|Eighth Report: Access for All ? A Survey of Post-16 Participation (HC 57)
Published: 10 November
|Government Reply: First Special Report, Session
1999-2000 (HC 213)
Published: 9 February 2000
Further Government Action
1. It is the case that overall rates of participation in post-compulsory education and training have increased in the last 20 years, and particularly in the last decade. But there is still a tendency for the reinforcement of advantage and disadvantage. A side-effect of the substantial improvement in overall participation during the last two decades has been to widen the gap between the educational 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.
Increasing participation in education and training after the age of 16 is central to the Government's plans to develop a prosperous and competitive economy and a civilised and inclusive society in a time of rapid economic and social change. If we are to prosper in the global economy and take ownership as individuals of information and communication, we must build a "learning society"a society in which people from all backgrounds expect and want to learn throughout life. We believe that this goal will only be achieved if we:
· change people's culture and attitudes to learning in general
· increase and widen participation levels across society, and
· encourage the ongoing development of a responsive education and training system.
We therefore welcome the Committee's report on this important issue.
The Committee notes that, while participation levels have been rising in recent years, there are still many people who have done little or no learning after their compulsory education and, furthermore, that such people are frequently from among disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society. The effect of this, the Committee points out, is to widen the gap between the educational "haves" and the "have-nots". There is no single answer to the problem, but the Government, working with its partners at all levels, is taking action across the board to raise standards and to increase and widen participation in learning, particularly among those who do not see themselves as learners.
This response covers all areas of the Committee's report, from cultural factors affecting learning to actions to address the barriers which prevent participation. It considers the issues in both the short and longer term. Where we are commenting in direct response to one of the Committee's recommendations, the recommendation number from the report is quoted.
Nothing to add to original Government response
3. We have demonstrated that there are persisting inequalities in participation despite great progress in recent years in expanding participation and encouraging the participation of under-represented groups. Factors influencing participation and subsequent success are, as we have seen, family background and academic achievement during compulsory education. But the latter is strongly linked to the former. In the words of the Kennedy Report, "if at first you don't succeed, you don't succeed". The obverse of this is also true: if at first you succeed, you continue to succeed. There are incremental benefits to early success in learning.
Nothing to add to previous response
4. Engagement in learning clearly generates significant benefitsboth economic and more generalto individuals and to society as a whole. They are reflected in Learning to Succeed, which emphasizes the role of learning in building "a more cohesive society" and providing access to "personal growth and the enrichment of communities".
We support the Committee's conclusion that learning is not just about securing our economic future, vital though that is (Section F, para 4-5). We are committed to policies which recognise the wider benefits of learning, and which maintain a balance between the skills and labour market agenda and the learning, personal development and social exclusion agenda.
To take just two examples:
· through the Standards Fund, we are making available £9 million this year and £18 million next year to help develop the three to four million learning opportunities local authorities make available annually. This will allow them to offer new provision to those currently excluded from learning, and help ensure that the provision more closely meets the needs and aspirations of local people; and
· the Learning and Skills Council will have a customer driven planning system and a funding and allocations framework specifically designed to raise standards of achievement and promote equality of access and opportunity.
We remain committed to policies which recognize the wider benefits of learning and which maintain a balance between the skills and labour market agenda and the learning, personal development and social exclusion agendas. From April 2001 the new Learning and Skills Council will bring together the planning and funding of further education, work-based learning for young people and adult and community learning into a single system, and will ensure that the needs of individuals of all age groups are met coherently and sensitively. This will include young people, adults, and the large number of older and retired learners who will want to pursue high quality and rigorous study for its own sake. The LSC will have a particular role in encouraging learning amongst those whose backgrounds or circumstances have disadvantaged them, or who have previously not seen learning as something for them, including through increased support for adult and community learning, and through family literacy and numeracy projects.
5. The balance which has been struck in Learning to Succeed needs to be adhered to, otherwise there is a risk of the skills and labour market agenda making a disproportionate claim on the resource base available for learning, to the detriment of the learning, personal development and social exclusion agenda. If this prevails, the stubborn long-term trends already referred to will persist, and those denied access to learning in the past will continue to be denied it in the future.
It is vital for the country's economic future that business has the skills it needs to compete. The LSC will maximise the opportunities for those in those in the workforce, and also those out of work, to broaden their existing skills and to develop new skills so that they can adapt to changes in the economy, and find interesting and rewarding work. At the same time, the LSC will also support the capacity of people living in deprived areas, and will promote equality and social inclusion through a wide range of education and training activities.
6. It is obvious from the foregoing analysis that participation in learning after 16 is profoundly influenced by achievement before 16often long before 16 ... Any attempt to improve participation rates in post-compulsory learning will depend heavily on improving levels of achievement in primary and secondary school, and particularly on reducing the 'long tail' of under-achievers which has for many years bedevilled the education system. However, while in the longer term such a turn-round of the education system will make the biggest difference of all, it will of course be of no help to those already over 16.
Nothing to comment on
7. The Government's view, as set out in Learning to Succeed, is highly consistent with the implications arising from the critical evidence presented to us about existing information and guidance services. Evidence suggested that information and guidance was either insufficient, or selective and partial. We welcome the proposals in Learning to Succeed, but stress that careful attention should be paid to ensure that the range of initiatives it proposes does eventually add up to a 'seamless service' (as the White Paper proclaims), rather than continuing to peddle different and confusing messages.
We welcome the Committee's recognition of the higher priority the Government is now giving to the development of high quality information, advice and guidance services for adults (Section F, para 7). We believe that such services have a critical role both in facilitating the initial engagement of adults in learning and in subsequently helping them to make better decisions about learning and work.
As the Committee observe, it is critical that adult information, advice and guidance services are equivalent services that will be available for young people through the Youth Support Service, the services the Employment Service provides for its clients, and with the information and advice the learndirect (formerly Learning Direct) helpline service makes available at a national level. The Department is working with the relevant agencies to ensure that the right connections are in place.
DfEE and ES agreed that from April 2000 ES outlets should be included as full members of the local Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) partnerships. In practice this requires ES to be part of a client referral arrangement with other providers within the IAG partnership, and to work within the partnership to ensure client access to a coherent range of information and advice services.
A national protocol has been established between the learndirect helpline and the local IAG partnerships to ensure that clients are appropriately referred between the 2 services .Local IAG partnerships are required to work with the Careers Service to ensure that young people continue to receive the support they need as they progress into adulthood. As the Connexions service is rolled out from 2001, the LSC, Connexions partnerships and IAG partnerships will be required to work together to develop a coherent range of information, advice and guidance services for clients of all ages.
8. In addition to the patchy nature of information services, there is a more significant issue relating to the structure of present provision. We have noted the number of witnesses who were concerned that, even in a more collaborative climate, it would be difficult to persuade learning providers to sell the wares of those who are de facto competitors. Thus it will be necessary for the new arrangements proposed in the White Paper to provide an authentically independent source of information, guided by information from quality assurance mechanisms.
We are committed to supporting information, advice and guidance services that are impartial. The services being developed for adults by local Learning Partnerships will need to comply with the Guidance Council's quality standards, of which impartiality is an important component. It is a contractual requirement that learndirect should put the interests of the individual first and show no bias towards any particular organisation, product, type or style of learning.
The learndirect helpline, and full members of the IAG partnerships are working towards achieving accreditation against the Guidance Council standards. The well established providers are expected to achieve accreditation by March 2001, whilst others such as those in the voluntary and community sectors have been given until March 2002. A decision on whether the ES should seek accreditation has been deferred pending its merger with the Benefits Agency.
9.We welcome the Government's commitment to integrated working by the Employment Service and the new Connexions service for young people.
Genuinely 'lifelong' learning will require seamless, lifelong information, advice and guidance ... We expect the Government to ensure that the dual arrangements they are putting in place are experienced by individual learners as a seamless service, whatever the age at which the engage with it. The two new services should work to ensure maximum cooperation between their activities, ensuring that no-one falls through gaps in the advice and guidance system.
Finally, recognising the tensions that existed between some secondary schools and colleges in the provision of information to young people about post-16 options, changes were made in October 1998 to give careers services, in their r as impartial advisers, greater ole responsibility in the process for making this information available.
Further Education institutions, schools with sixth forms and training providers must now provide local careers services with information about the achievements and destinations of students who have completed their studies. Careers services must ensure that young people have access to the full range of information about post-16 learning opportunities and the labour market, at times and in ways appropriate to their needs. Providers have the scope to agree locally with careers services to provide additional information, which may be of help to young people and others. Similar arrangements will apply to the Youth Support Service.
Much activity is ongoing to support the development of the new Connexions Service. This includes, following on from publication of the Connexions Service Prospectus and Specification (May 2000),the announcement of the first phase of Connexions partnerships (16 areas in total) to establish the new service in 2001, and the publication of detailed Business Planning Guidance (October 2000).
Information gathered from evaluation of the Connexions pilots will be cascaded appropriately and all pilots will be asked to look at the links between the Employment Service (ES) and the Connexions Service, as the two services need to work closely to ensure a coherent and seamless service at a local level.
ES is raising awareness of the Connexions Service with both staff and providers. ES District Managers have recently been advised of the need to establish contact with those who are developing the local Connexions Service arrangements. Network meetings are also being set up with ES colleagues in each area. Connexions Service briefing is available to all ES staff via an internal IT system, and articles on the service are being prepared for their internal publications, some of which go to Benefits Agency staff. Basic information on the service will also be available to providers through the monthly newsletter aimed at New Deal Partnerships and providers.
10. We look forward to the forthcoming report of the Social Exclusion Unit on neighbourhood renewal and anticipate that it will emphasise the need for more effective collaboration and coordination in supporting a lifelong learning agenda. Like the Government, we wish to place the learner at the centre of the process, and learning must be at the heart of broader public policy. This will demand the provision of independent and objective guidance and advice, which we believe the Careers Service is best equipped to provide ... We are concerned about the different geographical coverage of, for example, the Careers Service, RDAs, the proposed LSCs, the UfI, the proposed Youth Support Service and the New Deal Delivery Units. We expect the Government to give early consideration to establishing greater coherence between different professional and different geographical boundaries. Otherwise these are likely to create new obstacles to the delivery of a seamless service, both vertically, across different age groups, and horizontally, within specific age groups, across a range of policy challenges.
We note the Committee's interest in the lifelong learning elements of the forthcoming report from the Social Exclusion Unit on neighbourhood renewal (Section F, para 10). In this connection, the Committee may wish to note the analysis and recommendations set out in Skills for Neighbourhood Renewal, the report of the Policy Action Team on Skills and Baroness Blackstone's response to it. Copies of both documents have been made available to the Committee. Like the reports of other Policy Action Teams, the Skills PAT is expected to have a significant influence on the final shape of the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal.
The Government remains committed to policies which recognise the wider benefits of learning, and which maintain a balance between the skills and labour market agenda and the learning, personal development and social exclusion agenda. Work is well underway to establish the new structures which will deliver our vision of a learning society
11. We welcome the development of Learning Direct and note the generally positive findings of the recent research report commissioned by the DfEE. However, we are concerned at the evidence that the service may be under-used by those with no or low-level qualifications. We expect the DfEE, as it develops Learning Direct, to explore ways of increasing take-up of the service among such groups.
The Committee expressed concern that the findings of recent DfEE research into the effectiveness of learndirect provided evidence that the service may be under-used by those with no or low-level qualifications (Section F, para 11). Research to January 1999 suggested that 41 per cent of callers had no qualifications above GCSE or equivalents. Since then, however, DfEE and UfI Ltd, which now manage the service, have actively targeted this group. The means for this include advertising campaigns in the national tabloid press; placing promotional material in such places as libraries, leisure centres, doctor's surgeries, etc; and giving support to NIACE's "Sign-Up Now" campaign, aimed at mature adults with few or no qualifications.
In April 2000, UfI Ltd plan to make the learndirect database of learning opportunities available on its website. Those with access to the Internet will be encouraged to visit the website and directly search the database themselves. It is intended that this will free up the availability of advisers to answer calls from those people who need more support and motivation to take up learning opportunities. Initial findings from a customer satisfaction survey which will be available in the new year are expected to show an increased share of calls from those with low or no qualifications.
The usage of the learndirect helpline by those with no or low-level qualifications has increased substantially since the initial research results. In the period October 1999 to June 2000, 49 per cent of callers had no qualifications above GCSE or equivalents.
Ufi Limited will continue to actively target this group. In addition, to the previously stated measures, from August 2000, Ufi Limited is making the learndirect database of learning opportunities available on its website. Those with access to the Internet will be encouraged to visit the website and directly search the database themselves. It is intended that this will free up the availability of advisers to answer calls from those people with low level qualifications who need more support and motivation to take up learning opportunities.
DfEE and Ufi will be giving support to the second NIACE "Sign up Now" campaign, which will run in January 2001.
12. It is essential that the funding of comparable learning is carried out on a equitable basis. We hope that the institutional arrangements proposed in Learning to Succeed will be matched by appropriate changes to the funding framework to bring this about. We welcome the proposals in Learning to Succeed aimed at harmonising funding regimes for post-16 learning, but remain concerned about those elements of post-16 learning which remain beyond the remit of the LSC. School sixth forms will continue, for the time being, to be subject to local authority funding, to ensure that schools do not have a dual funding stream, but this means that differentials in funding of the same learning routes, in schools and FE colleges, are likely to persist.
The Committee welcomed the proposals in Learning to Succeed aimed at harmonising funding regimes for post-16 learning, but expressed concern that differentials in the funding of the same learning routes might continue beyond the remit of the LSC, eg, between schools and Further Education Colleges (Section F, para 12). We are pleased to be able to reassure the Committee on this point.
Following publication of a consultation paper, School Sixth Form Funding, which sought views on how we should fund school sixth forms within the new post-16 arrangements, we decided that the LSC would fund Local Education Authorities for their sixth form provision and that they would retain their current role in distributing funding to sixth forms. The new arrangements are intended to ensure improved quality and coherence, and that all young people can gain access to a broad learning programme. It is planned that these will be introduced in April 2002 to allow time for further consultation on detailed matters of implementation.
A number of safeguards for sixth form funding were outlined in the consultation including: real terms maintenance of current funding (provided student numbers are maintained); continued ability to vire freely between their pre- and post-16 funds; and no noticeable change in audit burdens.
Nothing to add to original contribution
13. Learning to Succeed says nothing about the relationship between local LSCs and New Deal delivery arrangements. It is not clear to us whether this is an oversight or whether it indicates some conceptual distinction between the generally very broad understanding of 'learning' in the White Paper on the one hand, and the New Deal on the other. Given that all aspects of New Deal have an element of vocational learning attached to them, we expect the Government to make clear the relationship between the local LSCs and delivery arrangements for the New Deal.
The Committee asked about the relationship between the local arms of the Learning and Skills Council and New Deal delivery arrangements (Section F, para 13). We have stressed from the outset that local Learning and Skills Councils and New Deal partnerships will work together. As we announced in The Learning and Skills Council Prospectus: Learning to Succeed, we expect the local Learning and Skills Councils to invite the relevant Employment Service Regional Director to attend local Council meetings as an observer.
This close relationship between the Learning and Skills Council and the Employment Service will also be a feature at Board level, where the Employment Service Chief Executive should be invited to attend national Learning and Skills Council meetings as an observer. In addition, we expect the Learning and Skills Council to invite a senior Employment Service Director to attend its Adult Learning Committee. Further work remains to be done to establish the detail of the relationship between local Learning and Skills Councils and New Deal partnerships, but there are a number of ways in which the two have close operational links, including the use of labour market information and joint planning arrangements.
The new post-16 planning and funding arrangements will build on the success of New Deal and improve still further the opportunities available for unemployed people. The Learning and Skills Council will promote the employability of individuals by working with the Employment Service at national and local level to plan provision and to deliver the right strategies for getting people the skills and qualifications they need to get into work, including improving the flexibility and attractiveness of vocational learning opportunities. Local Councils will also work with ES to update and develop information on current and future skill needs and skill gaps in the workforce, and to improve intelligence on the recruitment market, to steer post 16 education and training provision. The LSC and ES are already working together with providers to secure consistency in their approach. A series of national consultation events on quality arrangements has been completed and will shortly be followed by similar events covering funding issues.
14. There may well be a case for interpreting more broadly the eligibility for public funding of a much wider range of informal learning ... there is a good argument for funding some kinds of community-based learning, which may not lead to qualifications but which can contribute to personal self-confidence, social inclusion and the rebuilding of local communities.
We agree with the Committee about the case for funding informal, community-based learning, which may not lead to qualifications (Section F, para 14). The recent report of the Policy Action Team on Skills shared these views. As announced in Learning to Succeed, we plan major reform of the arrangements for planning and funding learning opportunities for adults. Qualifications are clearly extremely important and accreditation will continue to be appropriate for the majority of courses, particularly in Further Education Colleges. But we recognise that to secure one of our key objectivesa commitment to lifelong learning in everyonewe need to offer in every locality a wide range of learning opportunities. Through the LSC we must aim for a balance which attracts both those who want or need to gain qualifications and those who value learning for the experience and enrichment it gives them individually and society as a whole.
We are also keen to see more opportunities for families to learn together. This can help pupils achieve more at school by building families' skills and confidence in areas such as basic, social and creative skills. It can foster better family relationships and closer links between schools, families and communities. It promotes an effective learning environment for children and provides gateways to learning for adults as part of our aim to widen participation. The Government is providing £6 million this financial year and £7 million next for Family Literacy and Family Numeracy initiatives. We are keen that learning providers everywhere do all they can to open up further opportunities for family learning.
£252m is being made available to set up 1,000 UK online centres across England in 3 phases by Spring 2002. These centres are being established in deprived local communities to bridge the gap between those who have access to ICT and those who do not.
The centres will be based wherever best suits the needs of the local peoplefor example in a community centre, church, college etc. The primary focus will be on learning and not on achieving qualifications.
In addition, £10m is being made available under an initiative called Wired Up Communities to provide Internet and email access to people in their own homes in a small number of deprived communities. The aim will be to test the extent to which new technology can help people to overcome the barriers to finding a job, in increasing educational attainment and learning and increasing community cohesion.
15. Learning to Succeed neither recognises the issues raised in evidence to the Committee about part-time students, nor does it spell out how they might be addressed. It does not spell out in any detail what kind of funding formulae may apply to different kinds of learning by different types of learner; it simply argues for rationalisation and consistency. This is a regrettable omission.
The issue of funding part-time learners is addressed in Learning to Succeed: Post-16 Funding and Allocations: First Technical Consultation Paper (DfEE, January 2000), which sets out thinking on the principles and basic structures to underpin the Learning and Skills Council's funding system (Section F, para 15-16). Creating a level playing field for all learners, wherever and however they learn, is one of the principles on the basis of which we are consulting. We plan to consult further on more detailed issues, such as how a funding formula should apply to different types of learning and learner, in spring 2000.
We recognise that many people undertake part-time or short courses of study, and the Learning and Skills Council's funding system will be flexible enough to cope with the full range of different types and combinations of programmes which post-16 learners undertake. The majority of the LSC's funds will be allocated according to a national funding formula. Rates will reflect the variation in costs between different learners, types of provision, and the varying length of time needed to successfully complete the programme. In addition, a funding matrix will take account of the additional support needs of learners. For adults, we propose that there should be a series of funding blocks, which a number of guided learning hours linked to each. This approach will ensure that those providing part-time courses of study will receive funding which fairly reflects the courses being offered.
16. As learning is expanding, and becoming increasingly a part-time pursuitby those with domestic responsibilities, those who are unemployed and those who are in work there will need to be a 'level playing field' which ensures that part-time learners are not deterred by second-class treatment. One of the first tasks of the Learning and Skills Council must be to establish a funding system which ensures that part-time learners are not disadvantaged in relation to their full-time equivalents.
Nothing to add to original response
17. We recommend that part-time students in higher education be allowed the same access to loans as full-time students.
Earlier this year, we announced that, from autumn 2000, loans will be available to part-time students in higher education on low incomes (Section F, para 17). Details of the scheme will be announced shortly. This follows a number of other steps taken by the Government to encourage participation by part-time higher education students. In 1998/99, following Lord Dearing's National Committee of Enquiry into Higher Education, Access Funds were doubled, to £45m, to include part-time students for the first time In the current academic year, an additional £12 million has been made available to meet the fees of part-time higher education students on benefits or low incomes with the National Training Organisation National Council and individual National Training Organisations to consider the feasibility of some pilot schemes in this area.
£500 loans to help with course costs will be available to new and continuing part-time students on low incomes in the academic year 2000/01. The first payments will be made from January 2001.
Also from 2000/01, part-time students are eligible to apply for Disabled Students' Allowances for the first time.
In 2000/01, £13 million is available to meet the fees of part-time students on low incomes. And the amount available through institutions' Hardship (formerly Access) Funds has increased to £57 million.
18. At this stage in the development of tuition fee contributions in higher education, it is difficult if not impossible to draw firm conclusions about their impact on participation in higher education. It will be necessary to monitor the socio-economic profile of entrants to university in the coming years andequally importantlyof those dropping out of higher education, to see whether, and to what extent, tuition fee contributions have had an impact.
As the Committee says, it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions at this stage on the impact of tuition fee contributions on entry levels into higher education (Section F, para 18). We would point out, however, that have not been any significant differences in entry levels between this and the previous year. Our there statisticians have work in hand to monitor closely entry levels into Higher Education over the next few years.
There has been no reduction in the proportion of applicants, and of accepted applicants, from the bottom three socio-economic groups since the introduction of student contributions to tuition fees in 1998/99.
19. We welcome the Government's commitment in Learning to Succeed to bring greater coherence to the funding of learning by unemployed people. More imaginative strategies to encourage learning by unemployed people who have been marginalised from learningwith commensurate benefit entitlementwould be, both practically and symbolically, a powerful statement of commitment to promoting a learning society. To this end, the Government should consider, in the interests of lifelong learning, developing broader criteria for the current 'activity test' faced by unemployed people, which would legitimise the receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance (or its equivalent) for those undertaking approved study. A debate will be needed about what kind of study would be 'approved'. It might be possible, for instance, in the light of our earlier comments about the broader benefits of learning, for 'approved' learning to cover not only the potential for increasing the employability of the learner but issues such as citizenship. A stringent 'activity test' could be introduced which, if passed, would permit individuals to study fulltime for an approved period. Such an approach would certainly alter the concept of the Jobseeker's Allowance, but it wouldequallybe in keeping with current political aspirations to promote a learning society as much as a working society.
Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) is a benefit which is specifically aimed at unemployed people whose primary aim is to return to work. It is not intended to act as an alternative form of student support, and for this reason full-time students are not normally entitled to JSA. However the Government is committed to the promotion of study where it can improve a person's employability, and there is already provision for certain groups of unemployed people to study full-time. Those who have been out of work for at least six months can study full-time under Work Based Learning for Adults or the New Deal for Young People (aged 18-24); these people will receive a training allowance equivalent to their JSA entitlement plus an additional £10 per week. In addition, the New Deal for those aged 25+, unemployed for two years or more, provides for people to study full-time for up to a year and retain entitlement to JSA (Section F, para 19).
Ministers have set in hand a range of work to explore learning routes for both the unemployed and inactive groups. This work acknowledges the importance of recognising "employability" gains.
20. We welcome the Government's introduction of Education Maintenance Allowances. As we stated in our 1998 report on further education, increasing financial support for young people will give them an incentive to stay on in full-time education.
Nothing to add
21. The principle of Individual Learning Accounts has generally been welcomed. At this stage, though, it remains to be seen what level of impact a publicly funded grant of £150 for ILAs will have ... Depending on the success of the ILA and how far support for the unemployed matches it, there may be a case for extending the ILA to unemployed people as well. Attention should also be paid to the extent to which the principle might be extended to help people to, in the words of the White Paper, "fulfil their potential for independence and self-investment".
On the question of the impact of learning accounts (Section F, para 21), the Committee may be interested to know that evaluation results from developmental learning accounts suggest that they have given rise to new learning. For example, in the North West 37 per cent of account holders said they would not have paid for their own learning, without the added contribution of the learning accounts; in Kent 45 per cent of account holders said that they would not have undertaken the learning episode without a learning account; and in London, 29 per cent of part-time employees and 42 per cent of full-time employees said they would not have been able to undertake this training without the help of the learning account. On eligibility, the Committee may be interested to know that learning accounts, although targeted at people in work, will be available to both unemployed and employed people.
The Committee will wish to note that the national system of individual learning accounts was launched in England on 1 September 2000. We are just about to embark on a three year evaluation programme which will give us information on the type of people who are using individual learning accounts, the type of learning, and the impact this has on them.
22. Greater use of ICT, including the UfI, and the introduction of a 'Youth Card', as proposed by the Social Exclusion Unit, are steps in the right direction. But given the problems over access, they may not go far enough. More could be done to ensure that public funds are available to equip bases within communities where travel to learning is nigh on an impossibility, irrespective of financial support provided. This would, for instance, allow UfI opportunities to be taken up. We hope the Government will demonstrate its commitment to lifelong learning by 'going the extra mile' in taking learning to people as much as taking people to learning
We agree with the Committee about the importance of taking learning to people, as much as taking people to learning (Section F, para 22). That is a point very much emphasised by the recent report of the Policy Action Team on Skills. UfI Ltd will use modern information and communications technologies (ICT) to make high quality learning products and services available to individuals at home, in the workplace and at learning centres country-wide. This approach will help to overcome barriers to learning created by geography and transport issues. UfI Ltd aim to achieve nationwide coverage with up to 1,000 learning centres in operation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by March 2001. Scottish UfI will be a separate but parallel organisation. These learning centres will be situated in easy-access locations such as sports and shopping centres, football and rugby clubs, community centres, churches, railway stations and libraries. UfI Ltd has also made £5 million available to establish learning centres in areas where there may be issues of financial viability, eg, rural areas or areas of urban deprivation.
In addition to UfI Ltd learning centres, the Information and Communication Technology learning centres initiative will focus on helping adults in disadvantaged communities to access ICT. The aim is to establish around 700 ICT Learning Centres across England by March 2002, which will be located in the places people visit every day. This programme will be supported by some £250 million of capital investment.
We welcome the Select Committee's general support for the introduction of the Youth Card. By providing a range of local transport discounts, the card has the potential to help reduce the cost of travel and consequently remove a significant barrier to learning. In addition, by offering a range of commercial and leisure discounts, the card will develop into a genuine "learning reward" card. Nevertheless, any travel cost can be a barrier for some young people. That is why we are introducing Education Maintenance Allowance transport pilots which will test out the potential of a "smart" Youth Card to support the payment of transport costs.
UfI has now used the £5 million earmarked to establish learndirect centres in areas where financial viability was an issue. £3 million has been used to help such centres reach the criteria set by Ufi to operate as a learndirect centre, assisting with costs such as IT connectivity, physical access and the employment of managers. £2 million of this funding was used to ensure "e-tutor" services were viable within areas where it had proved difficult to identify and resource such services. On transport the Department is tendering for a research project to evaluate transport provision for young people participating in post-16 education, particularly those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The specification for tender is due to be issued at the beginning of September 2000 with all tenders to be returned and sifted by Mid October 2000. The evaluation will run from December 2000 to July 2001. The final report will be due in July 2001.
23. We welcome the funding that the Government is putting into the expansion of childcare in general, and the dedicated funding for childcare provision for learners in particular. Given the emphasis in Learning to Succeed on equal opportunities, we hope that the development of policies within the remit of the White Paper will give a higher profile to the issue. Levels of funding need to be increased overall and FE colleges should be encouraged to devote more money from their existing access funds to extend their childcare provision. Policy issues should also be addressed. In particular, the anomalies in the current FEFC funding for childcarethe lack of funding for 16-18 year olds and the difficulty colleges have in claiming partial funding for childcaremust be removed. The provision of childcare should be taken into account both in the short-term and in the longer-term funding and planning strategy of the new Learning and Skills Council.
The Government shares the Committee's view that there should be a comprehensive approach to childcare to avoid this being a barrier to participation in Further Education for those with dependent children. The report acknowledges that there are initiatives already in place to help with the costs of childcare for those who cannot afford to pay full costs and to increase the number of places provided or contracted for by colleges. The survey by the Daycare Trust and other studies, which call for more provision and for this to be available more consistently and more flexibly, have been taken note of. For 1999-00 the DfEE has added £5 million to the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) tariff scheme so that £9 million will be available to support low income students, particularly lone parents, and will allow a higher maximum unit cost to be supported and for a 75 per cent subsidy to be offered by colleges as well as free places. Colleges are also being actively encouraged to work more closely with Early Years Development Partnerships to share information and activity and local Learning Partnerships have been asked to contribute to local strategies.
Feedback on these new arrangements from colleges and others has suggested that these still do not allow sufficient flexibility for the funding mechanism to be attractive to all colleges. In response, the DfEE has now decided that childcare will be removed from the tariff scheme and made a ring-fenced element within the Further Education Access Fund. This will mean a simpler method of allocation to collegesbased on student numbers and widening participation factorand much more discretion as to how institutions apply the funds to meet individual student needs. The Government has also announced that this change is to be coupled with a very significant increase in funding. In 2000-01 this Access Fund will be supported by £21 million plus the £4 million which the FEFC has earmarked in the tariff scheme. It is estimated that this will allow 37,000 students to receive childcare support. This will include students aged 16-18, for whom there will also be a separate series of targeted childcare pilots starting in 2000, aimed at encouraging teenage parents back into education, as set out in the Social Exclusion Unit Report, Teenage Pregnancy. The large increase in funding will mean that childcare will be a significant factor in the lifelong learning strategy of the FEFC and its successor body, the Learning and Skills Council.
Procedures are now in place for the Childcare Support Fund. A circular has been issued to colleges, and they have been notified of their allocation of the Fund. It is estimated that this will allow 30,000 students to receive childcare support in 2000/01, not 37,000 as stated in initial response.
The Childcare Pilots to help teenage parents are in place and ready to take on students from September.
To help increase participation by mature students in higher education, the Government has made available £17 million for bursaries for them in 2000/01. These bursaries are intended to help meet the extra costs of childcare, travel etc.
From 2001/02 the Government is also introducing an income assessed childcare grant, based on actual costs, for full-time HE students.
24. Many schools, colleges and universities have worked effectively together to help persuade young people that it is worth their while to stay on in learning after compulsory school age. Compact schemes between universities and local schools, mentoring by university students working with school students and partnerships between colleges and schools have all shown that it is possible to change the culture even among groups of young people who have traditionally not seen continuing learning as an option for them. We hope that more universities and colleges will enter this field. We also recommend that the DfEE use the funding levers at its disposal to make this kind of activity financially attractive to the institutions concerned.
We welcome the Committee's recognition of the important role that the Learning and Skills Council will play in creating a culture of lifelong learning for all. We also firmly agree that employers have a key role to play in engaging people in learning. This is not just a matter for Government and its agencies.
Nothing to add to previous response
25. It is clear from evidence to our inquiry that changing attitudes towards learning among adults will require imaginative approaches by all those involved in education and training. One participant in our ESRC seminar spoke of the need for lifelong learning to be seen as a promise, not a threat. Potential learners should not feel that they are having something done to them which, if they fail, will cause them problems. Instead, they should be aware of the benefits which can accrue to them as individualsand this should include the range of benefits to which we have referred in our reportnot just financial, but personal as well.
The Learning & Skills Council has been given a statutory duty to promote learning to individuals of all ages and in all circumstances.
26. The Government should ensure that everyone is made aware of the benefits of learning. In seeking to instil a learning culture, it should pay particular attention to supporting the development of learning in the community and to family learning schemes, the value of which was made clear to us in evidence. The Learning and Skills Council will have a duty to promote adult learning in "innovative" ways. We expect the Council to explore imaginative ways in which learning of all kinds can be taken into the community and ways in which adults can be re-engaged in learning. But this is not just a matter for Government and its agencies. Employers have a key role to play, for instance in work-place supported adult learning and in the kind of projects run by some companies which encourage not only their employees, but also their families, to become involved in learning.
We fully endorse the view of the Committee, and this is being fully reflected in the remit letter, which the Secretary of State will be sending to the LSC in November 2000.
27. We expect the Learning and Skills Council, working with other agencies including the UfI, to support and pilot more use of television and other media in promoting a learning culture.
In response to the Committee's point about using the media etc (Section F, para 27), the DfEE is already working with the BBC and other broadcasters to promote learning. In addition, UfI Ltd plan to use the Internet as well as analogue and digital television to stimulate demand and provide access to on-line learning.
Nothing to add to the Government's original response
28. We are attracted to the idea of making greater use of popular cultural icons to promote the learning message. These might include, for instance, pop stars, film stars and footballers.
At the Committee's suggestion, we will give consideration to making greater use of popular public figures and others who have enhanced their lives through learning to promote learning messages (Section F, para 28-30). As the Committee may be aware, football clubs already feature in Playing for Success, an initiative aimed at raising young people's attainment and preparing them for adult and working life through activities linking education with business.
Playing for Success has recently been extended to other sports and other football clubs, with 25 new projects being developed. Sports include basketball, rugby League and Union, hockey and cricket.
29. If those leading the education debate, including MPs, were seen to be participating in lifelong learning, it would provide an excellent stimulus to widening participation. In this context, it is interesting to note that the Prime Minister recently committed himself to undertaking an introductory course on using the Internet.
As part of Campaign for Learning's "Feed your Mind" campaign, David Blunkett, William Hague and Paddy Ashdown have all made New Year Learning Resolutions.
30. Drawing attention to those who have succeeded in enhancing their lives through education or training will help stimulate demand for more learning among a wider range of people, and that in turn will help turn the rhetoric of widening participation into reality.
The Learning in Later Life Campaign drew attention to the benefits learning can bring to older people. 107 year old Fred Moore was named as England's oldest learner, whilst 94 year old Emily Butterfield was declared England's most inspiring learner.
A leaflet, aimed at older people, and a guidance booklet aimed at providers of learning will be published in September. Both use real life examples to illustrate the benefits learning can bring.