Select Committee on Environmental Audit Third Report



APPENDIX 3

Memorandum from Department for Education and Employment

INTRODUCTION

  The DETR document "Opportunities for change" defines sustainable development in the following way:

    "Sustainable development is a very simply idea. It is about ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come.

    To achieve this, sustainable development is concerned with achieving economic growth, in the form of higher living standards, while protecting and where possible enhancing the environment—not just for its own sake but because a damaged environment will sooner or later hold back economic growth and lower the quality of life—and making sure that these economic and environmental benefits are available to everyone, not just to a privileged few."

  The Department has a key role in delivering the social and economic part of the Government's policies which support the sustainable development agenda. The aim of the Department is to give everyone the chance, through education, training and work, to realise their full potential and therefore build an inclusive and fair society and a competitive economy. Raising educational standards is the Government's number one priority with the vision of enhancing quality of life, now and for the future.

  The Government wishes all children to leave school with the knowledge and skills to succeed in the world and with a passion for self-development that sustains them through life. It wants to widen participation in learning so that people have access to the skills that will keep them employable. And it wants to help people, particularly those at a disadvantage in the labour market, to find and retain work so that they can lead satisfying lives and play a full part in society. The New Deals for the young and the long-term unemployed are a radical programme which will make an invaluable contribution to the lives of individuals, to the effectiveness of the economy, and to greater social justice and cohesion.

  The Department also takes seriously its responsibilities on environmental matters. The majority of expenditure within DfEE responsibility is undertaken by others, in particular local authorities and institutions of further and higher education. The Department exercises influence over those bodies through a variety of means and where possible it is taking action to ensure that its policies and programmes enhance the environment. Particular examples of these include environmental considerations in work on school buildings and school energy use, work on education for sustainable development and environmental considerations in the school curriculum and through the New Deal Environmental Task Force.

MAIN STAGES OUTPUTS AND DECISION PROCESSES OF THE CSR

  The main stages, outputs and decision processes of the DfEE CSR were as follows:

    —  A new aim and objectives for the DfEE were agreed by Ministers in the summer of 1997 to reflect the direction set by the Manifesto, and a consultation exercise launched in September 1997. As indicated above, the new aim and objectives play a central role in the Government's delivery of sustainable development, through enhancing the quality of life both now and for the future through better education and training and reducing social exclusion. The aim and objectives are set out in appendix 1;

    —  The review process examined each of the three policy areas covered by the objectives: schools; lifelong learning, further and higher education; and employment. The process was focused on reviewing policy and delivery to ensure that spending programmes supported the new aim and objectives. Treasury, DETR, DSS and the Efficiency Unit were represented on the review as were some external representatives from industry and local government.

    —  Interim findings in September 1997 led to Ministerial decisions on reallocation of resources for 1998-99 and informed overarching interim reports to PX committee in October and November 1997.

    —  Final conclusions from the review lead to Ministerial decisions on the policy proposals to put to PX committee in a report, submitted in March.

    —  Following discussions within Government, the CSR White Paper was published in July 1998.

INDIVIDUAL QUESTIONS

1. Were the sustainable development implications (positive and negative) from DfEE policy identified?

    —  at what stage of the process?

    —  in what detail?

    —  was the comprehensiveness of this work confirmed by reference to any outside source?

  As indicated above, the role of the CSR was to ensure that DfEE programmes and policies supported the Department's new aim and objectives. Throughout, this meant that policies were designed to support the economic and social side of the Government's sustainable development agenda. The CSR settlement provides the funds for a wide-ranging programme of reforms, in particular: to boost standards of literacy and numeracy by age 11; to cut truancy and exclusion by one third; to increase participation in nursery education; to reduce class sizes for infants; to raise levels of attainment at all levels post 16; to increase access to further and higher education for more than 500,000 additional students; and to increase the proportion of those from lower income groups staying on in education. The Government believes that these reforms will transform standards in the education service and give everyone in society the opportunity to realise their full potential.

2. Within the CSR process did you explore with DETR, and in particular the Sustainable Development Unit, how your department could contribute to more sustainable development in accordance with the Government's policy? If so, what was the outcome?

  As explained above, the sustainable development objective of improving the quality of life both now and for the future was central to the Department's CSR. DETR was closely involved in the development of schools policy proposals in the CSR through their involvement in the review process, and has been involved in drafting the guidance for local authorities on the use of the New Deal for Schools funds.

3. The Chancellor said that "before allocations are made from the CSR, departments will have to demonstrate how they propose to root out unjustified subsidies". Did the review identify policies and/or subsidies which have

    (a)  an adverse environmental impact;

    (b)  run contrary to sustainable development objectives;

    (c)  could be considered to be unjustified in the Chancellor's terms?

  If so, please briefly describe each one and your plans for addressing the matter.

  The Government had already identified in its election manifesto the need to abolish the Assisted Places Scheme and ensure that there were no unfair funding privileges for any particular categories of school. This Bill to abolish the APS was the Government's first piece of legislation and the new Fair Funding arrangements will provide for all categories of schools to be treated fairly. The Government also identified in its response to the Dearing Inquiry that maintenance grants to students in higher education should be replaced by loans in order to modernise the present student support arrangements and make them fairer.

  New primary legislation enables the Government to fulfil the Manifesto commitment to protect local authority school playing fields from indiscriminate disposal or change of use. Since 1 October 1998, local authorities have required the prior consent of the Secretary of State before they may dispose of school playing fields or change their use to a purpose other than for a maintained school or for recreation. This now provides a check against such land being sold off for development.

  The public sector subsidises home to school transport to assist pupils to attend school and DfEE consequently has a duty to consider its environmental impact and promote affordable, healthy, safe and environmentally friendly routes to school. DfEE is working closely with DETR and the Department of Health in support of the newly launched School Travel Advisory Group's objectives and on the Safer Routes to School (SRS) Initiative. Both initiatives support the objective in the integrated Transport White Paper of advising schools, local authorities and transport planners on how they can work together to improve the local transport environment for school children and encourage parents and children to use alternative modes such as walking, cycling and public transport wherever possible. The Department is also represented on DETR's National Walking Strategy Group, which is due to publish a report later in the year which will give advice on SRS.

  The Department is also taking initiatives which will reduce travel costs in lifelong learning. Part of the planned expansion in student numbers will take place in local FE colleges and there will be an increase in distance learning programmes. Increased reliance on IT will reduce waste by making education and training materials available electronically—in particular through the University for Industry and the National Grid for Learning, but also in individual projects, for example a proposed project at Imperial College to provide an audio-visual link-up which reduces the need for travel between teaching sites. The National Grid will have a wide impact on schools, ensuring that all schools are connected to the Internet and effectively allowing all schoolchildren access to the world's leading museums and libraries and ensuring that pupils leave school fully computer literate and able to take their part in the information age.

4. Did the Department undertake environmental appraisals of the new spending proposals in the CSR, in particular the proposals for increased capital spending on school buildings; and for extra resources for further and higher education infrastructure and expansion in the number of places? If environmental appraisals were carried out, were they submitted to the Treasury? Please list the new policies which were subject to environmental appraisal and provide the Committee with a copy of the report of the results of the environmental appraisals. If environmental appraisals were not carried out, please provide the reasons for this. And, please confirm whether the Department carried out initial screening exercises to determine whether environmental appraisal would be required. What were the conclusions?

  Delivery of the spending programmes within DfEE responsibility is principally undertaken by others, in particular local authorities and institutions of further and higher education. In many instances, the operational impact may need to be assessed by the service deliverer and DfEE's role is to issue guidance. However, where new policies are being considered, DfEE standing instructions require that there is an initial screening for environmental impact to assess whether a full environmental appraisal is required. So far during the CSR, none of the initial screenings have lead to a full environmental appraisal because no initial screening indicated a significant environmental impact.

  School building work is dealt with in detail in the answer to the following question.

  Further and higher education institutions are autonomous bodies, and as such Ministers cannot instruct them on what subjects to include within their curricula or how to manage their estates; although Ministers can, to some extent, seek to influence via the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The Department does also have strong links with the Association of Colleges (AoC), which represents the heads of FE colleges, and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP) and the Standing Committee of Principals (SCOP) which represent the heads of universities and colleges of higher education. The Department does not issue specific guidance on how institutions design and manage their building projects as a matter of course. But as with all other buildings work, institutions must adhere to the relevant planning and environmental health legislation.

  The FEFC has included improved energy efficiency and improved space utilisation in the criteria against which it assesses capital projects by colleges. Whilst these were cost-efficiency measures, rather than explicit responses to environmental issues, the FEFC estimated that, in the period 1993-94 to 1996-97, the total floor area of colleges in the sector fell by 4 per cent, whilst student numbers increased by 19 per cent. The FEFC has not included reference to environmental issues in its publications on estate management. However, the FEFC intends in 1999 to update its guidance to colleges on estate management, and may include reference to the need to consider environmental issues in the choice of building materials and energy sources.

  Moves towards rationalisation of college accommodation can free up brown field sites for development, and a range of partnerships are under development designed to tap the development potential of inner-city FE sites. College building plans are subject to planning permission through the normal planning application processes. Those processes will often require proper consideration of environmental implications of proposals; for example, West Herts College has recently, in support of a planning application, produced a "Green Commuter Policy".

  Last year, the Department wrote to HEFCE, CVCP and SCOP saying that it wished to encourage greater awareness of environmental matters and further dissemination of good practice in the sector. The HEFCE replied with details of the environmental audits it had carried out in conjunction with CVCP and SCOP and of its work with the Forum for the Future (a body driving forward an initiative called "Sustainability Challenge—Environmental Excellence in Higher Education"). Many institutions exhibit good practice—for example the University of East London is presently building its new "Docklands" campus on a brown field site. Another example is an innovative partnership between Falmouth College of Arts and a housing association to build student accommodation on a disused quarry site.

  The Department has not included guidance on environmental issues in previous guidance to either FEFC or HEFCE. It is intended that such a reference should be made in the forthcoming grant letters to both Councils.

  The Department's New Deal for young unemployed people includes as an option to work on the Environmental Task Force. This provides young workers for environmental projects and at the same time improves the young people's prospects of finding paid work. From the start of the New Deal to the end of September, 2,820 young people have worked on the Environmental Task Force. The net benefit to the environment was a consideration behind the development of this training option.

5. Will the new policies in the DfEE CSR now be subject to further environmental appraisal? If so, please explain what the requirements are for this appraisal and any related approval processes, including the timing of the various stages and documents

  The new policies in the DfEE CSR will be subject to environmental appraisal, as are all DfEE policies. There is a standing arrangement whereby any submission from officials to Ministers in relation to a proposed consultation paper, a major announcement or a new legislative proposal is required to include either an environmental appraisal or confirmation that an initial screening has shown such an appraisal to be unnecessary. All DfEE Divisional Managers, and the Chief Executive of the Employment Service, are aware of this requirement and have been provided with copies of the DETR leaflet "Policy Appraisal and the Environment" (published April 1998) to help them fulfil it.

6. What arrangements has the Department made to consider the sustainable development implications of schools' investment projects before allocating funding? Please describe the way bids for funding will be sought and funds allocated and how sustainable development considerations will be addressed within these arrangements (NB sustainable development implications may include building design impacts on water and energy use; impacts on transport patterns; and on social equity)

  The Department takes initiative on a number of fronts to ensure that environmental considerations are properly taken into account in schools building work. These are set out in detail in the attached Annex 2.

7. Has the Department set any prerequisites regarding sustainable development implications of new investments or targets, for example for reduced energy use in modernised facilities compared with facilities replaced?

  The current annual schools' energy bill is around £240 million, which represents a reduction of around 11 per cent. since 1989-90, using current prices. With regard to greenhouse gases, the rate of reduction over the same period has been greater, from 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 in 1989-90 to around 3.7 million tonnes per year, a drop of 32 per cent. Further investment in energy saving schemes will be possible using the CSR funds and this should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by a further 10 per cent. over the next five years.

  Replacement of old temporary hutted classrooms and the removal of structurally defective blocks made possible with CSR funds will target some of the most inefficient buildings. In the designs of their replacements the use of construction materials and products which are of an environmentally friendly nature will be encouraged to minimise the depletion of non-renewable resources.

  The CSR investment in school buildings will also target a number of existing problems at schools which have serious Health and Safety and environmental implications. These include:

    —  the removal of 40 per cent. of the surplus places in schools will reduce energy requirements and contribute towards the reduction in CO2 emissions;

    —  the removal of lead pipework from the drinking supplies of pupils;

    —  reduction of the potential risk to pupils and staff from the presence of asbestos; and

    —  substantial savings on water.

  Like all Government Departments, DfEE has a target of reducing its energy consumption by 20 per cent. by 2000, against a base year of 1990. A substantial plank of the Department's approach is the powering of one of the Department's principal headquarters buildings (Moorfoot in Sheffield) by the Sheffield Heat and Power District Heating System. The system produces heat by burning refuse, which would otherwise go for landfill. The Employment Service's three year estates plan also includes measures to reduce the fuel and utilities consumed in its buildings to meet the 20 per cent. target.

8. Within the Service Development Fund will monies be earmarked for different types of service development? (E.g., literacy, numeracy, stretching high achievers, addressing social exclusion.)

  The Service Development Fund has been set up to ensure the right balance between the existing agenda and those areas where policy is still being developed. Consequently it is too early to say what the Fund's programmes will be. However, all activities within the Service Development Fund will support the achievement of the DfEE's aim and objectives. Allocations from the Fund will be conditional on agreement to initiatives which build on essential reforms and offer the best value for money.

9. Why has the Department not explicitly reflected in its revised aims and objectives a responsibility to ensure that all young people understand and can contribute to the particular challenge of moving the world from unsustainable growth to sustainable development?

  DfEE considers that an understanding of sustainable development is an integral part of citizenship education, which is referred to in the first of the Department's revised objectives ("To ensure that all young people reach 16 with the highest standards of basic skills and a secure foundation for lifelong learning, work and citizenship"). The Advisory Group on Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools is one of a number of advisory panels assisting with the current review of the National Curriculum.

  At the same time another advisory group—the Sustainable Development Education Panel—has been specifically considering education for sustainable development in the schools sector. In its report to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, for the National Curriculum review, the Panel has used as its starting point the following definition:

    "Education for sustainable development enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things individually and collectively, both locally and globally, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future."

  The Panel's report goes on to recommend key concepts of sustainable development that, in the Panel's view, should apply throughout education from ages five to 19: the interdependence of society, the economy and the natural environment; citizenship and stewardship; the needs and rights of future generations; cultural, social economic and biological diversity; quality of life, equity and justice; sustainable change; and uncertainty and precaution in action. It then sets out learning outcomes for each Key Stage of the National Curriculum and for the 16-19 phase, specifying the values, skills and knowledge which pupils should have acquired by the ages of 7, 11, 14, 16 and 19.

  The task of the Preparation for Adult Life Group at QCA will be to consider the recommendations of these two groups, as well as advisory groups on personal, social and health education and on creative and cultural education, and make detailed proposals for practical delivery of the recommendations in schools within a coherent curriculum package which schools can implement without increased burdens on them.

10. Why has the Department not made a commitment in its revised objectives to pursuing its objectives in a way which addresses their environmental impacts and implications for sustainable development?

  As outlined above, the DfEE's revised objectives (annex 1) contribute to sustainable development and in particular to the objectives of "social progress which recognises the needs of everyone" and "maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment".

  Initiatives which contribute toward sustainable development include the range of measures to raise standards in education (for example, reduced class sizes, the literacy and numeracy strategy, and Education Action Zones); and measures to increase employability and reduce social exclusion (for example, reducing school truancy and exclusion, reintroducing the value of education and training to disaffected youth, the New Deals and Employment Zones.)

  An independent study commissioned by the former Department of the Environment[1] identified the Department as one whose policies have only a low impact on the environment. Where appropriate, however, the Department provides support in a number of policy areas to ensure that the Government's environmental objectives are progressed. For example:

    —  DfEE has helped to establish and service the Sustainable Development Education Panel;

    —  advice and funding has been given to schools to support energy saving measures and environmental improvements;

    —  DfEE is working closely with DETR on reducing car use for journeys to school; and

    —  the environmental outcomes of the Environment Task Force option of the New Deal are carefully considered at all stages of its delivery.

  The importance of sustainable development and environmental issues is acknowledged in DfEE's new strategic framework, which underpins the Department's aims and objectives.

11. Will the Department's public service agreement address its management of inputs and environmental impacts as well as outputs? Will it extend to services delivered by local authorities? And by further and higher education?

  The PSA will principally be focused on performance outputs—the targets which the DfEE will be committed to delivering with the CSR resources, although it will also include efficiency measures. The targets are in furtherance of the DfEE's aims and objectives which are designed to support the economic and social elements of the Government's sustainable development agenda. As partners in achieving the targets, services delivered by local authorities and by further and higher education institutions are covered by the PSA.

November 1998



ANNEX 1

DFEE AIM AND OBJECTIVES

AIM

  To give everyone the chance, through education, training and work, to realise their full potential, and thus build an inclusive and fair society and a competitive economy.

OBJECTIVES

  DfEE is working with others, in Government and beyond, towards two overarching goals:

    —  an inclusive society, where everyone has an equal chance to achieve their full potential; and

    —  a globally competitive economy, with successful firms and a fair and efficient labour market.

We make our distinctive contribution by concentrating on three central objectives.

1. Ensuring that all young people reach 16 with the skills, attitudes and personal qualities that will give them a secure foundation for lifelong learning, work and citizenship in a rapidly changing world

  in particular by substantially improving literacy and numeracy skills in primary schools, and pupil achievement in secondary schools, and support for the family through early education and the availability of affordable, good quality childcare in every neighbourhood.

2. Developing in everyone a commitment to lifelong learning, so as to enhance their lives, improve their employability in a changing labour market and create the skills that our economy and employers need

  in particular by making learning attractive and accessible, improving the relevance and quality of provision, and persuading employers to invest in those they employ.

3. Helping people without a job into work

  In particular by helping young people, the long-term unemployed and others at a disadvantage in the labour market, including single parents, to move into sustainable jobs, within a fair and diverse employment market.

  In pursuing these objectives, we seek to:

    —  encourage people to make the link between their rights and responsibilities;

    —  work in partnership across Government, with organisations outside Government and with the public, to design and implement effective policies;

    —  learn from and work with other countries, particularly our partners in Europe;

    —  exploit the potential of technology;

    —  be outward-looking, innovative and willing to learn, enabling all our staff to develop to their full potential, working efficiently and getting the most from our resources.



ANNEX 2

ONGOING MEASURES TO ENCOURAGE GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE IN SCHOOL BUILDING WORK

GUIDANCE

  The Department in collaboration with the Energy Efficiency Office and the Building Research Energy Conservation Support Unit (BRECSU) has published a number of guides under the Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme. These guides provide authoritative information on the benefits of energy efficiency to schools through technology and good practice. These include "green" issues to be adopted in the design of new buildings and extensions, and methods of assessing the environmental impact of new school buildings.

  A number of recent publications by the Department provide specific guidance on environmental issues:

    School's Environmental Assessment Method (SEAM)

    Guidelines for Environmental Design in Schools

    Purchasing Energy

    School Grounds: A Guide to Good Practice

CONSTRUCTIONAL STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL BUILDINGS

  These ensure the health and safety of pupils and staff, promote energy conservation and provide for the welfare and convenience of disabled people. The Constructional Standards were substantially revised in 1997 to ensure that on all new school building projects good thermal insulation standards are used, efficient heating systems installed and good quality air conditions provided, if possible natural.

SCRUTINY OF PROJECTSCOMPLIANCE WITH CONSTRUCTIONAL STANDARDS

  This has always been part of the Architects and Building Branch's work within the Department, allowing a continuing dialogue with professional consultants on educational and environmental design issues. At present scrutiny work includes looking at all building projects for specialist schools (such as Sport and Technology Colleges), voluntary aided (VA) schools, grant-maintained (GM) schools (until their conversion to foundation or community schools) and special schools.

FUNDING LEVERAGE

New Deal for Schools

  Guidance for the third round of this £1.085 billion programme, on which DETR were consulted, makes clear that all substantial building projects supported by grant must improve the energy efficiency and environmental performance of school buildings. Assessment criteria will include the overall environmental impact of a project and in particular the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions per square metre or per pupil per year.

  To support this programme the DfEE and BRECSU are running a series of seminars and workshops around the country in 1998.

Schools' Energy Cashback Scheme

  The Department supports the Energy Saving Trust (funded from the DETR baseline), with A&B Branch providing technical and professional assistance. It encourages a whole school approach to energy conservation, giving grants to schools installing energy efficiency measures so encouraging schools to reduce energy consumption and save money. The measures target the most wasteful areas of energy use and will provide long lasting improvements. The schools benefit from reduced running costs.

PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

  Examples of good environmental practice in PPP projects supported so far:

Colfox School Dorset

  The Output Specification requires the private sector partner (who will be responsible for maintaining the school for the next 30 years) to put in place an energy conservation programme for the new building.

Stoke on Trent (Pilot Project)

  A project to raise the performance of accommodation used by all 126 schools in Stoke on Trent. The main elements are:

    to replace the out of date coal fired boilers with new energy efficient boilers;

    where required, to update heating mains, decreasing transmission losses;

    to improve the thermal performance of buildings;

    to improve controls to increase efficiency.

  The effect of the above action will be to decrease CO2 and sulphur emissions and decrease energy consumption. This project forms part of the Authority's Local Agenda 21.

Tower Hamlets (Pilot Project)

  This project is to tackle the backlog of maintenance and repairs in 47 of the LEAs schools focusing directly on repairs that will impact on the energy efficiency of the buildings. In particular:

    the upgrading, repair and maintenance of heating equipment;

    the supply of power;

    the replacement, repair and maintenance of all building fabric that has a direct impact on energy efficiency.

  The effect will be to reduce CO2 emissions and energy consumption. This project forms part of the Authority's Local Agenda 21.

Specific grant programme

  £15 million was allocated, with matched funding from LEAs, specifically to improve heating systems and thermal efficiency in schools. Eight hundred and ninety-one schools, accommodating some 144,000 pupils, will benefit from the grant. Schools will achieve average savings on fuel costs of 20 per cent, with further savings on maintenance costs, amounting in total to over £2 million a year, savings that can be ploughed back into resources for teaching and learning. We also estimate that the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by these schools will amount to approximately 44,000 tonnes.

ASSET MANAGEMENT PLANS

  Provisional Guidance issued to all LEAs in August 1998 emphasises that high standards of energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are important factors in assessing the suitability of school buildings in meeting service needs.


1  "Experience with the `Policy Appraisal and the Environment Initiative'", prepared by consultants, KPMG, published by DETR in July 1997. Back

 
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