WEDNESDAY 17 JULY 2002

__________

Members present:

Barry Sheerman, in the Chair
Mr John Barron
Mr David Chaytor
Valerie Davey
Jeff Ennis
Paul Holmes
Ms Meg Munn
Mr Kerry Pollard
Jonathan Shaw
Mr Andrew Turner

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STEPHEN TWIGG, a Member of the House, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Young People and Learning, examined.

Chairman

  1. Minister, may I welcome you to our deliberations. You have the great privilege of being the last of the present team to come before the Committee. I suppose there is a penalty in that you could well be back in front of the Committee in the autumn. May we welcome you to your new job and may I personally say that at the time you spent in your previous job some very interesting things came out from the team of the Leader of the House. I am grateful for that. We do hope you are going to enjoy your experience in the Education and Skills Department and that you will stay there quite a long time. We prefer to have Ministers who have time to become used to the job. Would you like to say a few words to open the session?
  2. (Stephen Twigg) May I first thank the Committee for inviting me along and giving me the opportunity to say a few words at the beginning. I was casting my mind back and I did appear as a witness before your predecessor committee eleven years ago, the Department of Education and Science Select Committee, when I was President of the National Union of Students, in an inquiry about student finance. I am sure that I would still hold some of the views that I held then.

  3. After the reaction to our recent report, they obviously had a higher calibre of NUS president in those days!.
  4. (Stephen Twigg) I am very confident that in 1991 we would have welcomed everything you said in your recent report. I had the chance on Friday, in the debate on behaviour, to say a little bit about why I was so delighted to be asked by the Prime Minister to do this job. For many of us, I think education is something that lies at the core of what we believe in, whatever political beliefs and values we have. I was certainly very influenced in this by my family background, by my parents, and in particular by my mother. She comes from a pretty tough, working class background but got through the Eleven Plus, went to Dame Alice Owen Grammar School and then had to leave school at 15. The view at that time was that girls did not stay on at school beyond that age. She certainly brought up my sister and I to believe in the high values of education and its great importance. I do think that it is right that this week we reaffirm education as the top priority for the Government in terms of our values of opportunity, of promoting a more cohesive society and seeking the greatest inclusion and equality of opportunity. Looking back at the last five years since this Government came to power, a great deal has been achieved in education. As David Miliband said when he came to the Committee a few weeks ago, there are still enormous challenges. I want to say a couple of things about the main policy areas on which I have been asked to work. The first is a new one, which is a Strategy for London Schools. As a Londoner, I am very excited to have this new brief. I am an outer Londoner by birth and represent an outer London constituency, but I have been an Inner London councillor and school governor. I am very well aware of some of the issues that Estelle Morris spoke about in her speech three weeks ago on the London challenge, how in this city we have these incredible contrasts of great wealth and enormous poverty sitting side by side. We have wonderful diversity in terms of the cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds of people who live here, but we also have the challenges that that can sometimes bring with a very mobile pupil population. We have some excellent schools, but we have more than our fair share of schools in challenging circumstances. We have some very good school leavers, but we do not have as many excellent school leavers as there are in some of the other parts of our country. We have 33 local education authorities, very local and bringing many benefits, but also there can be difficulties with strategic leadership and co-ordination. Since Estelle's speech about the London Challenge, I have been working with various partners in London to look at how we can take forward this strategy. I would certainly be very interested in the views and comments of the Committee on how we can best take that forward.

  5. As we only have an hour, can you be brief?
  6. (Stephen Twigg) We had an excellent debate on behaviour last Friday. Thank you to those who took part in that debate. Concerns about pupil behaviour and behaviour in schools are rising. This is a very important area. One needs to be taking on the national behaviour strategy. I know that David Miliband spoke about the 14 to 19s. We want to raise the staying-on rates in education after the ages of 16 and 17 and to foster a good national debate, following the Green Paper on 14 to 19s. Finally, on young people, clearly there is a great challenge for all of us, in whatever area of work, to engage with young people and to give young people a voice. I am very pleased at my role in working with the Connexions Service, the Youth Service and the voluntary sector for young people, and also the Children and Young People's Unit. It is a privilege to be here. Thank you for inviting me along. As a last comment, Chairman, and you talked about my previous job, I am a very strong supporter of select committees and I think Parliament's strengthening of select committees is a vital challenge for us all during this parliament. Therefore, I particularly look forward to working with this Select Committee for however long I am in this job.

  7. May I open the debate by starting with your London responsibilities? This Committee has actually opted to spend a week doing research in one of our great cities - not London but Birmingham - to look at the education in one city. Birmingham seemed to me to be more of a bite-sized city than London. But London is of particular interest to us. Two years ago, some of us visited the Lilian Baylis School and looked at some of the difficulties in a very challenging environment of the school. We do recommend you have a look at both where Lilian Baylis is today and what has happened at Lilian Baylis. It would be a very interesting experience for any Minister and it is convenient. I pop in there because it is very close to the House. May I start by asking what your relationship is going to be with the new Commissioner, who is going to be considering 33 education directors, presumably from local education authorities. Is it going to be a difficult one? When is he or she going to be appointed?
  8. (Stephen Twigg) We are currently preparing the recruitment plan for the Commission. I want to see the Commissioner in post in the autumn. I will be working with the Commission on a day-to-day basis in the Department. It will be a Civil Service appointment. He or she will be based in the Department. I will work with him or her along with the 33 education authorities and other interested partners across London. It is an innovative move. It reflects the team and the circumstances of a city that does not have a city-wide authority with educational responsibilities. From my own experience in London and from the discussions I have had over the last month or so, I think there is general support for continuing the current arrangements with 33 local education authorities but a recognition that there is a need for some co-ordination and some strategic leadership. That will come from the Department and that will be my role, but the Commissioner will be able really to get into some of the detail of this, working with LEAs and also working with schools, the Institute of Education and other key players within London.

  9. One person's innovative move is another person's guineapig. We are a little worried, or certainly there has been this expression, that this could be seen as a gimmick rather than something that really is going to confront the enormous issues that face education in London. What do you think are the main challenges that you and the Commissioner face? What are the three biggest challenges?
  10. (Stephen Twigg) One, we need to get better co-ordination between different boroughs, different authorities. I know from my own experience as an outer London MP that a decision that is made in the London Borough of Enfield about where a school is to be located will have massive implications for the boroughs of Barnet, Waltham Forest and Haringey. So one is looking at some of those issues to get better co-ordination about those sorts of decisions. London's population is rising; the school population is rising even faster. We are going to need new schools in London. Let us put them in the right places and make sure that they have the right sort of ethos. So one is co-ordination. Secondly, I think there is an enormous challenge, and I know this is not peculiar to London but it is perhaps greatest in London, to do with people mobility and the impact which people mobility can have on schools, on the funding of schools, on the ability of schools to deliver for pupils. This is a very live issues, not one for which I think there are any simple answers, but certainly I think that is going to be a big challenge. Thirdly, to increase parental confidence in the secondary system in London. Estelle raised the figure in her speech that nationally 85 per cent of parents, when their children reach 11, get the secondary school that they want. In London the figure is 59 per cent. The proportion of parents in London who are sending their children to Inner London, independent secondary schools is getting on for double the national average. Some of that will be choice but often that is parents who do not have faith in the secondary system in parts of London, so it is restoring that faith. These are three big challenges.

    Jonathan Shaw

  11. How often do you visit a school?
  12. (Stephen Twigg) I try to visit at least one school a week.

  13. In London?
  14. (Stephen Twigg) Now that I have this new job, I will be seeking to visit one school every week, if I can. We are setting up a programme in the Department.

  15. You go to different areas of London, so you see a diverse range of different ethnic groups, different mixes, wealthy and poor, right across the board?
  16. (Stephen Twigg) Absolutely, and one of my first visits in London was to the Swanley School in Tower Hamlets, which is a 90 per cent Bangladeshi school and it has pioneered some excellent work on truancy.

  17. What are your observations about asylum seeker children in these schools?
  18. (Stephen Twigg) By and large, they add a lot to those schools; they add to the cultural diversity of the schools; and many of them are very quick learners.

  19. From your observations, have you noticed that any of the asylum seeker children create difficulties for those schools?
  20. (Stephen Twigg) There is clearly an issue.

  21. Have you observed anything?
  22. (Stephen Twigg) There is an issue about people mobility. In discussions with heads and others, I have observed concern about what pupil mobility can lead to in schools. Clearly, pupil mobility is a product of a number of factors, of which migrant populations, including asylum seekers, is only one. Jonathan, I have to say that I would emphasise the positive. I see that in my own constituency where there are quite significant numbers of asylum seekers in schools. The difficulties often come with the mobility rather than to do with the fact that they are asylum seekers.

  23. Head teachers have not said to you, "Asylum seeker children are causing us difficulties and we do not want to teach them in our schools. We want you to put them in accommodation centres"?
  24. (Stephen Twigg) No.

  25. They have not said that to you?
  26. (Stephen Twigg) No.

  27. That is very interesting. You are in charge of the Children and Young People's Unit. The idea is that that cuts across various departments. Would you expect that unit to have input into the development of policy that we now have when children are going to be educated in accommodation centres? Would you expect them to have an input?
  28. (Stephen Twigg) I need to tread carefully because there is a slightly unusual arrangement, as you will know. Although the unit is based in our department, it actually reports to John Denham in the Home Office. I have the departmental responsibility but they do not directly report to me. It is certainly something that could be considered within their remit. I would be very happy to take that back to them.

  29. Last week I wanted to understand from the Secretary of State, not to form a view but just to understand, the input that the Education Department had in formulating the policy of going against the 1945 principle of universal education. That is an important principle, as the Secretary of State acknowledged. Is it reasonable for us as a committee to expect that the Education Department played a significant role in shaping that policy? Some people are concerned that the Department has not had that important role. If we have a unit that cuts across departments to focus on children and young people, and all that pertains within that, would you expect them to have some sort of role in helping to shape that particular policy?
  30. (Stephen Twigg) It is certainly possible for that role to be played. I am not aware of what input the unit has had, if any, because obviously the policy was developed before I was in the Department. I am quite happy to take that particular question back. I do know that we are obviously working as a department to ensure that, assuming the accommodation centres do go ahead, the educational content within the centres is of a high quality and that the children who are being taught in accommodation centres are getting good quality education for the period they are in those accommodation centres. I have already discussed that with the relevant officials in our Department.

  31. Would you Department be able to tell us how many asylum seeker children are taught in schools in England?
  32. (Stephen Twigg) I am sure we can but I cannot tell you off the top of my head.

  33. Will you send a note on that?
  34. (Stephen Twigg) Of course I will.

    Chairman

  35. Minister, are you not being politically incorrect in one of your answers in the sense that we are looking at the figures here and approximately 29 per cent of pupils in London's maintained schools speak English as an additional language, rising to 42 per cent in Inner London. When I visit schools, I am told that it is very difficult to teach a class when you never know who is going to be in that class and when six children from an Iraqi background arrive, who do not speak a word of English, that suddenly places on the school and on that class an enormous burden. Surely there are enormous burdens for a large population which does not speak English and which has to be given the rudimentary notions of English, even before they can start to learn. There is a real problem here, is there not, that we cannot gloss over?
  36. (Stephen Twigg) I think there is a real issue. Part of the issue, as I said in answer to the previous question from Jonathan, is about mobility, the unexpected arrival of pupils in a school on a Monday morning who were not there on Friday. That is definitely an issue, which is why I emphasised mobility as one of the three issues in your earlier question, Chairman. Yes, of course, if there are then language barriers, that becomes a factor as well. I accept that. Perhaps I became slightly over-enthusiastic in giving positive answers earlier. The primary issue is about pupil mobility. Whilst that will often be equal with additional languages as well as English, it will not always be. Sometimes it will be about people who are being moved around because of the nature of the housing situation.

  37. This Committee has to bear in mind that the Government, of which you are a member, set all these tasks and standards and the meeting of the standards. Presumably it is a little bit easier to meet the standard outside London where the national average figure for English as an additional language is 8 per cent compared to 42 per cent? It is a very uphill struggle to reach standards when you have that mobility and those language difficulties.
  38. (Stephen Twigg) Absolutely, and I do not think we are disagreeing. Part of the reason why we are having the London Strategy for Schools, part of the London challenge that Estelle Morris set out, is to do with the diversity of London. All I was seeking to say, in answer to questions, was that whilst that diversity can bring difficulties and challenges, it can also bring some great benefits, and that is what I see in London schools in my own experience.

  39. Should you not be encouraging parents who arrive in this country to learn English so that they can help their children in schools?
  40. (Stephen Twigg) Yes. I do not think there should be any contention about that. The ability of people newly arrived in this country to speak the language is in their interests as much as it is in the interests of schools and others. That is absolutely right.

    Paul Holmes

  41. Looking at your experience not very many years ago as a senior councillor of Islington and now as an Education Minister, if you look at Inner London, 44 per cent of children qualify for free school meals. Given the flight of parents through their aspirations to send their children to schools in neighbouring authorities, that can often mean that the schools that are left have a free school meal intake of 60 or 70 per cent rather than 44 per cent and the national average is 17 per cent. Do you think there is any correlation between the sorts of results that those schools obtain in various league tables that your Department publishes and the amount of children they have coming from backgrounds where they qualify for free schools meals?
  42. (Stephen Twigg) Of course there is a relationship and it is well researched and well documented that the social and economic background of people going to schools is a determinant of the outcome but it is not the only determinant. If you look at schools in London or in other parts of the country that have a broadly similar intake in terms of free school meals or whatever indicator we choose, quite different outcomes can be produced. You are definitely right; one of the challenges, particularly in Inner London but it also applies in some parts of outer London as well, is to find ways in which we can make the local schools attractive to a broad range of the people who live in those areas. It is not an easy challenge but one that we have to meet if we are going to change some the difficulties referred to in the questions and my me.

  43. We are looking at the role of the new education czar or commissioner once he or she is appointed. How interventionalist would he be? For example, if he looked at one Inner London authority and he could see clear evidence that surrounding authorities which have lots of specialist schools, faith schools, technology colleges, et cetera, were actively selected 10 per cent by aptitude or ability and that was draining all those more motivated and able pupils away from an Inner London authority that stands by them, what would be the response of yourself and the education commissioner? How would you deal with that?
  44. (Stephen Twigg) I certainly hope we are not going to get to a situation like that. With the new City Academy Programme, I hope that we will see some of the boroughs, including I would hope Islington, actually having those city academies and being able to attract local parents to send their children to those new schools that would be formed. If we were to reach a situation such as the one you have described, we would have to take a look at that. I am sure the Commissioner would have a view, but in a sense that would not be anything different to what we would do now or what the previous government did. We would sit down with the local education authorities and take a look at it. One thing I do think the Commissioner can do, whoever he or she turns out to be, is to work with some of those schools directly, with the local education authorities but also directly with some of the schools that are not performing very well, to try to raise their performance so that we do not get to the kind of situation you have outlined.

  45. Is one of the things that a school in that sort of situation can do to become a specialist school so that they have extra money and extra facilities? They do face problems in achieving that. Last night I was in my constituency in Chesterfield, giving award at an end of year event. This is a school which the local education authority was going to close down three years ago. Three years on, it has gone from being a school on the verge of immediate closure to quite a successful, vibrant school. The year 7 intake is becoming oversubscribed for the first time in 20 years. They are keen to move on from that and they desperately need more facilities: a bigger sports hall and IT facilities. They are now looking at trying to apply for specialist status. I talked to the Head and the senior staff last night after the event. They are very concerned that to raise the 50,000 they need to qualify for specialist status is going to be incredibly difficult for them compared to the school less than half a mile up the road that is going for specialist status and is attracting money quite easily because of the nature of the children's backgrounds. Do you think you ought to look at the 50,000 threshold and perhaps at removing it altogether?
  46. (Stephen Twigg) It is too early to say that we will do that because it is important, as part of the Specialist Schools Programme, that there is that challenge for schools. I take your point that that can be difficult for schools in less well-off area. We do need to keep an eye on how that is developing. I do not think we are in a position at the moment where we can say that it is a fundamental barrier to schools achieving specialist status. Were it to become so, then it is something we could re-visit. We are seeing across the country in specialist schools, and again I hate to cite examples from my local area but it tends to be the area I know best, the Lee Valley School in Enfield, which has just been granted sports specialist status. It is in one of the more deprived parts of the borough. It is one of the schools that is doing less well, and they have succeeded in raising the status to match the money. S o they have done it. It can be done. I take your point that that might not always be the case.

    Chairman: May I remind the Committee that it is getting towards the end of the term and some of you are lapsing into rather long questions. Can you be more disciplined!

    Mr Pollard

  47. I have two questions to ask, following on from what Paul Holmes has asked about specialist schools. We are desperately short of children going into apprenticeships. I wondered if you have a view about how we might promote that, particularly with your role as careers czar.
  48. (Stephen Twigg) That is the first time I have heard the term "careers czar". One of my responsibilities is for the Connexions Service. I do think Connexions is a very exciting and innovative programme. I have had the opportunity to visit some of the best of Connexions. I know that Connexions is variable in its quality and that work needs to be done to ensure that the standards are the best and matched across the whole country. When Connexions is a universal programme for next year, the Careers Service will become part of Connexions. It is vitally important that that service is available to the whole cross-section of young people. There is a focus within Connexions on those who are most at risk, those who have had more problems at school, but there needs to be a universal element as well. We have targets to raise the number of modern apprenticeships, to encourage more people to stay in formal education and training after the ages of 16 and 17. Clearly the quality of advice that is provided by careers teachers and persons advising in Connexions is one of the ways in which we can deliver that. You are right to identify that.

  49. Would you envisage boys and girls, particularly at 15, say, going into industry and commerce on one or perhaps two days a week so that the transition from school to work is easier and so that those who might not want to stay on are able to stay on but would benefit from early work experience on a sustained basis?
  50. (Stephen Twigg) Yes, and that is an important part of the changes that we need to make to the 14 to 19 phase of education.

  51. On qualifications, Bengali boys particularly are now achieving much less well than any other group in your responsibility; 47 per cent only achieve typically five A to C grades, which is about two-thirds of what the Bengali girls are achieving, so it is not a question of their not being as bright but of encouraging them to aspire. Have you any views about how we might take that forward?
  52. (Stephen Twigg) We need to tread carefully with these statistics. There is definitely an issue with some minority ethnic communities - the Bengali, Pakistani and Afro-Carribean communities. There is definitely then a gender aspect to that, a boys' and girl's aspect. That might not be a politically correct way of putting it. I think there is still fundamentally a social class aspect to all of this. The Bengali community tends to be a very poor community. I have asked for these statistics to be broken down to try to take that into account. There is some very good practice. In answer to Jonathan's question, I mentioned the school that I visited in Tower Hamlets, which was almost entirely Bengali. For example, they have put youth workers into the school, learning mentors and other people who can provide positive role models. They had a particular issue of truancy, which they are dealing with by employing people from within the Bangladeshi community of Tower Hamlets to work with the families. I think a lot of this is about family connections and parental involvement in schools. There is an onus on us to look at ways in which we can encourage all parents to become involved, but particularly perhaps those from communities whose young people are not doing so well in school.

    Valerie Davey

  53. Perhaps it is an insult to say that you go back to the GLC; I am sure you do not, Stephen, but there are aspects of that which are reflected here. I particularly want to bring out the London Centre for Gifted and Talented Children. Can you tell us a bit more about that? Gifted and talented in what?
  54. (Stephen Twigg) Essentially this will be an offshoot of the national programme for the gifted and talented. We are establishing a national academy at Warwick University. I do not know if you have had their representative to speak to the Committee. We want to ensure that there is a London focus on that. This will be to assist those young people who excel in school across the board. It is not simply looking at the more academic subjects, though obviously that will be an important part of the work that is happening in trying to ensure that those young people are getting, if you like, their fair share of the education service in London. Certainly one of the issues that does come up is a sense among some parents of more able children that they feel that their offspring will not do so well in London schools and therefore they try to escape. If we can find a way of ensuring that there is a genuine equality of education that is available to young people of all backgrounds, then we think that will assist them, most importantly, but it will also be an important part of improving education in London.

  55. I am sorry, I was not aware of the Warwick work. Are you saying that if this were successful in however large a unit, and this would be in London, it is something which other parts of the country could do? We did a report, as you probably know, in the Select Committee on gifted young people. I am interested in this aspect. Would it be good practice in London that could go elsewhere or is it happening elsewhere?
  56. (Stephen Twigg) It certainly is. As I understand it, a lot of the work has already happened on this in excellence in city areas across the country. This is not something completely new to the London Strategy. We simply highlighted that as part of the London Challenge because it is a particular question in London. Yes, I hope there will be lessons for the rest of the country but I am in no way suggesting that London is trailing a blaze here. We are not. This is something that is happening already.

  57. One very practical question on this: is it being funded centrally and not from the 33 LEAs?
  58. (Stephen Twigg) There is certainly central funding for it. I would have to come back to you, Valerie, on whether there are requirements for some local contribution. There will certainly be some central departmental funding for it, yes.

    Mr Barron

  59. Minister, moving on to behaviour in schools, OFSTED has stated recently, and it was reinforced by others, that bad behaviour in schools is one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, why teachers are leaving the profession. When visiting schools and speaking with head teachers and teachers, they do say, certainly in a non-political way, that they see a connection between the Government's policy of making exclusion, which should always be a last resort - and everybody agrees with that - more difficult and the rise in bad behaviour in schools? They see a link there. Do you think they are right or wrong?
  60. (Stephen Twigg) When we came to office in 1997, one of the priorities that we set is still a priority, and that is inclusion in schools. There was a real concern, and I think that is reflected in schools as well, and I do not think that was simply us as a government, about the high level that exclusions had reached. That was why we set targets at that stage to say we wanted to get the number of exclusions down, but absolutely there was no desire on the part of government for those targets to lead to a position where heads are no longer able to deal with those who are disruptive in the classroom. That is why we no longer have such a target. We have to learn from experience about these things. You are absolutely right, and this was stated by me in the debate last Friday, that the statistics suggest that nearly half of those who leave the teaching profession are citing poor behaviour in the classroom as the main reason. The Chairman has made the point in the debate, quite rightly, that behaviour is still generally good in the vast majority of schools but there are too many schools where behaviour is not generally good. That is why we are saying, as you say, that exclusion is the last resort, but, where necessary, then exclusion must be the weapon that can be used by the Head. That is why we place so much emphasis on the new behaviour programme on which I am now working to provide full-time alternatives for those pupils who are excluded. In the statement yesterday, Estelle Morris was talking about ensuring that there is a learning and support unit in every school that needs one. What we do not want, and what is not in the interests of wider society, is for those young people who are excluded for their appalling behaviour in school transferring that appalling behaviour into housing estates, the local shopping centre and the streets. That is why we are working on alternatives for those young people.

  61. I do believe more resources need to be committed to this area to help those excluded to learn from their lessons and then move forward. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think you are saying that you broadly agree with teachers, that there has simply been some sort of causal link. If that is the case, is the Government going to relax this business about setting targets and trying to reduce exclusions, because the teachers certainly seem to be very frustrated by this particular issue?
  62. (Stephen Twigg) I was not accepting the suggestion that there is a simple causal link. I think we are talking about a much more complex situation. Indeed, as speakers from all parties said in the debate last week, you have to look at the wider situation in society, and at some of the decline in respect and discipline, and so forth, in wider society. I am accepting that to continue with a rigorous target of reducing exclusions is not any longer appropriate in light of the fact that the number of exclusions has actually fallen very significantly since 1997. We are not saying to schools, "You must avoid exclusion at all costs". We want to look at what works in different areas. For example, as part of the 66 million programme announced by the Chancellor in the budget, 34 local education authorities have new behaviour improvement plans funded by central government. There are the 34 local education authorities where you have a combination of high street crime and high levels of truancy. This starts with summer activity programmes run by Connections from next week, and we will be working with schools from September. Some of the local education authorities are choosing to pilot a "no exclusions" policy as part of that. We are not directing them to do that but a number of authorities, especially Reading, have said that they would like to pilot that. We want to learn from that pilot.

  63. First, I welcome this initiative because I think it is good news. I also welcome what I perceive from your answers to be a slightly more flexible approach with regard to the policy of exclusions because there has been frustration in schools. If you can get away from rigid target-setting to a reduction, and that needs some financial incentives, and away from that policy, that would be very welcome to the teaching profession itself.
  64. (Stephen Twigg) I think that move has been made clearly by working on the guidance as regards appeals. That is clearly a factor in terms of the ability of an exclusion to stand. There will be announcements on that later this year.

    Meg Munn

  65. The Government, in my view, has rightly recognised the importance of good leadership in schools. Last Friday I went in to my old school in my constituency, Netherhead School. I met the Head and senior staff members there. The Head said to me, "If I have the resources, I can resolve almost any problem within the school". For example, the additional resources they have as part of the specialist language college means extra staff, which helps with issues about pupil behaviour. Do you think that is the right way to go?
  66. (Stephen Twigg) I think it is the right way to go. What we want to do, and this is really what the announcements over the last two days and our reform paper are about, is to recognise that there is a need for extra resources for all schools to assist them in their basic task and in leadership, but there is then a greater need in certain schools in certain areas for more support. That is why we constructed the combination of resources and reform in the way that we have over the last two days. I have absolutely no doubt that effective leadership in a school is crucial to making a difference. Whether we are talking about the London Challenge, where there are particular issues about leadership, or any other schools in the country, it is about providing support for that leadership. That is why Estelle Morris placed such great emphasis on that in the statement yesterday.

  67. Looking at the whole issue of exclusions, and I have been on the side of trying to reduce those in the past, having worked with some very vulnerable young people, how good do you think schools are at getting early intervention techniques which stop them getting to the point where the only answer to deal with that behaviour is exclusion?
  68. (Stephen Twigg) I think schools are getting much better at this. I have seen a lot of good practice in my first months or so in this job. I keep saying to the officials that I want to see some bad practice as well. There is always the danger that we only see the good things that we want to show people. I have seen some good things. I keep mentioning the school I went to in Tower Hamlets. They have a youth worker and learning mentors. I think that is the kind of early intervention that can make a difference. I went to a couple of schools in Coventry where the Connexions Service is based as part of the school. Some of the younger people who were previously either excluded or liable to be excluded are now working with Connexions. In talking to those young people, I got a real sense that it was making a difference to them, that they actually felt that they could identify with something within the school in a way that perhaps they would not have identified with something that was in the school before. We have had the initiatives where 14 and 15 years-olds, who are in school but having difficulties staying in school, can spend at least some of their time going to a local FE college where perhaps the culture and the nature of what is on offer is of more interest to them. Part of the deal is that, provided they go to school for the rest of the week, they can go to the FE college on the day of the week that is allocated. Those sorts of initiatives and early interventions will pay off, I think. Obviously it is early days to judge but you do need schools to take a whole school approach to these matters. I had the impression, and this is only an impression, that this is far more widespread in schools across the country than it was even two or three years ago.

  69. If we look at the whole approach that the Government is trying to take to a number of issues, whether it is tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime and tough on behaviour, which is the most important thing, and if we look at some of the life experiences that children who are disruptive have had, how do you think you should be trying to develop that involvement in schools? This is particularly concerned with the child and adolescent mental health services which have been so under-funded in the past but which, with early intervention, could actually help a number of children who are disruptive because they do not know how to engage in school, and not because they want to be disruptive per se?
  70. I think this issue of the child and adolescent mental health services is very important. If we are going to take this behaviour project forward in a positive way, that is going to have to play a more central part. Certainly, in some of the initial discussions that I had with Connexions partnerships, there does seem to be a fairly widespread concern about the weakness of CAMs at the local level and how that can thereby undermine the ability of Connexions to provide the fully coherent service that I think we expect Connexions to provide. I think you are quite right. How do we do that? Connexions is part of the extended schools idea that Estelle Morris was talking about yesterday. That may be part of it but certainly parts of the health service could have some sort of location within a school site. That is a possibility.
  71. Chairman

  72. What about this cross-departmental committee chaired by Baroness Ashton? Will that impinge on this?
  73. (Stephen Twigg) That will focus on early years. It will impinge.

  74. Our inquiry showed that some of the mental health problems that were going to emerge did emerge very early indeed. Will this Committee have anything to do with that?
  75. (Stephen Twigg) It certainly will and hopefully it will strengthen the ability to deliver on those areas, but it is early years. I take your point that it has a relevance there.

  76. Does that mean we can call Ministers from that department to this Committee? I suppose it does.
  77. (Stephen Twigg) Baroness Ashton will be based in our department and in DWP. She could appear before both committees, I would assume. (It am sure she will love me for announcing that!)

    Chairman: She has had experience with this Committee before.

    Meg Munn

  78. Is this not another area where we have just had an announcement of a lot of money for education but where it is also important that the needs of children are looked at holistically so that that money might need to be spent sometimes on other professions and across health and social services, rather than seeing it just as something that purely based in schools?
  79. (Stephen Twigg) Absolutely, and I think it requires a culture change to get to that. I am sure we can change that culture.

    Chairman

  80. As I said last week to the NUS, please read our report before you comment on anything. In a totally different tone, may I tell you that you are very welcome to have a copy of our early years' report, which many people thought was rather good.
  81. (Stephen Twigg) I have heard it was excellent.

    Mr Turner

  82. Minister, do you get the impression that it has become much more difficult to be a parent over, say, the last few years?
  83. (Stephen Twigg) Yes, I think that is fair. In a sense, young people grow up a lot faster. Although 20 years ago the media was there, we now have the multi-media and the knowledge and access to new forms of technology. Young people have an ability to learn, which has created more pressure on parents, without a doubt.

  84. You have given two examples and I am going to ask you why. Can I suggest another, that parents are worried they are unable to get their children into a school that meets their expectations in terms of ethos. They worry about the "you cannot touch me" culture, which I think teachers and police also face, among sometimes very young children. They worry that schools will undermine their cultural history and traditions. They worry about sending their kids to school with dreadful kids with whom they would not choose for their children to associate.
  85. (Stephen Twigg) All of those worries clearly exist. I mentioned the London Challenge, the fact that 40 per cent of parents in Inner London do not get a secondary school of their choice. That supports some of what you have said. I think there is a concern that, in the quite proper desire to emphasise that people have rights, sometimes we forget that people also have responsibilities. That sort of culture can be very damaging and certainly can contribute to poor behaviour in schools. I would not want to be entirely negative about it because, like all of the Committee, I am sure I visit schools where the vast majority of the pupils are very well behaved and have a good understanding of their responsibilities as well as their rights.

    Chairman

  86. You can understand why parents want to go and live in those areas and send their children to school there?
  87. (Stephen Twigg) Of course I understand that. Certainly, in the context of London, creating schools where parents will be happy with the ethos of the school and will see pupil behaviour as the sort of behaviour you would expect is exactly the reason why the London Challenge is so important to me. I can think of schools in my own area where the local perception is that the school, including therefore parents, may well be a lot poorer than I see when I visit the school, but there is no reason why the local community would necessarily be going to visit the school in the way that I do as a Member of Parliament. The perception of the community is based on how the young people are behaving at the bus stop, on the bus or in the streets and shops after school. That is what we have to deal with. Schools have a role in dealing with that but it is obviously not just down to the schools; it is also down to the parents. Yes, parents are under new forms of pressure, but parents do also have responsibilities. I think we need to emphasise, when we are talking about rights and responsibilities, the responsibilities which the pupils have.

    Mr Turner

  88. You are quite right that it is not just the schools, but I am not sure it is the just that the parents needing to know about their responsibilities. Can we not reinforce and support parents more when they try to exercise responsibilities? Can we not trust them more, rather than suggest that they have got to recognise their responsibilities? Can we not give them more support when they do that?
  89. (Stephen Twigg) I am agreeing with what you are saying but I am not entirely sure where you are going with the question. What sort of support are you talking about?

  90. You are Minister for Young People, not just for schools. How will you use your responsibilities in that area to do what I think you agree with me should be done, and that is to reinforce the ability of parents to exercise that task, rather than merely saying, "You have this responsibility and you have to exercise it"?
  91. (Stephen Twigg) You are right to say it is not just a question of the responsibilities I might have for schools. I do think schools have an important role to play in making themselves welcoming places, encouraging parents to become involved in school activities, in the home-school contract being seen as a genuinely positive relationship between the home and the school, and not just something that provides responsibilities in one direction or another. Then it is also about the sort of message that we send out from Government, the message that perhaps we send out, all of us as politicians, about the nature of people's responsibilities. It is not, you are quite right, just about schools or just about parents. Actually, it is recognising a broader community responsibility for behaviour, respect for one another and those sorts of things.

    Chairman

  92. Is there not a word missing? I was part of the Liaison Committee meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday. He talked about rights and responsibilities as well. Is not the bit that you are really aiming towards values? Is not the problem that there has to be, surely, coming from parents, coming from society, a set of values? In last week's debate, you will remember that I said that people might say that in the 1980s, under a previous Prime Minister, rather a materialistic culture occurred. Is it not true that in a sense we have not reasserted values in terms of what surrounds the environment of children's education? Rights and responsibilities do not really mean much unless you have values.
  93. (Stephen Twigg) I totally agree, as I said in the debate on Friday, that it is about the kinds of values we have: respect for one another, respect for community, and a sense of responsibility as well as rights is part of that.

    Mr Pollard

  94. And self-respect?
  95. (Stephen Twigg) Yes, and self-respect. One of the issues that we all get in the communities we represent in Parliament is a concern about litter and people throwing litter. It is often said that pupils leave litter around the school gate. That is an issue. We all equally see people in their forties and fifties throwing litter out of their cars and as they walk along. The idea that some of these issues about lack of respect and lack of proper behaviour are simply -

    Chairman

  96. I was thinking of rather higher values than litter, but never mind.
  97. (Stephen Twigg) I was giving a practical example.

    Chairman: It was a very good example.

    Mr Baron

  98. Following on this point, I understand you are responsible for volunteering the link between encouraging co-operation between schools and the voluntary sector, the Duke of Edinburgh Award or something along those lines. Do you not think there is more room for school to develop this theme? In other words, it would certainly encourage the social responsibility and make people aware that there are some less well off than themselves and that there is a sort of responsibility to help, if one can. The schools that I visit which participate actively in this way seem to get a lot out of it.
  99. (Stephen Twigg) I could not agree more. This is a very consensual discussion, is it not? There are some brilliant examples: the Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise, scouts and many of the faith communities do a lot of excellent work with young people and we need to learn from that. I have sympathy for those young people who say, at 12, 13 or 14, "There is nothing to do around here and nowhere for us to go". Providing some of those facilities for young people might be a job for the local authority, but it may well actually be better done by those who are providing it on a voluntary basis but with support.

    Chairman

  100. You are the Youth Services Minister and people up and down the country say the youth services, providing things for young people to do when they are bored, is one of the weakest services in the country. What are you going to do about that?
  101. (Stephen Twigg) Can I answer that, but I feel I have not answered John Barron's main point. I moved it on to the youth service inadvertently. The Millennium Volunteers Programme, which I now have responsibility for, is a brilliant initiative. I have met a lot of the young people who have been through this programme and graduated from it. It has made a real difference to their lives. It has enabled them to become involved with projects in their own local communities, and I want to see that continue to thrive and prosper. I recognise that is only one programme and there are other ways in which we can foster volunteering. Connexions also has a role to play in encouraging young people, who might not otherwise have considered volunteering, to take that up as an option. We want to look at ways in which the time that young people spend, perhaps between going to school or college and on to higher education, can be better enhanced in terms of volunteering opportunities. I think citizenship education will have an important role to play in that as well. I cannot disagree that the youth service has been under-funded for years and years. What are we doing about it? Ivan Lewis, my predecessor, placed a great deal of emphasis on this. The Transforming Youth Work project he took forward is positive and it has been welcomed but there is clearly a great deal more that needs to be done, both in terms of statutory youth service provision and in the voluntary youth service. I have had discussions already with a range of agencies, including local government, about how we can get a shared definition of what is an adequate and sufficient youth service, so that we can have, if you like, a certain standard of service that any young person can expect wherever they are in the country. The Committee will know, from your own work and experience, that the amount that is spent on youth services varies greatly from one local authority to another. The amount of service that is then delivered for that money varies greatly because actually some quite good youth services are provided in areas that do not spend so much, so it is not only about money. I am looking to make announcements in the autumn about what would continue to be an adequate and sufficient youth service, so that we can take that forward. There is one thing to say to the Local Government Association: the more that they can do to encourage their constituent members, the local authorities, to be providing that service, the better.

    Mr Chaytor

  102. Minister, you have spoken a bit about your mother's experience. In terms of your own experience, do you think you suffered from having had a one-size-fits-all education?
  103. (Stephen Twigg) I went to a very good comprehensive school, Southgate School, and I think I benefited greatly from it. Looking around London, or indeed the rest of the country, there are comprehensives that are not so good. Recognising that not all comprehensives in all areas of the country are meeting the challenges of the 21st century is not to rip up the comprehensive ideal. The comprehensive ideal that each child has equal value and should be able to get the best out of education is a very important one that I think we have reaffirmed this week.

  104. Do you think, as part of the comprehensive ideal, parity of esteem between schools is equally important to the principle of the equal worth of each child?
  105. (Stephen Twigg) Yes, I think parity of esteem is important but, of course, where we do not have parity of esteem at the moment there will be perceptions, whether right or wrong, of what is a good school and what is a bad school, and that is not parity of esteem. Therefore, we are recognising in the changes that we are making to modernise the comprehensive system that we want to have a high esteem for all schools. That does not exist at the moment, whatever the good intentions, and there are great intentions in the schools and in the local education authorities. We all know the schools that are regarded locally as the good schools, the not so good schools and the bad schools and that is not parity of esteem. 718. How do we ensure, by introducing greater diversity into the system, that we do not increase rather than reduce the disparities of esteem?

    (Mr Twigg) We certainly have to tread with care. But I see, for example in London, the schools that are going to be opening, the City Academies, in September. Certainly the school that I know best is in the neighbouring borough to me, in Haringey, serving a fairly disadvantaged community, a school that was not perceived to be a good school. I think, with programmes like the academy programme and specialist schools, we have the chance to give new opportunities to communities that have often been let down by the secondary schools in their

  106. If I could ask you about your responsibilities for 14-19 education. Is it still the Government's policy to equalise the funding between sixth forms and colleges?
  107. A. (Mr Twigg) We want to bring the funding of the two so that they meet each other, certainly, yes.

  108. Is there a time scale for that?
  109. (Mr Twigg) There is not a specific time scale. Of course we had the announcement this week of the one per cent real terms' increase for FE funding by the Chancellor and I know, reading the exchanges last year when Ivan was here, that you raised quite properly the concern that the real level of funding of FE had been in decline for many years, so to see a real increase I think would be warmly welcomed, and that will obviously raise the ability of FE colleges to provide a good standard of education, but we are not putting a specific time scale on when the funding of sixth forms and the funding of FEs will be the same. Clearly it will take some time.

  110. 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.
  111. (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.

    Chairman

  112. 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.
  113. (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.

    Mr Chaytor

  114. 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.
  115. (Mr Twigg) I think, rather than risking making that up, I will have to come back to you in writing.

    Jeff Ennis

  116. 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."
  117. (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 indication - although I have not read the full evaluation - that you then see more young people who would not otherwise have stayed on actually going into higher education as well.

  118. 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?
  119. (Mr Twigg) As a consequence of the EMAs?

  120. Yes.
  121. (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.

  122. I asked the Minister last time to look at that and he said he would evaluate that.
  123. (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.

  124. 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.
  125. (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.

    Chairman

  126. 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?
  127. (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 EMAs - they are not in the pilot areas - so 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 nationwide.

  128. 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 Puttenham, 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?
  129. (Mr Twigg) I do not believe that is the explanation. I have to say - and I am not just saying this because people are here with me - that 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.

  130. Are they good managers? A lot of dedicated and enthusiastic amateurs around, Minister: are they good managers of programmes?
  131. (Mr Twigg) So far I am impressed by the quality of management programmes that I have seen.

  132. But you have never been in management, Minister, so you would not know what to look for.
  133. (Mr Twigg) Well, you asked me. From what I have seen, I am impressed by what I have seen.

  134. We have our concerns.
  135. (Mr Twigg) I understand.

    Valerie Davey

  136. Has the Government decided which of the pilots it is going to roll out?
  137. (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.

    Mr Pollard

  138. He is not that young!
  139. (Mr Twigg) I would take that back. I am impressed if you put a tenner in yourselves; that is all nine schools!

    Jonathan Shaw

  140. 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, don't deal in drugs." How is the downgrading of cannabis affecting the drugs policy, of which you are in charge?
  141. (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.

  142. Is that something that you have discussed with the expert managers?
  143. (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.

  144. Can you give us a flavour of that?
  145. (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 last week.

  146. 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?
  147. (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.

    Mr Baron

  148. 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?
  149. (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.

  150. Do you not think that it is, first, undermining parent authority to a certain extent, and, secondly, that it could be seen as a sign of giving out the wrong message when certification can be gained from other areas such as GP surgeries and so forth?
  151. (Mr Twigg) I think it is about being realistic about what will work. I think there is no desire to undermine the authority of parents in these matters at all; that it has long been recognised by governments of both main parties that sex education has to be a core part of the school curriculum. I think, when we look at these matters and we talk to doctors and others, the advice is very, very strong that it makes sense to -----

  152. May I say that I am not disagreeing with sex education; I am talking about the availability of contraceptives in schools.
  153. (Mr Twigg) That has developed out of taking a serious look at the situation with teenage pregnancy, AIDS and HIV, and all of the other issues I have mentioned, and an acceptance - I think shared by many parents - that simply leaving these matters to the family home does not work.

    Paul Holmes

  154. Just to return to an issue and try to clarify something you were talking about with Jeff earlier on, you say that the Government, after looking at the evidence, has decided that the evidence is clear that it is worth investing considerable sums of money to encourage people from poorer backgrounds to stay on 16-19.
  155. (Mr Twigg) Yes.

  156. Is it not, therefore, logical that exactly those same children aged 18-21, let us say going to university, should also get a grant or a bursary, the equivalent of.
  157. (Mr Twigg) You are taking me back to my appearance here 11 years ago again.

  158. Which of course your government removed in 1997.
  159. (Mr Twigg) Indeed. Clearly we have recognised that there is an issue on this, which is why my colleague Margaret Hodges is taking a look at it. I think there is a good case to say - and here I am being consistent with 11 years ago - that 16 is a very, very crucial age, particularly for those young people whose families traditionally would not have gone into higher education, and I think there is a good case to say that actually providing some financial support at that age is more important than what we used to do at 18 or 19 for the relatively small numbers of kids from the poorest backgrounds who had proceeded that far in education. It may not be an either/or but I am certainly not in a position to announce any outcomes of Margaret Hodges review at this stage.

    Mr Turner

  160. If schools in London are not only to recruit enough good young teachers but also to retain excellent experienced teachers, are you not just going to have to pay them a great deal more?
  161. (Mr Twigg) I do think that pay is part of this, but I do not think that it is the only solution to the situation in London. I think housing may well be a factor.

  162. But they do not want to live in council houses; they, like us, aspire to own their own houses.

(Mr Twigg) We are not necessarily talking about people living in council houses or even rented houses. Some may do that. We are actually often talking about teachers, who have perhaps been in London for two or three years, wanting to settle down, and finding ways of supporting them. The starter homes' initiative has already supported 1,500 teachers in London as well as teachers in other parts of the South East to buy their own home, so we are not simply talking about rented housing for teachers; we are talking about more opportunities to own, part-rent/part-buy - other options. When I go and talk to teachers in my constituency and other parts of London, what they say is, "The cost of living in London is so exorbitant." I think, in terms of retention, sorting out the housing question is the biggest single challenge that we have.

Chairman: Minister, on that note and in anticipation of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement with reference to that last question, thank you very much for your attendance. We have enjoyed our first encounter with you. There is slight suspicion amongst the Committee that you would have been better off in the Foreign Office with some of your diplomatic skills, but thank you very much for your attendance.