Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 240-258)|
WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2002
240. I think you alluded earlier to the fact
that you felt a lot of the people who were in running for ILA
accounts in your college were people who had had qualifications
before. They were "already on the ladder" I think was
the phrase you used. Do you think that was the vast majority of
(Mr Ingleson) I think that the majority of people
we brought in through the scheme in 2000-01 had no qualifications.
The college has a set of strategies in place to reach the student
groups that are priority for us. We have been successful in bringing
in significant numbers of students that have not traditionally
been exposed to FE. Many of those have come with no formal qualifications.
My comment on that, though, was that once they have used the ILA
many of them have gone on to subsequent qualifications who would
not have been able to afford that without a second bite of the
241. Can I ask Mr Gibson whether you think that
is true across all of the colleges?
(Mr Gibson) Our view would be that the majority were
people who I think would fall in the general category of not being
into learning and not having previous qualifications. However,
I think we would be cautious abut this because I think there is
also a section of people who have come for re-skilling and updating
and up-skilling and I would want to see that we were able to provide
that opportunity as well.
242. Do you think any successor scheme for colleges
in general, and yours, Mr Ingleson, as well, would do anything
differently in terms of marketing and trying to bring in people
who were not perhaps caught by the first ILA scheme?
(Mr Gibson) I think that if there was a clear scheme
and it was one which ensured that the providers had been accredited,
so that there was a very rigorous accreditation process and after
that colleges were then encouraged to market and so on, yes, I
think that could be very successful.
243. As an association with the experience that
the colleges in total have now had, would there be two specific
comments that you would want to make to the Government for any
new launch of ILAs?
(Mr Gibson) Yes, there would. (1) We would want them
seriously to encourage, as much as we are able to find, a successful
marketing plan. I believe, as I said right at the beginning, that
we did release learning (if I may put it in that way) to people
who otherwise may not have had it. From that point of view, we
very, very strongly support it. (2)and I am sorry to repeat
this, but I think it is appropriatewe would want to see
accreditation of the organisations providing the training, where,
in order to ensure that is being properly done, that was rigorous,
if you did not pass it, you did not participate in it, and if
you did you were then allowed to get on with it. What I think
we do not want is a typical bureaucratic response, which is to
pile more bureaucracy on yet more bureaucracy on yet more bureaucracy.
We have explained in this Committee before, through you Chairman,
that there is already far too much of that. Let us be very rigorous
because we want to be accountable but be rigorous at the point
of agreeing what is an appropriate organisation.
244. Following that on, you mentioned specifically,
Mr Ingleson, as I understood it, the difference between the front-loading
payment which you saw on this scheme and what in most college
courses is obviously end-loading finance. I wonder whether that
is an aspect that you would want to highlight as well.
(Mr Ingleson) Can I take the first part first. I was
inspector for nine years, as an HMI and then a senior regional
inspector for the Further Education Funding Council. I do not
come particularly to argue the case for colleges today. Much of
my work was about assessing need and assessing demand and I believe
that there are many different ways in which that demand and need
can be met. In both institutions in which I have worked as a principal,
I have a track record of working with voluntary and private sector
providers to make sure that that spread is as wide and as comprehensive
as we can make it. What I would say is that one of the arguments
that has been adduced for the audit load that we have is that
large institutions, when they go wrong, carry greatest risk. I
think that if that is an argument which is held, then the opposite
of that also ought to be true, that if you wish to make greatest
impact you make judicious investment in big institutions who have
a clear strategic aim and have the resources to deliver significant
programme in terms of volume. One of the issues with which I struggled
with the ILA was a sense of target at one end and a confetti-like
approach to the way the money was spread on the other, and they
do not sit easily for me. I think there are issues there about
definition in terms of what the money would be used for in any
marketing scheme. I do not have a strong view one way or the other
about the question you asked me specifically, other than that
it would be nice to have consistency.
245. The organisation you have not mentioned
yet, which was new in this particular development, was the involvement
of Capita. As far as the colleges are concerned, how efficient
or otherwise was Capita in this development?
(Mr Ingleson) Dreadful.
(Mr Gibson) Can I slightly rephrase that! I think
there have been deep concerns.
246. Dreadfully deep concerns.
(Mr Gibson) Yes. Through you, Chairman, yes, dreadfully
Valerie Davey: I think we would like to unpack
that, as they say, a little more carefully.
247. You know that we are interviewing Capita
(Mr Gibson) Yes. I am sure you will be asking them
what checks they made on people applying, how rigorous and robust
their systems were, how easy it was to get into the system. Those
are questions which have been raised publicly.
248. What did you see as their responsibility
to you, not only to the Association but to the colleges?
(Mr Ingleson) The responsibility is more to the student.
That was where it did not work. The greatest problem we had was
at the point of contact with the understanding for the system,
with a major training need for our front-line teaching staff to
the extent that we print cards for them: "This is how you
do it: Write on the blackboard, "(1) open a bank account'"because
most of the students we were working with did not have bank accounts.
The steps that were involved with that at that first point of
contact by definition are going to be very difficult for the group
of students at which we are aiming the system. We put in place
a very complex, to them, web-based administration system and a
telephone help line that did not work, and then we wondered why
they struggled and why we had difficulties around the administration.
I do not know what the specification was that they were given,
but I do know at that interface between learner and us and the
system we had huge difficulties.
249. I would like to move us on to the type
of learning that students undertook on ILAs and also look to the
future. You talked about targeting and bringing in people who
would not otherwise have had the opportunity to learn, and ILAs
were a vehicle for that. We have expressed some concern about
the number of people who have taken up ILAs who have not had any
learning before. Do you think that it if the subsidy was widened
for other areas of learning, that would then increase the number
of people who would otherwise have the opportunity to come forward
and take the opportunity for learning? This very much concentrated
on IT and numeracy skills to get this discount. If we had a far
wider range of courses available for this discount, do you think
we would see more people who would not otherwise enter into learning
coming to colleges and seeking training in ILAs?
(Mr Gibson) Yes, I do. I have no doubt about it. If
the percentage of "bonus" which is given to a college
for widening participation was increased, I think that would also
have the same effect. It is very expensive to do some of the things
Mr Ingleson talked about. If you are sending a member of staff
out to work in the community, work in a community centre and so
on, that costs money. We were talking informally outside about
a woman returner, not unlike the one Stuart has outlined, and
the effect of that person going on and getting a degree, the effect
of that in a family, the expectations of the children and so on,
I believe has a massive potential. So we would want to do whatever
we could. Another example, given the other general brief, would
be EMAs. I think they have proven that where there is financial
support you increase the participation and you increase and improve
retention. If that is working, let us do it for everybody. Let
us have it universal.
250. Should there be a criterion for learning?
Should anything go? If you want to do body massage, feng shui,
photography, does it matter? Or is it only computers that are
(Mr Ingleson) The need for us to become more IT literate
I think is very, very important. I particularly work in an area
of the country where we have a deficit of businesses which are
IT specific and we certainly have a shortfall of IT application
within other businesses in the area. We need to generate additional
skills and amongst the people currently in our workforce. I have
no doubt that the kind of skills that we have provided through
much of this activity is worthwhile. What I want to say, though,
as I indicated earlier, is that we have actually brought students
in on to a large part of the college's curriculum offered, not
just the IT-based activity, and I do not believe they would have
been there if they had not had the learning account to support
251. Do you think that we should continue with
the universal approach or do you think that we should look at
models, such as your college has too, where you are targeting
(Mr Ingleson) I think the machinery that can be put
in place for a phase 2 would allow a sense of priority. I am more
comfortable with something which talks about eligibility rather
than targeting. If it is to be something which lets people exercise
individual choice and freedoms, I struggle with the concept of
targeting. If it is about saying there are groups out there that
we believe have a right for learning in ways that they have not
exercised before: How will we define that group? and: How are
we going to make this opportunity available to them? would be
the way that I would wish to see that happen. The piece of machinery
that the State already has in place is the Learning Skills Counciland
I say that with some reluctance, if my colleagues behind me will
(Mr Ingleson) Because at the moment I am not entirely
sure how the LSC will develop in the future. If you give 5,000
people a job, they will seek to discharge that to the best of
their ability, so they will send me letters which are interminably
inconsistent, they will bury me in paperwork and at a level of
detail which is quite remarkable. The strategic planning role
253. They are shaking their heads behind you.
(Mr Ingleson) I am quite sure they will.
Chairman: You carry on, Mr Ingleson.
254. There is a knife coming towards you.
(Mr Ingleson) The issue for me, going forward, is
the strategic planning role that they have as a very important
part of their taskif there were to be groups or communities
defined as a priority area and the LSC has the wherewithal to
direct the funding to make sure their needs are best met.
255. If you shape the courses you are offering
more to the communities, then surely you will be more successful.
That is the way perhaps to prioritise. I wonder what percentage
of the people coming on to the ILA courses at your college went
for IT because of the subsidy.
(Mr Ingleson) I cannot answer that. I think it would
be quite significant, yes.
256. Do you see the ILA as a criticism of your
track record, in the sense that what you are saying is that the
ILA has at least got through to a whole range of people you have
failed to attract in the past by whatever strategies you have
developed. In a sense, are you not really a rather stodgy, boring
bit of the educational sector that does not really excite people?
ILAs have rather embarrassed you in one sense, have they not?
(Mr Ingleson) I think that is a bit like criticising
a boxer who loses because he has got one arm tied behind his back,
257. One of the exciting things about ILAs,
as we have been learning from evidence, was that new providers
came in who actually cared about the consumer, and they had a
different kind of environment. We know there are potentially participants
in education that are put off going through a college or an establishment
or an institution like yours. Are you not being a bit dog in the
manger-ish about this?
(Mr Ingleson) That is not quite the phrase I would
choose, Chairman. I think the evidence within the sector generallyand
David is probably far better equipped than me to answer thisis
that, with the resource, colleges can deliver. Whether that be
in partnership, whether it be working with third party or whether
it be with investing the resource in provision in the communities,
where people have got access to that, if the resource is there
it can be done.
(Mr Gibson) I think you know well that if you took
all parts of the education system, it is the further education
part of it which has done more for social inclusion than any other
part. We have consistently said that we are underfunded. If you
look at the percentage, as I said, for widening participation,
if you look at the core funding and all the issues we have brought
to you before, if you listen to the TUC and their learning partnerships
(I think 80 of them are with colleges and that is the vast majority),
I think we can quite honestly sit here and feel quite proud about
our sector as far as that is concerned.
258. Leaving aside the question of the historic
levels of FE funding and coming back to the AoC survey, does it
not surprise you, leaving aside Preston college but of the other
colleges you surveyed, how little impact ILAs had and how few
ILAs seem to have been taken up? I come back to this figure of
£25,000, the anticipated loss of fee income. I find it staggering
how little involvement colleges as a whole appear to have had,
if that is the modest scale of the losses they are declaring now.
Is that not a criticism of the sector as a whole for being insufficiently
enterprising? If you were still a college principal, do you think
you personally would have been able to use them more creatively
than some of your colleagues seem to have done over the last 10
(Mr Gibson) It would depend on the quality of the
outreach staff, Chairman. I think I am having my leg pulled in
a way that it is not for us to discuss publicly. I do not accept
that, no. As I explained to you earlier, the survey did not take
place until the end of November/beginning of December. That is
the Christmas period. The information we brought to you was finished
on 22 January. I would not expect every sixth-form college to
be involved in ILAs and therefore you are actually more likely
to be talking about general FE colleges and I would have thought
that that return was pretty good for that length of time. We have
deliberately given the other figures at their most modest. We
believe it is £100,000 equivalent over a full year and that
is a very serious underestimate. So I do not think so. But, even
at these figures, can I remind you through the Chairman that this
showed a potential deficit to the colleges of £2.5 million.
Chairman: I am afraid we are going to have to
wind this part of the discussion up. I know Kerry Pollard is desperate
for a last question but I am going to use it in a different form
with the next witnesses. Mr Ingleson, Mr Gibson, on behalf of
the Committee may I thank you for your attendance today.