Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-124)|
WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2001
BICHARD, KCB AND
120. Is the drop-out rate getting any higher
because of the student financial situation we have at the present
time? Your own DfEE figures, I understand, show that something
like 40 per cent of mature students are now dropping out of higher
(Sir Michael Bichard) I will look at that.
It is not a figure I would recognise. The drop-out rate in this
country is lower than just about any of our competitors in higher
education. It is remarkably low compared to most of our European
competitors. Again, that is not to say we should be complacent
about it. Many of the things we have been talking about today
are really important in the HE sector to ensure that people get
on the right course, they are supported, there is a proper induction,
and we identify quickly when they are experiencing problems. You
could have this debate today in relation to the HE sector. It
is wrong to suggest that we (relatively speaking) have a major
problem with drop-outs; it is not true.
121. I was interested in Edward Leigh's question
and particularly your answer about schools and bad staff. I have
had experience in my own constituency where five years ago a school
that was becoming a sink school got a new head teacher, and she
told me that one member of staff had left, and it is now one of
the most desired schools in Edinburgh. The question I would like
to put to you is I am concerned that that head teacher is going
to be lost to schools. I wonder whether consideration is given
to rewarding head teachers and rotating them every five years.
Of course that is easier in an urban situation than a rural one,
but is that something you have given thought to?
(Sir Michael Bichard) I think that is really important.
There are examples of that happening. If you are saying could
we or could local authorities, I think it is more local authorities
that could do something here because it is in small geographical
areas. One of the reasons I am moving is because I think individuals
need to keep fresh and organisations need different leaders after
a while. That applies exactly the same to a school as it does
to a Civil Service or Whitehall department. So I think we should
be facilitating and encouraging that.
122. On higher education I get the feeling that
higher education staff and institutions do not feel that they
have enjoyed the same benefits over recent years that perhaps
primary schools have, and to a lesser extent secondary schools
but still substantial benefits. Is that impression well-founded?
(Sir Michael Bichard) I am about to find out since
I shall be working in the sector. I have a sense that that is
how they feel. I am not sure whether it is entirely justified
other than of course the Government has placed a particular priority
on literacy and numeracyprimary schools' basic skills.
I do not think that has been at the expense of HE. The investment
in HE has also increased. The targets for participation in HE
have increased as well. The investment in research and equipment
in HE has increased substantially over the last four or five years,
but certainly I think the perception is alive in HE and that cannot
be a good thing and we do need to change that and make the HE
sector feel valued as well.
123. Thank you and good luck.
(Sir Michael Bichard) Thank you.
124. My respect for you is not quite as high
as I thought it was. I read here that you have supported Manchester
United for more than 30 years; that has got to be bad judgment!
(Sir Michael Bichard) I was very worried at the weekend
that this was going to clash with last night's game but as it
happened I missed it anyway!
Chairman: It just remains for me to say thank
you for coming and thank you for all the work you have done in
a very, very important sector.
6 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 2, page 21 (PAC