Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Learning and Skills Council (FEF 14)


  1.  The attached document has been prepared for Members of the Education and Skills Committee of the House of Commons, as background information for the meeting of 12 November with Bryan Sanderson (Chairman) and John Harwood (Chief Executive).

  2.  The document provides a briefing of the work undertaken so far by the Learning and Skills Council, and the way it is approaching its remit.


  3.  The Learning and Skills Council was established by the Learning and Skills Act 2000. The LSC is governed by that Act, the remit letter from the then Secretary of State and by annual guidance letters from the Secretary of State.

  4.  The creation of the LSC was a central feature of the Government's radical proposals for post-16 education and training, and brought together work undertaken previously by 72 Training and Enterprise Councils, the Further Education Funding Council, the National Advisory Council for Education and Training Targets (NACETT) and parts of the (then) Department for Education and Employment. In addition, from April 2002, the LSC will be responsible for the funding of sixth forms in community, voluntary, foundation and special schools.

  5.  The LSC itself comprises a national office, in Coventry, and 47 local councils throughout England. The transfer of over 4,200 staff from 74 different organisations was one of the largest and most complex legal transfers carried out under the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) regulations. The transfer was carried out successfully after full consultation with all the organisations and individuals involved. The jobs, pay and main terms and conditions of each individual have been protected as part of their employment with the Learning and Skills Council.

  6.  The LSC was established as a corporate body in July 2000. The Chairman, Chief Executive and members of the Council were appointed by the Secretary of State and the first board meeting of the Council was held on 31 October 2000. The appointments of members of the 47 local councils were announced during November and December. The LSC came fully into effect from 2 April 2001.

  7.  Enclosed with this document are copies of the Council's Remit letter and the Council's first corporate plan.


"The creation of the Learning and Skills Council is the most significant and far-reaching reform ever enacted to post-16 learning in this country" (Remit Letter—paragraph 2)

  1.1  The LSC was created under the Learning and Skills Act 2000 to integrate the planning and funding of all post-compulsory learning in England other than higher education. The strategic priorities for the LSC were set out in more detail in the remit letter from David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, of 9 November 2000.

  1.2  The LSC became operational on 2 April 2001. The first seven months have, of necessity, involved tackling some key internal process issues and tackling problems that arise in setting up any new organisation. But these have been largely overcome and our focus now is increasingly on ensuring that, with our partners, we are having an impact on learner participation, retention and achievement.

  1.3  The LSC is required, by the Act, to establish two national advisory committees: the Young People's Learning Committee and the Adult Learning Committee. Details of the membership of the National Council and of the two statutory committees is provided in the Corporate Plan.

  1.4  The Secretary of State appoints members to the National Council. Members of the statutory committees, and of the 47 local councils, are appointed by the National Council, with the approval of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State also appoints the chairs of the statutory committees and the local councils, after seeking the Council's advice.

  1.5  The remit letter to the council indicates that the Secretary of State expects the National Council to invite to its meetings as observers:

    —  the Chief Executive of the Employment Service;

    —  a senior official from the DfES;

    —  the Head of the Connexions Service National Unit;

    —  the Chief Executive of the Small Business Service; and

    —  the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

  1.6  Similarly, the Secretary of State expects local Councils to invite to their meetings:

    —  the Employment Service Regional Director;

    —  the Government Office Regional Director;

    —  the Head of the local Connexions Partnership; and

    —  a representative of the relevant local Business Links.

  1.7  The staffing structure of the Council has been developed in the context of its responsibilities and the guidance from the Secretary of State, and is intended to support most effectively the achievement of the Council's Corporate Plan. An overview of the organisational structure, and of the senior management of the Council, is provided in the Corporate Plan.

  1.8  The LSC is a single corporate body, but its success will depend on its ability to understand and respond to local needs. The LSC does, therefore, have a considerable local presence, with around 500 staff being based in the national offices in Coventry, and an average of 80 staff in each of the local offices. The areas covered by local LSCs vary enormously, in terms of geography, population and current participation levels. The first budget allocations to local LSCs (which did not include funding for school sixth forms) ranged from £20 million to £362 million. On average, however, a local LSC might expect to fund further education and training costing £135 million for around 100,000 young people and adults, studying in:

    —  nine FE colleges;

    —  40 school sixth forms;

    —  three local education authority adult and community services;

    —  53 private training providers; and

    —  one university.

  However, this is a national average: individual local LSCs vary considerably.

  1.9  Local LSCs have been given substantial discretion in how they organise their work, both at board level and in their organisational structure. The models adopted broadly reflect those of the national bodies, and the commitment of members and staff at local level has been equally important to the establishment of the Council.

  1.10  The National Council has already delegated a number of functions to be undertaken locally, and local LSCs have some discretion in the use of funds. Such discretion is essential to ensure that local action most effectively contributes to a national vision.

  1.11  One of the first decisions of the national council, local LSCs and of the statutory committees was that individual members would demonstrate their commitment both by acting as champions for learning and by contributing their own skills to the development of the work of the council. We are extremely grateful for the time and expertise members have given, which has played no small part in promoting the LSC and its work.


"Our vision is of a learning society in which everyone has the opportunity to go as far as their talents and efforts will take them" (Remit letter—paragraph 3)

  2.1  The Learning and Skills Council has set out its mission and vision in its first corporate plan, published in July.

  Our mission is to raise participation and attainment through high-quality education and training which puts learners first.

  Our vision is that, by 2010, young people and adults in England will have knowledge and productive skills matching the best in the world.

  2.2  At the end of compulsory education in the UK, at age 16, 84 per cent of the population continued to be enrolled in full-time or part-time education in 1999. This was somewhat lower than the OECD mean of 89 per cent. Participation rates were over 95 per cent in Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and Sweden.

  2.3  At age 17, participation in the UK was 73 per cent. This compares with the OECD average of 82 per cent, and rates of 90 per cent or higher in countries such as France, Germany, and Japan.

  2.4  The charts on pages 7 and 8 show the position of the United Kingdom as compared with other countries in terms of: participation in education by 17 year olds; and the highest level of qualification of people of working age.


"The success of the Council will depend upon strong partnerships and effective linkages with a wide range of organisations" (Remit Letter—paragraph 8)

  3.1  The LSC has established partnerships at two levels, both nationally and locally.

  3.2  Senior staff have regular meetings with representatives of a wide range of bodies, representing learners, providers and employers.

  3.3  For some other partners, the Council has a day-to-day working relationship. With those bodies, staff at all levels may be in contact, sharing information and working jointly on particular projects. The Council considered that, for those bodies, it would be helpful to enter in a formal Memorandum of Understanding, setting out the commitments of each partner to the relationship. The benefits of such arrangements are in making it clear, for example, what information would be shared, in what format, and the purposes for which the information could be used. The memoranda also commit the partners to an integrated approach, and the most effective use of resources.

  3.4  Memoranda of Understanding have been entered into between the Learning and Skills Council and:

    —  the Office for Standards in Education;

    —  the Adult Learning Inspectorate;

    —  the Employment Service;

    —  the Small Business Service;

    —  the National Training Organisations National Council;

    —  Regional Development Agencies; and

    —  Investors in People UK.

  3.5  Local LSCs are forming good links with Learning Partnerships, local education authorities and as they are established, Connexions Partnerships.


"Funding learning is a key task for the Council" (Remit Letter—paragraph 18)

  4.1  The LSC is tasked with integrating into a single system the funding and planning of: further education; work-based learning; adult and community learning; and school sixth forms.

  4.2  This single system work is being developed through wide consultation, and the establishment of a variety of focus groups. Examples include groups of LSC staff meeting with staff from DfES and concentrating on the practicalities of a new funding system, groups including representatives of providers, and groups including representatives of other partners, such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

  4.3  The aim is to have an LSC funding formula in place from August 2004 across all routes.
April 2001April 2002 August 2002August 2003 August 2004
Work-based learningInterim formula Revised
Further EducationFEFC formula retained New formula
LSC funding
formula in
School sixth formsNew formula introduced
Adult and Community
Local Development Plan funding


"I expect the Council to be an exemplary public service organisation" (Remit Letter—paragraph 32)

  5.1  Flowing through all our work is a focus on equality and diversity. We are currently in the final stages of consulting on our national equality and diversity strategy. The strategy's four main objectives are:

    (a)  to develop the Council as an equality and diversity employer/organisation;

    (b)  to embed equality and diversity into all LSC policies, programmes and action;

    (c)  to develop the Council as a champion of equality and diversity; and

    (d)  to report on progress towards equality to the Secretary of State.

  5.2  The Council has established a working group on Equality and Diversity to help develop this strategy. We are also setting up an external advisory group, with membership drawn from the public and private sectors. Its first meeting will be in November.

  5.3  The local LSCs are currently developing their local strategic plans within which equality and diversity will be an important element.


"The Council has a very challenging task ahead of it" (Remit Letter—paragraph   )

  6.1  The LSC published its first national Corporate Plan in July 2001. This document sets out the LSC's strategic framework to 2004. It reflects the remit letter, in which the Secretary of State asked the LSC to:

    —  raise participation and achievement by young people;

    —  increase demand for learning by adults and equalise opportunities through better access to learning;

    —  raise skill levels for national competitiveness;

    —  improve the quality of education and training delivery; and

    —  improve effectiveness and efficiency.

  6.2  The draft Corporate Plan was launched in early March. Copies were distributed widely, both nationally and by local LSCs.

  6.3  A wide-ranging series of consultation meetings across the country, some initiated by the National Office and others by local Councils. Direct meetings were held with most of the LSC's key partners, including open audiences with officials from Department for Education and Skills), the Treasury, the Department for Trade and Industry, the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovation Unit.

  6.4  Over 300 written responses were received, a number of which were extensive and detailed. In almost every case the responses were positive, agreeing to the ambitions set out in the Corporate Plan and seeking to help us achieve them. The only significant point disputed by a minority of responses—and these included both key partners and individuals—concerned the balance between learning to enrich lives, and skills development to improve employability, progression and productivity.

  6.5  The draft Corporate Plan was amended to take account of the responses to consultation. The National Council considered and approved the final version of the Corporate Plan at its meeting on 5 July 2001.

  6.6  The Corporate Plan opens with our vision that:

    "by 2010, young people and adults in England will have knowledge and productive skills matching the best in the world".

  6.7  That will be a major challenge, but is essential if we are to maintain international competitiveness. Our target is that participation rates in education and training in England should be in the top 10 internationally. The current position is shown in the statistical annex, together with a graph demonstrating the step-change in participation that will be required. In particular, we do not assume that our competitors will wait for us to catch up.

  6.8  Our approach is that planning should be both top-down and bottom up: the approach is summarised in the chart on page 19.

Targets for 2004

  6.9  We have set ourselves five key objectives with interim targets for 2004. It is too early to assess our progress towards these but the latest indicative position against each target is set out below, together with our expectation of when definitive data will be available.

  6.10  The key objectives, and associated targets are:
Key objectivesTargets for 2004
1.  Extend participation in education, learning and training 80% of 16-18 year olds in structured learning (2000: 75%)
Set baseline and target for adults in next year's Plan
2.  Increase engagement of employers in workforce development Develop measure of employer engagement in next year's Plan
3.  Raise achievement of young people 85% at level 2 by age 19 (2000: 75%)
55% at level 3 by age 19 (2000: 51%)
4.  Raise achievement of adultsRaise literacy and numeracy skills of 750,000 adults
Percentage of adults at Level 2: target to be set in next year's Plan
52% of adults at Level 3
5.  Raise quality and effectiveness of education and training and user satisfaction Set baselines and targets in next year's Plan

  Extend participation in education, learning and training

  6.11  We have inherited a target from FEFC which is for a 700,000 growth in FE learners from 1997/98 to 2001/02. The latest full year data available is for 2000/01 which shows an estimated 3.5 million learners (FEFC funded) which is close to the numbers in 1997/98. Since the target was set, there has been a trend for institutions to deliver increased numbers of funding units while maintaining (or reducing) learner numbers. Curriculum 2000 has reinforced this trend, as the average number of programmes per learner has increased. Concerns about deadweight and the lack of added value have led to a reduction of franchising which has had a particularly marked effect on reducing FE learner numbers.

  6.11  We estimate that our allocations for 2001/02 would, if delivered, lead to an additional 360,000 learners compared to those funded in 2000/01. Early signs are that institutions are making excellent progress with very early forecasts showing 307,000 additional learners for 2001/02.

Increase engagement of employers in workforce development

  6.12  Our measure of employers' engagement in workforce development will start from the base of employer recognitions as Investors in People and extend significantly beyond it to ensure full value for employer involvement in training at all levels, and commitment to the development of management and leadership.

  6.13  The LSC strategic paper on workforce development will be issued in March 2002 as we finalise our rolled forward Corporate Plan. This timing allows us to take full account of the local strategic plans of the 47 local Councils, which start from an analysis of the skill needs of each area. The opportunity for improving employer engagement is being demonstrated in the large number of sectoral pilots which the national and local offices have initiated, starting with five sectors (gas, automotive, construction, rail and ICT). Skills gaps identified by the workforce are shown in the chart on page 20.

  6.14  The LSC is pursuing initiatives to improve incentives to adults and their employers to train at or near the workplace, through targeted tax credits aimed especially at smaller employers. We are also pursuing objectives related to an improved framework for defining occupational standards and incorporating them rapidly into revised qualifications where appropriate. Finally we are looking to develop good regional frameworks of co-operation in skills analysis and development, working closely with sector bodies and the RDAs as well as national agencies.

Raise achievement of young people

  6.15  Our network of 47 local offices means we are uniquely placed to take a strategic overview of both planning and funding. Our work to accelerate progress on achievement of level 2 targets is a good example of local strategic action. Each local Council has drawn up a plan to identify young people who will only achieve level 2 if they are given additional support. The LSC has made nearly £40 million available, which is being used in various ways, such as enabling smaller teaching groups, providing child care and travel support.

  6.16  The targets for young people are expressed as national targets. There is, however, wide variation in starting position between local LSCs. For example, 95 per cent of 16 year olds in Hertfordshire LSC are in structured learning, compared to 78 per cent of 16 year olds in Norfolk LSC. The actual form that structured learning takes differs also, with 87 per cent of 16 year olds in Hertfordshire LSC being in full-time education, compared to 58 per cent of 16 year olds in South Yorkshire LSC. Examples of the variation in participation rates at 17 between local LSCs in the South West are shown in the chart on page 21.

Raise achievement of adults

  6.17  We want to raise achievement of adults, in particular the literacy and numeracy of 750,000 adults. We are working closely with the Basic Skills Unit to deliver this target, against a background of seven million adults with literacy or numeracy difficulties. Progress to date is encouraging. Including key skills qualifications to level 2, FE colleges estimate an increase of at least 175,000 learners studying basic skills qualifications between 1999-2000 and 2000-01. Very early forecasts for 2001-02 from FE institutions are for a further increase in participation of around 125,000 learners. Literacy levels in the United Kingdom, compared to other countries, are shown in the chart on page 22.

Raise quality and effectiveness of education and training and user satisfaction

  6.18  The national learner survey, to be completed early in the next financial year, will be used to establish a baseline of learner satisfaction. Much of our activity this year has been focussed on raising standards.

  6.19  Our strategy is to introduce robust arrangements to tackle deep-seated problems of inconsistency of standards by challenging poor and coasting providers, and by ensuring excellence in teaching and learning.

  6.20  The programme of 16-19 area-wide inspections began in autumn 1999. A total of 25 reports have been published. Although 12 of those reports were published before April 2001, the LSC is responsible for taking forward work on all reports, including ensuring the implementation of action plans.

  6.21  Reports have been published on 16-19 area-wide inspections of the following areas:
Barking and DagenhamMiddlesbrough
Bath and North East SomersetNewcastle-upon-Tyne
CoventryCity of Nottingham
City of DerbyRotherham
Hackney and IslingtonTower Hamlets

  6.22  Final action plans for nine of the 10 area inspections where the final plan was due after 1 April 2001 have been prepared within the deadline. In the case of Bath and North East Somerset, Ministerial permission was given for an extended deadline. Of these plans, five have been accepted by Ministers with minor modification and four require revisions by the end of November.

  6.23  The main messages from the post-inspection action planning and implementation phases are:

    —  in most cases partnerships are working well;

    —  partnerships are often complex and involve key agencies including: local education authorities; local LSCs; Connexions; colleges; schools, training providers;

    —  improved guidance for pupils aged 14-16 in particular has been given an immediate high priority; linked to young people making informed choices and to the critical goal of improved post-16 participation;

    —  focus is also being given immediately to improving learners' attendance and retention;

    —  in all areas, there is a need for improved provision; sometimes this will require new providers; and

    —  a number of action plans include a strong emphasis on broadening learners' choice of subjects in post-16 provision, by developing close collaboration between schools with small sixth forms, as well as between schools and colleges. Some new sixth form centres are being set up within colleges, and work is in hand to establish new sixth form colleges where this was identified as the way forward.

  6.24  We are addressing the issue of poorly performing colleges as part of taking forward the areas of concern raised in inspection reports. One hundred and sixteen inspection reports of colleges and training providers were published from 1 April 2001 to 22 October 2001. These include five colleges. Action is being taken to address urgently the weaknesses disclosed by the college inspections, and standards funding is being drawn down to help accelerate improvements.

  6.25  Performance reviews of providers are a key part of the Council's strategy for raising standards in post-16 provision. They will take place each year in June, October and February. Their purpose is to:

    —  assess the provision offered by providers to ensure that it is at least of an acceptable standard;

    —  ensure there is appropriate observance of the Council's statutory responsibilities; and

    —  promote continuous improvement.

  6.26  Of the 58 providers inspected by the TSC (and included in the 1999-2000 TSC Chief Inspector's annual report) that had 80 per cent to 100 per cent grade 4 or 5, the LSC no longer contracts with 28. The LSC has 38 contracts in place with the remaining 30 providers. These providers are subject to regular monitoring, and there remain some, or serious, concerns about their provision. Local LSCs are very actively engaged with all providers giving cause for serious concern, developing, agreeing and monitoring action plans for quality improvement.

  6.27  Just as we are determined to raise standards of those providers that are under-performing, or "coasting", so we will praise those many providers that are excellent.

  6.28  In July 2001, the Council announced the first 16 pathfinder Centres of Vocational Excellence:
CollegeVocation Local LSC
Accrington & Rossendale CollegeConstruction Crafts Lancashire
The Arts Institute at BournemouthLens based media Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole
Barking & Havering CollegeAutomotive Engineering London East
Bradford CollegeApplied Science West Yorkshire
Birmingham College of Food Tourism and Creative Studies Hospitality and CateringBirmingham and Solihull
Bishop Burton CollegeAgriculture Humberside
Lancaster & Morecambe CollegeHospitality and Catering Lancashire
Lewisham CollegeComputing London East
Richmond Adult and Community CollegeBusiness and IT London South
South Birmingham CollegeChildcare Birmingham and Solihull
South East Essex College of Arts and Technology Media TechnologyEssex
South Tyneside CollegeNational Nautical Centre of Excellence Tyne and Wear
Sparsholt CollegeGame, Wildlife and Countryside Management and Fishery Studies Hampshire and Isle of Wight
Tameside CollegeEngineering Greater Manchester
Warwickshire College, Royal Leamington Spa and Moreton Morrell General EngineeringCoventry and Warwickshire
Leeds College of TechnologyPrint Media West Yorkshire

  6.29  Ministers agreed in 1999 to award Beacon College status to colleges which demonstrated overall excellence, as confirmed by inspection findings and recommended by the inspectorate. Since April 2001, Beacon College status has been awarded to Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, Runshaw College and Winstanley College. Beacon college status had been awarded previously to:
Bishop Burton CollegeBlackpool and The Fylde College Carmel College
Greenhead CollegeHavering College of Further and Higher Education John Leggott Sixth Form College
Knowsley Community CollegeLewisham College Northern College for Residential Adult Education
North Lindsey CollegePark Lane College Sir John Deane's College
South Cheshire CollegeSt Charles Catholic Sixth Form College Tameside College


"I expect the council to have secured a step-change in the performance of the learning and skills system by March 2004" (Remit Letter—paragraph 70)

  7.1  The Secretary of State's remit letter indicated that we should regard the priorities for the period up to March 2002 to be the establishment of the Council, transition, building relationships and undertaking a comprehensive analysis of local and national learning and skills needs. It was from April 2002 that the Secretary of State expected to see significant changes.

  7.2  A key concern of the LSC, and of Government, is the country's current position in terms of participation in education and training when compared with our international competitors. The National Council was concerned, therefore, that the UK was already trailing behind our competitors, and could not afford to pause to let them move even further ahead.

  7.3  Seven months into our first year, it is too early to measure performance against the national targets. However, some initiatives by the Council are described below which have demonstrated already our ability to produce a step-change in post-16 education and training.

28 March 2001

"Bite Size Learning"

  A nationwide programme of bite size training courses, announced at the official launch of the LSC.

  The programme was aimed at attracting more than 1,000 new adult learners in each of the 47 local council areas.

  Courses, lasting between one and two hours, were designed to give adults a taste of achievement across a wide range of activities, from using a computer to basic numeracy, literacy and communication.

  The target of 50,000 adults was exceeded, with between 70,000 and 80,000 adults taking advantage of the opportunities offered.

3 May 2001

Aid Package to Cammell Laird apprentices

  Greater Merseyside LSC, working with the RDA, Wirral Metropolitan Council and other partners, put together a package, which included the payment of a training allowance, to ensure that all apprentices at Cammell Laird shipyard could remain in post while receivers negotiated with potential buyers.

  Cammell Laird and its associated companies had 310 young people training in a range of skills, including electrical, fabrication, joinery and mechanical engineering.

26 July 2001

Centres of Vocational Excellence

  The first sixteen FE colleges selected as Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) were announced.

  The Pathfinder colleges are part of a £100 million, three-year initiative to improve vocational skills. The initiative encourages the FE sector to forge strong relationships with employers and to play a central role in meeting the current and future skills needs of the nation.

  The target is that, by 2004, half of all general FE colleges have at least one established vocational specialism with CoVE status.

  7.4  We are making good progress on delivering our agenda to raise quality and standards, particularly through local LSCs working directly with providers in developing area and other inspection plans.

  7.5  Arrangements to implement the new funding system for school sixth forms are on track and substantial progress has been made in the last few months.

  7.6  We have adopted the Government target published in "Skills for Life" and a national delivery plan will be published by the end of October. All local Councils will have a delivery plan which will link to their local strategic plans.

  7.7  We have developed funding arrangements which simplify earlier funding mechanisms, for example, we have established a single work based learning funding system to replace the previous 72 systems operated by TECs.

  7.8  The objectives and targets contained within the Corporate Plan set the framework for delivery through the 47 local offices. They are currently drafting local strategic plans which will develop the local targets and show how the step-change we need will be achieved at a local level.

  7.9  The LSC is developing a range of measures of performance. Those measures will be introduced progressively, as data become available to inform those measures. In the interim, a statistical annex is provided, which provides the detailed performance information that is available currently.

  7.10  In August this year, Margaret Hodge wrote to Bryan Sanderson setting out details of a proposed review of the FE sector. The review, to be carried out on behalf of Ministers, will include:

    —  identifying and disseminating good practice in widening adult participation by FE colleges; and

    —  the prospect for future growth in adult participation through the FE sector over the 2003-06.

  7.11  A small group of Council members will steer the LSC's contribution to the review. Work is in hand with DfES officials to take forward the review. In particular, statistical analysis is being undertaken of data identifying growth in colleges between 1997-98 and 1999-2000. This will produce six institutions to be used as case studies for the review.

  7.12  The FE review is closely linked to the work of the HE sector in meeting the target of 50 per cent of all young people in higher education by the year 2010, and may also impact on the spending review for 2003-06.

  7.13  We are working currently on the next round of applications for potential CoVEs and are also extending the concept of other parts of the post-16 learning and skills sector.

Learning and Skills Council

November 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 5 December 2001