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General election reaction from Browne Jacobson’s education team

05 July 2024

Browne Jacobson’s education team has reacted to confirmation that Labour has won the General Election.

Lawyers have put forward their views on what they would like to see from the new Government in supporting schools and academies, as well as the higher education sector, over the next five years and beyond.

The impact on schools and academy trusts

Nick MacKenzie, Head of Education at UK and Ireland law firm Browne Jacobson, said: “Schools and academy trust leaders and governors will hope the new Government listens carefully to and acts on the sector’s priorities.

“Our latest School Leaders Survey in the spring showed 62% of leaders were dissatisfied with national education policy. The main issues they cited included special educational and disability needs (SEND) policy and funding, school funding, parental complaints, vocational education assessment and Ofsted.

“While we can expect teacher recruitment to be high on the political agenda, as per Labour's manifesto, it's crucial that retention is also prioritised, with fewer than six in 10 teachers remaining in the profession a decade after qualifying.

“With future demographic trends leading to a fall in pupil numbers over the next decade and changes to where people live and work, as well as the rising influence of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence in the classroom, the new Secretary of State for Education must work closely with the sector to ensure schools are prepared for further challenges coming over the horizon.”

The impact on universities and higher education

Bettina Rigg, Head of Higher Education, and Nick Smee, Partner specialising in intellectual property law at UK and Ireland law firm Browne Jacobson, said: “Despite the valuable role that universities can play in the UK’s industrial strategy, future skills needs and place-shaping within communities, higher education has not commanded much focus from the Labour manifesto.

“But if Britain is to realise its ambitions of becoming a global science and technology superpower, it must harness the knowledge capital that exists in its universities.

“This means we ensure those institutions are equipped with the right tools to turn their world-class research into innovative products and services that can power growth in the UK and be exported overseas.

“A solid starting point would be to implement some of the key recommendations in last November’s independent review of university spin-out companies. These included changes to the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) to assist technology transfer offices in supporting spin-outs, increasing proof-of-concept funding to ready the market for new concepts, and pension regulation reforms to ensure UK capital markets can accelerate these efforts.

“Making these changes can help universities to become more effective at commercialising their wide breadth of expertise and knowledge, and play a central role in developing a Silicon Valley-style ecosystem in which innovative ideas can thrive on a global scale.

“At the same time, adopting a more strategic and bolder approach to commercialisation of research – which can also include direct IP licensing, consultancy and royalty-generating collaboration with businesses – will help the higher education sector bolster revenues to remain financially self-sufficient amid wider economic and societal challenges, such as the decline in international students.

“It’s therefore crucial that as the new Labour Government prepares to take office, it is ready to outline its plans for the role it sees for universities and follows this with meaningful support to fire up a new start-up boom in priority sectors.”

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