Memorandum from NATFHE (ILA 59)
A MODEST PROPOSAL
INDIVIDUAL LEARNING ACCOUNTS AND PAID EDUCATIONAL
NATFHEThe University & College Lecturers'
Union represents 67,000 academic staff working across the full
range of post-school education and training. NATFHE has long been
concerned to see a serious reduction of the barriers to participation
in post-school education and training, and a widening of participation
to all sections of society.
NATFHE has made both oral and written submissions
to the Committee's inquiry into progress in further education
since the Report of the Select Committee in 1998. NATFHE submits
this additional proposal not so much as a definitive and thought-out
proposal, but as a suggestion for future developments in the next
stage of Individual Learning Accounts.
Important as Individual Learning Accounts are
and regrettable as the events surrounding their cessation were,
NATFHE would urge that the Committee does not lose sight of remedies
to resolve other extremely pressing issues in further education.
Not least of these are the relative pay rates within the Sector
which are leading to the loss of qualified and committed staff
and the failure to recruit replacements. This is beginning to
seriously undermine the Government's strategies in lifelong learning.
1. The two main constraints on an individual
taking up learning opportunities as an adult are money to pay
for courses and support oneself and family whilst studying, and
time to take up learning programmes.
2. The Government has recognised that action
is required to reduce these twin barriers to participation in
learning. Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) were an attempt
to encourage individuals to save and then invest in their own
3. Paid Educational Leave (PEL) has been
identified in the Performance and Innovation Unit's recent report
on workplace learning and in the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Statement
before Christmas 2001 as an avenue worth exploring as a way of
stimulating demand for learning in the and for the workplace.
4. The Government is currently consulting
on a new ILA-style scheme. In addition the Pre-Budget statement
announced that the Budget would introduce a number of pilots around
the concept of PEL with tax relief and actual payments to organisations
that developed PEL for their employees.
5. This proposal attempts to suggest some
ways that ILAs and PEL could be linked together, and perhaps begin
to address the barriers to participation of time and money. The
proposal is not fully worked out and is submitted as an idea in
progress that would be worth further development, rather than
a fully developed idea.
6. The central concept behind this paper's
proposal to link ILAs and PEL is that time like money for training
could be stored, "banked" until such time as the individual
may wish to use it. One way such an "ILA-PEL Scheme"
might operate would be:
An ILA PEL account might be opened
by an individual using as the first "payment" a block
of time calculated in standard "days" from an employer.
Such a block could be given by the employer or negotiated through
the appropriate trade unions at either national or local level;
In addition the "banked"
time for learning could be added to subsequently by the employer,
the individual or the State. The individual might add to the ILA-PEL
by the individual "donating" some of their annual leave
entitlement for studying or perhaps undertaking learning in their
own time and this time could be quantified and the "account"
credited with that time.
The Government could contribute,
perhaps by a payment to the employer to cover a set number of
The individual could then "draw"
on the ILA-PEL account at a particular time to attend a learning
programme in full-time or part-time mode.
A concept of interest could be introduced
by arranging that the account could be added to in terms of days
if the individual left it untouched for a set time.
An ILA-PEL account could not be used
for time where there is already statutory time off such as time-off
for training for 16 and 17 year olds in work, or if there is to
be statutory time off for individuals to take up adult literacy
or numeracy programmes.
The Government could target particular
priority areas and/or individuals such as basic skills, adult
lacking Level 2 qualifications or those taking ICT courses.
All learning programmes for which
the ILA-PEL Account was used should be provided by an "accredited"
provider. This would avoid some of the problems encountered in
the first round of ILA developments. For this purpose, "accredited"
would mean those providers approved by the Learning and Skills
7. A variation of the scheme could be that
the monetary value of PEL could be put into a new-style ILA. This
monetary amount could be the equivalent of a day's wages. It could
come from the employer from a negotiated PEL scheme, or from the
individual in terms of their own time spent in recognised learning.
The Government could add to an ILA the monetary amount of a day's
pay for a number of days. The ILA could be drawn on in the form
of either cash or time. The Government could make additional payments
or subsidies to take into account the low waged, part-time, temporary
and casual workers. The advantage of this variation of the scheme
is that it would enable the individual to choose to remove the
particular barrier that was an obstacle for her/him. For some
it may be money to support themselves or their families whilst
studying or to pay for a programme. For others the greatest constraint
may be time to study and learn and the "banked" time
could be used for this purpose. The "day rate" in monetary
terms that was "banked" could be an amount set by the
Government. Thus those groups in the workplace most in need of
learningthe low paid, part-time and temporary workersmight
receive a subsidy for learning.
8. One of the main constraints quoted by
employers, especially small and micro organisations against paid
educational leave, is the problem for the employer's production,
of allowing employees time off for learning. For those with difficulties
in basic skills and/or lacking Level 2 qualifications who are
predominantly found in no or low skill jobs, this problem could
be lessened by having a pool of the unemployed who for a set period,
could be rotated into the place of the worker taking paid educational
leave. By definition the work would be no/low skilled so replacement
should be easier. It would have an additional advantage of giving
the unemployed valuable experience of actual work. The amount
of benefit saved whilst the unemployed person was replacing the
worker on paid educational leave could off-set any subsidy paid
to the employer for participation in the scheme.