WEDNESDAY 17 JULY 2002
Barry Sheerman, in the Chair
STEPHEN TWIGG, a Member of the House, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Young People and Learning, examined.
(Stephen Twigg) May I first thank the Committee for inviting me along and giving me the opportunity to say a few words at the beginning. I was casting my mind back and I did appear as a witness before your predecessor committee eleven years ago, the Department of Education and Science Select Committee, when I was President of the National Union of Students, in an inquiry about student finance. I am sure that I would still hold some of the views that I held then.
(Stephen Twigg) I am very confident that in 1991 we would have welcomed everything you said in your recent report. I had the chance on Friday, in the debate on behaviour, to say a little bit about why I was so delighted to be asked by the Prime Minister to do this job. For many of us, I think education is something that lies at the core of what we believe in, whatever political beliefs and values we have. I was certainly very influenced in this by my family background, by my parents, and in particular by my mother. She comes from a pretty tough, working class background but got through the Eleven Plus, went to Dame Alice Owen Grammar School and then had to leave school at 15. The view at that time was that girls did not stay on at school beyond that age. She certainly brought up my sister and I to believe in the high values of education and its great importance. I do think that it is right that this week we reaffirm education as the top priority for the Government in terms of our values of opportunity, of promoting a more cohesive society and seeking the greatest inclusion and equality of opportunity. Looking back at the last five years since this Government came to power, a great deal has been achieved in education. As David Miliband said when he came to the Committee a few weeks ago, there are still enormous challenges. I want to say a couple of things about the main policy areas on which I have been asked to work. The first is a new one, which is a Strategy for London Schools. As a Londoner, I am very excited to have this new brief. I am an outer Londoner by birth and represent an outer London constituency, but I have been an Inner London councillor and school governor. I am very well aware of some of the issues that Estelle Morris spoke about in her speech three weeks ago on the London challenge, how in this city we have these incredible contrasts of great wealth and enormous poverty sitting side by side. We have wonderful diversity in terms of the cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds of people who live here, but we also have the challenges that that can sometimes bring with a very mobile pupil population. We have some excellent schools, but we have more than our fair share of schools in challenging circumstances. We have some very good school leavers, but we do not have as many excellent school leavers as there are in some of the other parts of our country. We have 33 local education authorities, very local and bringing many benefits, but also there can be difficulties with strategic leadership and co-ordination. Since Estelle's speech about the London Challenge, I have been working with various partners in London to look at how we can take forward this strategy. I would certainly be very interested in the views and comments of the Committee on how we can best take that forward.
(Stephen Twigg) We had an excellent debate on behaviour last Friday. Thank you to those who took part in that debate. Concerns about pupil behaviour and behaviour in schools are rising. This is a very important area. One needs to be taking on the national behaviour strategy. I know that David Miliband spoke about the 14 to 19s. We want to raise the staying-on rates in education after the ages of 16 and 17 and to foster a good national debate, following the Green Paper on 14 to 19s. Finally, on young people, clearly there is a great challenge for all of us, in whatever area of work, to engage with young people and to give young people a voice. I am very pleased at my role in working with the Connexions Service, the Youth Service and the voluntary sector for young people, and also the Children and Young People's Unit. It is a privilege to be here. Thank you for inviting me along. As a last comment, Chairman, and you talked about my previous job, I am a very strong supporter of select committees and I think Parliament's strengthening of select committees is a vital challenge for us all during this parliament. Therefore, I particularly look forward to working with this Select Committee for however long I am in this job.
(Stephen Twigg) We are currently preparing the recruitment plan for the Commission. I want to see the Commissioner in post in the autumn. I will be working with the Commission on a day-to-day basis in the Department. It will be a Civil Service appointment. He or she will be based in the Department. I will work with him or her along with the 33 education authorities and other interested partners across London. It is an innovative move. It reflects the team and the circumstances of a city that does not have a city-wide authority with educational responsibilities. From my own experience in London and from the discussions I have had over the last month or so, I think there is general support for continuing the current arrangements with 33 local education authorities but a recognition that there is a need for some co-ordination and some strategic leadership. That will come from the Department and that will be my role, but the Commissioner will be able really to get into some of the detail of this, working with LEAs and also working with schools, the Institute of Education and other key players within London.
(Stephen Twigg) One, we need to get better co-ordination between different boroughs, different authorities. I know from my own experience as an outer London MP that a decision that is made in the London Borough of Enfield about where a school is to be located will have massive implications for the boroughs of Barnet, Waltham Forest and Haringey. So one is looking at some of those issues to get better co-ordination about those sorts of decisions. London's population is rising; the school population is rising even faster. We are going to need new schools in London. Let us put them in the right places and make sure that they have the right sort of ethos. So one is co-ordination. Secondly, I think there is an enormous challenge, and I know this is not peculiar to London but it is perhaps greatest in London, to do with people mobility and the impact which people mobility can have on schools, on the funding of schools, on the ability of schools to deliver for pupils. This is a very live issues, not one for which I think there are any simple answers, but certainly I think that is going to be a big challenge. Thirdly, to increase parental confidence in the secondary system in London. Estelle raised the figure in her speech that nationally 85 per cent of parents, when their children reach 11, get the secondary school that they want. In London the figure is 59 per cent. The proportion of parents in London who are sending their children to Inner London, independent secondary schools is getting on for double the national average. Some of that will be choice but often that is parents who do not have faith in the secondary system in parts of London, so it is restoring that faith. These are three big challenges.
(Stephen Twigg) I try to visit at least one school a week.
(Stephen Twigg) Now that I have this new job, I will be seeking to visit one school every week, if I can. We are setting up a programme in the Department.
(Stephen Twigg) Absolutely, and one of my first visits in London was to the Swanley School in Tower Hamlets, which is a 90 per cent Bangladeshi school and it has pioneered some excellent work on truancy.
(Stephen Twigg) By and large, they add a lot to those schools; they add to the cultural diversity of the schools; and many of them are very quick learners.
(Stephen Twigg) There is clearly an issue.
(Stephen Twigg) There is an issue about people mobility. In discussions with heads and others, I have observed concern about what pupil mobility can lead to in schools. Clearly, pupil mobility is a product of a number of factors, of which migrant populations, including asylum seekers, is only one. Jonathan, I have to say that I would emphasise the positive. I see that in my own constituency where there are quite significant numbers of asylum seekers in schools. The difficulties often come with the mobility rather than to do with the fact that they are asylum seekers.
(Stephen Twigg) No.
(Stephen Twigg) No.
(Stephen Twigg) I need to tread carefully because there is a slightly unusual arrangement, as you will know. Although the unit is based in our department, it actually reports to John Denham in the Home Office. I have the departmental responsibility but they do not directly report to me. It is certainly something that could be considered within their remit. I would be very happy to take that back to them.
(Stephen Twigg) It is certainly possible for that role to be played. I am not aware of what input the unit has had, if any, because obviously the policy was developed before I was in the Department. I am quite happy to take that particular question back. I do know that we are obviously working as a department to ensure that, assuming the accommodation centres do go ahead, the educational content within the centres is of a high quality and that the children who are being taught in accommodation centres are getting good quality education for the period they are in those accommodation centres. I have already discussed that with the relevant officials in our Department.
(Stephen Twigg) I am sure we can but I cannot tell you off the top of my head.
(Stephen Twigg) Of course I will.
(Stephen Twigg) I think there is a real issue. Part of the issue, as I said in answer to the previous question from Jonathan, is about mobility, the unexpected arrival of pupils in a school on a Monday morning who were not there on Friday. That is definitely an issue, which is why I emphasised mobility as one of the three issues in your earlier question, Chairman. Yes, of course, if there are then language barriers, that becomes a factor as well. I accept that. Perhaps I became slightly over-enthusiastic in giving positive answers earlier. The primary issue is about pupil mobility. Whilst that will often be equal with additional languages as well as English, it will not always be. Sometimes it will be about people who are being moved around because of the nature of the housing situation.
(Stephen Twigg) Absolutely, and I do not think we are disagreeing. Part of the reason why we are having the London Strategy for Schools, part of the London challenge that Estelle Morris set out, is to do with the diversity of London. All I was seeking to say, in answer to questions, was that whilst that diversity can bring difficulties and challenges, it can also bring some great benefits, and that is what I see in London schools in my own experience.
(Stephen Twigg) Yes. I do not think there should be any contention about that. The ability of people newly arrived in this country to speak the language is in their interests as much as it is in the interests of schools and others. That is absolutely right.
(Stephen Twigg) Of course there is a relationship and it is well researched and well documented that the social and economic background of people going to schools is a determinant of the outcome but it is not the only determinant. If you look at schools in London or in other parts of the country that have a broadly similar intake in terms of free school meals or whatever indicator we choose, quite different outcomes can be produced. You are definitely right; one of the challenges, particularly in Inner London but it also applies in some parts of outer London as well, is to find ways in which we can make the local schools attractive to a broad range of the people who live in those areas. It is not an easy challenge but one that we have to meet if we are going to change some the difficulties referred to in the questions and my me.
(Stephen Twigg) I certainly hope we are not going to get to a situation like that. With the new City Academy Programme, I hope that we will see some of the boroughs, including I would hope Islington, actually having those city academies and being able to attract local parents to send their children to those new schools that would be formed. If we were to reach a situation such as the one you have described, we would have to take a look at that. I am sure the Commissioner would have a view, but in a sense that would not be anything different to what we would do now or what the previous government did. We would sit down with the local education authorities and take a look at it. One thing I do think the Commissioner can do, whoever he or she turns out to be, is to work with some of those schools directly, with the local education authorities but also directly with some of the schools that are not performing very well, to try to raise their performance so that we do not get to the kind of situation you have outlined.
(Stephen Twigg) It is too early to say that we will do that because it is important, as part of the Specialist Schools Programme, that there is that challenge for schools. I take your point that that can be difficult for schools in less well-off area. We do need to keep an eye on how that is developing. I do not think we are in a position at the moment where we can say that it is a fundamental barrier to schools achieving specialist status. Were it to become so, then it is something we could re-visit. We are seeing across the country in specialist schools, and again I hate to cite examples from my local area but it tends to be the area I know best, the Lee Valley School in Enfield, which has just been granted sports specialist status. It is in one of the more deprived parts of the borough. It is one of the schools that is doing less well, and they have succeeded in raising the status to match the money. S o they have done it. It can be done. I take your point that that might not always be the case.
Chairman: May I remind the Committee that it is getting towards the end of the term and some of you are lapsing into rather long questions. Can you be more disciplined!
(Stephen Twigg) That is the first time I have heard the term "careers czar". One of my responsibilities is for the Connexions Service. I do think Connexions is a very exciting and innovative programme. I have had the opportunity to visit some of the best of Connexions. I know that Connexions is variable in its quality and that work needs to be done to ensure that the standards are the best and matched across the whole country. When Connexions is a universal programme for next year, the Careers Service will become part of Connexions. It is vitally important that that service is available to the whole cross-section of young people. There is a focus within Connexions on those who are most at risk, those who have had more problems at school, but there needs to be a universal element as well. We have targets to raise the number of modern apprenticeships, to encourage more people to stay in formal education and training after the ages of 16 and 17. Clearly the quality of advice that is provided by careers teachers and persons advising in Connexions is one of the ways in which we can deliver that. You are right to identify that.
(Stephen Twigg) Yes, and that is an important part of the changes that we need to make to the 14 to 19 phase of education.
(Stephen Twigg) We need to tread carefully with these statistics. There is definitely an issue with some minority ethnic communities - the Bengali, Pakistani and Afro-Carribean communities. There is definitely then a gender aspect to that, a boys' and girl's aspect. That might not be a politically correct way of putting it. I think there is still fundamentally a social class aspect to all of this. The Bengali community tends to be a very poor community. I have asked for these statistics to be broken down to try to take that into account. There is some very good practice. In answer to Jonathan's question, I mentioned the school that I visited in Tower Hamlets, which was almost entirely Bengali. For example, they have put youth workers into the school, learning mentors and other people who can provide positive role models. They had a particular issue of truancy, which they are dealing with by employing people from within the Bangladeshi community of Tower Hamlets to work with the families. I think a lot of this is about family connections and parental involvement in schools. There is an onus on us to look at ways in which we can encourage all parents to become involved, but particularly perhaps those from communities whose young people are not doing so well in school.
(Stephen Twigg) Essentially this will be an offshoot of the national programme for the gifted and talented. We are establishing a national academy at Warwick University. I do not know if you have had their representative to speak to the Committee. We want to ensure that there is a London focus on that. This will be to assist those young people who excel in school across the board. It is not simply looking at the more academic subjects, though obviously that will be an important part of the work that is happening in trying to ensure that those young people are getting, if you like, their fair share of the education service in London. Certainly one of the issues that does come up is a sense among some parents of more able children that they feel that their offspring will not do so well in London schools and therefore they try to escape. If we can find a way of ensuring that there is a genuine equality of education that is available to young people of all backgrounds, then we think that will assist them, most importantly, but it will also be an important part of improving education in London.
(Stephen Twigg) It certainly is. As I understand it, a lot of the work has already happened on this in excellence in city areas across the country. This is not something completely new to the London Strategy. We simply highlighted that as part of the London Challenge because it is a particular question in London. Yes, I hope there will be lessons for the rest of the country but I am in no way suggesting that London is trailing a blaze here. We are not. This is something that is happening already.
(Stephen Twigg) There is certainly central funding for it. I would have to come back to you, Valerie, on whether there are requirements for some local contribution. There will certainly be some central departmental funding for it, yes.
(Stephen Twigg) When we came to office in 1997, one of the priorities that we set is still a priority, and that is inclusion in schools. There was a real concern, and I think that is reflected in schools as well, and I do not think that was simply us as a government, about the high level that exclusions had reached. That was why we set targets at that stage to say we wanted to get the number of exclusions down, but absolutely there was no desire on the part of government for those targets to lead to a position where heads are no longer able to deal with those who are disruptive in the classroom. That is why we no longer have such a target. We have to learn from experience about these things. You are absolutely right, and this was stated by me in the debate last Friday, that the statistics suggest that nearly half of those who leave the teaching profession are citing poor behaviour in the classroom as the main reason. The Chairman has made the point in the debate, quite rightly, that behaviour is still generally good in the vast majority of schools but there are too many schools where behaviour is not generally good. That is why we are saying, as you say, that exclusion is the last resort, but, where necessary, then exclusion must be the weapon that can be used by the Head. That is why we place so much emphasis on the new behaviour programme on which I am now working to provide full-time alternatives for those pupils who are excluded. In the statement yesterday, Estelle Morris was talking about ensuring that there is a learning and support unit in every school that needs one. What we do not want, and what is not in the interests of wider society, is for those young people who are excluded for their appalling behaviour in school transferring that appalling behaviour into housing estates, the local shopping centre and the streets. That is why we are working on alternatives for those young people.
(Stephen Twigg) I was not accepting the suggestion that there is a simple causal link. I think we are talking about a much more complex situation. Indeed, as speakers from all parties said in the debate last week, you have to look at the wider situation in society, and at some of the decline in respect and discipline, and so forth, in wider society. I am accepting that to continue with a rigorous target of reducing exclusions is not any longer appropriate in light of the fact that the number of exclusions has actually fallen very significantly since 1997. We are not saying to schools, "You must avoid exclusion at all costs". We want to look at what works in different areas. For example, as part of the £66 million programme announced by the Chancellor in the budget, 34 local education authorities have new behaviour improvement plans funded by central government. There are the 34 local education authorities where you have a combination of high street crime and high levels of truancy. This starts with summer activity programmes run by Connections from next week, and we will be working with schools from September. Some of the local education authorities are choosing to pilot a "no exclusions" policy as part of that. We are not directing them to do that but a number of authorities, especially Reading, have said that they would like to pilot that. We want to learn from that pilot.
(Stephen Twigg) I think that move has been made clearly by working on the guidance as regards appeals. That is clearly a factor in terms of the ability of an exclusion to stand. There will be announcements on that later this year.
(Stephen Twigg) I think it is the right way to go. What we want to do, and this is really what the announcements over the last two days and our reform paper are about, is to recognise that there is a need for extra resources for all schools to assist them in their basic task and in leadership, but there is then a greater need in certain schools in certain areas for more support. That is why we constructed the combination of resources and reform in the way that we have over the last two days. I have absolutely no doubt that effective leadership in a school is crucial to making a difference. Whether we are talking about the London Challenge, where there are particular issues about leadership, or any other schools in the country, it is about providing support for that leadership. That is why Estelle Morris placed such great emphasis on that in the statement yesterday.
(Stephen Twigg) I think schools are getting much better at this. I have seen a lot of good practice in my first months or so in this job. I keep saying to the officials that I want to see some bad practice as well. There is always the danger that we only see the good things that we want to show people. I have seen some good things. I keep mentioning the school I went to in Tower Hamlets. They have a youth worker and learning mentors. I think that is the kind of early intervention that can make a difference. I went to a couple of schools in Coventry where the Connexions Service is based as part of the school. Some of the younger people who were previously either excluded or liable to be excluded are now working with Connexions. In talking to those young people, I got a real sense that it was making a difference to them, that they actually felt that they could identify with something within the school in a way that perhaps they would not have identified with something that was in the school before. We have had the initiatives where 14 and 15 years-olds, who are in school but having difficulties staying in school, can spend at least some of their time going to a local FE college where perhaps the culture and the nature of what is on offer is of more interest to them. Part of the deal is that, provided they go to school for the rest of the week, they can go to the FE college on the day of the week that is allocated. Those sorts of initiatives and early interventions will pay off, I think. Obviously it is early days to judge but you do need schools to take a whole school approach to these matters. I had the impression, and this is only an impression, that this is far more widespread in schools across the country than it was even two or three years ago.
(Stephen Twigg) That will focus on early years. It will impinge.
(Stephen Twigg) It certainly will and hopefully it will strengthen the ability to deliver on those areas, but it is early years. I take your point that it has a relevance there.
(Stephen Twigg) Baroness Ashton will be based in our department and in DWP. She could appear before both committees, I would assume. (It am sure she will love me for announcing that!)
Chairman: She has had experience with this Committee before.
(Stephen Twigg) Absolutely, and I think it requires a culture change to get to that. I am sure we can change that culture.
(Stephen Twigg) I have heard it was excellent.
(Stephen Twigg) Yes, I think that is fair. In a sense, young people grow up a lot faster. Although 20 years ago the media was there, we now have the multi-media and the knowledge and access to new forms of technology. Young people have an ability to learn, which has created more pressure on parents, without a doubt.
(Stephen Twigg) All of those worries clearly exist. I mentioned the London Challenge, the fact that 40 per cent of parents in Inner London do not get a secondary school of their choice. That supports some of what you have said. I think there is a concern that, in the quite proper desire to emphasise that people have rights, sometimes we forget that people also have responsibilities. That sort of culture can be very damaging and certainly can contribute to poor behaviour in schools. I would not want to be entirely negative about it because, like all of the Committee, I am sure I visit schools where the vast majority of the pupils are very well behaved and have a good understanding of their responsibilities as well as their rights.
(Stephen Twigg) Of course I understand that. Certainly, in the context of London, creating schools where parents will be happy with the ethos of the school and will see pupil behaviour as the sort of behaviour you would expect is exactly the reason why the London Challenge is so important to me. I can think of schools in my own area where the local perception is that the school, including therefore parents, may well be a lot poorer than I see when I visit the school, but there is no reason why the local community would necessarily be going to visit the school in the way that I do as a Member of Parliament. The perception of the community is based on how the young people are behaving at the bus stop, on the bus or in the streets and shops after school. That is what we have to deal with. Schools have a role in dealing with that but it is obviously not just down to the schools; it is also down to the parents. Yes, parents are under new forms of pressure, but parents do also have responsibilities. I think we need to emphasise, when we are talking about rights and responsibilities, the responsibilities which the pupils have.
(Stephen Twigg) I am agreeing with what you are saying but I am not entirely sure where you are going with the question. What sort of support are you talking about?
(Stephen Twigg) You are right to say it is not just a question of the responsibilities I might have for schools. I do think schools have an important role to play in making themselves welcoming places, encouraging parents to become involved in school activities, in the home-school contract being seen as a genuinely positive relationship between the home and the school, and not just something that provides responsibilities in one direction or another. Then it is also about the sort of message that we send out from Government, the message that perhaps we send out, all of us as politicians, about the nature of people's responsibilities. It is not, you are quite right, just about schools or just about parents. Actually, it is recognising a broader community responsibility for behaviour, respect for one another and those sorts of things.
(Stephen Twigg) I totally agree, as I said in the debate on Friday, that it is about the kinds of values we have: respect for one another, respect for community, and a sense of responsibility as well as rights is part of that.
(Stephen Twigg) Yes, and self-respect. One of the issues that we all get in the communities we represent in Parliament is a concern about litter and people throwing litter. It is often said that pupils leave litter around the school gate. That is an issue. We all equally see people in their forties and fifties throwing litter out of their cars and as they walk along. The idea that some of these issues about lack of respect and lack of proper behaviour are simply -
(Stephen Twigg) I was giving a practical example.
Chairman: It was a very good example.
(Stephen Twigg) I could not agree more. This is a very consensual discussion, is it not? There are some brilliant examples: the Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise, scouts and many of the faith communities do a lot of excellent work with young people and we need to learn from that. I have sympathy for those young people who say, at 12, 13 or 14, "There is nothing to do around here and nowhere for us to go". Providing some of those facilities for young people might be a job for the local authority, but it may well actually be better done by those who are providing it on a voluntary basis but with support.
(Stephen Twigg) Can I answer that, but I feel I have not answered John Barron's main point. I moved it on to the youth service inadvertently. The Millennium Volunteers Programme, which I now have responsibility for, is a brilliant initiative. I have met a lot of the young people who have been through this programme and graduated from it. It has made a real difference to their lives. It has enabled them to become involved with projects in their own local communities, and I want to see that continue to thrive and prosper. I recognise that is only one programme and there are other ways in which we can foster volunteering. Connexions also has a role to play in encouraging young people, who might not otherwise have considered volunteering, to take that up as an option. We want to look at ways in which the time that young people spend, perhaps between going to school or college and on to higher education, can be better enhanced in terms of volunteering opportunities. I think citizenship education will have an important role to play in that as well. I cannot disagree that the youth service has been under-funded for years and years. What are we doing about it? Ivan Lewis, my predecessor, placed a great deal of emphasis on this. The Transforming Youth Work project he took forward is positive and it has been welcomed but there is clearly a great deal more that needs to be done, both in terms of statutory youth service provision and in the voluntary youth service. I have had discussions already with a range of agencies, including local government, about how we can get a shared definition of what is an adequate and sufficient youth service, so that we can have, if you like, a certain standard of service that any young person can expect wherever they are in the country. The Committee will know, from your own work and experience, that the amount that is spent on youth services varies greatly from one local authority to another. The amount of service that is then delivered for that money varies greatly because actually some quite good youth services are provided in areas that do not spend so much, so it is not only about money. I am looking to make announcements in the autumn about what would continue to be an adequate and sufficient youth service, so that we can take that forward. There is one thing to say to the Local Government Association: the more that they can do to encourage their constituent members, the local authorities, to be providing that service, the better.
(Stephen Twigg) I went to a very good comprehensive school, Southgate School, and I think I benefited greatly from it. Looking around London, or indeed the rest of the country, there are comprehensives that are not so good. Recognising that not all comprehensives in all areas of the country are meeting the challenges of the 21st century is not to rip up the comprehensive ideal. The comprehensive ideal that each child has equal value and should be able to get the best out of education is a very important one that I think we have reaffirmed this week.
(Stephen Twigg) Yes, I think parity of esteem is important but, of course, where we do not have parity of esteem at the moment there will be perceptions, whether right or wrong, of what is a good school and what is a bad school, and that is not parity of esteem. Therefore, we are recognising in the changes that we are making to modernise the comprehensive system that we want to have a high esteem for all schools. That does not exist at the moment, whatever the good intentions, and there are great intentions in the schools and in the local education authorities. We all know the schools that are regarded locally as the good schools, the not so good schools and the bad schools and that is not parity of esteem. 718. How do we ensure, by introducing greater diversity into the system, that we do not increase rather than reduce the disparities of esteem?
(Mr Twigg) We certainly have to tread with care. But I see, for example in London, the schools that are going to be opening, the City Academies, in September. Certainly the school that I know best is in the neighbouring borough to me, in Haringey, serving a fairly disadvantaged community, a school that was not perceived to be a good school. I think, with programmes like the academy programme and specialist schools, we have the chance to give new opportunities to communities that have often been let down by the secondary schools in their
A. (Mr Twigg) We want to bring the funding of the two so that they meet each other, certainly, yes.
(Mr Twigg) There is not a specific time scale. Of course we had the announcement this week of the one per cent real terms' increase for FE funding by the Chancellor and I know, reading the exchanges last year when Ivan was here, that you raised quite properly the concern that the real level of funding of FE had been in decline for many years, so to see a real increase I think would be warmly welcomed, and that will obviously raise the ability of FE colleges to provide a good standard of education, but we are not putting a specific time scale on when the funding of sixth forms and the funding of FEs will be the same. Clearly it will take some time.
(Mr Twigg) There is obviously a lot of further work that we are going to be doing in terms of the FE strategy and there will be announcements later on this year about the investment programme for FE and exactly what that will entail.
(Mr Twigg) It is a very significant shift, though, to say this week that we are going to have that one per cent increase in real terms for FE. I accept that it is not going to close the gap overnight by any means, but I think it is a very, very significant shift and a real change from previous practice of our own government and of previous governments.
(Mr Twigg) I think, rather than risking making that up, I will have to come back to you in writing.
(Mr Twigg) It was the evaluation. The evaluation evidence that has come in is very, very strong that educational maintenance allowances in the pilot areas have had a very significant impact on the staying on rates amongst those young people at 16 and, crucially, at 17, with some indication - although I have not read the full evaluation - that you then see more young people who would not otherwise have stayed on actually going into higher education as well.
(Mr Twigg) As a consequence of the EMAs?
(Mr Twigg) I think it is possible. I have to confess that I do not know precisely what the position on that will be or whether there is any evidence on that from the pilots so far, so perhaps it is best, Jeff, if I take a look at that and come back to you on it.
(Mr Twigg) Margaret Hodge has taken direct responsibility for this area, so I will speak to Margaret Hodge about it and get that information back to you.
(Mr Twigg) Going back to where I started this morning, and remembering coming to speak with my previous hat in NUS, we were always very keen to point up some of the disparities in terms of the funding that higher education students were getting compared to students either before higher education or those who do not go into higher education, and I think there are great benefits of a more consistent and coherent approach for the different stages of post-16 education. It is very hard to justify a system that funded me to go to university that was not prepared to fund people from much poorer backgrounds to get the benefits of further education or other forms of learning. So, yes, that is something at which we are looking, but I am certainly not in a position to make any kind of announcement about it today.
(Mr Twigg) I think, on the first question, we want to ensure, when the programme is implemented, that it is implemented without any hitches, that it goes smoothly, that all of the local authorities around the country are ready for it. Most of the local authorities do not have experience of EMAs - they are not in the pilot areas - so we want to be sure that when it is a national programme it is fully ready and works properly. That is the reason why we have decided to go for launching in 2004 nationwide.
(Mr Twigg) I do not believe that is the explanation. I have to say - and I am not just saying this because people are here with me - that my experience of the civil servants in the DFES is of a hugely dedicated and enthusiastic group of people. I think there have been some great improvements made.
(Mr Twigg) So far I am impressed by the quality of management programmes that I have seen.
(Mr Twigg) Well, you asked me. From what I have seen, I am impressed by what I have seen.
(Mr Twigg) I understand.
(Mr Twigg) The precise detail is still being worked out. The announcement made clear that it would be the £30 a week pilot but with some ability then to reward punctuality and attendance and those sorts of things. I think we were very impressed by the pilots that paid the young people rather than the ones that paid the parents.
Mr Pollard: I live in the fourth wealthiest town in the country. We have nine secondary schools. All are putting in for specialist school status, all are having exceptional difficulty in raising the money. We have no large firm; there are several hundred very small firms, so head teachers are spending hours and hours and hours running around collecting three and fourpence from each of a lot of small firms. One deputy head teacher spent a whole year and has raised £650 so far.
Chairman: The Minister is a young minister. Could you explain three and fourpence to him.
(Mr Twigg) I would take that back. I am impressed if you put a tenner in yourselves; that is all nine schools!
(Mr Twigg) The poster was specifically about violence by adults, just to clarify. On the drugs' issue, I do not think this announcement has any impact on the very, very strong message that we send out as a department that we want schools to be drug-free zones. It will have some impact in terms of the nature of drugs' education, the factual element of drugs' education, that young people will need to know about the new classification.
(Mr Twigg) Yes, it is something I have discussed with officials in the department and, indeed, in the Home Office as well, and we are working on the new guidance that will go to schools in the light of the announcements made last week.
(Mr Twigg) I do not think it will be anything complicated, because it will simply be a matter of ensuring that, as part of drugs' education, schools are aware of the new arrangements and what the legal position is with the reclassification announced last week.
(Mr Twigg) I visited Highland School, which is a brand new secondary school in my constituency, the day after David Blunkett's announcement. I was speaking to 12 and 13 year olds and it was the biggest issue and we talked about it. These are sophisticated young people and they were actually quite able to understand the issues that we were talking about. I do not think there is any reason at all for there to be confusion. The other thing I want us to do is to get a much clearer message out about alcohol, because I think actually not enough has been done in terms of alcohol education in schools and there is a duty for us to do that.
(Mr Twigg) I think we have to tread carefully on these sorts of matters but I also believe that we have to be realistic. We have a major problem of teenage pregnancy, we still have a very significant problem with HIV and AIDS and we have a very sophisticated young people's population, as we were talking about in response to Andrew Turner's questions earlier on. I think, as long as it is done in a careful and appropriate way, it is something that it is right for us to do.
(Mr Twigg) I think it is about being realistic about what will work. I think there is no desire to undermine the authority of parents in these matters at all; that it has long been recognised by governments of both main parties that sex education has to be a core part of the school curriculum. I think, when we look at these matters and we talk to doctors and others, the advice is very, very strong that it makes sense to -----
(Mr Twigg) That has developed out of taking a serious look at the situation with teenage pregnancy, AIDS and HIV, and all of the other issues I have mentioned, and an acceptance - I think shared by many parents - that simply leaving these matters to the family home does not work.
(Mr Twigg) Yes.
(Mr Twigg) You are taking me back to my appearance here 11 years ago again.
(Mr Twigg) Indeed. Clearly we have recognised that there is an issue on this, which is why my colleague Margaret Hodges is taking a look at it. I think there is a good case to say - and here I am being consistent with 11 years ago - that 16 is a very, very crucial age, particularly for those young people whose families traditionally would not have gone into higher education, and I think there is a good case to say that actually providing some financial support at that age is more important than what we used to do at 18 or 19 for the relatively small numbers of kids from the poorest backgrounds who had proceeded that far in education. It may not be an either/or but I am certainly not in a position to announce any outcomes of Margaret Hodges review at this stage.
(Mr Twigg) I do think that pay is part of this, but I do not think that it is the only solution to the situation in London. I think housing may well be a factor.
(Mr Twigg) We are not necessarily talking about people living in council houses or even rented houses. Some may do that. We are actually often talking about teachers, who have perhaps been in London for two or three years, wanting to settle down, and finding ways of supporting them. The starter homes' initiative has already supported 1,500 teachers in London as well as teachers in other parts of the South East to buy their own home, so we are not simply talking about rented housing for teachers; we are talking about more opportunities to own, part-rent/part-buy - other options. When I go and talk to teachers in my constituency and other parts of London, what they say is, "The cost of living in London is so exorbitant." I think, in terms of retention, sorting out the housing question is the biggest single challenge that we have.
Chairman: Minister, on that note and in anticipation of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement with reference to that last question, thank you very much for your attendance. We have enjoyed our first encounter with you. There is slight suspicion amongst the Committee that you would have been better off in the Foreign Office with some of your diplomatic skills, but thank you very much for your attendance.