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The noble Lord said: Government Amendments Nos. 168A, 231A, 231B and 233B enable the duties on employers in Chapter 3 of Part 1 to be applied to Wales in future should the Assembly Government, having studied the impact of this legislation in England, decide to acquire the legislative competence to raise the participation age in Wales through a future legislative

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competence order and to bring forward a measure to do so. It is important that the duties on employers on either side of the border should be the same if the participation age is the same so that the system is easy to understand and potential burdens on employers are minimised.

Amendments Nos. 231A, 231B and 233B ensure that, should the participation age be raised in Wales and the Secretary of State therefore uses his power to apply the provisions in Chapter 3 to Wales, any order will be subject to the affirmative procedure and Welsh Ministers will need to be consulted first. I beg to move.

Lord Rowlands: My Amendment No. 232 is linked to the government amendments in this group. First, I draw to the House’s attention my interests as president of the National Training Federation for Wales and as an adviser to a Merthyr Consortium Ltd. charity, Tydfil Training.

Born as I was in 1940, I belong to the first generation of young working class children who were the beneficiaries of compulsory education under the great Education Act 1944. My mother, who was the brightest of us all, had been forced to leave school at the age of 14, as had almost all her generation. Through the Act, we were instilled with the value of and a passion for education, a means by which we could climb out of the pile and avoid going down the pits. It provided opportunities well beyond the expectations of the generation that preceded me.

I reread some of the debates in both Houses on the 1944 Bill. I was pleasantly surprised—although the amount of time it has now taken has shaken me—that Rab Butler and the architects of that Act had aspirations for compulsory education beyond the age of 16 even then. In the debate about continuing education, even as far back as 1944, full-time compulsory education beyond the age of 16 was aspired to. It has taken us more than a generation to reach this stage, and I support the principles of a Bill that is a worthy successor to the Education Act 1944.

I was frankly disappointed that the Welsh Assembly Government have decided not to share the enthusiasm held by many of us from that generation for the principles of this Bill. They make a sincere and powerful case: they believe that they will be able to create in Wales, through an innovative 14-to-19 agenda, an education system that is so attractive that everybody will want to take full advantage of it. I have to suppress my doubting Thomas instincts but I understand the aspirations behind it. To buttress that attractive menu of options, the Welsh Assembly Government are promoting a draft measure to increase learning entitlement for young people aged 16 to 18. They have taken the rather unusual step of publishing the draft measure before bringing forward a legislative competence order so that we can see the thinking behind it as a kind of alternative to accepting the measures in this Bill.

The Welsh Assembly Government have drafted this entitlement measure and put it out for consultation. Unfortunately, some of us have found considerable deficiencies in it. Most are matters which should be debated internally, as they belong to the Welsh debate, but a fundamental one does not: the proposed legislation for a learning entitlement does not cover people aged

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16 to 19 who are in employment and not receiving any learning or training. We need to reach out to this group who leave school at 16 and enter employment but have no entitlement to further educational training, and this Bill will reach out to them eventually through its obligation.

My Amendment No. 232 seeks to bring one aspect of the Welsh scene within the Bill: people aged 16 to 18 should have an obligation and a right to a form of learning or training in and around the place of work. This is where the growth will and should occur. Where people are already employed is where one hopes to see the greatest opportunities, not only for young people but, I hope, for adults as well. My amendment seeks to cover 16 to 18 year-olds in employment but not in any education or training in Wales, because the proposed draft measures in Wales do not offer a similar entitlement.

Since I tabled my amendment, the Government have come forward with their own. I welcome particularly the linking of the employment measure with the draft measure that might be promoted at some future date by a Welsh Assembly Government. It is important that there is provision in this Bill, as now proposed in my noble friend’s amendment, to allow young people in employment and employers to be covered. Employment law is not devolved, so it could not be promoted as a learning measure in Wales. It must be promoted here. My noble friend’s amendments are very important, as they will entitle and eventually oblige young people from 16 to 18 who are in work to undertake some form of learning in work. I hope that the Welsh Assembly Government will seize the opportunity provided by my noble friend in the Bill and pursue these principles and policies.

In the mean time, what should happen? What should we do to assist and promote learning entitlement for young people who are, or will be, in employment but who do not necessarily receive any training? My noble friend kindly responded to my representations to him and others by sending me an English consultation document on the right to request training. I read it with considerable interest. I understand that it applies to adults and is supposed to complement the provisions in the Bill, but the principles and the model that my noble friend is promoting—the equivalent of the right to educational training and to flexible hours—are very good, and I hope and pray that he will help me to promote that concept to the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Assembly Government so that it can become an extension of learning entitlement for young people who are in work.

Having said that, I sound a cautionary note. There is already provision in law entitling young people in work to educational training. As I understand it, Section 63A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and a 2001 directive on time off for training are in place. The trouble is—this is anecdotally true of Wales; I do not know whether my noble friend has any figures for England—that this opportunity, this right, has scarcely been exercised. That is why this combination of right and obligation is important. We have bestowed rights on young people in work, but they have not been able

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to exercise them or they have not done so. Therefore, there is a requirement to combine this obligation and right in the Bill.

I welcome and support my noble friend’s amendments. I hope that the Welsh Assembly Government will pursue the opportunities created by them. Eventually, I believe, another generation will understand the value of and have the passion for education that I have as a beneficiary of the last great piece of legislation, the Education Act 1944.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: We on these Benches understand and have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Rowlands, has said, but we also firmly believe, as he will know, that it is for the National Assembly for Wales to decide what is appropriate for that country. Therefore, although we have some support for his amendment, we support the Government’s view that there should be enabling legislation that enables the Government in Wales to adopt this provision if they wish. For the moment, it is up to Wales to decide, rather than implementing this through legislation in this country.

Lord Adonis: I am completely at one with my noble friend Lord Rowlands in valuing the importance and potential benefits of introducing compulsory participation in education and training until the age of 18. I am also very grateful to him for his support for our policy. I hope that Members of the Welsh Assembly read his speech and appreciate his cogent arguments. I absolutely agree with him that it should be possible for the Welsh Assembly to decide to raise the participation age in Wales at some point in the future, and that we should ensure that this legislation does nothing to preclude that possibility.

The Government of Wales Act 2006 allows the Assembly to acquire enhanced legislative powers through legislative competence orders. If, given the English experience, the Welsh Assembly Government decided to raise the participation age in future, they could propose a legislative competence order to seek powers to enable them to do so. We have been working with the Wales Office and the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that this legislation does nothing to preclude that possibility and is drafted in a way that enables all aspects of the policy to be applied to Wales should the Welsh Assembly Government decide to pursue such an approach.

A future legislative competence order could cover all aspects of Part 1, with the exception of the duties on employers. I moved the government amendments to enable the duties on employers in Chapter 3 of Part 1 to be applied to Wales, should the Assembly Government acquire the legislative competence to raise the participation age there, and to bring forward a measure to do so. As I say, this would need to be a decision that they would take in due course.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

6 pm

Clause 54 [Support services: provision by local education authorities]:

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Baroness Verma moved Amendment No. 169:

The noble Baroness said: If we are to guide young people in the right direction, we must be explicit about the nature of that guidance. That is the point of Amendment No. 169. Instead of the clause referring simply to services, the nature of the new statutory obligations should be made clearer. In that sense, this is a probing amendment to test the Government’s commitment to, and understanding of, the need to offer the right range of advice and guidance on what is available to young people.

I am concerned that Connexions is not the best means of providing the range of advice necessary to assist young people. I do not want unfairly to criticise Connexions; it does very good work. However, it is asked to do too much good work. I addressed the issue when I moved Amendment No. 111, so I do not need to repeat every point I made then. The gist of what I said was that Connexions is now almost too universal. It is not equipped to provide specialist careers advice. An all-age careers service that sat alongside Connexions, dedicated to advising on career choices, as the amendment labels them, would be a much better way of providing the advice and guidance required.

Amendment No. 170 attempts to refine that further, so that young people with special educational needs have services tailored to their needs. Again, we have previously discussed the importance of helping young people with special needs. They should not be allowed to fall through the net because we have not done enough to help them. Amendment No. 176 reflects our desire to support high-quality careers advice and a highly professional careers service. By tying in the various strands of careers advice, we hope to create a strong interconnected system which provides high-quality advice for everyone who needs it. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 171, 174 and 175 in this group. Amendment No. 171 picks up the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, about special educational needs. We discussed these at some length. The evidence from authorities such as the Prince’s Trust and Barnardo’s which was given in another place before its detailed consideration of the Bill in Committee makes it clear that, given the right guidance, those with learning and behavioural difficulties can be brought back into the learning process, but it can take a great deal of time and patience. Amendment No. 171 picks up the need for support for these young people.

The heading given to Part 2 is:

As the Committee knows, we are specifically considering some of the young people who have learning and behavioural difficulties. Provision for them should go through to the age of 25, as it does for those who ask for statements of their special educational needs. That should be done unless the young people themselves make it clear that they do not wish to pursue such a programme of support over that period. I should also say at this point that we have a good deal of sympathy

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for Amendments Nos. 169, 170 and 173, all of which make the duty on local authorities more specific and spell out the need to clarify precisely what sort of services are to be provided.

Amendments Nos. 174 and 175 apply to Clause 55, which is concerned with the directions given to local education authorities on the support services they will provide. Amendment No. 174 suggests that rather than giving the Secretary of State discretion in whether to issue directions to local education authorities, he will have to do so, while Amendment No. 175 suggests that those who deliver these services should be properly qualified. It provides that,

To clarify that, Section 44(1) of the Education Act 1997 makes it clear that:

That means education to prepare pupils to take decisions about their careers and help them to implement such decisions. The same section makes it clear that schools and colleges should co-operate with careers advisers when they are responsible for providing information, advice and guidance and defines the careers adviser as someone employed by the body providing these services in pursuance of these arrangements. That is the definition that I read out on a previous occasion.

Amendment No. 175 makes it clear that the services to be provided under Clause 54 should conform to the pre-existing requirements placed on local authorities to provide proper information, advice and guidance within schools in order to meet their obligations to provide careers advice, and that this should be delivered by a qualified careers adviser as defined in the 1997 Act. These two pieces of pre-existing legislation should assure young people that they will have access to independent and impartial specialist careers advisers. We would like to see this provision in the Bill because there are serious concerns that these duties are not being fulfilled. We want a reassurance from Ministers that the directions to be issued by the Secretary of State will embody the principle and intention that this route to independent advice will be maintained and strengthened.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: I want briefly to express my support for these amendments, and I have added my name to Amendment No. 170. We should remind ourselves that young people with special educational needs form a high proportion of those who drop off the edge of the world, so to speak, at the age of 16. They end up as NEETs, living rough and in the courts, and generally they form a specific group in need of special support and encouragement which I hope a revivified Connexions service can give. When the Minister responds, I hope that he will address particularly the issue of young people with SEN because as they get older they also form a very high proportion of the prison population and exhibit many other severe social problems.

Lord Dearing: I hope that the Minister will be able to give a positive response to the thrust of these

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amendments. As I read Clause 55(1), unless the Secretary of State chooses to make directions, the duty is almost empty. A local education authority “must” make available this, that and the other such as it considers appropriate. That does not amount to anything. To give substance to these provisions, we need amendments of this kind, or clarity that regulations will be made.

Lord Adonis: The noble Baroness, Lady Verma, wishes to probe on the range of advice and guidance to be provided. I can give her a full description by pointing her toward the comprehensive new quality standards for information, advice and guidance which, over 17 pages, set out in detail the information, advice and guidance that all young people should expect to receive. These new standards will form a key part of the statutory guidance made under Clause 54. I am happy to circulate copies for Members of the Committee to examine. Amendment No. 172 would make it explicit that the local authority must provide,

for individuals. That is set out in the quality standards. We also intend to emphasise their position as a core function of Connexions services through the directions that we propose to issue under Clause 55.

Amendment No. 170 would require that Connexions services should be,

The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, also raised that issue. Clause 63 provides that,

who needs a service in that area. That includes those with special needs, and for those young people the duty extends up to age 25. Transferring the responsibility for Connexions to local authorities will enable them to better join up services that support young people with learning difficulties and to share knowledge and specialist resources. In addition, standard 4.8 of the new quality standards to which I referred a moment ago says that,

The group of particular concern to the noble Baronesses is therefore specifically highlighted in the new Quality Standards for Young People's Information, Advice and Guidance.

Amendment No. 171, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, would require that young people who need it receive,

As we have discussed before, it is essential to the success of the Bill that this support is available, and I can reassure the noble Baroness that a number of clauses already provide for it. Clause 10 requires authorities to “promote the effective participation” of young people “in education or training”, while Clause 39(5) requires them to take,

to the young person before an attendance notice can be issued. Clause 54 requires them to “encourage, enable or assist” their,

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We realise the importance of that support, which is why we have published the new quality standards and doubled the investment in the Connexions services to £468 million in 2008-09, compared with the level that the former Careers Service received. We are therefore transferring the service to local authorities, which are best placed to join up and integrate all local services supporting young people, as that will ensure better targeting of individuals’ needs and should provide greater efficiencies and free up more resources for the front-line.

Amendment No. 171 goes on to require that “support and guidance” are available to all young people until age 25 or until the person,

to receive the service. Connexions services, as Clause 63 states, already provide such support to people with learning difficulties up to their 25th birthday, but apart from those who require an extended transition period because of a learning difficulty, we are unconvinced that most young people, as they approach 20, want the same service as a teenager. We believe that they want an adult service, and that is what the Bill provides. The adult Careers Service is available for all people aged 20 and over and, as we discussed in the previous Committee sitting, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has announced that it will introduce a new adult advancement and careers service from 2010-11, which will merge the existing adult Careers Service and work closely with Jobcentre Plus.

In addition, Jobcentre Plus provides the New Deal for Young People for 18 to 24 year-olds, which offers support and helps them take stock of their skills and experience and then build on those to create better opportunities for work. The service is available to all young people with a history of being not in employment, education or training. With the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the Department for Children, Schools and Families will be developing an all-age strategy for career advice to ensure that transitions between services are joined up.

6.15 pm

Amendment No. 175, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, enables the power to direct to specify that these services must comply with the duties placed on local authorities by Sections 8 to 10 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 and by Section 44 of the Education Act 1997. I shall take those references one by one. Section 10 of the Education and Training Act 1973 allows the Secretary of State to make arrangements with local authorities to carry out careers service functions and gives him the power to direct authorities in such matters. I can confirm that the power to make arrangements with local authorities for the delivery of careers service functions was used by the Secretary of State on 25 March this year. The relevant letter was sent to members of the Public Bill Committee prior to Report in another place and copied to Front-Bench spokespeople in both Houses. In addition, we already have a power to issue directions on this matter and will use it if it is deemed necessary.

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