EDUCATION AND TRAINING 2010 WORK PROGRAMME
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 30 November
2005 was considered by Sub-Committee G on 26 January.
We fully support the long-term objectives of
the Education and Training programme and are glad to know the
Government is broadly content with the draft report.
You will be aware from our Inquiry Report on
the EU Integrated Action Programme for Life-Long Learning, (HL
Paper 104-I published in April 2005) how much importance we attach
to ensuring that life-long learning programmes demonstrate a genuine
commitment to older learners and are well-tailored to their needs.
We believe this is vital to the Lisbon agenda, especially in view
of demographic trends in Europe. Regrettably, the draft report
does not seem to us to give sufficient emphasis to this aspect.
We would welcome your views on what more might be done to reinforce
this requirement and ensure that the Commission and Member States
take it seriously.
More generally, we must say that we found the
draft report to be pretty indigestible and badly in need of a
good concise executive summary. We would be glad to know whether
the Government can do anything at this stage to persuade the Commission
to make it more user-friendly.
We also question whether the mass of information
contained in the draft report, and the very broad-brush nature
of much of the content, is likely to make a significant contribution
to the achievement of the programme's objectives and thus whether
the effort involved in preparing it is really worthwhile. We would
be grateful for your views on this and to know how much use the
Department and UK education authorities and professionals make
of the report in planning and carrying out national education
and training strategies.
We will retain this document under scrutiny
pending your reply.
27 January 2006
Letter from Bill Rammel MP to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 27 January, from
which I am pleased to note that the Committee supports the long-term
objectives of the Education and Training 2010 programme, as outlined
in the 2006 joint progress report.
We share your view on the importance of adult
learning to the Lisbon agenda, particularly in view of the demographic
trends facing Europe. To this end, we have managed to secure a
reference to taking forward the follow-up action related to the
Hampton Court summit as one of the priorities for the work programme.
The need to take action to maintain economic growth in the face
of the demographic challenges facing Europe was one of the key
outcomes from the summit, and we believe that this link should
help ensure that adult education and training is a priority within
the programme. To deliver this priority, the peer learning clusters,
which will be the main vehicle for taking forward the work programme,
now contain adult learning as a transversal theme across half
of the proposed clusters.
In response to your point on the need for an
executive summary, we have worked with the Austrian Presidency
and other Member States to agree a two-page summary of the key
messages of the report, to be presented to the Spring European
Council. This aims to raise the profile of the work programme
to the Heads of State, and make it easier to understand the key
You raised the concern of whether the draft
report was likely to make a significant contribution to the achievement
of the programme's objectives. Although we share your concerns
about the broad-brush nature of the content, we do nevertheless
believe that this report breaks new ground compared to previous
reports. For the first time, the analysis in section 2 of the
report is based upon contributions that Member States have made,
with the result that the report contains a very helpful summary
of the current state of play of education and training systems
across Europe. We also believe that the establishment of peer
learning clusters as the main method of delivery of the work programme
is a significant step forward. It represents a more decentralised
approach, which could potentially lead to more useful outcomes,
with less bureaucracy. We also strongly support the emphasis on
increasing monitoring and evaluation of policies. This should
help move towards an outcome-based approach across the EU, which
is very much in line with the UK approach, and will help articulate
the benefits of education and training to the wider Lisbon agenda.
In response to your point on the links with
UK domestic policy, the Department intends to be an active participant
in the programme of peer learning clusters as outlined in this
report, which will not only enable us to showcase our education
and training strategies in Europe, but also to learn from best
practice in other countries in a way that could be potentially
more useful to us than the previous method of expert groups. Furthermore,
the priorities outlined in this report will form the basis by
which the UK will submit its National report on the implementation
of the programme to the Commission in 2007, in which the Department
will report on how it is responding to the agenda set by the work
programme. We do therefore believe that the priorities outlined
in this report have the potential to benefit the UK in carrying
out our National education and training strategies.
7 February 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
Thank you for your letter dated 7 February was
considered by Sub-Committee G on 9 February.
Although your letter does not say so, your officials
tell us that you are anxious for an urgent decision on the scrutiny
reserve because the Presidency want the report to be adopted at
the Education Council on 23 February. Your officials also assure
us that other Member States are ready to adopt the draft report,
which would leave the UK isolated at Council if the reserve was
not lifted. It is a pity that your letter failed to explain this
and gave us so little time to consider the request.
In the circumstances, and because this is a
non-binding exercise which Member States have voluntarily agreed
to carry out, we are prepared to agree to release this draft report
from scrutiny as requested to enable you to join the expected
consensus for adoption at the Education Council. Please report
on the Council decision.
We are glad to learn that the Government are
working with the Austrian Presidency and other Member States to
agree a much-needed two-page summary of the key messages of the
report for presentation to the Spring European Council. But we
consider it is unacceptable that Member States should have to
remedy the deficiencies of Commission documentation. In our view,
the Commission have a duty to present the report in a format and
language which are readily comprehensible to busy non-specialist
readers. We strongly recommend that they should be taken to task
for failing to do so in this case and urged to produce more satisfactory
reports in future.
Your reassurance on the importance of adult
learning is welcome as far as it goes. We are glad that it has
been included as one of the priorities in the follow-up action
from the Hampton Court Summit. But we could not judge from your
letter what this is likely to mean in practice because, from what
you say, so much seems to depend on the "peer learning clusters".
Unfortunately, we are not familiar with that term and your letter
does not explain it.
At our request, your officials have given us
an explanation of the meaning of "peer learning clusters"
and a copy of a Commission note for the Education and Training
2010 Coordination Group on the use of these "clusters"
in the context of the Education and Training 2010 work programme.
This sets out the themes on which the "clusters" will
be working and what appear to be the cross-cutting measures related
to that activity. But it omits to say who the members of the clusters
are. As we see it, the value of this activity will greatly depend
on the level at which it is carried out and especially whether
those who take part in it have relevant and recent practical experience
of the topics which they will be dealing.
Nor does the material we have been given explain
how or by whom the work of these clusters will be organised or
how it will be funded. But it does give the impression of a great
deal of complex structured activity which seems likely to be costly
and difficult to manage and which could be inherently bureaucratic
and wasteful. We would be obliged if you could explain more clearly
how this process is expected to work in practice, the extent to
which it will be related to relevant current experience in education
and training and how undue expense, excessive bureaucracy and
unnecessary effort will be avoided.
Your letter also seeks to reassure us that the
priorities outlined in the report may benefit the UK in carrying
out national education and training strategies and that it could
be potentially more useful than the methods previously used in
this exercise. That is very welcome, but my letter to you dated
27 January also asked how much use UK education authorities and
professionals would make of the report. Your reply did not address
this point, but we were rather surprised to be told by your officials
that education authorities and professionals are very unlikely
to make much use of the report because it is "aimed at Member
States and European level".
We do not find that statement reassuring. It
does not help us to understand the purpose of the report. Nor
does it seem to be consistent with our view that this programme
should be soundly-based on real needs as identified by relevant
and up-to-date practical experience and devised in a way that
will gain the confidence and support of those who will have to
carry it out. We would welcome your comments on that.
13 February 2006
Letter from Bill Rammell MP to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 13 February 2006.
Please accept my apologies for the short notice to lift the scrutiny
reserve on the draft Joint Interim Report. I would like to thank
you for your flexibility in responding so quickly, and am pleased
to be able to confirm that the Education Council has adopted the
In your letter, you recommend that we should
take the Commission to task for failing to present the report
in a format and language which are readily comprehensible to non-specialist
readers. I share your concerns about the readability of the text,
and my officials do work hard to improve the drafts during the
negotiations. However, we face the practical difficulty that when
texts are being negotiated by so many representatives who are
not working in their mother tongue, the resulting prose can be
less than clear. I would also like to explain that the purpose
of the two-page key messages paper is not to rectify the drafting
of the main report. Rather, it is to ensure that the key political
priorities can be clearly highlighted for the European Council.
You requested more information on how the "peer
learning clusters" would operate in practice. The clusters
are groups of policy officials from Member States who have expertise
in a particular policy area, and have chosen to work together
to share their knowledge and experiences. Each cluster will agree
particular themes on which to organise study visits or seminars.
These visits will be hosted by a specific country. The UK has
proposed hosting a study visit on "Modernising Higher Education",
in line with the Prime Minister's desire to take forward the Hampton
Court summit outcomes, and policy leads from the UK will participate
in cluster groups covering "Making Best use of Resources",
"Maths, Science and Technology" and "Key Competences".
With regards to the funding of these activities,
the Commission will meet the travel costs of delegates and the
countries hosting the study visits will meet the costs of holding
the seminars. As I mentioned in my previous letter of 7 February,
we do believe that these clusters could present a more effective
way for policy experts in Member States to share good practice
in areas that are of interest to them, than has been the case
in the past. However, we share your concerns about excessive bureaucracy,
and will press the Commission to ensure that the focus remains
on the practical sharing of best practice amongst Member States.
I would also like to explain why I believe that
education authorities and professionals are unlikely to make use
of the 2006 Joint Interim Report. The Education and Training 2010
work programme is intended to provide a framework for Member States
to co-operate with each other under the Open Method of Coordination,
to allow them to implement their national education and training
strategies more effectively. It is therefore a tool to enable
national policymakers to improve the formulation and delivery
of policies through learning about what has worked in a range
of different contexts.
This report outlines the priorities of the work
programme, and will be taken forwards by the Commission and national
policymakers in Member States. It is therefore not intended to
be aimed at education authorities and professionals, and is unlikely
to be of direct interest to them. These groups are much more likely
to be interested in the Education and Training Programmes, in
which they can participate, and which are managed separately from
the Education and Training 2010 process.
20 April 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
Thank you for your letter dated 20 April which
was considered by Sub-Committee G on 11 May. We note that the
Education Council adopted the draft report on 23 February.
On the quality of the report, what you say about
the practical difficulties posed by negotiating texts when representatives
are not using their mother tongue may be so where last-minute
amendments are concerned. Even so, the Commission ought to be
staffed by officials who are sufficiently competent in the main
working languages to help representatives of Member States to
cast amendments in a comprehensible form.
But in this case we assume that the indigestible
jargon-riddled text about which we were complaining was originally
produced by the Commission. We see no excuse for that, any more
than we do for the lack of a proper Executive Summary, which the
Presidency and Member States ought not to have had to remedy.
We reiterate our view that it is the duty of
the Commission to produce documents in a format and language which
are readily comprehensible to busy non-specialist readers and
we are disappointed that the Government does not seem to be willing
to complain about the Commission's failure to do so in this case.
Thank you for your explanation of the way in
which the "peer clusters" are supposed to work. We hope
that when the next Education and Training programme report comes
to be considered the effectiveness of that method of working will
We are still not entirely happy with your explanation
that this exercise is unlikely to be of direct interest to education
authorities and professionals. We fear that it may indicate a
mismatch between the way that education policy is formulated in
Brussels and the real world in which it has to be put into practice.
But that is perhaps something we can discuss with Judith Grant
at our next informal meeting about the implementation of the Life-long
Learning Programme on 25 May.
12 May 2006