Examination of Witness (Questions 720-739)|
WEDNESDAY 17 JULY 2002
720. Yesterday we also had the announcement
that Education SFA for schools will increase by 3.5 per cent.
If the schools' funding is increased by 3.5 per cent and the FE
funding by one per cent, surely that is going to increase the
differential, not reduce it.
(Mr Twigg) There is obviously a lot of further work
that we are going to be doing in terms of the FE strategy and
there will be announcements later on this year about the investment
programme for FE and exactly what that will entail.
721. It is within the one per cent. Minister,
I am sure you do not intend to fool this Committee, but the fact
is that here you have a Green Paper on 14-19, putting enormous
onus on delivery of Government policy on the FE sector, but at
the same time a disparity in salaries and in terms and conditions.
It is an appalling gap. Not only do we now have lecturers and
good staff leaving FE to go into main stream schooling because
of much higher salaries, but we are getting it from HE. This is
a real problem for the Government: on the one hand you have highlighted
that 14-19 is crucial, FE must deliver, but you are not giving
them the resources to deliver.
(Mr Twigg) It is a very significant shift, though,
to say this week that we are going to have that one per cent increase
in real terms for FE. I accept that it is not going to close the
gap overnight by any means, but I think it is a very, very significant
shift and a real change from previous practice of our own government
and of previous governments.
722. But the issue, Minister, is whether the
announcements to be made about funding later this autumn will
be within the one per cent increase announced yesterday or over
and above that one per cent increase.
(Mr Twigg) I think, rather than risking making that
up, I will have to come back to you in writing.
723. I think most, if not all, members of the
Committee, Minister, were delighted with the announcement earlier
in the week to extend the educational maintenance allowances nationally.
What were the deciding factors which eventually made the Government
roll it out nationally? Because the last time the Minister came
before us he said, "We are evaluating the programme."
(Mr Twigg) It was the evaluation. The evaluation evidence
that has come in is very, very strong that educational maintenance
allowances in the pilot areas have had a very significant impact
on the staying on rates amongst those young people at 16 and,
crucially, at 17, with some indicationalthough I have not
read the full evaluationthat you then see more young people
who would not otherwise have stayed on actually going into higher
education as well.
724. Following that on, do you think that the
profile of the type of courses that students undertake, particularly
the EMA students, will change in terms of the current balance
between academic and vocational courses?
(Mr Twigg) As a consequence of the EMAs?
(Mr Twigg) I think it is possible. I have to confess
that I do not know precisely what the position on that will be
or whether there is any evidence on that from the pilots so far,
so perhaps it is best, Jeff, if I take a look at that and come
back to you on it.
726. I asked the Minister last time to look
at that and he said he would evaluate that.
(Mr Twigg) Margaret Hodge has taken direct responsibility
for this area, so I will speak to Margaret Hodge about it and
get that information back to you.
727. Thank you. The other point we raised in
our post-16 education report which we recently published was the
potential to look at extending the EMAs to the 19-24 age range.
Particularly in working class areas, there are children who leave
school at Easter, when they are 16 or just before they are 16,
and go into a low paid job, who eventually, after two or three
years' employment with low wages, think, "I should now go
back into education." Have we thought about extending the
EMAs into the 19-24 age range? One of the other recommendations
was to look at extending it into higher education as well. I wonder
if you have any thoughts on those issues.
(Mr Twigg) Going back to where I started this morning,
and remembering coming to speak with my previous hat in NUS, we
were always very keen to point up some of the disparities in terms
of the funding that higher education students were getting compared
to students either before higher education or those who do not
go into higher education, and I think there are great benefits
of a more consistent and coherent approach for the different stages
of post-16 education. It is very hard to justify a system that
funded me to go to university that was not prepared to fund people
from much poorer backgrounds to get the benefits of further education
or other forms of learning. So, yes, that is something at which
we are looking, but I am certainly not in a position to make any
kind of announcement about it today.
728. Minister, we were really taken by the experience
of the EMAs. In our report, published last week, we asked for
the roll out of EMAs nationally. We also asked for them to be
rolled out, as my colleague has just said, through the first year,
when, as we know from our retention inquiry, if someone is going
to drop out of a course, they drop out in the first year. I do
not want to take away from the Government's announcement at all,
but did the Government not lose a bit of its nerve, in the sense
that this is not coming in until 2004, which is something of a
disappointment? If the system works, if the pilots are good, why
not now rather than 2004? A lot of people will have missed out
on the opportunity by then. Secondly, did the Chancellor lose
his bottle in terms of the great possibility of linking this with
changes in family allowance, child allowance? What went wrong?
Did you lose the battle?
(Mr Twigg) I think, on the first question, we want
to ensure, when the programme is implemented, that it is implemented
without any hitches, that it goes smoothly, that all of the local
authorities around the country are ready for it. Most of the local
authorities do not have experience of EMAsthey are not
in the pilot areasso we want to be sure that when it is
a national programme it is fully ready and works properly. That
is the reason why we have decided to go for launching in 2004
729. Is the reason really that the quality of
the civil servants you have today is not up to much? In the General
Teaching Council there is a very serious problem, put by Lord
Puttnam, that it was actually the civil service that did not really
like the GTC and did not accept it with enthusiasm. That worried
this Committee a great deal, that here was a senior figure saying
that actually the reason that the legislation came off half-cocked
was because of a lack of enthusiasm and dedication by the civil
servants. Are we getting a poorer standard of civil servants?
You have two or three with you today, and I am not talking in
personality terms, but is the quality of the civil service back-up
you get good enough? Is this the explanation why you cannot really
roll out until 2004?
(Mr Twigg) I do not believe that is the explanation.
I have to sayand I am not just saying this because people
are here with methat my experience of the civil servants
in the DfES is of a hugely dedicated and enthusiastic group of
people. I think there have been some great improvements made.
730. Are they good managers? A lot of dedicated
and enthusiastic amateurs around, Minister: are they good managers
(Mr Twigg) So far I am impressed by the quality of
management programmes that I have seen.
731. But you have never been in management,
Minister, so you would not know what to look for.
(Mr Twigg) Well, you asked me. From what I have seen,
I am impressed by what I have seen.
732. We have our concerns.
(Mr Twigg) I understand.
733. Has the Government decided which of the
pilots it is going to roll out?
(Mr Twigg) The precise detail is still being worked
out. The announcement made clear that it would be the £30
a week pilot but with some ability then to reward punctuality
and attendance and those sorts of things. I think we were very
impressed by the pilots that paid the young people rather than
the ones that paid the parents.
Mr Pollard: I live in the fourth wealthiest
town in the country. We have nine secondary schools. All are putting
in for specialist school status, all are having exceptional difficulty
in raising the money. We have no large firm; there are several
hundred very small firms, so head teachers are spending hours
and hours and hours running around collecting three and fourpence
from each of a lot of small firms. One deputy head teacher spent
a whole year and has raised £650 so far.
Chairman: The Minister is a young minister.
Could you explain three and fourpence to him.
734. He is not that young!
(Mr Twigg) I would take that back. I am impressed
if you put a tenner in yourselves; that is all nine schools!
735. Minister, at the beginning of the month
you unveiled a new poster regarding behaviour. I wonder, coming
on to drugs, whether you are ripping up your poster saying "Don't
do drugs," and instead saying "don't deal in drugs."
How is the downgrading of cannabis affecting the drugs policy,
of which you are in charge?
(Mr Twigg) The poster was specifically about violence
by adults, just to clarify. On the drugs issue, I do not think
this announcement has any impact on the very, very strong message
that we send out as a department that we want schools to be drug-free
zones. It will have some impact in terms of the nature of drugs
education, the factual element of drugs education, that young
people will need to know about the new classification.
736. Is that something that you have discussed
with the expert managers?
(Mr Twigg) Yes, it is something I have discussed with
officials in the department and, indeed, in the Home Office as
well, and we are working on the new guidance that will go to schools
in the light of the announcements made last week.
737. Can you give us a flavour of that?
(Mr Twigg) I do not think it will be anything complicated,
because it will simply be a matter of ensuring that, as part of
drugs education, schools are aware of the new arrangements and
what the legal position is with the reclassification announced
738. Do you think there might be some confusion
amongst teachers and, indeed, pupils, with the Government saying
one thing one minute and now it is another? Do you think there
might be some confusion? How are you going to ensure that that
does not permeate too much into the minds of young people?
(Mr Twigg) I visited Highland School, which is a brand
new secondary school in my constituency, the day after David Blunkett's
announcement. I was speaking to 12 and 13 year olds and it was
the biggest issue and we talked about it. These are sophisticated
young people and they were actually quite able to understand the
issues that we were talking about. I do not think there is any
reason at all for there to be confusion. The other thing I want
us to do is to get a much clearer message out about alcohol, because
I think actually not enough has been done in terms of alcohol
education in schools and there is a duty for us to do that.
739. Minister, you talk about drug-free schools.
What about sex-free schools, in the sense of what is your view
about this business of allowing contraceptives to be given out
and sex advice in schools?
(Mr Twigg) I think we have to tread carefully on these
sorts of matters but I also believe that we have to be realistic.
We have a major problem of teenage pregnancy, we still have a
very significant problem with HIV and AIDS and we have a very
sophisticated young people's population, as we were talking about
in response to Andrew Turner's questions earlier on. I think,
as long as it is done in a careful and appropriate way, it is
something that it is right for us to do.
2 See Ev 159. Back