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Brought up, and added to the Bill.

Schedule 4

The Chief Executive of Skills Funding

Amendment made: 52, page 167, line 24, leave out ‘service in’ and insert ‘employment in’.— ( Ed Balls .)

5 May 2009 : Column 127

Schedule 6

Dissolution of the Learning and Skills Council for England: minor and consequential amendments

Amendment s made: 17, page 177, line 5, at end insert—

‘Education Act 2002 (c. 32)53A The Education Act 2002 is amended as follows.53B After section 208 insert—

“208A Recoupment: adjustment between local education authorities and the YPLA

(1) This section applies in relation to the following cases—

(a) the YPLA secures the provision of education under section 64 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 in respect of a person who belongs to the area of a local education authority in England or Wales (“the home authority”);

(b) a local education authority in England or Wales (“the providing authority”) secures the provision of education within section 64(1) or (3) of that Act in respect of a person who belongs to the area of a local education authority in England.

(2) Regulations made by the appropriate national authority may make provision—

(a) in relation to cases within subsection (1)(a), requiring or authorising the payment of an amount by the home authority to the YPLA;

(b) in relation to cases within subsection (1)(b), requiring or authorising the payment of an amount by the YPLA to the providing authority.

(3) The amounts that may be required or authorised to be paid are such sums in respect of amounts described in the regulations as may be—

(a) agreed between the YPLA and the local education authority in question, or

(b) failing agreement, determined in accordance with the regulations.

(4) The regulations may provide for the amounts payable—

(a) to reflect the whole or any part of the average costs incurred by local education authorities in the provision of education (whether in England and Wales as a whole or in any particular area or areas), and

(b) to be based on figures for average costs determined by such body or bodies representing local education authorities, or on such other figures relating to costs so incurred, as the appropriate national authority thinks appropriate.

(5) Regulations made under this section by the Welsh Ministers may provide that, in cases specified in or determined in accordance with the regulations, the amounts payable are to be determined by the Welsh Ministers with the consent of the Secretary of State.

(6) In a case where the providing authority is a local education authority in Wales, a dispute between the providing authority and the YPLA as to whether the providing authority is entitled to be paid an amount by the YPLA under the regulations is to be determined by the Welsh Ministers with the consent of the Secretary of State.

(7) In this section—

“the appropriate national authority” means—

(c) in relation to a case where the providing authority is a local education authority in Wales, the Welsh Ministers;(d) in relation to any other case, the Secretary of State;

“the YPLA” means the Young People’s Learning Agency for England.”

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Schedule 7

Learning and Skills Council for England: transfer schemes

Amendment made: 41, page 177, line 28, leave out Schedule 7.— ( Ed Balls .)

Schedule 8

Sixth form college sector

Amendments made: 20, page 185, line 36, at end insert—

‘“(11) A sixth form college corporation may provide advice or assistance to any other person where it appears to the corporation to be appropriate for them to do so for the purpose of or in connection with the provision of education by the other person.”’.

Amendment 53, page 188, line 38, leave out from ‘1993’ to end of line 39.— ( Ed Balls .)

Schedule 12

Ofqual and the QCDA: minor and consequential amendments

Amendments made: 31, page 210, line 45, leave out from beginning to end of line 1 on page 211 and insert—

‘(4) For subsection (1B) substitute—

“(1B) The functions set out in subsection (1) are exercisable solely by the Welsh Ministers.”

(5) Omit subsections (1C), (1D) and (2).’.

Amendment 32, page 211, line 6, leave out from ‘is’ to end of line 9 and insert ‘any of the following—

(a) a foundation degree;

(b) a first degree;

(c) a degree at a higher level.’.

Amendment 33, page 214, line 35, at end insert—

‘() At any time before the surrender date the Welsh Ministers may vary that date by giving further notice to the recognised person.’.

Amendment 34, page 214, line 36, after ‘deciding’ insert ‘or varying’.

Amendment 35, page 214, leave out lines 41 to 43.— ( Ed Balls .)

Schedule 16

Repeals and revocations

Amendments made: 36, page 231, line 30, leave out ‘30(6)’ and insert ‘30(1C), (1D), (2) and (6)’.

Amendment 37, page 233, line 4, leave out ‘162(3) and’ and insert ‘162(2) to’.— ( Ed Balls .)

Third Reading

9.25 pm

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

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The high quality of debate so far this afternoon reflects that which has been sustained throughout the passage of the Bill. The contributions of hon. Members from both sides of the House have been productive and professional, by and large, throughout the exhaustive and, at times, exhausting sittings that we enjoyed. The Bill is long and complex, but it is also important. Proper consideration and scrutiny have been essential, so I thank everyone who has contributed both this afternoon and throughout the earlier stages.

In November, we achieved Royal Assent for the Education and Skills Act 2008, which took the bold and historic step of raising the participation age in education, employment or training to 18 from 2015, because nothing could be more important than ensuring that young people have the opportunities to get the skills that they need to succeed. Those opportunities must, of course, be open to all learners, not just the fortunate few, so we supported the raising of the participation age, with a broader range of options at 14 to 19. Those diplomas are introducing new areas of study and new methods of study through a combination of theoretical and applied learning. We have also strengthened existing qualifications at 14 to 19. Now, every learner can find something that captures their interest and plays to their strengths. This is a moral cause and an economic one.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will be surprised to learn that I agree that this is an economic and a moral cause. Is there any possibility of bringing this work forward, given the current economic situation?

Jim Knight: Tempting as it may be, given the compelling case for raising the participation age, I am sure that my hon. Friend, as Chair of the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families, would not wish me to rush ahead of the ability of the system to deliver. It is important that we get the information, advice and guidance right, that the qualifications consistently work across the country and that we have the work force ready to deliver. I do not think that an accelerated timetable would allow us to do that.

As we face the current economic challenges, this is the time to invest in skills and training that will build a strong work force and a strong economy, and that will secure Britain’s place at the forefront of global competition, innovation and productivity. Therefore, in spite of the economic difficulties we face—indeed because of them—this is education’s moment. This Bill not only seeks to put in place the infrastructure that will ensure that the system can deliver the historic changes we have made, but supports the moral and economic ambitions of the 2008 Act. It will open up more learning routes to more people and support fairer access to that learning, through an expansion of apprenticeship places and a new right for adults to request time to train to help them to overcome constraints to their learning and develop the skills they need to progress. It will rationalise the national infrastructure, with lighter-touch bodies that will support local delivery, promote excellence and represent the choices and aspirations of learners.

In particular, the Young People’s Learning Agency will be created to support local authorities in their new 16-to-18 funding role, Ofqual as an independent regulator of qualifications and assessment, the Qualifications
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and Curriculum Development Agency to take on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s non-regulatory functions, and the Skills Funding Agency as part of a new demand-led system of post-19 education and training.

Mr. Graham Stuart: I enjoyed the Second Reading of the Bill and sat through Committee, but I am none the wiser about how the right to an apprenticeship place will be guaranteed, given that that requires an employer. How will the new National Apprenticeship Service be able to guarantee that employers come forward, especially at this time of recession? We should be careful not to make promises that we cannot keep. Perhaps the Minister can put my mind at rest.

Jim Knight: It is Labour which is guaranteeing the funding and putting in place the infrastructure, through the National Apprenticeship Service, so that we can properly mobilise employers, who—as demonstrated by the support of employer organisations such as the CBI—want to see the expansion of apprenticeships. Certainly, we in the public sector will play our part in expanding apprenticeship provision.

The Bill will secure more scope for local provision to be tailored to local need. Local authorities will become the single point of accountability for all children’s services from 0 to 19 and children’s trusts will be strengthened to provide a stronger base for partnership working and to better support children’s wider well-being and development, especially those children with additional needs.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outlined earlier, the Bill will also implement recommendations made by Lord Laming to strengthen practice in safeguarding and child protection.

Mr. Hayes: If employer organisations are so in concert with the Government’s ambitions, why did they describe this Bill in the witness sessions as a “bureaucratic muddle” and a “wasted opportunity”? That does not suggest great faith in the infrastructure that the Minister now advocates with such energy.

Jim Knight: We can all pull out quotes from the evidence sessions from people who supported or opposed aspects of the Bill. I was referring to the support from organisations such as the CBI for our policy of raising the participation age and for our expansion of the apprenticeship programme. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would argue with that support.

The Bill will help to drive up standards across all schools by strengthening powers to intervene in those schools that are underperforming, creating a lighter-touch inspection framework for those that are performing really well and creating a more straightforward and open complaints system for parents. Fair access, a strong, streamlined infrastructure, more power at local level and a relentless focus on standards are the ambitions at the heart of the Bill, and they are fundamental to delivering a world-class education system, building a strong economy and ensuring that every learner has the opportunity to pursue their talents, realise their ambitions and secure for themselves a successful future. I am pleased to commend the Bill to the House. I am also pleased that it will go to the other place, subject to the vote on Third Reading, in a form that is sure to meet with its approval.

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9.33 pm

Mr. Gibb: It must come as a welcome relief to the Minister, after all the chaos of the Bill’s passage through Committee, that we have at last come to the Third reading of the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Bill. It is such an appropriately named Bill given that three of the four Ministers responsible for taking it through Committee appear to have been released from their ministerial apprenticeships prematurely—too soon, it seems, to manage the complex responsibility of ensuring that the Committee voted the right way on clause 49. The fourth Minister, the Minister for Schools and Learners, though experienced, appears not to have the skills to ensure that he did not lose four successive votes on the trot. And as for children, that role was amply filled by the Government’s Deputy Chief Whip, whose petulance after losing those votes resulted in his looming presence in the Public Gallery and unnecessarily and expensively running the Committee through the night, finishing the Bill despite there being a full day left in the programme. What about the learning? Well, perhaps Labour Back Benchers on the Committee need to learn that Thursday Committee sittings start at 9 am and that they should get out of bed a little earlier.

I want to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) and for Beverly Hills— [ Laughter. ] I apologise; I mean for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart). I thank them for their diligent attendance and contributions to the Committee stage, and I also thank our supportive Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Bill Wiggin). I also want to thank the two Chairmen, my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) for their patience and expert deliberation, and my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs. Miller) for her thorough scrutiny of the children and early years elements of the Bill. Finally, I want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) for his scrutiny of the DIUS elements of the Bill and for his charm and eloquence, of which all members of the Committee have grown so fond.

A Government who were elected on the threefold promise of education will bequeath an education system in which 40 per cent. of children leave primary school still struggling with the basics of reading, writing and maths; in which half the children who qualify for free school meals fail to achieve a single GCSE above a grade D; and in which the number of young people who have left education without a job or a place on a training scheme to go to has soared to a record 860,000. It is an education system about which academics such as Professor Tymms of Durham university have repeatedly provided evidence that literacy tests and GCSEs no longer provide robust evidence of standards, and where a student achieving an E in A-level maths in 1998 would now be awarded a B. Over the past few years, that education system has been beset by poor administration: the SATs marking fiasco, the non-payment of education maintenance allowances, the halting of the further education college building programme and, most recently, the sixth-form funding chaos, when the Learning and Skills Council sent out different letters to schools confirming a different level of funding.

Of course, the Secretary of State is quick to blame others—the QCA, the National Assessment Agency or
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the Learning and Skills Council. It is never his fault, or the Department’s fault. Perhaps his focus has been on trying to become Chancellor, or Home Secretary, or on partisan politics, or on becoming leader of the Labour party after the general election. It is always the quangos’ fault, which is why it is odd that the Bill creates a host of new quangos—the Young People’s Learning Agency, the chief executive of skills funding, and the National Apprenticeship Service. As my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) said on Second Reading, this Bill

The Government claim that creating three quangos from one will slim down bureaucracy but in Committee, Ministers refused to guarantee that staffing numbers employed by these new quangos would not exceed the numbers currently employed by the LSC. However, we certainly welcome the Government’s commitment to increasing the number of apprenticeships. My hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings is well known and respected for his advocacy of genuine apprenticeships and, along with our hon. Friend the Member for Havant, he has developed a policy that will mean 100,000 more work-based apprenticeships.

We support measures in the Bill that give people the right to request time off to train or study. Raising skill levels in this country can only be beneficial to the individual, to their employer and to our economy as a whole, but it is surprising that the Government want to engage in bureaucratic reorganisations just when our economy is at its lowest ebb and when tens of thousands of people will be hoping to retrain for the jobs that we all hope will come when the economy eventually emerges from recession.

Jim Knight: I join the hon. Gentleman in thanking all colleagues for their work in Committee. I am resisting the temptation to mention the extra quango that he wants to create to look after academies, which would have been introduced by amendments that we did not get a chance to debate this evening. Will he match our commitments on a September guarantee so that all learners in these economic times can have the opportunities that they need?

Mr. Gibb: That measure was introduced in the Budget as a result of yet another fiasco in the administration of funding by the Learning and Skills Council—fiascos including EMAs, capital funding and now sixth-form funding. The LSC is accountable to Ministers, so it is a little rich for this Minister to ask us whether we support his emergency measure to tackle his crisis caused by his lack of oversight. I shall leave the matter there.

I hope Ministers will keep a close watch to ensure that moving chairs and desks in an office block in Coventry does not become the focus of the Learning and Skills Council, the YPLA and the Skills Funding Agency.

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