Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from Stephen Twigg MP

  I would first like to thank the Committee for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to say a few words about my ministerial remit. I am responding to some outstanding queries that were raised during the Committee meeting of the 17 July that I was unable to respond to at that time.

  Jonathan Shaw asked whether I would expect the Children and Young People's Unit (CYPU) to have an input in development of the policy for asylum seeker children to be educated in accommodation centres.

  I should say that the CYPU does not assume direct responsibility for all policies pertaining to children and young people, but helps to provide a framework within which those policies can be developed, through the over-arching strategy for children and young people (due to be published by the end of the year) and the "Core Principles" of involving children and young people in the decisions that affect them.

  The CYPU has not had a specific role in developing the policy on education for asylum-seeking children as lead responsiblity for asylum seekers generally is with the Home Office. The Home Office has formed an integrated inter-departmental planning process, working with other relevant service-providing departments to ensure that provision for asylum-seeking children is improved. The Home Office consulted with the Department for Education and Skills at an early stage and both Departments have worked together to develop the policy.

  Mr Shaw also asked how many asylum seeker children are taught in England. We do not ask LEAs to collate information of this nature and if we were to do so, it would be quickly out of date. However we have an estimate from the Refugee Council—a very reliable source who say that "there are approximately 80,000 children of asylum seekers and refugees in schools in the UK, 62,000 of whom are in Greater London and represent 6 per cent of the total school population in this region".

  Schools receive funding for these children in the same way that they do for all other children on their school roll, through the Educaton Standard Spending Assessment. Other funding is available through the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, which all LEAs are eligible for and through a small grant made available for children of asylum seekers who are in schools in the Home Office identified dispersal areas.

  David Chaytor asked whether it is still the Government's policy to equalise the funding between sixth forms and colleges.

  The Government remains firmly committed to bring up level of funding of colleges to that of school sixth forms. However, as we have repeatedly made clear this will take time and must be done as resources allow. Given the different ways in which schools and colleges are funded and the very much broader remit of colleges, comparisons on the funding of school and colleges of further education are far from straight forward. It is worth noting that all post-16 funding is now the responsiblity of the Learning and Skills Council and that the differences in the funding systems for school sixth forms and FE colleges are being removed.

  Mr Chaytor also made reference to the announcement that Education SSA for schools will increase by 3.5 per cent and FE funding to increase by 1 per cent which he felt would increase the differential rather than reduce it.

  The 3.5 per cent real terms increase for Education Standard Spending and the FE 1 per cent real terms increase are not comparable. From this financial year school sixth forms are not funded through Education Standard Spending but by the Learning and Skills Council. The 3.5 per cent increase, which is to total Education Standard Spending, will therefore have no bearing on a differential between school sixth forms and FE colleges. The increase for FE is to core unit funding per FE student and the 1 per cent annual real terms rise over the spending review period compares to the real terms reductions in plans for core FE unit funding in previous years. In return for this additional funding we will be asking colleges to commit to targets for performance improvement.

  Detailed allocation of the settlement for schools, school sixth forms and further education beyond the announcements mentioned above is still being considered. I can confirm that we expect later in the year to be able to commit further substantial resources to the FE sector for the 2003-06 period. These resources will be linked to other aspects of the reform agenda on which we are currently consulting through "Success for All". Decisions and announcements on them will be made following the end of the consultation period (30 September). We believe that this commitment to significant long-term investment recognises the central role the sector plays in meeting our learning goals and delivering the skills the economy needs.

  Jeff Ennis questioned whether the profile of the type of courses that EMA students undertake will change in terms of the current balance between academic and vocational courses.

  We have sent the Select Committee members copies of the 2nd year report "Education Maintenance Allowance: The first two years—A Quantitative Evaluation" (and the Research Brief) and also copies of the report of the "Evaluation of Education Maintenance Allowance pilots: Leeds and London—First Year Evidence" (and the Research Brief) so they can look at the evidence in some detail.

  The key points from the evidence appear to be that the EMA does appear to encourage a greater proportion of young people to take vocational courses either on their own or alongside academic studies and achievement by EMA recipients in pilot areas at the end of these courses is at the same levels as their counterparts in the control areas, despite having lower attainment at 16. It is still too early in the analysis to say much about the types of courses studied by young people after two years on EMA. This information will be published next year.

  During the proceedings Valerie Davey asked whether funding for the London Centre for Gifted and Talented Children would be made available centrally or whether LEAs would be expected to contribute. As the Committee will be aware, the Secretary of State announced on 1 July, as part of the London Challenge, that she would make available £10 million over the next three years to support gifted and talented education in London. Our plans for this provision are still under development. Although we expect that public funding will be drawn largely from the £10 million already announced, I would not want to rule out the possibility that schools might make a contribution by paying for services provided to them, particularly those that benefit from Standards Fund Grant intended for this purpose.

  I hope that I have answered all the Committee members' queries satisfactorily.

Stephen Twigg MP

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