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Worries have been expressed about the legislation being overenthusiastically interpreted in the years to come. There is a clear risk of that. Is there not a better way? That is the question being asked. I have not ruled

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out compulsion in the extremes, but one reassurance is the possibility that young people might work off any criminal record. With a future of successful employment in their early 20s, within a period the offence might be annulled from the record. That would make me rather less concerned than I am about the possibility of young people being given criminal records for something that I confess I did when I was 15 to see Australia playing cricket: missing classes and school. I dare say that I did not reach the criminal offence stages, but it is a worrying prospect that that habit could lead to a criminal record, given the impact of that on the rest of the lives of these young people. My other question on this is whether, if this is a criminal offence, DNA samples will be taken from these young people. If so, will those samples be kept on record? That is a serious question. Both these points could be dealt with within current legislation if there were a way of, in due course, working out one’s term and having the record annulled. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say on that.

Some parents will rise to the opportunity and some are already semi-detached from these young adults, who in some cases will be parents themselves. How is the term “parent” defined? If I were in a local authority I would want to ask this question forcefully. Is it the two adults who happen to live in the same house as you? Is the father the individual whose name is now by regulation put on the birth certificate? Who are the parents? This a real question. If one wants the details, one can talk to any head teacher or teacher in a school working in a difficult area. They will tell you in some detail that identifying parents and getting a decent discussion going with them is possibly the most difficult thing that they have to do. However, the Bill has one solution, which is that in the end they might be legally responsible.

In summary, I support the direction of travel implied in the Bill but I wish to be reassured on some of the practical questions that I have raised.

4.33 pm

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for his clear exposition of the Bill. I am glad to be able to continue the debates that we began last year, during passage of the Further Education and Training Bill in this House, on the well-being of young people aged 16 to 18, particularly those in FE colleges or on skills or vocational courses. I know that over the past few months Ministers have discussed some of these matters with my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth, who is unfortunately prevented from being present to speak on this topic today because of an unbreakable engagement. As noble Lords will be aware, this is a topic on which he has spoken with characteristic panache and what I can only describe as a form of Scottish and Danish eloquence that is unique.

First, I say again, in common with many Members of this House, how much I welcome the Government’s commitment in the Bill to make available to all young people up to the age of 18 the entitlement to programmes of education and training, whether in schools or colleges, in training schemes or in employment. We recognise

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the Government’s emphasis on the economic necessities that underpin much of the legislation and the potential wider benefits to society. The comprehensive and penetrating report on skills by the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, has alerted us to the skills gap between employees in many sectors in this country and those in many of our European partner countries. We are delighted to support the measures, which will enable the development of an extensive range of skills programmes for adults as well as young people.

Perhaps most importantly, we have also emphasised from these Benches throughout these debates the importance of a broad and deep education for all; a good foundation not only in skills but in that knowledge and those human qualities that make for a whole person who is then able to contribute their very best to society. As is set out in the Education Reform Act 1988, which I know applies only to 16 to 18 year-olds in schools, that necessarily involves “spiritual, moral, cultural ... development” to prepare young people for,

I underline and repeat that it is to prepare them for adult life. The young people at whom the Bill is addressed are not necessarily full adults, but nor are they children. In the discussions that have been held over the past year, Ministers have expressed the view that 16 to 18 year-olds deserve to be treated more as adults and to have more of the freedoms that are accorded to university students of 18 plus. There is to be much said for that view, at least in the way that young people in colleges, and indeed in many schools, are able to plan their learning and are not confined all day in school or college buildings. I wish a few of them would cease meeting outside my front door, but that is another matter.

We welcome the emphasis on listening to the learner’s voice. FE students are learning the responsibilities and duties of adult life—to attend when they are required to on different sites and on employers’ premises. We also need to recognise that this is a learning process requiring support and guidance, as young people develop the values, beliefs and attitudes that will determine their future as husbands or wives, as employees and employers and as responsible members of society. We also need to recognise, as I am sure we do, that some of these young people are at an age when they are most vulnerable to pressures whether of drugs, excessive drinking, sexual exploitation, or of different forms of violence such as gang affiliations and gun and knife crime of which we have, tragically, had too many examples over the past few months.

Noble Lords will be aware that the United Nations report on youth placed Britain at the bottom of a list of 21 OECD countries in terms of young people’s well-being. That report shows something of which many of us are aware—that all is not well with some of our young people. What I propose is simple: all young people, not just those who are gifted or lucky enough to be pursuing A-level studies in schools, should be entitled to provision for their moral and spiritual development and should be faced with those moral and spiritual challenges that go with adult life. Human flourishing is not solely dependent on the acquisition of skills.

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We welcome wholeheartedly the initiatives that the Government have taken to support the provision for the development of moral and spiritual development in this sector. A report last year entitled Making Space for Faith demonstrated enthusiasm among FE students for exploring issues of values, belief and faith. The LSC handbooks on multi-faith chaplaincy have been enormously helpful to colleges, as has the current DIUS initiative “All Faiths and None” which explicitly addresses the big questions of meaning and purpose in life. We commend the excellent work already going on in many colleges encouraged by chaplaincies and the National Council for Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education. I could name examples of excellent practice in colleges in my own diocese where there have been some imaginative and innovative programmes to engage with different faiths and encourage greater social cohesion. I am also aware of colleges where the post-16 citizenship initiative enables young people to explore social and political issues and explore voluntary activities in the community.

I draw the House’s attention to the fact that only half of FE colleges have chaplaincies while other colleges that argue that they are not funded to provide for students’ spiritual and moral development and yet others that insist that these issues are purely a private matter. But they are not a private matter; they affect public life at every level of society. In further education where a higher proportion of students are from black and ethnic minorities and from white working class estates where gang culture can be prevalent, these young people deserve above all an education that,

I add a tiny post-script. I wish that the word “vocational” was used not only about education in the FE sector but that it could be used in all sectors in education, in the independent sector and in schools. The very word “vocation” contains within it spiritual and moral values which should be at the heart of all learning in schools, FE colleges, HE institutions and so on.

While I welcome these initiatives, they seem to me to fall some way short of the underpinning which a statutory entitlement would give. Last week my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth discussed with officials from the DIUS a new non-statutory framework for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of young people. I should be interested to hear the Minister’s view on this important suggestion which I believe could be of great benefit to the many colleges that struggle to identify how these deep and important issues can be addressed within vocational curricula. I remain convinced that a legal entitlement is the best way to ensure that all young people have opportunities to be prepared for the responsibilities and challenges they will face in their adult lives.

There is no doubt that the Bill is a major step forward for this country in providing an equal entitlement to education and training for all young people up to the age of 18. But is it right that in this one particular segment of education which should cover citizenship as well as spiritual and moral issues, the 43 per cent of

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young people in FE who are largely from the less-advantaged sections of society are denied this full entitlement? It will not surprise your Lordships’ to know that we in the church believe that these spiritual, moral, social and cultural values are among the most important elements of anyone’s education. We should like to ask the Minister to think again and to find a way, if possible, by which an amendment to the Bill could be included to correct the anomaly and to give that entitlement to all young people for their own personal good and the well-being of the whole of society.

4.45 pm

Baroness Morgan of Huyton: My Lords, it does not seem long since our last education Bill but this one covers some very important territory. The direction of travel is welcome and I am sure that many of us will spend many more hours considering it and getting properly into the detail.

The Bill continues to push against the ceiling on expectations, about which we can never be complacent. We know what we want from our schooling—we have talked about this many times in this House. We want every school to be a good school and every student to be able to fulfil their potential. We want no child to be written off at any stage of their schooling and, particularly, we need to focus on the transition points at 11 and 16. To deliver an education system that truly delivers for 100 per cent of pupils is a major undertaking and requires sustained commitment. A huge shift in expectations is still needed.

We should remember that, a generation ago, the top one-fifth or so of school leavers gained good school-leaving qualifications and that less than one in 10 went into higher education. The other four-fifths left school with only a basic education and few qualifications, and the bottom 10 per cent lacked even basic competence in literacy and numeracy.

We have moved a long way from that, and quite quickly, but no one who believes that education is the key to equality of opportunity can feel that we have yet gone far enough. Some of the proposed changes that we are talking about today are controversial, but education reform is never easy and is not necessarily popular at the time.

I looked back over comments on recent reforms and found that literacy and numeracy hours were ridiculed as some sort of Stalinist measure that would knock inspiration out of teaching. The tune changed when the levels of achievement went up. We were warned that city academies would extend provision for the privileged few but they have instead started to deliver improvements in results that are well above the average in the most disadvantaged communities whose children were written off for too long. Of course, tuition fees were savaged by commentators and opposition parties and, I admit, by more than a few in my own party who thought that it was fine to continue a system that limited the number who could go to university to those who always had gone and who were subsidised by those who never had a chance to go.

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It is always tempting to sit still and consolidate and it is understandable why many in education with the best of motives say that enough is enough. Reforms are always difficult to implement for those at the sharp end.

We have a great deal to celebrate and build on today. Let us look at the 2007 results achieved in our schools. We now have 80 per cent achieving key stage 2 at level 4 and above; that is up 17 per cent since 1997—the figures are 77 per cent in maths and 88 per cent in science, up respectively 15 per cent and 19 per cent. With key stage 3 in English, 74 per cent get to level 5 and above; that is up 17 points since 1997. In science, the figure is 73 per cent, which is up one point; 76 per cent get maths, which is up 16 points since 1997. Big, big improvements have already been made. Sixty per cent now get five or more good GCSEs, with 47 per cent getting maths and English as part of that.

Today's announcement on failing schools—in which less than 30 per cent of pupils get five GCSEs—is welcome. Although I know that that will be controversial in some quarters, I confess that in time I hope we can go further. It is right that we are rigorous in our efforts to turn round these schools in as short a time as possible. Those who say that it needs longer must recognise that generations of pupils are failed in this way. Personally, I confess that I am also concerned about that group of somewhat coasting schools in the middle—the ones that get along quite happily but whose value-added scores tell the real story: that those pupils, too, are not being challenged sufficiently to reach their full potential.

While pupils living in the top quartile of affluent areas have a more than 70 per cent chance of gaining at least five good GCSEs, those in the bottom quartile still have only a 30 per cent chance; we cannot afford to sit still. Of course, we know that it can be done. Most of us here today have visited many schools that are bucking the trend. Much of our focus has been on secondary schools and beyond, but we also need to be increasingly concerned about primary schools and keeping up the pressure there, as well as on the transition from primary to secondary schools.

Too many children are still behind grade at 11, and stand still or worse in year 7. Literacy is the tool that opens up education, and without it we see underachievement, disillusionment, poor behaviour and wasted future lives. I strongly welcome the additional resources being put into individual literacy schemes by the Government. I have seen the evidence, on paper and in person, in various primary schools around the country. Last year I visited Maryland primary school in Newham, which had increased its skill level in two years from 59 per cent to 87 per cent of children achieving key stage 2 at level 4 or above. It was running the Read Write phonics scheme. Similar schemes are being run by different LEAs around the country, but Maryland had an amazing scheme. Every adult was involved, from dinner ladies to lollipop ladies, from every teaching assistant to the head teacher. The whole school was divided into very small groups doing intensive literacy support, with amazing results.

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There are other schemes with equally great results. For example, Wigan is producing phenomenal results with normal funding as well. So there is a lot to look at and learn. I urge renewed energy on literacy or there is a real danger that we will stand still and make later opportunities so much more difficult to access.

I turn to another area of concern, which is the transition from school at 11. It is little wonder that many pupils never recover from this change as it is traumatic for too many. Recently I have seen three interesting actions to try to improve that transition. The first is nurture classes—intense classes in year 7 in primary schools in an attempt to bring pupils up to standard within year 7. It is obvious stuff, but it is not done enough. It is very intensive and focuses on very few teachers and a smaller curriculum. But by the end of year 7, there is an amazing transition and those children are ready to access fully the national curriculum.

The second experiment worth looking at are all-age schools, which can ease or virtually eliminate the transition from primary to secondary, which is particularly important in disadvantaged communities. I advise a charity, Ark, which has two such schools under way that will offer education from three to 18. We should follow this important experiment with interest.

The third approach refers to small schools focused on year 7, so that within secondary schools there is a school that is almost separate, where pupils can be separated at play and lunch times and the focus is much more on developing ethos, belonging to the school and setting clear expectations of behaviour and achievement. When those pupils go into year 8, they are ready to learn in greater depth.

There is so much that we all agree on in this and previous Bills on education, but I know that the big controversy will be the change in the leaving age for education and training to 18. I confess that if the change were to be brought in immediately I would oppose it. The curriculum would not be ready; the apprenticeships and training opportunities would not be there in sufficient numbers; and the organisation would not be ready. But this change will happen in stages between now and 2015. Above all, this change must build on continuous improvements through the school system from five to 16.

We know that the enlarged numbers entering higher education have not yet truly widened opportunities for the most disadvantaged pupils whose numbers at university have barely changed. Young people who leave education and training at 16 are disproportionately from poor families. Less than half of those with no qualifications are in work compared with nearly 90 per cent of those with graduate level qualifications. Raising the education participation age in stages from 2013 to 2015 is about social justice, provided of course that the right building blocks are in place to make a success of it. The onus will be not only on government, but on employers, who want skilled workers, and on schools to ensure that the building blocks are in place well in advance of those stage dates.

Some will argue that this is in some way illiberal. I do not understand the arbitrary nature of that argument. If it is illiberal to educate to 18 it must have been

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illiberal to raise the school-leaving age to 16. It would be great if the change to 18 could happen without legislation—in many ways, all of us would like that—but it has not happened and there is no reason to presume that it will. The UK needs to realise the potential of all its children, and I believe that this measure can help us to do that. It is the obvious next stage of the UK’s long history of increasing participation in education.

4.55 pm

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, in his briefing notes, the Minister reminds us that this is a landmark piece of legislation. In particular, he tells us that for the first time in over 30 years, we are changing the education leaving age. He looks to history, as an historian would, and calls to mind that in 1918 HAL Fisher considered keeping children in full or part-time education until 18. That was never implemented, not only because of post-war austerity but because even then there were strong differences of opinion about the best method of vocational education: work apprenticeships, school training or a mixture of the two.

The Bill and future decisions will have to resolve those problems, which Fisher failed to do in 1918. They must resolve them if the extension of the leaving age is to work. The Minister knows as well as I do that problems related to vocational training have bedevilled English education for more than a century. If we are to resolve those difficulties, we must first establish, absolutely and completely, dedicated technical colleges devoted to serving respected—I underline that word—vocational qualifications. I have bored this House too often on this, but those colleges should be modelled on those that exist on the Continent, particularly in Germany and Holland.

We must not be under any illusion—this should govern all our discussions—that this will be an easy task. Such colleges will be expensive. Technical vocational education is very expensive. In my last years as headmaster of St Paul’s, we offered a technical qualification, even though it was an academic school, and it cost more than pure science. We are talking about large amounts of money. For that reason, state support will be needed. It is not enough for my party to talk about industry or parents doing it because we are talking about large sums of money.

If we establish these colleges, it will be crucial to appoint staff who have the confidence of industry and, possibly more important, of the pupils. I stress that it will be necessary for the department to avoid temporary solutions to the difficulties—which departments and Governments are prone to—by bussing pupils to a variety of schools over a wide area in order to offer a range of courses. As an ex-headmaster, I assure the Minister that that will not work. It would be time-consuming, difficult to administer and, knowing pupils of that age, a lot of them will be lost in the passage. If not run properly, or at all, it could bring the project into disrepute.

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