Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from NATFHE (ILA 59)




  NATFHE—The University & College Lecturers' Union represents 67,000 academic staff working across the full range of post-school education and training. NATFHE has long been concerned to see a serious reduction of the barriers to participation in post-school education and training, and a widening of participation to all sections of society.

  NATFHE has made both oral and written submissions to the Committee's inquiry into progress in further education since the Report of the Select Committee in 1998. NATFHE submits this additional proposal not so much as a definitive and thought-out proposal, but as a suggestion for future developments in the next stage of Individual Learning Accounts.

  Important as Individual Learning Accounts are and regrettable as the events surrounding their cessation were, NATFHE would urge that the Committee does not lose sight of remedies to resolve other extremely pressing issues in further education. Not least of these are the relative pay rates within the Sector which are leading to the loss of qualified and committed staff and the failure to recruit replacements. This is beginning to seriously undermine the Government's strategies in lifelong learning.


  1.  The two main constraints on an individual taking up learning opportunities as an adult are money to pay for courses and support oneself and family whilst studying, and time to take up learning programmes.

  2.  The Government has recognised that action is required to reduce these twin barriers to participation in learning. Individual Learning Accounts (ILAs) were an attempt to encourage individuals to save and then invest in their own learning.

  3.  Paid Educational Leave (PEL) has been identified in the Performance and Innovation Unit's recent report on workplace learning and in the Chancellor's Pre-Budget Statement before Christmas 2001 as an avenue worth exploring as a way of stimulating demand for learning in the and for the workplace.

  4.  The Government is currently consulting on a new ILA-style scheme. In addition the Pre-Budget statement announced that the Budget would introduce a number of pilots around the concept of PEL with tax relief and actual payments to organisations that developed PEL for their employees.

  5.  This proposal attempts to suggest some ways that ILAs and PEL could be linked together, and perhaps begin to address the barriers to participation of time and money. The proposal is not fully worked out and is submitted as an idea in progress that would be worth further development, rather than a fully developed idea.

  6.  The central concept behind this paper's proposal to link ILAs and PEL is that time like money for training could be stored, "banked" until such time as the individual may wish to use it. One way such an "ILA-PEL Scheme" might operate would be:

    —  An ILA PEL account might be opened by an individual using as the first "payment" a block of time calculated in standard "days" from an employer. Such a block could be given by the employer or negotiated through the appropriate trade unions at either national or local level;

    —  In addition the "banked" time for learning could be added to subsequently by the employer, the individual or the State. The individual might add to the ILA-PEL by the individual "donating" some of their annual leave entitlement for studying or perhaps undertaking learning in their own time and this time could be quantified and the "account" credited with that time.

    —  The Government could contribute, perhaps by a payment to the employer to cover a set number of PEL days.

    —  The individual could then "draw" on the ILA-PEL account at a particular time to attend a learning programme in full-time or part-time mode.

    —  A concept of interest could be introduced by arranging that the account could be added to in terms of days if the individual left it untouched for a set time.

    —  An ILA-PEL account could not be used for time where there is already statutory time off such as time-off for training for 16 and 17 year olds in work, or if there is to be statutory time off for individuals to take up adult literacy or numeracy programmes.

    —  The Government could target particular priority areas and/or individuals such as basic skills, adult lacking Level 2 qualifications or those taking ICT courses.

    —  All learning programmes for which the ILA-PEL Account was used should be provided by an "accredited" provider. This would avoid some of the problems encountered in the first round of ILA developments. For this purpose, "accredited" would mean those providers approved by the Learning and Skills Council.

  7.  A variation of the scheme could be that the monetary value of PEL could be put into a new-style ILA. This monetary amount could be the equivalent of a day's wages. It could come from the employer from a negotiated PEL scheme, or from the individual in terms of their own time spent in recognised learning. The Government could add to an ILA the monetary amount of a day's pay for a number of days. The ILA could be drawn on in the form of either cash or time. The Government could make additional payments or subsidies to take into account the low waged, part-time, temporary and casual workers. The advantage of this variation of the scheme is that it would enable the individual to choose to remove the particular barrier that was an obstacle for her/him. For some it may be money to support themselves or their families whilst studying or to pay for a programme. For others the greatest constraint may be time to study and learn and the "banked" time could be used for this purpose. The "day rate" in monetary terms that was "banked" could be an amount set by the Government. Thus those groups in the workplace most in need of learning—the low paid, part-time and temporary workers—might receive a subsidy for learning.

  8.  One of the main constraints quoted by employers, especially small and micro organisations against paid educational leave, is the problem for the employer's production, of allowing employees time off for learning. For those with difficulties in basic skills and/or lacking Level 2 qualifications who are predominantly found in no or low skill jobs, this problem could be lessened by having a pool of the unemployed who for a set period, could be rotated into the place of the worker taking paid educational leave. By definition the work would be no/low skilled so replacement should be easier. It would have an additional advantage of giving the unemployed valuable experience of actual work. The amount of benefit saved whilst the unemployed person was replacing the worker on paid educational leave could off-set any subsidy paid to the employer for participation in the scheme.


March 2002

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