Cross-border provision of public services for Wales: Further and higher education - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Welsh Assembly Government


  This memorandum, presented to the Committee by the Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, provides evidence for the Committee with respect to provision of cross-border public services for Wales in the fields of education and training.

  Key points for the Committee to note are:

    —  the extent of cross-border flows with regard to both Further and Higher Education;

    —  student finance mechanisms and degrees of policy divergence with respect to England;

    —  mechanisms for collaboration in respect of research funding; and

    —  distinctive Welsh policy initiatives in respect of HE reconfiguration and collaboration, 14-19 education and training, additional learning needs and the Welsh Baccalaureate.


  1.  The Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills is a department of the Welsh Assembly Government. Having responsibility for a range of issues regarding education, training and children's services, it aims to improve children's services, education and training provision to secure better outcomes for learners, business, and employers as set out in the Welsh Assembly Government's strategic document for education and training, "The Learning Country" and in line with the aims set out in the Government's overarching strategic document "One Wales". The department seeks, through its activities, to help empower children, young people and adults through education and training to enjoy a better quality of life.

  2.  Cross-border activity in respect of the education agenda takes place under a range of heads. In responding to the Committee's call, this submission will focus on the following, with particular reference to Further and Higher Education:

    —  student retention and recruitment;

    —  student finance; and

    —  research funding.

  3.  Considering the education agenda more generally, and taking into account the Committee's interest in policy, we will also be submitting evidence under the following head:

    —  Policy coordination and divergence.


Student retention and recruitment—Higher Education

  4.  Student retention and recruitment in HE is undertaken, in respect of full-time applicants, in the context of a UK-wide system managed by UCAS—the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service—and, in respect of part-time and distance-learning applicants, by the institutions themselves.

  5.  Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) market their own courses across the UK by a variety of means, and there is a significant cross-border flow of students between Wales and the rest of the UK—as well increasingly from Europe and beyond.

Cross-border flows of higher education students

  Overall Wales is a net importer of full-time undergraduate students. In 2006-07 17,950 Welsh domiciled full-time undergraduates were enrolled at HEIs outside of Wales and 26,835 students from the rest of the UK were enrolled at Welsh HEIs—an overall difference of around 9,000 students.[63]

  For full-time postgraduates, 1,945 Welsh domiciled students were studying outside of Wales while a similar number of students from the rest of the UK were studying in Wales.

  More Welsh domiciled full-time undergraduate students study in Wales than at HEIs in the rest of the UK and this proportion has been increasing (65% in 2006-07 compared with 59% in 2000-01).

  However, the proportion of full-time undergraduates studying in Wales varies across the Unitary Authorities, with over 80% of students from Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda-Cynon-Taf, Blaenau Gwent and Neath Port Talbot enrolled at Welsh HEIs. While for a number of Unitary Authorities more students study outside of Wales than at Welsh HEIs—Powys (53% study outside of Wales), Conwy (55%), Monmouthshire (56%), Denbighshire (59%) and Flintshire (65%).

  Around 3% of English domiciled full-time undergraduate students are enrolled at Welsh HEIs. The proportion varies across the English counties—18% of students from Herefordshire and 15% of students from Shropshire were enrolled at Welsh HEIs. For a number of other areas, particularly in the South-west, around 10% were enrolled in Wales.

  The proportion of UK domiciled students enrolled at individual HEIs who are Welsh varies. In general the Post-1992 institutions have more students from Wales than from the rest of the UK. For the Pre-1992 institutions more students from the rest of the UK are enrolled than Welsh students (Aberystwyth 31% are Welsh, Cardiff 41% Welsh)

  6.  These cross-border flows are also evident in respect of graduate leavers from higher education, with Welsh domiciled leavers being substantially more likely to take up employment in Wales after graduation, particularly those having studied at Welsh HEIs. The evidence below suggests that there are benefits associated with study in Wales in terms of attracting and retaining graduates to work in Wales, at least in early years after graduation.

Location of employment at around six months after graduation

  (2005-06 HESA Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey at around six months after graduation for UK domiciled full-time undergraduate qualifiers employed in the UK)

  71% of Welsh domiciled qualifiers from UK HEIs were employed in Wales at around six months after graduation, with those who studied at Welsh HEIs more likely to be employed in Wales (91%) than those who studied at English HEIs (40%).

  Overall around 4% of UK domiciled qualifiers for UK HEIs were employed in Wales compared with 59% of UK domiciled qualifiers who studied in Wales.

  For full-time undergraduates entering employment there has been a net flow of graduates out of Wales over the years. For 2005-06, 570 more Welsh graduates were employed outside of Wales than other UK graduates employed in Wales.

  7.  At three and a half years after graduation the picture changes, with more outward migration being evident, resulting in retention rates lower that for the other countries in the UK but comparable with the English regions.

  8.  The section under Student Finance and Funding below provides further detail regarding Welsh Assembly Government policies being implemented to improve graduate retention rates.

Location of employment at 3.5 years after graduation

  (2002-03 HESA Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey at 3.5 years after graduation for UK domiciled part-time and full-time first degree qualifiers employed in the UK)

  At 3.5 years after graduation, 48% of qualifiers from Welsh HEIs were employed in Wales and 71% of those employed in Wales at six months after graduation were still employed in Wales.

  These retention rates are lower than the equivalent rates for the other UK countries but comparable with the English regions.

Student retention and recruitment—Further Education

  9.  Further education by contrast is locally promoted and recruitment locally managed, largely on the basis of what are effectively "catchment areas." Local promotion, together with travel schemes to facilitate attendance and relationships with local schools are key.

  10.  The vast majority of learners enrolled at Further Education Institutions (FEIs) in Wales are Welsh-domiciled; however, colleges in counties along the border with England or—in the case of Coleg Harlech/WEA (North)—with a substantial residential component show a substantial presence of non-Welsh domiciled learners and house a substantial majority of such learners.

  11.  For information on Welsh-domiciled learners at English FEIs see Ev 145-146.

Cross-border flows of learners at Welsh further education institutions

  In 2005-06 259,720 learners were enrolled at Welsh further education institutions. 3% of these learners were domiciled outside of Wales.

  However, this proportion varies significantly by institution with higher proportions of non-Welsh domiciled learners occurring at further education institutions situated in the north east of Wales (Welsh College of Horticulture, Yale College, Deeside College and Llysfasi College) and south east of Wales (Coleg Gwent). In addition, both Coleg Powys and Coleg Harlech/WEA(North) also had notable numbers of non-Welsh learners.

  The non-Welsh domiciled learners enrolled at these seven institutions accounted for 88% of all non-Welsh domiciled learners enrolled at Welsh further education institutions in 2005-06.

  12.  Whilst some information regarding learner destination is collected for FE institutions, it is not equivalent in scope or detail to the HESA Longitudinal Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey and is unfortunately of insufficient quality to provide useful input to this call for evidence. From 2006-07 onwards, the data-collection specification has been amended and it is anticipated this will have a positive impact on data-quality.

Further Education

  13.  Another cross-border flow, small in number but significant, relates to learners with learning difficulties or disabilities. Under the Learning and Skills Act 2000, the Welsh Assembly Government funds placements for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LLDD) at independent specialist residential further education (FE) establishments in England and Wales where individual learning needs are such that they cannot be met without specialist residential provision.

  14.  In 2007-08, 211 such placements were funded either in full or jointly with Social Services Departments and/or Local Health Boards at a cost of £7.491 million, of which 80 placements were at four specialist residential establishments in Wales. The Welsh Assembly Government currently funds placements at 30 specialist residential establishments in England and Wales.

  15.  The Assembly Government uses the same funding matrix as the Learning and Skills Council in England when securing these FE placements, so the cost of a placement is the same whether a learner is Welsh or English. The Assembly Government has its own procedures and processes in this regard and its relationship with specialist residential establishments is separate from the Learning and Skills Council.


  16.  The Welsh Assembly Government makes available a range of student finance products to assist Welsh learners in both further and higher education to access and remain in education. These cover both full- and part-time students and address fees, maintenance and allowance issues.

  17.  Student finance provision includes some elements, such as the Assembly Learning Grant—Further Education, which are unique to Wales, and other areas in which there is some degree of variance in the details of a package, although the overall value of the support remains the same, such as apportionment of fee and course grant for part-time students.

Higher Education: Student Finance

  18.  Most student support functions (higher education (HE) grants and loans) were devolved to the Assembly in 2006 from the former Department for Education and Skills via the Higher Education Act 2004. These powers now reside with Welsh Ministers. The Welsh Assembly Government currently provides student support through Student Finance Wales with its delivery partners, the Welsh local authorities and the Student Loans Company. Certain elements of the student support process such as the rules determining UK residency and "home fee" status remain non-devolved.

  19.  The Welsh Assembly Government has set the tuition fee levels for designated HE courses in Wales, as follows:

    —  From academic year 2007-08 in Wales—introduction of deferred flexible fees of up to £3,070 (£3,145 for 2008-09) a year. Fees offset by the introduction of a non-means tested, non-repayable tuition fee grant of up to £1,845 (£1,890 for 2008-09) payable directly to the place of study. This grant is only available to students who normally live in Wales and who are undertaking a HE course in Wales.

    —  A deferred fee is repayable by the former student who has taken out a loan, when his/her earnings reach a £15,000 threshold.

    —  An Assembly Learning Grant (non-repayable) is available of up to £2,765 in 2007-08 (£2,835 for 2008-09), dependent on household income. Other specific allowances are available such as a Childcare grant and Disabled Students' Allowance.

HE Full-Time Student Finance—major points of divergence with England

  20.  Tuition Fee Grant—As described above this is a Wales only policy designed to attract more Welsh domicile students to study and remain in Wales.

  21.  The latest UCAS statistics for 2007 entry indicate that 17,366 Welsh domiciled applicants were accepted by UK institutions—a 1% increase on 2006 and 19% higher than in 1997. 69% of the successful Welsh domiciled applicants were accepted by Welsh institutions, 1 percentage point higher than in 2006 and 17 percentage points higher than in 1997.

  22.  Enhanced maintenance grant in England only for 2008-09 entrants—from September 2008 English students entering HE with household incomes below £25,000 will receive the full non-repayable maintenance grant (£2,835), and students from household incomes up to £60,005 will receive partial, non-repayable grant. In Wales the 2008-09 thresholds will be: household incomes of £18,370 or below will receive a full non-repayable Assembly Learning Grant (maintenance grant) of £2,835 a year, with partial payments to households with income up to £39,300. Other territories have not increased their grant thresholds to the English levels.

Co-ordination of HE student finance

  23.  Co-ordination of policy and activity in respect of HE student finance occurs under the following three main heads:

    —  Policy "Quadrilateral" meetings at least three times/year between the territories plus the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. The Student Loans Company (SLC) invited for part of the meeting.

    —  UK project board chaired by the SLC for implementing student finance delivery each year (meets in Glasgow four times/year).

    —  Within Wales, a standing Student Finance Wales Consultative Group meets on an ad hoc basis, with stakeholder representation from delivery partners—Welsh local authorities' student finance officers, SLC, NUS (Wales), Higher Education Wales, Fforwm (the representative body for FEIs in Wales), and AMMOSHE (Student Services).

Higher Education: Student Finance—Support for Part-time Students

  24.  In Wales, as in England, part-time undergraduate students who take less than twice as long as their full-time equivalents to complete their course are able to apply for a means-tested Fee Grant and a grant to assist with course related costs (the Course Grant).

  25.  The way support is apportioned between fee and course grant differs in the two countries, but the total amount that can be awarded to a Welsh-domiciled student, depending on his/her individual circumstances, is potentially greater than that available to English-domiciled counterparts.

  26.  Course grant—in 2008-09 part-time students will be able to apply for assistance with course related costs worth up to £1,050 (England £255) a year on top of the fee grant.

Fee Grant

  27.  In 2008-09 there will be three different rates of fee grant depending on how intensive the course is. These are as follows (England figures in brackets):

    —  A student studying a course at a rate equivalent to 50%-59% of the full-time course could receive a fee grant up to £620 (England £785) a year.

    —  A student studying a course at a rate equivalent to 60%-74% of the full-time course could receive a fee grant of up to £745 (England £945) a year.

    —  A student studying a course at a rate equivalent to 75% or more of the full-time course could receive a fee grant of up to £930 (England £1,180) a year.

Targeted Grants

  28.  Following the recommendations of the Graham Review of part-time study in Wales (Report published June 2006), eligible part-time, Welsh-domiciled students will, from academic year 2008-09, also be able to access targeted support which is currently available only to full undergraduates; this will be provided through a pro-rated version (reflecting intensity of study) of the Childcare Grant, Adult Dependants' Grant, and Parents' Learning Allowance.

Further Education: Student Finance—Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

  29.  The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) Wales scheme was introduced for 16 year olds for the first time in 2004-05. In 2005-06, the scheme was extended to include 16 and 17 year olds and, in 2006-07, 18 year olds. The scheme is designed to provide an incentive for students from lower-income families to continue and remain in full-time education. The principal component of the EMA is a weekly allowance, linked to satisfactory attendance, for eligible students attending learning centres in Wales. Students can qualify for awards of £10, £20 or £30 depending on household income. They can also qualify for periodic additional bonuses of £100 if agreed learning objectives are met. Following full roll-out of the scheme, some 30,000 students a year qualify for EMA funding.

Further Education: Student Finance—Points of divergence

  30.  The EMA scheme is similar to those run in the other UK territories, although minor differences have evolved since EMA was initially introduced in 2004—eg in 2008-09, whilst income qualifying thresholds in Wales will increase in line with RPI, those in England will remain static; the arrangements for allowing in-year reassessments in Wales are significantly more flexible than those which apply under the English scheme.

Further Education: Student Finance—Assembly Learning Grant—Further Education (ALG-FE)

  31.  The Assembly Learning Grant was introduced for the 2002-03 Academic Year following the recommendations of the Rees Review (Investigation into student funding and hardship in Wales) and originally provided targeted support to both HE and FE students from low income households. Following the transfer of responsibility for all aspects of student finance in 2006-07, the HE component of the ALG scheme was subsumed within statutory HE student support.

  32.  The ALG-FE is available to Welsh-domiciled students studying in Wales or elsewhere in the UK. For a grant to be awarded both the student and course criteria must be satisfied: a student must be ordinarily resident in Wales on the first day of the first academic year of the course; must be aged 19 or over at the start of the academic year; and the course must be supported through WAG-DCELLS (or equivalent)and requires regular attendance at a Further Education Institution or Other Learning Centre and involves at least 275 taught hours in each academic year. There is no equivalent to the ALG-FE in respect of England.


  33.  In line with other countries in the UK, research in Wales is funded by means of a "dual support" system. Under this dual support system, most research is funded on a UK or European basis via the Research Councils, Technology Strategy Board, European Framework and other Programmes.

  34.  The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) provides core funding to support overheads for contract research, support higher education institutions (HEIs) to establish areas of strength and to build capacity in areas of new or emerging science. Institutions can also use this core grant to match-fund EU Framework Programme contracts. This funding does not support research projects per se.

  35.  HEFCW's core funding for this purpose in 2007-08 is some £65 million. It is allocated to HEIs on a formula basis, which is weighted towards research excellence. In addition to academic impact, there is an increasing focus on rewarding high quality applicable research and industrial partnerships.

  36.  The second strand of funding in the dual support system is research funded via a UK-wide competitive process through the Research Councils. The central criterion for funding is quality. The UK Research Councils set priorities and budgets under a framework set by UK Government that takes account of the broad importance of a research area to the economy and society, as well as the scale of scientific potential. An increasing priority is to engage end users in research and there are now specific targets for the amount of Research Council funding for projects that include industry. Welsh HEIs were awarded £35 million from Research Councils in 2007-08, which represents some 3.2% of UK HEI income. This proportion has remained at constant since 2001-02, though in absolute terms funding has increased.

  37.  The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) established in July 2007 funds Research and Development (R&D) that is nearer to market but in areas where UK industry has the potential to be globally competitive in emerging areas of technology that also have substantial market potential. The TSB budget for 2008-09 to 2010-11 will influence funding of over £1 billion. This sum includes some regional funding in England.

  38.  The Welsh Assembly Government Health Department also has its own research funding of some £26.5 million in 2007-08. The Assembly Government is establishing a National Institute for Health Research to maximise impact of its research funding and help create synergies with other UK research funding bodies.

  39.  Welsh HEIs won research grants of £121.3 million in 2007-08 from Research Councils and other sources, with the non-Research Council income having shown significant increase.

  40.  In some areas, research collaboration between Welsh university departments has been strengthened through transitional support from a ring-fenced budget (Reaching Higher) which is provided to drive up performance in the Welsh HE sector. There are good signs that this reconfiguration agenda is successful, increasing capacity to win further funds. Support from the Department of Health and Social Services for the Clinical Research Collaboration Cymru has improved collaborations across Welsh universities health and social care research infrastructure and after two years is showing good returns in external research income generation. Collaboration is also developing across borders, such as between Cardiff and Bristol Universities. In some research areas (and especially in EU regional funding) it has also been possible to leverage additional business investment, therefore driving up the scale and likely economic impact of research.

  41.  Co-ordination is achieved by Welsh representation on Research Councils. There is active participation by researchers from Welsh HEIs within each of the Research Councils. Appropriately qualified individuals from Welsh HEIs are encouraged to engage with the Research Councils, including involvement on peer review panels.

  42.  Co-ordination is also achieved through formal mechanisms. There are formal Memoranda of Understanding with all of the Research Councils and the Welsh Assembly Government. Within this framework, active engagement varies from Research Council to Research Council. The ESRC fully consults with the Devolved Administrations and their Funding Councils, liaises with them and offers regular Policy Making Seminars. NERC has a Funders' Forum which is held annually and consults with stakeholders, including Devolved Administrations. Other Research Councils liaise as occasion arises and directly with other Department's within the Welsh Assembly Government. For example, the MRC meets regularly with the Welsh Assembly Government's Health Department's Office of Research and Development and participates in the Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research.

  43.  There are several examples of joint research initiatives between individual higher education institutions in Wales and the UK Research Councils. In particular, the ESRC has several joint research initiatives with Wales, including:

    —  UW Bangor Bilingualism Centre. The Centre is co-funded by the ESRC (who also have a role in the administration of the Centre), HEFCW and the Welsh Assembly Government. There is a theoretical focus, looking at the relationship between the two languages of bilingual speakers in bilingual communities.

    —  Future Research Capacity Building in Education: Piloting an All Wales Educational Research Network is a £150,000 project, which has been co-funded by ESRC and HEFCW.

    —  The Impact of Higher Education Institutions on regional economies initiative is a new £3 million research venture which aims to promote better understanding of the key economic and social impacts generated by higher education institutions in the UK. The initiative runs from 2007-10 and has been established by the ESRC, in partnership with all four UK Higher Education Funding Councils.

  44.  There is also a NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Bangor University, which is one of seven Centres for Ecology and Hydrology across the UK. Plans are in place for the integration of the BBSRC's Institute for Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER) with Aberystwyth University and to strengthen links with other relevant research in Wales.

Funders' Forum (run by DIUS)

  45.  The Research Base Funders' Forum has been set up to allow governmental and non-governmental funders of public good research to consider the collective impact of their strategies on the sustainability, health and outputs on the Research Base including how the UK innovation system impacts on the research base.

  46.  The Core Group of the Forum meets quarterly. It includes representatives from charities, industry, Research Councils, Funding Councils, Regional Development Agencies, the Higher Education sector and Government departments, including devolved administrations. There is a representative from the Welsh Assembly Government on the Forum.

  47.  Joint working on business interface with higher education—Wales provides a different and increasingly simplified set of services to support business engagement with HE on research and technology transfer to those provided in the regions of England. Representatives of the Welsh Assembly Government and English RDAs (as well as other devolved administrations) meet regularly on the Research Innovation Science & Technology (RIST) Committee, which is sponsored by DIUS, to share good practice and address common issues. A joint approach to engagement with the Technology Strategy Board was recently set up. A Strategic Advisory Group supported by an Operational Advisory Group will seek to advise and lobby the TSB to invest in areas that the English regions and Devolved Administrations believe are most useful to building a competitive knowledge-based economy. HEFCW likewise enjoys a close working relationship with its equivalent funding councils on HE engagement with business (within the wider "third mission"), although funding deployment and techniques are somewhat different.


  48.  Wales contributes fully to the European Bologna Process to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010 and promote the European system of higher education worldwide. In order to ensure that Wales' HE curriculum and qualifications framework is in line with the EHEA's overarching framework, it has joined with England to have its self-certification process assessed by the QAA. Wales' national framework for credits and qualifications positions it well to participate in European developments. The UK Bologna Expert from Wales is active in developing links with Universities and pioneering partnerships in Europe.

  49.  The three DAs meet with DIUS every four months to share information on international developments in HE, including the Prime Minister's Initiative for International Education (PMI 2) and UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI). Wales is fully signed up to PMI 2, with WAG (HED) contributing £135,010 pa towards the initiative. WAG also contribute £50k pa towards the UKIERI research collaboration initiative with Indian HEIs.


  50.  Reaching Higher, the Welsh Assembly Government's strategy for higher education was published in 2002. It set out the rationale for reconfiguring the sector to build on strengths and establish greater critical mass of activity in key areas such as research. At the same time the Assembly Government established a funding stream to promote reconfiguration and collaboration. To date, there have been several successful initiatives funded under this ring-fenced budget. Examples include:

  51.  Wales Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience—Bangor University, Cardiff University and Swansea University—Funding of £5.17 million has been approved for the creation of a Wales Graduate School in Cognitive Neuroscience and the development of partnerships between University researchers and the users of cognitive neuroscience and associated technologies. A major benefit of the partnership is anticipated to be the institutions' ability to compete more effectively for research income within the UK and on an international basis.

  52.  Research and Enterprise Partnership—Bangor University and Aberystwyth University—Funding of £15.4 million has been approved for this major collaborative proposal. The funding supports the creation of a joint strategy for collaborative research and a unified research support framework, with a merged research and enterprise unit to support grant applications and knowledge transfer activities. The overarching framework will support the establishment of a four joint research clusters in the first instance. The research clusters are a Centre for Catchment to Coast Research, a Centre for Integrated Rural Environment Research, a Institute of Advanced Functional Materials and Devices and a Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Studies, with a second phase of clusters to be initiated at a later stage.

  53.  Welsh Medium Provision—We are committed to promoting Wales as a bilingual and multicultural nation. Both the English and Welsh languages enjoy equal status, and an increasing number of students are studying through the medium of Welsh: in 2005-06 this accounted for 5% of Welsh-domiciled students studying in Wales. This is a result of greater support for the Welsh language in our education system. HEFCW's Welsh medium premium enables HE institutions to meet the additional costs of bilingual higher education provision (delivering Welsh-medium HE costs on average about 25% more than equivalent provision through the medium of English). Additionally, all the Welsh HEIs are collaborating to expand the range of the Welsh medium provision they offer, through a federal network (the Federal College) with the Welsh medium Development Plan launched in November 2007 paving the way for this.

  54.  Merger of Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) and University of Glamorgan—Funding of £12.75 million has been approved to improve the student experience by administrative efficiencies and improved facilities. These include a 350 seat concert hall, two studio theatres, four drama rehearsal spaces, a suite of theatre design studios and additional teaching spaces. The Strategic Alliance between the RWCMD and the University of Glamorgan will help ensure the future success of the Conservatoire by enabling it to develop its facilities substantially further and will also allow the College to benefit from links with the University's new Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries.

  55.  Merger of Cardiff University and University of Wales College of Medicine (UWCM)—Funding of £15 million was approved for this merger—the earliest large project from this fund. WAG/HEFCW's investment for the merger led immediately to £8 million support from the former OST's £30 million Science Research Rationalisation Fund for brain imaging equipment for the new Cardiff University Brain Repair and Imaging Centre (CUBRIC). The Cardiff Partnership has been operating successfully since 2004. Since the merger, research grant funding at Cardiff University has risen from £58 million per annum to £77 million per annum since merger, and it is on track to more than double by 2010, according to an independent evaluation commissioned by HEFCW.



  56.  The aim of Learning Pathways 14-19 is to transform young people's options and opportunities by extending the choice and the flexibility available to all learners, especially those likely to leave full time education without any qualifications. We will do this by securing individually tailored Learning Pathways that meet learners' needs, including the support they need to remain in learning and to achieve their potential. 14-19 Learning Pathways has been developed with wide support from all sectors. The funding available for 2008-09 is £32.5 million.

Learning and Skills (Wales) Measure 2008

  57.  The proposed Learning and Skills (Wales) Measure 2008 was announced in the Assembly's Plenary on 15 January 2008 and the consultation ends on 29 April 2008. The Measure will ensure that learners of all abilities aged 14-19 are able to choose from a wide range of applied and general programmes from a collaborative options menu.

  58.  The provisions sought in the Measure will provide a legal framework that will reflect Learning Pathways 14-19 policy and provide the means to develop that legal framework as policy further develops.

  59.  The Measure will:

    —  place a duty on Local Education Authorities to form a local curriculum for learners aged 14-16, and on the Welsh Ministers for learners aged 16-19, that contains specified learning domains;

    —  enable Welsh Ministers to specify the minimum number of courses of study to be included in a local curriculum, specify the particular learning domain into which a course of study falls and specify the minimum number of vocational courses of study to be included in a local curriculum;

    —  create a right for pupils of Maintained Schools to elect to follow courses of study from the local area curriculum. It will also enable regulations to specify the maximum amount of courses of study a pupil has the right to choose from and to elect to follow; and

    —  provide for specification, by regulation, of the grounds by which a Head Teacher or Principal may decide that a pupil is not entitled to follow a course they had elected to do.

  60.  This Measure will provide a statutory basis for encouraging cooperation between different learning settings, which will provide opportunities for young people to be given wide range choices, helping them to meet their aspirations and contribute to the future Welsh economy.

Raising of the School Leaving Age

  61.  The Learning Country—Vision into Action, the Welsh Assembly Government's strategic paper setting out our vision for the future, makes clear that we want young people in Wales to develop to the limits of their ability, not to the limits of the system. Our target for 2010 is to have 93% of 16-18 year olds in employment, education or training and for no pupil to leave full-time education without an approved qualification.

  62.  Following the initial announcement in January 2007 that the then Department for Education and Skills (DfES) was working on proposals to raise the statutory learning age to 18, regular communication has taken place on the proposals between all administrations. Following discussions with all devolved administrations, the Green Paper has been revised to make clear that its proposals relate only to England.

  63.  On Monday 5 November 2007, it was announced at Parliament that the proposals to raise the compulsory learning leaving age to 18 would be going ahead in England. This anticipates that, by 2013, all young people up to the age of 17 should be in education or training (including training in the workplace) and working towards an accredited qualification. The age would be raised to 18 by 2015.

  64.  In Wales, the overall policy context has been set by the Learning Country and, within that, one of the key strategic policy areas is the development of our Welsh approach to the 14-19 curriculum, incorporating the innovative and very well-received Welsh Baccalaureate as an overarching qualification to meet the needs of this transition phase. In Wales we want to give the 14-19 and Welsh Baccalaureate initiatives time to bed down before considering major statutory changes concerning the leaving age.

  65.  We acknowledge that a possible consequence of England raising the compulsory age to 18 that along the border we may have children from Wales being educated in England who will be encompassed by these provisions.



  66.  Following a successful pilot from September 2003 to July 2007 and a positive external evaluation, the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification is being rolled-out to centres across Wales at Advanced and Intermediate levels in post-16 provision. The first phase of roll-out, from September 2007, saw a total of 76 centres approved and some 9,000 Welsh Baccalaureate students.

  67.  From September 2008 the second phase of the roll-out will see 101 centres offering the qualification to some 18,000 students. The Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification offers a qualifications structure for our 14-19 Learning Pathways and we want access to the qualification to be an entitlement for all learners. Every Local Education Authority area in Wales now has post-16 Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification centre.

  68.  In addition, 34 schools and colleges are currently piloting a Foundation level Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification in the 14-19 age range. In Key Stage 4 schools are also piloting the Intermediate model, alongside the Foundation level. This aligns the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification with our 14-19 Learning Pathways agenda and we expect to make decisions about whether to roll-out the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification at Foundation level and in Key Stage 4 in the summer.


  69.  We have prioritised marketing the qualification, particularly with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and with employers. Welsh Assembly Government officials, working with partners, including WJEC, HE Wales, HEAT (the Higher Education Advisory Team, which is led by the University of Bath, to promote the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification) and Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification centres have been proactive to raise stakeholders' awareness of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification and of the skills that students develop through the qualification.

Higher Education Recognition of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification

  70.  HEIs are autonomous institutions and are free to set their own admissions criteria. Significant progress has been made in raising awareness of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification in HEIs across the UK. In September 2003, UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) announced that it had allocated 120 tariff points to the level 3 (Advanced level) Welsh Baccalaureate Core, when achieved as part of the full Advanced level Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification. This is equivalent to an A grade A level. There are some 50,125 Higher Education courses available in the UK. For almost half of these offers made to prospective university students are made on the basis of UCAS points, so the 120 points recognition, within the tariff, is very positive for the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification.

  71.  Significant progress has also been made in terms of HEIs' specific recognition of the qualification. All HEIs in Wales recognise the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification and it is becoming increasingly accepted in HEIs in the rest of the UK. Currently 20,728 of the courses that use the UCAS system specifically state that the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification is accepted as an entry qualification, either on its own or in a specified combination with other qualifications.

  72.  The increasing recognition of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification, which is still a very new qualification (the first Advanced Diplomas were awarded in August 2005), is encouraging and reflects the marketing activities aimed specifically at HEIs to date, including three conferences for admissions staff, a revised information leaflet for higher education and direct contact with admissions staff. We will continue to promote the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification with HEIs to ensure they are aware that this qualification develops skills they say they want students to have.


  73.  Employers too, consistently tell us that they want employees to be able to communicate effectively, they want them to have number skills and to be able to use ICT. They also want employees who can work in teams, solve problems and who want to improve their own knowledge and skills. The Welsh Baccalaureate Core is built around the six Key Skills which develop learners' capacity in all these areas.

  74.  In addition, the Work Related Experience and Enterprise Activity that are part of the Welsh Baccalaureate Core have clear links with the world of work and provide an ideal opportunity to inform employers of the qualification. We have also revised an information leaflet for employers. This is distributed at suitable business and employer focussed events.

  75.  This is another area where the Welsh Assembly Government will continue to work with partners to maximise awareness of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification and its value to employers. The Welsh Assembly Government has received many messages of support for the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification form HEIs and employers, which could be supplied if requested.

The Welsh Baccalaureate and 14-19 Diplomas

  76.  An area which will be of particular interest to employers is the incorporation into the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification structure of the employer endorsed elements of the 14-19 Diplomas that are being developed in England. The full Diplomas do not fully align with the 14-19 Learning Pathways in Wales, particularly the provision for generic skills. We will, therefore not be implementing the full Diplomas here. However, we will incorporate:

    —  the Principal Learning qualifications—which as free standing qualifications, could be used together with or instead of other approved qualifications as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate's options requirements; and

    —  the Diploma project—again a freestanding qualification, which could serve as proxy for the Welsh Baccalaureate Individual Investigation and possibly, depending on the specific nature of a student's project other parts of the Welsh Baccalaureate Core requirements.

  77.  The flexible design of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification means that we are able to adapt it to incorporate developments such as this, thereby giving students maximum choice in both academic and vocational routes. Officials are working with partners including Sector Skills Councils and awarding bodies to make appropriate adaptations to the Principal Learning qualifications so that they will be suitable for use in Wales. Our intention is that the first Principal Learning and Project qualifications will be available, within the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification framework from September 2009.


  78.  The UK Government's White Paper "Better Governance for Wales" published in June 2005 set out the UK Government's commitment to enhance the legislative powers of the National Assembly for Wales, as a democratically elected institution with its own detailed scrutiny procedures.

  79.  The Government of Wales Act 2006, Section 95 empowers Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to confer competence on the National Assembly for Wales to legislate by Assembly Measure on specified matters. These matters may be added to Fields within Schedule 5 to the 2006 Act. Assembly Measures may make any provision which could be made by Act of Parliament (and therefore can modify existing legislation and make new provision), in relation to matters, subject to the limitations provided for in Part 3 of the 2006 Act. An Order in Council under Section 95 of 2006 Act is referred to as a Legislative Competence Order (LCO).

  80.  The first Legislative Competence Order approved by both Houses of Parliament is the Additional Learning Needs LCO. It extends the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales to make new laws by Measure in relation to additional learning needs. The intention is to ensure that Measures can be made across a wider range of areas connected with the provision for education for children and adults whose educational needs diverge from those upon which the mainstream education system currently is focused. The reform of current provision about children's special educational needs is an area of priority for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Recoupment and Belonging—Background

  81.  There are cross-border service implications under existing legislation. Until 1995, local authorities recouped the cost of educating all primary and secondary school pupils belonging to other authorities. Section 279 of the Education Act 1993 ended compulsory inter-authority recoupment for the majority of pupils. The provisions of the 1993 Act were incorporated into sections 493 and 494 of the Education Act 1996 and amended under sections 207 and 208 of the Education Act 2002.

  Statutory inter-authority recoupment was retained for pupils aged 5-19:

    —  attending special schools;

    —  with statements of special educational need;

    —  receiving education whilst in hospital; and

    —  receiving bedside tuition.

  82.  Voluntary recoupment was allowed for under 5's where the LEAs concerned agreed.

  83.  Before the Education Act 2002, where there were disagreements between LEAs over which authority was financially responsible for the placement, the issue was determined either by DfES Ministers or Assembly Ministers. In the 2002 Act England opted out of their determination responsibilities and inter-authority disputes are now settled in Court. However in Wales, there was no such opt out and policy has diverged with the Assembly continuing to determine disputes of this kind.

  84.  The Education (Inter-authority Recoupment) Regulations 1994 (No 3251) came into force in April 1995 and Circular 2/95, "Arrangements for Inter-Authority Recoupment after 1 April 1995", was issued as guidance. The Education (Areas to which Pupils and Students Belong) Regulations were then published and came into force in April 1996. Circular 1/96 (Welsh Office Circular 17/96 in Wales), "The Belonging Regulations and Inter-Authority Recoupment) was issued in July 1996 as guidance.

  85.  In February 2005, DfES commissioned Capita to investigate inter-authority recoupment for pupils with SEN and pupils receiving hospital education. It was found that existing regulations and guidance on belonging and recoupment are now very much out of date and contain so many obsolete references (certainly in the recoupment regulations) that it is difficult to follow them.

  86.  The issue is further complicated by the fact that the recoupment regulations themselves contain several references to the Education Act 1993 which are central to the description of cases in which recoupment is required. The whole of the 1993 Act was of course repealed by the Education Act 1996.

  87.  There is a need to issue amended guidance which puts the needs of the child first and which encourages a partnership approach between Health, Education and SSDs where appropriate. This work will be undertaken in the context of the Additional Learning Needs LCO.

Post-16 Provision in FE

  88.  Under the Learning and Skills Act 2000, the Welsh Assembly Government funds placements for learners with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LLDD) at independent specialist residential further education (FE) establishments in England and Wales where individual learning needs are such that they cannot be met without specialist residential provision. In 2007-08, 211 placements were funded either in full or jointly with Social Services Departments and/or Local Health Boards at a cost of £7.491 million. The Welsh Assembly Government currently funds placements at 30 specialist residential establishments in England and Wales. In 2007-08, 80 learner placements were funded in four specialist residential establishments in Wales.

  89.  The Assembly Government uses the same funding matrix as the Learning and Skills Council in England when securing these FE placements, so the cost of a placement is the same whether a learner is Welsh or English. The Assembly Government has its own procedures and processes in this regard and its relationship with specialist residential establishments is separate from the Learning and Skills Council.

  90.  Recoupment regulations which apply to local authorities do not apply in further education.


  91.  As a consequence of devolution, the Welsh Assembly Government has developed a suite of policies in the areas of higher education and the post-16 sector, including further education that are designed to more closely align with the economic agenda of Wales. However, in developing these policies, the Welsh Assembly Government has been mindful to the cross-border implications of these policies. Therefore, the Welsh Assembly Government has engaged in co-ordination and communication activities across its policies.

  92.  The Leitch Review of UK Skills has required extensive cross-border working on policy and administration matters as "skills" is devolved fully to the Welsh Assembly Government. This has required clarity in the response to the Review from each devolved Administration.

  93.  The four Administrations agreed to the joint establishment of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which became operative on 1 April 2008, and the closure of the Sector Skills Development Agency and National Employment Panel. Agreement was reached to appoint "Country Commissioners" and to align the work of the UK Commission with organisational arrangements appropriate to each country. In Wales, the Assembly Government decided to establish a new Wales Employment and Skills Board, the chair of which would be the Wales Commissioner on the UK Commission. At the same time the new Board reports solely to Welsh Ministers.

  94.  Spinning out of the Leitch Review there have been a number of cross-country policy reviews, such as the future of Investors in People UK Ltd.

  95.  Other examples of successful joint working include the transfer of the Basic Skills Agency's operation in Wales into the Assembly Government; Apprenticeship frameworks and other work on vocational qualifications.

  96.  As the Welsh Assembly Government's focus is on skills, there are a number of examples of cross-border partnerships and alliances which are in development, which will be of direct benefit to the people of Wales. Examples include the skills development training for train crews based at Wrexham on the new Wrexham—London Marylebone Service, the Mersey Dee Alliance (MDA) and the Composites Sector—Partnership in Action, where Airbus is working in partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government on new skills development in composites.

April 2008

63   Trend information over a number of years suggests that the disparity is increasing, owing to a combination of fewer Welsh domiciled students enrolling at HEIs outside of Wales together with an increasing inflow of UK-domiciled students into Welsh HEIs. For example, in 2000-01 the net import was 6,615 and this has increased to 8,885 in 2006-07, an increase due to a decrease of around 1,000 Welsh students studying out of Wales and an increase of 1,000 students from the rest of the UK studying in Wales over the same period. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 16 January 2009