Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER 2000
40. They do not necessarily get the qualification
at the end of it that they were aiming for?
(Ms Silver) No, we measure on job outcomes. I do not
know if Geoff knows how many do qualify.
41. 72 per cent stayed the course, completed
(Ms Silver) That is right. There is real tension in
the intention of the programmes. We find quite often that students
who are desperate for the qualification get really fed up with
the work focused part of the programme and vice versa. That is
quite hard to handle when you are trusting people to come back
in again, having not been around education for a bit, and being
torn between, "Do I get a qualification and maybe fail or
it is best to concentrate on a job?" We have to manage that
tension. It can be really difficult. Some do not want the qualification,
you see, they want the job.
42. The fewer than 20 per cent I was talking
about was those who complete and get the qualification. I want
to be clear that is our understanding of it. That point you just
made about the tension between getting a qualification or not
is something that runs generally across the FE sector as to whether
all payments should be qualification focused, but you are saying
it is an issue for New Dealers as well?
(Mr Gibson) We have great discussions and a popular
phrase at the moment is "bite-sized chunks of learning"
for Learning Direct. Certainly these students, let's face it,
are more in need than anybody else. I think the second thing concerns
motivation, which you mentioned earlier on. As you know, you get
your JSA and if you are in employment you get £10 a week
as well, but you do not get it if you are in the education option.
Given the success, if I may say so on our evidence, of educational
maintenance allowances, if they are helping people stay on and
are improving retention and improving achievement, it would not
be a wild step of the imagination to suggest that if they got
the £10 as well that might help retention.
43. To some extent that answers my next question
which is what changes do you think should be made to the FTET
option in order to put more emphasis on the attainment of qualifications
and retaining people in that way?
(Dr Brennan) I think one of the additional flexibilities
which would be helpful, chair, is to allow a wider range of learning
programmes. At the moment the focus in the FE world is on what
is known as Schedule 2 which has a relatively limited range of
things, and certainly not a lot of low level qualifications appropriate
for the kind of individuals that we are talking about here. There
needs to be more flexibility in terms of programmes and a greater
capacity to do the kind of thing that Ruth was describing earlier
at Lewisham where you have a mix between a skill-based qualification
that you are trying to pursue but also a lot more emphasis on
job search skills and personal attitudinal issues and approaches
to work, so programmes should have much more tailoring in terms
of individual needs which are capable of responding to that. That
would certainly be helpful. The incentive effect, which has already
been talked about, would also be helpful. I think a further change
which might be helpful in taking us in the direction of sustained
employment is when individuals move into employment from the Full-Time
Education and Training optionand there are some who are
eager to do so earlier despite the fact they have not got the
qualification and others who want to move later once they have
got the qualificationif they were able to have a more sustained
form of support for a period in the employed situation so that
those who want to carry on to completion of qualification can
do so and others who have a variety of other kinds of problems
would get some on-going support maybe in the basic skills area
or other areas to keep them facing up to the realities of working
life. Those kinds of things would be helpful in terms of making
the programme more appropriate for the more difficult groups that
you are trying to get to there.
(Mr Gibson) I think Professor Millar made a very serious
point about the advisers and their role. We would certainly want
to endorse that 100 per cent. I think that has been critical.
I think as it gets harder then they can be given more support
in the sort of way that was described to be able to recognise
some of those problems and look to other agencies for support.
I do not know of any one agency that can deal with some of the
complexities. We would want to support that very, very strongly
and certainly we would want to support the point John was saying,
that if somebody moves into employment if they had support there
perhaps for several months, if they still had that same person
and they had got a good personal relationship with them, and they
could still get help and support in employment, that might also
(Ms Silver) Some more flexibility particularly around
targets for progress. They need to be smaller and fed back to
44. Smaller targets?
(Ms Silver) Things they can mark along the way saying
"this is progress". We had an inspectionand it
was not from OFSTEDand we had an interesting struggle in
the early days. They challenged us as to why the students did
the basic skills qualification right away and why we taught them
food hygiene. It is because in London you can get jobs if you
have a food hygiene qualification. We did that by way of building
confidence and also to make them more employable. We won the debate
but we had a real tough time justifying those but we did by saying
that they start with success and it is no time at all until they
get a qualification. That feels quite important and that kind
of flexibility is crucial. I think we also need to have funds
for additional payments to the trainees so that when they do a
bit better on a long programme they can trigger more money for
themselves. It is a real issue. We have seen in my college how
EMAs have made a difference to 16-19 year olds and they are no
different, they should be allowed the same kind of financial bonus
45. Moving back a little bit, all of that is
very interesting and there are some areas that we should pursue
further in our inquiry but, on the matter we were talking about
before, where do you see the pressure coming from to place this
overriding priority on getting jobs rather than on some of the
issues around quality of training and qualifications? Is it something
integral to the way New Deal is constructed or something else?
Is it the young people themselves?
(Ms Silver) I think it is the intention of New Deal
that they do actually get young people, the ones who are not into
full-time education programmes, as part of the entitlement. I
make no challenge to that. One space we need is to enable people
to change their minds having been in the college and it is not
nearly so scary, "can we please change over and get to another
programme?" This may just be the Scot in me where the vocational
impulse is strongwell, it would be because there are hardly
any jobs therebut the vocational impulse in working class
communities, it is really important to respect that. It is a way
of definition of our adult selves. I think it is an important
outcome. It really needs to remove any sense of the social work
notions surrounding New Deal. It is a learning programme, it is
not a social support programme, and I think young people have
responded to that in my experience.
(Mr Brennan) Just to add one or two points to that,
if I may, Chairman. I think the emphasis upon employment as the
outcome is absolutely right and that has never been an issue.
The issue is around the path to that end and creating opportunities
for individuals to move through in different ways. Despite what
Ruth says about attitudes towards work and so on, there are some
whose experiences are such that they have become disenchanted
with the normal pattern of existence that most of us accept and
they need to be shifted back into seeing the positive aspects
of all of that and seeing that as a route to personal satisfaction
and material reward and so on. With some you have to take that
route back and it is simply a question of being able to bring
them through and bring them to a point where they begin to see
the value in all of that, they begin to want to see those outcomes.
For some that will be relatively easy to achieve because they
start from that perspective, but with others you need to go through
that period of shifting that perspective. For some they see the
acquisition of particular skills and qualifications as being vital
to the kind of job opportunity that they want, others are much
more flexible and are willing to take any reasonable range of
jobs which may be on offer fairly quickly. I think it is about
creating the alternative possibilities. I am not trying to have
a one-size-fits-all approach to this in order to create the longer
term goal for everyone of getting them back into the labour market.
46. I absolutely take the point about flexibility,
nevertheless looking at it in an overall sense would you accept
the criticism that the FE sector so far has not been getting sufficient
of its New Deal people through the option and into work, that
overall the numbers just are not good enough?
(Mr Brennan) I do not think we would dispute that.
The evidence is quite clear, that the success rates in the conventional
sense are not that impressive. One has to look beyond that to
the nature of the measures which are being used and their appropriateness
to the client groups that we are actually trying to deal with.
I think you do need to have a much more sensitive assessment system
to evaluate how successful you are, as Ruth was saying, have more
milestones along the way towards some of those objectives to try
to assess that people are making progress. You do need to reinforce
confidence and progression in many of these individuals and I
think if you were able to do that you would begin to see the benefits
of that over a longer period of time.
(Mr Gibson) Could I just add to that. I am not here
to be defensive, and it would be totally unhelpful, but I do think
on the previous debate about those that are most employable and
taken up by the employers very quickly, whether one likes it or
not there is a sort of filtering out, almost a sort of bizarre
selection procedure. We would accept there is a challenge there
and we hope you will accept that is with those who have the most
difficulties and problems. It rather takes you back to Helena
Kennedy and widening participation, that you are actually working
with those least likely to succeed and least likely to be retained,
but well worth it. I think the Secretary of State at the recent
conference the Association had at Harrogate talked about the real
purpose of trying to work with employers and individuals to get
a cultural change and that obviously would take time but, if achieved,
would be quite brilliant.
(Ms Silver) The other point I would like to make is
that employability is a spectrum and to move somebody from the
beginning of that line to the middle is quite an achievement.
I told you I taught our New Deal trainees. I laughed heartily
and gaily when they said widening participation in my college
had doubled in size because I could not believe there was anybody
in Deptford we had not got to until I saw the New Deal clients
and I realised there was a whole group out there we had not touched
before. I think you do need to realise that we are the last sieve
in the placement ladder.
47. There is a very strong argument that you
are developing that there is some system of pre-selection and
you are getting more than your fair share of the more difficult
to place candidates. I think that was what you were saying.
(Mr Gibson) I am not saying that we are complaining
about it because I think this is a challenge, but it is a very
worthwhile challenge. From a social point of view it is a critical
challenge because we see the consequences too frequently. Yes,
I think it is hard. We are looking at different ways, and we have
discussed many of them with you today, to try to improve that
rate and I believe that is our mission.
Chairman: This is something that Judy will remember
in the evidence that we took before. I was rather surprised that,
for example, in the North East, and it may well be true in Scotland,
there was a far bigger percentage going into the Further Education
and Training option than anyone ever predicted. It was something
like 40 or 50 per cent, whereas I think the assumption had been
25 per cent.
Mr Allan: Across the board it is.
48. That is right. This is probably, I would
guess, because in lots of areas the subsidised jobs are not available
and, therefore, more are going into the Further Education and
(Ms Silver) I think I wanted to make the point earlier
that it takes two to tango. There need to be jobs at the end for
them to go to. In our part of London, and it has been 25 years
since the river changed, it has been difficult. That is now changing
for us. There need to be jobs there and employers who are receptive
to working with new client groups.
(Mr Brennan) I think one also needs to understand
that the characteristics of the unemployed populations are different
in different parts of the country. Where levels of unemployment
are high you have got lots of relatively capable and well motivated
people who may see that acquisition of a qualification, which
is well within their grasp, as being the right step forward for
them in terms of trying to improve their employability. In other
areas where you have much more disadvantaged people, because unemployment
rates are relatively low and you are at the bottom end of the
spectrum, then motivation in terms of acquisition of qualifications
and skills and so on is much more problematic. You are dealing
with different kinds of populations in different areas.
(Mr Gibson) You know, Chairman, some of the areas
that I know and there you are not talking about one individual
but three generations of a family that have been unemployed. Again,
we have got to face up to that honestly and try to deal with it.
49. It just strikes me, has anyone done any
evaluation of the differential placement rates relating to the
tightness or otherwise of the labour market?
(Mr Brennan) Not to my knowledge.
(Mr Gibson) Not that we know of, Chairman.
(Ms Silver) No idea.
Chairman: That would be a good thing for somebody
to do. Judy?
50. I think my question on funding actually
follows on very closely from some of the difficulties you have
just been talking about because it is based on the idea of the
Employment Service only needing to pay a marginal rate on the
assumption that FTET participants will take places on pre-existing
courses, but you have been talking about some of the difficulties
with the students and John talked of the intensive time and effort
needed for a number of them. Those additional costs for individual
clients, as I understand it, are not covered explicitly. How serious
a problem does that pose for colleges?
(Mr Gibson) Could I ask John to give some figures
and we can then add to that, if we may, Chair.
(Dr Brennan) I think the starting point is that colleges
are accustomed to being paid through the FEFC funding mechanism
at defined rates for particular types of provision. So their first
point of comparison is "what are we being paid for New Deal
clients as compared with what FEFC would pay", and typically
you are talking about figures of two-thirds or something of that
order, so you start from a position where, even if you are providing
an exactly equivalent package, you are actually being paid at
substantially less and I think the arguments about marginal funding
are not very well founded in this context because colleges do
not operate on that basis any more. They do not have a core funding
which they can rely on to cover their overheads and then marginal
costs per student. That is not the way the system works. So I
think the problem that they have, first of all, is that that is
what they perceive to be their situation in terms of broad funding
levels, but they have then got the further problems we have already
been talking about, the fact that many of these individuals require
different kinds of support from mainstream students so they are
therefore incurring additional costs in trying to deliver the
total programmes. The total commitment is 30 hours a week, not
20 hours a week which might be a standard full-time programme,
so you are committed to a considerable amount of extra expense
associated with these groups for which there is no recognition
in the funding formula. Our view is that that does need to be
addressed. You do need to get closer to a realistic recognition
of the costs involved. There are practical problems identifying
what those costs are and very little work has been done on it,
although the Learning Skills Development Agency has a project
going at the moment to look at some of these questions and hopefully
that will throw up some useful data to us. A lot of colleges have
reported to us that, effectively, they believe they subsidise
the New Deal to a very considerable extent. We quoted one example
in the paper where colleges assessed that it was costing them
£70,000 to support a New Deal commitment. Colleges are doing
that because they basically believe in the objectives of the scheme.
They believe these are clients they should be reaching out to
and should be trying to help and they are prepared to carry some
degree of additional cost to do that, but I think if the programme
is to be sustained on a long-term basis it is not an adequate
basis for funding it and we need to see a much closer relationship
between the costs incurred and the income which it generates.
51. Are you hearing of colleges declining to
provide the FTET option on the basis of cost or not wanting to
take on particular clients because of particular difficulties?
(Dr Brennan) I think there have been some examples
quoted to us of not withdrawing from the full-time training option
altogether but deciding to limit the offer. Many colleges started
out saying, "The totality of our programmes is available
for New Deal clients", but some with experience are starting
to say, "It is far too expensive for us to accommodate the
particular needs of individual clients in this kind of area and
therefore we withdraw that from our offer and restrict what we
offer to a narrower range." I think there has been some of
that but I do not think that has been on a large scale up until
now. If the cost pressures were to continue, more might find it
difficult to sustain their commitment across the board.
(Mr Gibson) In the early days I was at a college where
the Employment Service had eight people wanting to join an engineering
group in August and the college said, "We can do that, but
if we have eight in that group and it is going to last for a year
and they have got to be on the college site for 30 hours, it is
going to be a major loss leader", and certainly in those
first few months as it got under way there were some discussions
such as you outlined. I think John's point is fair, though, they
got less and less, and hopefully the examples in the paper would
support that view.
(Ms Silver) We manage a group of sub-contractors so
we can give real work experience to the trainees and that is an
incredibly difficult cost for quality assurance that we have to
fold in. People forget the costs of the management of contracts
on behalf of other people so you can really put people in the
workplace to try out the new skills they have learned. It is a
very expensive programme. I refuse to allow my colleagues to tell
me how much it costs because then I will know and I would not
sleep at night.
(Mr Gibson) Thank goodness she does not stop food
52. How likely is it that the Government will
increase the ES funding for each client to the same level as the
FEFC funding for the same courses? Do you have any hopes?
(Mr Gibson) We are optimistic about the amount of
money that the Secretary of State has found to put into the sector.
If we are getting 15.9 per cent over the next two years it would
be pretty churlish to start to complain about that. Yes, I think
we have been challenged to come up with ideas and we have been
challenged to come up with something for something. I do not believe
that is an impossible pipe dream.
(Ms Silver) I want to be greedy. I want to say "these
are the people you need to spend more on, not less" because
their needs are so enormous that any kind of equitable society
would do that. I think I would still want to ask for more, David,
if that is all right with you.
(Mr Gibson) The populist answer would be we would
love to reduce the bureaucracy attached to the scheme.
(Ms Silver) Oh, God, please.
(Mr Gibson) There is lots and lots. Somebody estimated
that it took over 50 pieces of paper for one person.
54. This is distinctively with the further education
sector. We have made the point across the board, have we not?
(Mr Gibson) Could we support you in that, Chairman,
very strongly if that is possible.
(Ms Silver) I have one more addition to that. I do
not know if you know that people have to hand in time sheets and
the checking on New Deal trainees is really appallingly undignified.
If you are trying to normalise them and they are the only group
in college who have to take their time sheets, it is very undignified.
55. Could we just look briefly at the liaison
with the Employment Service, which is obviously a critical issue.
We had a few teething troubles in my area when it started, which
were sorted our mostly. Do you think there is close enough liaison
between the Employment Service and the New Deal providers in the
FE sector? Is that working well now?
(Mr Gibson) I think, as you rightly say, it was almost
open warfare, was it not, if you go back to those very early days.
Anything that went wrong by definition was the other party's fault,
but I think it has grown up a lot since then. I am not saying
it is perfect, I think we should look, and I hope you will encourage
us to look, at much more close working relationships, using the
personal advisers as the people to help us see through that to
the advantage of the New Deal people. It is a lot, lot better
than it was but it would be foolish to say it could not better.
I think that is one recommendation you will obviously want to
(Mr Brennan) Just to add a little bit to that. One
of the interfaces which we still get comments about is the communication
between personal advisers and college staff when clients make
the transition, and so on, and the extent to which information
is passed on and the college sometimes has to duplicate work that
has already taken place in the Gateway in order to establish a
starting point for individual learners and so on. I think there
are areas like that where a general improvement would probably
be helpful although, as David has said, it is not uniformly bad.
The relationships are much better and the understanding is much
better than it was before but I think there is still room for
improvement in that respect. There are other structural things
which to some extent relate to relationship issues but also relate
to the kind of bureaucracy point that was being made before. Because
New Deal has its own structures, its own consortia arrangements,
its own planning arrangements for provision and so on, which are
not linked in to the kind of emerging structures which the Learning
and Skills Council will be creating, for example, there is a potential
in all of that for colleges in particular, as providers, to find
themselves engaged in a whole series of different dialogues with
different agencies about the range of provision they are providing
in a way that does not integrate accordingly to all of that. We
think there are opportunities now as these new structures are
being built to create a rather more coherent approach to this
so that the planning and the management and the accountability
arrangements, the flow of information and so on, can be much more
streamlined for all the parties involved. That would help everybody
to focus on the clients rather than on some of the processes that
(Ms Silver) We have two Employment Service colleagues
in our college the whole time, they are based in the college itself.
For two days a week we also have somebody from the income tax
office to sort out tax problems and benefit and that really makes
a difference, they are not running between different agencies
but where they are based is where they are served. Without the
team we have we would not be nearly as successful and it makes
a difference. When it works, it really works well.
56. I am interested in the appointment of the
secondee to work with the Employment Service and I note that you
said you were pleased with the Good Practice Guide. What
other benefits have there been from this initiative, the route
talked about, the advantage of people going the other way and
going to colleges? Has that secondment been a success? What benefits
were there? Is it going to be repeated?
(Dr Brennan) I think it was and it was widely seen
as such on both sides in that it created a better interface between
the sector and the Employment Service, a better understanding
on the part of the Employment Service of the issues which drove
colleges in terms of the way in which they were trying to respond
to the needs of the programme and so on and, on the other hand,
you were able to disseminate some of the messages about what the
Employment Service was trying to do and how it was trying to do
it out to the colleges through channels through which they perhaps
understood a bit more readily and in language they would understand
more readily than the Employment Service would deliver. I think
there were benefits from that. It is a bit unfortunate that it
came to an end at the point where it did. If it were possible
to resurrect something of that kind we would see that as being
very beneficial. Indeed, David referred earlier to something David
Blunkett said at our conference a few weeks ago in effect challenging
the sector to do better in terms of its contribution to the New
Deal, a challenge which I think we are very ready, and the sector
is very ready to pick up on and David has written to him to say
that we want to do this and we are awaiting some response to that
so we can begin to work on some of these agendas together.
(Mr Gibson) Departmental differences and understandings
are not made up, are they? Sometimes they are fairly fundamental
and I think this was an attempt to try to get over some of the
original problems that you mentioned. Whether it would have been
better to look at re-establishing that along the lines John said
I would have thought there was still some benefit to be gained
from trying to do that.
57. I wanted to go back to the issue of funding
briefly and ask whether you still think there is a major problem
in terms of putting together packages of support for New Dealers.
In Sheffield we have got pots of Objective 1 money to spend on
education and training, SRB money, we have got all the LSE money
that is coming through, and there are national IT programmes.
There is lots and lots of money coming in in different ways but
it seems you cannot put together a package of all the different
bits for New Dealers. Is that still the case?
(Mr Gibson) I think you are spoiled with money!
58. It depends which street you live in which
ones you are eligible for.
(Mr Gibson) I think you are right. If I refer you
back to those case studies, some colleges were putting in extra
funds from their own money, and some were eligible and able and
willing to apply for European Social Funds and some are going
for SRB, and that does dictate the reality, that colleges are
sitting there trying to maximise income. Sometimes it is another
job and some colleges have special units in order to go around
maximising the amount of money they can get from these things.
The more that is brought together then the colleges can make a
more coherent deal for its students and clients.
59. Can I thank you all very much indeed for
coming in front of us and answering our questions so frankly.
I was very interested in the job brokering service which is happening
in Ruth's college. Could you perhaps provide us with further examples
of that where it exists within your sector. That is very much
pertinent to another investigation that we are just completing.
That would be helpful.
(Mr Gibson) That would be a pleasure, Chairman.
60. Thank you very much indeed.
(Mr Gibson) Thank you very much.