Author Archives: Claire Tyers

Pandemic has severely affected pupils in special education

The impact of COVID-19 has left pupils with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) attending special schools and colleges, around four months behind in academic development and five months behind with their wider development. This is according to new findings from ASK Research, supported by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), a report of which Research Partner’s Claire Tyers is a key author.

The policy briefing, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, highlights the results of a survey of 192 headteachers as well as in-depth interviews with 40 specialist headteachers and 40 parents and carers of children and young people who attend specialist settings. The interviews, conducted in April-June 2021, aim to understand the continuing implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on pupils in special schools and colleges in England.

The report makes several key recommendations for government, locally and nationally. An effective recovery for special schools and pupils should:

  • Focus on more than educational attainment.
  • Specifically address emotional wellbeing and mental health – of pupils and staff.
  • Increase health and care input for pupils with EHCPs.
  • Extend support to families – ensuring they also recover and are able to support their children.
  • Be informed by experts – trusting headteachers to decide what their setting needs and how best to allocate funding.
  • Allow sufficient time for real recovery – not just offering a ‘one off’ or short-term solution.
  • Address pre-existing funding shortfalls in SEND, which will have been exacerbated by the changes brought about by the pandemic.

Find out more on Nuffield’s website.

NHS can support economic recovery

Research Partners Director, Claire Tyers, was delighted to work with Learning and Work Institute to produce discussion papers on the role of the NHS in supporting economic recovery. Now available on Learning and Work’s website, these papers describe the economic impact of COVID-19 and discuss what role the NHS could play as an employer and commissioner to help economic recovery. The current economic crisis stems from a global health pandemic, and inclusive and sustainable economic recovery is necessary to ensure continued investment in good health and good work across the UK.

As Learning and Work describe: “The NHS already supports employment priorities such as providing ‘good work’, employee health and wellbeing, population health related employment programmes, and employment support or health and work interventions. However, as the largest employer in England and as a major purchaser of goods and services, the NHS could play an even greater role in helping tackle the employment impacts of COVID-19 and supporting economic recovery.

NHS England and NHS Improvement commissioned Learning and Work Institute to identify opportunities the NHS could rapidly develop to address the employment impacts of COVID-19 and support social mobility. This work involved a rapid review of evidence and a roundtable discussion focused on how the NHS can strategically use its economic status and assets to stimulate recovery at a local, system, regional and national level. In October 2020, over 40 participants from across health and social care, government departments, universities, colleges, local authorities, and the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector came together to discuss how the NHS should move forward.”

NHS and Colleges need to work together

In its joint publication, the NHS Confederation and the Independent Commission on the College of the Future call on the Government to:

  • Invest £5m over two years to pilot employer hubs in each of the seven NHS regions in England to help NHS and care organisations’ recruitment and training,
  • Support the creation of a Health and Care College Council in England, with £2m funding over three years to create a national council to promote, develop and embed the essential contribution of colleges in education and training pipelines in England, and,
  • Embed the role of colleges in the local delivery of the national NHS People Plan, which was published in July.

The NHS could take a more active role in shaping the skills agenda, working with providers to ensure that locally relevant and accessible solutions are found to the twin problems of rising unemployment and high vacancy levels within health and social care.

Fostering lifelong learning at life transitions

Research Partner’s Claire Tyers is proud to have helped Learning and Work with their recent report ‘Learning at Life Transitions’, published by the Further Education Trust for Leadership. The report highlights why it is important for women returners and those approaching retirement to engage in lifelong learning along with some of their views about, and experiences of learning. The report has a range of conclusions for policy and practice.

A mid-life review could be the key to encouraging more participation and providers could offer more attractive, flexible and tailored courses to attract older learners. Critical, however, is that policy makers need to support lifelong learning with clearer strategies and with better funding. The benefits for individuals, the economy and society of doing so would be wide ranging and significant. With what funding is available for adult learning focused almost entirely on under 19 year olds, it has never been more important to fight for the rights of older learners. This reports provides a useful starting point for moving the debate forward.

New briefing on Strengths Based Social Care for children, young people and their families

A new briefing by the Social Care Institute for Excellence describes how Strengths Based Approaches (SBAs) work and assesses their effectiveness. The values and principles that inform this approach are not new, but they have attracted a rapidly growing interest over the last five years.

A strengths-based approach (SBA) to social care focuses on identifying the strengths, or assets, as well as the needs and difficulties of children, young people and families. These approaches are also about co-production – people providing care working in equal partnership with those who need it to design and deliver services.

A strengths-based approach to care, support and inclusion says let’s look first at what people can do with their skills and their resources and what can the people around them do in their relationships and their communities. People need to be seen as more than just their care needs – they need to be experts and in charge of their own lives. Alex Fox, OBE, Chief Executive, Shared Lives Plus

Find out more at SCIE briefing.

Mind finds employees are staying silent on poor mental health

74 organisations that took part in Mind’s latest Workplace Wellbeing Index, a benchmark of best policy and practice which celebrates the work employers are doing to promote and support positive mental health.

Findings show that:

  • More than eight in ten people (84 per cent) would continue to go to work when experiencing poor mental health while only just over half (58 per cent) would go to work when experiencing poor physical health
  • Only two fifths (42 per cent) of all employees surveyed felt their manager would be able to spot the signs they were struggling with poor mental health
  • A fifth (21 per cent) of all respondents feel that their current workload is unmanageable

Employers taking part in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index are aiming to create a culture where staff feel able to talk openly about their mental health. Encouragingly this year two thirds (61 per cent) of employers taking part in the Index intend to increase spend on workplace wellbeing activities to create a more positive and open culture.

You can find out more at Mind’s website.

Establishing the ‘real’ causes of long-term sickness absence

Exclusive joint research from The At Work Partnership and the Work Foundation provides concrete evidence that the reason someone takes long-term sickness absence and remains off sick, isn’t just down to the diagnosis given on the fit note or sick certificate.

This biopsychosocial survey of long-term sickness absence demonstrates that while the initial diagnosis is relevant in triggering the initial absence other factors are often involved.  Importantly, ‘psychosocial’ factors – such as the employee believing their ill health is caused or made worse by work, poor support from the manager and disciplinary issues – are also important in triggering and prolonging the absence.

Stress and mental health were the most common reasons for long-term sickness absence referrals to occupational health, followed by combined musculoskeletal and stress/mental health conditions. Musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain were the third most common reason for long-term sickness absence referrals to OH.


Report co-author Dr John Ballard said: ‘The findings reported in our exclusive survey confirm that the causes of long-term sickness absence can be complex and that multiple medical and psychosocial issues need to be considered in its management.’

Further details about this research can be found on The At Work Partnership’s website.

CIPD launches first comprehensive measure of job quality in the UK

Over-worked managers and under-supported staff cast a shadow over workforce happiness according to new research by the CIPD.

The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, has today launched the UK Working Lives survey, which seeks to establish how good job quality is in the UK.  This new and comprehensive annual survey looks at seven dimensions of job quality gathered from widespread research and measures how important each one is to people in work.

The analysis of the seven dimensions that affect job quality also shows that improving the elements of work that most impact workers well-being has a greater effect on job quality than any of the other factors. The CIPD believes that organisations who are looking for the first step in improving job quality in their own workplaces would be wise to look at well-being as a starting point.

Jonny Gifford, senior adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD, said:

“In terms of overall solutions, the message is clear: healthy workers are happy and productive workers. If there’s one ultimate aim in job quality it should be to improve the well-being of our workers.”

Further details on the research can be found at:


Strengths based conversations get A* in improving performance

CIPD have recently completed an organisational field trial showing what difference strengths-based performance conversations can make in the UK public sector. Working with three UK government employers, they conducted a group randomised trial of an intervention to embed a strengths-based approach to performance management.

This research shows that interventions promoting strengths-based performance conversations can have a measurable impact on what conversations take place between managers and their staff, and on the usefulness of one-to-one meetings for employees’ learning and development and performance. Specifically, a one-off half-day training workshop for line managers had an impact on employee performance; and an impact on employee learning and development seems to require a more extensive, holistic intervention that includes further training, communication and practical guidance and a change in policy on performance management.

This report also provides an example of how robust, contextualised and useful research can be conducted into people management practices. HR and people development needs more research of this nature if it is to become a truly evidence based profession.

Research Partners were proud to work with the CIPD on this project.

Improving people’s experience in adult social care services: NICE guidlines

NICE have produce guidelines that cover the care and support of adults receiving social care in their own homes, residential care and community settings. It aims to help people understand what care they can expect and to improve their experience by supporting them to make decisions about their care.

The guidance is aimed at: practitioners working in adult social care services in all settings; service managers and providers of adult social care services; commissioners of adult social care services, and; people using services (including those who fund their own care) and their families, carers and advocates.

Full details can be found here.