Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-112)|
9 JULY 2008
Q100 Mr. Heppell: A lot of the questions
that I was going to ask have been partly answered, but can you
tell us some of the specific ways you are working together now?
The management of this transition seems pretty crucial, given
that people will be 16 or 17 only once, as we said. Are we sure
that the "working together" is working? Can you give
me some examples of how you are working together?
Cllr Lawrence: I can only give
you the practical response. The kind of discussion that is now
taking place, which is being led not just by the local authorities,
but on a collective basis, relates to the extent to which employers
and young people are being engaged in skills development. It relates
to what is required to meet those skills needs, to the nature
of apprenticeship requirements and to how provision can feed into
the economic regeneration of areas, in terms of inward investment.
It relates to how that creates a link between the skills capability,
the people who can be employed and the means by which you attract
different types of economic activity. More and more partnerships,
informal though they may have been in the past, are now being
given a sense of direction and purpose. They are recognising that
much of the work that is needed to assist in providing opportunities
for young people in particular is actually taking place on the
ground. In many cases, local authorities have been the leaders
in that, simply because they have the mechanisms and levers to
bring people together in a way that is beneficial.
Rob Wye: We see the institutional
transition from LSC to the local authorities and the Young People's
Learning Agency as something that will evolve over the next two
years. It is not the case that we are running the LSC as it has
been run historically until 2010, that legislation will go through
and, bang, there is a change. We are already restructuring the
LSC at the top level, and, progressively during the next year,
we will make it look like the future arrangements in terms of
the Young People's Learning Agency and supporting local authorities.
We will be planning closely with local authorities for 2009-10,
as a shadow year. In planning for 2010-11, we will be planning
for the year in which local authorities take on responsibility.
We are working on those transitional arrangements with the LGA
and the ADCS, but also with Departments and our unions. It is
a very large and complex process, but we are trying to ensure
that it is managed as effectively as possible.
Q101 Chairman: A senior LSC person
told meof course, this was off the recordthat morale
in the LSC is at rock bottom. That is not a very good basis on
which to build partnerships and buddy up with each other, as one
of you just described it. Is morale in the LSC at rock bottom?
Rob Wye: That is not my perception,
and I have been out and talked
Q102 Chairman: Are they all happily
embracing this total instability of their careers?
Rob Wye: Everybody would prefer
not to have change, but they are used to change in the LSC
Rob Wye:and see it as part
of what needs to happen. I would not say people were ecstatic.
Q103 Chairman: What about that last
bit you threw inthey "see it as part of what needs
to happen"? You mean there was total discontent in your work
force about the way things were?
Rob Wye: Not at all. No. We are,
and staff are generally, very proud of what we have done in terms
of the LSC's drive in relation to performance 16 to 19. But they
understand that changes occur. They can see that this is going
to come about. Their commitment is to make sure that this is not
to the detrimentindeed, that it is to the benefitof
young people, learners and adults.
Q104 Chairman: The gentleman from
the Association of Colleges said they wanted to be on the same
scale, in proportion to the Scottish system, so half your members
are going to lose their jobs, are they not?
Rob Wye: The scale and the nature
of the new arrangements is still in discussion. I cannot answer
Q105 Chairman: That must be the intention.
Rob Wye: The only assessment we
have got of that was in the impact assessment that came out with
the document, which implied that the broad shape and scale of
what was required for the future was the same as what was required
Q106 Chairman: So you will have the
same number of people and the same budget?
Rob Wye: Well, it is already subject
to Gershon pressures, so it will be going down anyway.
Q107 Mr. Heppell: You are in a state
of flux, everything seems to be changing, and we are getting shadow
bodies set up. What is the point of a consultation process if
we are doing all these things before that is finished?
Rob Wye: Well, that is really
a matter for the Departments, but the consultation document was
described to me as "a White Paper with green edges"in
other words, it was announcing, "This is going to happen,
but there are some aspects of how it is going to happen that we
would like your views on." That is the nature of the consultation.
Caroline Abrahams: And the reality
is that, as you have identified, there are lots of bits of policy
not yet bottomed out. That is why Rob and I spend a lot of our
time with Julian and various others in the DCSF, mostlysometimes
with DIUS colleagues as wellsitting down and trying to
work out the detail of how this is going to work in practice.
Q108 Chairman: Is it any way to run
Caroline Abrahams: I am sorry?
Chairman: There is all this uncertainty.
With the best will in the world it seems, even from the evidence
we have had this morning, that this is a worrying situation for
a very important sector of our educational effort.
Caroline Abrahams: Well, it is
a lot of work going on for us. I am not sure if a young person
in a local authority has noticed any difference. It is our commitment,
I think, across the agencies, to ensure that the LSC and colleges
and so forth are able to deliver during this period. People like
us nationally are spending lots of time thinking about it, but
so far I think it would be fair to say it has not impactedit
is very important that it does noton the quality of service
that young people receive.
Q109 Chairman: But we are politicians
and we have constituencies. When we go back to our constituencies
people do not just think it is all happening "up there".
They are very worried. A lot of people who have done a great deal
of good work in the FE sector are very worried about their futures
and whether these changes are the right changes and will improve
further education, rather than doing the opposite.
Caroline Abrahams: I understand
that, but I think it is fair to reflect that I have been in numerous
conferences, events and seminars in the last few months. The conversation
always goes the same way. It starts with college principals expressing
serious concern about the impact of the changes and whether they
are rowing back and turning the clock to how it was before. They
think they are going to lose their autonomy, and local authorities
will come in and top-slice their budgets and will not treat them
fairly. Then what tends to happen, particularly if there is a
small group discussion, is that they sit down with people from
a range of positions within local authorities and have a discussion,
and they find a way through it. I have seen this happen on a number
of occasions now, and I think it is fair to say Rob has as well.
The best example recently was the London Councils conference on
this, which had some fantastic colleges doing a great job, which
expressed all these concerns. Then I sat on the table and watched
them have the conversation. By the end of an hour they had found
a way they thought they could work together, and it was not going
to be as bad as they thought. But this shows the importance of
building relationships over the next period of time.
Q110 Mr. Heppell: In some respects
colleges have always had to respond to change. I suppose local
government has as well. I was involved with FE back in the early
1980s. Then it was almost a case of being cut off from it and
trying to get involved again now. That is surely the position
that local authorities are in. They have lost most of their expertisethe
people I used to deal with in FE colleges. It has gone because
we have had this gap. Will local authorities be able to pick up
that responsibility again? Are they being given enough time to
adapt, to pick up that responsibility again under these proposals?
Cllr Lawrence: They certainly
have the ability to pick up the responsibility. You imply that
there had been a total separation between the local authorities
and the FE sector within each and every locality. Actually, you
will be amazed at the amount of ongoing work that has been continuing
between local authorities, schools and colleges, simply because
if it did not continue, it would not have been possible to create
the seamless paths for young people in the way that has been achieved.
What does need to be given timewhich is why we have to
get the planning right, and why Caroline, Rob and others are having
discussions with the Department to get it rightis the nature
of the structural aspect of the change. Wethat is, my lead
member colleagues in local authorities and Ihave to ensure
that, for the young people who are the recipients of the courses
and the skills processes, it is, to all intents and purposes,
seamless. At the end of the day, they should not see an interruption
in their opportunities to access whatever course they need to
a quality to ensure that they can develop their potential and
their opportunities. That, to me, is a guiding principle.
Q111 Mr. Chaytor: I just want to
pick up on John's question about the validity of the consultation,
given that the shadow structures have been put in place. The questions
in the consultation are not all about detail. One of them is,
"Do you agree with the proposal to create a new skills funding
agency?" Those are substantial questions about the key building
blocks of the new structure. If 100% of people had responded that
they were opposed to the new skills funding agency, what would
Rob Wye: I have two comments on
that. First, the consultation period is now finished. The response
will be published in July. We will know what people said shortly.
All the work that has been done so far has been to think through
how we could create those shadow structures. We have not put them
in place yet. It was sensible pre-planning to think about how
we would put it in place, assuming that it goes ahead. The indications
are that it will.
Q112 Mr. Chaytor: But the work has
been done on the assumption of a certain outcome to the consultation?
Rob Wye: Yes.
Chairman: I think that is a good note
on which to finish. It has been a very good and useful session.
It has really educated us to what is going on and who is doing
what. Thank you very much Caroline, Les, Chris and Rob. If there
are things that you think we missed, please contact us. Thank