Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)



  80. That will be a consultation paper from the Department of the Deputy Prime Minister?
  (Mr Normington) I think it will be from the Government, will it not; it will be from the Deputy Prime Minister, but it—

  81. What I am interested in is what was your input to that; broadly, what have you recommended, in terms of changes, to get a better balance between the various factors, the deprivation and the cost factors?
  (Mr Normington) We have had a major input to it, and indeed we have had two working parties going, with local authorities and others, to try to draw up the best options.

  82. But the working parties actually are conclusive?
  (Mr Normington) I cannot tell you what the outcome is of the Government's deliberations, because that will come in July. I think our own working papers, from that work, are available, in fact, on our website and can be made available; whether they are wholly intelligible to people like me, who get to the limits of understanding this, I do not know, and it is quite technical stuff, this. But it is all available, that work, and it is in the public domain.[1] There are still then judgements to be taken about what you actually do, but a lot of the work has been done jointly with headteachers, teacher associations, mainly local authorities, the LGA and others.

  83. But, in terms of the judgements that you have made, on the basis of the technical work that has been done, what has been your judgement about the kinds of changes that need to be made?
  (Mr Normington) We are clear, and the Government is clear publicly, that there needs to be a minimum entitlement per pupil, which applies across the country; but then there needs to be a number of factors, on top of that, to reflect some of the things I have described, and all the debate is about that. And I do not think I know precisely the answer as to what we have recommended internally, but I could not tell you anyway, at this moment, because we are not quite at the point of decision, we are about a few weeks off.

  84. Do you have a view about the balance, or the proportion of total spend that should come from the minimum entitlement, and the proportion that should come from the additional factors; is it 50/50, or 40/60, what do you think will be reasonable?
  (Mr Normington) I do not actually know. I guess the Department does have a view about that. I do not think I know that. I think some of the factors, in the present formula, are very small, in fact, they are about 2 per cent; so I would expect the basic entitlement to be a big bit of it.

  85. A big bit? What I am saying is, somewhere it must be documented as to what the Department's view is on the size of the basic entitlement bit, and that is why we are interested in trying to get that from you?
  (Mr Normington) I do not know the answer to that question, but if I did I do not think I could tell you yet, because the Government is still debating it inside and will be coming out with that in the middle of July.


  86. Could we ask the Permanent Secretary if we could have a short paper from the Treasury, something that is pretty understandable for the lay reader, on this, as a future for schools?
  (Mr Normington) Certainly, I can do that; it will be better to do it at the time the Government produces its consultation paper. I can certainly at that point produce some sort of note.[2]

  87. We are concerned, as you know, Mr Normington, that sometimes we think you, as a Department, take us a bit for granted; and one of the ambitions for us, as a Select Committee, was to get on your radar, we actually wanted you to be conscious, when you talked to the Secretary of State, when you made decisions, or made mistakes, or whichever, that there is a Select Committee here, a Parliamentary Select Committee, that wants to have, yes, a healthy relationship with you, but we want you to be aware that we exist. And this is interrupting David's flow, but in this section, we are not even on your bibliography, when you publish your bibliography you do not even put any of our Reports in it, we are not even mentioned. And it does worry me sometimes that you see us as a kind of peripheral irritant, rather than anything meaningful in your life?
  (Mr Normington) Well you would expect me to deny that. We do know you exist, and we take you very seriously; and if there are ways we can help this relationship... I actually think the Individual Learning Accounts did move the relationship between us on quite a long way, we were as open as we could be with you and you responded with, if I may say so, a very accurate, good Report. And I think that probably proves to us that if we share what is happening with you, actually, we get treated accordingly.

  88. You are trying to seduce us now, yes.
  (Mr Normington) I am sorry. I will not do that then.

Mr Chaytor

  89. Just pursuing part of that point, is there not a logic to including in your bibliography the Government's response to the Education Select Committee's Reports? I am not necessarily suggesting you should list all the Select Committee's Reports, but, in terms of the Government response, this is something for which you are directly responsible, and your bibliography is now extensive and wide-ranging and has documents written, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and so on, so it is not entirely all your own work. But I would have thought the Government's response to this Committee's Reports would be legitimate content for next year's Report?
  (Mr Normington) We can certainly do that.

  90. One other point on the Report then, in terms of the new policy of actively recruiting more practitioners from the Education Service, what is the sort of balance now that you have achieved there at senior levels? I seem to remember, in the article that you wrote recently for the Education Journal, you talked about 40/60, did you?
  (Mr Normington) I think, at the two most senior levels, i.e. the two levels below me, the Director-General, Director levels, it is about 40/60, in terms of people recruited from a whole range of places outside the Department, and people who have developed within the Department.

  91. This is an innovative procedure; do you think that it will continue beyond 40/60, and do you envisage a time when the whole basis of traditional Civil Service recruitment may change, and that the traditional routes of professional career civil servants will be replaced by a continuous process of drawing in people from the relevant service, whether it is the Health Service, for the Department of Health, or whether it is education, for yourselves? Potentially, this is a revolutionary change in policy?
  (Mr Normington) It is in line with where the Government, and actually the previous Government, wanted us to go; it is quite a way ahead of some others. I do not think there is a precise number, because all the time, at your senior levels, you are trying to build the team for the job you have to do, and sometimes the best people come from inside, and sometimes the best come from outside. I am comfortable with the balance I have got. I do not want to send too many signals into the Department that you cannot have a good career within the Department, and that good people will not come through, that would not be good for our internal career development. I think there is a case for bringing in more people at a number of levels, so that you are constantly refreshing your talent, but you are also developing your talent inside, but some of that talent has come in, in later career, at other levels of the Department. I also think that one of the messages to our own staff is that, as part of their Civil Service career, they need to be thinking hard about how they develop themselves. So if I may take just one precise example; my Director who looks after school workforce and teacher issues, as part of his career before he took that job, spent a year as the Assistant Chief Education Officer in Manchester, and he is a career civil servant, but his career route took him in that direction. So it does not have to be these two streams, they can cross over, I think I would like to see that happening. I do not see a time though when there is not a good career to offer to really effective civil servants who have developed their skills within the Civil Service. I would not want to go the whole hog.


  92. Is it not a problem though, and I think, what you are saying about this bringing in people from outside, all of us on this Committee would approve of that, we like that diversity, and we understand the points you made. But, in terms of putting names forward for public appointments, you are not bringing through many women for those public appointments, the balance is not very good; are you having difficulty finding suitably-qualified women to take up positions on public bodies?
  (Mr Normington) On public appointments; in terms of the recruitment we have done to the senior levels, the majority of the recruits are women.

  93. It says in my notes: "According to the Departmental Report Annex G page 173, only two women were appointed to non-departmental public bodies in 2001, compared to 16 men."
  (Mr Normington) You are talking about the appointments to non-departmental public bodies; well, we are very clear that we need to do better on this. Are we having problems; obviously we are. I have not looked at this just recently, and, I think, if those are the figures then it is not good enough. I am surprised those are the figures, because a great deal of effort has gone into trying to widen the recruitment process; and, actually, most of these opportunities are advertised now, some of them are in the Engineering and Construction Training Boards, are they not, where there is a particular issue about the difficulty in recruiting women, and it has been really hard to do that there.

  94. Perhaps the Select Committee can help you; we know a few good women, we have a good network.
  (Mr Normington) I would be happy for you to do that. Remember that most of these opportunities are now advertised, and actually encouraging those people to put their names forward is a really important part of it.

  95. Perhaps you, the Department, and the Committee can work together on this, because we would like to see more women appointed to these positions?
  (Mr Normington) Yes, certainly.

Paul Holmes

  96. On the SSAs, which we have already discussed, LEAs like mine, in Derbyshire, have been consistently right at the bottom level of funding, under the SSAs, and obviously they are hoping that by next year they are going to get a significant increase in the funding. But if that is going to happen to the F40 group, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire, and all the rest, is that increase in funding, do you think, going to come from the injection of extra money, to bring people at the bottom up, or are the LEAs, who have been benefiting for the last ten years by getting the 10 per cent increases, going to lose money, effectively?
  (Mr Normington) I think the Government's commitment is to level up, is it not; that was one of the things it said in its original Green or White Paper on Local Authority Finance, that it would try to ensure that there was a levelling-up. But I do not want to be misunderstood about this. We are not quite at the point where I can say for certain that there will not be some redistribution; if you have a new formula, it may mean that over time there is some redistribution, that is what has happened with changes in the formula before. So I think it is possible that will happen too; but I think the Government's commitment is, if people are below the floor of basic entitlement, to inject some money to bring them up. It is all subject to the discussions in the Spending Review.

  97. And, very quickly, on the consultation period; if the document is coming out for consultation somewhere in the middle of July, just before schools and Parliament go into recess, for example, not the best time to consult, do you know what the closing date of the consultation is going to be?
  (Mr Normington) I can try to let you know that. I do not know the answer, it is not my consultative document, it is the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, as it now is, is it not, so I do not know.[3] We will be pressing on them the need to take account of that precise point, but I think they will understand it anyway.


  98. Before we leave that topic, there was some concern that it seemed that the new SSA was going to come out before we could actually take benefit of the data coming out of the most recent census. I do not know if that is the case, but certainly it was suggested to this Committee that it was. That would seem rather strange, would it not, if you were feeding into your computer ten-year-old, 11-year-old data from the census? On the other hand, could we have a note on what the Department is doing in terms of a better focusing on deprivation? What this Committee finds, time and time again, in terms of sessions we have, when we are talking about EMAs, when we are talking about the possibility of HEMAs, is the use of postal codes as a basis for giving particular money to higher education, to identify young people from Poorer backgrounds; constantly we hear that it is not a very refined tool, that it scoops up all sorts of inappropriate people. How much work is the Department doing on getting a better focus, being able to pin-point the people in a better way; is this a familiar story to you, and are we making tracks to get better?
  (Mr Normington) It is a familiar story, and I will provide you with a note on it, because we work with others, a lot of the data we use is the data that others provide, it is from the census but it is also from the work that the former DTLR have done on deprivation, and so on, so we do not generally work alone on this. And I will have to provide you with a note;[4] it is a very important issue, and we are constantly trying to get the measures better, for the reason you said.

  99. It runs through all your policy, does it not?
  (Mr Normington) Yes, it does.

  Chairman: I just want to move on. Two more topics, before we end, and we want to talk a little bit about running the Department, and Val is going to interview you on this.

1   Note by witness: The address of the website for the work of the Education Funding Strategy Group is Back

2   See page Ev 20. Back

3   Note by witness: The closing date of the consultation period is 30 September 2002. Back

4   See page Ev 20. 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 2002
Prepared 17 October 2002