Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd
Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd16/11/2017
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Darren Millar AM|
|Hefin David AM|
|John Griffiths AM|
|Lynne Neagle AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mark Reckless AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Alan Brace||Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director of Finance, Welsh Government|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AM||Y Gweinidog Gofal Cymdeithasol a Phlant|
|Minister for Children and Social Care|
|Huw Morris||Cyfarwyddwr Sgiliau, Addysg Uwch a Dysgu Gydol Oes, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Welsh Government|
|Kirsty Williams AM||Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Addysg|
|Cabinet Secretary for Education|
|Simon Dean||Dirprwy Brif Weithredwr, GIG Cymru|
|Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Wales|
|Steve Davies||Cyfarwyddwr, y Gyfarwyddiaeth Addysg, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director, Education Directorate, Welsh Government|
|Vaughan Gething AM||Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol|
|Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Sarah Bartlett||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle y mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:02.
The meeting began at 09:02.
Good morning, everyone. Can I welcome you all to today's meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee? Before we begin today's proceedings, I would like to pay tribute to Carl Sargeant. As Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for children, Carl regularly joined us to discuss various important responsibilities that he held relating to the children and young people of Wales. His loss will be felt deeply by all of us in this room and indeed by the wider sector in Wales. I would like to ask you all to stand for a minute's silence to remember Carl.
Safodd y rhai a oedd yn bresennol am funud o dawelwch.
Those present stood for a minute’s silence.
Thank you. Item 1 this morning is apologies, which have been received from Llyr Gruffydd, Michelle Brown and Julie Morgan. There are no substitutions today. Can I ask Members whether there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay, thank you.
Item 2 this morning is our scrutiny session on the Welsh Government draft budget, in particular on the health, well-being and sport main expenditure group. I'm very pleased to welcome Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services; Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care; Simon Dean, deputy chief executive of NHS Wales; and Alan Brace, director of finance. Thank you all for coming and on behalf of the committee, Huw, can we wish you well in your new post?
If you're happy, we will go straight into questions. I'm going to appeal to Members and witnesses for succinct questions and succinct answers please, because we've got a lot to cover in a short amount of time. If I can just start, then, by asking you just generally what you feel the impact of the Welsh Government budget is in terms of children and young people's health and well-being. And are there any specific changes to services or programmes in the draft budget that particularly relate to children and young people that you think that we should be aware of?
Thank you, Chair. We're trying to take an integrated approach to budget planning and delivery across not just this particular part of Government but across Government, so this is actually part of delivering our appeal in 'Prosperity for All', and you know that early years are a cross-cutting priority for the Government. In terms of some of the specifics, there is a significant spend, obviously, on children and early years services, midwifery, health visiting services, childhood immunisation and vaccination programme, and trying to draw together some of the policy levers in the right place as well. So, we've accelerated the children's flu vaccination programme in the current year, and we're going to accelerate it again in the next. There's also, for example, the initiative that we announced together with the Cabinet Secretary for Education, looking at how we invest jointly in promoting good mental health for children and young people in school settings.
So, there is a range of different areas, but so much of what the health service does is focused on the two ends of life—older people and also younger people—so it's no surprise that the great bulk of our expenditure includes lots and lots of activity with and for children and young people.
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. Darren.
Thank you, Chair, and can I also welcome Huw to his post? Can I ask specifically in terms of the allocation of the Welsh budget, about how those decisions are made by Welsh Ministers? You will be very familiar with the fact that Welsh Ministers have duties placed upon them to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. And one of the things that you say explicitly in the Welsh Government's paper that's been prepared is that no children's rights impact assessments have been undertaken on the changes to the budget. And I just wonder why the Welsh Government feel that it's not appropriate to undertake an impact assessment.
That partly comes because we're trying to take an integrated approach to the way we plan. If we have assessments in different areas, there's a risk we'll have to play those off against each other and have to balance them anyway. So, we're taking an integrated approach to the assessment and the impact of the choices that we've made, but also given that the bulk of the expenditure goes through this particular expenditure group, it goes into health board and trust allocations, and in their three-year plans we expect them to set out how they're going to deal with the needs of children and young people.
As I've said, so much of NHS activity is concentrated on early years and supporting people through pregnancy and early years of parenthood and being a child, and also at the end of life as well. So, that's the reason why we're trying to take that approach, and it does fit in with the way in which we're trying to deal with our legislative commitments in any event, not just with the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the future generations Acts; we've got legal duties about how we go about this, and we need to demonstrate we're working in that generally integrated way.
I appreciate that there are different views and some may want us to undertake more specific assessments in different parts of our budget, but I think, actually, we need to provide some greater clarity as we move forward on how we're spending that and the outcomes that we think we're delivering. Obviously, when we come back to policy and delivery scrutiny, I think you'll see more of that which might actually be more helpful than some of the questions about trying to make, at times, presentational changes to the way that we present the budget.
Obviously, one of the biggest decisions any Welsh Minister is going to take is the allocation of his or her budget. It would seem to me that to not undertake some sort of children's rights impact assessment, given the duties that are on Welsh Ministers, is rather peculiar, and I'm sure many people that are watching will think that that is the case.
Can I ask you, then, just about your priorities? One of the other services that you refer to in your written paper is child and adolescent mental health services. Obviously, that's been something that this committee and its predecessor committees have looked at over quite some time. You've got your 'Together for Mental Health' and your children's activity around that. Child and adolescent mental health services you've given some element of ring-fenced budget to, which I very much welcome. It was something that many people have called for in the past. Can you explain how you've determined the allocation that you've put in, in terms of extra money into CAMHS? Is it based on what you predict need to be? If not, how have you arrived at that figure?
I have to say this is about the way in which Ministers make choices and the advice that we get on the allocation of need and the element of ring-fencing that goes into that, but also, it's still about health boards and their responsibility. We expect them to do a great deal to plan and deliver services, and, for me, it is about not just saying, 'Here is all you can spend', but the ring fence is a minimum, to make sure there is a minimum level of investment. There's additional investment we've made, in particular making sure that the staff resources are provided there, but that can't be the start and the end of the question and the answer, because we know that there are a range of services around CAMHS, both in terms of the way in which we need to make the CAMHS process itself more efficient to get people who need CAMHS support and help to that more quickly, but also to get to people who don't need to be in that service. So, the 'Together for Children and Young People' process that I referred to has in many ways largely been about getting people out of the CAMHS process who don't need to be there. That investment in those other services won't neatly be captured in a budget line here.
So, it is about Ministers understanding the professional advice that we get from within Welsh Government, from the contact we have with health boards, and understanding that the levels of need that we see coming through, and understanding what is CAMHS, what we don't think it is, and trying to make sure that resources are appropriately allocated. I think you'll see more of this, and in particular the development of those services outside the CAMHS process, because part of my concern from a policy point of view has been that, actually, we need to properly understand the more preventative, the more low-level help end to stop people getting to the point where their children do have a real need that CAMHS is the appropriate place for.
I understand that. I think the question I'm asking, I suppose is: given that you've allocated this additional £20 million that you've ring-fenced specifically, are you expecting an additional £20 million over and above the spend in the last financial year, for example, from health boards on CAMHS services? Are there any strings attached at all?
Are you talking about the £20 million in the budget for mental health? Because not all of that is CAMHS. We've put £20 million into the mental health ring fence, but that is to increase the ring fence for mental health, and we then expect health boards to be able to manage their responsibilities for people. So, some of that, we expect, will go into CAMHS services for children and young people, but we wouldn't expect all of it to go there. In addition, going back to the question we had yesterday in health committee, we know that health boards together spend more than the ring fence on mental health services. That gets back into understanding the population need assessments that health boards and local authorities need to undertake properly, and understanding how they allocate resources jointly to meet all of that need as well.
Pardon me. Within the £20 million there's an £8 million that you've allocated to CAMHS. So, is that £8 million more that you're expecting them to spend this year compared to last year? That's the question. Is there going to be any additionality? There isn't much point to the ring fence if it isn't tied to you expecting them to spend that much extra.
I want to be clear today and yesterday that the £20 million is additional. It is not substitution. It is additional, and again, we expect—. There is a real level of scrutiny in this, and I know I expect to come back to this committee, and every time I appear before you I expect to be asked about CAMHS until performance doesn't just improve, but it does so sustainably. Because we saw a significant improvement at the start of this year, in March. That was sustained for a period of months. It has then fallen off. I wouldn't expect you to be comfortable or content with that, and I'm certainly not. So, it is a regular point of contact and scrutiny with the health board chairs and vice-chairs, and they know very well that I will continue to be on their backs until we see the sustainable improvement in CAMHS that we all wish to see.
And can I just ask about the child health plan that's been developed, and how the budget is aligned to the delivery of that specifically? One of the things that I think Members find difficult with the reams of paper that are produced with budgets is how impenetrable, sometimes, they are, and it's difficult to track individual policy decisions against the budgets that the Welsh Government is making available for health boards and other partners to be able to deliver against. So, is there specific funding tied to the delivery of the child health plan?
There are two points I want to make here. One is, as I tried to say earlier on, we want to try and develop more useful transparency in the programme areas of spend, to make it clearer what's being spent in each area. But even within that, you're going to find some other central funding. You can't neatly tie an amount to one area or another. It's a bit like the conversation about preventative spend. I can make some progress in trying to make clear what's preventative, but, on some things, you just can't, because you can't give a percentage as to how much of primary care spend is preventative. That's the first point.
The second is that we've looked again at all of the different and specific plans and strategies that we have, and so, with the child health plan, we're going to roll that into the future working of the NHS. We've got the parliamentary review that we're due to have at the turn of the year. I've made clear I expect that to be with me before the end of the calendar year. I expect that to be available to Members; we'll publish in the new year as we receive it and get it translated. And then, on the back of that, we'll need to develop the forward strategy for health and social care, and, within that, you will see how we will deal with children's health and priorities for children within that. So, we're actually going to try and take account of the different policy areas we already have, looking at the first 1,000 days and the child health plan that we've previously announced. We're actually going to roll that into the future strategy, because, again, if we want to have a more integrated approach within Government, within this part of the Government and across it—and with the early years priority we have, we've actually taken the view that, rather than having a separate child health plan, we need to present that within the whole of what the Government does, because, as in every—. Again, going back to the scrutiny yesterday, the determinants of health are not simply in the gift of health and care services, so we want to have something that actually speaks to and with the rest of Government as well.
Just one final question, if I may, Chair. Obviously, I've welcomed the additional investment that's gone into neonatal care in recent years, and I'm very pleased to see the capital investment that's going into my local hospital up there in north Wales. But one of the other things that has been raised with this committee in the past and was the subject of a recent report was maternal health and the impact that that has on child development in later life as well. So, can I ask whether there's anything specifically in the budget for maternal health, particularly for the development of mother and baby units, to allow for the increased use of mother and baby units where appropriate for those mums who might need access to one?
When we're talking maternal health and the impact on children, there's a specific point about perinatal mental health. I know you've undertaken an inquiry, so I don't want to stray into the area, because I'm going to be answering lots more questions in the inquiry, but there is active work ongoing between WHSSC—the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee—working across the NHS to try and understand what is the right answer and to understand whether we have a model of a fixed point or points, or do we have something different. That work isn't complete, so I won't tell you that it is. Obviously, there will be budget choices to make after that.
But, actually, more broadly, on the links between maternal health before pregnancy, during pregnancy and afterwards, we recognise that, and not just for the first 1,000 days. We are recognising that starts before conception. There's a challenge there about the much broader public health education of the people of Wales, and understanding the choices they make and how they're passed on—alcohol and smoking being two really obvious choices, and obesity being a third one. Actually, there's something here about—it's not just good for the Government to persuade people to change their attitudes to alcohol and how we support people to stop smoking, and not just during pregnancy and not just before, but certainly afterwards as well, and actually thinking about obesity. Our challenge still is, as I've said before, how we get from thinking, 'What is the right behaviour to want to try to encourage?' to being more effective about it. We've got some work that is encouraging, but, in going through the obesity strategy, we'll need to think more clearly about that and what are more effective ways of working between health, social care and other partner services, the third sector and, of course, citizens themselves.
Okay. Thank you.
Thank you. John.
Thank you, Chair. I wanted to ask about the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and some of the budgetary provision identified in the Cabinet Secretary's paper. There is £0.2 million in the sustainable social services budget expenditure line and £2.8 million of recurrent funding transferred to revenue support grant to support delivery through regional partnership boards. I'd like to know in which of the activities that would take place you would expect to directly help children, children at risk of abuse, neglect or other harm.
Thanks, John. It's a very good question, because it's not simply the funding, but I think it's also the framework that that funding goes into. As you and the committee will know, the approach that we're taking of putting this through the regional partnership boards, I think, is very important. They are tasked with—their duty is to actually provide not only an individual person-centred approach, but actually to do it on a population needs assessment of the communities that they serve. On that basis, within that framework, they can use that money in the best way that fits the needs of their population.
But actually, particularly in terms of children who're at risk of abuse or neglect and so on, which is clearly at the forefront of our minds, that sits within that wider legal framework. So, we have the framework that includes the child sexual exploitation framework, we have the duty to report abuse and we have the national framework boards and what they're doing with the partnership boards as well. In fact, I met with them at the launch of Safeguarding Week on Monday, when we launched part of a range of roadshows, workshops and events that they were doing this particular week.
So, yes, the money is going very much through those regional partnership boards, but it's within that framework of what their duties are to actually protect and safeguard our children and young people.
Okay. Thanks for that. I wonder if I could go on to ask about disabled children and to what extent the budget will help deal with the many issues involved in supporting disabled children. Do you have any detail on the level of resource that will be allocated to supporting disabled children, for example through the sustainable social services third sector grant?
Yes. I might be able to be of some help with some additional detail on that for the committee. You're aware that the third sector grant scheme funds other third sector organisations, providing support not only for disabled people, but for their families and also their carers, as well.
So, for example, in answer to your question, this does include Learning Disability Wales, with an award of £930,000, Carers Wales with an award of over £670,000 and, of course, the All Wales Forum for parents and carers as well, with an award of over £400,000. But that isn't all, I have to say. When we appeared earlier on this week in front of a different committee, we talked about the rebranded what was previously the intermediate care fund, now the integrated care fund. I think that's critical to this, as well, because, original in its conception, it was very much targeted at support for older people for independence and so on, but we, of course, expanded that in the rebranding. It was obviously expanded back in 2016-17, and, within that expansion, there was money targeted within that and within this budget as well, for other groups of people, and that includes people with learning disabilities, autism, children with complex needs and carers as well. So, of that budget of £60 million that was put aside for the rebranded integrated care fund, £16 million of that is allocated to those additional groups. And I think that's a good indication of the way that we develop a policy that we can see is actually working on the ground, and then build on that policy to see if we can apply the same successful outcomes to other groups as well. So, I think that will help.
Okay. Perhaps I could go on to public health, Chair.
Okay. In terms of the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 and children and young people, I'm interested in the development of a national obesity strategy and to what extent children and young people will be engaged in a process of drawing up that strategy. Because, obviously, if they are consulted fully, then there's a better chance of that strategy working, particularly for children and young people. So, has an allocation been made for that consultation process with children and young people?
No. I wouldn't say that, in the detail of the budget, I've made a specific allocation for that. I actually think what matters is that we have an obesity strategy that is meaningful and is then resourced to actually deliver the aims and objectives of the strategy. I think, until we've actually pieced together the strategy, we're not going to be able to make budget allocations around it.
I think your broader point about not just the needs of children and young people being taken account of, but them being directly engaged in helping to design the strategy, some of the work's already started. The chief medical officer is leading and there's been a meeting of internal and external stakeholders that has taken place to start that work off in the last month, but you can take it as a given that children and young people will themselves be consulted as part of that and engaged. So, it won't just be about going to ask the children's commissioner or, say, Children in Wales on behalf of children and young people, but we will want to engage directly through that with children and young people around Wales because we know there are significant challenges in the number of overweight and obese children we already have. If we're not prepared to talk to and to listen to children and young people to get their reflections on that, and what they think would make a difference—what they think are their influences—then we're unlikely to be able to design something that is going to be as effective as we would want it to be. If we want the right answer, we have to be able to listen to and then respond to what children and young people are going to tell us.
Thanks for that. Moving on to Public Health Wales NHS Trust, your paper states that the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 has been significant in protecting investment in Public Health Wales NHS Trust. I'm wondering what impact the resource allocated to the trust will have on child poverty specifically.
The first point to make is that the biggest impacts on child poverty are the changes to tax and benefits and the changes to work. More parents are in work, but more parents are in insecure work and poorly paid work. Don't take my word for it; every single independent analysis of the changes that have been made in the last five years shows that.
When it comes to everyone's responsibility for it, it's part of the reason why our immunisation programmes are so important, because vaccination, immunisation, is in many ways the most successful public health measure in safeguarding and protecting the health of our children. So, the point I made at the start with the Chair about rolling forward the flu programme and others, that's really, really important. It's part of the delivery frameworks we have for the NHS and the public health Act frameworks as well, and understanding the evidence and the expertise that Public Health Wales can bring, together with the rest of the NHS family.
What I want to be clear about is that this isn't just the responsibility of Public Health Wales; they're not commentators on the national health service. They are part of the service, and we need to make more effective their link and their operation with the rest of the NHS family. That's something that we've made real progress on and there's more to do in that.
So, it is the whole service, understanding what the evidence is, understanding how effective our services currently are and what more we need to do, and could and should do. The problem with this is that if we have a rising tide of child poverty, in understanding what we do to try and turn that back will be a range of interventions across the Government, and some things that are out of the hands of the Welsh Government, but we want to try and understand how effective our own interventions are. But this will be a significant challenge, I suspect, in this Assembly and the next one. As I say, I'd like to hear some helpful news in the budget in the other place, but we're going to have to wait and see what that actually delivers.
Yes, well, of course, we're limited in our scrutiny to your budget.
In terms of the Welsh Government's draft budget narrative and spending plans for the next financial year, some demand-led areas of public health budgets have been reviewed, including funding for emergency planning and Healthy Start. Could you tell the committee what impact those reviews will have on those programmes as they relate to children and young people?
I'm hoping to give some reassurance to the committee here. We think that both on emergency planning and Healthy Start we've taken account of the realistic level of need that we have. If there was a need to flex in emergency planning terms, we think we could do that—we'd have to—.across the Government. But, on Healthy Start, it's a demand-led programme, and as to the demand that we've seen coming in, we've actually overallocated in the past. So, we're looking at a more realistic allocation in that area. We do not think that will compromise the needs of any family who would rely on it, or would be entitled under the Healthy Start programme. So, it is reflecting the real level of need that we understand. If there's a need to do something differently during the year, then, ask someone in a different field of life—in economics, where, if the facts change, change your opinion or change what you're doing. So, if we need to do things during the year, we could do, but we're confident at this point that we've got the right budget allocations to meet the level of need that we think we realistically have had.
There are no issues with take-up there that we should be concerned about with Healthy Start? There's no underspending because women aren't taking it up?
Not that we're aware of, but that goes back to the challenge of how people engage with services as well. That's a different piece of work, more generally, and not just around Healthy Start. That gets us back into some of the challenges about maternal smoking, education and others, such as the lack of take-up of antenatal education and care as well.
So, there are bigger issues there to deal with, but this is what we think we can spend, and, actually, if we have more people coming forward, we still think we'll be able to meet the need of people who do so.
Thank you. Hefin.
With regard to preventative spending, the Welsh Government doesn't set detailed requirements on NHS bodies to allocate preventative spending in their discretionary revenue allocation. How, therefore, would you assess the proportion of LHB funding for preventative spending?
Well, the honest truth is I haven't and I won't. I just need to be really honest and upfront about this. Again, this is similar to the conversation I had in the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee yesterday. Because we want to be clear about the areas that we think are preventative spend and what those budget lines are. But, even with all of those, I think it would be artificial to try and either expect health boards to provide a percentage of preventative spend within their budgets or to try and allocate preventative spend within those.
I'll give you examples. I mentioned primary care earlier on. In primary care or, say, in community midwifery, you can understand there's a largely preventative element of that, and with the health visitor service as well. To then try and determine how much of that is really preventative I think is artificial, because that's actually about understanding the needs of the people that you've got. The smoking cessation service, you'd say, is actually preventative spend. Actually, it's about the effectiveness of the programme, not the money that we spend on it. That, I think, matters an awful lot more. When it comes to—. If we, say, allocated a percentage of health board spend that we expected to be preventative, as opposed to the policy drivers to say we want to have a shift to more preventative spend, want to understand what that is, and what some of the outcomes that will deliver, what I think you'll find is—and this is life; and you'll know, from your previous life in another place, if you say, 'This is the organisation imperative. We want you to indicate a percentage in this area', some people will simply re-describe what they're already doing. That may be an honest reflection on things that we already do that we haven't badged as preventative spend in the past, but the risk is that you simply re-describe standard business rather than changing standard business, which is why I'm rather more interested in the outcomes that we expect to deliver, and in useful input or output measures. I really want to get away from measuring time and measuring volume activity, where it doesn't tell us a great deal. I'm much more interested in getting into the value of the health and care that we deliver, much more interested in getting to the outcomes. I think that's the right focus to have because, otherwise, I think we'll spend lots of our time, energy and effort on pursuing something that, ultimately, won't make the difference that all of us want to see.
Okay. There still needs to be a strategic drive across Government for preventative measures, particularly with regard to children and young people. How do you ensure that the preventative way of working is embedded in everything that your Cabinet colleagues and ministerial colleagues are doing?
Well, I wouldn't say that I make sure that it happens in everything that every other colleague does, because I'm not in a position to do that. But having cross-Government leadership on children within this department is helpful. There are still individual choices that Ministers need to make. This comes back to wanting to have a genuine cross-Government approach, which 'Prosperity for All' is trying to help us deliver in having early years as a cross-Government priority, and understanding that every part of Government has a contribution to make to that. And it's about making that real, and let's not pretend that you'll get to see that within a short period of weeks and months. It requires a change in culture, in working within the Government, and then delivery as well. That also reflects the need not just to be joined up within Government but with our partners as well. We can't directly influence all of our partners. We can't require them to do as we want them to do, but there is something about the policy framework that we set. Certainly, within health and care services, we want to set the right example about what we are doing, and, as I say, then be able to demonstrate the outcomes we expect to deliver and whether we actually achieve them.
I suppose I'm interested in how you ensure that the preventative approach that you're keen to see is consistent across Government. So, I'm keen to understand how Cabinet Government is working. What kind of dialogue would you have with the Cabinet Secretary for Education, for example, and how would you would ensure that those preventative priorities are then embedded in what's happening there?
Well, I hope this is helpful, but I actually think that the way that the Government has operated is pretty collegiate and that we do have regular conversations between Ministers, Cabinet Secretaries, and so you'll see conversations between ourselves with people like the education Secretary, people like the local government Secretary, people like the Minister for housing as well, because there's so much you can obviously see in the way that we spend money in that area, but also not forgetting someone like the Cabinet Secretary for the environment, because, actually, as we plan the environment and think about the use of the environment, all those things make a difference. The challenge is about how much of ministerial time we expect to be allocated to sitting and meeting and talking about some of this, and how much we're spending on it and doing, and, equally, the way we expect our civil servants to work, because—this isn't telling tales out of school, because you'll have heard this in a number of external views as well about 'Is the Government really joined up or is it different parts and different departments working in a rather more silo-driven way?' So, we have to set an expectation within our department that we expect our department to be properly willing to work across Government, to be giving and willing to do so. I've had submissions that have come to me and I've said, 'Can you confirm that you've spoken to these different partners within the Government because it will impact on these different policy areas?', and that's got to be the right approach to take, and that will help us to generate the right sort of culture in working across Government and taking a generally preventative approach to the way that we spend money.
We are focusing on the budget today, Hefin.
Yes, absolutely. One of the—. Let's get back to the budget, then.
One of the areas that Carl Sargeant particularly was very keen on when he came to talk to our committee was the impact of adverse childhood experiences. How is your budget going to impact on addressing the issue of adverse childhood experiences?
Well, it goes across a range of areas. We've funded together with the previous communities and children portfolio and education the joint ACEs hub to try and understand more about the impact of that. It's a good example of the impact that Public Health Wales have, not just within the world of health but more broadly as well. You'll see a range of the ways in which we want to align different budget choices and programmes to try and have a greater impact—
So, what about from your MEG?
So, smoking cessation is part of it and the impact of substance misuse as well. On the range of different adverse childhood experiences and the way in which the early years services—because, before education, the universal service is health. So, understanding what people see and how people get helped along the way—. This also then has an impact actually on an area that Huw is taking leadership for, where we'll have policy choices to take forward, again taking on the work from Carl Sargeant, but also then in budget allocations around looked-after children. So, you'll see those choices being made in what we think we're going to be able to do within our expenditure group with others as well and then the policy leadership that will go across Government on an area like looked-after children. We know most of those people have stacked ACEs, and that's part of the reason that that, unfortunately, is more likely to occur in the future.
I can see the Minister nodding. I imagine you're buying into that ACEs agenda as well. You've said that—
The ACEs agenda, I think, is very important. As we discussed in an exchange on the floor yesterday, it's not that ACEs are to be used as a crude diagnostic tool that says that there is a certain analysis you can do that means there is a certain type of intervention, but it's more instructive than that. It's more part of the dialogue about where are the wisest, cleverest interventions and across a whole range.
I just wanted to pick up on what the Cabinet Secretary was saying in answer to your question: it is noticeable that the contributions to the ACEs come from several different portfolios across Government. It is a genuine read-across. There's a contribution from our MEG in particular of £8.9 million [correction: approximately £100,000 as well as support in kind in the form of posts], but that is matched and more by other portfolios as well.
The Cabinet Secretary is absolutely right: when you look at the issues of things such as how we proceed now with looked-after children as well, that again is an issue where, whilst it's driven by us, the read-across other portfolios is significant as well. So, when we look at the children's area in particular, it isn't only the direct things we do within our department. It is, 'What are we doing with active travel to work? What are we doing with housing stock?' et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Certainly one of the things I'm conscious of since I've come in as a Minister is the extent of the read-across, the extent of dialogue across both Ministers but also within the civil service. There is a constant drive to say, 'We do this together'. If we don't do it together, frankly, with the challenges that we have, we won't be able to do it even within the budget—
We are going to have to move on, Hefin, to neonatal. Mark.
Chair, I just have one further question on child and adolescent mental health services. The Cabinet Secretary said just now that you can't require our partners to do what we want them to. I'm questioning is that really true, particularly where you've got health boards under your direct control.
But our partners are not just health boards. When you think about—
I'm saying specifically with health boards. I was just questioning the degree to which they are independent of what you would like them to do.
Well, health boards are, if you like, wholly owned subsidiaries of the Government, if you think about it in that way, but, ultimately, we don't directly run health boards. We have boards with their own governance mechanisms, but, yes, we help to set the direction. There are objectives. I undertake chairs' mid-year appraisals and appraisals. They directly meet with the chief executive of NHS Wales as well so we have a more direct relationship with health boards and local government, of course.
Within CAMHS in particular, looking at the numbers we've got from Stats Wales, in 2015-16 there was an 11 per cent increase on the previous year. I think the committee would find that sort of encouraging, but there's a huge variation between the different health boards. Betsi Cadwaladr, we had a 32 per cent increase, but, for other members of this committee, we saw a 20 per cent decrease in Aneurin Bevan and there was 131 per cent increase in Powys. Given the extent of focus on that area from a national perspective, do you welcome having such a huge variation in what happens to the budget by the health board?
But then part of the challenge when you're comparing Powys, for example, with others is that the numbers in Powys are significantly different. So, percentage variations there are likely to be more radical up and down. And, for me, the challenge always is—going back to the questions that Darren Millar started with and the CAMHS area—do we have an adequate resource allocation in this area? Do health boards allocate enough resources in this area to make the service work with the investment that we have made additionally to make sure that there are more staff equipped? It goes back, I think, to the performance question as opposed to the budget question of whether or not, for the assessed needs that health boards have indicated they have within their populations, they then have the right structure of staff, the right model and the right numbers too. And we've seen—. To be fair, in the last couple of years in CAMHS services, we started from a truly awful position to a better position, but there are still some families—too many families—that wait too long, and we need to help them either to get into CAMHS, if that is the right service, or a different service, and that will include partners outside the health service if they have a different care and support need that could not and should not be properly met by CAMHS.
Mark, I want to ask the questions about neonatal, please, because we did do CAMHS earlier, before you came in, and we're going to run out of time. So, can you move onto neonatal please?
Neonatal area: you have £63.6 million, I think, forecast for current year spending on that area, given decisions health boards have made. Is that a budget line you would expect to be increasing more or less quickly relative to health spending as a whole, given what we have, for example, in terms of the increasing proportion of older mothers, or, indeed, the increasing amount spent on babies who are born very premature?
Well, we're already significantly expanding the capital spend to actually reconfigure our services and provide more capacity. Across south Wales, we're spending about £40 million over two years, and, you know, your colleague to your immediate right—I won't say politically right—is also affected by the fact there's been a significant investment in his local hospital: the creation of the sub-regional neonatal intensive care centre is a significant statement of our investment in this area. The challenge then is to make sure we have the workforce to go with it, and that will obviously include budget consequences within health boards to do so. So that's, again, you know, a question of how we meet the standards of care that we have, but we're investing in the infrastructure to make sure that it's there and I've had direct reassurances from health boards that they will be able to properly staff the services that we're helping them to reshape, and in south Wales—this may help again, Chair—but the south Wales programme that has been much maligned and said, 'What's happened to it?', actually, the investment we're making in neonatal services in south Wales is a direct result of the south Wales programme. It's actually being delivered. I would always have wanted it to be delivered more quickly, but this is where we are.
And your capital spending this year has approached £33.4 million, but that, according to the budget, is intending to go down next year, 2018-19 to £9.4 million, a very big decrease. I know there's £11.2 million in Glan Clwyd this year, but is such a sharp fall off in the capital programme going into next year appropriate in this area? Is there any chance you might see extra bits of capital put in, perhaps for a mother and baby unit?
It's entirely appropriate because we're completing the expansion in neonatal units. So, that money—the significant money that's gone in this year—is helping us to create the capacity that we need, and, actually, it's about the future but it's also about the here and now because that includes the money that we spent in the Royal Gwent, where we've expanded the unit, there's more space, it's a better place to work. It was a real privilege to visit and to meet the team there. But, ultimately, we'll then see a transfer into the new Grange University Hospital. So, I wouldn't try and take out a chunk of that saying, 'That's a neonatal spend', because that's at a whole new hospital that we're creating and reconfiguring that whole part of the system in Gwent. That has a significant consequence for the rest of south Wales as well. So, it's about the completion of areas, and, as I said earlier, when we get the completed work from the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee on the future of perinatal mental health, we will then have budget choices to make afterwards, but I want to see the completion of that work to understand what we think is going to be the best answer. And I appreciate that that will not satisfy everyone, no matter what that answer is, but we need to make a choice about that, and that will obviously have budgetary consequences.
Thank you. Just finally, Cabinet Secretary, then: the neonatal standards were agreed by the steering group in February 2017 and by the WHSSC in March, but they haven't been published yet. When can we expect to see them published and will the fact that they haven't been published yet have any ramifications for the spend on neonatal?
We expect the standards to be published in the new year, and as I've said, the assurances that I've received from every health board are that they will be able to staff their units appropriately to meet the new standards that will be implemented. So, as ever, new standards are implemented. They then have to reflect to think about what they need to do with their staff. But that's the assurance that I have received from the service, but they will be published in the new year.
Okay, thank you. Well, we are out of time. We've covered a lot of ground in the time that we've had. Can I thank the Cabinet Secretary and the Minister, together with the officials, for attending today and for answering our questions? As usual, you will be sent a transcript to check for accuracy in due course. Thank you very much.
We will move straight on, then, to item 3, which is a further scrutiny session on the Welsh Government draft budget—this time on the education main expenditure group. I'm very pleased to welcome Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education; Steve Davies, director of the education directorate; and Huw Morris, director of skills, higher education and lifelong learning. Thank you all for coming. If you're happy, we'll go straight into questions.
Of course, Chair.
And the first question is from Darren Millar.
Thank you, Chair. I just wanted to ask in terms of the education budget overall and where it's heading. So, there was an announcement about an additional £62 million that was being made available for the budget this year, but just for the sake of clarity, it would appear, to my reckoning, that, actually, we're talking about an increase of about £1.5 million overall, because the £62 million that was announced as extra money was actually £62 million from the anticipated original draft of the budget, as it were, compared to the revised figure at the moment. When you look at the actual spend last year versus the budget that we now have, that we're now considering, it's just a £1.5 million increase. That's accurate, is it not?
I would refer Members to the table on page 2 of the evidence paper that I submitted prior to the committee. Our published draft budget for 2018-19, in terms of the resource element of the MEG, represents an overall increase of £28.3 million in 2018-19, compared to the revised baseline.
Now, the first supplementary budget figures for 2017-18 have been revised, removing any one-off allocations as part of the supplementary budget or previous budgets, and including any permanent MEG-to-MEG transfers. We've done this to enable what I believe is a fairer, like-for-like comparison on the 2017-18 budget with the draft budget that is currently before the committee. We've done that to try and aid transparency, which is something that the finance committee has asked Cabinet Secretaries to do. Adjustments have been made to remove previous budget deals and one-off allocations from the baseline. This includes money that was previously earmarked for further education and higher education, the legacy payments around Schools Challenge Cymru, for instance—. So, we've tried to create a revised baseline to give a fairer and more transparent comparison. I hope that explains it—page 2 outlines exactly how those figures have been arrived at.
Yes, I'm looking at page 2, but I'm also considering some of the correspondence that has also been sent to John Griffiths, in his capacity as Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, which gives a different presentation, if you like, of the figures. I think that this is one of the problems: you're aiming to try and get some transparency, but, clearly, it's less transparent because we're all hurtling different sets of figures around. There are different sets of figures coming from the Welsh Local Government Association, different sets of figures coming from some of the teaching unions and different sets of figures coming from you versus your Cabinet colleague Alun Davies, who provided a completely different set to John Griffiths.
I think the fact of the matter is that it's not very clear. I can understand why you want to try to make some direct comparisons from one year to the next, and you attempted to take some figures out of the baseline, although they were, actually, amounts of spending that were in the previous year on education, so it would seem to me to be appropriate to include them within the overall figures. The reality is, isn't it, Minister, that an extra £1.5 million is actually the real increase that's going to schools this year, out of a budget of over £1.4 billion?
I think, as I've tried to explain, Darren, we've tried to create a fair like-for-like comparison year on year, from where we started this process last year, as opposed to where we ended up, potentially, in the year. There were some amounts of money that were one-off— particular funding, as I said, such as the legacy funding as we completed the end of Schools Challenge Cymru. We were quite clear that that was time limited and one-off payments.
What's also clear, and I'm sure the committee recognises this very much, is the significant resource that goes into education. It does indeed come from this department—we've got big grants like the pupil development fund, the education improvement grant and the £100 million for school standards over the lifetime of this Assembly. Also, the day-to-day running of schools comes from the revenue support grant; that's how we keep teachers in front of children in classrooms the length and breadth of Wales. We've made a very deliberate decision in the education department to actually contribute money that would have sat within our department. We've put that money out into the RSG to try to protect front-line services and front-line school budgets.
So, it's very difficult, just in looking at our MEG, to see what the direct funding for schools is, because so much of education funding does come through the RSG. What's really crucial to me, having made that difficult decision to move money out of our department and put it into the revenue support grant, is that that money then does find its way into classrooms and into the front line in Wales. We are having very robust and very constructive conversations with the Welsh Local Government Association, and they're very clear on our expectations about how that money finds itself in the front line.
It would be very helpful if there was a consistent message coming from all members of Government in terms of how these figures are calculated, I think, in the future, but that's perhaps a discussion that you might want to take up with colleagues.
You've said, quite rightly, that the Welsh Government allocates funding to local authorities through the RSG, but, obviously, there's significant variation from one local authority to the next in terms of the spending per pupil on schools. This is an issue that, of course, is not just particular to Wales—it happens in other parts of the UK—but one decision that the UK Government has taken is to try to move to a national funding formula approach in order to overcome some of those inconsistencies and to give every child an equal and fairer chance, if you like, of having adequate resources spent on them. Is that an approach that the Welsh Government might consider in the future as being appropriate? And if not, why not?
First of all, I want to put on record that this year, in 2017-18, local authority budget expenditure on schools is up. Local authorities are doing what they can to ensure that they're spending adequately, within the envelope that is available to them, on schools. We should recognise that.
Undoubtedly, these are challenging times across all public finances. But those of you who know Debbie Wilcox, the leader of the WLGA—and some Members will know her more closely than others—she is an ex-teacher herself, she personally cares deeply about education and she has formally written to me, in response to the letters that I've written to her, to say that, across the 22 local authorities, local authorities will continue to prioritise school funding.
But we keep the pressure on. Officials met with the WLGA last week. Because, as we move forward, towards those councils setting their budgets, we want to keep an eye on that process. Officials met with them last week and I will meet with the WLGA tomorrow to continue to have these discussions.
On a national funding formula, you will have seen, Darren, from media reports, that that has not come about in England without some considerable pain as the formula has changed. There have been winners—some schools will be better off as a result of it, some schools will be much worse off. I recently, at the NAHT conference last week in Ceredigion, met a headteacher from a London suburb— not an inner-London school but a London suburb. Her budget has been drastically affected by the change to the funding formula.
Now, we are constantly looking as a Government at how we can best support education in Wales, but I think what we have to recognise with regard to a national funding formula is that schools, communities, education—it has to be delivered within the social context of that community. Our communities are very different. Some of them are very, very rural, some of them are very, very deprived, some have many advantages. How you capture all of that and all the complexity of Welsh life in one national formula is very challenging.
To do that, I have to say, Darren, at a time when budgets are so restricted would be incredibly difficult, because we would not be able to provide any cohort protection. So, we would have some schools that would lose out as a result of it, and some schools would gain. But when you can't guarantee a baseline for all schools and then adjust accordingly—maybe those schools would benefit without providing protection for those schools that would lose out—I think it's very, very challenging.
We constantly keep it under review, and my challenge to the WLGA is: 'If you don't passport this money into schools, and if this doesn't reach the front line, we will have to continue to have those discussions about how I can assure myself that money will get to the classroom.'
I acknowledge what you say about any change in funding arrangements, and, obviously, transitional arrangements would have to be put in place. But it is one way of getting to a situation that I know you would like to move to, which is where local authorities are passing on the share, appropriately, of the budget that you're giving them—
If I may, delegation rates are really important. Now, there has been progress in delegation rates. I don't want this money sitting unnecessarily in county halls—I want it out in classrooms. Again, these are the conversations we're having with the WLGA and I have had an assurance from the WLGA that they will maintain and improve delegation rates.
Okay, that's good to know. Can I ask just one final question, and that is on the management at an even more local level at schools? One of the challenges that you've put out to individual schools in recent years—well, since you took over this portfolio—has been that some schools are sat on quite significant reserves. Reserves are there for spending in the lean times. We're in those lean times, and it's appropriate for them to get that cash to the chalk face, as it were. Can I ask whether you're happy with progress on management of school reserves at the moment? And if you're not, what action are you going to take to make sure that those pupils around Wales who could benefit from the release of those reserves in schools are actually able to do so?
You're right, Darren, and as you know, this has been a cause of concern to me, and I know in discussions that we've had that this is a cause of concern to you. Updated information on the level of school reserves was published on 19 October. That gave a position as to where school reserve budgets were on 31 March of this year. The headline position does show that the overall level of reserves held by schools in Wales has decreased by some 28 per cent from £64 million to £46 million, equivalent to £102 per pupil. These are, as you said, lean times, and every penny counts.
There may be, in some cases, legitimate reasons why schools would hold on to reserves. They may be perhaps saving up for a particular project or they've got something very much in mind about why those resources will be spent. But, as I said, I continue to challenge local government to ensure that schools are making good use of the funding allocated, and whilst the overall level of reserves has now decreased, there are some schools that are making better use than others. So, some schools continue to maintain higher balances of more than 10 per cent of their total delegated budget. One has to question why that is. There may be a legitimate reason, but local authorities have a duty to be questioning and to be satisfying themselves. We continue to keep pressure on this particular area, but we have seen movement over the last year.
And I welcome that movement and the challenge that you're putting to local authorities. Just one final question on this reserves issue. There was one county in Wales that recent figures have suggested has negative reserve figures. Unfortunately, it's a county that is familiar to me—Denbighshire. That is a matter of great concern, particularly to schools in that local authority area and to parents. I should put on the record that I am a parent of pupils in Denbighshire and that I'm a member of a governing body with a deficit that we're trying to manage. Can I ask what action you might be prepared to take to support schools in that particular county, given that it is in a peculiar situation compared to other local authorities in Wales?
As a result of the publication of this data, I felt it was necessary to write to two local authorities in Wales where I and officials had concerns about the issue around reserves. Darren is absolutely right; Denbighshire is one of those local authorities. The second is Powys, and I should declare an interest in that I—like Darren—have children in Powys schools. So, I've written to both local authorities to seek assurances about how they are managing this situation and how they intend to deal with it. I'm sure it would be okay to share that correspondence with Members if they were interested. I have received assurances, in response to my letter, from both Denbighshire and Powys, but I don't believe that there would be a problem in sharing that information if Members were interested.
Thank you very much. Mark.
Thank you, Chair. Cabinet Secretary, you've made a particular personal priority of the raising of school standards. I think you have a commitment of £100 million being spent within that area over the course of the Assembly term. You touched on this in your letter to us and I just wonder if you could try and help me reconcile perhaps how the £20 million was spent last year with the £25 million you've now got this year. We had, I think, £3 million last year being spent on leadership. And you say in your letter that it's at least £3 million this year, including for your national academy of leadership. We then had, I think, last year, £4.5 million on the self-improving schools system. You say in your letter that this year it's going to be at least £4 million. And then we had, last year, three headings that I have here, which was £2 million on curriculum and assessment, £10 million on developing professional learning opportunities and £0.5 million on research on equity and well-being. I wonder if you could just explain those headings. Have they stopped? Are they continuing at the same level, or higher or lower, and what other areas are you being able to fund with the £25 million this year, perhaps that you didn't last year?
What we've tried to do, Mark, is to align those budget headings with 'Education in Wales: Our national mission' so that there is a direct read-across between the enabling objectives and the plans in the national mission and budget allocations, so that as people are reading Wales's national mission, they'll see consistent read-across so that they can see the actions, and then, through budgets, they can see the resources allocated.
The budget supports, as I said, 'Education in Wales: Our national mission' with the enabling objectives, which are: developing a high-quality education profession, because what really will make a difference to our children is the quality of teachers in our classrooms; inspirational leadership, so, as you say, work on our leadership academy to ensure that we have the school leaders with the skills and expertise to make a real difference; equity and well-being; and robust assessment and evaluation.
So, those headings will continue to guide our budget allocations on the £20 million raising standards as we go forward, and we have, where we can, prioritised spending in those particular headings. Those headings will continue whilst I am Cabinet Secretary so that we can align it with the national mission.
So, are you able to tell me, by giving a comparison for the coming year, compared to the numbers we have for this year—? So, the £2 million on curriculum and assessment, £10 million on developing professional learning opportunities and £0.5 million on equity and well-being research—can you give me equivalent numbers you're expecting to spend in those three areas this coming year?
Curriculum and assessment increases modestly by an additional £225,000 to £2.225 million, professional learning rises to just below £11 million, self-improving schools goes to £4.65 million, research and evaluation £240,000, leadership just over the £3 million, and well-being £250,000. So, that's how we're allocating for this year, but if the committee would like a note of that, I can send that.
Yes, that's helpful. I think that does help. I'm still seeing it go from £20 million to £25 million. I've got perhaps a couple of million of that from the increases that you've given, but I would like to understand a bit better where the rest of—
In total, we're looking in 2018-19 to increase expenditure in areas with a flat-line budget for the research and evaluation. But I can send the details—
If the committee could have a note, that would be lovely, thank you.
You negotiated in quite a quick period at the beginning of this Assembly, as part of the arrangements you had with Carwyn Jones and the Labour Party for coming into Government, this £100 million heading. I just wondered how, compared to perhaps the week you had then and the five years you are now getting—how are you keeping that £100 million as being what you intended it to be when you negotiated that? How is it staying as schools standards as opposed to a miscellaneous fund or perhaps for the personal priorities of the Cabinet Secretary?
Gosh, I wish it was a personal slush fund. But clearly, as I said at the beginning, we're aligning our budget to the delivery of the national mission, and we're trying to do that in a way that is transparent and coherent for people. Within that, there will be ways and means of achieving those goals. So, on leadership, you're right; I had a personal commitment before I came into Government to establish a leadership academy. It's clear to me that leadership is an issue that was identified by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development when it came to review Welsh education back in 2014. It identified leadership as a weakness in the education system. I recognised that in opposition and having the opportunity to do something about leadership now has been very important to me, and it has been welcomed by the OECD's rapid review of the reforms that we're undertaking that leadership now has taken a greater prevalence. So, yes, there are some things that I was personally determined to do, but what we're doing is evidence based, based on best advice and scrutiny from the OECD, and from this committee, and that looks to guide us as we go forward.
Isn't that, perhaps with some exceptions such as leadership, something of a shift away from what you said when you came into Government about £100 million on the school standards? Now that sum is becoming aligned to the overall Welsh Government priorities. Isn't there a tension between what you said back at the beginning and how that's developing within the structures of Government?
Not at all. The first thing we said about our national mission was raising standards. That is my absolute priority and the priority of this Government—raising standards, closing the attainment gap and ensuring that we have an educational system that is a source of national pride and, crucially, public confidence. The first thing that this Government and this department is concerned about is raising standards. It's what I judge all the things that the civil servants send up to me against: Is this going to raise standards? Is this going to have a demonstrable—? Can we look at evidence from elsewhere that suggests that this action will have an effect on raising standards? Because that is the No. 1 aim of the national mission.
On which point, isn't school governance crucial to improving standards? Why is the school governance BEL falling from £1.124 million to just £36,000, and what are the implications for Governors Wales of that big fall?
You're absolutely correct, Mark. There have been some really difficult and challenging discussions that we've had to have when looking at this budget. I literally have looked at every single bit of the resource with the issue around, as you said, raising standards and ensuring that we get money to the front line. Governance is crucial to the success of our schools, but when we've looked at what is available, there are a range of services available to support governors—services that are delivered by local authorities, services that are delivered by regional consortia, and services that are delivered by Governors Wales.
A previous evaluation of Governors Wales demonstrated that it wasn't usually the first port of call for support for governors, so in these difficult times, when we're really having to make difficult decisions and prioritise, given that there is support for governors elsewhere within the system, and that that support mechanism is usually the first port of call for governors rather than Governors Wales, we have put out there this suggestion that we will have to cut the funding to Governors Wales because there is a little bit of duplication in the system, and there are other places that governors can go.
But I am very aware that people feel strongly about this. We're in a draft budget situation and I'm seeking views. Many Members have written to me about the role that Governors Wales plays, and we will continue to have those discussions. I have to say there are some other difficult decisions that are having to be taken in that particular BEL, with some of those resources forming the money that we've been able to put into the RSG—our contribution to the RSG.
So, it has not been easy, but given that there are other sources of support, that the evaluation said that sometimes people use those sources of support first, and my commitment to trying to get as much money to the front line, we've made those difficult decisions.
Have you increased the RSG by at least as much as all your cuts in the different ring-fenced grants within your MEG?
The issue with the approach to the RSG has been one across Government. So, all Government departments, when faced with the stark reality of where the RSG may be, have been asked to contribute into the RSG. We have done that as the education department, and we expect to get more back in expenditure in schools than we have put in. That's our expectation because, in conjunction with local authorities, education spending and social services spending is a priority for us, and it's a priority for local government. But that has meant—and there's no point me pulling any punches about this—we've had to make some difficult decisions. But we're in a draft situation and I continue to listen to the views of people as they make representations, and of course this committee's scrutiny and this committee's views will be taken into consideration.
Darren on this, briefly.
It's just a very brief follow-up point in relation to Governors Wales spending. I think one of the problems that many governing bodies have identified is that, obviously, their first port of call is usually the local education authority in terms of support. The difficulty is that, sometimes, they may have a dispute with that local education authority and there is a need for an ability for them to get some independent advice from one place or another. Governors Wales have traditionally—particularly if they're not a church school, for example—provided that, whereas the diocesan education service might have been able to lend some support. So, it's those schools in particular that I'm concerned about. What alternative avenues do they currently have, in your opinion?
Okay. I recognise that. A school may choose to have a different source of advice than the LEA if they find themselves in some kind of dispute. As you are aware, we're currently reviewing the context of our regional consortia model, our regional working, and I would expect schools to be able to have advice above and beyond local authorities via the regional consortia. As we review regional working, we'll be looking at those options. But support is already available there. But, as we review the regional working model, this will have to be taken into consideration.
I understand that. I think the problem is that, obviously, regional consortia are also funded by local authorities and unlikely to bite the hand that feeds them in terms of giving a school advice against one of their partner bodies that's giving them financial support. So, it's just this issue of independence. I'd appreciate you considering it.
I don't disagree with you, Darren, and I wouldn't argue with you. It's just a question of, in these times, choosing priorities, and if there are other sources of advice for governing bodies, is a duplication of service the right way to go when, really, what we're all—you are, you are, I am—we're all really concerned about getting money to the front line?
I've got John, then Mark on this, but I would ask Members to be brief. We can't turn this into a session on Governors Wales.
I will be brief, Chair. I've written to the Cabinet Secretary on this, as many others have. I just wonder if there's any more information you could provide to the committee on the sufficiency of the LEA support for governors, more than you've provided up to now, because I think it will be really important for us to have as accurate a picture as possible of the level of support that is given at a local level, as compared to what has come through Governors Wales.
Yes, John, if there's any more information that Members would find useful, I'm happy to supply that and to give you details of our review of regional working and how that review may give us an opportunity to address some of the concerns that, I understand, legitimately have been expressed here today at the committee and in correspondence from Members.
That's okay then, is it?
Just very, very quickly, the diocesan education—[Inaudible.]—Darren says about how they can provide some of that sort of independent advice for governors within church schools. Is there any mileage, perhaps, in giving a small amount of what would have been the funding you had before to ask the diocesan education boards to provide that service more broadly to governors from non-church schools, if they have that expertise and can, perhaps, do it cost effectively?
I haven't given that any consideration, but I'm always open to ideas and I'm happy to explore whether that would be suitable or achievable, by all means.
No problem at all.
Thank you. Okay, we'll move on now then to talk about the education improvement grant. Darren.
I notice that, obviously, there was a shift to the RSG of the education improvement grant. That, I think, seems to many of the committee members to be quite odd, given the acceptance of the recommendations that this committee made that we wanted to see that grant monitored more carefully and the spending in relation to that grant monitored more carefully, following our inquiry last year. I just wondered if you could comment on the rationale for shifting it into the RSG, given the assurances that you gave us that you wanted to follow the money, as it were, to make sure that it was benefiting the pupils who it was intended for.
Of course, Darren. I don't want to sound like a stuck record, but we come back to this point about prioritising, and I recognise that RSG and local government expenditure are crucially important to the successful running of our schools. Given the prospect of a significant drop in the revenue support grant, I was very mindful of what that would mean for the day-to-day running of schools. So, looking within the resources available to me centrally, and how we could address that, I took that decision that I would put that money into RSG, because additional money in education improvement grant is fine, but if we are having to lose teachers from our classrooms because the RSG is being—
I'm not talking so much about the total money. I'll come on to that in a second. What I'm asking you is: why shift that into the RSG when you told us that you wanted to be able to monitor the arrangements of how that is spent in a closer way? You're not going to be able to if it's gobbled up into the RSG, are you?
Well, the EIG is still a considerable amount of money, and we will want to monitor very closely that that money is being used to good effect, clearly. It is a challenge to put that money into the RSG and to have those assurances that it'll end up in classrooms. That's why the conversations we're having with the WLGA are absolutely crucial. I welcome, as I said earlier, very much Councillor Wilcox's response and her assurances that local authorities will continue to prioritise education funding in this challenging climate.
Darren, the best thing that could be done around some of these issues is to have a budget next week in Westminster where the unallocated cuts that the Chancellor has threatened are not followed through on. We are in difficult, constrained financial times. I've made it quite clear to the committee that my priority has tried to be protecting front-line services. I felt, in all the options available to me, that giving the money to local authorities was the best way, at this time, that I could do that, and that has meant difficult decisions that, perhaps, maybe in other circumstances, I would not have made. But EIG continues to be a substantial grant, and it'll have to be monitored very carefully.
Cabinet Secretary, I've got a great deal of sympathy for you because of the financial constraints that you're under. What I'm asking you is: how on earth are you going to fulfil your commitment to this committee that you would improve the monitoring and evaluation of the EIG, particularly in relation to the Gypsy Traveller and ethnic minority communities, if that is simply dolloped into the huge RSG settlement that local authorities get, and they can spend it however they wish?
Chair, I don't doubt for a minute that there is a reduction in the EIG that goes into RSG, but Darren, maybe, is giving the impression that the EIG, now, is an insignificant amount of money. Despite the—
No, no. I'm asking how you're monitoring it.
If I can just explain. Despite the transfers of some resources out of the EIG, it will continue to provide a significant investment of more than £225 million over the next two years. So, the commitment I made to this committee last year that we have to have a better way of monitoring EIG and a better understanding of what we're getting for that money stands true, because it is still a significant amount of resource that's going into education, and we have developed those new arrangements. I'm happy to send a note to the committee to remind them of the new memorandum of understanding that we have around the expenditure of EIG. So, I don't want people to think that the EIG is just disappearing; it is still a significant amount of money and a significant grant that will be spent.
With regard to Gypsy Travellers, I know and understand that this has been a source of concern to the committee and I'm very mindful that it's part of scrutiny of a draft budget. No firm decisions have been made on transferring funding to support the minority ethnic achievement grant, so we're still having discussions about whether the MEAG element is the bit that goes into the RSG or the MEAG element is the bit that stays within the EIG. Because I know that this particular group of students is one that has been a priority for the committee, and we'll continue to have those discussions. In fact, one of the ongoing issues that I've recently written to the WLGA about is specifically Gypsy Traveller support.
And, just finally on this if I can, obviously, we know that you've indicated, as a Welsh Government, that there's going to be a £2 million reduction in the total EIG pot in each of the next two financial years. In terms of how that pot is now distributed through the RSG, does that change the totals that local authorities would have been getting in terms of the way it's distributed? Perhaps I'm not making myself clear there—
No, not particularly, but one of the—
—but if a local authority was previously getting a certain amount because of the distribution formula, given that it's shifting into the RSG, is the distribution formula significantly different in terms of the way that that cash is being carved up?
Steve can help me out on some of the details, but one of the ways in which we are looking to get better value for money is EIG often resulted around a lot of grant applications and paperwork. One of the advantages of putting it into RSG is that some of the bureaucracy associated around those particular issues will be done away with, because we will simply be giving the money straight to local authorities. But, Steve, perhaps you can give some greater detail.
That's one element of it; the other element is the challenge that we're placing on local authorities, in terms of some of the bureaucracies we've put around the grants, which we expect to continue to reduce, and we expect that to make a contribution to the reduction of the £2 million as well.
So, you expect some savings for local authorities in administration costs?
And savings for Welsh Government in that sense as well, because we're not having people chasing things.
Mark, is it on this?
Yes. Just a final point. The changes in the EIG and what goes on RSGs, you said, generally, that you'd expect to see higher spending on schools coming out of that process. I just wonder, is that really plausible for councils such as Monmouthshire, which has the lowest RSG currently and is seeing the biggest cut in that? Is there anything you can do for those authorities, perhaps through the rural and small schools grants?
As I said, there is a shared commitment across all local authorities of whatever political persuasion to prioritise education and social services, and I welcome that very much indeed. I think what local authorities—. Despite difficult circumstance and the difficult decisions that councillors will have to make, my message is very clear: we've made some tough decisions here in central Government to put that money out to them, having listened to their concerns, I would expect to see that reflected in how they support their schools.
I have to say, Powys is a very similar county and faces some of the similar logistical challenges of delivering services as Monmouthshire does. The Conservative finance Cabinet Member for Powys in open session said that they had received a better deal from Welsh Government with regard to the revenue support grant than they had been planning for and had been expecting. That's not to say—and I'm under no illusions that councils will have to make some very difficult decisions—but councils of all colours have said to me that they are committed to prioritising education's funding, and we will be watching that very, very, very carefully.
I have a very positive working relationship with Debbie Wilcox since she took over the leadership, but if we're not satisfied that this money doesn't get to the front line, I may have to make different decisions next year.
Thank you. I'm sure that we welcome the fact that the decision—. You're considering what's being said in terms of what goes in from the EIG, and it would be great if we could have the note that you've referred to on the memorandum. Thank you. John.
Could I ask, Cabinet Secretary, some questions on the assessment of the impact and value for money of the pupil development grant, particularly in the light of this year's GCSE results, which showed an unwelcome reversal of the trend that had been a narrowing of the attainment gap in terms of pupils who were eligible for free school meals and others?
Thank you, John. As you know, as I have embarrassingly said before in this committee, this PDG is my big passion. I have been determined, even in these difficult times, to protect expenditure on those children who are from the poorest and challenging backgrounds to get the help that they need. This year, PDG will rise to over £90 million. The number of children who are captured by PDG increases and we will maintain that funding.
Evidence from a number of bodies, and Estyn, as well as the Welsh Government's raising attainment advocate, Sir Alasdair Macdonald, support the view that the majority of our schools are making well-thought-out and appropriate decisions on how they spend PDG.
I will continue to consider and check and challenge where investments through the PDG can be targeted to have an even greater impact on education. Because as I said to Mark, the second priority in our national mission, after raising standards, is closing the attainment gap. The results of this summer do show a dropping back. I think it's important to recognise that what constitutes level 2 plus this year is different from last year. I'm not prepared to sit back and say, 'Well, it's a different set of criteria', and I have asked officials to carry out an in-depth review of why we think this has happened. So, for instance, what has been the impact of changing level 2 plus only to include English language? In previous years, you could get a level 2 plus if you passed your English language or you passed your English literature GCSE. This year, we've said, 'No, to be more rigorous in how we assess our system, English language is what counts because that is the gold standard for assessing a child's literacy abilities and their ability to have those skills that are necessary to go on into education or into the world of work.'
What has been the impact of moving away from BTEC science? So, again, this is all about raising standards, making sure our system is more robust. We know that that qualification was not giving children what we needed. So, we've said, 'No, that can't be included in level 2 plus any more. We need double science or triple science GCSEs.
So, what's been the impact of that? There is some early anecdotal evidence that, because of schools' nervousness around the implementation of the two new maths GCSE courses and the new English language spec—there is some evidence to suggest that teaching time is lost from other subjects. So, in an attempt to get those children through English and maths, maybe some teaching time was taken away from other subjects. We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to absolutely get to the bottom of this, and that's why we will be doing a detailed piece of research to ensure what are the elements that have led to this situation.
How does that exercise, then, relate to the evaluation reports for pupil development grant for school-age children, and also an evaluation report on children of pre-school years? When will those evaluations be published?
Well, there's the annual report from Sir Alasdair Macdonald, who is our adviser on this. Estyn look at this on a school-by-school basis. Challenge and review meetings from regional consortia with individual schools: schools have to demonstrate to them how they're using their PDG, whether they're using the Sutton toolkit, which is an evidence-based set of interventions where lots of researchers have demonstrated what works. But we are carrying out all Wales Government evaluations into the programmes, and we're constantly challenging ourselves. It's a significant amount of money. These children are a priority for me. The Government is required to use the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 to guide how we make decisions about the budget. We know that, by affecting the life chances of these children, we are meeting many of the expectations that are placed on us by that piece of legislation.
Steve, I don't know if you want to give some—. The Ipsos MORI report is being finalised, but I've not yet seen that final copy. So, imminently, we'll be able to give some more evidence to this committee and to, of course, the Public Accounts Committee, which I believe are also carrying out work in this particular area. Hopefully, the completion of that report will be useful to both committees.
Just for clarity, is that report, then, what I think this committee was informed would be published in the summer: two evaluations—one pre-school and one—?
Yes. That's the same thing. I'm sorry it's taking a bit longer. What I'm learning is that ministerial seasons stretch.
Yes. It's on targeted funding. It's not those particular targeted funds. Another one, which you've been very proud to announce, certainly last year, was the targeted funds for infant class sizes. I notice that you've put cash into this year's budget again as part of this £36 million phased programme over the lifetime of the Assembly, but I was just wondering how many applications have been received for cash in respect of trying to reduce class sizes to date, and how much has actually been spent from the budgets that have been previously allocated.
I haven't got the exact figures on applications, but we've had applications from the majority of local education authorities. We are evaluating those. Some of the applications perhaps have not been quite right, in fact, in the sense of not targeting the right children. So, we're continuing to have some discussions with local authorities around some of the detail of those applications, but there's been a great deal of interest from local authorities around infant class sizes, and also, for rural schools grant as well, some really innovative applications coming in to support that—not from every local authority, as you would imagine, but a great deal of interest in both cutting class sizes and in rural schools.
Can I just ask as a supplementary to that, then: are you satisfied that sufficient resources have been allocated for you to achieve your policy objective, which is to eradicate class sizes of over 25?
'Starting with the largest classes first', Darren, if we complete the sentence in the manifesto and in the progressive agreement with the First Minister. We can't do it overnight. I've been very clear about that from the very beginning. We're starting with the largest classes first, especially in those areas of high levels of deprivation or in those schools where we have a significant number of children who perhaps don't have English as their home language, and also in the youngest age group, because we know from evidence that that's where that investment will make the biggest difference. But I'm more than happy to give committee an update on the numbers of applications that we've had in. But, certainly, I've not had any discussions with officials that the demand has outstripped the budget that is available. And, where we have had demand outstripping budgets available, for instance in the applications that were made for our pilots on supply teaching, then officials have been creative in trying to move money around within the department to try and meet the aspirations so that we can support all the applications that come forward.
I welcome that. Just one final question on this: I appreciate that you want to deal with the largest class sizes first—no problem with that; I understand—
That's what it says.
—your aim. The problem is you have to rely on applications coming in. What do you do if there are particular problems in some local authority areas, in some schools, and no applications are forthcoming from those schools? Are you proactive in seeking them?
Go on, Steve.
Basically, when we had the first applications in, you would expect there to be variability across the 22 local authorities. So, we've been working with the Welsh Local Government Association to share with them what we think are the best features of the best applications, which has enabled us to have an influence on and give some more scope in terms of time for those authorities, perhaps, who either have not made an application or not made a high-quality—
Been less proactive.
—application, so we can be proactive in that area without dictating to them.
Okay, thank you.
Okay, thank you, and I'm sure the committee would be grateful for the note that you've mentioned giving us an update when you're in a position to.
Thank you. John.
I was just going to ask as well what the up-to-date assessment is in terms of value for money of the Schools Challenge Cymru programme and what the school level data for this year indicates.
As you know, John, the Schools Challenge Cymru programme was a time-limited programme that was announced by the previous Minister. There have been some schools that have made significant progress as a result of participating in the schools challenge, other schools where the intervention has not been as effective as we would have liked. We provided some additional resources that we've taken out of the revised baseline to make sure that that programme came to an appropriate end at the end of the academic year, but I think it's fair to say that different schools were able to make different levels of progress as a result of that scheme.
What we're also very clear on is that one of the disadvantages is that there are schools that are a cause of concern to regional consortia that were never part of that programme. So, we are working with regional consortia, not to pull out support from all of those schools but to use our challenge and review and our intelligence on the ground to identify which schools need continuing support from regional consortia, which will include not just Schools Challenge Cymru schools but also some of the schools that are causing concern that were never part of that programme. So, the evaluation is really one of a mixed picture. Some did well, and they're to be congratulated. Other schools did not make the progress that we would have liked them to, considering it was a significant amount of money channelled at a relatively small number of our high schools.
We are doing an analysis of the data. When we have the final data set in December, we will do an analysis.
Okay. Okay, Chair. Moving on, then, to further education, if I may, in terms of the £5 million allocation, which is for this year and is to be repeated next year, is that for any particular purpose, or is that to manage the general financial pressures that FE faces?
Yes. I'm really pleased that we've been able to maintain this investment into further education. Members will be aware, in recent years, further education really has endured and had to cope with some significant financial challenges. So, the £5 million is there to generally support pressures within the system—inflationary pressures within the system—that FE are experiencing, and I'm really glad we've been able to maintain that at what is a difficult time.
Are there any strong themes in terms of what the money has been used for and whether you would expect similar uses in the next financial year, or—?
Should I add? So, in previous years, we've had a number of initiatives to help to develop the staff within further education colleges for particular changes in the curriculum and the skills needs of employers, and in the last two years there's been a dialogue about creative solutions where we've worked with the colleges to identify the things that they need. More recently, back in February of this year, the Wales Audit Office published a report on the financial position of further education colleges, and one of the recommendations they made was that we look at the funding formulae that operate for FE colleges and think about how we reward changes in the role of students, reflecting demographic changes, and how we prioritise funding for other things. So, some draft proposals have been developed and there's a conversation going on with key stakeholders about how that might work, and we would look forward to bringing forward concrete proposals in the new year.
Okay. Okay, I wonder if I could also ask, in terms of further education, in terms of the reduction in full-time equivalent staff. There was something like a 17 per cent reduction in the five years up to 2017, and I just wonder to what extent you think that reduction was a direct consequence of the reduction in FE budgets and to what extent other factors might have been at play.
You're right, John. There's no getting away from the figures that we have seen a reduction in full-time equivalent staff working in the sector. The sector was subject to significant reductions in funding in 2014-15 and 2015-16. That had a particular impact on part-time provision, as the Government sought to prioritise full-time learners and trying to protect full-time learners. What we've seen in 2016-17, 2017-18, and hopefully going forward, is providing a period of stability for the FE sector, but I would be the first to acknowledge, John, that, as a sector, they've had to face really significant challenges and that has had an impact on the number of staff that are employed. I don't know, Huw, whether there's anything further to add in terms of demographics or—.
Just to add that a large number of those part-time students that those staff would have supported historically would be in-work adults or they might be people who could receive funding for their training and development from companies or from their own pocket. One of the things that we've noted over the last three or four years is a very significant expansion in the funding that companies are prepared to put forward to support their staff with those training needs, and we've been very heartened by the developments that a number of FE colleges have put into meeting the needs of those employers and those learners who are employed. And those colleges that have done that well have been able to expand their provision in many areas.
Okay. I wonder, on the subject of part-time learning and adult learning, again we've seen considerable reductions. I think, in terms of local authority community learning, for example, the number of those learners fell by more than half between 2012 and 2016. We've seen that scale of impact from budget reductions, really, in further education. Are you able to say anything, Cabinet Secretary, in terms of what the future holds and perhaps greater support for this aspect of learning and lifelong learning in Wales?
You're quite right: as you would expect, following the reductions of this nature, the number of part-time learners enrolled in FE colleges has dropped significantly. But, a number of initiatives are in place to encourage and increase the number of older learners in education, which is really crucial for the economic health of our country to address some of our underlying economic challenges around productivity, for instance, and skills levels. We can't just focus our educational efforts on those younger people; it's those people who are already out in the workforce whom we also have to take into consideration if we're to address some of these issues.
So, there are a number of examples that we could point you to, not necessarily under the old portfolio systems because there have been some changes. For instance, the employability delivery plan underpins the 'Taking Wales Forward' commitment to reshape employability support for job-ready individuals and those who find themselves a long way from the labour market; Working Wales; and the Age of Investment campaign. So, there are a number of Government initiatives, not just in education but in other departments, that potentially will look to drive this forward.
Of course, in the HE sector, Diamond, and the introduction of equitable support for part-time learners in HE as a result of the Diamond reforms that will come into place next year, again, gives people a real opportunity, I think, to get back into part-time learning because of that support, in a way that they weren't able to previously. We're looking across Government at how we can utilise the opportunities afforded to us by the Diamond support for HE to look at what we can do, for instance, to address some critical shortages in some of our public services.
So, I and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services are actively looking at alternative routes into nursing qualifications, especially in rural areas, where it's quite difficult to recruit—whether you could use healthcare support workers who are currently working in our system to allow them to work part time but also train part time to achieve qualifications. That, I think, could be used for social workers as well. Think of the economic impacts—think of the economic impact for a family if we could provide a route to professional qualifications. We'd solve our issues around recruitment and retention, and we'd have a massive economic impact for that individual family, as well as, then, that impact within that community. So, Diamond, and support for part-time learning, I think, gives us a real opportunity to focus in on these types of learners, not the traditional 18-year-old school leaver.
Could I just ask quickly, Chair—?
Very quickly, please, because we need to move on.
Very quickly, your predecessor told us last month that he intended to bring forward a new strategy for adult education. Is that your intention also?
As I said, I recognise—it's part of what's driven Diamond—that we have to look at education and skills in the round. We can't just focus on what were perceived to be traditional HE and FE students and so, yes, it's absolutely our intention to move forward in that way.
Thank you. Hefin.
How do you respond to the research done by Universities Wales that higher education has faced seven years of cuts?
Hefin, I don't shy away from the fact that there have been challenging times, but I do have to say that, especially when you compare it to the situation that we've just described in further education, I don't recognise that there have been cuts of that kind in funding to the higher education sector in Wales. Institutions in Wales have benefited as a result of reforms that were in introduced in 2012, which have seen the income to the sector continue to rise, despite the very challenging financial situation we find ourselves in and some of the cuts that I've just been very blunt and very clear about with regard to FE.
Overall, income to the sector has increased by over £250 million since 2012 and is projected to continue to increase into the future under current funding arrangements. This analysis is consistent with the findings of independent reports—so, this isn't just Government—published by the Wales Audit Office and by the cross-party National Assembly Finance Committee.
Look, I'm not saying things have been easy within the sector, and clearly there are pressures and challenges, and that's why I've been determined to introduce our Diamond reforms. Diamond reforms, understandably—especially when you've got a Liberal Democrat introducing them—are focused very much on how we support individual students. But, actually, what the Diamond reforms are about is so much more than that. It is about moving the sector as a whole onto a sustainable footing that will allow us to continue to invest in HE and address some of the issues around funding for expensive subjects, research and innovation, which I know universities find important.
Are you saying, then, that HE has had a more generous budget settlement than FE? Is that what you're—?
No, what I'm saying is I don't doubt for a minute that HE has found things challenging—of course they have. We've seen job losses in the sector and some challenging decisions they've had to make, but the independent analysis of how HE has fared—as I said, whether it's the Wales Audit Office, or whether it's the Finance Committee of this Assembly—is that overall income to the sector has increased by over £250 million since 2012. Hefin, what I don't want to do, because I don't think it's useful to anybody, is to pit sector against sector. This isn't about HE getting a better deal than FE or—
No, I appreciate that.
What we need and what we're endeavouring to do with our other reforms is to get the sectors to work more closely together. This isn't about pitting one sector against another.
And you've spoken about the boundaryless system you wanted. What about the recurrent £15 million? How will that be allocated in your remit letter to HEFCW next year?
Of course, as you quite rightly identify, it will be up to HEFCW to decide how it allocates its resources, but I will expect the funding council to have regard to the priorities of the Welsh Government. In the past, I've asked them to allocate some of the £15 million on improving what I've just talked about: improved collaboration between FE and HE. I will ask the funding council to provide me with an update on some of that work, because, as I said earlier, I don't want to pit sector against sector.
Okay. You also said that the £10 million you announced just the morning of the last committee you attended, you said it wasn't in your allocation. The money was to offset the freeze in tuition fees. You said it wasn't in your allocation, but when you wrote to us you were unable to confirm which financial year it would be in. Are you able to tell us now?
Well, I sent you a breakdown of how the £10 million was calculated following that meeting. I appreciate it wasn't ideal circumstances to come to that committee and not give a huge amount of warning to committee members that morning, and I do apologise for that. I hope I gave a reason why that was possible. I've not allocated the additional funding to specific financial years at this time, and I continue to discuss that with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.
Any idea when we'll have a firmer update?
I had hoped to be in a position, but as you can imagine, Hefin, things have been a bit disruptive recently.
Okay. And finally, on the Diamond system, are you standing by the case that this will be cost neutral?
I absolutely stand by the commitment that I and the First Minister have that there will be no adverse impact on the HE budget as a result of our Diamond reform. I believe what Diamond gives us the opportunity to do is to give a great settlement and great support for individual students at the time when they need that support the most, and it also gives us a sustainable way in which we can fund HE going forward and address some of those issues that I and the HE sector continue to have. Whether that is about support for expensive subjects, whether that is support for innovation within the sector, this gives us the opportunity, as we roll Diamond out, to achieve some of those goals and aspirations that I and the sector have together.
But, as to what you said, you haven't used the words cost neutral. How are you going to offset the extra costs?
That is accounted for within the system. We know that, potentially, in the first area, as we run a dual system, that's a pressure, and those are pressures that have been recognised by the finance Secretary. But we're absolutely, absolutely certain, having done so much modelling and been quite cautious in some of the ways in which we've set the income thresholds for access to financial support, that it is affordable and achievable.
Darren, on this—briefly.
This is in relation to the student support for students who are HE students in FE colleges, if you see what I mean, being delivered through an FE institution. Obviously, there's going to be lack of parity between those students who are doing FE versus those who are doing HE, potentially on the same campus. One of the things that Professor Diamond was charged with was trying to look at potential opportunities for student support for FE students. I just wondered whether you'd given further consideration to FE students and how they might be supported to meet the costs of their further education and whether some of the Diamond dividend, in terms of the savings that would be made, could be made available to support students in FE.
Okay, let's be absolutely clear: there has always been a differentiation between the nature of support for students studying in FE and students studying at a HE level. I recognise that, for some students, there are financial barriers to pursuing further education, and that's why, despite these very difficult circumstances, and unlike the situation in England, we're maintaining the education maintenance allowance.
Okay, thank you. Final question, Hefin, on twenty-first century schools.
I wasn't aware I was asking that question. Okay, that's fine. How long is the second wave of twenty-first century schools, band B, scheduled to last? Will it be a similar duration to band A from 2014-19?
Okay. Sorry. You've distracted me now, Darren, by your heckling on the side. [Laughter.]
You distracted me. [Laughter.]
Can I just say that I'm very fortunate—and it must be a source of consternation to previous Cabinet Secretaries or Ministers for education—because one of the greatest aspects of my job is to be able to travel around Wales and see the results of the band A programme and opening new schools? Last week, I was very fortunate to be in Ynys Môn, opening the fantastic Ysgol Cybi at Holyhead, Rhyd y Llan on the island, and down in Drefach just outside Lampeter, opening a new primary school there. The band A programme has been absolutely fantastic.
I was very pleased also last week to announce the second wave of investment. Programme business cases have been identified, with a capital value of £2.3 billion, and we gave a commitment last week that all plans that have been submitted by local authorities, subject of course to consultation and subject of course to planning, will be funded. The length of the programme may have to extend, but the commitment is that those plans will be honoured. We didn't want to go back and say to local authorities, 'No, you have to drop off some of these schools from your plans.' We will commit to building those schools and facilities.
Okay, thank you. We've come to the end of the session, so can I thank the Cabinet Secretary for her attendance this morning and also thank the officials for attending as well? We do appreciate your time. We will send you a transcript to check for accuracy in due course, but thank you very much.
Thank you to the Chair and members of the committee for their continued interest and support for national mission.
Item 4 is papers to note. Members will see that there is a large number of papers to note. So, if Members are okay with it, I'd like to ask them to note them all in one go rather than go through them individually. Maybe Members could indicate if there are any issues that they want to raise and we could return to them when we move into the private session. Are Members happy to note those? Okay.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 5: can I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of this meeting. Are Members content? Thank you very much.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:59.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:59.