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It is clear from that that it is vital to recognise that not all learning will lead to accredited qualifications. The evidence from Barnardo's and the Prince’s Trust is that, given the chaotic lives of some of those young people, it is a matter, first, of learning how to learn, before they are really ready to go on courses that lead

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to qualifications. There needs to be some flexibility in the system, a point picked up on by several noble Lords. It is also necessary to recognise the high level of special educational needs among those groups. That in turn raises the question of whether the necessary specialist help is available, and for how long it will be needed.

Again, the evidence from the Prince’s Trust made clear the difficulties that apply here. It talks about a pilot programme on which it had a team of 15 people working. It said that,

We have to recognise this. It raises the question of whether local authorities, which will have this responsibility, will be able to meet these needs, especially if they are required to go on providing support for those young people until they are 25. Given the failures of the children’s and adolescent health services and the incredible shortage of educational psychologists which appeared when we were debating the Children and Young Person’s Act, one really has very great doubts as to whether local authorities have the capability of providing the mentoring and key support services that are going to be required if we are to turn these young people around. It can be done. The Prince’s Trust shows that it can be done, but it needs an enormous amount of resources.

I must move on. I should like to mention two further issues. The first is work-based learning and apprenticeships. In many respects apprenticeships are the ideal training route for these young people, as was emphasised in the excellent report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs. Although companies such as Rolls-Royce still keep this route open, they have become the exception rather than the rule. The Leitch report adopted by the Government aims to reverse these trends and put industry in the driving seat with a target of 500,000 apprenticeship places by 2020. However, I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Layard, that it is not by any means clear where these apprenticeship places are necessarily going to come from. There are a large number of firms that are somewhat unhappy about the training requirements of these Bills. Again, I refer to the report produced by Professor Alison Wolf, which indicates that there is a danger that compulsion will drive away the very training opportunities available to those who, fed up with school at 16, leave to take on a job which does not having any training. Nevertheless, they learn a lot in these jobs and it is these jobs which will disappear completely and go to the over-18s and very often to foreign workers prepared to take the relatively low wages. It is very important that the national apprenticeship programme should be up and running as quickly as possible and that there are enough of

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them. At the moment there is a great dearth of apprenticeships and many colleges have great difficulty in finding places.

Finally, I should like to say something about careers guidance. We have all recognised that, with the complex choices that have to be made, careers guidance is absolutely vital. We talked about the Connexions service and the mentoring of the NEET programme but careers guidance to our young people in schools, who are making choices at the age of 12 and 13 between apprenticeships, diplomas and GCSEs or A-level, is absolutely vital. Yet, because of the degree to which the Connexion service has shifted from providing careers guidance to the mentoring service, we have reached a situation in which the careers guidance service has effectively collapsed. We have, more or less, to establish it from scratch.

I was very surprised to see that only £38 million has been assigned in the impact statement for the development of careers guidance services. That is, roughly speaking, £10,000 per secondary school, which is remarkably little if we want to create a proper careers guidance service for these young people with the impartial advice required by Clause 66. We are going to have to develop this. The Government have rejected advice from various groups that we should have an all-age careers advice and guidance service. Information about careers is increasingly available on the internet and the sort of service that has been provided by Learn Direct can be expanded. One would expect to see, particularly for these young people, the development of a fairly creative web-based service. As well as the information, you need very clear advice and guidance and it is not available at the moment. We are going to have to create it and train these people and it is not at all clear where all the resources are going to come from.

I must finish now. I am sorry to have gone on for quite so long. It is clear that this is a very important Bill. Its aims and aspirations are admirable and, as has become very clear in this debate, in one way or another we all share its hopes and ambitions. However, it is clear that the devil is in the detail and I foresee many long days and evenings when we shall be debating our way through these labyrinths.

7.35 pm

Baroness Verma: My Lords, all noble Lords who have spoken today have done so eloquently. Of course we all want our young people to stay on in education and training until at least the age of 18. I start by referring to my noble friend Lord Elton’s speech. Why do we look for complex, one-size-fits-all solutions? Encouraging young people by participation, regardless of what that activity might be, will get those young people involved. We will discuss many of the things that my noble friend spoke of in greater detail at later stages. I go back to the concerns that my noble friend Lady Morris highlighted. I emphasise again what an opportunity we have with this Bill. However, that will require hard work on our part and a willingness to listen on the part of the Government for us to make the Bill as sure in its outcome as it is desirable in its goals. Our aim must be, above all, to use the chance

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afforded to us now to ensure that we equip young people in this country with the necessary education and skills for a fulfilling long-term future.

As my noble friend Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, with his huge wealth of experience and knowledge, said, we must ensure that there is no single, dogmatic approach. Young people are different, with different abilities. My noble friend Lady Morris and others on all sides of the House, whose experience and expertise in these matters is highly regarded by us all, raised the troubling issue of compulsion. It must be clear to the Government now that there will be serious debate in the coming stages as we examine the best way of achieving the aims of this Bill. Other noble Lords have spoken forcefully on this issue. It is not just a matter of ideology, although I am not alone in being concerned about another authoritarian measure being imposed by this Government; it is a matter of practicalities.

How will the Government enforce the duty to engage in continued training or education up to the age of 18? What benefit will be gained from criminalising the young people whom our schools have let down? How will fines be collected from young people with no means to pay? What happens in the justice process when the young person facing sanctions turns 18? The tenets of the Bill will no longer apply, but the young person will still face criminal penalties. Despite the Government’s assurances, could people end up in prison because of this Bill?

The Minister’s argument on compulsion does not stack up. Tens of thousands of young people are already in compulsory education but they do not participate. How will parents be expected to ensure that their 16 and 17 year-old children comply with the Bill? I have spoken to young people about this. They told me that, if they see that there is a point to their programme, they will take part but that, if they are told by their parents, teachers or the state that they have to participate, they will most likely turn around and do the opposite. That is simply the nature of teenagers. It is unrealistic to expect parents to rein in or change the behaviour of 16 or 17 year-olds who have decided to opt out of education and training unless, as the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, argued, there is a real change of culture, attitude and approach so that young people and those who shape their thought processes change their outlook on education and training.

There will be teenagers from some communities, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, said, for whom participating beyond 16 will be difficult. This is particularly true of girls from certain communities. I know of many families in which girls going on to further education beyond 16 is a complete no-no. The Government will have to show us that they have thought through all these measures and that the measures will be workable. To make them workable, we will need to see that the training and education on offer is appropriate, necessary to future employment and flexible enough to respond to the needs both of young people and of employers.

My noble friend Lord Lucas is right: this is a centralised Bill that glosses over the real symptoms of young people’s disengagement. The Government can argue for compulsion only if, in return, we offer people

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provision that will enable them to learn skills that will genuinely make them more employable. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, set out forcefully through his four points the challenges that we face and the need to move away from the concept of compulsion and to concentrate far more on young people being motivated to engage and to learn. We must also, of course, consider how new ideas can engage young people.

We have spoken to representatives of colleges, small businesses and industry, as well as to groups that work with young people, many of whom are disadvantaged. They have all expressed concern. One of the most alarming things mentioned was the fear that these new provisions will simply encourage employers not to take on 16 or 17 year-olds. I have personal experience of running a small business and I know that one of the biggest obstacles is red tape. We do not want to add to the new duties on employers, who will have to know the guidance to the Bill inside out to ensure that they are not falling foul of the rules. They will have to spend time working out complicated rotas to allow time off for their employees to attend colleges or training courses. None of this will be easy and it could incentivise employers to look elsewhere for their staff. We should not glibly dismiss the worries of the very businesses on which we will rely to employ our newly educated workforce. We must be sure that the new regime is as flexible for employers as we can make it, or we run the risk of undermining our own good intentions from the start.

The courses that are to be offered must be useful. They must be practical and deliverable. The Government assure us that they are tying in the provision of courses with the overarching responsibilities of local authorities, although, as others have pointed out, it will take the next education Bill as well as this one to achieve it. We will ask the Minister to show that these plans, too, are fully thought out. What of the young person who moves from one local authority area to another? Who will keep track of him or her? It is naive to expect young people to live their lives neatly within the lines drawn on a civil servant’s map. If information is to be shared around to help to keep track of all these individuals, we must ensure that there are appropriate safeguards on that information sharing. The Bill appears to take a somewhat careless approach to the protection of personal and sensitive information.

My noble friend Lady Morris talked about the gender disparity in apprenticeships. We must avoid entrenching poverty among the most vulnerable young women by shoehorning them into limiting apprenticeships and training. Many people, in your Lordships’ House today and outside, have emphasised the great importance of providing good, impartial and constructive careers advice, so that all young people are aware of their options and can realise their potential. This ties in with another point that has been made: planning what happens to 16 to 18 year-olds is important, but just as important, if not more so, is what happens to children before they reach that age. The education, support and advice that they receive up to the age of 14 will have a huge impact on their future prospects.

Our children must have the very best start in life. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans spoke of the importance of well-being and happiness.

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Those are indeed important factors, which have an impact on how young people react to learning, but they cannot be acquired through a paper qualification. Our children must be numerate and literate, or they will lose out on many opportunities. As my noble friend Lady Morris said, we must be mindful of the distressingly high number of young people who suffer from mental health problems and we must be sure that we make adequate provision for them, or they will continue to be failed by the education system. We on these Benches believe that lifelong learning and acquiring new qualifications, either to help with better employment prospects or for general well-being, are excellent and admirable goals. This is why we have deep concerns about the Government’s policies on equivalent-level qualifications. We will return to this matter.

My noble friend Lady Morris spoke of our concern about Part 4, which will transfer the regulation and registration of independent schools from the DCSF to Ofsted. Our independent schools are recognised by the OECD as the best schools in the world. At a time when they are forging closer links with other sectors, it is unfortunate that their very good working relationship with the DCSF will be disrupted. I hope that the Minister will recognise the strength of feeling on the opposition Benches about this issue and about the proposed changes to the Section 347 schools.

As my noble friend Lady Morris said, during our consideration of the Bill we will return to the issue of compulsion, to the concerns surrounding some of our most vulnerable young people, to the unnecessary changes to independent education and to proper scrutiny of the revisions to the admissions code. We shall also seek to add new clauses on the establishment of new schools other than community schools, on restrictions on special school closures and on the teaching and recognition of IGCSEs and the teaching of science, about which the CBI employers’ survey showed that there was still a great deal of concern. We shall also seek to add a new clause to ensure that those with special needs are properly helped.

The Bill should be a wonderful opportunity for us to develop an education and training system that benefits young people, the employers who are desperate for a skilled, well trained and educated workforce and, above all, the country as a whole.

7.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, this has been a truly tremendous debate. I have found it incredibly stimulating and very interesting, and I very much look forward to the future stages of the Bill. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, who suggested that the Bill addresses a fundamental and perhaps almost moral and social need to respond to the needs of the most disadvantaged.

In winding up for the Government, I will try to address the main points made by noble Lords. However, there is a strong chance that I will not have time to address all the detailed points that have been made, so my noble friend and I undertake to write to all those who have taken part in this Second Reading. We can

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then begin the process of the Bill as we mean to continue it, sharing information and answering points as fully and in as timely a fashion as possible.

I thank my noble friend Lady Blackstone for her warm welcome. I particularly note her call and that of others to be bold about adult education, perhaps more radical, and more aspirational. This is a joint Bill between the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. I hope that we can be bold and will convince noble Lords that we are taking the ambitious measures that they would like to see. We have a shared goal to improve education outcomes for all, at whatever age. Raising the participation age, together with the age 0 to 19 reforms set out in the Children’s Plan, will ensure that the future workforce will be more skilled than ever.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, that we face an urgent task now. As we have heard, of the 2020 workforce, 74 per cent have already left education, many of whom still lack the skills for success in life that they so badly need. We have made real progress in improving the skill levels of the UK’s adult population. Since the Skills for Life strategy was launched, 4.7 million adult learners have taken up 10.5 million skills for life learning opportunities, with more than 1.76 million adults gaining a first qualification since 2001, and 1.34 million adults have up-skilled to level 2 since 2002, thus meeting the department’s interim target of 1 million by 2006.

However, in taking up the gauntlet laid down by my noble friend Lord Leitch, we have set ourselves a challenging ambition, which is not to remain in the middling rank of nations for skills, below our European and our global competitors, but to have world-class skills by 2020. Our progress to date is laudable, but it is not enough and we are in no way complacent. For the first time, the Bill will give adults the right to free provision for basic literacy and numeracy qualifications. As many noble Lords have highlighted, these are the skills required to function in everyday life. As we have heard from my noble friend Lord Adonis, individuals with level 2 qualifications are proven to have better employment prospects and improved life chances. This Bill will give everyone the chance to gain skills that are a platform for employability.

If we compare ourselves with other countries, up-to-the-age-of-16 participation and achievement rates are good. But as individuals get older other countries begin to catch up and to overtake the UK, which is particularly evident when people are in their early 20s. Currently, the UK stands still while young adults across Europe improve their skills and gain level 3 qualifications. To address that, the Bill gives 19 to 25 year-olds a right to free tuition for their first full level 3 qualification, which is equivalent to two A-levels. I hear what noble Lords are saying, but I am delighted that we are making this commitment. The duties will ensure that the Learning and Skills Council, providers and everyone in the system are focussed on meeting individuals’ needs.

As with the raising of the participation age, I am clear that legislation is not a panacea. It is a chance to see the culture change we need, to which many noble Lords have referred. Legislation will not win the battle

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alone. As my noble friend Lady Morris pointed out, much of what needs to be done is not in legislation. The signal sent by the legislation will be disseminated to potential learners through our marketing campaigns, which are proving hugely successful in winning interest, and hearts and minds on this story. Once we have the attention of learners, they need to be supported into learning. As the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said, continuing in education post-16, including vocational education, should command much more respect. This Government are committed to making that happen.

Skills accounts will provide individuals with a virtual voucher of state funding to purchase learning at a quality assured provider of their choice, which is new and very important. They will also offer a route to further support through a new adult careers and advancement service to be fully operational across England from 2010-11. Together with the continuing growth of Train to Gain, we will see a radically different model of organisation in the skills system where the role of Government is to ensure that learners and employers are empowered, well informed and well supported, so that demand can lead supply.

The noble Lord, Lord Layard, and others suggested that apprenticeships possibly would be the single biggest step to achieving the aspirations of this Bill. The Government entirely agree with noble Lords that apprenticeships should be a choice route for young people and adults. We have committed to providing an apprenticeship to all suitably qualified young people by 2013. The Bill signals our intention by placing an explicit duty on the Learning and Skills Council to secure apprenticeships, alongside other further education courses. I am delighted at the profile that apprenticeships have received in this debate.

Earlier this year, we set out our detailed proposals to ratchet up the quality and quantity of apprenticeships, an area where we have a very strong record. Later in this Session we will publish a draft apprenticeship Bill. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, will be reassured by the emphasis, interest and investment that the Government are making. Noble Lords will see that this Bill is merely a first legislative step on our way to world class skills in 2020, which I believe will meet the ambitions set out by many noble Lords today.

I want to pick up on some of the concerns highlighted today. The noble Baronesses, Lady Morris of Bolton and Lady Walmsley, and others mentioned concerns regarding the changes to the inspection and registration regime for independent schools. The Government are committed to reducing bureaucracy. The transfer of the registration and regulation of independent educational institutions to Ofsted will not only release efficiencies in the public sector, but reduce the burdens. Here, we are particularly talking about reducing burdens on smaller independent schools, which will have to deal with only one regulatory body. Overall, 2,019 out of 2,359 independent schools will see a reduction in bureaucracy. The remaining schools will see no increase in burden, so will not be disadvantaged. It is far from the case that we want to cause any concern or disaffection to any independent school. We want to reassure them that we are taking very seriously their concerns about how the process is taken forward.

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