Members present:

Mr Barry Sheerman, in the Chair
Mr David Chaytor
Valerie Davey
Jeff Ennis
Paul Holmes
Ms Meg Munn
Mr Kerry Pollard
Jonathan Shaw
Mr Andrew Turner


Memorandum submitted by Professor Gillborn and Dr Warren

Examination of Witnesses

PROFESSOR DAVID GILLBORN, Institute of Education, University of London, and DR SIMON WARREN, South Bank University, examined.


  1. Dr Simon Warren and Professor David Gillborn, we welcome you to our proceedings. I am surprised that you got here in one piece given that you are both academics from London and, having had dinner last night with the three Birmingham universities, they might have felt that they would be wanting to lay in wait and question you. Thank you very much for joining us. You join us at a time when we are at last getting the feel that we have got somewhat under the skin of Birmingham educational provision. There is no doubt that all of would confess that some of the prejudices and conceptions we had are now seen as prejudices and misconceptions now that we have had a chance to dip into a lot of schools and talk to a lot of people at every level - parents, teachers, governors, politicians. We have really immersed ourselves in the education of one city. We have also taken some interesting evidence not only from governors and parents and others but also across the piste, from the African Caribbean community, from the Asian community of different kinds - Bangladesh and Pakistan and so on - but getting the right scope. Some of us went to the primary school that is a play school here on Tuesday morning and of course we were told that even at a primary school like that there are 24 nationalities. Whatever we have done this week certainly is not up to that broadness of scope. We have talked to teachers and heads and others about a whole range of things. This morning, for example, we were with the PRU talking about their policies. We are learning a bit, but now we are asking you for your professional opinion because, as you know, we have started a year-long look at secondary education and we are looking at different parts of that and one is diversity, whether the Government's diversity agenda will deliver good value for taxpayers' money, whether it will deliver higher standards in education in the secondary sector. We are looking at admissions; we are looking at more difficult to teach students and those students who find it more difficult to achieve under the present system, and we are looking at teacher recruitment and retention. Given all that, would either of you like to say anything to start the proceedings or would you like just to respond to questions?
  2. (Professor Gillborn) It might be useful if we say a few things to refresh your mind about the four or five sides of A4 that we submitted. That is based on a year-long project that we have been doing, looking at race equality across Birmingham. The thing that attracted us to the work was that in many ways Birmingham gives us a lens on some issues that are also broader than just for this one city: the size of the population, some of the demographic trends, and also the quality of the data that Birmingham LEA collects. In many ways the city gives us sight of some trends that are probably in existence much beyond Birmingham but in other LEAs the data just is not there to examine the issues. I am sure lots of people have been telling you about the improvements in standards in Birmingham, particularly since the mid nineties. One of the things we drew attention to in that review was that the overall improvement at GCSE has been more rapid in Birmingham than nationally since the mid nineties. Unfortunately, given the specific focus that we had in that project, that improvement in standards has not been shared equally among the different minority ethnic groups, and in particular African Caribbean students have not shared equally in that. One of the other pieces of evidence which we tried to summarise in as few words as possible in those sheets of A4 was some data that indicates that the inequalities in attainment between different groups actually changes kids' move through school. We presented a graph looking at the difference in attainment between white students and African Caribbean students at the key stages throughout education. That indicates that the inequalities in attainment actually worsen as the students move through school and are at their greatest as the students are taking their GCSE examinations. That seems to confirm some of the worries that were being expressed to us by different minority ethnic communities, both as the project was set up but also then as the project continued. One of the things that we tried to do was to look at the views of different stakeholders and Simon took care of that particular issue.

    (Dr Warren) One of the things that we feel is quite important to share with you on the policy side is the way that we perceive the tension between national strategies and local strategies. One of the distinctive features of Birmingham is its radical commitment to closing the equality gap. What we found, however, was that this often came into tension with the impulse and drive of national strategies so that increasingly, although the authority have wanted to integrate national initiatives, such as Excellence in Cities, literacy and numeracy strategies, into their own distinctive local improvement strategy, there is very little distinction between the national strategy agenda and the local strategy agenda. We feel that this in part undermines the attempt locally to close the attainment gap. In particular, although there are key equality indicators within strategies such as Excellence in Cities, there is a problem here in terms of the consistency of equality indicators across different strands, for instance, and in fact in some strands there is no explicit reference to race equality at all. The evaluation process is dispersed, although it is a bit tidier now than it was, and there is no clear leverage in the hands of the local authority on the Excellence in Cities partnerships and the schools themselves. Consequently there is an implementation gap and the authority is trying to set out a strategy that contains within it a strong commitment to race equality, but at the level of the schools where the improvement is actually delivered something else goes on quite often and, although the teachers are working very hard and the head teachers are very committed, the thing that really levers them, that puts influence on them, is the national agenda and the spotlight put on schools to demonstrate year on year meeting certain targets. Our fear is that this does not always complement their commitment to closing the attainment gap. Also across the authority there was what was mentioned in a recent Government report - management by initiative. There was a complex delivery mechanism in delivering the race equality strategy dispersed across a whole range of different discrete initiatives, large and small, national and local, with no clear cohesion or co-ordination of that strategy. Our fear is that it gets lost in that. Consequently, although the parents and students we talked to were in accordance with the local authority in terms of the value of education, the value of commitment to education, the value of learning as a gateway to future success and life chances, they often experienced something that was quite divergent from the commitment set out by the authority. For instance, the experience of parents could be characterised as that of high achievement, low trust. A massive amount of personal and community investment in education and the diversity and range of supplementary schools in the city is an indication of that communal investment in education, but it is also an indicator of how those communities feel that the mainstream education service has failed them, that they have personally and collectively got to invest so much in supplementary forms of education.

  3. I am not quite sure what "supplementary" means. Do you mean in the Asian community religious instruction in the evenings or at weekends?
  4. (Dr Warren) No. We mean Saturday or evening schools that are directly geared towards the mainstream curriculum, so they often involve instruction on mathematics, English, science, and this is what there is in Birmingham and other cities. One of the things that both parents and students reported to us was a consistent experience of being met with low academic expectations of them. Parents would talk to us about how they felt that schools had low academic expectations of their children, and many of the students felt the same, but where there was an exaggeration of minority ethnic students' potential to cause trouble and the presence of minority ethnic students in the exclusions figures is perhaps a test or indicator of that experience. There was also some concern around the way that schools were to slow to respond to white racism, particularly after September 11, despite there being in place quite clear guidance and instructions on how to respond to harassment and to the post-September 11 situation. These are just some of the factors we have found.

    Mr Chaytor

  5. On this question of supplementary education, I do not quite see how what you have described is necessarily a consequence of a sense of failure of the system. How is that different from middle class parents employing private tutors to get their kids into Oxford? It does not necessarily imply loss of faith in the system. It is purely a result of the competitive pressures and the desire to encourage your kids to succeed, is it not?
  6. (Professor Gillborn) It is clearly a reflection of a great investment in education, particularly amongst minority communities. Historically immigrant communities have tended to view education as one of the key ladders towards social betterment but the history of supplementary schools in black communities, particularly in African Caribbean communities, goes back decades.

  7. It is not something new?
  8. (Professor Gillborn) It is not a thing linked to the post-1988 -----

  9. You cannot identify it as a result of the failure of the system at the moment?
  10. (Professor Gillborn) No. If you look at the history of supplementary education it is usually tied to the historic failure of the education system, not just in Birmingham but nationally, in terms of black students, that many supplementary schools began with one person teaching a group of students in their front room and these have gradually built up. I do not know if anyone knows the precise figure but there are hundreds if not thousands of black supplementary schools nationally which provide an important source of extra tuition.

  11. There are hundreds if not thousands of private teachers visiting the homes of parents in Islington every night of the week. What is the difference? Middle class parents will say that this is because they really want to encourage their children to aspire. Why is it black parents saying that it is because they have no faith in the system?
  12. (Dr Warren) The picture that you have painted there is of a group of middle class aspirant parents responding who are responding to a very competitive situation, who want their children to go to Oxford or Cambridge or a higher status university, which is quite different in intention from black communities in Birmingham and other cities who are responding to historic and endemic experience of under-achievement. It is not the same.

  13. Okay; let me put a specific question. If they did not have these supplementary schools would you conclude that they were 100 per cent satisfied with the state system or would you say that this was an indication of their lack of interest in and their alienation from the mainstream system? What conclusion would you draw?
  14. (Dr Warren) It is the perspective of those parents themselves that their investment in supplementary forms of education, including private tuition, is a direct response to the failure of the mainstream system.

  15. Where is that documented? Is that documented in your research or is that more a judgement?
  16. (Dr Warren) There is research on documenting the experience -----

  17. Where is that research and can you provide the evidence to the Committee that concludes that?
  18. (Dr Warren) I can give you references, yes.

  19. That would be very useful. How do you view the performance of ethnic minority kids as affected by the fragmented system of education in Birmingham, the fact that there is so much selection in the system, either exclusive or inclusive? Do you think that has any impact whatsoever? Does it serve to increase the achievement gap between black and white or does it serve to reduce the achievement gap between black and white?
  20. (Professor Gillborn) I think in many respects there is not sufficient data to examine all of the different influences that are suggested by a question like that in terms of the different types of schools, selective non-selective, single-sex, all the rest of it. What is very clear from evidence, not just from our research but nationally, is that when you have a system which selects according to some standard of ability and/or behaviour, be it selection into a different school or selection to different classes within a school, the overwhelming evidence both from this country and from North America is that those systems tend to disadvantage particular groups - working class students, African Caribbean students, also certain groups with English as an additional language, that those kinds of selective systems tend to put additional barriers in the way of achievement.

    Jeff Ennis

  21. We saw a very interesting case study yesterday at a school called Four Dwellings Comprehensive School which is in a predominantly white working class area on the edge of town and they bus in quite a lot of African Caribbean kids from the centre of town because, as you know, a lot of the schools in the centre of town have been demolished to make way for economic regeneration projects. It is a school that is improving and it has got quite a good record of achievement in improvement terms. The one thing that stood out in the record of achievement of improvement was the fact that the boys were performing just as well as the girls in academic terms. I asked them what was the reason for that and how had they achieved this conundrum that we are all facing and trying to resolve. The head said that the reason for that was that the African Caribbean kids that were being bussed to the school were making that much more effort to go to this school because they bypassed about four or five other comprehensives to get to this particular school, so therefore they felt they had more parental support than other African Caribbean kids, and it was the African Caribbean boys that were bringing the record of academic achievement up to that of the girls. It was not the white working class lads who lived around the school that were doing that; it was the black African Caribbean boys. What do you think that tells us?
  22. (Professor Gillborn) I think it is very interesting when you look at a situation like that and compare it with what the students and parents were saying to us. We virtually universally came across students who genuinely wanted to succeed in education, parents who were desperate to see their sons and daughters doing well but were often complaining that the schools had diametrically opposed expectations, did not expect kids to succeed. What strikes me as interesting there is that you are speaking with teachers at a school who have a different view of the African Caribbean students. They have a view of the students as coming ready to learn, as being highly motivated, which sounds very different from the views of teachers who we were being told about. Whilst the school's explanation may be that it is a different kind of black student, the students' explanation might well be that it is a different kind of school. It is a school that thinks black students are highly motivated. The independent label, the thing that makes the difference, might actually be the expectations of the school, that the school thinks, "If these kids are coming from miles across the city they have got the commitment to learn", which might be there in other city schools but may not be recognised.

  23. In my simplistic naivety as a Member of Parliament from Barnsley, what that means is that the more important parents consider their kids' education the more important a factor that is in terms of the achievement of their child's success, and it is quite clearly one of the major factors we have to try and bring about in every school within the authorities - parental involvement in their kids' education.
  24. (Professor Gillborn) I think that is absolutely right. All the evidence nationally supports that, but also clearly indicates that if you compare like with like most minority ethnic communities, including African Caribbean families, tend to have a higher level of commitment to education, support their kids staying in education longer and make greater sacrifices than equivalent white families. In many cases there is what Simon was talking about as high investment/low trust. There is a real untapped vein of high expectations and commitment in many of these minority ethnic communities.

    Paul Holmes

  25. There has been a lot of debate in the national press over this issue and one black university academic whose name I cannot remember argued that it is far too simplistic just to say that schools were being racist because you could see, he argued, distinct differences according to what particular group people came from. We were looking in detail at the Birmingham schools admissions figures earlier this week, broken down by ethnic grouping, and we visited King Edward VI Camphill Technology College, which is a former grammar school and we found that they take over half of their pupils from ethnic minorities, which is bigger than the proportion for the area, so you certainly could not say that that school is being racist because it is taking more ethnic minority kids than white kids. When you break down their admissions by ethnic group you have got high numbers of Indians, high numbers of Sikhs, and you have got very low, almost non-existent numbers of Bangladeshis and Afro-Caribbeans, for example. That would seem to support the argument that you cannot just say it is racism. You have got to look at social class, deprivation, etc, and you have got to look perhaps at culture as well and parental support because there are clear differences between ethnic groups, not just between white and ethnic groups.
  26. (Professor Gillborn) There are many factors involved in this. Social class is one of the key ones. When you try and understand the performance of any group social class is the first variable you need to look at. However, when you say it is not as simple as racism, very often there is a tendency to assume that racism is simple. Very often when people hear the word "racism" they tend to think of the BNP, they think about the people that killed Stephen Lawrence, but the Stephen Lawrence inquiry pointed out that racism involves a whole variety of actions and assumptions, many of which are well intentioned. There is an awful lot of research in education suggesting that particularly white teachers' assumptions of different minority groups differ. It is not the case that if a teacher assumes that African Caribbean students will be badly behaved they automatically assume that all students who are not white will be badly behaved. The same teacher may have exaggerated expectations of, for example, Indian students or Chinese students. Stereotypes do not always work in one direction. They often are contradictory. Part of the problem with the term "racism" is the way in which we use the term. In a room like this, if there are 20 people there might be 20 different assumptions about what we are talking about. The evidence from schools increasingly suggests that racism in that very crude form, the kind of Alf Garnett racism, has virtually disappeared from the staff room, but racism in terms of different expectations about behaviour, about attainment, the evidence suggests is still quite commonplace. The way in which that works through decisions about which group a kid is going to be taught in, which subject is more or less appropriate when they come to choose their GCSE options, which tier of exam they are going to be entered in (which can set a limit on the grades they can gain), is that those decisions are quite mundane, they are not dramatic, obviously racist incidents, but they are decisions which over time tend to work against particular minority ethnic groups. If we are talking about racism we need to remember that usually in schools it is that more mundane, subtle sort of racism rather than the headline grabbing kind.

  27. But in this particular case you have got a school that is admitting children on the basis of an academic test and it is taking in more ethnic minority children than white children, the reverse of the population make-up of Birmingham, for example, and it is taking in considerable numbers of certain ethnic groups and not others. It is not just a matter of taking in Asians but not black minority groups, for example, because it is also distinguishing between different groups of Asians. That is being done by an objective academic test, not by selection in the sense of people deciding, "We will have you, you and you but not you".
  28. (Professor Gillborn) You use the phrase "objective academic test". Part of the historical way in which apparently objective things have worked against particular communities is not just because of ethnicity, linguistic issues of social class which you mentioned, but because certain communities have more access to preparing for certain kinds of tests and assessment. We know that historically, for at least 50 years if not a century, certain kinds of cognitive tests, which some people at the moment view as a way of getting past stereotypes, have systematically worked against black people. I think the objectivity or fair nature of tests cannot always be taken for granted in terms of class as well as ethnicity.

  29. Given that you are saying that there is a lot of evidence of Afro-Caribbeans, for example, putting a lot of money and effort into after hours coaching for their kids, why is that not making a difference on the numbers of that group who are passing these tests and who have been coached for that? Why are we not therefore seeing an improvement following through from that if it is as widespread as you say, that in the evenings there are hundreds and thousands of these coaching schools across the country?
  30. (Professor Gillborn) They are not coaching schools towards particular fixed tests. I am not an expert on supplementary schools but my understanding is that they are schools focusing if you like on the basics, schools trying to ensure that in particular levels of numeracy and literacy are good. One of the interesting things from the data in this city and from other areas is that often at age five, six, seven, black students are performing as well as, if not better than, the LEA average. It is not that there is a deficit in performance which needs to be made up but that those inequalities in attainment appear as the students move through the schools. That is one of the most disturbing findings, not just from Birmingham but more widely.

    (Dr Warren) It might be worth, as an attempt to try and answer your question, trying to compare the intake and the GCSE outcomes of those students compared to other selective schools in the city where the intake is mainly white and asking questions about why those schools do not have that proportion of students from minority ethnic communities given that something like at present 43 per cent of the school population are from minority ethnic communities. That might go some way to trying to address some of what you are saying. We do not have that answer here but that might be quite a useful way of looking at what are the different dynamics going on in those contrasting but similar schools.

    Valerie Davey

  31. What you have just said indicates that school is damaging to those children's education. I think that statistics or graphs which Estelle showed us a little while back in terms of income and ability also showed the same trends, so children with low ability and low income do progressively badly and children with high income but low ability do better than low income and high ability. There is a crossover at about the age of six or seven which indicates that school is quite damaging, if you look at it crudely. That is an appalling thing to say. Is that really what you are saying in terms of ethnic minority groups in Birmingham?
  32. (Professor Gillborn) "School is damaging" may be the wrong way of viewing it. School is not equally good for everyone. I am not playing with semantics. The idea that school is not good for anyone is potentially quite dangerous. What is very clear from the evidence, and it sounds like the data that you are quoting is another example of this, is that schools are much better for certain students; they are much better for middle class students, they are much better for students who they identify as having ability. The problem with ability is that when you actually go into schools and see how that is identified, it is often identified on the basis of social cues. Schools are good at identifying students from particular kinds of background and then treating them differently, even schools that are absolutely committed to delivering equal opportunities and closing inequalities in attainment. One of the most important findings from the last decade or so is that the increased pressure, not just at the school level from headteachers and governors but at LEA level and at national level through the league tables, to deliver better standards in terms that can be measured has led teachers more and more to differentiate between different groups of students: "Where will we get the most return for our efforts?" When you look at how those decisions are made, it tends to be that working class students, black students, students with English as an additional language, are viewed as the students where the return on the extra investment, the time, is not going to show up in the league tables, it is not going to show up in the SATS. We need to focus on these kids at the borderline. One of the consequences of that is that some of these inequalities actually get worse.

  33. So you are exacerbating the problem. Part of it is perception; part of it is the time and effort spent on those who give a quicker or easier return?
  34. (Professor Gillborn) When you increase pressure on the system the system responds in ways that it feels comfortable with. The system responds along the lines that it is always used to identify who are the kids with ability, who are the motivated kids. Therefore some of these stereotypes are then given even more power as schools increasingly look to set by ability, look to differentiate between where the resources are placed. It is largely done on a colour blind basis. People do not say, "We need to put all the black kids in the bottom group". They say, "There are certain kids who are not going to make it so they have to go in the bottom group." It just so happens that when you look in the bottom group you have a disproportionate number usually of African Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Pakistani students. It is a process which you can see at work not just in the classroom but nationally. The major reforms have not focused on race equality as a key issue. There has been an assumption historically, not just for the last ten years but for the last 20 or 30 years, that as you raise standards everyone will share in that. All of the evidence suggests that unless you try and make sure that people share equally most of the benefit will be taken by the groups that have always done better.


  35. What I am not getting clear from the paper that I have seen, and I know that it is only an abstract from your piece of work is this. We have been going round all these schools and we have been talking to all these people. What I want to know in a sense is how do I compare poor students from all backgrounds? I do not want them to be mixed up with all other students. I want to know in the lowest social class how whites, blacks, African Caribbeans, Bangladeshi students compare. Have you done that in your survey? It is different when taking all the people in schools and saying, "Okay, it ends up that there are more African Caribbean non-achievers". It seems to me that we have got to know that because otherwise some of the evidence that we have taken so far suggests that there is a complex mix. Someone came up to us today in the PRU; she was the liaison person for parents, and she said, "So many people who end up here are the people who lack the parental role models, the backing, the support at home, the books at home, the environment of people sitting down and reading even a newspaper". It is complex. Some of the things you have said today put a question mark over schools and schooling and teachers whereas what we have seen this week, certainly I have seen, has surely to do with parenting and support and a whole host of other things.
  36. (Professor Gillborn) Yes, absolutely.

  37. I am worried. I have seen all these dedicated teachers and I am worried that it is the teachers and the school environment where students spend 17 per cent of their time.
  38. (Professor Gillborn) You are absolutely right in terms of the complex nature of the various factors that are at work here. There is a tendency when people talk about education to talk only about gender, the boys under-achieving issue, or to focus only on class or to focus only on race and ethnicity, when all of those have gender and class and race ethnicity and sexuality and disability. The problem when you start to try and map these different influences across each other is that very quickly the size of the sample that you are looking at starts to shrink. The best evidence that I have seen nationally which tries to hold these different things in view at the same time suggests very clearly that if you want to predict how well a student will do, find out their social class. That is the best single predictor, not their gender, not their ethnicity. Once you know their social class, ethnicity then becomes critical. While it is true that nationally an African Caribbean student of middle class background is much more likely to go to university, to get five high grade passes, than a working class African Caribbean student of the same gender, that middle class black student is not as likely to be successful as a middle class student from an Indian family, a white family or even Bangladeshi family. Class of course takes lots of different background measures and bundles them together, and although class is obviously critically important, it does not explain away all of these other variations.

  39. No, no. What I am pushing you on, David, is that as we went round, and I think most of the Committee would agree with what I am saying on this, the most flagged up group which seemed to be difficult to teach, which was under-achieving, needing special measures to keep them in school and perhaps exclude them, was white working class boys. It came to us time and time again, even going round and seeing the people who were having disciplinary problems and being interviewed and so on. It just seemed to be almost in your face that this was the group that they were most concerned about. I do not believe they are prejudiced about them. We heard much less about any problems in teaching and being involved in the educational process of African Caribbean boys.
  40. (Professor Gillborn) I think it is absolutely vital to keep class in view. When I talked about the processes of work, particularly in secondary schools but increasingly in primaries, around selection within the school, different sets, different bands, different tiers, I did mention working class students because the evidence suggests that white working class students face very similar processes, very similar sets of expectations, that when they open their mouths, when they arrive for lessons and they are bedraggled or they are not adequately dressed, a set of expectations about what they are capable of doing comes into play. They are just as deeply rooted as the sets of expectations that come into play when three African Caribbean students are seen on a corridor and very often teachers think, "Oh, there is a gang", whereas three white kids might not be a gang. Three white kids might be a group of kids. I am not for a moment suggesting that these issues only work around race and ethnicity. Class is another one, another mode through which these issues sometimes operate.

    Mr Pollard

  41. Bob Dowling, who is the headteacher of the George Dixon School, and who has absolutely transformed the school, there is no doubt about that, said to us this morning that he believed that refugees - and he has a lot in his school - are better in mainstream schools than being taught separately. I wonder if you have a view about that and whether having the refugees in this school might be an advantage or a disadvantage.
  42. (Dr Warren) In the work that we have done we have not got a definite position on whether -----

  43. No; it is just a view I want.
  44. (Dr Warren) ----- they should be or should not be. In a sense that partly depends on the Home Office and whether they pursue the policy that they have suggested.

  45. I know what the Home Office's view is. I am asking for your view as professionals who are deep into all of this.
  46. (Dr Warren) The evidence seems to suggest that refugees and asylum seekers in mainstream schools often experience the same kind of situation that we have described in terms of white working class and other minority ethnic students. However, should the system remain as it is the majority are going to remain in mainstream schools so therefore the concern for us as educationalists has always got to be to make sure that the mainstream system provides the best service possible for all children who will go through it. In terms of my view of whether there should be a separate system of schooling for refugees and asylum seekers, personally I think not.

  47. That would be best for them, the group?
  48. (Dr Warren) Yes, but were you to say, "Is the experience within the average school, the average secondary school in particular, one that is always beneficial to those students?", I would say not. The answer to that is not necessarily to set up an alternative schooling system. You may want to consider, as some schools and some local authorities have done, how you support the integration of those students into mainstream schooling. In the London borough of Camden, for instance, one secondary school there operates a class where asylum seekers go in order to have intensive English language preparation and then a planned programme of integration. Along with that planned programme of integration is heavy investment by the school into continued support for those students throughout. That seems to me an eminently sensible approach to take because it is a kind of model that is applicable to all kinds of students. Part of the problem in reflecting on that practice, which you might call good practice, is why is there not similar reflection and consideration as to how all children can be supported appropriately to do well within schools? Too often these are seen as being that we need a specialist programme for these children because they are out of the ordinary. Often they are not out of the ordinary. They have faced particular hurdles. We just have to make sure we do not put even more hurdles in their way once they are here. The evidence strongly suggests that once they have an adequate level of English language competency they do as well as, if not better than, many of their peers. They are highly motivated with investment from home.

  49. You did not address the question of whether it disadvantages the host school in particular reference to the George Dixon School which is a school coming out of failure. The host parents might well be worried that another group coming in might not do quite so well. Is there evidence for that and how do you feel about it?
  50. (Dr Warren) I just wonder why you should make a distinction between the host school and incoming students.

  51. I am asking the question of you.
  52. (Dr Warren) I need some clarification on why you make that distinction.

  53. If a school is coming out of special measures and is doing well it might be perceived that another group of children with hurdles, as you put it, might well hold that back a little bit and that there might be a perception from the host parents that this group coming in might not be as good for the school as some other kids coming in.
  54. (Professor Gillborn) I think historically that is a particular fear that has been used against minority ethnic communities very frequently and continues to be mobilised against asylum seeker communities now. There is evidence that in some schools, as Simon was saying, once they get English language fluency up to a particular level those students can become the students who take the schools up the league tables. Very often in this area - and you can trace this back to SWAN in 1985 - there is a dichotomy made between, "Do we do mainstream or separate?", and there tends to be an assumption that, "If we put them in the mainstream we have done it. We have made the decision, we have put them in the mainstream so they are not disadvantaged", and we leave them to it. Then what often happens is that the students are the victims of some of the most vicious racist harassment and the old contact hypothesis that if you go in and meet these people you would realise they are okay does not always work. You have to have, as Simon was saying, specialist support. You have to have proper anti-racist measures. Contact between white working class communities and asylum seekers can explode lots of myths if it is handled sensitively and both sides are talked through it, but if you throw asylum seekers in a classroom and leave them alone you are putting them through even more trauma than they have already experienced. It is not a simple one or the other. You have to identify the particular needs and put real resources into meeting them.

    Chairman: The George Dixon School this morning was the most open, multi-ethnic school with immigrant children doing wonderfully well.

    Mr Pollard: It is a model of good practice.

    Chairman: Absolutely; a first-class example of everything I thought a school should be.

    Ms Munn

  55. We have had a very interesting week here in Birmingham because what we have seen is a lot of schools and we have been to ones which are generally improving. In all the headteachers that we have met, admittedly a relatively small number but more than I would have expected, we have seen a culture very much of can do, positive, raising expectations. They are all doing it in different ways but there are some fundamental things about clear leadership, clear standards within schools, clear structures, which are applied, from what we could see, across all students. Some of those schools have been predominantly white, some have been predominantly black. One I think just about reflected the ethnic make-up of the pupil population in Birmingham, but that is less the case; there just seemed to be one school that seemed about that. What you seem to be saying is that in spite of that approach and overall standards going up, what is happening is that the achievements are differential according to race, gender, class, whatever. So what is it that these heads and their teachers and their teams that are in there, because of all the additional staff that are in there, need to be doing differently? I am not disagreeing with you that it is a colour-blind approach in that sense because they have got their systems in place, but it is having those firms systems which seem to be so crucial in setting an atmosphere in which children can learn, so what is it that they need to do differently?
  56. (Professor Gillborn) I would shift the balance of the question a little. You said what is it that they need to do differently. I think we have to think about what is it that all of us involved in education need to do differently. One of the things that Simon mentioned right at the beginning was this thing about an implementation gap. There is a real "can do" atmosphere around Birmingham, and Birmingham has really embraced a culture of school effectiveness and achievement, possibly in a way unlike any other LEA in the country, and we have seen some of the benefits of that. Where the race equality targets have not been met seems to be because they have not been the key targets. They have not been the thing that has driven what the schools do and that is because of a confluence of factors from the national level and from the local level and from the individual school level. So the factors that you mentioned about clear leadership, about knowing what is happening in the school are actually some of the key factors that we know are associated with good multi-ethnic schools, schools that raise the achievements of the minority ethnic groups as much, if not more, than other groups. We need clear leadership on equity and clear monitoring on who is in the different groups and, if there are disparities, why, how might we address this and make good the issues we see emerging? How do we tackle racism? Are we serious about tackling it or do we leave it to go on until eventually a kid hits another one, in the way of one of the examples in our paper? We know how at the school level we can be serious about race equality but those things tend not to get the focus that they need because they are not highlighted at the LEA level across all its activities and at the national level. The things that are driving the improvement in overall standards tend, if they mention race equality at all, to mention it as an afterthought. All of the evidence suggests that if we are serious about raising the achievements of particular ethnic minority groups, we need to target those groups. What do we need to do additionally to make sure that they share in the improvements? We need to think what are the likely consequences of these policies which they are going to enact. Every single policy whether at national, local or school level, is likely to have differential impacts on working class kids and minority ethnic groups. We know enough to predict what those impacts might be. Some of them might be conscious, some of them might be unintended, but we know enough to predict what they are. We ought to be in a position to predict those impacts and then go down a route which will help to equalise attainment rather than, as seems to be the case at the moment, pursuing strategies and hoping that they will deliver for everyone, even though a lot of the evidence suggests that some of the strategies we are pinning our hopes on are likely to disadvantage precisely the groups that we are worried about in terms of under-achievement. We know what good practice looks like. We know it needs to take place in a context where everyone is serious about race equality because otherwise the individual teachers or schools which are focusing of racial equality are swimming against a very strong current which is pushing them towards actions which work against race equality rather than for it.

  57. Leaving that for a moment because it is getting very complex and beyond my thinking capacity at this time of the afternoon, one of the issues which you raise, which I was very interested in last time you saw the Committee, was about pupils being entered for exams at which they can only achieve a certain grade and, interestingly enough, when we have been going round schools and talking to students that has been raised in two different schools by different pupils saying that they did not think that was fair. Can you talk us through that a bit. One of the discussions that we had was somebody saying, yes, it is not fair, but also if the alternative is everybody does the same paper and then you have got people who just get so disillusioned with it because they find it too hard work, and if it were more geared up to them they would have a chance of getting a pass, that did not seem too unreasonable. Could you reflect a bit more on that?
  58. (Professor Gillborn) I will not recap fully on the tiering system, suffice it to say that in most GCSE examinations pupils do not sit a common paper from which they can get an A* through to a G. In most GCSEs you are entered for the tiered exam for which there is only a limited number of grades. In mathematics uniquely amongst subjects there are three tiers and if you are entered for the foundation tier, the lowest tier, the very best grade you can get is a D. If you are entered for the foundation tier in other tiered subjects the best you can get is a C. C is the generally accepted minimum you need as a higher grade pass but it is not good enough for entry to the professions or a degree course. Even for A-level courses, in certain subjects you need higher than a C. Certainly students I have spoken to in research would sooner have the chance of getting the very highest grade rather than somebody else making the decision that they do not even have the possibility of it. In terms of mathematics many students, and particularly parents, simply cannot comprehend why you would have a system whereby the best grade you can get is generally seen as a fail. In terms of the question about progression and the need to have a range of questions, as I understand it, history and music are among the subjects that do not currently have tiered papers. A subject as diverse as history, a subject with such a progress of knowledge like music - if it is within the wit of history and music examiners to design a paper which can adequately identify the difference between a D and an A*, I have to believe that it is within the wit of examiners in other subjects. It may be difficult and costly but if the alternative is to deny the possibility of a higher grade, given what we know about who that denial happens to ---

    Chairman: I worry about denying Andrew a question in the last three minutes.

    Mr Turner

  59. You and Dr Warren have used a number of phrases almost interchangeably - "deliver equal opportunities", "increase equal opportunities", "equalise attainment", "focus on race equality".; which are you actually talking about?
  60. (Professor Gillborn) I am talking about all of them.

  61. I can see how some of these are consistent with raising standards for all, but you say we need to target these groups, that is the under-achievers, those groups that fall below the average performance level to raise their performance towards the average. If you are targeting those groups, are you doing so at the expense of other groups?
  62. (Professor Gillborn) No, you are not taking away from anyone. You are trying to identify where you want to put additional support. That does not have to be taken away from anyone. I do not want to get into a great big complex, philosophical discussion because my head hurts as well. I think it comes down to a fundamental level. Do we really think there is any inherent reason why on the basis of social class or ethnicity or gender, any group of students is less able to achieve than another one? Is there anything inherent about a pupil, and if there is not then the job of a just education system is to try and help all to achieve what they are capable of. I have not seen any evidence to suggest that there is anything inherent.

  63. But targeting does suggest targeting resources and activity on A and rather ignoring B.
  64. (Professor Gillborn) It does not mean ignoring B.

  65. It does not mean ignoring B, but you complained at the prospect of targeting those who are just below grade C.
  66. (Professor Gillborn) If it means that within that model that students who are deemed not capable of meeting the grade are then abandoned -

  67. Yes.
  68. (Professor Gillborn) So what I am saying is that if you have a system which is trying to deliver a socially just outcome rather than -

  69. --- rather than high standards?
  70. (Professor Gillborn) --- rather than simply delivering higher standards for those already advantaged.

  71. Those just below grade C are not necessarily advantaged.
  72. (Professor Gillborn) They are often advantaged in the sense of receiving additional support inside the school. When you look at who gets into those groups it is usually not the proportion of under-achieving groups you would predict. I am not trying to take away support from anyone. I am trying to say in a context where schools are tailoring consciously different forms of support to different students, one principle of doing that is to try and ensure that at the end of the day, regardless of social background, students have an equal chance of success and failure.

  73. You cannot say you are not suggesting that. You are suggesting that if you are suggesting that it is wrong to target those who are just below a grade C -
  74. (Professor Gillborn) I am suggesting it is wrong in the wider context of how those decisions are made. There are all kinds of opportunity costs. In everything we do, there are opportunity costs. What I am suggesting is that one alternative approach is to try and ensure so far as possible that students have an equal chance of success or failure at the end of the day. What I am saying is happening currently in many schools is that responding to pressures of league tables, responding to those apparently colour-blind targets, existing inequalities are being re-made within the school system.

  75. I accept that that is an example of how resources can inappropriately be targeted, but I am still not clear whether there is any system of targeting resources that is inherently fairer that is not inherently fairer to some groups than to others.
  76. (Professor Gillborn) I think it depends on the notion at a basic level of what the goals of the education system are.

  77. Indeed.
  78. (Professor Gillborn) What do we want from the education system? We do not question, for example, that special education is costly, but we have reached a settlement socially where there is an agreement that certain kids' education will be more costly, and that is not seen as taking away from anyone else, that is seen as an investment by society in those students. Similarly, we should not view race equality as in some way hurting groups who would not be targeted. We should view it as an investment by society in the currently wasted potential of those under-attaining groups.


  79. I think we have to be fair to our witnesses coming on. Much of what you say, David, many members of the Committee will agree with, but one thing we perhaps are a little concerned about is that certain aspects of your conclusions seem to lead to a bit of a blame culture on teachers and the educational process. I will give you an example. When this Committee did a thorough investigation into early years, indeed my own conversations with the Early Excellence Centre here in Birmingham on Monday morning, we found that many children are deeply disadvantaged in the first few months and years, long before they get into education, long before they get into the hands of formal education in schools, and continue to be disadvantaged by the lack of support, encouragement and order in their lives at home. The only concern that some of us have is that it almost ends up as though kids go into education and teachers do not treat them equally, they do not recognise their strengths, they treat them slightly differently, they under-estimate their abilities, where in a sense many people would argue that the early years are the most damaging in terms of a child's development.
  80. (Professor Gillborn) I absolutely accept what you say. I think in terms of those particular anecdotes of individuals, we all know cases like that. What I think is important, in terms particularly of looking at race and ethnicity but also in terms of social class, is that there is evidence that the inequalities get worse, so these kids have survived the early years and it is often when they get into secondary school that the inequalities are compounded. First of all, I am not suggesting that it is all to do with what happens inside school. Patently that would be a nonsense. What I am suggesting is that the research suggests that schools are an active contributory factor in this. We know that schools make a difference. That is accepted, everybody accepts that now. Unfortunately, sometimes the difference they make is not a good one. Rather than viewing it as simply blaming teachers, a lot of the more subtle research which has happened recently, the work that goes inside schools, tries to understand how is it that this really well-intentioned teacher who is trying to hit the national curriculum targets, trying to keep order, trying to get through the day and wants to help everyone, at the end of the day they have wound up criticising the black students more than anyone else. Why is it that, without realising it, they are sending black students to the deputy much more quickly than a white student who has done the same thing. It is not about blaming; it is about identifying how this happens. Certainly in my experience and Simon's, of not just being a researcher but being a teacher and working with teachers in higher education, the vast majority that I work with view this kind of research as not being negative and blaming but being revelatory. It shows the complexities at work that they do not have the time to see because it is happening through that daily grind. It helps them to understand how it is at the end of the day their school produces a set of exam results which are depressingly similar to the results that they know from past research. Once they see that they start to see ways of breaking that cycle of working differently with different communities and students. When schools find out their own students are saying, "If they treat us with respect, we will treat them with respect", and then when they act on that, they can see some fantastic things happen within their schools.

    Mr Pollard

  81. We saw that this morning.
  82. (Dr Warren) For the category of child that to which you were referring there, those kinds of experiences will obviously affect a certain proportion of children dramatically, but we know that in some cases the interventions always come too late to correct that. As important as a focus on that set of related issues, by particular families or whatever else it is, it does not explain by itself the scale and range of the obstacles to achievement faced by the vast majority of students from minority ethnic communities. While it is an important focus - and I think some of the Government's recent strategies around children in care for instance are really important, and hopefully they will prove beneficial - it does not explain the range and scale of obstacles faced by many students, so it is not a total explanation of what is happening and, therefore, I think what David said is right, that we have got to also focus on normal school-based practices that seem to produce detrimental effects consistently.

    Chairman: We have an open mind and we will continue to take evidence. Dr Warren, Professor Gillborn, it has been a pleasure to hear what you have had to say. Thank you very much.

    MR JOHN TOWERS, CBE, F.Eng, Chairman, and MR DAVID CRAGG, Executive Director, Learning and Skills Council for Birmingham and Solihull, and MR STEPHEN ELLISON, Ellison Webb and MR MARK LINTON, WorldCom, examined.


  83. Can I welcome you for this last session today of our inquiry into education in Birmingham. It is a delight for me to welcome John Towers, the Chairman of the Learning and Skills Council, David Cragg, the Chief Executive, Mark Linton and Stephen Ellison. Can I apologise that the story in the Birmingham Post rather got out of hand. When we did our original press release conference on Monday, they said, "What are you doing here?" We explained that this is the beginning of week-long intensive look at education and skills in one city. It is very unusual for a select committee to do this and to spend that amount of time. It takes a lot of commitment to get nine Members of Parliament to do that. They said, "Are there any people you would like to meet?" and we said we would like to see employers because we have had a disappointing response from the people we originally approached. We have got a very good mixture, including John Towers whom I know from my Chairmanship of the Manufacturing Group in Parliament. Welcome all of you. The background is this: this Select Committee only inquires into things which we think can add value. We have been away from secondary education for a long time. We have done a lot of stuff in higher education in the last couple of years. We have done early years and we have done the individual learning accounts inquiry quite recently but many people could criticise us by saying we have been away from mainstream education for some time. As I have said constantly, the Government tanks are on the lawns of the secondary schools. Secondary schools will be our whole year's focus in the coming year, looking at admissions, looking at diversity, all the different kind of schools - specialist schools, foundation schools, CTCs - and whether that will drive up standards and whether it is essentially good use of taxpayers' money to produce the people this country needs in educational terms. We are also looking at difficult to teach pupils, the under-achievers, and also looking at recruitment and retention of staff, so quite an agenda. Here in Birmingham we are looking at everything. We have dipped into primary schools, we have looked at a faith school, we have looked at a lot of comprehensive schools, we have looked at exclusion, at PRUs, we have been with the three universities. We are an Education and Skills Committee too so questions we are pointing to the four of you will be looking at skills, particularly - and I have warned John and the others before they came in - about the match and mismatch between what this city's and this region's needs in terms of skills against what we are actually producing. Let's get started. Can I invite Birmingham Learning Skills Council to say a few words to open our session.
  84. (Mr Towers) I guess you know the history of how we moved over the past two years from the TECs organisations and so on to where we are now. We are actually pretty chuffed at the way it has gone in Birmingham. I know it has been the source of quite lot of change/fall-out in many parts of the country, but I would say really - and unfortunately I have to say this despite the fact he is here - because of David's planning and foresight in terms of how the changes were going to come about before they were announced, we prepared very hard as far as we could to actually begin to change before the formal changes were announced, as a result of which we are pretty well-known as the part of the country where the changes have occurred most smoothly. This is not an LSC saying that we went through two years of hell with massive staffing and teething problems and things like this. This is an LSC saying this is a bit of a challenge. Many of us had two jobs rather than one job for the period of time of the transition but, by and large, it has gone very well. We are also in a LSC, however, which recognises that we have absolutely massive challenges in this particular location. If you look at the way that the history of the region or our sub-region has moved, then it has moved from a largely manufacturing-type industrial-type of sub-region to one which is now virtually completely balanced amongst the various sectors that you would typify but which over the next ten years is going to move even more rapidly away from a manufacturing base into a service sector and finance sector-type base. To give you an idea of how that reflects in skill terms, it is a shift of somewhere in the region of 20,000-odd jobs compared to the skills base, so if you take the combination of what is the shift in jobs and what is the demographic nature of our skills base, it becomes an even bigger challenge. You would really have to have something in the region of a lower 30,000-type shift in the skills structure of the sub-region. So we are happy so far that we have provided an organisation and a set of relationships and I think a pretty good partnership spirit amongst the partners and ourselves in the sub-region but very, very aware of the massive job we have got to do now and over the next few years.

  85. Thank you for that. David?
  86. (Mr Cragg) Just to put a little bit more flesh on the bones. What we have now got in a sense for the first time in a generation is a belief that we have the potential over the remainder of the decade to achieve full employment for all those who are currently registered unemployed. That is a radical shift for us and potentially the basis for motivation and aspiration in ways that we have not seen before. But we have got an enormous polarisation in that skills base. Ten years ago you would have found a very different pattern, but now if you look at the degree and professional qualification level (what we in the jargon call level four) we are above the national average in the sub-region whereas ten years ago we would have been quite significantly below the national average. Yet at the other end of the spectrum you have 38 per cent estimated from a very reliable base of people with less than a level 2 qualification, less than five GCSEs, less than an NVQ2 or its equivalent. You will know from your wider work that the correlation between low skills, and in particular a lack of basic skills, is a very strong one. If you overlay all of that the demographics, if you put it very simply, the fastest growing groups within the working age population, in particular ethnic minorities and older workers, are the least qualified and least skilled. The group which is declining the most rapidly is the one that has been traditionally in greatest demand, 25 to 45-year-olds, in particular the white population. I was interested in the earlier debate because we have placed demographic changes as absolutely one of the central issues for this city in in particular but for this sub-region as a whole. If you want some stark figures, then we would estimate that by 2010 they will be 60,000 fewer white working age people, there will be 50,000 more people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage (who are several times more likely to be unemployed and are the least skilled group in terms of formal qualifications) and, similarly, there will be another 12,000 working age people from an African Caribbean heritage. If you overlay on that age, there will be 40,000 more people over the age of 45. So you will have a demographic mix that will have to be tackled. My main conclusion around skills, for what it is worth, is that we have to get off a hook which is age related in terms of our policies and our investments. You were talking, Chairman, before the formal session about manufacturing. We desperately need, for example, mature apprenticeships in manufacturing. We will not address manufacturing skills shortages on the vain assumption that we will attract enough young people; we will not. We have to have a major up-skilling programme, both to raise the skills of people already in the workplace, but also to bring back older workers who have got manufacturing skills into manufacturing who need a mature apprenticeship. If you were looking at one individual piece of work, we were delighted that we were chosen as one of the six national pilots for the Employer Training Pilot because we think there is a crying need locally, that is the entitlement to an NVQ2 for people without a qualification in work. We have, as you will know, importantly for small employers, which is the vast proportion of employers, wage replacement cost. We are at the early stages of that. It is very interesting to observe the employer response, which is wholly enthusiastic and very, very positive. Our formal market research tells us very loudly indeed that employers, rightly or wrongly, are particularly welcoming and support the release of their staff to be formally trained to those qualifications, so a flavour perhaps.

  87. I was going to open up the questioning to John and David and then I am going to ask Martin and Stephen to say a few words and then we get a little questioning of you and then we can bring you together. When we meet Brian Sanderson, because the LSC nationally is a responsibility of my Committee - it is the largest quango, in fact it spends an enormous amount of money - we tease Brian and we call him the biggest quango holder, and of course our job is to ensure that any expenditure under the education and skills' budget is wisely spent because it is taxpayers' money. What surprised us when talking to the regional Government Office was that they seemed to have very little relationship. When we pushed them in terms of who they had relationships with and whether there was an active partnership, the one blank we drew was with yourselves. It seems a puzzlement to us that the Regional Government Office for the West Midlands would say they had very little contact with you.
  88. (Mr Towers) Do they not know they have got a council member on our board?

  89. They did not mention that.
  90. (Mr Towers) He was there this morning. I observed him from 8 o'clock until ten, so this is true!

  91. Why do you think they said that they did not feel they had much of a relationship?
  92. (Mr Towers) I have not got a clue; you had better ask them.

    (Mr Cragg) Chairman, that is not correct. We are co-terminous as a regional grouping with that region. I think there is a slight confusion here. If yours is a literal question about their relationship with us in terms of the accountabilities, they have no responsibility for the Learning and Skills Council. If I look at it from a purely personal perspective, I represent the Learning and Skills Council on the Regional Programming and Monitoring Committee. I have worked very closely with the Director of the Government Office on all matters to do with European strategy for the region.. I would say the interfaces on things which are pertinent to the government are very close. Day-to-day, the Government Office is not a large operation, it does not have direct ---

  93. --- it has 400 staff.
  94. (Mr Cragg) --- It does not have a direct responsibility for us, and I think that is probably what they are referring to.

    (Mr Towers) I think that must be the case as well. Sorry to jest slightly about it. First of all, there is a formal structure anyway and, as far as I know, all local LSCs have a Local Government Office member on their board, as we have. In addition to that, I agree because of our history of being the TECs and the relationship with the Government Office -and certainly David and I have a very close relationship with them in areas such as the accelerated programme, in areas such as the work we are doing on the car industry front in the region - there is a very heavy Government Office presence with us. Do they run us? No. If they interpret that question how do they manage the LSC, they do not because they are not supposed to, but they do work very closely with us.

  95. We will clear that out the way and we will send you a transcript of our discussions.
  96. (Mr Towers) Alright, and please send them ours.

    Chairman: Can we move on more generally. Jeff, you are bursting to ask a question.

    Jeff Ennis

  97. If I talk to any FE principal in my part of the world, South Yorkshire, and I guess it would be true to say if you talk to any FE college principal in the West Midlands, they would say FE for far too long has been the "Cinderella" part of the Education Service. As you know, we currently have a disparity in funding between sixth forms and LEA colleges. How do you see this developing and the gap closing in funding terms?
  98. (Mr Cragg) First of all, of course, the overall settlement and terms of the settlement are things which are matters for national negotiation, not least which are significantly determined by the Department for Education and Skills. To take a specific example, the real terms guarantee to schools in terms of the change in the funding arrangements was something that was predetermined by Ministers. The LSC nationally sets out its stall to have a single unified post-16 funding regime from 2005. On that basis I think there is a lot of further work to be done. We have got to see how the new schools funding regime does bed down, but it is ultimately a matter for the settlement between the Government and the LSCs at a national level. If you ask me to give a personal view, because I think you are asking me for a personal view, I think it would be enormously helpful to have a consistent and fair funding regime. One of my greatest fears, and I think it would be a fear that is shared by most managers in institutions, is that we have seen a very damaging casualisation of the FE workforce through excessive efficiency gains during the 1990s. We have begun to restore some of that. In this financial year and the previous year (the previous academic year) we have stabilised and given a rate of increase which was fairly close to cost of living. This year we have been able, through decisions taken by our national council, to start to close that gap, but there is still an issue to be addressed and I do not think any of us would want to shirk that issue.

    (Mr Towers) I think you would get the same sort of commentary in this sub-region in terms of comparison of those issues. I also think - and I do not think this is rose-coloured specs - that compared to three or four years ago you now have more of a heads-up attitude among most of the FE establishment than perhaps existed then.

  99. I know you will not determine the answer to this question, but do you think we will see a levelling up in terms of resource between the two or a levelling down?
  100. (Mr Cragg) Frankly, because the Government took a very clear policy decision around the real terms guarantee, the only way it might work would be through a levelling up, if there is to be levelling. I personally would welcome that. The one thing we have got to be careful about is that funding for schools in sixth forms does not become politicised over the next 12 months. We have made it our business, apart from working very, very closely collectively with school heads and college principals in a collective process, to conduct an extremely successful 16 to 19 review and an extremely favourable area-wide inspection, which is complimentary about all the works done in that territory, but in schools on their own we have established very good liaison arrangements, very closely working with our colleagues in the LEA. When it comes to funding, we have not taken our eye off the ball. I am literally in the process at the moment of setting up a whole series of seminars this autumn to make sure headteachers get an opportunity for feedback on what their experience is of the first phase, the real implementation phase, and we want to make sure we feed back nationally what the policy implications are of the real experience on the ground as we roll through the year.

  101. How is the relationship between the 47 LSCs locally and the national LSC? How is that panning out? Is it exactly the same relationship between the former TECs and the national body of TECs or how does it differ in any way?
  102. (Mr Cragg) You could not draw that comparison because the TEC Council was a trade association, it was a representative body, it was the voice of the 72. This is a complex model, you understand that from the discussions you have had in your Committee before, and it was bound to take time to bed down. I think the way we are integrating our management structures and decision-making processes is now extremely encouraging and very, very positive. I, for example, sit on the National Operations Board with national colleagues where national directors are sitting with executive directors from the 47 LSCs drawn from the regions, so we have got a regional perspective which is starting to tackle decisions collectively which is really beginning to act as we wish it to act - as a unitary body. We have made huge progress in that direction. We have programme boards covering all the major areas of work. You have to balance, of course, the commitment of time that means and avoid creating bureaucracy and waste in the process, but I think we are getting that about right. Certainly in terms of devolution I believe we have got significant flexibilities in the way we operate now. There was a lot of debate around that in the early stages. If we look at discretionary funding, as you might describe it from your Committee's perspective, in excess of ten per cent of my total budget (and I have well over 23 million) is being targeted mainly on skills and workforce issues or on issues of disadvantage or inequality, which I think is about right.

    (Mr Towers) You have to think hard and long about the challenge that Brian and John have had. They have had a challenge of taking a very centralised, very monolithic organisation and turning it into an organisation that is supposed to be a supporting process for regionally-made decisions. That is very easy to explain, that is very easy to define. It is probably a little less easy when you have got 500 people who were previously part of that central, decision-making, monolithic organisation. And we have seen progress.

    Jonathan Shaw

  103. I want to discuss with you some issues that were raised from one of our visits this morning. As you know, we have been visiting a number of educational establishments, one of them is the Women's Academy, which you may be familiar with -
  104. (Mr Cragg) Very familiar.

  105. It was very clear to us that they were in a very poor area of Birmingham and offering women the opportunity to return to education. We met a woman who left school at 13 who had now completed A-levels and was now working, and there were many other success stories throughout the Academy. Given the point that you made about the demographics, this is a type of institution that they are keen to replicate elsewhere in the city, but they did - complain is not the right word - say there were difficulties with the LSC and your predecessor in terms of funding capital.
  106. (Mr Cragg) That is a very surprising remark. First of all, let's say where we started from. Slightly unusually (because we were well prepared) instead of just walking about the world in the first six months of our existence saying, " We are the LSC, we have these powers, we are very important", we had a development plan and we focused on what we thought the critical goals were for the next decade, and among those goals and key issues was improving the infrastructure of colleges and further education generally. In doing that, we set out our stall to really tackle a legacy of fairly dreadful buildings and under-investment, and in the last 12 months, I suspect of all local LSCs throughout the country, we have probably secured more capital investment than any other. We have got a commitment to approval for two completely new colleges which are much needed, one very much right at the heart of the inner city. In the case of the Women's Academy, which is part of City College, we are supporting a whole range of capital projects in terms of outreach with a different focus but similar concept to what they are doing with the Women's Academy. We have the South Birmingham College and we have assisted them with 7 million worth of investment in a 16 million project which will be right at the centre of the East Side development of the city. I could go on.

  107. That is the response I wish to hear but obviously where organisations raise these issues with us -
  108. (Mr Cragg) I am pleased to have the opportunity.

  109. --- It is part of our job.
  110. (Mr Cragg) Can I say another thing, if I can be a little bit bolder -

  111. Now you are on a roll!
  112. (Mr Cragg) We are engaged very, very closely in the whole development of the Learning Quarter for the big East Side Regeneration Programme. I believe we will get not only significant LSC investment but focused investment by the regional development agency into a whole range of further and higher education facilities which will be an integral part of this new Learning Quarter. That is a very exciting development, especially for FE colleges.

  113. It is quite a unique institute. You could say it is another specialism. It is particularly for women and 83 per cent of the women are from ethnic minorities. We are seeing specialist schools grow around the city of Birmingham and the Committee has visited a number of them. When we ask the question to staff, teachers and pupils, "What does it mean for the school?" they talk about of course the additional investment, the additional money that they get from that, but also the status within the communities which provides a very positive focus for the school. I wonder how you see specialist schools fitting into your plans of providing the skills or closing that skills deficit that you have talked about. What is the relationship with specialist schools, the skills deficit, and your plans and the LEA?
  114. (Mr Towers) I think once again David achieved a massive conjuring trick because one of the first things we set about with the colleges was to get them to actually run their own working programmes to identify where those specialist learning activities should best take place. Obviously we provided demographic data and we provided help and so on in that process, but out of that process came what is a really quite clearly defined programme in terms of how just that subject should be approached here in Birmingham and Solihull. I guess it was one of the biggest sources of tension because this has been a widely discussed topic and I guess it was a source of tension when the LSC process was first developed but, yes, it is there, and it is now moving forward.

    (Mr Cragg) To be specific around that, at a very early stage, instead of looking for competitive bids for centres of educational excellence, we put in place a planning process collectively with all the colleges. We agreed at the first stage the obvious choices for educational specialism so, for example, the College of Food, which is literally round the corner and which is a National Centre of Excellence for hotel and catering, became the lead educational college for hotel and catering. It is was self-evident and a given. But in lots of other areas you have got a legacy of the lowest common denominator, a loss of a lot of level 3 provision, a loss of critical intermediate skills provision, no clear lead vocational institution, so we put in place collective and joint reviews with all the colleges, and for that matter other work based learning providers, to look at the balance of provision, and alongside that we did a comprehensive assets review, which has now been adopted as a national model, looking at the whole of the FE estate across the piece. Out of the very first pilot exercises, which was a construction exercise, we had unanimous agreement on some tough new recommendations about rationalisation and an agreement that four colleges would come together in a single collaborative venture. We are in the middle of a feasibility study for new investment, for a single shared site to increase both the scale, the breadth and the level, especially in terms of skills in vocational provision, for construction. That was agreed with the colleges with total support. We have similarly been through an engineering review. The one point I would make is when you talk about specialist schools, I think there is a real policy issue about how you align specialist schools with vocational centres of excellence in colleges. We are moving very productively into a very much more integrated 14-19 phase and the more you do so the more important it is that you tackle that policy issue because at the moment it looks as if the left hand is not communicating with the right hand. You have one set of arrangements for specialist schools and a completely different set of arrangements (which we would say are very well developed) for vocational specialisation in colleges. I should say that the whole approach to vocational specialisation was rooted in the principle that we wanted a federal FE system and that there should be progression from colleges which are providing entry level/first level to the centres of vocational excellence and in turn the centre of vocational excellence should have a developmental role for the whole of that.

  115. Have you had discussions with the LEA about that? We do know that whilst the schools within the LEA are performing well in terms of where they have come from, they are still not seeing huge numbers of youngsters staying on post 16.
  116. (Mr Cragg) I would not quite say that. I think we might have a debate about that.


  117. Certainly substantially below the national average.
  118. (Mr Cragg) We are not substantially below the national average. We are at around 73 per cent compared to 75 per cent. I think we might have a statistical debate.

    Jonathan Shaw

  119. I do not want that.
  120. (Mr Cragg) To answer your question, the relationship with the LEA could not be better. We have worked hand in glove to look at the whole 16 to 19 group with both LEAs across our patch. I cannot remember the two LEAs, Birmingham and Solihull, ever working so closely together. OFSTED recognised that in its area-wide review.


  121. Who should draw all this together? All of us are on "Planet Birmingham", none of us is from Birmingham, and we are trying to get under the skin of where the challenges are and what we can see to identify those challenges. Perhaps I can bring our two other witnesses for this afternoon in now. It seems there is a proliferation - and you just described them, David - of players in this. As you say, the Government Office has a hand in this, the Regional Development Agency has a hand in this, the local education authority has, you do. Looking at the local employers I wonder sometimes if they might glaze over with all the acronyms and all the players and they might say, "All we want is well qualified, skilled people that we can employ." How do you view the work of the LSCs and all these myriad group of people who are supposed to be delivering for you high quality employees?
  122. (Mr Linton) One of the things I have noticed in this and throughout the day from the previous meeting is we talk about nurture, coaching and parental interest over the child. I was a by- product of that. I left school early, joined the Army, did not have any qualifications; now I have a degree and I work for a global communications company. One of the things that helped me whilst at university was something like the LSC, the Student Industrial Society, and getting involved and learning about skills. David talked earlier on about there being a massive skills gap, not so much in what you have got in 25-plus age but really the 40 age. That involves re-educating the parents of these children who we are trying to get up to a standard and getting modern apprenticeships where people are willing to go back to work or willing to look at skills and developing them, not so much on an academic level where you will get a certificate at the end of it but you will not really get a job at the end of it. That is what I would say an employer looks for - somebody who can really use some tangible skills, pull into the work place, and get a product and results from these individuals. One of those areas is team work, knowing how to operate with each other socially as well as working with your partners at the end of the day. If you look at certain individuals in this country and what schools are trying to do, the schools are trying to reach what the Government is putting down as a national curriculum and saying we need you to reach these standards, and really forgetting the extra curricular stuff that they should be getting involved in, like the team work and the leadership and looking at what employers are looking for. Maybe we ought to ask employers like ourselves to go into schools - and I have done that in the past - take a day out, very much an industry day, and say, "What do you understand as a young student looking to leave school about the employers? What are you looking for?" If we have got 16 to 19 year olds not continuing with their education like I did and going back at 24, what happens in between those years and what are they doing?

  123. That is a very good point. I would like to come back to that Stephen, how do you see this?
  124. (Mr Ellison) I have got quite a bit to say, being both on employer and involved in commercial training. I understand 99 per cent of the acronyms that have been bandied about, so it is perhaps a little easier for me. I have made several notes and agree very much with what David and John have said about the tremendous efforts that have been made in Birmingham, but probably could come up with one or two negatives from my point of view where Birmingham has gone the 90 per cent but then has failed the last ten per cent to make it work. Taking a point Mark just made, one thing we may well be in danger of is encouraging our 16 to 19-year-olds to stay on at school and do higher qualifications and then having a very similar situation they are in in France where they have nobody who wants to take up a manual job. The suicide rate amongst teenagers in France is horrendous, much, much worse than it is here. Yes, the pursuit of academia is an ideal that we should be going for but it does not necessarily suit everybody.

  125. Can I push you on that. There is in the current debate, as there always is on this is when they have got nothing else to put on the Today programme, the old argument about "not more means worse". We have around 34 per cent of people going into higher education in this country and the Prime Minister's ambition is to get it to 50 per cent. But we still have at the moment 66 per cent of the population not going into higher education, which is an awful lot of people. As we have been round schools in Birmingham this week it is interesting how many teachers and heads have said to us, "We work very hard with these young students. We get them to qualifications at 16. A substantial number of them disappear at 16 and do not reappear", particularly one school that I will not name but which is doing a really good job. "What frightens us at 16 is that they have a piece of paper, they go home, they close the door, they turn the television on and do not come out. They do not come out to go to college or to go to a job or to go into other education." And they said, "It is not our job to track where they have gone." I said to them and a number of us said to them, "We will be seeing the Learning and Skills Council ..."
  126. (Mr Cragg) It is our job and we are quite happy with that job.

  127. Coming back to the Learning and Skills Councils, Stephen brought this point up, and it is a phenomenal problem, that a number of your good schools are producing 16-year-olds and they are lost, they are not tracked. Should you be tracking them, John?
  128. (Mr Towers) Could I go back to your original question, which was not answered, because I am also an employer, as you know. MG Rover is a big employer and therefore when it comes to issues of skills and training, mature apprenticeships and modern apprenticeships, it has more at its disposal than the small and medium-sized businesses that we at the LSC try very hard to get to the same level. I would say very definitely in the past that a combination of an already complicated set of processes and a desire on the part of politicians to have an initiative a week had caused many small and medium-sized business people to say, "It is just too much. I am chief accountant, storekeeper and head mechanic. I cannot be director of training as well in this terribly complicated environment." What we are trying to do at the moment is two things. First of all, we are trying to simplify the ability to be knowledgeable as a small business person about what is available and at the same time provide both financial assistance and administrative assistance into making those things happen. It is bound to have a two in the middle of it, but we have just launched a scheme which is a pilot in the area.

    (Mr Cragg) It is what I talked about earlier. "Train to Gain" is our local brand name.

    (Mr Towers) You know the PR people who do these things!

    (Mr Cragg) We are working already with well over 500 individual employers and most of those are SMEs. A lot of them, for example, are private care homes, and there are big issues about the national care standards at the moment. A lot of the people in the Asian business community run textile operations which is very clearly segmented work. I would want to challenge that a little bit, Chairman. That does sound like an old story about multiplicity. If anything, people are moaning to us that we are perhaps too all powerful because we are managing the whole of those resources. In this region, for example, we have reached an agreement with the local development agency that the six local LSCs will co-ordinate the Regional Skills Strategy through lead LSC arrangements and at a sub-regional level as well on behalf of the RDA. That is a comprehensive agreement. The RDA has even funded specialist regional skills roles for us to co-ordinate that work from now to the period 2006. I think that is very helpful.

  129. Track us through the 16-year-olds who disappear and no one tracks them. What is the relationship between you and Connexions, to bring another organisation?
  130. (Mr Cragg) It is a very close and day-to-day working relationship. I was surprised at your statement. I think you were suggesting very low participation rates. We are lower than the national average, there is no question about that, but relative to our neighbours in the Black Country our participation rates are quite high. 16 to 18s are around 73 per cent. It is too low and the national target of 80 per cent is a perfectly legitimate challenge for us as a LSC locally as well as nationally. Most worryingly, there are around 15 per cent of young people who are in no form of structured education and training and most of them are not even in employment. So those are big issues for us naturally. The joint work -and remember we are 18 months old - in putting those systems in place has made massive progress. We are much better informed and much clearer about that. If you come back to schools, the arrangements we put in place and the action plan which Ministers have signed off following the area-wide inspection by OFSTED - and this has been agreed through the whole of the schools network of heads as well as the college principals - is to look for a much more focused neighbourhood-based patch-based approach to planning, and in particular to look at picking up the issue of non-participation as one of our highest priorities and to see much better targeting and focusing of collective efforts on a patch basis between all the schools and the relevant local colleges across the 14 to 19 group.

  131. Is that not one of the problems? One of the things you notice as a "comer in", as we say in Yorkshire, is that people even to go to school travel great distances.
  132. (Mr Cragg) It is absolutely a problem.

  133. When you talk to people about where they are going to go to college at 16 or to get skills at 16, the places where they are going to get those skills and go to college, for very many people in the population, are a long hike.
  134. (Mr Cragg) We agree completely. It is not so much that the places are a long hike, it is just that people have not got sufficient trust and faith in what is available at a local level. If I give you the extreme examples: Sutton Coldfield College in the north of the city recruits from 170 individual schools and Cadbury College in the south of the city, which is a much smaller sixth form college, also recruits from 48 schools. The whole basis of our work 14 to 19 is to get a much better and consistent progression of pre- and post-16, through collaborative local arrangements between a college and a school on a patch, building, incidentally, on what the LEA has done in Excellence in Cities which we think has been very successful.

  135. We saw a very good scheme backed by local employers out at Four Dwellings School of which you know?
  136. (Mr Towers) Yes I do.

  137. Which seemed very good.
  138. (Mr Towers) Yes, we are much taken with that ourselves.

    Valerie Davey

  139. A group of us went to Turves Green Girls' School, and woe betide any college that took on some of the girls there with their engineering and computing skills, not recognising the ability which they have now been given. Thank you, Rover, for the work put in there. I want to take up perhaps on the back of that where girls are falling back. I want to come back to the Women's Academy because that is where we went on to. I appreciate enormously what you said in a very robust way, David, about all that the LSC has done, but given the demographics, given that it is this large Pakistani community which is represented at college and which is the drop out, and where the women are potentially the workforce, "small is beautiful" may be something that you do need to replicate. Despite all you have done - and I do not blame you at all in brushing it aside and saying this is what we have done and this is where we are going -
  140. (Mr Cragg) I was not saying that.

    (Mr Towers) I do not think he was saying that.

    Valerie Davey: I apologise if that is not what you were saying.

    Chairman: Never apologise.

    Valerie Davey

  141. I do apologise because I think you are doing some good work and I certainly do not want to get on the wrong side of that. I was very sceptical, to be quite honest, about what this small academy might be doing, but having seen the trust - again it is that building of trust - amongst a community which has not had the benefit very much at school level and now certainly is not going to be encouraged by their families, sadly, to go into co-ed colleges, this has opened a door. Some of those stories we heard, we could go on, it was not just the ones that you heard here, there were others, and it seemed to us that the potential for that was way above the small unit that it was, and being able to replicate it may help. Given your analysis at the beginning that the ethnic minority community - not at school age but the next generation, the parents - are those you want to tap into, then for value for money that small academy was way above anything I have seen.
  142. (Mr Cragg) It is worth responding to say I was asked simply about capital investment so I gave a proper robust response. I would not want to convey a message through that that the thing we are interested in is solely that kind of investment; it is the very reverse. Again, it is taking time. We have to go at the right speed. We cannot just rush at institutions and bounce them in. It is "yet another initiative syndrome" if you are not careful. One of the things we have done is to look both at 14 to 19s, as I have mentioned already, at area planning, which then starts to look at individual disadvantaged groups and targetting. We now are looking at the same co-ordinated process for looking to get all first level and access work at a local area and bringing together for the first time the adult education service with FE colleges and with other voluntary sector providers. We have got a major review taking place which is engaging all those groups, and one of our big objectives is to get a much closer alignment between what is going on at a patch basis, in individual disadvantaged groups especially, and wider regeneration and employment initiatives. That is crucial. We have got the best possible inter-agency co-ordination of employment that we have seen in the last 20 years. For example, we are all working right across the piece from the voluntary sector, at this end of the supply chain, if you like, right through to Business Link at the interface with businesses, the job centre, plus the local authorities on the Bullring making absolutely sure that the 8,000 jobs created in the Bullring are closely linked to neighbourhood renewal and regeneration and outreach work. That is precisely the kind of issues you are picking up that we are replicating on the ground.

  143. Could I ask Mark or Stephen whether that makes sense to you? As employers can you echo that?
  144. (Mr Ellison) I can give a very good case study in point about that. About 12 or 18 months ago I was approached by Pertemps who have a large contract to get people back into work. We are a training company and we have two or three Asian tutors on board. Sadly, I cannot afford to employ them full time, but I do have those and I could call upon a number more. There is a large, large number of Asian people who are not working in the East Birmingham area. This is well-known, I am sure, by John and by David. I approached several employers to say that if we came across basically trained people who are trained in hygiene and health and safety, would they be prepared to give people a job and give people a chance. Initially the response was very, very good, but the enthusiasm waned because it is fine, it is great, we train people, people have the knowledge, have the skills, but the cultural gap is not assessed by the training. This is in no way intended to be any judgment on any particular culture, but the employers found it too difficult to make provisions for people who may be shy in speaking to a member of the opposite sex, who may be shy in coming forward, who may have different cultural views on certain things. I was speaking to employers like Allied Bakeries and various other employers in the food sector because primarily that is where we work, and there is a lot of employment in the food and food manufacture sector from this particular background. I put about two and a half months into it and it fell flat on its face because it was not going to work. As I mentioned before, an awful lot of work is done to take somebody the 90 per cent (and a woman's A-levels and qualifications are superb) but they need another ten per cent to make them "work ready", if I could use that expression.

    (Mr Towers) More than ten per cent.

    (Mr Ellison) I was being conservative.


  145. Why do you say more than ten per cent, John?
  146. (Mr Towers) You have heard the LSC's perspective on this. We support that process and we would like to see much, much more because we know that it will have a multiplier effect and eventually we will be able to get to where we want to. However, if you talk to an average employer round here he will take a very practical approach to this and say, "All very well, but unless the education, training and skilling turns itself into employability in a normal context --- I am very happy to listen to you and hear what was said, only I do not know what I have got to do with it." In other words, "I haven't got a women only factory." I think that is what Stephen was referring to.

    (Mr Ellison) Another employer was blunt to me not too long ago. He said, "If they cannot speak English, I do not want them." I said, "Many people can speak English and will be able to get by, you are judging too quickly," and he said, "No, if they cannot read the instructions, I am not interested."

  147. Surely a lot of people you are talking about will have good language skills?
  148. (Mr Ellison) This is my opinion. I think there is a huge, huge under-estimate in the literacy ability of not just the 30 plus per cent of people from other cultures in Birmingham but also the white European people in Birmingham. Because of things that have been mentioned before about people's parents being made redundant, difficulties with education in the past, and speaking from practical experience -

    Mr Turner

  149. You said there has been an under-estimate -
  150. (Mr Ellison) Of the number of people who are below level one in writing, again my opinion.


  151. We hear what you say about that and what John says about that, but one of the things you find - and a couple of you popped into the last session we had with the two academics and the reason we invited them is they have done a study of Birmingham on the progress of Afro-Caribbean people here - is if you put all that to one side, part of that discussion was when we have been to schools one of the most difficult groups to bring out their potential and get into employment is white working class lads, and to some extent lasses, who have got no problems with linguistic skills or working in a mixed environment, but in this city it seems you have got a very high level of unemployment of just that type of person.
  152. (Mr Towers) Some of the best attainment is among Indian girls, they top the tree.

  153. Absolutely, so if we concentrate on that for a moment in LSCs and talk about bread and butter issues, here it is flagged up time and time again that there is this real problem with young men living on estates in Birmingham, perhaps their fathers or grandfathers worked in the car industry at one stage, but they not see a role for themselves and are not skilled enough and do not have this ten per cent or 15 per cent. Sitting here listening to you as employers and LSC active leaders, what are we doing in a city like this? You say it is difficult with Asian women. I can understand that. What about this population when you are dying to get skilled young men?
  154. (Mr Cragg) Let's focus on young men.

  155. White young men.
  156. (Mr Cragg) I think young men.

  157. It is a difference in language.
  158. (Mr Cragg) You had a debate earlier. There is a big debate to be had about race and class because the correlation is pretty clear for me.

  159. Why is it clear? In what sense clear?
  160. (Mr Cragg) If you stop mapping the city ethnically and map the city in terms of multiple disadvantage, you will find the correlation is overwhelmingly the same correlation. It just happens to be particular ethnic groups. For example, we have done a lot of cross-referencing of unemployment in health and educational attainment and you can see how that lines up. The more complex the ethnicity becomes, the more you have got to focus down. You are asking me what we are doing. We are clear that by the time you have got to 16, if you look at the horrendous results now of Afro-Caribbean boys or, for that matter, for pockets of working class white boys, we need to focus in on those particular areas in a way that makes sense in a remedial context because you are trying to get people back in and trying to address a whole range of things. This year we have introduced an incentive for institutions to work outside the box because we believe it is necessary - and we come back to the funding which Mr Ennis mentioned earlier - and we do not think formula funding will address this issue. It requires far more to get people off the streets, in through the door and support them to stay there. If there is no additional support you will not do that. We have introduced an easy to manage benchmark. We look at the current baseline of participation in each of the colleges and among work based learning providers (not in sixth forms because you have got to have a qualification to enter sixth forms) and we are offering a 25 per cent uplift for increased recruitment for institutions, on a clear condition that they will work with other intermediaries, in particular, for example, we have forged an agreement across the whole of the industry with what we call "Foyers" to work with those Foyers to target the hardest to help and to create a bridge between the intermediary who is working right at the grass-roots of the community and the institutions or training providers. We are doing the same, for example, with black intermediary organisations. We are working in Handsworth with an organisation well-known nationally called the Skelman Trust (?) which is doing a lot of work with other grass roots training organisations. There has been a 25 per cent uplift in funding which we think is very legitimate and we have taken legacy funding to do that, and we have had 1 million this year to do two things - to do practical things to forge relations with those organisations that are in touch with young people, but also to give institutions a really new model of working out in the community outside the institutional boxes. We also hope we will be able to evaluate what is, after all, a pilot exercise from our own point of view, and show how in both a controlled but very flexible way you can bring precisely those young people back into education and training.

    (Mr Towers) I sat at the back for some of the discussion you were having with David and Simon and part of that discussion talked about a racist attitude. It was a sophisticated definition of a racist attitude in schools which I was, frankly, struggling with. We have talked at length about the stuff that David has spoken to you about. If you take the community that we are talking about, take that particular class level, then the issue that we face, the issue that we know about, the issue that is most easy to understand is the role model issue. The fact that it is smart not to work, it is smart not to study, rather than the other way round. What this process is attempting to do is not to say you are bad parents or you are bad teachers but it is trying to get a role model type of thinking into the process which says it might be quite smart to make a few quid when you are older, it might be quite smart to drive around in a nice car because you are making a few quid, and you do not make a few quid and run the risk of going to prison every so often. We are not there and I do not think our philosophy is yet fully developed but, goodness me, I honestly believe - and I do not have the statistics - that schools these days are one of the least racist areas and one of the least things we need to worry about in terms of a distinction of that nature.

    Chairman: I think this Committee would agree with you. Could I give Andrew a turn. He is going to get restless if I do not give him a question now.

    Mr Turner

  161. One of the points made to us earlier in an informal session was that white working class boys in particular have been told to be ashamed of everything about their culture. Do you agree with that?
  162. (Mr Cragg) That is a pretty far-reaching statement. I could draw some parallels between what I believed in.

    (Mr Towers) Been told to be ashamed about their culture?

    Jeff Ennis: Do you mean lifestyle or culture?

    Mr Turner

  163. Perhaps what was meant was the stereotype of their culture.
  164. (Mr Cragg) I think that is just such an over-simplistic statement really. What I do believe, and John has summed it up, is that we have got a huge set of issues about how we create positive and desirable role models and the point I was going make, Chairman, was a demographic point. I personally believe that one of the biggest issues around Afro-Caribbean under-attainment is that we have got a secondary school employee population that is overwhelmingly white and middle class. I believe that makes a fundamental difference and it is the biggest challenge for us. It is interesting that in another place John and I both sit on the local City Strategic Partnership. One of the major focuses we have taken there is to look at demography from a public service and employment point of view. The one thing that will change behaviour and attitudes to staff is to reflect the diversity of the community in the way services are provided, especially in education. That will create the role model. We have got massive under-representation in most areas of our public services by the very communities we are trying to serve. We need to put a huge amount of effort into all of that. Incidentally, private sector employers in this city are starting to do that. One of the most significant pieces of work we have done around campaigning about these demographic issues is we have found in professional services a real awareness that for huge job growth they must do something economically about diversity. They have created a big new initiative on diversity, the Diversity Board, and they are taking that right into their own backyard and among their employers.

  165. I am not putting that down but can we move back to my question.
  166. (Mr Linton) One of the things you said is paramount and that is reflected in what went on recently with the games in the World Cup. You had everyone flying the St George's flag without the fear of being shouted at that they were National Front. When you say working class white people are put in a box and are ashamed of their culture, maybe that is what it is sometimes. I went to Handsworth College when I left the Army to get to university. I went to Bournville which was logistically down the road, and they said basically they did not think I was the right type of candidate for them. What that meant I do not know. I ended up in Handsworth College in the fear of the 1980s riots, and all the rest of it, which was populated by West Indians and the Asian population. I was the minority in that particular area. However, I found them openly welcoming. I enjoyed my time there and I made some really good friends and got to university and that was the end result for me. At the time, however, in some of the political debates we had, it was pushed, if not sometimes forced, down my throat how we oppressed and continue in this country to oppress the minorities, the non-indigenous people. Sometimes we go too far on the right or left of what is rationally acceptable. In this city I do not think we have a real issue of racism any more because we are learning to live and grow up together as ordinary human beings.

    (Mr Towers) To take that even further, Mark, I am not originally from Birmingham but one of the things I have noticed over the many years that I have been here, most particularly the recent years, is that there is a sense of a Birmingham identity here which I think is unparalleled in major city terms across the ethnic groups. I still do not follow Andrew's question.

    Chairman: Nor does the Chairman! Put it in a different way.

    Mr Turner: You were there when it was said.

    Chairman: I heard what was said, I am not sure what you are trying to get at.

    Mr Turner

  167. The assumption is that if you are ashamed of your culture and if you are ashamed of yourself you are not going to perform and the example that was given is that white boys adopt Jamaican patois as a means of conversing - and I am sure it applies to other groups as well - and
  168. if you are ashamed of yourself you are not going to perform. I am wondering if that is true.

    (Mr Ellison) It covers both distinctions. We have talked about young whites and young African Caribbeans. I have had the great honour over the past couple of years of working with an African Caribbean company in Birmingham and my company has trained about 75 Jamaican people who are trainee students here. They are not British, they are from Jamaica and they have been over here relatively recently. They are all paying for their training, none of it is subsidised. The attitude is excellent and totally and completely different from the stereotypical attitude, even amongst the young lads. But what I will say is that I feel, in the two areas you come across, the level of literacy of 50-year-old African Caribbean people, particularly Jamaican people, is very, very low. Could it not be a fact, rather than me jumping to conclusions, that if you grow up in a household where your mother and father do not read and a household without books, how are you ever going to achieve? Similarly, some people from a working class background - and I am from a working class background and I certainly would not tell my son to be ashamed of it, quite the contrary - if you have not grown up with that stimulus, it is the stimulus that is missing that is the problem. That cannot be corrected in three or five years; it is going to take at least a generation.

    (Mr Towers) Young people have had role models of varying degrees of acceptability over all of my lifetime. When I was 16 or 17 I found the role models that young people had terribly, terribly acceptable. As I have got older, the role models that young people have have become even less acceptable.

  169. I would go along with that!
  170. (Mr Cragg) It is a thing that happens with young people. The interesting thing that we have today is that there is a multitude of variation of role models available now. If I go a long way back to when I was young we tended to run with the show. Maybe it was a choice between having a rocker as a role model or a mod as a role model. Today it is quite a complex world for young people. Young people love to have role models. If you happen to bump into someone who is taking the Afro-Caribbean pop jargon on, it is probably only a temporary issue. The fundamental question of self-esteem is not that. The fundamental question of self-esteem is a much, much more complicated factor. I do not think it is related to the same thing, but it is a role model issue. My greatest concern is the process whereby - and we will - we successfully tackle this question of smart to be lazy, smart to be out of it rather than smart to be into it, smart not to listen, smart not to get educated. If you took a general theme, that is the thing that we do have to tackle in those areas where you would expect inclusion in the process. Finally, however, there are much much more difficult areas where I do not think anybody has the answer yet. You were talking earlier about the Bangladeshi community and so on. That is a much more complicated social issue and complicated cultural issue. I do not think we are there yet.

    Jeff Ennis

  171. I would like to come back to something that Mark touched on earlier in his contribution in terms of the need to improve the direct linkage between local businesses and local schools because it was something that cropped up this morning in the session we had with a group of Y11 girls at Turves Green Girls' School. They had just started year 11 and they had done their work experience at the back end of year ten. I said, "What did you think about work experience?" Their experiences of work experience, if you like. They said they thought it was absolutely fantastic. When I asked was it too long or too short, they said, "In our opinion, it was too short. We were only just getting to enjoy it." I think that is something you need to take away and think about in terms of improving the direct linkage between schools and local businesses. Having said that, looking at the broader issue of trying to bring the local businesses into networking and what have you, I am sure it is the same in Birmingham as it is in my area, we have a devil of a job to get SMEs involved. It is quite obvious what the reason is in some respects. It is because they have only got a few number of people working for them and they need to concentrate on the core business. It is really trying to emphasise to you people - and I would like your views on this - how can we enthuse SMEs to get involved more in work experience and other issues, where although there is no direct knock-on benefit, if you like, to their business, in broader terms it has massive knock-on implications?
  172. (Mr Towers) The single biggest success we have had - and this cannot be a universal formula - is we have piloted an experiment many, many years ago starting in the car industry, in the automotive sector. There were many themes to this but one of the most powerful fundamental themes was the customers of those SMEs demanded and required their suppliers to work in that way and that made the biggest difference of any I can think of. The reason I say it is not a universal solution is because things do not always work that way, but we are trying the same process in other sectors. In addition to that, we are paying them, we are giving them money to do it. In addition to that, resources are being given for them to do it. I feel a little bit sad about this. I have had a lot of experience of the German industry and you do not have to spend a lot of time there to understand that ingrained as a matter of fact - and probably if you asked them to explain why it is so they would not be able to explain why it is so ingrained - is this sense of skills, qualifications, learning, and it is applicable to any job. It does not matter whether you are a skilled fitter or an engineer with a degree or a barman, you know what the necessary skills are to do that. You can be the best barman in town by having the right skills to be the best barman in town. I do not know what the magic ingredient is to get us there. If we had more of that then I think we would have a better participation rate.

    Paul Holmes

  173. Following on from what you just said - and earlier on you were talking about the need for apprenticeships for the older generation and a major profile of the population, to get them back into work - what about modern apprenticeships? Across the country people are saying they are not really taking off. How many have you got in this area?
  174. (Mr Cragg) About 5,000ish. There is undoubtedly still a major task ahead of us to expand modern apprenticeships. The most important thing we have got to do is to get out of this box of competition at 16 or 17 of whether you go into full time education or you get into a modern apprenticeship. To go back to your observations, Chairman, about higher education, 65 per cent of young people do not go into higher education. Regrettably, we have not developed a sensible and practical culture of people who go and spend a year or two years in further education progressing on to a modern apprenticeship. The job is not done if you have done a full-time course. You need to develop specific work-related skills and to go into a job with further training. One of the biggest breakthroughs we can make - and we see this as a priority for us - is to get a much higher progression rate between full-time education and training of all kinds and modern apprenticeships for those who do not go into higher education. With all this collaborative work we are doing across providers, we have now created sector development groups with colleges, especially those in individual vocational specialist areas, working with a whole network of local training providers to facilitate precisely that.

    (Mr Towers) We continue to create an impression in most of the things that we do at a high political level that all apprentices are young people. We produce profound reports which seem to centre themselves around the fact that apprenticeships are, by and large, 18 to 21-year-olds and not much older than that.

    Chairman: We have a member of this Committee who is slightly obsessed with plumbing and plumbers, probably quite rightly.

    Jonathan Shaw: He is probably thinking about it now!


  175. He is the Member of Parliament for St Albans and he will not mind me saying this. The fact of the matter is, as he constantly says, in his part of the world a plumber today will earn between 50,000 and 60,000. John talks about role models. We have been round schools today where teachers have said, "If only we could get our young people interested and then employers interested in that leap into useful skills." Here is a city crying out for electricians and plumbers, all those most useful construction trades. There does seem to be this gap, wherever one looks. Whether you use modern apprenticeships or whatever mechanism you use there does not seem to be the right relationship between young people who have skills and the potential to do those job role models who might come in and say, "I do this. I am extremely successful. I have a fulfilling life and I earn very good money ..."
  176. (Mr Towers) They are all on the golf course. We cannot get them to come in!

  177. How do you as the Learning and Skills Councils meet this because it is a real problem?
  178. (Mr Cragg) I am not going to, and I hope I have not done today, give you glib or flip solutions. I think it is about a whole set of planned actions. For example, take construction, what was absolutely clear to us from our construction review (because we developed what we are going to use as a public device which is the idea of a learning skills balance sheet to look at supply and demand) and we did that as a really interesting exercise. That balance sheet showed that the demand side was not being met at all by the supply side. Because of the fragmentation between institutions we had neither the breadth, the scale or the level required by the industry. My anecdote which I gave you before we came in over tea is that there were virtually no local people employed on the Bullring site for construction purposes. We have tackled a very specific issue. We have prioritised growth in that sector. We are creating what is needed because we are missing whole chunks of skills training required for the construction industry. Most of that work in the Bullring is modern, sophisticated, prefabricated techniques. Nowhere in the whole of the city of Birmingham is training for those techniques. So the whole purpose of creating a new infrastructure, a big open site is so you can replicate the real activity which is going on on the ground. I think you went to Four Dwellings which is doing quite a lot on construction. Then you have got to be looking at all kinds of role modelling work, all kinds of work-related curriculum activities so you have got a whole range of things going on 14 to 16 - and we very much welcome the changes to the national curriculum there - to allow us to introduce far more vocational options for the very kids who are dropping out. Not that we want just "stupid kids" to be doing vocational things, that is a terrible caricature; we want to open up the opportunities for kids who are turned off by the conventional national curriculum to do those things 14 to 16. It is a multiplicity of interventions and the other key thing, which is right at the heart of your question, is how do you engage employers? Again, we have tried and I think begun to succeed significantly in getting a much better structured engagement of whole groups of employers. We have done that sectorally again.

    Jonathan Shaw

  179. What about work experience for youngsters and the small business? Can the one-man band and plumbers provide placements?
  180. (Mr Linton) I deal a lot with the SME market, it is part of my role, and I am sitting there seeing the ins and outs of what they have to do. You have the MD who is doing everything, running around, making sure the accounts are alright, running the operation of the business. What we are physically asking them is to give up some of their time and take on a school leaver or someone still at school and educate them. What they are forgetting or what they are not seeing in the foresight is these are our future. If we are not looking after these people, you are not going to have the right skill set coming into the employment market. How do we tackle that? How do we market it? The LSC is looking to have to pay these people. I think that is wrong. Yes, as an employer it is effectively fundamental that you get the core values of your job right, but if you are not looking at investing back into the community then you are not being a responsible employer in this city.

    (Mr Cragg) We are not paying anyone for work experience, for the avoidance of doubt.


  181. John has a lugubrious expression.
  182. (Mr Cragg) He always looks like that!

    Jonathan Shaw

  183. Especially when dealing with Germans!

(Mr Towers) A positive point is that anyone in this city who is part of the process that requires work experience gets it. The availability of work experience is not a problem. The variety and the type of work experience available is the problem. I would love to think that what Mark said could happen but just looking at the practical side of some of these SMEs, it cannot.

(Mr Ellison) Can I give you the practical side as the only SME person here. In my business, depending on how many sessional duties I have, I am employing micros to SMEs regularly. I just could not afford the time. The only person who I would want to help them to get a full overview of what the business is me. I cannot put somebody to sit next to one of my tutors in the classroom and be quiet all day when they are training. I cannot put them on work-based training; that does not happen. It is pointless sitting next to the receptionist because they will get that experience anywhere. If they want to know what it is like to work in my business they are going to have to shadow me, and I just have not got the time. I have got the will and I would love to do it, but if I do it then I reduce my earning capacity and who is going to pay my mortgage?

Chairman: Thank you very much. This has been a very good session for us. We have kept you a long time. Something that really comes over - and a lot of us have been involved and I personally have been involved in city and town regeneration for a long time - it does my heart good to see four people so committed to this city in various ways. I do not know how most of you have any time to see your families because you sit on so many different bodies! Thank you very much for your time.