Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
11 JULY 2007
question is if there is going to be a six month process of consultation
and then possibly some additional legislation, are there going
to be any surpluses left because surely any headteacher worth
his or her salt will have spent the money before we get to that
Provided people do not get into the bad old days of getting to
27 March and spending everything and buying things that they do
not need then most of us would argue that spending in schools
for the purposes of education of those young people is what we
want to see, but we also want schools to be intelligent in their
planning so that there is a longer term project. Five per cent
is a pretty modest premium on the basis of the surpluses that
actually exist in schools.
you see this as a one-off or as a regular mechanism to reclaim
The proposal is that it would be an annual mechanism for the local
authority to operate with their schools forum and then the money
would be returned back into the schools system to be redistributed.
it apply to all schools?
That is my understanding at the moment.
is including Academies?
if an Academy has in its budget the total of the two million that
the sponsor has provided, five per cent of that two million would
In a sense that is the capital contribution so that would not
be part of the revenue costs of the school.
that two million sponsor's contribution had not been actually
spent in terms of the capital investment in the Academy and was
sitting in an account somewhere accruing interest, that would
not be subject to the five per cent reclaim?
No, because we would not do likewise with maintained schools that
have got, for example, targeted funding allocated to them. The
purpose of targeted capital is precisely to enable schools the
predictability to plan over a slightly longer term, and likewise
that would be the case with Academies. As we have said often with
Academies, the capital contribution is really about the upfront
building costs of the school rather than something that is sitting,
as it were, in the accounts for a long time.
We have got to move on. Andrew and Rob have been very patient.
the DfES know about this intention to transfer the granting process
away from the LSC to give the monies to the local authorities
before the announcement was made about education funding on 25
It was part of the discussion that I was having with the Cabinet
Office about machinery of government changes, yes.
it have been better to have delayed the overall announcement,
do you think, so they could have been done together?
In a sense that was a judgment made by the Prime Minister, obviously,
about the structure of Departments. I am not sure it would have
made much difference because the key announcements that affected
our Department were in relation to 16-19 funding and the proposition
to bring that back into local authorities under the DCSF. We have
to now go out and consult on that and we would have had to do
that anyway. I think it was important to get the policy intention
upfront and say, "This is what we are going to do",
and be very clear about that, and then consult. Obviously this
is something that cannot be introduced overnight so there is going
to be a consultation, probably beginning in the autumn.
consultation is not about the principle of the policy, it is how
the allocation of monies is going to be made?
That is correct.
do you think it will fall out in terms of the funding mechanism?
Is it going to be designated fixed grants again or is it going
to be some formulaic approach?
We have to have it clear and transparent with all the rules that
would apply normally to the distribution of funding in any system.
Part of the consultation exercise will be to lay out possible
options for distribution by the local authorities. I confess that
we have not yet started the detailed thinking of what will be
in that consultation paper but we know that we have to have options
available for the autumn to be able to go out and consult.
was discussed on the rather more fundamental point earlier about
the funding formula and its application to deprivation, quite
often there are winners and losers in this process. What do you
see as the risks and who might the losers be who need to be protected
in the change and the application of a different formula?
I think there is a general principle of stability, that is the
`s' word of the morning! It is actually a very serious point because
course it is, it is estimated that instability can be very costly.
If you take, for example, the Association of School and College
Leaders, essentially the organisation that represents secondary
headteachers, they would say that the current funding arrangements
where the funding for 16-19 in school sixth forms comes via the
LSC has worked reasonably well. We have to be very careful about
bringing forward proposals that would destabilise the funding.
The same will be true in colleges where you will have funding
for both 16-19 students in colleges as well as the funding that
may be available in the college. On the winners and losers, I
think it is very difficult to predict that. I guess one of the
things that we will be consulting on is any sort of interim or
transitional arrangements that might be acquired. That would not
be unusual because most consultations in the past 20 years on
funding formula have taken account of transition and, in a sense,
have tried to cushion that. Again, without getting into the detail,
that will all be picked up in the autumn.
this all going to be just passported though local authorities
and, if it is going to be passported, what is the point of doing
That is also one of the issues for consultation because if you
are going to get an integrated 16-19 funding system you have to
think about the different mechanisms for doing so. As you know,
with the schools funding via the dedicated schools grant, that
is very clearly earmarked only for expenditure on schools and
that kind of guarantee about funding for 16-19 will be very important
for the Department in consulting so that we do not have funding
that previously has been for 16-19 education in the round diverted
for other purposes. We need to think through the consultation
what those mechanisms might be.
worries me about my particular part of the country, in South London,
is we have a situation where there may even be a need to reduce
the number of places available and it is going to be the local
authorities that are going to have blood on their hands when it
should have been done by others.
Removing places, whether that is in schools or colleges, is never
a pleasant business. The current responsibility for schools, as
you know, still rests with the local authority working within
the local arrangements and, of course, you cannot keep institutions
that are not viable going in the medium to long-term because students
are choosing not to go there. In a sense, however you organise
the funding and whoever has to make the decisions, these decisions
have to be made as patterns of choice change.
who is making those decisions? Is it the local authorities who
will now make those decisions, bearing in mind that the intention
is to put the money through local authorities?
That is part of the consultation because if you think about further
education colleges, further education colleges will have, and
do have, funding responsibilities post-19 and much of what has
been accounted for in the Departmental Report, the direction of
travel for funding for post-19 and adult skills, has come through
the Train to Gain mechanism so, in a sense, colleges are having
to compete more for that funding given the funding has gone to
employers. Again, there is a whole set of questions that have
to be consulted upon about quite where planning decisions are
made, about the sufficiency of places, who will have responsibility
for making decisions about which institutions should or should
not continue, and that is why we also have to think about the
legislative implications of making these changes because we are
fairly certain that there will be some.
WILSON: If I
look at the families and children part of your brief rather then
specifically schools, although they all combine very neatly together,
I have never been entirely convinced that spending on schools
is the major factor in a child's chances in life. You can have
as many glossy brochures and shiny new schools as you like but
at the end of the day I think they make a marginal difference
to the overall life chances of a child. Is it your view that spending
makes the biggest difference in a child's chances in education
or are there bigger social factors at play? Which way does it
weigh in your mind?
I certainly would not argue that just spending through schools
or children's centres is the key or only determinant in a child's
life because clearly the family, the comfort and support they
get from home, the wider support they get from grandparents and
the community, all of those things are important. I do not think
it is an either/or situation because you want children to be well-supported
by their families and given lots of opportunities to succeed,
but at the same time we know that if we get the right kind of
opportunities in schools then you give youngsters a better chance
of success. It seems to me, as always for a Department with our
range of responsibilities, it is about trying to support families
and children together at the same time as ensuring that the funding
we provide for schools, colleges or whatever, maximises the opportunity
for those children or families to succeed.
WILSON: We had
the Children's Commissioner before us a few weeks ago and he suggested
in his evidence to us that, for example, a child's chances in
education are greatly improved in a two parent family. What research
have you looked at in your Department that reflects that view
and has looked at the effect of family breakdown on educational
Our research demonstrates clearly that stability in family life
is important, but that is not necessarily stability that you get
only through a two parent family. What we want to do is ensure
that the kind of stability that we can help support is suitable
and appropriate to what family structures exist. I do not think
we are in the business of saying that there is only one kind of
approved family, that would be quite inappropriate for us to do,
but what we want to try to do is help families, however they are
structured, to get the best opportunities for their children.
That has got to be our priority, whether that is about support
for very young children or it is about supporting parents helping
their child through school or making the right choices when they
go to college.
WILSON: Of course
you are right, the Department should not have an approved family
style, but do you recognise that a two parent family is of any
assistance to a child's chances in education? Do you clearly recognise
We know that there is research about stability in family and about
two parents and the contribution that they make, but I think you
have to be very careful in this whole discussion and debate that
you do not imply that people who are not in those sorts of family
structures and relationships are somehow letting their children
WILSON: Of course.
Our responsibility as the Department of State for Children and
Families is to help parents, families, in whatever circumstances
they find themselves to have the best opportunities for their
children. That has got to be our priority as well as looking at
the wider social context in which children are growing up.
WILSON: If you
know that children do best in a two parent family, are there initiatives
you can undertake amongst other initiatives that you take to help
other styles of family?
are those initiatives and how much spending is going on them?
I cannot answer the question directly about spending, although
I can look into that. What we would say is whether it is in the
support that parents get for their children at school or whether
it is over a parent or parents coming into a children's centre,
these services are designed to enable parents to be well-supported.
They are not about saying, "This is a particular kind of
family structure so we will support it in this particular kind
of way", they are about saying, "We want to provide
support to families, wherever they are and however they are organised".
That is our responsibility through the policies that we are trying
3 Ev 33 Back