Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Fourth Report

4  Conclusion

52.  Overall, we welcome the Draft Bill. One of its strengths, in our opinion, is that it will help to raise the profile of apprenticeships at a time when they might be overshadowed by initiatives and reforms elsewhere in the 14-19 sector. Although not explicit in the Draft Bill itself, we also welcome the clear intention in the Government's Apprenticeship programme to increase the numbers of apprenticeships in regions and sectors where supply has always been low, particularly the public sector. Against these plus points must be balanced our fears that the economic downturn and its consequences for employers will bring into question the practicality of the one powerful lever in the Draft Bill—the duty on the Learning and Skills Council to secure sufficient and appropriate apprenticeship places for each suitably qualified young person who wants one.

53.  However, our concerns about the impact of the challenging economic circumstances extend beyond apprenticeships to other areas of 14-19 policy. The transfer of responsibility for funding and delivering education and training for 16 to 18-year-olds from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities by 2010 is a dramatic change which, unlike the Draft Apprenticeships Bill, has not been submitted for pre-legislative scrutiny. We see a distinct danger that a major reorganisation of responsibilities could occur just at a time when a more cautious approach might be needed to give the necessary priority to learning and skills for young people.

54.  We urge the Government not to assume that the provisions of the Draft Apprenticeships Bill will play a large part in meeting the needs of young people in education and training during a time of economic challenge. Thinking on a much larger scale is required; and we invite the Government to proceed cautiously in the transfer of responsibility for funding education and training for 16 to 18-year-olds from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities.

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