Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-169)



  160. Which is?
  (Mr Sanderson) Which would presumably mean that FE would have to be rewarded better than it has been up to now. I go no stronger than that. I am saying in a different form to business and to the Treasury, when they listen to me that this is in the national productivity interest, which we have not mentioned today, not just in the interest of the individual concerned or of the FE system. The biggest drag on our national productivity—and it is still 15 to 20 per cent below the best in Europe and more like 35 to 40 per cent below the best in the US—is that we under-educate—and the Chancellor has said this himself—this tier of the population, and we have to apply some more resources to it.

Mr Shaw

  161. There is quite a high turnover of lecturers in colleges, you have mentioned earlier that a lot of staff are drifting off to work in schools—and we heard in another session that it is around £6,000 a year more for doing what can be an easier job—do you think the current differentiation between college lecturers and teachers is undermining the performance of colleges?
  (Mr Sanderson) I think it is very unhelpful.

Mr Chaytor

  162. On the tentativeness issue, and linking it to participation, your Corporate Plan refers to your duty to encourage employers to find further education and training and your duty to finance it. Is that not rather tentative because do not the local LSCs have a very specific duty to draw up workforce development plans? How many have done that? If none of them have done it, when are you likely to see the first one?
  (Mr Harwood) They are preparing their strategic plans at the moment.

  163. Is it a workforce development plan rolled up within the strategic plan, or is it a separate document?
  (Mr Harwood) It will be in the future but at the moment we are waiting for the PIU report to come out about workforce development, so we will not be pre-empting that report, for obvious reasons. The position at local level is that each of the 47 will have its own over-view of its strategic plan, within which will nest a range of other local plans, raising participation and so on. That system is being created at the moment. Right at the beginning I talked about the transitional process of creating the Learning and Skills Council and bringing it to a stable state, and in that process was the publishing of the national Corporate Plan in the summer of this year, that leading to the first publication of the 47 local Learning and Skills Council plans which will be published in the spring of next year, from February, March time next time, and then we will get into a cycle of annual publication thereafter.

  164. When we get into that cycle will there be a specific workforce development plan prepared by each local LSC?
  (Mr Harwood) We think that will be the way to go forward but I cannot give you an absolute guarantee because we are still in the process of developing how this system should actually work.


  165. We do need sensitivity. I hear what Bryan Sanderson said about this in terms of the balance between young people in Sunderland or Barnsley. Too often this Committee hears of public sector/private sector partnerships delivering in both early education—early years, for example—through to a whole range of programmes where you need a strong private sector partner, and the private sector has a history in this country of being a bit reluctant to put its money where its aspirations are in terms of training. I do not know if Mr Sanderson agrees with that, he comes from the private sector, but certainly under all governments there has been this problem that so many companies—not the BPs of this world—have not put the commitment into training. That is one of the reasons we are lagging behind Germany and Japan and the United States. Is it not the case that in very many parts of our country, the private sector is now very weak? If you are looking for partnership locally in Sunderland or in Barnsley, it is much more difficult than in many other parts of the country.
  (Mr Sanderson) I must say I am not sure of the data base which supports these assertions. I could produce people, some of them even friends of mine—

  166. You are not becoming as tentative as your chief executive, are you!
  (Mr Sanderson) I could produce some friends of mine who would tell you that the private sector is pouring money into training and the figure is £20 billion—

  167. In the SME sector?
  (Mr Sanderson) There the data base is even more elusive. I think you will probably have to separate Ms from Ss there. I think some of the companies in the 10 to 200 area are actually putting a lot into training. You would be hard put I think, from my limited experience, to find people with less than five employees doing much training; they are not at that stage yet. One of the issues we have to be very careful of is that we tend to have, most of us, a mindset which is to do with the manufacturing industries when we talk about these issues. You are right, of course, it is incredibly difficult in places like Sunderland to find these apprenticeship schemes any more because the ship building has gone and the coal mining has gone but if you look at the two most successful performers perhaps in the last five to ten years in the world, the US and the UK, you could argue, they are the ones which have swung most away from the old-fashioned manufacturing towards the service sector, which is a much more disparate sector and it also comes and goes much more quickly. So tracking down the data is difficult and we have an enormous communications task with local Connexions and others to get through to those people and persuade them training pays. I have absolutely no doubt that it does, and I do not think you would have any problem getting big companies to assert that, but it is hard to get through sometimes to deliver the message to the SMEs, and that is a big part of our task.

  168. Mr Harwood and Mr Sanderson, what two things do you want to achieve before we meet again?
  (Mr Harwood) The two things are, first of all, a smooth transition of sixth form funding—this is assuming, Chairman, of course, you are not going to be inviting me back before April next year—and a clear indication we are moving on those top priority targets we set out in the Corporate Plan.
  (Mr Sanderson) I would like some very effective communication from all of you and ministers to get vocational education and all the areas we have been talking about put in the same—sorry about the phrase—parity of esteem area as academic education. I think this country is bedevilled by academic snobbery, both the left and the right, this is not a political issue, and that is why we do so badly. It goes back a couple of hundred of years in the sort of areas we have been talking about. I would like to see some very determined communication to try and eliminate that slur which is attached to vocational education at the moment. Then I would like some more money and some time and space to be able to do what we have been describing, because it is a big job.

  169. Mr Sanderson, you are a much more powerful and influential person than any single Member of Parliament. I hope you will be networking and knocking on doors to help us achieve those extra resources because as we go round our FE sector what they talk about constantly is parity of esteem, core funding and particularly pay; a well-motivated and well-paid workforce is essential. Thank you for coming. Because you are the biggest quango, we may have to ask for the arrangement we have with others of your size and influence and perhaps have two visits a year, if you can bear that, perhaps one on your annual report and the other on other issues, as we do with OFSTED. I do hope you do not take this amiss but quoting from that great figure of the cinema, Buzz Lightyear, what we need is "to infinity and beyond" because those sort of aspirations we desperately need in FE. Thank you.

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