|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I thank the Minister for his reply. In relation to Amendment No. 331, what worries us somewhat about the current situation is that, under the new arrangements, the aim is for the transition between compulsory school age work-based learning into apprenticeships to be very easy. We are anxious to see more people moving into apprenticeships and it is, of course, extremely important that the quality of provision is high.
The LSC and its inspection regime of such workplaces is still in a relatively early phase, and I believe that we need to monitor the situation carefully in order to ensure that it is working. I shall withdraw the amendment. Nevertheless, I hope very much that we shall keep a wary eye on that situation.
In relation to the second amendment, I see the point that the Minister is making and I understand that that is the case. Again, I believe that we need to be wary lest there is over-inspection. We have entered a situation in which we are inclined to think that the answer to all our problems is to have an inspection, but I believe it is important that we do not react in that way. However, I accept the Minister's assurances on the matter and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
EMAs give financial support to enable students age 16 to 19 of limited means to continue in sixth form or a college of further education. The 1974 to 1979 Labour Government were the first to see the need to provide additional support for young people to stay in education. The 1979 Labour manifesto declared:
I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is not in her place because she piloted the scheme in 1978 and obtained funds to expand it in 1979. The awful gap between 16 and 18, when young people's expenditure is not covered, may force them out of education.
These probing amendments are designed to identify how far, 20 years later, the Government have moved towards meeting Labour's 1979 manifesto commitment. Clause 174 is welcome because it paves the way for a general extension of support for 16 to 19-year-olds using EMAs but as drafted, that is a power rather than a duty. Amendment No. 333 would turn that power to a duty and as such, there would be a guarantee that young people in all areas of the country will have equitable access to a national system of support.
To meet national targets for young people's achievements, it is important to do everything possible to increase the number of young people who continue in full-time education after 16. That particularly applies to students from low-income households who might benefit greatly from staying on at school or college but are deterred by financial worries.
The EMA scheme was introduced in pilot form to establish whether regular financial support would help the target group to stay in full-time education. A Government study, published in March 2002 as DfES Research Report 333, concluded that the scheme had an impact. EMAs have enabled more young people from low-income households to continue in education. The learning agreements signed as part of the scheme have helped them to be good attenders and diligent in their work. In pilot areas, EMAs are becoming well established as part of the local community's expectations.
Originally there were 15 pilot LEAs, but now 56 are involvedroughly one third of the whole country. Pilots were important, to try out different variants. EMAs have grown and spread well beyond a small number of local experiments. They have become an established expectation in one third of the country and it is time to ask whether there will be national coverage.
Unjustifiable variations in the educational opportunities available to young people have always caused concern. The scale of variations and their long-term effects on achievement and quality of life become more acute as young people move beyond compulsory
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I support the amendment. The educational maintenance awards, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, have been piloted for some time now and have proved to be extraordinarily successful in helping to keep some of those who, traditionally, have dropped out of full-time education after 16. In the light of the Government's aim of increasing participation in higher education, especially among those from lower social classes, the awards are an important mechanism for enabling such pupils to get the qualifications they require.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I support the concept behind the amendment and I appreciate the force with which my noble friend Lady David argued the case. Although, as my noble friend said, the origins of EMAs go back as far back as 1978, she knows that the real step forward was the launch of the pilot schemes in 1999. They now cover a third of the country56 local education authorities. The enthusiasm of my noble friend and of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, is backed up by the people most directly involvedstudents, schools and colleges. College principals and teachers have recognised the value of the EMA scheme. We are conscious of the fact that pilot schemes cannot last for ever. In any case, a pilot scheme that covers a third of the country is fairly advanced. However, we do not think it appropriate to put a commitment to EMAs into the Bill. The development of EMAs is a spending issue, and any decision must be taken within the framework of the summer spending review. We must consider EMAs alongside all other expenditure priorities and come to a view about whether and when to move to a national scheme.
My noble friend joins a wide phalanx of supporters of EMAs whose enthusiasm is based on substantial evidence that they hit specified targets. My noble friend will recognise that the amendment would not be entirely acceptable even if we intended to make such a change. I am sure that she did not intend that legislation passed here would break the devolution model and insist that Wales follow exactly the same pattern of provision as England. The National Assembly for Wales has the right to make its own decision on any scheme and the way it would operate.
I recognise that my noble friend has taken the opportunity to table a probing amendment to advance the cause of EMAs. We recognise that the pilot stage is at an end and that any decision must be taken in the context of the spending review.
The noble Baroness said: Given the crisis in the recruitment and the retention of teachers, should the aim be to encourage trainees in the shortage subjects irrespective of where they will teach eventually? As the Minister knows, teachers move in and out of the state and the independent sectors and some straddle both sectors. Clause 179 allows the Government to implement plans to pay off student loans for newly qualified teachers in shortage subjects in maintained schools or in the further education sector. That provides the opportunity to argue that the Government should remove all inequities between students who take undergraduate teacher training courses and those who take postgraduate courses. Both sets of students should be entitled equally to the benefit of any government scheme to provide incentives to enter teaching including the payment of training bursaries.
The future of three and four-year B.Ed courses has been in jeopardy since the Government have paid training bursaries to postgraduate trainees, but cutting off that route into the profession is short-sighted in terms of establishing a diverse and stable teaching force. Although the new financial incentives for postgraduate courses are welcome, they compound the existing inequity whereby B.Ed students must pay tuition fees, while postgraduate students do not.
The Bachelor of Education courses, as the Minister knows, are four-year courses and predominantly serve teachers for primary schools. Teachers in primary schools are almost always generalists, sometimes with a strength in a particular subject area, but they are not recruited exclusively as subject specialists. Therefore, they would be disadvantaged under the concessions announced by the Government. Education in the country as a whole benefits from a highly qualified teaching force. Nurses and doctors on finishing training are not subject to such discrimination as some newly trained teachers will be under this scheme.
I notice in paragraph 6.1 of the policy note that the subjects for teachers in schools and sixth-form colleges include maths, science, design and technology, information and communications technology, modern languages (including Welsh) and English (including drama). They do not include the well-known shortage subjects of religious education and music. On what basis are those two subjects excluded from the list? It is well known that schools up and down the land are desperately looking for music specialists. It is a subject in the curriculum that has enormous educational spin-offs for many other subjects. That list of subjects appears to be very arbitrary. To include information and communications technology appears to me to be incomprehensible when genuine shortage subjects, for which there is scientific evidence, are not included. I beg to move.
Lord Davies of Oldham: As the Committee will be aware, many maintained schools and colleges, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, identified, are facing significant difficulties in recruiting high-quality teachers and lecturers to teach in shortage subject areas. The scheme is designed both to help recruit high quality teachers of shortage subjects to maintained schools and further education and to keep them there.
I am sure that Members of the Committee will agree that success in recruiting and retaining such teachers is critical to the educational prospects and subsequent life chances of thousands of young people. It is also vital to the country's economic success that we improve educational levels in this country.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has argued in the same manner as her colleagues did in another place that we should consider extending the scheme to those who teach in the private sector. I can confirm that we have every intention that the scheme should include teachers in non-maintained schools which receive current funding from the public purse; that is to say, non-maintained special schools, city technology colleges and city academies. That is fully in line with our policy of putting such institutions on an equal footing with maintained schools.
However, it surely would not be the appropriate use of taxpayers' money to fund this kind of recruitment and retention incentive for teachers in the wider independent sector. After all, the Government are not responsible for the pay and conditions of the staff in that sector. They are entirely matters for the schools concerned. It is open to them to make arrangements to help their staff to repay outstanding loans if they wish to do so. Extending our proposed scheme to such teachers would reduce the funds available to finance this and other incentives to those we need to attract in maintained schools and colleges. That cannot be right.
While we recognise the contribution made by independent schools, our priority must be to ensure that there are enough good teachers in the right subjects in the maintained sector to deliver the transformation in education to which this Government are committed. If someone works part-timesay 50 per cent in a shortage subjectthat
We are not sure that the noble Baroness is right when she states that RE and music are shortage subjects. Schools can always deploy more music teachers. One could always seek to improve ratios even down to the level of individual music tuition, which is necessary at some stages. But that is different from saying that it fits into the pattern of shortage subjects where we are in danger of being unable to provide significant core subjects for courses which students need to pursue in order to advance their careers either in the wider world or into further and higher education. There are insufficient numbers of specialist teachers in such areas. We know that when we speak about mathematicians and physicists we are in a situation where in a number of schools the staff teaching these subjects do not have specialist qualifications in those areas. That is a situation which we intend to remedy.
This scheme is designed, entirely appropriately, to seek to meet a defined and clear need to which the noble Baroness draws attention quite often, not least in Parliamentary Questions in this Chamber regarding teacher shortage. That is what this scheme is designed to do. We do not believe that it is appropriate that the scheme should be extended to the independent sector.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page