On 25th June the Daily Express reported, with predictable vitriol, on the decision by Greater Manchester Police to end Friday night police foot patrols in Bolton. The Express launched a telephone poll asking “Should there be more bobbies on the beat?” and their editorial claimed that the presence of police increased the chance of criminals being caught and worked as a strong deterrent. As we found when writing Making Sense of Crime, we know that just putting more ‘bobbies on the beat’ is unlikely to have a real impact on crime rates. However, a decision such as this should still [...]
Speaking of trials and pilots in education, it’s great to see the announcement of a new trial looking into the teaching of mindfulness. We’re excited to see the results of this collaboration between the University of Oxford, UCL, the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Exeter, funded by the Wellcome Trust.
Original post 13/7/15
Often an idea that works in theory doesn’t work out in practice, or a policy that works well in one part of the country completely fails in another. For this reason it’s crucial to rigorously test an idea before rolling it out. This is exactly [...]
Students from the Far East seem to consistently outperform British pupils in maths. Although international comparisons are not perfect, the difference is clear, and students from Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea consistently rank much higher in the OECDs Pisa international rankings than their British counterparts.
Policy makers and commentators often suggest that “if we copy them, then our kids will get better.” British government officials have even visited China in a bid to raising maths standards in the UK. But is it too simplistic to suggest that copying East Asian teaching methods will improve how British school children understand calculus [...]
Today, 5th August 2015, George Osborne is expected to announce proposals to changes the Sunday trading restrictions. The Chancellor’s plans are to devolve the power to vary trading restrictions to local authorities, allowing them to create zones with different opening hours.
Since we first wrote about this we have still not received a response from the Treasury to our Ask For Evidence but a consultation on devolving Sunday trading rules was launched on 5th August. How does the evidence in the document supporting this consultation stack up?
The report claims that changes would result in a £1.4 billion a year economic [...]
How does spending on roads, rail and cycling impact the economy? What does the evidence say? In almost all cases, we just don’t know – that’s what a new systematic review published by the What Works Centre for local economic growth concludes. They looked at 2,300 impact evaluations of transport schemes across the developed world, and found only 29 that met the Centre’s minimum standard for reliable evidence. That’s just over 1%.
The Centre’s review panel were able to make some conclusions based on the small number of studies that were reliable enough to review, and these make sobering reading for [...]
When government proposes a new law, it’s useful to ask a few basic questions to probe the evidence behind it, such as: how significant is the problem being tackled? How effective are the measures likely to be? And how will their impact be evaluated? It was great to see members of the House of Lords ask exactly these sorts of question at the Second Reading of the government’s Psychoactive Substance Bill, which attempts to “protect hard-working citizens from the risks posted by untested, unknown and potential harmful drugs.” But many of their questions, which reflect concerns we've raised, remain unanswered.
What initially seemed like an act of vandalism in a west Welsh town may have turned into a rallying cry for policy change. But what if anything can we learn from a natural experiment?
The two parking meters in the main car park in Cardigan were broken into and the council were unable to pay to repair them. The silver lining of this story, according to the Daily Mail, was an economic boom in the town centre. With anecdotal reports suggesting that shoppers are spending longer in town because they don’t have to pay for parking, shop owners had reported an [...]
A new study by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) was reported as a green light for local authorities to switch off or dim street lights – as it showed no overall correlation between changes to street lighting and either road accidents or crime. But does this study really mean that councils shouldn’t worry about crashes or crime when reducing street lighting?
Firstly, it’s good to see the authors acknowledging the study’s limitations. The researchers (analysing data from a project called the Local Authority collaborators’ National Evaluation of Reduced Night-time Streetlight, or LANTERNS) relied on police-recorded [...]
I read in The Times (£, July 28th) and Evening Standard (July 27th) about a pilot scheme in four London boroughs testing a device called a 'sobriety tag'. These ankle bracelets monitor the alcohol intake of drinkers convicted of crimes as a way of preventing reoffending.
The scheme is being rolled out across London, and looks likely to be taken up elsewhere in the country, but does the evidence so far suggest the scheme actually works? I had a few questions from the pilot scheme that I put to the London Mayor’s Office for Crime and Policing:
How sensitive are the tags to the level [...]
Following the Queen's speech, the Government published the Psychoactive Substances Bill which proposes to ban all substances that can affect the brain, aside from those specifically exempted such as alcohol and caffeine.
The Bill raised three main areas of concern for me:
How significant is the problem that this law seeks to address?
What is the evidence that a blanket ban will work to achieve the stated aim of the Bill: "protect hard-working citizens from the risks posed by untested, unknown and potentially harmful drugs"?
What might the unintended effects of the ban be?
To find out if there’s evidence for the problem the Bill seeks to address, I asked the Home Office how reliable the official [...]
After the Queen set out the government’s programme for the new session of Parliament, we had some questions about proposals to prevent illegal immigrants from working, ban legal highs, and get unemployed young people into work – so we decided to ask for evidence.
Chelsea, a member of the VoYS network, asked the Home Office for evidence that measures in the immigration bill would reduce net migration to below 100,000 per year, and whether introducing a new criminal offence of ‘illegal working’ and seizing workers’ wages will act as a deterrent to people working illegally.
It looks like the Home Office will [...]
Last week my attention was drawn to an article on the Wales Online news website that reports on a letter written to a local newspaper by Toby Belfield, headteacher of Ruthin School in Denbighshire, North Wales. In the letter he responds to a parent’s suggestion that the language of instruction in schools in Wales should be Welsh by suggesting that by “forcing young people to learn both English and Welsh (arguably, both to a substandard level) is that young people in Wales will continue to be educationally weaker than their peers in England and abroad.”
This is an interesting claim and one which could be [...]