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I return to the unease that is felt about the compulsion to participate. We already know that the enforcement process will create particular problems for some groups. Some of your Lordships heard at a useful meeting that we had with the Bill team last week that considerable attention has already been given in the other place to some of these groups, such as young people with special educational needs and other disabilities. They and perhaps particularly young carers, who have additional problems to cope with, will certainly need that extra individual attention and support to ensure that the appropriate package of learning is planned, supported and available. There is no doubt that this group will receive similar attention in your Lordships House, not least when we have such experts as my noble friend Lord Low participating in the debate. We will need, too, to be reassured that as well as the necessary human resourcesI agree about the need to involve the voluntary sectorwe will also have available realistic financial backing.
I have a special anxiety about whether the five years before these plans become operational will be enough time for sufficient progress to be made, particularly for those disaffected young people from deprived, often chaotic, home backgrounds to feel content to remain within the education system for yet another two years. After all, despite some excellent government initiatives such as Sure Start, that cycle of deprivationidentified many years ago by Keith Josephis sadly still with us. We have not yet found the solution. It can hardly help youngsters from such backgrounds if, on top of these handicaps, they risk acquiring a civil and, ultimately, some form of criminal record as a result of breaching these new educational requirements.
In many debates and particularly during the passage of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill and the Children and Young Persons Bill, a number of your Lordships have urged the Government to concentrate resources in two areas: first, in supporting families immediately that they show the signs of dysfunction; and, secondly, on efforts to reduce the almost immediate reoffending records of the high proportion of such disaffected youngsters who end up in the criminal justice system.
How can we prevent the compulsory requirements of this legislation from adding to that risk? Will the Minister, when she replies, tell us how this Bill will affect this group positively? How exactlythis is a rather different but not unrelated questionwill it affect the education and skills training requirement for 17 and 18 year-olds who are in custody? Following up on an Oral Question that I asked in your Lordships House recently, I ask whether education and training will in future take precedence over paid prison jobs throughout the country. Will there be skilled teachers for ensuring that young offenders acquire those basic literacy and numeracy skills that they have clearly missed out on for so long? At least as important, is it intended that apprenticeships and some of the new diploma courses can be begun while the young people are in custody?
I am getting towards the end of my time, but the other aspect of the Bill that I want to welcome is those clauses that seek to implement the recommendations of the Leitch report. It is important to be reminded that some 74 per cent of our working age population in 2020 are already over 16. Therefore, the opportunity to acquire the necessary level 2 qualifications at no extra cost throughout adulthood is a welcome initiative. Sadly, the level 3 opportunity is to be limited to 19 to 25 year-olds. I support my noble friend Lord Dearings suggestion that, in any event, this age limit should be moved up to 35. More than that, I prefer to take the hint from the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, that lifelong learning should be here to stay. That should be emphasised. It really does not matter when you take the next course; with almost every job that you do, it is necessary to have further education and training to keep pace. With that in mind, I hope that this Bill, when it gets to the second stage of having something to implement, will be rather changed by the processes that it will go through in your Lordships House.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I want to be rather more positive about this Bill than was my noble friend Baroness Morris of Yardley, my former ministerial colleague. I give this Bill a very warm welcome, especially Part 1, on which I want to focus my remarks. The duty that it imposes on young people aged 16 and 17 to participate in education and training and the requirement on LEAs to promote their participation, as well as the duties on employers to make it possible for young people with jobs to participate, are a hugely important educational reform. I believe that the Bill, when enacted, will be an historic step in the expansion of education for those who have opted out of learning far too soon,
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Like my noble friend the Minister, I want to say something about history. It is nearly 100 years since, in 1909, a consultative committee on education recommended a system of compulsory part-time education for young people after they left school. The committee saw it as an option to be decided on locally but hoped that it would spread to cover the whole country. A century ago, progressive thinkers of the Edwardian era produced the first official report that can be said to be the initial steps towards the Bill that we are discussing today.
As the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, and others have said, the Bills legislative antecedent was the Fisher Act of 1918, the first of the three most important education Acts of the 20th century. That Act provided a legislative framework for part-time education for those aged 14 to 18. The day continuation schools that it proposed were not mandatory and, as the Minister said, their development was killed off by the Geddes economies that axed public expenditure in the early 1920s.
My noble friend Lord Layard reminded us that the idea was revised in the second great education Bill of the 20th century, which became the 1944 Education Act, sometimes known as the Butler Act. The Act envisaged that LEAs would have a duty to provide county collegesperhaps the sort of thing that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, was referring tofor young people not at school or in other educational institutions. I believe that there were no sanctions for non-attendance for the day, or two half-days, envisaged in the legislation. Once again, the provision was not implemented. In 1959, the Crowther report on the education of 15 to 18 year-olds put the case again. Another 50 years have passed since then, but it finally looks as though we may be getting there.
I have touched on the long history of proposals for extending education on a part-time basis for young people who have left school to underline my belief that compulsion is required to make it a reality. Those who argue for a voluntary approach have failed to absorb the lessons of history. In the past, because there was no compulsion, nothing happened. I put it to those who oppose compulsion and argue for a voluntary approach that, when the school leaving age was last raised, in 1973, it was not considered to be sensible to argue for no compulsion. When full-time school education is extended by statute, the view is taken that it should be universally applied. Why should that view not be taken in relation to the part-time extension of post-school education for 16 and 17 year-olds? There can be no half measures in trying to reach the most vulnerable young people who are currently receiving no education or training but who desperately need it if they are to engage in meaningful work in todays economy.
Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, and other noble Lords on the opposition Benches, I therefore congratulate the Government on having the courage of their convictions and on making participation compulsory, even though it is important to do everything
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As other noble Lords have said, it is vital to recognise that, for the legislation to work, the education and training provided must be suitable to meet the needs of youngsters for whom continuation in full-time classroom learning is not an acceptable option. These are the pupils who do not like school and want to leave at the first opportunity. Many of them are, I am afraid, wholly unrealistic about their employment opportunities and have not made the link between learning and having a good job. To help them to make this link and to motivate them requires ingenuity and imagination. Innovative forms of learning, largely based in the workplace, are required.
The Bill embraces two main options: employment with a part-time course followed in an FE college or the workplace, or an apprenticeship. The distinction between them will often be blurred but in both cases the contribution of employers is central. For that reason, I am delighted that the CBI broadly backs the Bill and supports raising the participation age and reducing what it calls,
However, like my noble friend Lord Layard, I was disappointed that the CBI seemed to be saying that it is acceptable for firms to provide employment for 16 and 17 year-olds without providing proper training, too. In its briefing to Members of this House, it claims that many employers providing valuable work opportunities for young people will be put off by having to provide training and to police participation. The question must be: just how valuable are these work opportunities if they are not accompanied by properly organised training? Nor does it seem likely that young people themselves will feel, as the CBI said,
because they are asked to pursue qualifications in a work-based context. That would be truly irrational behaviour on the part of those young people who have already rejected formal education in the classroom.
It is, however, vital to accredit in-house training that is provided by employers, which will encourage them to see value in training their young employees towards obtaining vocational qualifications. Such training should allow progression from the diplomas for l4 to 19 year-olds that numbers of young people will, by the time that this Bill is enacted, have been following. The reform of vocational qualifications has been on the agenda for a long time. It is vital that the sector skills councils address these reforms, simplifying and rationalising an overcomplex system and keeping qualifications up to date. This is not a one-off jobcontinued monitoring will be needed to make sure that they really are fit for purpose as economic change takes place.
That brings me to apprenticeships. Their decline over the past 30 years is little short of disastrous. The most shocking statistic that I came across when I was a Minister in the Department for Education and
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This Bill is not about universities but, as a vice-chancellor of a university that is committed to widening participation, I believe that, when the Bills measures have been implemented, universities will benefit from a wider range of young people with the potential to benefit from higher education. Widening participation from sixth forms and FE A-level programmes has almost reached its peak, and it has been an uphill struggle. A successful work-based route through apprenticeships and other programmes can and should lead into higher education for some of the participants. This will be particularly true for foundation degrees that are jointly designed by universities and employers. But many other vocational degrees in higher education may be appropriate next steps for some of the young people who will benefit from this Bill. However, universities must be willing to reach out to them and accept their work-based qualifications as alternatives to academic qualifications for entry to university courses.
Some details in the Bill require further consideration at later stages. For example, like some other noble Lords, I would like to see the clauses on adult education becoming a little more radical. However, Second Reading is not the time to quibble about such details. This Bill is a great step forward in the long history of extending education to a greater proportion of the population. It has taken 100 years to reach this point. Progress may have been slow, but progressing we now are. If this House is still sitting in 100 years time, it will look back to this date and say, This was an historic moment. I greatly look forward to the Bills full implementation by, I hope, 2015.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I, too, warmly welcome this Bill. I do so in particular because I hope that its provisions may engage more young people in purposeful and useful activity and keep more of our most marginalised young people out of the criminal
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A good parent cares about what his children are doing. That is particularly germane for current concerns about the strength of the family. If we do not ensure that a child has some meaningful, useful occupation of their time, what are the options for them? I intend to speak of the potential benefit to young people leaving the care system, 25 per cent of whom do so at the age of 16. I wish to highlight concerns that the new imperative that they must be in educational training is not undermined by the failure to provide a proper transition for those young people out of the care of their local authority.
More than 30 per cent of care leavers experience homelessness in their first year out of care. To be in education or training, surely one has to have a home. I was most grateful to the Minister for extending the duty on local authorities to provide a range of appropriate placements for looked-after children in the Children and Young Persons Bill. Will that duty be extended to include an appropriate range of supported accommodation for care leavers?
The management of the relationship between the young person and his social worker, foster carer or residential care worker is crucial to ensuring that these young people can engage with education or training. I will ask the Minister to set a clear new priority for health trusts further to prioritise looked-after children and care leavers. In particular, will the Minister ensure that every foster carer, social worker, residential child care worker, hostel or foyer worker has regular contact with an appropriately skilled mental health professional to discuss the management of their relationship with the young person?
These young people need appropriate housing and stable relationships with their carers if they are to remain engaged. Those providing the stable relationships need to be supported by a psychiatrist, a child psychotherapist or a clinical psychologist. They need a home, both physical and emotional, if we are to keep them with us. I warmly welcome Her Majestys Governments intention to keep 16 and 17 year-olds in education or training. I acknowledge the difficulties entailed in achieving that very laudable ambition. One need only think of the success of the Governments summer Splash play schemes in reducing crime rates to recognise the importance of this purposeful activity to young people. If we want to change the gang culture to keep young people off drugs and away from alcohol, and out of anti-social and criminal behaviour, this must be the right direction.
This is particularly true of care leavers and young people in care, who are still heavily overrepresented in the NEET statistics, which we heard from the Minister earlier. While the number has reduced in recent years thanks to Her Majestys Governments endeavours, it has not kept pace with the reduction that has been achieved for the whole population of young people. Care-experienced young people are heavily overrepresented in our prisons, secure training centres and secure childrens homes. Great emphasis has been placed by
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Notwithstanding our hopes for the future, currently young people leave care at 16 and 17, to go into either independent living or supported accommodation with the expectation of an early transfer into independent living. I recall speaking to a teacher about one of his pupils. She was in care, achieving well. She was moved into a flat of her own, something she very much wanted. Shortly, she was failing in school, accruing debt and then losing her flat. I strongly suspect that there is far too much emphasis on moving young people from supported accommodation, such as foyers and hostels, into independent living as soon as possible. Often, I suspect, the transition should take years and not months.
I know from having worked as a volunteer in supported accommodation for several years that the qualification system is not fit for purpose and that the close partnership with mental health services is lacking. Sixty per cent of young people enter care because of abuse and a further 10 per cent because of family breakdown. Not surprisingly levels of mental disorder in the foster population are in the region of 45 per cent and in childrens homes about 68 per cent. Sustaining consistent reliable caring relationships with such young people is problematic. We need to look to the model of pedagogue and social educator used on the Continent. I warmly welcome Her Majestys Governments forthcoming pilots of this model.
Some of your Lordships may have seen the recent transmission of the documentary, Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, on BBC 4. It records the journeys of children in care through the Mulberry Bush School, a therapeutic community in Cambridgeshire. The Mulberry Bush is an outstanding model of what can be achieved when staff receive the right support and leadership. It has now been operating for more than 50 yearsit is its 60th anniversary. Its chief executive, John Diamond, commented to me last Friday along these lines. He said that carers choose to care because they wish to have the pleasure of caring for another person. Children in care respond to care in general but, because of their experience of their own parents, in a characteristic way. They throw back the care offered. They take every opportunity to make their carer feel useless. In the Mulberry Bush case, and the film is a beautiful
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The natural response of any normal person to such behaviour is to walk away. The next response, if one cannot leave, is to retaliate. We have seen this in the inquiries into abuse in childrens homes and in the overuse of restraint at Oakhill Secure Training Centre. The appropriate professional response is complex but it hinges on not allowing the child to destroy the relationship with his carer. This latter response is possible only if foster carers, social workers, residential childcare workers, foyer and hostel workers have excellent supervision from their line managers, which includes consideration of the relationship with the child and the emotions provoked in the carer by that relationship. Additionally, they need regular contact with a psychiatrist, a child psychotherapist or a clinical psychologist again to reflect on their relationship with the young person.
I hope that I have not strayed from the Bill. If its purpose is to ensure wider engagement of 16 and 17 year-olds, particularly those at the margins, then I think I have not done so. Will the Minister extend the duty on local authorities to provide an appropriate range of local placements for looked-after children to include an appropriate range of supported accommodation for care leavers? The MP for Stafford, David Kidney, may move an amendment along these lines to the Children and Young Persons Bill, and I hope that the Government will give him a sympathetic response if he does so.
Furthermore, will the Minister prioritise looked-after children and care leavers with mental health trusts so that the carers of these young people receive the support they need to sustain the stable and caring relation required for them to succeed in education and training and for them not to repeat their own histories of neglect with their own children? I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who I see in his place, that there is a review of child and adolescent mental health services. I should be grateful if the Minister could take forward these concerns to the Secretary of State who is leading the review.
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