Memorandum submitted by The Association of Directors of Children's Services (E&S 01)
1. The ADCS represents local authority leaders of children's services in England, and specifically directors of children's services. The Children Act 2004 introduced the statutory rôle of director of children's services, replacing the previous rôles of chief education officer and director of social services; the latter rôle has been divided into adult and children's services.
2. Statutory guidance issued under the Children Act 2004 requires directors of children's services to be responsible and accountable for the leadership and management of education and children's social care services, for leading partnership working across a range of statutory agencies set out in s10 and s11 of the Act including the Learning and Skills Council, and for leading partnership working across the private, community and voluntary sectors. The underlying purpose of the Act is to improve the well-being of children in five outcome areas:
1 physical and mental health and emotional well-being
2 protection from harm and neglect
3 education, training and recreation
4 the contribution made by them to society
5 social and economic well-being
3. The definition of children in the Children Act 2004 includes all young people up to their eighteenth birthday and those aged 18,19 or 20 who have been looked-after by a local authority after the age of 16 or have a learning disability.
4. The Learning and Skills Bill will change the statutory framework with a view to making participation in education or training compulsory until the age of 18, and to provide support for such participation. This is the main area of interest in the Bill for the ADCS, although there are some other clauses on which we offer comment.
5. The ADCS welcomes the central thrust of the policy, that is, to increase the participation age in education or training to the age of 19. The ADCS will work closely with DCSF and other partners to that end. The most effective way of ensuring that such participation gives maximum value to the young people and to the economy is to make the education and training both relevant and attractive to all young people.
6. Our shared aim must be to maximise voluntary participation and to keep to an absolute minimum the need to use the sanctions that the Bill proposes.
7. One of the biggest challenges is to achieve, over time, a cultural change as a result of which all sections of society accept that participation in education and training to age 19 and beyond is the norm.
8. This challenge is for local authorities but also providers of education and training to make the offer attractive and relevant to the whole cohort of 16 to 19 year-olds. Equally, employers will be challenged to support their young employees' participation in relevant and attractive education and training.
Part 1: Duty to participate in education or training: England
9. Too many young people aged between 16 and 18 are not engaged at all in education, employment or training ('NEET'), or are employed in work without training. The fundamental shifts in the economy over the last thirty years have greatly reduced the availability of paid employment that requires low levels of education and skill. In addition, the rapid changes over the last few years, and the inevitable changes in the labour market in the future, have made it obvious that 'a job for life' is no longer a realistic expectation.
10. It is therefore vital for the country, and for the future well-being of young people, that young people are both educated and trained for the jobs that are available now, and in a way that gives them the flexibility and resilience to re-learn and re-train as employment patterns change. It is also vital that young people develop aspirations for their futures that are driven by high educational standards. We cannot afford the waste of long-term unemployment, and, worse, inter-generational unemployment.
11. We must secure a good supply of well-qualified and aspirational young people into the employment market, in order that the country can nurture, attract and retain employers which add maximum value and generate maximum wealth for the country. This in the context of changes in the age profile of the population as a whole, and a reducing number of young people entering the employment market.
12. There are significant additional, but indirect, benefits for young people of participation in education and training beyond the age of 16; as a rule young people who are participating in education or training are healthier, and less likely to be involved in anti-social, risky, or criminal activity. Together these are major and long-lasting - indeed lifelong - benefits for the young people and society as a whole.
13. There are very significant long-term costs both to the country and the young people concerned of failure to reach their educational potential. The average educational attainment of convicted prisoners, for example, is very poor; the long-term social and financial costs associated with crime are very great indeed. Inevitably, the children of offenders are less likely to reach their potential, given the instability and poverty that is often the reality for the children of families involved in the criminal justice system.
14. Therefore, the ADCS fully supports:
· the principle behind Part 1 of the Bill, in that it will directly improve outcome areas 3 (education, training and recreation) and 5 (social and economic well-being), and indirectly improve the other outcome areas;
· the principle that 'participation' should not simply be school- or college-based on the existing curriculum, but may relate to appropriate full time education or training, a contract of apprenticeship, or part-time education or training leading to an accredited qualification as part of or alongside full-time occupation;
· the phased implementation of the raising of the participation age, to 17 by 2013, and 18 by 2015, so that educational institutions and employers can make appropriate and effective arrangements for education and training that will meet young people's needs.
15. Part 1 sets out the framework to make the arrangements necessary to secure participation. This framework will require considerable fleshing-out in regulations and guidance: the ADCS is already engaged in discussions with DCSF on increasing participation rates and will continue to work with DCSF during the drafting process to ensure that the arrangements are, in practice, workable and effective without any unnecessary bureaucratic burdens.
16. For example, Clause 12 (Duty on local authorities to makes arrangements to identify young people not participating) will require local authorities to have systems in place, including cross-boundary systems, that both record the education and training provision being accessed by all relevant young people, and identify those young people who are in, or become in, breach of the duty. These systems will need to build on existing systems recording pupils under the age of 16, ContactPoint, Connexions databases, employment databases, and school and college databases for young people aged between 16 and 18; developing either a national system or local systems will require considerable effort and care to be fit for purpose.
17. Alongside the legislation, there will need to be a very considerable information and communications programme to ensure that young people, education and training providers, and employers understand the benefits of the legislative requirements which are being introduced.
18. The principal aim should be that national and local programmes are effective in securing voluntary compliance.
19. While the ADCS supports the provisions set out in, for example, clauses 22 and 27, relating to arrangements for enforcement and penalties for non-compliance by employers, all partners should strive to ensure that action under these clauses will only be required in very exceptional circumstances.
20. Chapters 4 and 5 relate to various actions that can be taken by local authorities to secure young people's compliance with the duty to participate. Parenting contracts, parenting orders, attendance notices and penalty notices form a spectrum of support and coercion. ADCS will work to ensure that coercion need only be employed in a tiny minority of cases.
21. In practice, there are a range of informal but powerful actions that can be taken by local authorities that are at a lower level that parenting contracts; mentoring, support by Connexions advisers, support by employers, and support by colleges and schools can all play a part. One important action that can be taken is to ensure that the education and training opportunities available to young people are likely to engage their interest and commitment.
22. The voluntary parenting contract properly places a responsibility on the parent of the young person, and makes provision for their support by the local authority.
23. The parenting order is the next step in escalation. This again makes provision for parenting support.
24. The attendance notice and, failing that, the penalty notice are the next steps in escalation, and Chapter 5 makes provision for a range of detailed, formal and bureaucratic steps.
25. The ADCS supports the general principles of Chapter 5 but believes that, while there are always likely to be a few young people who are difficult to engage, and thus for whom one of the orders or notices might be appropriate, local authorities will need carefully to assess on an individual basis the action that is most likely to secure the desired outcome.
26. Some young people face specific challenges to their participation; for example, teenage parents, both young men and young women; in this case their life chances (and the life chances of their children) will be much enhanced if they can continue with education and training until the age of 18 and can then enter the employment market. Another example is that of young offenders; again their life chances will be much enhanced if, both while serving their sentences and afterwards, they are supported in continuing education and training. Children and young people in the care of local authorities are another vulnerable and often-underachieving group; provisions of the Children and Young Persons Bill are relevant here.
27. The ADCS believes that local authorities and Children's Trusts should be encouraged, and funded, to commission specific provision to meet the needs of these vulnerable and at-risk groups.
28. The ADCS supports the general framework of informal support, parenting contracts, parenting orders, and attendance notices and penalty notices, but believes that very few cases should reach the level of consideration of an order or a notice; and that in many of those cases the order or notice will be considered inappropriate.
29. The ADCS position is that the most effective way of securing the participation of young people is to ensure that appropriate provision that meets their needs is available; that effective information, advice and guidance about the options is given; that a culture of participation is promoted, nationally and locally, through channels that will impact on young people, education and training professionals, and employers.
30. As a culture of participation to age 18 becomes embedded, and as provision is more closely matched to need, there will be a natural decrease in the numbers of young people not wishing to participate. At the time of the last raising of the school leaving age, to age 16, within a short period the expectations of young people had changed significantly.
31. The introduction of Diplomas, the development of apprenticeships, and the development of specialist alternative provisions will all play an important part in cultural change.
32. The ADCS believes that there will be significant extra costs relating to making specialist and tailored provision available to met the needs of the few young people who require such provision. But this is likely to be much more effective in securing successful participation than forcing an unwilling young person to follow a course that they have rejected and on which they are behind.
Part 2: Support for participation in education and training: young adults with learning difficulties and young people in England
33. The ADCS welcomes the devolution of responsibility and funding for Connexions services to local authorities; this will enable future developments to relate more closely to other developments in services for young people, through targeted youth support, and through extended schools.
34. The ADCS supports clause 65 which makes provision for young people with learning difficulties to have an assessment of their need to be undertaken prior to considering appropriate post-16 provision.
35. It is of course important that those offering information, advice and guidance to young people (and relevant young adults), wherever that advice is given and whoever is the employer of the person offering advice, do so on a basis of professional knowledge of employment and of education and training opportunities, and that such information, advice and guidance is given to young people solely on the basis of what is in their best interests.
36. The ADCS therefore fully supports clause 66 (careers education).
37. The ADCS fully supports clause 67 (apprenticeships) but notes that there are cost implications.
38. The ADCS fully supports clause 68 (transport provision) but notes that there are cost implications of the proposals, and that these will vary depending on the geography of local provision.
39. The ADCS fully supports clause 69 (14-19 collaboration). The nature of local collaborative arrangements, brokered by local authorities or Children's Trusts, must be determined locally, as they will be affected very substantially by the geography of local provision and populations. The arrangements that are necessary to secure effective collaborative education and training provision will be different in, for example:
· urban local authorities with a high degree of cross-border traffic;
· areas served by very large colleges;
· areas with different patterns of local sixth forms, sixth form colleges and further education colleges;
· areas served by sub-regional or regional specialist provision; or
· rural local authorities.
Part 4: Regulation and inspection of independent educational provision in England
40. The ADCS fully supports the intentions of this Chapter, which will help ensure that local authorities have available to them specialist education and training placements of high quality.
Part 5: Miscellaneous and general
41. The ADCS supports the changes to off-site provision arranged by schools for their pupils set out in clauses 133 (behaviour) and 134 (non-attendance).
42. The ADCS supports clause 141, extending the membership of the schools forum to non-schools members.