Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)|
MONDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2001
140. I am encouraged to hear the doubt and the
recognition that more has to be done. I think this is particularly
high. 75 per cent does seem high to me from my experience. The
FEFC had this proposal for 10 per cent post coding element which
was going to go in, the Committee earlier discussing this felt
that that was probably too low and it would need more, do you
feel this is a helpful approach or not and have you any alternatives
that you might wish to add as a way of ensuring more young people
do have this learning achievement and attainment, because all
of us agree on that, whether we debate the facts and figure, we
are all concerned to get more young people involved?
(Mr Harwood) The answer to that must be at two levels,
the first is about the post code issue, it is a way of channelling
resources in to institutions to encourage and compensate them
for the drive to widen participation and to enable that to happen.
There are a range of ways of doing that. The other most common
way is that which is used in schools, which is to use the percentage
of students who are eligible for a free school meal as a surrogate
for the same type of resource funding formula. One of the things
that has quite clearly been put to me is representations about
the adequacy at schools sixth form level of using a measure of
eligibility for free school meals. For example, most sixth form
students are unlikely to declare they are eligible in the first
place and therefore you get an automatic loss from the reality.
The post code methodology, as you know, came from the Helena Kennedy
Report and it seems to have been well received as a methodology.
However that is not to say that while the principle of it may
be well regarded there are not legitimate debates to be held about
the quantum of money which follows the identification of a particular
post code. We have some work going on at the moment, some research
going on, to look at whether the uplift which takes place at the
moment needs to be greater than it is at the moment in order to
provide a real incentive and real compensation to institutions
for that particular measure. The second issue, I think, is a wider
one, I do not believe that the objectives that the Council has,
indeed we all have, to widen participation are going to be met
simply by funding incentives to institutions. I think it is quite
clear we need to look at a range of other measures about what
is happening in society and communities, about the attitudes to
learning, about the local culture in the families, in peer groups
and in local communities.
141. That is right. Which ones do you favour?
What are you going to do about it? This is what Valerie Davey
is asking? Which one do you prefer?
(Mr Harwood) When you say, which one do I prefer,
I would prefer a mix including the post code uplift. I have not
said that we are not going to do that, but I think that only goes
so far. I do not think there are single magic bullet solutions
to this. You have to produce funding which goes through the institutions
and other providers but one also needs to do more than that, separately
from thatfunding these are not alternativesis to
tackle issues to do with culture in local areas.
142. If you talk to your colleagues in the Higher
Education Funding Council what they tell us is that the real blockage
in terms of Government meeting its targets are 50 per cent of
people going into higher education, you guys are basically failing
the nation, you are not bringing enough young people through with
the right qualifications to an A-level equivalent. You are not
producing enough young people qualified. What are you going to
do about it? We are getting to the last 15 minutes of this, we
need short questions and short answers, come on, what are you
going to do about it? Education maintenance allowances, are you
in favour? Are you going to pay for them? Are you going to bang
on the Secretary of State's door and say, we need them rolled
(Mr Harwood) There are a range of pilot studies going
on at the moment. The earlier indications seem to suggest they
do increase participation somewhere between three and 11 per cent
in different areas. If that can be demonstrated by the final report
then I shall certainly argue that they ought to be extended. The
issue is, do we need to look at what the evidence tells us before
we embark on a particular course of action. It is important to
wait so we can see what the outcome of that study is before we
start leaping in.
143. Both you and I studied at the London School
of Economics and one of the things we did learn at Nelly's knee
was that image of Keynes, that in the long term we are all dead.
Quite honestly, if the LSC must keep pondering about what the
answers are, some of us around this Committee think education
maintenance allowance, a real incentive for post code, actually
paying the people to deliver a proper wage so that we get a greater
incentive to do the job better than they do it now.
(Mr Sanderson) The facts are stark, are they not?
There is the 2010 target of 50 per cent into higher education.
At the moment we only have 51 per cent getting level -3, so we
have some way to go. We have to get, as you say, further education
improvements coming all of the way through. I think the 2010 target
is quite helpful, because that sets a strap line and can pull
the rest up if we use it properly. What I think going around,
as I am doingI was talking about it only at lunchtime to
higher educationis it has not quite got through. Actually
if you look at Britain comparatively we do rather well on the
higher education front, we are up near the top of the league.
If we were to get that next bit, going back to our economics again,
you have to stop pouring fertiliser on the higher education, you
have to start fertilising further down otherwise we will not get
this pull through which is very necessary. How you do that and
what mechanics you use I am just too new and ignorant to say.
144. If you do not get your act together soon
and start baying for those new resources you are never going to
meet the ambitious targets.
(Mr Sanderson) We are doing that. We will continue
to bang on the table. The sector is woefully short of funding
in some areas, there is no doubt about that at all.
145. Could I ask specifically what advice you
are giving ministers particularly at the Treasury about reinstating
the individual learning accounts?
(Mr Harwood) We have not given any advice to them.
146. Would you like to?
(Mr Harwood) I am sure we would like to in due course.
If I am allowed a personal view again, I think that ILAs are an
147. They have been proved to be successful,
have they not?
(Mr Sanderson) Conceptually very clever.
148. So where do we go from here? How do we
overcome the very practical difficulties which we have clearly
come up against because they have proved successful? We now need
a process for re-invigorating, restarting and, I am going to say,
refunding. Is it worth it?
(Mr Sanderson) We have been asked to comment and to
consider what we will do, and of course we will. I think you will
find the concept that the principle is a good one is shared by
all of us. There is something we have not mentioned yet, which
is an enormous need for good professional management of anything
like this, and clearly in this case that was somewhat lacking.
There were just too many abuses. The decision to suspend them
was almost inevitable but we do have to come back at them.
Valerie Davey: I am pleased to hear there will
be advice given and I shall be very interested to hear it.
149. It is interesting that Mr Sanderson obviously
thinks it was the abuse of the system and not the popularity of
the system, which the Secretary of State said was the major cause
for putting a stop on ILAs.
(Mr Sanderson) Abuse and not popularity. There were
2,500,000 take-ups, were there not?
150. The Secretary of State said it was a success
because of the number of people but you immediately homed in on
the number of problems.
(Mr Sanderson) I was just commenting on why I thought
it was suspended.
151. The impression we are getting on this Committee,
and I think I can sense this, is that perhaps you in the LSC are
being a bit too tentative. I do urge both of you to not worry
when you have an interview with the TES and you say something
which causes a lot of comment, or go on to Radio 4, in a sense
we sometimes hope the very opposite, that you will come out of
your corner punching above your weight and getting on the Today
programme saying what the LSC thinks about things. I am getting
a feeling of tentativeness today. Is there a time when you are
going to come out of your corner punching up to your weight or
above your weight?
(Mr Harwood) I am sure there will be, Chairman.
152. When will that be?
(Mr Harwood) When are you next proposing to invite
153. Perhaps earlier than you expect!
(Mr Harwood) I shall look forward to it.
(Mr Sanderson) There is a trade-off between getting
established and getting some track record and making public comments,
and I think we are getting some sort of order, Chairman.
Chairman: I hope you are getting the sense from
this Committee that we will quite soon be looking for some signs
of that readiness. I am now going to shift slightly to Jeff Ennis.
154. We have already touched on the use of EMAs,
and from my personal experience they have certainly caused an
improvement in places like Barnsley, which I represent, and Doncaster
which were pilot areas. Looking at other student support mechanisms,
the DfES are currently conducting a review in higher education
student support, should that review be extended to FE students
in your opinion?
(Mr Harwood) I would not be averse to it being extended,
but we have not studied that or talked to the Department about
155. Have you got any views on this?
(Mr Sanderson) I would like it to be extended but
we have not addressed it yet.
156. If it was included, what other range of
options, other than EMAs, do you think we ought to be considering
in terms of getting more students into FE?
(Mr Harwood) As I was trying to say earlier on, before
the Chairman encouraged me to be more outspoken, there are a range
of issues to do with what happens about the choices which young
people make, the role of Connexions for example and making sure
there is proper guidance and advice for young people about the
choicesan issue on which the Committee has commented beforewhich
I think is a very important development. It is one where at a
local level the LSC needs to work closely with institutions, with
Connexions and with other groups. We need to try and change the
expectations, the aspirations, the drivers young people see as
to what they are trying to achieve. Then there a range of what
we might call broadly physical measures to do with both institutions
in attracting them but also individual young people and the choices
they make, and it is that last area you are getting into, which
is whether there are other taxation incentives or other ways of
encouraging young people to pursue learning rather than going
immediately into employment. I am sorry if I am going to disappoint
the Committee again but I do think these things need to be looked
at very carefully. One can take quite significant measures in
quite a short space of time, for example on EMAs and, if one is
not careful, disrupt other types of provision which those young
people may be opting for at the moment. We have already heard
one of our big challenges is not to do what we have done in this
country over the past few years, and I must say I do not think
we have been silent on this, we were very clear early in the year
about the challenges facing this country and the need for radical
change, but we need to avoid the over-fishing of a rather small
pool, to increase the size of that pool, and that is the way we
would help meet the overall national target of 50 per cent of
under-30s having the availability of HE by 2010.
(Mr Sanderson) I would just add, I am involved in
the Sunderland Urban Regeneration Council, not too different from
some of your constituencies, with 68,000 people and 50 per cent
adult male unemployment, and at the core of it, if you had to
take a single core of the multiple deprivation, is an education
deficit. Somehow or other, in addition to that, we have to find
some way of putting aside some of the political correctness. What
we have there is a problem of young, white malesand females
as well but particularly young, white maleswho only respond
to football basically.
Jeff Ennis: We are not responding very well
Chairman: Sunderland has a lot of difficulties
157. Both of our guests have touched on the
relationship between the national and the local councils, which
I think is key to the hopefully successful future of FE and adult
skills. I am trying to remember the analogy you referred to in
terms of using Shell and Unilever. How do you see the relationship
between them? You have already mentioned in terms of delivery
the local Learning and Skills Councils are very much the ones
which will set the agenda locally, and that is absolutely right
and I totally agree with that. How do you see the relationship
between the national and local Learning and Skills Councils? Are
you looking for a series of mini-Unilevers or a series of mini-Shells?
(Mr Sanderson) I think probably we have pushed that
analogy as far as we can take it. I think the national/local dialogue
has to be just that, it has to be two-way. We already have, incidentally,
as part of the national Council some sub-committees looking at
specific issues which have both on, and we have also set up, in
case of any failures or break-downs of communications between
national and local, some ombudsmen under a guy called John Merry,
who is on the Council and familiar with this, and the idea is
if the locals somewhere in the country think they are getting
a raw deal and head office is leaning on them too much, then as
a last resort, after they have exhausted John's executive, they
can come to that, so it is an ombudsman's role. We are already
on the way to doing that. The national agenda being set is the
targets and the measurement of them, and importantly the boundaries
within which we work. This is a public body and we have to be
very clear about all that, so we do not want one bad apple dragging
us all down. So, to set those parameters and to set some very
clear targets and go around pushing them. But the operating decisions
are all down at the local end.
158. As a supplementary to that, how high on
the list of priorities, and we are talking about a very new organisation
here, do you see the spread of that best practice from the national
down to the local?
(Mr Sanderson) It is very high. It is not just from
national to local, what we are also encouraging is best practice
between different local bodies. We found in BP one of the strongest
ways of getting best practice was to put peers together, because
they set targets for each other which you would not dare do from
top-down. Of course, you need proper systems in place to do that
but when they are up and running, we will be encouraging that.
159. As we approach the end, can I back-track
slightly on some of the things you have said? The Chairman was
urging you a few minutes ago to make strong statements and say
where you saw things going, and I think Mr Sanderson has had several
goes at that in the last hour and a half. He has said you will
improve the balance of college representation on the LSCs, you
will cut bureaucracy, there is a need to fertilise the lower tier,
which I assume is put more money into FE. He also said he recognised
there was a big problem with staff morale, recruitment and retention
in FE because they are being paid about 10 per cent below the
equivalent teachers. What will you be recommending to Estelle
Morris and Gordon Brown? Are you saying there should be a 10 per
cent pay rise for the FE sector to address that problem?
(Mr Sanderson) That would be the populist line, would
it not? I certainly will be saying, and am already saying, that
I think this is an insupportable model for the medium to long-term
and that something has to be done about it.