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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I support Amendments Nos. 73 and 75 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and myself. In many senses, they duplicate the amendments already put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I endorse what she said about the need for work experience to be appropriate. We have already covered that in our earlier discussions. As regards the second matter, our proposal is not just that the facility should be applied to the disabled, but that there should be flexibility for all over the age of 19 for the reasons that we have discussed earlier. There are some who miss out on educational experiences and for whom work
Baroness Blackstone: I shall deal with Amendments Nos. 72 to 74 and 91 together because they all relate to the power of the LSC under Clause 8 in providing facilities for work experience and for education business links. I was delighted to hear the endorsement that was given by all those who have spoken to these amendments about the value of work experience for many young people.
Amendments Nos. 72 and 73 are really unnecessary in the context of this kind of statutory power. In fact, it would be unreasonable for the LSC to secure inappropriate facilities for work experience or, alternatively, to secure facilities for inappropriate work experience. This much is implicit within the provision as it stands. A statutory organisation must, as a general principle, act reasonably. I hope that I am making myself clear in this respect.
Amendment No. 75 proposes that the Secretary of State may extend the power to secure facilities for work experience for an older group. Our intention in the clause as drafted is to maintain and develop existing initiatives designed to give young people in schools and of school age valuable insight into working environments and to inform their career choices. This is explicitly about young people of school age.
Employers, LEAs and schools have been working together for a number of years, including through Education Business Partnerships. A whole range of activities are now in place at local level, enabling pupils to gain valuable insights into the world of work and to inform their career choices. Employers report very considerable benefits from these activities.
Clause 111, which gives further education corporations further powers to collaborate with schools and others in the provision of secondary education, will help increase the number of young people who benefit from vocational learning and links with the world of work.
As regards adults, equivalent opportunities are already available as part of FE, where a substantial amount of provision is vocational and provides links for all learners between the worlds of work and learning. Similarly, such arrangements would be entirely superfluous to the needs of people who are undertaking training where contact with employers and the business world are all part and parcel of the learning experience. I hope, therefore, that Members of the Committee will see that they have no need to press any of these amendments.
There remains the issue of how these powers will relate to the particular needs of those with learning difficulties, as raised by Amendments Nos. 73 and 91. I shall deal, first, with the amendment that proposes to extend the LSC's power to provide for education-business links up to the age of 25, in the case of students with learning difficulties.
I have already described the vocational focus of a great deal of FE and training where very strong links between colleges, training providers and employers have, I am glad to say, been developed and sustained over a great many years. This has benefited learners over a broad age range and with a range of needs, including people with learning difficulties and disabilities. Further education colleges work hard at developing links with business. Indeed, such contact is a core element in some courses and is often a central and intrinsic part of any training experience.
I must once again state that I see no reason for Clause 8 to provide for those over the age of 19. I say again, the purpose of Clause 8 is to allow the LSC to support and expand education-business activities for young people in schools, as well as to continue to build on the work of the FEFC and TECs in respect of those of school age who are in post-16 learning. I believe that this amendment is, therefore, inappropriate and I hope that the noble Baroness will not press it.
However, I take a rather different view of Amendment No. 91 to Clause 13. The question is whether the LSC should have regard to the needs of persons with learning difficulties, as it does when securing its main duties under Clauses 2 and 3, when exercising its powers to provide for work experience and education-business links. I have considerable sympathy with this point and I would accept the principle behind it. However, I should like to reflect further on the precise wording of the amendment and return on Report with a government amendment. I trust that Members of the Committee will be content to proceed on that basis.
Baroness Blatch: I am grateful for the Minister's comments with regard to Clause 8. This is not a complicated amendment. It simply seeks to link employment with education and training. If all three could be incorporated as measures to which the council had to have regard, that would be helpful. I hear what the Minister said with regard to what one would expect anyone acting reasonably to do. However, we all know of work experience that is not so "inappropriate" that it could be seriously challenged. Many people are adaptable and they can make effective use of almost any experience. However, I am concerned about more vulnerable people, in particular those with disabilities. I hope that the Government will consider introducing some flexibility in regard to provision for those below and above the age of 19 and will consider the importance of work experience being appropriate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: This is a minor amendment. Clause 9 as drafted deals with two totally separate issues; namely, assessments of providers and setting means tests. We believe that it makes sense to divide the clause into two clauses dealing with those two separate issues. I beg to move.
Lord Bach: Although we have some sympathy with the thought which gives rise to this amendment, the fact of the matter is that the provisions it contains are adequately and appropriately drafted. We cannot see that the amendment would make any material improvement. Indeed, on the contrary, it would unnecessarily break apart two sets of provisions which both explicitly relate to the LSC's funding powers under Clause 5. I hope that that will persuade the noble Baroness not to press her amendment to a vote.
The Secretary of State and the National Assembly announced last year, as part of the revised accountability framework for further education colleges, that the FEFCE and FEFCW should be able to intervene at individual colleges by nominating up to two governors. We intend the LSC and the CETW to have the same capability but that they should have the power to appoint up to two additional members to any college governing body as they consider necessary. This power will allow the LSC and CETW to intervene, for example, where they consider that there might be mismanagement or potential mismanagement by the governing body, or where there are signs that the educational provision at the college is failing, before the problem becomes so serious as to warrant intervention by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly, and to threaten the provision of post-16 education, as was the case, regrettably, at Halton, Bilston and Gwent Colleges.
The key reason for this provision is, as I have said, to allow the councils to intervene early. Amendment No. 79 would restrict this power to the point that it would be quite useless. If the criteria required for the Secretary of State's intervention under Section 57 of the Further and Higher Education Act had to be satisfied before the LSC could exercise this power, he could himself act and there would be no need for the LSC to do so. But it would mean that the opportunity
The power of appointment should not be restricted to vacancies only. If there was no vacancy the councils could not act. Even if there were to be a vacancy it may not be appropriate for the LSC or the CETW to make an appointment to it, for example if the vacancy was for an elected staff or a student member. In such cases we would be denying staff and students the opportunity to be represented.
Amendments Nos. 78 and 164 give the LSC and the CETW the power to make appointments of up to two additional members direct to any governing body, whatever size it may be and irrespective of any vacancies. Appointments would take effect immediately.
The amendment to Clause 11 also clarifies that the LSC may only intervene at colleges which mainly serve students from England, as opposed to those serving students in Wales. Amendment No. 164 provides similarly for the CETW in Wales. This ensures that there is no overlap of responsibility: a college cannot mainly serve two countries at the same time.
Amendments Nos. 247, 248 and 249, which affect the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, are consequential to this provision. At present, that Act only makes provision for governing bodies themselves to appoint members, except in the special circumstances that apply to former voluntary aided sixth-form colleges under Section 30. The amendments to Sections 29 and 31 of the Schedule to the Act are necessary so that the instruments of government for designated institutions and further education corporations can include provision for governors appointed by the LSC or CETW. I beg to move.
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