

Reducing paper storage

I have been doing a bit of spring cleaning lately – trying to reduce the amount of paper that I keep.  I’m pretty good at using electronic versions of documents, but it is amazing just how much stuff you end up with.  As I’ve been electronically filing things, I’ve  come across some articles I have written that I would like to add to this website.  So if you are following the site and pick up some posts which appear to be ‘old news’, please bear with me.  It won’t take too long to do and as  things come up, I hope you might find them of some interest.