Select Committee on Liaison First Report


APPENDIX D

EDUCATION AND SKILLS COMMITTEE

Memorandum to the Liaison Committee

1.  In March 2000, in its Report, Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive, the Liaison Committee asked each departmental select committee to provide an annual report on its activities and the impact of its recommendations.[48] The Education and Employment Committee, which had not previously produced such a Report, chose in their first 'annual' Report, to cover the period from the Committee's nomination in July 1997 to the end of 2000. That Report was published in January 2000 as the First Special Report from the Education and Employment Committee of 2000-01.[49]

2.  In its follow-up Report, Shifting the Balance: Unfinished Business, the Liaison Committee stated:

"Committee annual reports have provided exactly the audit of effectiveness and working methods that we had envisaged. They have also created invaluable introductory and briefing material for each committee; we expect that recent annual reports will become required reading for new Ministers, new committee members, officials, witnesses, and indeed anyone who wants to know how a particular committee goes about its business ... annual reports should help improve public information and understanding".[50]

3.  Just before the June 2001 general election, the Education and Employment Committee published its Tenth Special Report reflecting on activities in the last few months of the last Parliament. Taken together, these two Reports provided a complete examination of the work of the Education and Employment Committee in the 1997-2001 Parliament. A complete list of Reports and Special Reports made during the Parliament appears at the back of the Tenth Special Report of 2000-01.[51]

4.  The Liaison Committee has now requested reports from each select committee in January 2002 on progress made since the last Report to the Liaison Committee.

Re-structuring of Government Departments

5.  The break-up of the Department for Education and Employment following the 2001 General election was not unexpected. The Education and Employment Committee had taken evidence from the then Permanent Secretary of the DfEE and his designated successor [now Permanent Secretary at the DfES] on Tuesday 1 May 2001.[52] Sir Michael Bichard, the DfEE's Permanent Secretary, told the Education and Employment Committee:

"It is very, very important that whatever the machinery of government after the election, the interdependence of education and employment, the links between them, is acknowledged and worked upon very, very hard. In a knowledge economy education and employment are the keys to economic success, but also to social justice. We must make sure that the bridges we built are maintained in whatever setting."[53]

Mr David Normington, then the DfEE Director General for Schools and now the DfES Permanent Secretary, made a similar point:

"Wherever you draw the dividing lines, there is always another organisation that you have to work with. We have to work very closely with the DSS now and if the dividing line is drawn in other places, then you have other kinds of organisational synergies which you have to create. I think I am saying to you that providing you know what your objectives are and you work hard at those objectives and they are shared between different kinds of organisation, you can make different kinds of organisational structures work. We have put a lot of effort into creating the DfEE. Personally I put a lot of effort into it and it will be disappointing if it is broken up, but you can make different kinds of organisations work."[54]

6.  One of our tasks as a select committee over the course of this Parliament will be to assess to what extent the new organisational structures have enhanced or reduced the performance of the Government in delivering its education and skills programme.

7.  The House of Commons approved the consequent package of changes proposed by the Government to Standing Orders on Thursday 5 July 2001. The Education and Skills Committee was appointed to comprise 11 Members, with a quorum of three — the typical size for a departmentally-related select committee.

8.  The Education and Employment Committee had been appointed under Standing Order No. 152 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Education and Employment (DfEE) and its associated public bodies, with power to appoint two Sub-committees. That Committee decided, not without some internal debate, to appoint two separate Sub-committees each with its own Chairman. In practice the Education Sub-committee and the Employment Sub-committee operated independently, with little overlap of membership.[55] A few inquiries were conducted by the full Education and Employment Committee where both Sub-committees had an interest in the subject.

9.  In common with most of the S.O. No. 152 Committees, the Education and Skills Committee has the power to appoint one sub-committee. We welcome the flexibility this power gives us in choosing how we should operate most effectively. At this early stage of the Parliament we have preferred to work entirely at the full Committee level. The problem with a single Sub-committee is that if it were given a permanent remit and a defined membership — a Skills Sub-committee, for instance — some Members would in effect be excluded from some committee activities while others would be expected to work twice as hard. We can see no real advantage in designating a permanent Sub-committee comprising the whole Committee membership, and potential disadvantages in the whole membership having to go through a two-stage process to agree Reports on Sub-committee issues. We expect instead to use our power to appoint a Sub-committee from time to time to enable us to set up a consecutive series of separate 'task forces' to carry out specific projects.

10.  Another part of the package of changes agreed to by the House on Thursday 5 July 2001 was the re-wording of the provisions relating to the power to work with other select committees which are now in S.O. No.137A. We look forward to exploring innovative ways of developing more joined-up scrutiny of areas where the Government is attempting more joined-up policy — issues of particular concern to us could include prison education in England [with the Home Affairs Committee], Sure Start [with the Health Committee] or Regulatory Reform Orders affecting education [with the Deregulation and Regulatory Reform Committee].

The work of the Committee

11.  In approaching our task of scrutinising the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Education and Skills, we decided to begin with what educationalists call a 'baseline assessment':

    "When children start school, either in reception class or year 1, teachers assess what each child knows, understands and can do. This is known as baseline assessment. It normally takes place as part of everyday classroom activities. Baseline assessment helps teachers to plan the curriculum appropriately and provide learning activities that match each child's needs. It also provides a starting point from which schools can measure and monitor children's progress. This lets them check whether children are achieving as well as they ought to as they move up the school."[56]

12.  We invited each of the six Ministers to appear before us to set out what they hope to achieve over the next four to five years at the DfES. We are very grateful to the Secretary of State and each Minister on her team for the positive way they embraced this opportunity to develop a new partnership with the select committee. We particularly acknowledge Mr John Healey's readiness to return in January to discuss his responsibilities for Adult Skills after his first appearance in November was almost wholly taken up with discussion of Individual Learning Accounts.

DateName Job titlePrinted
24 October 2001Rt Hon Estelle Morris MP Secretary of State for Education and Skills HC 304-i
7 November 2001Baroness [Catherine] Ashton of Upholland Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Early Years and School Standards HC 304-ii
14 November 2001Mr Stephen Timms MP Minister of State for School Standards HC 304-iii
21 November 2001Mr Ivan Lewis MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Young people and Learning HC 304-iv
28 November 2001Mr John Healey MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Adult Skills HC 304-v
12 December 2001Margaret Hodge MBE MP Minister of State for Lifelong Learning and Higher Education HC 304-vi
16 January 2002Mr John Healey MP continued Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Adult Skills HC 304-vii

13.  We have continued our predecessors' regular scrutiny of the work of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools and the non-Ministerial Government Department which he heads, the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED). We took oral evidence from Mr Mike Tomlinson, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, and his senior colleagues on Wednesday 5 December 2001 about the work of OFSTED.[57] We suggest that the House authorities should allow the publication on the internet of uncorrected transcripts of evidence given by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, as the head of a non-Ministerial Government Department, in the same way as is currently allowed for Ministers.

14.  The Education and Skills Committee's work so far this Session has also included follow-up inquiries on further education[58] and post-16 student support.[59] Taken together with the work on OFSTED and the debates in Westminster Hall [see below], this has ensured that the new Committee membership has swiftly acquired a reasonable familiarity with the broad outlines of the Committee's work in the last Parliament.

15.  Scrutiny of the "associated public bodies" is an important part of our remit. We have had our first evidence session with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council, which has been described as "the largest quango in the United Kingdom".[60] The Learning and Skills Council [LSC] was established as a corporate body in July 2000 and came fully into effect from 2 April 2001. The LSC brings together the work previously undertaken by the Training and Enterprise Councils, the Further Education Funding Council, the National Advisory Council for Education and Training Targets and parts of the former DfEE. We aim to hold scrutiny sessions with the LSC at least once a year. We have already taken evidence from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.[61] Other non-departmental public bodies with whom we plan to develop close links include the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and the Teacher Training Agency.

16.  The Leader of the House suggested in his memorandum to the Modernisation Committee that post-legislative scrutiny should be given more attention by select committees.[62] Our examination of OFSTED's Director for Early Years constitutes in effect post-legislative scrutiny of part of the Care Standards Act 2000, and our scrutiny of the Learning and Skills Council could fairly be described as post-legislative scrutiny of the Learning and Skills Act 2000.

17.  Each of the six teaching trades unions has accepted an invitation to give oral evidence in public to the Committee in January on their priorities and perspectives for education over the course of this Parliament. Engaging in public discussion with key stakeholders adds a valuable dimension to our work scrutinising Government.

Membership and turnover

18.  In the last Parliament, the Standing Order fixed the size of the Education and Employment Committee as 17 Members. No provision was made in Standing Orders regarding the size of the membership of the Sub-committees. In practice the Education Sub-committee operated with between ten and thirteen Members and the Employment Sub-committee with eight, nine or ten Members. In its Tenth Special Report, the Education and Employment Committee commented that a high turnover of membership had been exacerbated by persistent delays in filling vacancies.

19.  Turnover has continued to be relatively high [see Table below]. Since we were appointed in July 2001, two of the three Conservative Members have been replaced. One of the Conservative Members was made a Whip following the election of a new Leader of the official Opposition.[63] The other, who had served on the Education Committee in a previous Parliament, was nominated on 7 November 2001 by the Committee of Selection to another departmentally related select committee.[64] We suggest to the Liaison Committee that, in future, the House should not be asked to vote on a change in Committee membership before the Committee of Selection has made all the necessary consequential nominations.

TURNOVER IN MEMBERSHIP
Full Education & Employment Committee
Education Sub-committee
Employment Sub-committee
Session 1997-98
18%
30%
20%
Session 1998-99
25%

25%
11%
Session 1999-2000
47%

46%
44%
Session 2000-01
11%

0%
22%
Education and Skills Committee
Session 2001-02 [to January 2002]
18%

Westminster Hall debates

20.  We are grateful to the Government for scheduling two Thursday afternoon Westminster Hall debates on our predecessors' Reports on Early Years[65] and Higher Education.[66] Both of these debates were well attended by past Members of the Education Sub-committee as well as the current Members of the Education and Skills Committee.[67]

21.  An especially welcome feature of the debates was the way in which the current Membership were able to 'take ownership' of their predecessors' work, and the reinforcement of the message to the Department that even when the name and membership of a select committee are almost utterly changed, the Committee's published recommendations and conclusions continue to have force and relevance. A debate in the House, whether in the Chamber itself or in Westminster Hall, provides an opportunity to scrutinise the adequacy of the Government's response to the Committee's work. It is also an occasion on which the Committee itself may be held to account for the quality and relevance of its work. For all these reasons, attendance and participation at such debates should be encouraged. We suggest that consideration should be given to extending the use of the Chair's authority to limit backbench speeches in Westminster Hall to perhaps ten minutes between 3 and 4.30 pm, thus ensuring that at least nine hon. Members could take part between the Chairman's opening and the wind-up speeches by the three front benches.

Visits and visitors

22.  We have not yet undertaken any visits in the United Kingdom. Nor have we undertaken any visits away from Westminster this Session.

23.  We have had no meetings so far with Committees from other countries.

Relations with Government and Government Replies

24.  We believe we have made a good start in this Parliament in developing a healthy and co-operative relationship with the DfES. As stated above, Ministers from the DfES have continued to appear before us upon request. Since the beginning of the Session, six Ministers have appeared before us.

25.  The DfES replied promptly to the one remaining Report of the Education and Employment Committee from the 2000-01 Session, enabling us to agree at our first meeting in July 2001 to publish the DfES Response as our First Special Report.[68]

26.  We have updated the Table previously given on the time taken by the Department to reply to our Reports. The table in Annex A covers the entire 1997-2001 Parliament.

January 2002

Annex A

TIMING OF GOVERNMENT REPLIES TO REPORTS, SESSIONS 1997-98 TO 2000-01
Subject
Published Date
Date of receipt of response
No of Days
Session 1997-98
First Report: Teacher Recruitment: What can be done?
3.11.97
28.1.98
86
Second Report: New Deal
19.11.97
20.1.98
62
Third Report: The Dearing Report: Some Funding Issues
10.12.97
9.2.98
61
Fourth Report: The Relationship between TECs and the proposed Regional Development Agencies
3.3.98
13.5.98
71
Fifth Report: Disaffected Children
6.4.98
 23.6.98
78
Sixth Report: Further Education
4.6.98
26.11.98
175
Seventh Report: Pathways into Work for Lone Parents
28.7.98
14.10.98
78
Eighth Report: The New Deal Pathfinders
4.8.98
9.10.98
66
Ninth Report: The Role of Headteachers
3.11.98
4.1.99
62
Session 1998-99
First Report: Active Labour Market Policies and their Delivery: Lessons from Australia
26.1.99
n/a
n/a
Second Report: Part-Time Working
30.3.99
18.6.99
80
Third Report: Highly Able Children
28.4.99
29.6.99
62
Fourth Report: The Work of OFSTED
14.6.99
26.7.99
42
Fifth Report: The Role of School Governors
21.7.99
25.10.99
96
Sixth Report: The ONE Service Pilots
27.7.99
4.10.99
69
Seventh Report: The Performance and Future of the Employment Service
28.7.99
7.10.99
71
Eighth Report: Access for All? A Survey of Post-16 Participation
10.11.99
21.1.00
72
Ninth Report: Opportunities for Disabled People
24.11.99
24.1.00
61

Session 1999-2000
First Report: School Meals
14.12.99
14.2.00
62
Second Report: Visit to USA: Raising Educational Standards and the Role of the Private Sector
7.3.00
n/a
n/a
Third Report: The Draft Part-time Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
22.3.00 (in typescript); 23.3.00
18.5.00
57
Fourth Report: Employability and Jobs: Is There A Jobs Gap?
19.4.00
16.6.00
58
Fifth Report: Work Permits for Overseas Footballers
18.5.00
 10.7.00
53
Sixth Report: Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 1998-99
16.5.00
OFSTED 29.5.00 DfEE 12.7.00
OFSTED 13 DfEE 57
Seventh Report: The Role of Private Sector Organisations in Public Education
29.6.00
1.9.00
64
Eighth Report: New Deal for Young People: Two Years On
11.7.00
3.11.00
115
Session 2000-01
First Report: Early Years
11.1.01
20.3.01
67
Second Report: OFSTED Corporate Plan 2000
19.12.10
DfEE 13.2.01 OFSTED 19.2.01
DfEE 53 OFSTED 59
Third Report: Recruiting Unemployed People
07.2.01
23.3.01
44
Fourth Report: Higher Education: Access
08.2.01
23.3.01
43
Fifth Report: New Deal: An Evaluation
20.3.01
9.5.01
48
Sixth Report: Higher Education: Student Retention
23.3.01
DfEE 2.5.01 HEFCE 9.5.01
DfEE 40 HEFCE 47
Seventh Report: Age Discrimination in Employment
27.3.01
8.5.01
42
Eighth Report: Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for 1999-2000
11.5.01
DfES 16.07.01 OFSTED 16.07.01
66



48   First Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive, HC 300, paragraph 52. Back

49   First Special Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, The Work of the Committee, HC 206. Back

50   First Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 2000-01, Shifting the Balance: Unfinished Business, HC 321-I, paragraph 58. Back

51   Tenth Special Report from the Education and Employment Committee 2000-01, The Work of the Committee in the 2000-01 Session, HC 520. Back

52   HC 451-i of 2000-01.  Back

53   HC 451-i of 2000-01, Q.6. Back

54   HC 451-i of 2000-01, Q.8. Back

55   See the inside page of the Tenth Special Report of 2000-01 for a full list of all the Members who served on each Sub-committee over the life of the 1997-2001 Parliament. Back

56   From September 1998, it became a statutory requirement for all maintained primary schools to use a baseline assessment scheme accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. See QCA website http://www.qca.org.uk Back

57   Minutes of Evidence taken before the Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday 5 December 2001, The Work of OFSTED, HC 437-i. Back

58   Minutes of Evidence taken before the Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday 31 October 2001from Mr Chris Hughes and Ruth Silver, the Association of Colleges and NATFHE and UNISON [HC 322-i]; Minutes of Evidence taken before the Education and Skills Committee on Monday 12 November 2001 from the Learning and Skills Council [HC 322 -ii]. Back

59   Minutes of Evidence taken before the Education and Skills Committee on Monday 10 December 2001, HC 445-i. Back

60   HC 322-ii, Q.84 . The annual budget of the Learning and Skills Council is around £5.5 billion, which will rise to nearly £7 billion when the LSC takes over responsibility for funding sixth forms. Back

61   Minutes of Evidence taken before the Education and Skills Committee on Monday 10 December 2001, HC 445-i. Back

62   Modernisation of the House of Commons: A Reform Programme for Consultation, Memorandum submitted by the Leader of the House of Commons to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons, Session 2001-02, HC 440, paragraph 23. Back

63   Mr Laurence Robertson's appointment as an Opposition Whip was announced on 18 September 2001. His successor, Mr John Baron, was nominated by the Committee of Selection on Wednesday 7 November 2001 and attended his first meeting of the Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday 21 November 2001. Back

64   Bob Spink, who had served on the Education Committee from its nomination on 13 July 1992 to his being replaced on 6 February 1995, was nominated by the Committee of Selection on Wednesday 7 November 2001 to serve on the Science and Technology Committee. The last meeting of the Education and Skills Committee he attended was on Wednesday 31 October 2001. The Committee of Selection nominated Mr Mark Simmonds on Wednesday 28 November 2001; he attended his first meeting of the Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday 5 December 2001. Back

65   First Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Early Years, HC 33, the Government Response thereto in the Committee's Fourth Special Report of 2000­01, HC 361, and the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Education Sub­Committee on 25 April and 2 May 2001, HC 438­i and -ii.  Back

66   Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Higher Education: Access, HC 205, the Government Response thereto in the Sixth Special Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000­01, HC 384 , the Sixth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Higher Education: Student Retention, HC 124, the Responses from the Government and Higher Education Funding Council for England thereto in the Seventh Special Report from the Education and Employment Committee of 2000­01, HC 385, and the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Education Sub­Committee on 14 March 2001, HC 329. Back

67   Both debates were opened by Mr Barry Sheerman, the Chairman of the Education and Skills Committee, who had chaired the Education Sub-committee of the Education and Employment Committee during the Early Years and Higher Education inquiries. In the Early Years debate on Thursday 18 October 2001, (vol 372, col 307WH - 348WH) nine other Members from the Education and Skills Committee took part, including Valerie Davey, who had also served on the Education Sub-committee. One other former Member of the Education Sub-committee and two former Members of the Employment Sub-committee, including Mrs Eleanor Laing, who responded to the debate for the official Opposition, also took part in the debate. In the Higher Education debate on Thursday 8 November 2001,(vol 374, 137WH - 182WH) three other Members of the Education and Skills Committee, including Valerie Davey, and five other former Members of the Education Sub-committee, including the Liber al Democrat spokesman [Phil Willis] and the Minister of State [Mrs Margaret Hodge], who had chaired the Education Sub-committee from 1997 to 1998, took part in the debate. Back

68   First Special Report from the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2001-02, Government and OFSTED Responses to the Eighth Report of Session 2000-01 from the Education and Employment Committee on Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for 1999-2000, HC 215. Back


 
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