EDUCATION AND LIFELONG LEARNING: STATISTICS
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
MP, Minister for Life-long Learning, Further and Higher Education,
Department for Education and Skills
Your Explanatory Memorandum dated 27 February
was considered by Sub-Committee G on 23 March and again on 30
We are sorry to see that the voluntary collection
of these statistics does not appear to be working but are very
reluctant for it to become compulsory. We would be grateful if
you would explain why the Government seemingly accept that voluntary
collection cannot work and that compulsion is unavoidable.
We share your concerns over the ill-defined
and potentially open-ended nature of the requirements under Domain
3 and support your efforts to ensure that those requirements are
better-defined. We are anxious that the need for this additional
information should be fully justified and that collection will
not impose unreasonable burdens on educational institutions or
other bodies. As the proposed requirements become clearer we trust
that you will consult fully with those organisations who will
be expected to contribute the information to assess the likely
costs and benefits before agreeing to take part.
Although you appear to be less concerned about
the requirements proposed under Domains 1 and 2, we note that
your EM says that the "content could expand a little".
We would urge you to keep a watchful eye on the potential impact,
as negotiations develop.
The proposal that new data collection requirements
could be added through Comitology procedures also gives us some
concern. We would be glad to know whether you consider that arrangement
would be an adequate safeguard against unreasonable additional
We hope you will succeed in ensuring that the
Regulation makes clear that it does not prejudice the sole responsibility
of Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation
of national education systems.
We also agree strongly that the current UK policy
of voluntary participation by educational institutions in international
and EU surveys should not be changed.
Your EM reports that Council Working Group discussions
have only just started, but we would be glad to know whether a
timetable for Council consideration has been fixed.
We are retaining this document under scrutiny
pending your reply and will expect you to report any significant
developments well before a Council decision is needed.
30 March 2006
Letter from Bill Rammell MP to the Chairman
I am writing to answer the questions in your
letter of 30 March 2006, and to update you on the negotiations.
You asked why government seemingly accepts that
voluntary collection cannot work and that compulsion is unavoidable.
No other country is opposed to the Regulation on principle and
in its entirety. Countries with concerns similar to the UK's have
focused on the issue of open-ended powers for the Commission.
Had we opposed the Regulation altogether it is likely that the
UK would have been outvoted heavily and lost influence in Council.
Many countries, especially the new accession states, cannot produce
statistics for the EU if there is no specific EU legal basis.
Therefore the proposal should improve the availability of statistics
from other Member States and consequently provide a more thoroughgoing
set of comparators for UK education and training. A legal basis
has proved workable and not unreasonably burdensome regarding
the Continuing Vocational Training Survey, and for the European
Labour Force Survey which includes questions on education.
You shared my concerns about the ill-defined
and potentially open-ended nature of Domain 3 in the earlier draft
of the Regulation. I am pleased to say that the negotiations have
averted that danger. The Presidency has now circulated a compromise
proposal; which has been agreed by all 25 Member States, in which
it is made explicit that Domain 3 refers to existing data only.
There is now no loophole open for the Commission to introduce
new collections or expansions to existing collections. The Commission,
however, has expressed a general reservation against the text,
on the grounds that it restricts flexibility with regard to new
or extended data collections.
As to Domains 1 and 2, which cover statistical
work in which the UK already takes part, I am confident that the
UK's representation on the relevant committees gives enough scope
to resist any proposals implying unwarranted data collection burdens.
You were keen that the Regulation should safeguard
Member States' responsibility for the content of teaching and
the organisation of national education systems. The new text contains
an explicit reference to this at paragraph 5 in the opening recitals:
The Council has adopted in May 2005 Conclusions
on "New indicators in Education and Training". In these
Conclusions the Council invites the Commission to present to the
Council strategies and proposals for the development of new indicators
in nine particular areas of education and training and stressed
that the development of new indicators shall fully respect the
responsibility of Member States for the organisation of their
education systems and should not impose undue administrative or
financial burdens on the organisation and institutions concerned,
nor inevitably lead to an increased number of indicators used
to monitor progress.
14 July 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
Thank you for your letter dated 14 July which
was considered by Sub-Committee G on 20 July.
We are pleased to note the progress made in
Working Group negotiations, as reported in your letter, on virtually
all the concerns raised in my letter dated 30 March.
We accept what you say about the need for compulsion
in this exercise and note that you are confident that the UK will
be able to use its representation on the relevant Committees to
resist the imposition of any unwarranted data collection burdens
so far as Domains 1 and 2 are concerned.
As for Domain 3, we are glad to know that the
Presidency compromise text will leave no loophole for the Commission
to introduce new collections or expand existing ones. We trust
that the support of other Member States and the new provision
about not imposing undue burdens in paragraph 5 of the opening
recitals will be sufficient to ensure that the Commission's reservation
about lack of flexibility will not undermine the essence of the
We are also reassured by what you say about
the new language of paragraph 5 of the opening recitals so far
as the responsibility of Member States for the content of teaching
and the organisation of national education systems is concerned.
Although you have not said when the proposal
might be submitted for Council decision we are content to release
the document from scrutiny to enable you to support a Council
decision in favour of the Proposal, so long as it embodies the
safeguards outline above. We would be grateful if you would let
us know in due course, for the record, when the Regulation is
20 July 2006