Examination of Witness (Questions 600-618)|
WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2002
600. I am sure that Valerie Davey will keep
you to that.
(John Healey) I am sure she will.
Chairman: Can I now turn to something that has
very much interested the Committee and that is the financial support
for adult students and the kind of equity or lack of equity between
students in higher education and students in further education?
601. Can you give us your opinion as to whether
FE students should have been included within the Government's
recent review of funding for higher education? Your colleague
again more or less indicated that would have been a good idea.
(John Healey) I think that would be very difficult
to do, I have to say, because the basis of funding for students
in higher education is so different from further education that
to try and examine the challenges that we wanted to sort out with
higher education funding would be difficult to do with further
education. The principal reason for that is that, unlike in higher
education, in further education there are no entitlements to funding
support. That is such a fundamental difference. We may be arguing
the pros and cons and the policy consequences of that, but purely
in terms of your question I think that would be very difficult
602. Difficult but important.
(John Healey) We are at the moment in the Department
doing a pretty far reaching review of the support for adult learners.
I am quite content that we are doing that within the Department
in discussion with others rather than having that part and parcel
of a complex exercise that is going on at present with higher
education funding and support.
603. Can we turn then to specifics? Let us turn
to the 16 to 18-year olds where we have not yet got a common formula
for the institutions that they go to. What about a common formula
for the support they get? A third of young people are entitled
now to education maintenance allowances. Have you yet had the
analysis of the benefit that that has given and is the Department
again preparing a bid for February 18 on account of the EMAs for
16 to 18-year olds?
(John Healey) I think the Committee has probably had
the early evaluation that we have had on education maintenance
allowances and the Committee will be aware that although there
are different stages there are three years of evaluation set out
for EMAs. That seems to suggest that there is probably an impact
as far as we can see initially of round about a five per cent
increase in participation in the 56 EMA areas. In terms of the
spending review it is clearly one of the areas we are looking
very hard at in terms of the context of what DfES will settle
on as the priorities for the bid we put to the Treasury, what
view the Treasury will take of our bid as a whole and the elements
within it of course are a matter for discussion further down the
Valerie Davey: Can I just check whether we have
that evaluation already?
604. We are not sure.
(John Healey) If you have not had the evidence that
we have then we will make sure you get it.
605. Clearly targeting funding is always good
and there has been a very considerable increase in the access
money that the colleges have. I think we have a note that it has
risen from £36 million in 1999/2000 per year to £62
million in 2001/2002. Can you tell me what calculations you have
as to how much of that has been taken up and of what benefit it
has been to students?
(John Healey) In terms of benefit, because it is a
flexible fund that the colleges have been able to make decisions
about largely according to the student demands and needs in their
area it has been very useful. It has covered things that range
from transport costs to overalls to learning books and equipment.
We have an analysis of the precise number of people that have
drawn down access funds. I do not have it with me today but I
can let you have that.
606. Included in that please could you tell
us how much has actually been used?
(John Healey) Yes.
607. On the question of the review of support
for adult students can you give us an idea of when that will be
completed, and is it completely separate from the review of HE
(John Healey) It is separate. We are doing it within
the Department as part of our work to try and make appropriate
decisions on where we might go in the longer term and therefore
what sort of shape the elements of our bid for the spending review
ought to have.
608. So therefore this will be completed long
before February 18?
(John Healey) Much of the work that we are doing at
the moment at least needs to give us a basis on which to make
some judgements and decisions about priorities and some judgements
and decisions about how strong our case at that point might be
on any of these fronts.
609. Has there been any consultation with outside
interested parties about the future shape of any scheme for support
for adult students or has it been entirely internal?
(John Healey) We have discussions and meetings all
the time, officials and ministers, with interested parties right
across the piece on funding in the post-16 field as you know.
610. But has there not been a formal consultation?
(John Healey) This is not a formal consultation. This
is work we are rightly doing within the Department as part of
our own planning and prioritisation, particularly in the context
of the onus on producing a DfES spending review bid.
611. If the bid for this particular area were
not successful in this year's CSR would the discussion of support
adult students continue after that? Is it an issue worth considering
after that or will you abandon it for the next three years?
(John Healey) Let us wait and see what the outturn
is, but in general terms I cannot see a situation where the discussion
about funding support for students is ever going to be settled
for any part of the education system.
612. Mr Bryan Sanderson, to whom the Chairman
referred earlier, was very strongly of the view that the disparity
in pay between teachers in schools and teachers in FE colleges
was unsupportable, to use his word. I wonder whether you agree
with him and what you are going to do about it.
(John Healey) There are difficulties, particularly
in some areas, with recruiting and retaining staff in FE just
as there are in other parts of the education system. If you look
at the figures for the turnover of staff in FE, in general in
FE colleges it is on average ten per cent. That compares pretty
well with schools and higher education institutions. In about
a fifth of general FE colleges it is as high as one in five. Some
of the measures that we are putting in place will help that: the
training bursaries, the golden hello's. Fundamentally pay may
be a part of that but there are two other elements to this that
the Committee might want to bear in mind as it tries to get a
fuller picture of this. The first is that at present we still
do not have the comparability of qualifications in the workforce,
so of full time FE staff 52 per cent only have a full teaching
qualification and ten per cent have a partial qualification. You
would not find that in the school system. What that leads me to
is that part of any long term solution has got to be able to deal
first of all with the levels of professionalisation and qualification
within the FE sector, and we can discuss some of the initiatives
in the standards fund supported by the new teaching pay initiative
that we have decided to try and re-introduce in order to create
a career structure. Secondly, we have to deal with the degree
of casualisation in the FE sector which again you certainly do
not find in other parts of the education system. Part-timers make
up 36 per cent, more than one in three, of the teaching force
within general further education colleges. Thirty three per cent
of FE colleges employ some of their teaching staff on term-time
only contracts. Ninety per cent of their support staff are on
term-time only contracts. This fragmentation and casualisation
of the FE sector is one of our biggest challenges and I think
myself is a big part of the problem of recruitment and retention
in the sector.
613. It is worrying, even if it is only ten
per cent turnover in staff, if that ten per cent is many of your
highly qualified people who are moving. This Committee has found,
certainly in evidence from NATFHE, that like for like there is
a £6,000 differential. If you are teaching IT in an FE college
and there is a school up the road which has a vacancy you are
likely to move. I am only talking about full time fully qualified,
like for like comparisons, and that is a problem, is it not?
(John Healey) There is a differential. I do not recognise
the figure of £6,000. The figures that I have suggest that
it is around £2,000. That certainly can create problems but
then there are also these differentials in terms of the degree
of qualification within the different teachers' workforces.
614. I am just checking my papers here. The
General Secretary of NATFHE, Paul Mackney, said that there was
a £6,000 difference between further education and schools.
(John Healey) I am not suggesting that Mr Mackney
did not say that. I am just saying that I do not recognise that
figure. The figures according to our analysis suggest that the
differential is around £2,000. There is a differential, it
can clearly cause problems, but there is also this differential
which I think is important to bear in mind: the degree of qualifications
that we have currently got in the workforce which we have to improve
in FE and the degree of casualisation that many of the members
that Mr Mackney represents have to put up with in terms of their
employment within the sector.
615. One of the issues as I understand it is
that the pay structure within the funding for FE colleges used
to be ring fenced and that is no longer the case. Certainly I
have had representations from management in the FE college in
my constituency, and I am sure others have as well, to try and
bring this back. What is happening at the moment is that when
the college finds itself short of money it is taking it out of
what effectively would be the pay budget or not allowing the increase
of pay to take place, even further exacerbating the problem.
(John Healey) You are right to say that there is no
ring fenced or national system. When FE colleges became incorporated
independent institutions as a result of legislation in 1992 they
then set their own terms and conditions for their staff. Although
there are national pay bargaining arrangements it is a decision
for the governing body of each and every college to make in terms
of their staff. The latest NATFHE figures that I have seen suggest
that seven out of eight colleges implemented in full the previous
year's nationally negotiated settlement. It certainly does mean
that you will see differences from college to area, from area
to area, but that is because the colleges as employers are independent
616. In my own college the staff had not had
a pay rise for two years and it was exactly the point you were
making. I want to move on and say that Paul Mackney at our last
session said that as well as the £6,000 (and you disputed
that figure so that is up for argument) the sixth formers that
colleges looked after were generally the ones that schools would
not or could not look after and therefore there was a bigger job
of work for them to do and, as well as that, they were getting
less money for doing it.
(John Healey) I would not like there to be any suggestion
from those comments that somehow sixth form colleges were sink
options for kids that schools could not cope with. In many areas,
and it is probably the case in yours, Mr Pollard, many students
go to sixth form colleges as a very positive option because they
want to get away from the school culture. Sixth form colleges,
as general FE, can offer them a range of learning that they simply
cannot find elsewhere in the system. Though it is true to say
that there will be some students that may require additional support
that will put extra pressure on the staff, to some degree we have
tried to recognise this in the formulas for the funding of students
so that those who, for instance, come from particularly disadvantaged
areas a proxy for perhaps extra support or extra incentive which
might be needed to bring them into learning is built into the
formula for funding student places.
617. Minister, I appreciate what you say, but
I have to tell you that in terms of sitting here on our top-up
inquiry into FE, that if you compare the evidence that we had
from the main teaching unions last week, there is a real change
and you can see there is a real change and lift in positive feeling
about what is happening in mainstream education, but we get a
very different feel from the FE sector, that there is a lack of
morale and there are some very deep discontents in the sector
you are responsible for. I hope you realise that that is what
we are picking up on and if you are not picking up on it we would
be concerned that the Government was not aware of that situation
at the very time when, as I have said elsewhere, the FE sector
is being asked to play a very important role in your area and
a tough role at that.
(John Healey) Chairman, I do understand that and recognise
it very clearly. I have said to audiences that I have either spoken
to or had discussions with that in many ways I understand the
view from FE that somehow from 1997 onwards the priority was for
schools and then FE follows and I think that was the case. What
we can argue is that we are only now starting to see the sort
of investment in the FE sector that we were able earlier to make
in schools and so the increase in the budget for FE of £527
million has been earmarked for this year as a significant real
terms increase with more to follow next year. It is for the first
time the sort of level of capital investment, particularly when
we are introducing for the first time the teaching pay initiative
and an increase in the standards fund, which has not been there
in previous years. I do understand the pressures and the feeling
there is in the sector. Also you would get many saying, "Well,
we can see some signs now that perhaps things are changing".
618. As the evidence showed last week, it takes
time for it to be felt. The last point is on Sector Skills Councils.
A lot of peopleand we were talking about employers earlierget
a little bit dismayed by the Government's attitude to change:
changing the name, changing the structure. It is quite difficult
to keep the partnership that delivers the skills agenda and here
we are, we have moved from TECs to LSCs, we are now having Sector
Skills Councils and we are getting rid of the national training
organisations. There is a price to pay, is there not, in terms
of perpetual change? People get upset about it.
(John Healey) In this field the criticism would be
justified if it were change for change's sake. My view when I
took over this brief was the challenge of skills from the sector
point of view of change over the years since the Government started
consulting on this. What we needed were organisations that were
able to make a contribution through increased skills sector by
sector, not just in the level of qualifications that the workforce
might have but also in productivity, in employability. You see
in the policies that DWP are producing over New Deal, you see
within the DTI over their concerns too about business competitiveness
sector by sector, and also in the Treasury in their concerns about
productivity generally, that the sector base has a very much more
important part to play. We as a Government in my view needed organisations
that were capable of doing that.. We had some very good NTOs.
They were the minority. There were too many NTOs that had too
little buy-in from employers in their sector and too little influence
outside their sector, and that really is the basis on which we
are looking to move from 70-plus NTOs to a smaller, stronger network
in the future which will be based on sector skills councils.
Chairman: Minister, thank you for your attendance.
We will seeing more of you. Thank you for your evidence.