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No. 141, page 100, line 41, at end insert—

No. 142, page 100, line 5, at end insert—

“(b) section 54, 56(1)(b) or 59 of the Education and Skills Act 2008,”.

No. 143, page 100, line 13, at end insert—

Schedule 2

Repeals and revocations

Amendments made: No. 144, page 101, line 16, at end insert—

    ‘Local Government Act 1972 (c. 70)

    In section 177(1A), the word “and” preceding paragraph (c).’.

No. 145, page 101, line 30, at end insert—

    ‘In section 89—

    (a) subsections (1ZA), (1A) and (7), and

    (b) in subsection (10), paragraph (b) and the word “and” preceding it.

    Section 89D.

    In section 90—

    (a) subsections (3) to (5),

    (b) in subsection (5B), paragraph (c) (but not the word “and” following it),

    (c) subsection (9)(ba), and

    (d) in subsection (11), paragraph (b) and the word “and” preceding it.

    Section 90A.’.

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No. 146, page 101, line 38, at end insert—

    ‘Tax Credits Act 2002 (c. 21)

    In Schedule 5, paragraph 10.’.

No. 147, page 102, line 34, at end insert—

    ‘Section 106.’.

No. 148, page 102, line 38, in column 2, at beginning insert—

    ‘Section 46.

    Section 47(5)(a).

    Section 50(3).

    Section 52(2).’.—[ Jim Knight.]

Order for Third Reading read.

9.23 pm

Jim Knight: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This landmark Bill has rightly benefited from considerable and enthusiastic debate in Committee and today on Report. I thank right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House for their considered and largely informed scrutiny of the Bill’s contents. The debate has ranged far and wide, from Proust to the origins of Liberalism to the inevitable discussion of the intricacies of legal drafting. This evening, we discussed the difference between aptitude and ability. If it helps the House to define the difference, we saw that although the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) has the aptitude to deliver clever parliamentary rhetoric, it is doubtful that he has the ability to run the country.

The Bill is about ensuring that the young people of today do not find themselves in search of lost time when they reach adulthood, that they do not look back on their youth and their education as a wasted opportunity, and that they do not find themselves without the skills, training and prospects to secure for themselves a satisfying and fulfilling job in their chosen career. The Government have made considerable progress in removing the historical glass ceiling on aspiration and achievement for the most disadvantaged young people in our society.

Philip Davies: Although new clause 16 was not reached, will the Minister confirm that, were the Bill to be given a Third Reading, the Government would still consider providing statutory support for orphans such as Kirsty Oldfield in my constituency? Ministers have shown a great deal of interest in her case, for which she is very grateful. Could such a provision still be introduced at this late hour, perhaps by an amendment in the House of Lords?

Jim Knight: The hon. Gentleman has raised the case of Kirsty Oldfield in the House on several occasions, and we are considering it. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary would be happy to meet him to discuss how we might be able to take forward the concerns that he raised through the new clause that he was unable to move on Report.

Having said that we have made considerable progress, it is also fair to say that we need to do more to
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ensure that individuals get the skills that they need to succeed, that employers get people with the training most useful to them, and that Britain is equipped with a world-class work force. Under the current system, out of a typical class of 30 year 6 children, 24 will progress to secondary school after success at key stage 2, 18 will go on to get five high-level GCSEs, and six will progress to university with more to follow after their gap year adventures. The rest, however, will either be stuck in a dead-end job without skills, training or prospects or will have dropped out of the system entirely. We cannot let that happen—it is a social injustice and an economic imperative.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

Jim Knight: In a second.

By raising participation in education, employment or training to the age of 18, everyone will have a fair chance of success. We are supporting that with a broader set of reforms, which I will set out when I have taken the intervention by my near neighbour from Bournemouth.

Mr. Ellwood: I am grateful to the Minister. The concern that I raised during the important debate on Second Reading was that the Bill will encourage, or indeed oblige, disruptive students to stay in schooling when perhaps they need to move on and find and excel in other areas. As we reach Third Reading, will the Minister explain how the Bill will alleviate the concerns expressed by teachers in Bournemouth who will perhaps see disruptive students forced or encouraged to stay on when really they should be looking at some form of employment or apprenticeship? We need to recognise—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Interventions are meant to be brief.

Jim Knight: I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to explain to the teachers in his constituency what the Bill actually says, which is that no one will be forced to stay at school. We are not proposing raising the school age at all. We are saying that simply doing nothing between the ages of 16 and 18 is not an option, but there will be a whole range of provision that is appropriate for those young people.

Mr. Ellwood rose—

Jim Knight: I will not take any more interventions because I need to leave time for others to take part in this short Third Reading debate.

We are supporting our aims with broader reforms that will open up new learning pathways, improve access to existing ones, and give young people a firm grounding in the basics and the specialist training that they need to succeed. We are providing a sharp focus on functional skills—English, maths and information, communications and technology—in every qualification at every level. The new 14 to 19 diplomas, the first of which starts this September, will combine traditional and applied learning across a broad range of subjects. There will be more opportunities for adults to continue in learning and to gain the basic skills to help them to progress. We are
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seeing more engagement from employers, who are offering an additional 90,000 apprenticeships by 2013.

With a broader choice of options, young people will be able to select a career path that plays to their strengths, makes the most of their talents and gives them the skills that employers want and young people need to succeed. Those currently in year 6 will be the first to feel the benefits of this legislation—from year 6 to their 60s, when they retire after a long and satisfying career. I want to set the stage for this country to become a world leader in skills for the next 60 years and beyond. No one will be left out and no one will be left behind.

To those who suggest an entitlement rather than compulsion, I say that 16 and 17-year-olds already have an entitlement to learning through the duty on the Learning and Skills Council to secure appropriate provision for them. We need to go further and we must go further. To those who suggest that some young people or groups of young people should be exempt from the duty, I say that that would mean that we would be failing those young people. That is not acceptable.

The case is very clear. This Third Reading is the chance for Opposition Members to come off the fence on the principle of the Bill, rather than sit on the Benches without stating an opinion. Opposition Members either support ambition, aspiration and achievement or they do not. They either support fair access to education for all or they do not. They either want to secure a strong and prosperous future for our young people and our economy, or they do not. This Bill will ensure that young people have opportunities, take them and are in a better position to create their own so that their education is not time lost but the chance to build a brighter future.

The Government are making the difficult decisions to raise ambition and aspiration for all. Now is the time for the Conservatives to show their mettle and support us—to move from excellence for some to our agenda of excellence for all. I am pleased to commend this Bill to the House.

9.31 pm

Mr. Gibb: It has been a fascinating five months as this Bill has hurtled its way through the House. I would like to add my thanks to the Clerks and officials and to the two Chairmen who chaired our proceedings, the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (John Bercow). I would particularly like to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) and for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald), whose dogged pursuit of literacy and numeracy as the key to raising participation rates had an important and powerful influence on the Committee. I would also like to thank the two Ministers for the courtesy that they showed throughout the Committee. Finally, I would like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) for sharing the burden of scrutinising the Bill and for his erudition and knowledge of William Morris during the Bill’s passage through Committee.

Jim Knight: I am particularly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way because I just wanted to
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endorse his thanks to all the people that he mentioned, particularly himself and his fellow shadow Ministers who served on the Committee, the Chairmen and my fellow Ministers—especially some who had to spend a lot of time in the middle of paternity leave doing a lot of work and listening to me and who were very supportive throughout the whole process.

Mr. Gibb: The Conservative party believes strongly in the goal of higher rates of participation in education and training to the age of 18. Not only do we believe in it, we are passionate about it. High-quality education is the key to prosperity and the route out of poverty, and, conversely, poor quality schools are a life sentence to unfulfilled lives and low levels of social mobility. The Government are right to have an objective of raising participation age and their aspiration that 100 per cent. of 16 and 17-year-olds should stay in education until the age of 18 is right. As my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) said on Second Reading:

The Government are right to be worried about the fact that only 77 per cent. of 16 and 17-year-olds stay on in education to 18, which puts this country in a lamentable 19th position in the league table of participation rates in developed countries. That figure is a serious problem for this country in an open, global economy where knowledge and expertise are the keys to innovation and vital to ensuring market share and national prosperity. Such a low staying-on rate is a symptom of deeper problems in our education system. The approach of passing a law to make it a criminal offence to leave education or training before the age of 18 is an attempt to tackle the symptoms of the problem rather than the cause.

Today, 53 per cent. of 16-year-olds leave compulsory education without having achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C, including in English and maths. Yet I know of several comprehensive schools that have a truly comprehensive intake of a range of abilities, where 96 per cent. achieve five or more GCSEs at A* to C, including English and maths. Maths specialists tell us that almost every 15 and 16-year-old, apart from those with specific learning difficulties, is capable of achieving at least a grade C in GCSE maths. Why is that not happening?

One in five 11-year-olds leave primary schools unable to read effectively despite seven years of primary education. Forty per cent. start secondary school without achieving a level in reading, writing and maths combined that would enable them to benefit from secondary education. That is the source of the 23 per cent. who do not stay on in education or training until the age of 16, of the 500,000 persistent truants and of the 40 per cent. who fail to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C.

Ministers say that the purpose of compulsion is to tackle the stubborn final 10 per cent. and raise participation from 90 per cent. to 100 per cent. However, we are still a long way from 90 per cent. We
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have a staying-on rate of only 77 per cent. and the disaffection that leads to 23 per cent. dropping out at 16 has the same causes as that of the final 10 per cent. We simply do not believe that criminalising the 10 per cent. will achieve any higher educational attainment for that group.

The Government commissioned research into the international experience of introducing compulsion. The National Foundation for Educational Research concluded:

That conclusion is supported by charities that specialise in helping especially vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds—the group that the Bill aims to help.

Nigel Haynes, chief executive of Fairbridge, which works with young people who have deep-seated problems, said in his evidence to the Committee:

Martina Milburn of the Prince’s Trust said:

The NUT stated in written evidence:

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