Devil's in the Dearing

June 4, 1999

I have been trying to discover what contribution employers make to the education of their staff since the ending of the old training levy. The question became an issue recently in the government's response to the Ten Minute Bill, introduced by David Chaytor in the House of Commons and which would have entitled workers to paid educational leave. The government spokesman insisted that the government favoured the voluntary approach to employer training in preference to compulsion. According to the Dearing report on higher education, 2.7 per cent of the cost of higher education in the UK was met by the employers - that is, about Pounds 300 million. At the same time, David Blunkett has quoted a Department for Education and Employment figure of over Pounds 10 billion as the employers' annual spending on training.

What I had hoped to obtain was a breakdown of the DFEE estimate, perhaps distinguishing education from training. In reply to an inquiry to Tony Benn, I have received a letter from Mr Blunkett, quoting figures of Pounds 8 billion on training courses and Pounds 2.8 billion on supervised on-the-job training, which does not include the cost of practising skills taught on the job. In the same letter I was told that a detailed breakdown of the total was attached. This was omitted, unfortunately, and I have written back to ask for it.

I have also received a copy of a letter sent by George Mudie, parliamentary under-secretary of state for education and employment, to Ken Coates, MEP, in response to a similar request for information. In it Mr Mudie states:

"The department does not have figures for employers to provide paid educational leave."

Can anyone help?

M. Barratt Brown Bakewell, Derbyshire

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