WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2001
Mr Barry Sheerman, in the Chair
MR IVAN LEWIS, a Member of the House of Commons, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Young People and Learning, examined.
(Mr Lewis) First of all, can I thank you for giving me the opportunity of being here. I know it is not entirely a voluntary arrangement but I do look forward to our exchange this morning. No, I think the Bill - obviously it is subject to this legislative programme but I do not expect we will be waiting too much longer for the Bill to be introduced - will reflect, basically, much of what was in the White Paper which we published in September about our reform of the secondary education system, a very significant reform, as you know. Also, I think it will be in some ways an important Bill in terms of devolution of power and responsibility increasingly to head teachers and to individual schools, giving people on the ground, if you like, more opportunity to make decisions, to determine the development of provision as appropriate to their pupils. If you like there will be a strong deregulation element which will be a significant part of the Bill. We believe the time has come where educational institutions generally, but schools more significantly, are demonstrating consistently high levels of performance but to enable that to be sustained on a long term basis the next stage needs to be, as I say, to devolve more power and responsibility and flexibility to the people at that level, to make the decisions about how their schools are managed and how they are developed in a whole variety of ways. It will be from that point of view, I think, quite a groundbreaking piece of legislation both in terms of reform of secondary and the very strong kind of devolutionary, deregulatory elements to the Bill.
(Mr Lewis) Okay. Thank you very much. I thought it would be useful to begin by saying I think my primary responsibilities cover the age group 13 to 19. I see myself as having a number of key overall objectives. Firstly, enabling young people to make sound choices about Key Stage 4, learning GCSE choices. Supporting all young people to overcome the problems which can get in the way of their studies during the difficult teenage years. Increasing substantially the numbers staying on in education at 16. Increasing and broadening the range of young people who feel they have access to higher education. Ensuring that young people who do not go into higher education at 18 and 19 have valued options to continue in quality training. Finally I think being the first, in a sense, Minister in a Department of Education for Young People, ensuring that we give young people a voice in the decisions that we make about the provision that we develop for them. It is quite, I think, an important and symbolic moment that that position has been created. We talk about customer focus services and I think education and learning are no different. We need to ensure those developments reflect the aspirations, the needs and the experience of young people. In terms of achieving those overall objectives, clearly I have specific policy responsibilities and I will very quickly go through those but I am sure you will want to probe me on those this morning. First of all, the creation of a new distinct 14 to 19 phase of education which I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss. Ensuring that the new Connexions Service - which is an advice, information, personal development service for 13 to 19 year olds up and running in certain parts of the country, 15 out of 47 partnerships - ensuring that we transfer what I regard as a very exciting concept into something which works in a very practical way in communities up and down the country. A reassertion of the importance and the value of youth services generally is another significant part of my responsibility, youth services which are co-ordinated or provided by local education authorities. I would like to see us do more on parental involvement and family learning which I think contributes towards raising standards but also brings adults back into education. I think we need to do more to ensure that pupils from ethnic minorities achieve the same sort of standards that other pupils are able to do. I also have responsibility for Educational Maintenance Allowances which, as you know, are being piloted at the moment which are about very much supporting 16 years old to stay on from a financial point of view but only 30 per cent coverage at the moment on a pilot basis. There is a Connexions Card which we are piloting which again is about enabling and supporting young people to stay on at 16. I also have responsibility more generally for area inspections and 16 to 19 provision which is about making sure that provision is co-ordinated and of high quality in certain areas across the 16 to 19 range. Looking at the new arrangements for sixth forms now that responsibility has been transferred to Learning and Skills Councils. Just finally I have, I think, two significant areas which are a post 19 responsibility. First of all, modern apprenticeships. Very importantly, we have just had the Castles Recommendations on Modern Apprenticeships. It is essential that we get our response as a Government right and we ensure that the modern apprenticeship is obviously in the future a valued and working option. Secondly, Millennium Volunteers, which is about getting young people to participate in citizenship and voluntary work activities and ensuring that young people are integrated and connected with our local communities. Finally, Chairman, where does all that fit together in a sense? Well, for me, it is about all young people, whatever their circumstances and whatever their background, having the chance to both pursue their dreams and to fulfil their potential. To me that is integral to us achieving our overall objectives of both a fair society, a socially just society but also an economically successful society. We need all of our young people to be doing well and feeling that they are given the chance to pursue the potential if we are to achieve our overall objectives for society.
(Mr Lewis) Not quite like that any more, Chairman.
(Mr Lewis) The first thing I ought to say is that there were absolutely no disturbances in Bury. There could have been C
(Mr Lewis) They were obviously very well managed which is interesting in itself. On the substantive point, which is a valid point, my view is quite strongly on this that I think faith schools play a very, very important in the fabric of our education system, in the range of choices that are available to parents and young people. I actually think it is slightly disingenuous to suggest that faith schools in any way, in my view anyway, contributed towards the events in the summer in terms of those dreadful disturbances.
(Mr Lewis) No, no, but some people have suggested that, you did not but many commentators have suggested that. I think they are very important. I think they offer choice for parents. I think they contribute towards high standards and I think there is evidence that young people who attend them, on the whole, enjoy the experience. I think what we need is a diverse system so that is right for some parents and for other parents they make different choices. They do not feel that faith schools are appropriate to them. I think the Secretary of State=s announcement within the last few days says that basically applications for future faith schools, there will be guidance which suggests that they either operate and feel comfortable operating inclusive admissions policies, which means they take a significant number of young people from other faiths or no faiths, or they demonstrate a willingness to collaborate and work in partnership with schools of other faiths or non faith schools. I think that is probably the right way forward. I have to say my two children who are five and seven go to a faith school, I think it is important to say that. I have to say though that I think that it is important to encourage collaboration and partnership and it is important to give the opportunity to young people to learn about and have experience of other people=s cultures and religions. I think that there are all sorts of ways we can do that, through citizenship activities, through youth work activities, through twinning arrangements, the beacon school arrangements, all of those things. I think it is wrong to per se - I know you have not done this, Chairman - blame faith schools for many of the inherent deep rooted problems we have in some of our cities and towns right now. In my view if you are uncomfortable, and fundamentally do not like the idea of mixing religion and education, I think you should be honest enough to argue that case and I think it is a perfectly respectable point of view to hold. I do not think it is right to use, as I say, the events in those northern towns or for that matter September 11th as some kind of intellectual justification to justify a position you had in the first place. I think you should be honest enough to argue the fact you are not comfortable with mixing religion and education. As I say, I am a strong supporter of faith schools. The Government did not say in its manifesto, of course, that we would embark on this kind of uncontrollable, unlimited massive expansion of faith schools. What we said was we would welcome applications for an increase in the number of faith schools providing they have the support of their respective local communities. I feel that is still right that we recognise the contribution they make, the fact that parents value those schools. You know it is interesting, I am not sure I understand the conclusions but it is interesting because I was researching this for a speech I was due to make recently, as participation in organised religion in this country has declined, the number of parents who are choosing to send their young people to faith schools has significantly increased. I do not know what that says about how parents see the ethos and the focus that is often there in a faith school. There are many schools which have a strong ethos and a strong focus, I want to say that, not just faith schools but it is clearly in faith schools that does exist and we should pay tribute to that and celebrate that. It is important in that context to recognise that they are part of a range of options that are available to parents.
(Mr Lewis) I think that like in any situation some faith schools are excellent, some faith schools have a very inclusive approach to admission, other faith schools are not as good, do not provide as high a quality of education and some people might say that in terms of their catchment area they take a disproportionate number of given people who are not from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, for whatever reason, and therefore if you are comparing like with like is it a fair comparison. My own personal view is that a significant majority of faith schools do provide a high standard of education relatively speaking to their young people. That does not mean there are not numbers which do not provide poor quality and it does not mean that there are not many non faith state schools which perform significantly better than those of faith schools but that is my own personal judgment.
(Mr Lewis) Yes.
(Mr Lewis) I think it should be, first of all, a significant source of concern that children from certain ethnic minority backgrounds are doing worse than generally. We have a responsibility both at a Government level and a local education authority to really address that issue. By the way if we are talking about some of the difficulties in some of our communities if young people from ethnic minority communities feel cut off from the opportunities that are available to others that really does contribute towards that. My view is there are a variety of interventions that we need to use. We do have the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant, for example, I think we need to look at that, frankly, and make sure that we are using it to maximum effect in the future - talking about base line assessment - because I think that some of it is based on historical spend, if you like, and we need to look far more at current need and ensure that we are using that money, as I say, to maximum effect to achieve the outcomes that we want. I think that is important, specific resources we target in that area on individual schools and local education authorities. There is the issue of learning mentors, I think making a significant contribution up and down the country in a variety of ways but particularly getting people from ethnic minority backgrounds who could be regarded as role models, who have done the business in terms of education or the world of work and been successful, in sport, however you define that, giving those kids a sense that to be aspirational is a good thing, to achieve is a good thing and that really there is the potential and the opportunity there for those young people and there are no bars, no barriers in our system. It is about both national government funding, making sure that is used properly, it is about initiatives like learning mentors, excellence in cities, targeted initiatives. It is also, frankly, about the management of an individual school, you know it is about a head teacher focussing in on, in a mainstream way, obviously all of his or her pupils but really acknowledging as a starting point that ethnic minority pupils in that school may be struggling for all sorts of reasons and therefore it is important to have a strategy, as part of a strategy to ensure that anybody who is struggling in your school, that you are not just simply allowing that to happen but you are homing in on that, targeting that and looking at the different range of appropriate interventions and support mechanisms which are going to allow those young people to pursue and fulfil their potential.
(Mr Lewis) First of all, with all due respect to Mr Turner, I was asked specifically in the context of the question about policies towards pupils from ethnic minorities in relation to Bangladeshi children.
(Mr Lewis) I am delighted to answer the question but I do not want to misrepresent what I said.
(Mr Lewis) Thank you. Basically our whole intervention in terms of numeracy and literacy, in terms of early years of secondary, in terms of our new approach to 14 to 19, in terms of the development of the Connexion Service, in terms of learning mentors, in terms of having floor targets for both schools and local education authorities, in terms of GCSEs - we have had some good news today with 50 per cent of young people achieving the GCSE target a year early - all of that is about ensuring that under-performing young people who in the past were not actually being given the opportunity by the education system in this country, we were basically educating an elite in this country for too many years, and all of those policies are about ensuring that we educate a far wider range of young people to a very high standard than we have ever done before. It is about again, as I said, specific initiatives which we have, as I say learning mentors, excellence in cities, all sorts of specific interventions, the Connexion Service itself will be there to make sure that young people who are struggling for whatever reason within the system have any obstacle and any barrier removed or dealt with which is getting in the way of them progressing. Of course in the end we need to look at what we are saying about outcomes. What we are saying very, very ambitiously is that 50 per cent of young people go to university, why that is important is that will mean that a significant number of young people from communities and families who have previously been denied that opportunity will go to university in the future. We are talking about re-vamping the modern apprenticeship route for young people so that as an alternative option or a similar option is a valued and high quality option for all young people. Everything that this Government is doing is about encouraging able children and talented children to maximise the opportunities but also making sure that we give every single child, whatever their social background, the opportunities that they deserve.
(Mr Lewis) Going into higher education.
(Mr Lewis) On young people making sound choices about learning Key Stage 4 GCSE, my view is if we enable and support young people to make those sound choices we will achieve the targets that we have set ourselves in terms of GCSE. We have already achieved one of those in the year early. By the way if you enable young people to make those choices at Key Stage 4, it is very likely that we will achieve our targets in terms of higher education and in terms of alternative high value routes like modern apprenticeships. So that is how I would quantify that. If you get it round to that age, and you give them the support to make those choices, you will reap the benefits in terms of their education certainly beyond 16. In terms of supporting all young people to overcome the problems which get in the way, that is about performance but it is also about this ridiculous situation in this country where far too many people have dropped out at 16. The reason they drop out is for a variety of reasons, as we know. It is often thought to be completely limited to careers advice and curriculum issues, it is not, people have family difficulties, they get involved in peer group activity which is not particularly desirable, they get hooked, unfortunately, on drugs or on alcohol, there are a whole range of reasons why young people do not end up performing in the way we want them to do. So supporting all young people to overcome the problems is basically a reference to the Connexion service and that kind of support.
(Mr Lewis) I think that the targets that you would need to look at are the number of young people remaining in education beyond 16, the number of young people having access to higher education, the number of young people if they are not having access to higher education pursuing an alternative high quality route. Frankly it is not just about how you measure these from an educational point of view. If we get this right, it has an impact on targets and objectives across Government, whether it be teenage pregnancies, whether it be anti-social behaviour, whether it be the skills shortage or the productive gap we have in our country. There is a whole variety of targets and objectives that if we get the principles I outlined in my opening remarks right, they will have a massive knock on effect not just, as I say, in the narrow context of what the DfES is trying to do but specifically in terms of the Government=s - as I said at the beginning - commitment to social justice and economic success. If you want me to carry on going through the list I will do.
(Mr Lewis) There are existing dates. We have already today had news that we have achieved a year early our target of 50 per cent of young people getting the sort of grades in GCSEs that we want. We have significant floor targets in terms of LEAs and schools who perhaps have not been doing as well achieving the kind of resource that we would want in the most disadvantaged communities with regard to GCSE performance. We have, as you know, the higher education target. We are about to respond to Castles who talks about a modern apprenticeship target. We have a clear priority objective if you look at Educational Maintenance Allowance, if you look at Connexions and all of that to ensure that we maximise the number of young people who do not drop out of education and learning, high quality education and learning at 16. I think there are more than enough targets there.
(Mr Lewis) I would be delighted to do that, Chairman.
Chairman: I want to move on because you have such a wide spread of responsibilities so I want to get a good coverage. I am going to encourage everyone to ask short questions and reasonably short answers. Jeff Ennis, who is well known for his probing short questions.
(Mr Lewis) One of the things it is important to say is that the way the pilot has been established is that it will be relatively easy to compare areas of a similar nature, some of whom have EMAs and some who do not. I know the ones who do not feel very aggrieved about that but that is the way the evaluation has been established. The early indications - and I have to be clear about this, it is early indications - there has been about a five per cent increase in participation post 16 of young people where EMAs have been available and in operation. It is very early though and we are expecting some better data within the next month or two on that. Of course the other measure that is very important is participation but it is also attainment. Is there evidence that yes we keep more young people in but what is equally important is that they stay in and do well and achieve. That is the basis on which we are examining EMAs at the moment.
(Mr Lewis) Frankly, no, we do not have that evidence yet. It is a very good point and what I will do, if the Chairman will allow me to do it, is I will go back and check whether that piece of work is being done and more to the point, if it is not, suggest that they include that in the evaluation if that is okay.
(Mr Lewis) I think that is the dilemma. When we get what I would describe as hard data, credible evaluation evidence, I think we have to make a decision and that decision is do we roll EMAs out on a national basis, do we sort out some of the anomalies in terms of, for example, financial assessment where there are different criteria being used in different areas which causes a lot of frustration or do we say, having got the evidence, that either it has not been as effective as we hoped it would be or in terms of the extremely expensive cost of rolling it out nationally, we could find better ways of keeping the 16 year olds in education. I know there has been speculation. There was a leak in the newspaper, I responded by saying it was a nonsense that the decision had been made not to roll the EMAs out - which was the basis of the press article - that decision simply has not been made nor has the decision been made to roll it out. This is one where we are genuinely waiting for the evaluation evidence and then we will have to look at that and also look at that in the context of cost. That is a reasonable thing to do when you have piloted anything and you are making a decision whether you are going to maintain and extend it or whether you are going to change the nature of it. I do not apologise. I do not think Ministers should be worried or anxious about that.
Chairman: That is music to our ears when we hear you say we are going to wait for hard data and evidence to be collated. What we get worried about is when in the midst of a pilot or the midst of a new experience regarding policy some message comes out of some unknown policy adviser in Number 10 and the Education Department goes into a flat spin, has a cross-departmental inquiry, as in student finance. What worries me is when your Department does not stick to hard data and mature reflection. I know you are not responsible for the other world but that is the lesson that has been learnt.
(Mr Lewis) Hopefully we will have far more significant and useful, relevant, informative evaluation evidence by early in the New Year.
(Mr Lewis) I think currently the issues are being considered separately.
(Mr Lewis) I think there is a very good case for suggesting there should be integration in terms of the consideration of those two policy areas, yes. I would say there is a good case. At the moment I think we are looking at those issues separately. In a sense we are at a different stage. I respect and appreciate what the Chairman said about previous practice. I think, to be fair, if I may, Chairman, on student finance, actually I think what happened was - and this is not naive I do not think - politicians actually went out on the door step and during the election, particularly, weighed up the kind of issues which were giving them the most grief, people expressing the most disappointment with in terms of the Government=s first term. Having experienced that, they felt it was only right to come back and review it. The main reason for reviewing it was I think that obviously there were anomalies where the burden on some families, particularly those families above low income levels, just above low income levels, was prohibitive in some cases and, secondly, because it was the perception amongst young people from low income families that they would have to pay amounts that actually they would not have to pay. There was a danger of disincentivising what we were trying to achieve in terms of persuading all young people or many young people that they have a genuine opportunity to go to university. That is, in a sense, the reason why we are where we are at now in terms of reviewing the higher education finance regime. Now we know the Educational Maintenance Allowances have been up and running for some time, the pilot phases, and we had always intended really to review them in a way that I have described, and a recognition that in terms of the next spending round a decision would have to be made about whether you were going to change the nature of how you spend money to keep young people in education at 16 or whether you were going to ensure that Educational Maintenance had a universal coverage. That was always going to be the debate and discussion.
(Mr Lewis) I think we need to look at a coherent approach to making decisions about how we best spend finite resources to achieve the objectives that we set ourselves. That means that we have a fair and a transparent and an equitable system. There will always be finite resources and therefore there is a need to make those hard choices and there is a need to ensure there is consistency and coherence in terms of the outcome of any review such as that. I think there is a need to look at it in the context of all of the post 16 financial support that is made available, both to individual young people and to their families. I would make a very important point here. If you actually end up in a situation where young people gain an amount of money, and parents lose an amount of money, there is actually an issue there about what impact does that have on the family unit in terms of supporting and encouraging a young person to stay within education. I do not think it is quite as simple as sometimes some people portray it. They portray it as differentiating between the incentive to the young person and the financial incentive to the family unit. If the family unit or mum or dad or parents feel under pressure financially then they may not end up supporting the young person in the way we would want them to to stay in the education system. You have got to get that balance right.
(Mr Lewis) My experience of discussions with the Department in terms of, for example, pre-Budget submissions is that we all look at our own areas of responsibility. We suggest what we regard as our priorities and then, as a team, the Secretary of State ultimately, in consultation with us, decides what she feels are the priorities in terms of submissions to the Chancellor. So my experience of this, Chairman, is that it is decided within the Department. We, as Ministers, all have a say, particularly in terms of our individual areas of responsibility, we even have the opportunity to comment across the board but ultimately the Secretary of State decides what goes to the Chancellor from our Department in terms of our definition.
(Mr Lewis) There is not a mini Cabinet, there is a very good team watch approach that Estelle Morris has fostered between Ministers.
(Mr Lewis) As Ministers we meet on a weekly basis which is great for morale and sharing information, as a team of Ministers. On a bilateral basis we meet where our policy areas cross over.
(Mr Lewis) No, we have had one away day relatively early on in terms of the new team=s development, we have not had more than that. I think what is important are two things, Chairman. One is that we work as a team, which we do. Also, where there are clear links, we have seen several of my colleagues and seen there are obvious linkages between decisions made in some areas of policy that you are not responsible for and other areas that another Minister may be responsible for. It is absolutely vital that we do not end up in a box making inconsistent policy decisions, that we have a coherence and that people like this Committee, people out in the education world feel there is a consistency of approach and a message coming out of the Department in terms of the policies.
(Mr Lewis) As the Minister responsible for effectiveness I am confident that we will reach the sensible and credible conclusions that this Committee would expect us to do. We all know, Hon Members know, that it is not crass to talk about very, very hard choices and finite resources. Every government has a finite amount of resources and what is different is this Government has put more into education in five years than was put into education in the previous 20.
(Mr Lewis) I agree with that, Chairman, but I would say one of the major criticisms of the Department sometimes is we have targets and we have objectives. I think that what is important is that actually there is a rational and coherent approach to where we are going. If we look at it, there has been a significant expansion in the quality of child care and nursery provision. There has been a strong emphasis on literacy and numeracy. We are now moving into the early years of secondary where too many young people go backwards or stagnate. In addition to that we are doing something structurally about secondary schools. We are introducing the new Connexions Service at 13 which is about, as I say, dealing with young people=s problems, whether it is careers or curriculum or family problems or health problems, whatever that might be. We are looking at keeping more young people in at 16 by ensuring we have access to that sensible and quality advice. We are using EMAs, we have got a Connexions card to support that. We have the 50 per cent into higher education and also the modern apprenticeship target. May I focus at all, Chairman, do you have the time, on the 14 to 19 phase?
(Mr Lewis) Right. The narrative is there is a logical sequential approach to what we are trying to do in terms of raising standards at every level and every stage of education for young people in this country which means that not only the brightest and the most able hopefully will be stretched but that young people who in the past have been left behind will be given the opportunities that they deserve and are long overdue, that is my answer.
Chairman: That is a very encouraging answer.
(Mr Lewis) I have not got that figure on me but I can ensure the Hon Member has that figure.
(Mr Lewis) The answer is we are not at the moment considering any alternatives. There are, of course, other interventions which are specifically about supporting young people to stay in post 16, the Connexions card is one, the Connexions Service as a whole is another. Are we considering specific alternatives at the moment to Educational Maintenance Allowance other than the initiatives already in the public domain in terms of keeping young people in post 16, the answer is we are not.
(Mr Lewis) The question, I think, Chairman, was are we at the moment actively considering alternatives to EMAs if we do not continue them and the answer to that question is we are not. The question about what would we do is, with all due respect, a hypothetical question because no such decision has been made and therefore to start speculating on alternatives would be completely wrong on my part.
(Mr Lewis) Yes. I think the criteria that was used - and I was not the Minister responsible at the time - was largely related to disadvantaged areas, and there was no political determination whatsoever in the way that ----
(Mr Lewis) I am sorry, I thought you were saying party political. It is disadvantaged young people. As we know, EMAs are targeted; you have to be on a particular income to be eligible and to qualify for an EMA. What we have tried to do is have a controlled approach to the evaluation. So we have got areas which we feel are similar, which the department is aware of, where we have EMAs running in one area and not in another and the evaluation is comparing the outcomes in terms of two, if you like, areas with a similar social profile, in terms of where they have EMAs and where they do not have EMAs. That is the most credible way of judging whether EMAs are working.
(Mr Lewis) Yes, as far as I am aware there are some areas in the pilot with very different social profiles. Yes, I think the majority are in deprived areas but it is not exclusively in deprived areas. Of course, there are pockets of deprivation in areas that are regarded as affluent, if you look at all the social indices, and that is one of the issues that has been raised by many Parliamentary colleagues where EMAs do not apply. They have asked that question. At the end of the day, clearly, one of the reasons why we have got to make our minds up post the pilot is because it is not justifiable to maintain a situation where only 30 per cent of the country, from a geographical point of view, has coverage. I would accept that, in the future determination, there must be a strong recognition of the fact that there are - and I think this is probably a comment on our funding system generally and not just in terms of EMAs or education - areas which are regarded by the indices as being affluent and relatively successful, yet within those areas there are significant pockets of deprivation, yet we have very few levers which allow us to recognise that, which is a major problem within the system. So I would accept the basis of the point you are making in terms of getting it, in the future, beyond the pilot, and making sure we take account of all that.
Chairman: I think Andrew is getting nervous because the last time we had a minister here he slipped through the Committee that EAZs (?) were at an end, so I am just wondering if quietly we might see the end of EMAs.
(Mr Lewis) First of all, effectiveness. There are 15 Connexions partnerships, out of 47, that are now up and running. Forty-seven will be up and running by the end of 2002/2003. Twelve of those 15 began life, if you like, up and running properly from 1 April this year; three began in September. The early evidence, because, as you know, there was also a pilot phase for a twelve-month period prior to April - and it is very, very early evidence - is that for a very significant number of young people who have benefited from the Connexions intervention (predominantly a personal adviser intervention) the feedback is that it has made a significant difference and has been a real support, and that they felt it has been a different relationship with an adult adviser than previous relationships they feel they have had with people in a school setting or another setting. I think that is very, very encouraging, but it is too early. If I may say to the Committee, one of the difficulties we have sometimes in this country is we set up new structures - whether it be Connexions partnerships or Learning and Skills Councils - and within days or weeks or months people are (not the Committee, I hasten to add) casing aspersions on them and undermining them and saying AThey are not working@. I think we have got to learn to give structures a chance to work before we make credible and sensible judgments about them. Otherwise they will not work and we will end up in a situation where we actually set up things that fail. So that is a general point. The early evidence is good in terms of the young people=s view of the partnerships. I think the other absolutely essential issue is if Connexions is going to work you have to have on the ground the partners signed up to work together, whether it be youth services or social services or careers advisers or schools; you have to have a commitment. I was at the launch of a Connexions partnerships recently where the Chair stood up and he said AThe definition of partnership is the mutual suppression of mutual loathing in the pursuit of government money@. The Committee may be familiar with that. That was not part of the evaluation we have had, but one of the things the evaluation has highlighted is that where it is working well it is because the partners are genuinely engaged in working closely together, and where there is still some way to go it means that we have got to persuade, engage and get the active support and full participation of all the agencies in each locality to make it work. The early feedback is okay, but one of the things I am absolutely clear about, as the minister responsible, is that with it being a totally new service and a really exciting vision, it has all the potential to be one of the most radical developments for young people in a generation, but, also, if you do not respond to early evidence in terms of evaluation and intervene to put things right where they are not working and to change things around slightly or to moderate things, then we will miss a wonderful opportunity. I regard that as a part of my responsibility as a minister, to spot what is working and what is not at an early stage, to intervene and to make sure - and I do not mean in a heavy-handed way I mean in a way where we need to adjust policy or if we need to support development in a different way - that an exciting concept becomes a reality on the ground that makes a real difference on a day-to-day basis to young people=s lives. In terms of personal advisers, you are absolutely right that integral to the success of Connexions will be the quality, commitment and the training of personal advisers. We have a combination, we have some people who are working within existing services - whether it be youth work or social work or careers advice - who are fulfilling, I think, excellent roles as personal advisers. We also want to recruit people from outside of those professions. There will be a significant number of PA jobs being advertised up and down the country, so we want to recruit new people in. The sort of people I would like to see come in are some people with life experience and maturity, who have been in different professions or have disappeared from the labour market for a while to bring up families and want to go back in. Also, if we are talking about credibility and engagement with young people, would it not be nice to get some young people actually employed and working as personal advisers? In terms of the qualifications for this work, we have the Personal Adviser Diploma, which is a training course which people have the opportunity to take, and there is also a more basic, if you like, top-up course for those people who may have many years of experience as a youth worker or a social worker. Ultimately, we want to create a high-quality qualification and status for that qualification.
(Mr Lewis) Can I answer the question on young people=s voice, which is very important? I know you are one of the most supportive MPS in terms of Connexions, and we are grateful for that. On young people=s voice, the first thing I would say is that it is important that we genuinely involve young people in the development, the shaping and the evaluation of this service, and that we do not do what we have done in the past, which is talk about involving young people and consulting young people and we go through the motions and do it in a tokenistic way. So we need to make sure there is a credibility to the fact that they are involved. Some of them, by the way, have been involved in going on personnel training courses and then interviewing personal advisers. That is an interesting and significant breakthrough. The final point I would make is that Connexions is a universal service, so it is important that it involves and provides an opportunity for all young people to be involved in the shaping, the design and the evaluation. However, the most difficult and complex engagement with young people is with young people who are disengaged and disadvantaged. Therefore, you need to be - and this is one of the issues about the future of youth services in this country - imaginative, innovative and credible to get to those hard-to-reach young people and find new methods and approaches that we have never used before and not try and repeat the same old methods that have failed.
(Mr Lewis) I see it as an opportunity, Chairman. Just talking about local authority youth services, whether they be directly provided by local authorities or funded by local authorities through voluntary organisations, what we have seen in recent years, undoubtedly - not everywhere but in most parts of the country - is a significant run-down in terms of resources and, also, I think, increasing questions I have to say about quality and standards. The two have gone together. You could say this is all about money but I do not think it is all about money. Some of it is about money and when LEAs have to make difficult choices about either putting money in schools or putting money into youth services, schools will win every time. What I have tried to do since I became the minister is build on the work that was put in place by my predecessor Malcolm Wicks in terms of what was described as the Atransforming youth work process@. What this was, effectively, was consultation with the youth service sector to say AYouth services have been run-down, they are not working and we really need to reassert the importance of and reassert the value of both the youth work role and the status of youth services.@ We have done a whole consultation with the sector, very detailed, very lengthy, and I have to say we have more opportunity now than we have had, I think, for ten years to do something positive about youth services, because the sector - the professionals - are very much working with the Government and feel that the Government is listening at last and cares about their service. What we have outlined, Chairman, in terms of youth services is that we will be addressing the following issues in the next few months (and this is as a result of the transforming youth work consultation): first of all, a common planning framework and quality standards for youth services, so that is absolutely clear; a review of qualification training and a national introduction of management training for youth workers; a clarification of the potential relationship - strong integral relationship - between the development of the Connexions service and youth work services provided by, until now, local education authorities, and, perhaps most excitingly of all, the specification of what adequacy and sufficiency means in terms of youth services. If you like, that is the equivalent. In Wales they have chosen to put youth services on a statutory footing. We believe the specification of adequacy and sufficiency is every bit potentially as powerful because what it does is, for the first time, clarify exactly what is adequate and sufficient in an individual area in terms of what we would expect from youth services. You have the OFSTED inspection option in terms of youth services (they now inspect these services) and the Secretary of State under existing legislation does have a power to intervene to suggest a local authority has got to improve its youth services. It is very difficult to use, though, because we have no baseline for them to judge adequacy and sufficiency. In terms of resources, we have just introduced a new development fund, if you like a Standards Fund, in partnership with the sector over the next two years, which will be specifically targeted at raising standards and capacity in local authority areas.. So there will be money given for specific targeted purposes to raise standards and improve the provision, and that is separate to the money that comes through Standard Spending Assessments. We believe it is about ,300 million, which is a lot of money. Even within SSAs now, they should be being spent, to a large extent, on youth services. What I am trying to say to you, Chairman, is that if you add that to the development of Connexions where there is significantly more money going into Connexions than was going into the Careers Service, for example, if you look at that as a plan, as a vision, for the next three or four years, I am very optimistic that as Connexions rolls out we can do something to reassert the importance and value of youth services. By the way, all the evidence from the Northern towns which you referred to earlier, Chairman, demonstrates the difficulties of the Northern towns and demonstrates that one of the problems is youth services. As we bring all of that together I am more confident and optimistic that we can reassert the importance and the value of a youth service infrastructure within each community, because it is no good us talking at national level about aspirations unless people in their local area, as the Chairman said, feel that those services are available. I am very optimistic that we can do that.
Chairman: Moving on a little, we will have the last bite on this particular section from our new Member of the Committee, John Baron. We would be at full complement today, Minister, but two of our Members are, in fact, on a Standing Committee on Adoption, so they have sent their apologies.
(Mr Lewis) Can I just respond to the Connexions point, as it is important to remember always that Connexions is a universal service, it is not a targeted service in the same way. So although there will be differential levels of support depending on the needs of young people - because some young people need a lot more support than others - Connexions will be a universal service. The point that the Honourable Member makes is absolutely correct. It is important that we join up all these initiatives and that there is a consistency of approach; that they re working together towards exactly the same objectives. What I am trying to do, in terms of my efficiency and effectiveness role in the department, is create various specific initiatives. One is to look at customer focus across the department. I talked earlier about young people, but we have a whole range of customers; we have parents, particularly, as well as young people and then we have all the people on the front line who we expect to deliver quality education and learning opportunities. I have established a group within the department which is looking at the department=s whole approach to customer focus and making sure that we get that right. We are also looking at the relationship with our partners - all the intermediary bodies that we expect in communities up and down the country to deliver the Government=s objectives, priorities and resources - to make sure that our relationship with them is right, is consistent and is appropriate. If it is not, the Government can set down all the frameworks it likes, the objectives and make the money available, but if the people through whom it is being filtered and who are expected, at the sharp end, to be the interface with the learning institutions, the schools and the colleges, are not right then it is going to undermine and dilute all that we are trying to achieve. So customer focus, ensuring that we have a strategic and much higher quality approach to the way we interact with partners and, also, as I said earlier in response to the Chairman, making sure that ministers where they have areas which either link or have cross-overs meet on a regular basis - senior officials too - and make sure that we look at things as a ministerial team.
(Mr Lewis) Very, very much so. My whole life, prior to entering Parliament - when I had a life - was working in the voluntary sector for a while when I left school. So I am a great fan and a passionate believer in the importance of the voluntary sector. I believe the voluntary sector is often innovative, it is at the sharp end, it can make a real difference in a way that statutory bodies cannot and do not. They are certainly in my areas of responsibility. If you think about Connexions, for example, and youth services, the engagement of the partnership with voluntary organisations is absolutely essential to us being able to deliver what we want to deliver. They are often more in touch with young people and more comfortable with young people than statutory organisations.
(Mr Lewis) I will give an example. In Connexions we have made it clear that the Connexions partnerships will be expected to spend a significant proportion of their money on services provided by the voluntary sector. From January we are going to be making resources available to allow voluntary sector staff, in terms of replacing the lost time and funding, to train to become personal advisers. So I would say to you that it is basically about ensuring that in all the guidance and in all the requirements you set out for the services that you are responsible for you always insist that partnership with voluntary organisations is central to that and, more to the point, you define - if you can - without being prescriptive what you mean by a partnership. Too often what happens is that statutory agencies produce draft strategic and policy documents, say to voluntary organisations AYou have got two days to respond@, produce the final document and say AThis was a partnership document produced by statutory and voluntary agencies locally@. That is not partnership. Partnership is about voluntary organisations, in my view, being there at the beginning, shaping and developing services. For example, the voluntary sector is represented on all Connexions partnership boards.
Chairman: We are coming on to a rapid-fire half-hour, the last half-hour, where I am going to push you on short answers, because I want to get through some very important topics, starting with the funding of sixth forms.
(Mr Lewis) We have made no commitment to a timescale, we have expressed an aspiration and believe that it is right that that convergence takes place but we have said quite clearly that it is in the context of available resources. It really returns us to the discussion that the Chairman was quite rightly raising earlier about the different choices and different priorities that have to be made. Therefore, the aspiration is there should be convergence, the decision will be made in the context of available resources and all the other decisions that have to be made.
(Mr Lewis) I think it would be very unlikely.
(Mr Lewis) There is no time limit, it is more than an aspiration and, at the moment, it is a guarantee.
(Mr Lewis) It is a guarantee.
(Mr Lewis) It is a guarantee. It was in the Labour Party=s Manifesto at the general election, therefore, it is a guarantee.
(Mr Lewis) It will remain a guarantee during the period the Labour Party Manifesto takes effect for this term and the Government will, no doubt, return to this subject at a later stage.
(Mr Lewis) Yes.
(Mr Lewis) It depends.
(Mr Lewis) I think, again, we need to look at this in the context of the issue as a whole. There is the fact that we will have a much bigger idea very soon of the overall cost in terms of where numbers in school sixth-forms, for example, are dropping significantly and where they remain the same. The real terms guarantee is linked, as you know, to pupil numbers. So that is absolutely integral to the real terms guarantee. There is also the LSC=s responsibility for looking at 16-19 provision generally in the area of inspection plans and the new responsibilities that they have there. Clearly, one of the issues that will have to be addressed over the next few years in terms of the LSCs responsibilities in terms of defining high-quality provision at 16-19 in each locality is the consequences of differential funding levels in different institutions. That is something that will have to be addressed as part of that process.
(Mr Lewis) The answer is that we are not in the short-term going to be in a position to change that. We have acknowledged that from a policy point of view and from a reality point of view we need to achieve that convergence over a period of time, but that is not going to change within the next year, 18 months or two years. It is going to have to be in the context of difficult decisions made about the spending review and, also, the amount of money that we make available to Learning and Skills Councils.
Chairman: I hope the alarm bells are ringing.
(Mr Lewis) I think for school sixth-forms to, ultimately, be successful, if a school wishes to create a new sixth-form, then there will have to be a linkage between that and the existing provision within the area. If you simply say any school that wishes to can set up a sixth-form without any regard to the rest of the provision, collaborative and partnership ----
(Mr Lewis) We believe there is an important place for school sixth-forms within the system, and for more and new school sixth-forms. There is no suggestion, as far as I am concerned, that that will be irrespective of existing provision, as defined by the LSC , both in terms of quality and capacity with regard to whether those new applications talk about collaborative and partnership arrangements with existing institutions. All of that will have to be considered before we make decisions to spend money on the expansion of school sixth-forms. It has got to be a credible, robust application which demonstrates a need and a justification, and fits with our raising standards agenda but also fits within the provision for a particular area.
(Mr Lewis) I would accept that if we simply said there was going to be significant expansion of school sixth-forms and there were no other changes or reconfigurations within 16-19 provision anywhere in the country, that would be accurate. However, we also know that, as we home in on this phase of education, we have area inspection reports, we have the new responsibility of the LSC, and it is very, very important that we ensure that in each area there is appropriate provision and relevant provision and, therefore, there is appropriate configuration. We will not be imposing that. If this is a popular local facility that seems to be working well, the Government is not going to close it down, but if it is a sixth-form - be it a college or a school - and it is clear that numbers have declined to such an extent that parents do not regard it as a valued option any more, it is by stealth in decline, we have got to do something about it. It would be irresponsible simply to allow that situation to continue.
(Mr Lewis) You can probably answer the question better than I can, really. I will try. It is complicated. There has been a significant consultation process and we wanted to get this as right as you can get it when you are moving from one system to another. We believe the approach that we have adopted does reflect more what people have said they wanted than not. So we have tried to listen. The baseline starting point is the amount of funding that was allocated via LEAs based on what they tell us for the year 2000/2001 - the beginning of that financial year - based on the information they have provided to the department in terms of what they were spending on school sixth-forms. In terms of numbers, at what point do we look at: AHas there been a decline or an increase or have numbers stayed the same?@ We are talking about the September 2001 figures. So those are the baseline indicators, if you like. There is a guaranteed increase, I think, over a two-year period in terms of inflation of 3 per cent per year. In terms of increases or reductions in numbers, I think the figure that has been agreed is ,2,600 per pupil. So that is the sort of starting point. That is the framework and, clearly, the Learning and Skills Councils - and it has been based on very in-depth consultation, as I say, and trying to get consensus - has to work on that framework and that financial regime.
(Mr Lewis) I think there would have to be a consideration by the LSC of a significant or unusual set of circumstances which led to a one-year blip which did not seem to be logical or did not seem to make any sense. We would have to look at the possibility of the LSC using some discretion in those circumstances. In most cases, however, the formula I outlined will be the one used. That will be the starting point. I accept that that can lead to situations where you may have one year where something unusual or out of the ordinary happens, and there will be an opportunity for the LSC to consider that in the context of an individual institution where that happens, but the financial regime is as I have outlined. I acknowledge it is very difficult from day one when there is such a shift, to get it right. I think they have got it as right as we can get it.
Paul Holmes: So the implication could be that just one year=s drop, for whatever reason, that is it, you lose the guarantee. Also on that B I am sorry, I have lost the thread.
Chairman: Jeff Ennis can come in, and we will come back to you.
(Mr Lewis) I think we have to look at ensuring that we do value FE provision in the way that it should be valued and recognise that it has an absolutely essential part to play. One of the things that we are looking at at the moment, for example, in response to the sector making some very strong and, I think, fair representations to us, is the whole issue of bureaucracy and red tape, audit, different funding streams which go in to the colleges. This has been a ----
Chairman: The question was specifically pay.
(Mr Lewis) We have to address that in due course. Again, we have to do that in the context of limited financial resources and hard choices. I probably sound like the iron Chancellor now!
(Mr Lewis) The Secretary of State made an important speech this week in this particular area of policy, which was generally, as I understand it, well-received by the sector, where she made it absolutely clear that we are extremely committed to the integral and central role that FE plays, and that we understand and acknowledge there are difficulties that we have to address. That is the starting point. We clearly need to look at terms and conditions and we clearly need to look at the quality of provision. We need to look at that in the round.
(Mr Lewis) We would like to see, I guess, two things: we would like to see a clearer focus with regard to performance and we would also like to look at the terms and conditions of staff. If they are not being paid the appropriate amount to attract and retain high-quality and high-calibre people, then any government that is responsible has to consider that.
(Mr Lewis) It is true that whenever we meet employers they say AIt=s a shame we do not have apprenticeship any more@. However, as I became aware recently, obviously, we do have not only an apprenticeship but a very good one in terms of modern apprenticeships. The Cassell Commission, which has now reported, which has looked at modern apprenticeships in a variety of ways, has come up with some very important and very useful recommendations as to how we make modern apprenticeships of high-quality, how we make them readily available and how we persuade and encourage as many employers as possible to offer modern apprenticeship opportunities to young people. The Government and the Learning and Skills Councils will be responding formally to the Cassell recommendations next week, and one of the fundamental outcomes of that will be that we will invest a significant amount of resources and effort in marketing and promoting modern apprenticeships, both to young people - because it is very important that they see them as a high-value, high-status option route - and employers. As a consequence of the Cassell recommendations and the Government=s response, in a sense, what that does is put the framework down and creates a structure and a vision for the direction of what we intend to do to raise the profile, increase the number of young people going down the modern apprenticeships route and raise the status of that route for young people.
(Mr Lewis) Absolutely. I think one of the issues for Government as well as specifically dealing with the FESs is that it is okay when we talk about connecting with business to talk about AWe met today with the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce@; we all know that what is equally if not more important than that is to get into communities at a grass roots level and to connect many of the Government=s initiatives with the small businesses - whether it be the one-person businesses, the businesses that only employ five people or those that employ 30 or 40 people - because they are at the cutting edge of our economy. They are often the people that are actually quite close to the fabric of the community in a variety of ways - schools, colleges, community activities - their children go to local schools and, therefore, there needs to be much better linkages and relationships and partnerships between those SMEs in localities and education and learning institutions. That will be, by the way, very central to the vision that we have in terms of not only modern apprenticeships but in terms of a new, distinct approach to 14-19 education.
(Mr Lewis) No, but I am about to be!
(Mr Lewis) Fair point, Chairman. It is one of the reasons why Cassells was commissioned to do his report and it is one of the reasons why, not only are we going to introduce new GCSEs, as you know, but I am very clear that one of the problems is we do not attach negative labels to qualifications. It has now been agreed within the department - and some people may snigger at this - that we now refer to them as Anew GCSEs in vocational subjects@ rather than AVocational GCSEs@. I hope, in due course, we will drop the word Ain vocational subjects@. I think if we are serious about this, parents, young people and employers, have to see parity of esteem and have to see work-based learning as a high-value option. We have to see young people from a variety of backgrounds feeling that that route, in conjunction with traditional academic study, is an appropriate route for young people to take.
(Mr Lewis) I give you that guarantee. I can also give you a guarantee that in terms of our response to the modern apprenticeship report and what I believe is one of the most significant, potential and exciting changes to education in this country with regard to 14-19, the importance and the status of high-valued, high-quality routes for all young people is going to be absolutely integral. Chairman, if I can just very quickly explain: if at 19 you are going to be eligible (and this is an option, it is not definite but we can explore it, as everybody knows, as part of the overarching certificate concept) for the overarching certificate, which, as I say, is not decided but we are considering it and the principles are outlined in the White Paper with a detailed document due in January, through a variety of options, either through what a lot of young people do now, an academic route, or a route which is a combination of academic and practical subjects, or a route which has exclusively a practical base, if we get to the situation where we do that, that will drive a process in terms of education where there is a far stronger commitment to parity of esteem and equality in terms of those various routes. I am very committed to that. I also think that we need to remember that modern apprenticeships, for example, or practical, vocational-type learning within schools can lead to a degree. There is the assumption that it cannot, that somehow it is separate - it is not. Although we have a clear target of 50 per cent of young people having access to higher education, I also think it is very important that we make strong statements about the other 50 per cent as well. Modern apprenticeship as a more practically based route for those young people is no less important socially, in terms of social justice, nor in terms of economic success in the long-term. We have written off far too many young people. One of the reasons for that is if at 14 we do not offer a young person a flexible package of learning which builds on their strengths and their aspirations and what they are good at and, instead, we say AIf you do not fit into this rigid set of options you have failed@, then we are asking for the trouble that we get as a consequence of that approach.
Chairman: That is music to our ears.
(Mr Lewis) Not yet.
(Mr Lewis) I have great regard for the importance of credible, strong, effective and professional careers advice to young people as being very, very important, but the Careers Service as a separate entity will not exist once Connexions is rolled out nationally. What will be integral to the work and responsibility of Connexions will be, as part of this removing any obstacle and any barrier which gets in the way of young people doing well 13-19, about sound and high-quality careers advice with people who will be personal advisers but personal advisers who will specialise and focus on specifically careers advice. There will be individual partnership agreements between the Connexions service and each learning institution - school or college - which will be clear about the level of service that that institution and those young people can expect from that adviser. As I would say to you, some young people will require intensive, extensive, on-going input, but other young people will not require that. It will very much depend from individual to individual. It is very important.
(Mr Lewis) I think I do. One of the first speeches - probably the first speech I made but I have made so many I have forgotten - was about Connexions service, saying this is a universal service, and with universal services many of them differentiate in terms of the level of activity and intervention, depending on the needs of the people receiving help.
(Mr Lewis) I very passionately believe that that should be an option for young people. A lot of young people do not feel that opportunities that most people in this room take for granted are for them, because they have no experience of them in their family, their community, their school - whether that be university or whether it be the whole concept of starting a small business. We all know that many of the young people we are talking about, if you look at what switches them on and what they are good at, many of them would be entrepreneurs of the future if we tapped into what they are good at rather than focussing on what they are not so good at. I am totally with you on that.
Chairman: Paul Holmes got cut off when he lost his thread earlier, but I think he has found his thread again.
Paul Holmes: I think I was so stunned by what you said. If I was still a head of sixth form I think I would be quite worried now because looking back over the last 12 years I am sure for at least four, possibly five, our numbers in the sixth form would have dipped; so at least a third of that time. You seem to be saying that just one dip in one year means you lose that guarantee. There are a number of questions here which you might want to come back on in a written answer. Are you saying that a drop of 1 per cent would be enough to cut off your guarantee for funding, or is there a band? Are you saying that 1 per cent would be too small, that you need 5 per cent or 10 per cent? Or is it with just a drop however small, that is it, you lose your guarantee for funding? Are you looking at the whole sixth form numbers, Year 12 and 13, or in-take into Year 12? For example, one of the points about AS levels is that students who have shouldered on for two years to get A levels and do badly at the end, might now leave at the end of Year 12 with an AS level having achieved something rather than going on for two years and getting nothing at all, and that might affect overall numbers in sixth forms if it is going to work in that flexible way. Are you judging the figures on the in-take in September or when Form 7 is done in February or on the numbers still on the course in June or July? Are local schools councils having total autonomy across all 40-odd Skills Councils in how they interpret this or is it a central judgment from the Learning and Skills Councils?
(Mr Lewis) I do not think we should forget the fact that a number of schools will see significant increases in the number of people attending sixth forms, nobody has addressed that, and will therefore benefit substantially. The fact there is a 3 per cent increase per year over two years you could probably argue is significantly above inflation actually, so in terms of cushioning with regard to fluctuations in terms of numbers there is that as well which we should not forget. The final point I would make is, no, we would expect there to be a consistency of approach across the Learning and Skills Councils with regard to these policies rather than different approaches in different areas. On the AS level progression point, I have to say, whatever the criticisms of AS levels the evidence suggests that ultimately AS levels lead to people staying on rather than saying, AWe can get an AS level and then drop out@.
(Mr Lewis) I will write to Mr Holmes with the relevant information.
(Mr Lewis) We would say that most head teachers and governing bodies in this country now do their best to support young people stay within their educational environment and understand the importance of doing that, and that exclusion is seen not as a first resort but a last resort. We believe that is largely because of the policies we pursued in our first term of government, that we did try and ensure the pendulum reversed in certain situations where we felt anyway it had often been too easy an option to exclude young people, that it was important to put that right and to make sure we did not have any levers in the system which encouraged people to not try perhaps as hard as they needed to do with young people who would be able to stay within the school system with some additional support. We believe we achieved a lot in the first term in that respect and now, having done that, having established that culture and that set of principles and those targets, we have to recognise there are young people within schools who make life so intolerable, for whatever reason either on a short-term or a long-term basis, for teachers and for their fellow pupils that it is frankly irresponsible not to give head teachers the chance to deal with them in a responsible manner.
(Mr Lewis) No, I do not see a contradiction.
Mr Baron: This is broadening it out slightly, but the National Council of Citizens Advice Bureaux this morning came out with a report suggesting that what they find particularly worrying is the lack of financial knowledge that young people have when they leave schools. I know this is broadening it out from young people at risk, but many people are leaving educational establishments and getting further into debt, being subject to unscrupulous practices by lending companies and so forth. What is your Department going to do about trying to, if you like, put people on some sort of very brief financial course covering the basics - mortgages, interest rates and so forth - so they are not such easy prey when they leave school?
Chairman: I was at the launch, it was yesterday morning actually.
(Mr Lewis) I think this is a valid point. In many schools there is some quite innovative work going on in terms of young people in the early years of secondary education, which I have seen personally, which is getting them to think of linking careers to financial rewards and also lifestyle consequences, if you like. So if you want to be whatever, this is the amount of money you are likely to get, and this is the impact on your lifestyle.
(Mr Lewis) I think it is fair to say ----
(Mr Lewis) Howard Davies is also a wonderful Manchester City supporter, which is more important.
Chairman: I knew there was something wrong with him!
(Mr Lewis) He is doing a review of enterprise in education, and that is slightly different, Chairman, it is about creating more entrepreneurial spirit, enterprising activity within schools, similar to the point Mr Pollard made. What we would say is we are not going to impose from the centre a requirement that schools give young people a prescribed course on financial management. We believe however, if you look at the citizenship agenda, the citizenship part of the curriculum which will come in next September, that is a very logical part of that teaching process, talking to young people about financial responsibility and about financial management issues.
Mr Baron: So you are saying it will be included in the citizenship course?
Chairman: It could be.
(Mr Lewis) Nobody has tried to take out one against me just yet despite the behaviour of my kids! I think the answer is, no, I am not satisfied. I sat on the Crime and Disorder Bill early on in the last Parliament in 1998, I think, and while I participated in the Committee I felt we passed some very important legislation which was very consistent with what the public was telling us for many years in this country about what was affecting the quality of their lives and their communities, and that was to do with the anti-social behaviour, to do with lack of parental responsibility, to do with gangs of people terrorising others, all of those issues. It seems to me in that context the implementation of many of the new powers which our legislation gave to the agencies on the ground - the local authorities and the police - has been patchy to say the least. As a constituency MP as much as an Education Minister, I am not satisfied that enough of those orders have been used by the local authorities and the police, having said for years, AWe need new powers, we need enhanced powers, to deal with this behaviour undermining the quality of people=s lives@. We should not reach for the parenting order and the anti-social behaviour order as the first option but there reaches a time when you have to protect the decent majority and at the same time support and help somebody who might be behaving in that way because either they do not have positive role models in terms of parenting or parents are struggling to cope or young people have no boundaries. People talk about discipline, particularly the Daily Mail, but they never talk about love. We have large numbers of young people in this country who have neither love nor discipline. I am very passionate about that and in some ways you wonder whether those agencies charged with seeking those orders have, in a sense, subverted the will of Parliament by not using those orders in a way which we would expect. As I say, for years we were told, AWe have not got enough powers to tackle these fundamental problems in our community@. Parliament makes those powers available and then not enough of them are used and you have to ask some serious questions about why that has happened. I have never said this should be the first resort, nobody in Government or no MP has ever talked about using them as a first resort, but when problems reach a particular stage surely there should be an intervention. Where parents have been the subject of these orders, it might sound strange, many of them have talked very positively about the programme of support they had as a consequence of being served with a parenting order, which is not very nice to start with, I am sure, but the support which has flowed from that has really supported those parents and has not actually been, a lot of the evidence suggests, particularly stigmatising. On the contrary, it has supported them to do what they want to do in most cases, which is bring up their children well.
(Mr Lewis) I suppose with a name like Ivan I have a chance! I think the honest answer to that is that I am responsible for deregulation and I take that responsibility probably more seriously than just as an add on part of my range of duties and responsibilities. I hope that was reflected, if you read it in the White Paper, in that there was a whole section - and I am not sure that has happened very often before certainly in an Education White Paper - which talked about deregulation. As I have said, central to the Bill there will be various measures to free up successful schools and leaders of education institutions generally performing well, allowing them far more discretion and flexibility to run their schools and colleges in the way they feel they should. But I do not make apologies for getting that balance between accountability and standards and transparency and allowing people to run their institutions and make locally-based decisions which they feel are right. It is a very delicate balance. We can never go back, Chairman, to the days when there was insufficient accountability, there was not a clear commitment to standards, and as a consequence of that too many of our young people in my view were failed by our education and learning system. In terms of my commitment, in the Department we are looking at regulation in FE at the moment, we have to do something about it. The concerns from the centre, where they are legitimate, not where they are simply saying, AWe do not like accountability@ - because sometimes you get that - need to be tackled. I am also determined to build into the mainstream culture of the Department an analysis of whether a new piece of legislation or a new regulation is absolutely necessary, or whether we can use existing structures, existing processes, to achieve the same outcome without piling on additional bureaucracy. We are doing a piece of work at the moment in terms of our interaction with local education authorities, do we send them too much paper and too much information. Is that done in a proper way. We all know we are waiting for the PricewaterhouseCooper report on burdens particularly in relation to teachers, but I want to build into the Department not a group of officials who are responsible for deregulation but that it is in the mainstream thinking of all officials, first of all, how we ensure when we implement new policy we do it in a way which minimises burdens and red tape, but secondly where in our responsibilities are we finding there are obstacles which are getting in the way of us achieving what we need to achieve when in fact if we use the new powers the Government has given, the regulatory reform orders, we can get rid of those obstacles and remove them. So it is a cultural shift in the way the Department thinks and the way it works. I regard it as one of my significant responsibilities and not just an add-on. I think Stalinist was a bit strong, Chairman.
(Mr Lewis) Thank you very much, Chairman.