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In response to some of the issues raised both by us and by other noble Lords during the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on 28 July 2008. His letter sets out in more detail what would be expected in these circumstances. I should like to read a number of extracts from the letter because it is important that this is on the record so that people will know what was said. In the letter the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said:

“I agree with you that it will be vital that the provision available to young people is personalised to meet their specific needs and to give them the skills they need to progress further in education and to enter employment in future. As I set out previously during debate on the raising the participation age clauses, Clause 4 provides for young people participating in full time education and training do so by following an unaccredited programme of learning. This could include the type of re-engagement provision that is often provided by third sector and voluntary organisations.

For those young people participating through the part time learning route, whilst we recognise the valuable skills and experience that young people in full-time employment will be gaining through their day-to-day work, we do believe that it is important that the course they are undertaking in their day a week of guided learning should be accredited. This will ensure that it is of good quality, and without this requirement employers could get away with providing very little training”.

He then went on to say:

“For some of our most disadvantaged young people, who may have not enjoyed or progressed at school, the most appropriate option may be a programme of learning at ‘entry level’ or ‘level 1’. We recognise the vital role such programmes will play in successfully raising the participation age and are working hard to increase the range of provision available to young people. In the White Paper Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances (March 2006) the Government confirmed its commitment to developing ‘The Foundation Learning Tier’ (FLT). This will be introduced across the country from September 2010, bringing coherence to entry level and level 1 qualifications and providing clear progression routes for young people onto level 2 and beyond. It will also include a skilled work pathway for young people who are not ready to undertake a full Apprenticeship.”

How far does all this fit in to what is being proposed under the learning support agreements, which we will be discussing later? In the Minister’s amendments after Clause 58, these, as she will admit, are not quite the same as personalised learning programmes, although such programmes could form a part of the conditional agreement between the local authority and the young person.

In responses to amendments on Clause 4 in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, made it clear that those pursuing full-time education might pursue courses which in the end did not lead to an accredited outcome required by Clause 6 but those pursuing work-based learning were required to have some sort of accreditation. Does working as a volunteer count as education or training in this respect? Can pursuing a personalised learning programme with one of the voluntary organisations, such as the Prince’s Trust, count as education and are they therefore exempt from the requirement to have this first-stage accreditation? There is still a lack of clarity here and I wonder whether the Minister can clarify precisely what will happen in those circumstances.

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Amendment No. 64 relates to Part 2, dealing specifically with young adults with learning difficulties. It raises slightly different issues. In our discussions in Committee on Clause 64, which is now Clause 56, it was clear from the Minister’s reply that such services as are considered appropriate include the Connexions services. I pointed out to the Minister that many of these young people suffered from health problems, particularly mental health problems, and that providing them with appropriate services would mean bringing in the PCT and the child and adolescent mental health services. I asked him whether guidance would involve those two services as partners with Connexions.

He promised to think further on those issues and I am encouraged that the Government’s amendment to Clause 58 on support learning contracts includes support in the form of medical and social care. But again, I seek clarification on whether Clause 56, which includes the words,

includes health services, in particular mental health services. So many of these young people have mental health problems, and it is extremely important that the mental health services are brought in as partners with Connexions to help them to overcome them. I beg to move.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, these are eminently sensible amendments. There is nothing better a young person can do than volunteer. They will pick up great skills for life and I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some reassurance.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, is the Minister going to speak to her amendment in this group? If not, it will be difficult to comment on it.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I, too, support the amendments and endorse the points made. Training in the voluntary sector, on approved courses, would be hugely important as regards work experience.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I want to speak, but I want to listen to the Minister first. I am sorry, I am being totally daft, which is not unusual: I am looking at the wrong amendment.

I understand the aim of the amendment, but I have sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said in Committee about accreditation. The voluntary sector is pretty diverse, and to say that voluntary work, whatever it might be, counts towards a person’s education is putting it rather widely.

I am concerned about the process of accreditation which the Government envisage when it comes to entry-level qualifications. It really ought to mean no qualification at all. How can you have a qualification in an ability to work with other people, to behave in a social manner and to turn up to work on time—all the skills which many young people are leaving school without? If you are going to pick them up at 16 and turn them out as competent adults at 18, they are the first things you have to address. The obsession that the

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Learning and Skills Council has for everything having to lead into literacy, numeracy or some other chain of qualification is poisonous to these basic levels of education. It means that the whole structure of those courses must be bent towards box-ticking, because that is all you can do at that stage. Such bits of literacy and numeracy are entirely outside the main thrust and purpose of the education that is being provided.

I agree that there needs to be a structure and supervision, but surely the best way of handling this is through the structure which the Government are providing in later amendments; one of local authority supervision through a contract between the local authority and the young person. If under that scheme the local authority, with a voluntary organisation, is providing a programme that is aimed at getting these young people motivated, directed and involved in society and their own futures, surely that is enough. That programme does not need to go through an expensive, time-consuming and essentially irrelevant LSC process. The control is there through the local authority. Most of these courses, particularly the good courses, will be local because they will rely on being run by motivated and directed individuals and will not generally be suitable for rolling out to the ordinary run of commercial education. They will work well within the local voluntary sector. Under those structures, there should be total freedom for the local education authority to provide these courses without them having to be formally accredited in some box-ticking way.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I shall briefly comment on what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said about the importance of ensuring a good partnership with child and adolescent mental health services for Connexions services working with these young people. I am particularly thinking of young people in care, or on the edge of care, because one can spend a short time in care in one’s early childhood or later on and not necessarily be entitled to the full support available otherwise. There are many other children who have experienced the death of a parent or both parents or multiple trauma and are vulnerable. It is helpful for a Connexions adviser to have the best professional support in maintaining a relationship with a vulnerable young person. It is sometimes difficult to sustain those relationships, but it can be very helpful for a young person who has experienced the loss of a parent or family member or who has had a number of placements with different carers to have one person consistently engaged in a relationship with him. However, that person needs good support, so I welcome what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I hope I can provide the clarity that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, is looking for. I have a rather long speaking note, but my speaking notes get shorter as the day goes by, so I am not going to drone on for hours.

I believe that all young people should benefit from staying in education or training until the age of 18 and that appropriately tailored, flexible and personalised programmes of learning will be essential to engage some of the hardest-to-reach young people. Speaking particularly to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7, if the noble Baronesses are thinking of the kind of informal or

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non-formal education or training often provided through the voluntary sector—the noble Baroness referred to the Prince’s Trust—that would be covered under full-time education or training. The type of provision described in Amendment No. 6 is recognised and allowed for under Clause 4. Appropriate full-time education or training is not required to be accredited. It can be provided at a school, college, higher education institution or otherwise, which allows for locations that are not formal education institutions. That is what the noble Baroness was pointing to. They may not always lead to formally accredited qualifications, although we know it is important to break down programmes into bite-sized sections and to start recognising young people’s achievements as early as possible in whatever way is most appropriate for them. There is nothing in Clause 4 to prevent personalised learning programmes being integrated with individual support where that is needed, and it would be good practice to do so. I therefore believe that Amendment No. 6 is unnecessary.

On Amendment No. 7, our strong view is that informal learning should not count for the purposes of part-time education or training alongside employment. We recognise the value of non-formal learning, where it has a clear aim and enables young people to progress, and have made it clear that it will be allowed under Clause 4. However, since young people in a job develop their “get up and turn up on time” side, we think it reasonable to require young people in full-time education to be working toward an accredited qualification. It is important that they have the opportunity to participate in good-quality, accredited training; without the requirement for accreditation there would be no guarantee of the quality level in the training being undertaken.

In this context, the requirement for accreditation is our guarantee that, where employers are providing training, the learning that happens is substantial and of high quality. Without it, there would be a risk of creating a way out for employers—and I know that we shall discuss that concern shortly, on an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Layard. The noble Baroness has, however, raised an important point.

On Amendment No. 2 in particular, we certainly recognise that engaging in volunteering is an extremely worthwhile activity for young people. I have personally promoted that and believe strongly in it. It can help them to gain important skills and experience that contribute to their personal development and are valued by employers and universities. We are encouraging more people to get involved in voluntary work. However, I am also clear that those young people need to continue their formal learning in the same way as those in paid employment do. It might be as part of a volunteering programme, or mean undertaking a part-time course alongside the volunteering activity. Continuing in formal accredited learning will ensure that the skills they have developed are formally recognised and that they gain further qualifications. That is important to help them demonstrate what they have learned to future employers; it will help them to find work and to progress in it.

Amendment No. 64 would put a duty on local authorities to provide health and mental health services. For a minority of young people, access to and continued participation in education and training depends not

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just on the quality of teaching and learning—or even the quality of information, advice and guidance that they receive on learning choices—but on their ability to access specialist support to help them overcome health issues that can be barriers to their learning. This is an important issue, but I believe the amendment is unnecessary. Under the Children Act 2004, local authorities have a duty to co-operate with health partners, including primary care trusts, to improve the,

of children and young people. The Act also introduces a duty on local authorities to co-ordinate the production of strategic children and young persons’ plans, to set a vision for all the services that children and young people gain in an area. Guidance on that duty emphasises the need for close partnership working, to ensure consistency between children and young people’s plans and the primary care trusts’ local development plans.

Recently, there have been significant improvements in the delivery of child and adolescent mental health services, partly as a result of increasing funding in that area. For example, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of multi-agency services there, and reductions in waiting lists. However, we want to see further improvements: that is why our Children’s Plan commissioned an external review of such services, led by Jo Davidson, director of the children and young people’s service at Gloucestershire County Council and Dr Bob Jezzard, an eminent child and adolescent psychiatrist. They will develop their report to the Government shortly, and we will be able to respond in full to the proposals for better, joined-up services. To be absolutely clear, a full discussion on the partnership agreements will be coming up later today. These are vehicles for promoting and achieving the participation of young people—not the actual participation, which we will consider later in a different part of the Bill.

I am aware that I have gone on for rather a long time but I hope I have been able to give the noble Baronesses the reassurance that they rightly require on this issue.

12.15 pm

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. She has clarified most of the issues that I wished to be clarified in regard to voluntary activity. It was not quite clear whether the kinds of courses laid on by the Prince’s Trust would count as full-time education and that is what I was querying.

Still outstanding, however—we shall probably return to this—is what will happen to young people with relatively severe learning difficulties of one kind or another who take up some form of work but cannot be expected to go on to acquire any kind of accreditation. We discussed this at some length in Committee in relation to the Rose Trust. On the whole, these young people gain a great deal through the work experience that they get on these occasions, yet such is the severity of their learning difficulties that it is not reasonable to expect them to go on to accreditation.

On Amendment No. 64, I take it the Minister is saying that it is not necessary because Clause 56(1) states:

“A local education authority in England must make available to young persons and relevant young adults for whom it is

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responsible such services as it considers appropriate to encourage, enable or assist the effective participation of those persons in education or training”.

We established in Committee that such services were the Connexions services but it was left a little vague as to whether the PCTs and children and adolescent mental health services were involved. From her reply today it is clear that under the partnership agreement established in the Children Act such services are to be brought in and made available when required. I am delighted to have a clear answer to that issue and I am grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 [Duty to participate in education or training]:

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 3:

3: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, leave out from “applies” to end of line 3 on page 2 and insert “shall be entitled to two years of free education or training up to level 3, to be taken at any time after leaving education at the present compulsory school leaving age”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I also welcome the Minister to her new role. She has always been seen as part of the Bill team but I compliment her on the way in which she has picked up the ball and run with it. I look forward later in our debates today to being able to thank her for a number of things she has now brought forward in response to the listening that she and her predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis—who we miss very much—did in our debates in Committee.

On Amendment No. 3, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, that it has been a very eventful 14 weeks. Indeed, the British economy appears to be in turmoil, and that turmoil clearly will not go away for quite some time. There will be a certain amount of shake-out in some of our industries and the need for upskilling and reskilling among the working population will be greater than ever. The difference between us is how that will be best achieved. The amendment demonstrates that we prefer an entitlement for all adults to free level 3 tuition, throughout their life, to compulsion on 16 to 19 year-olds to carry on with some kind of education or training.

We therefore come back to the debate about compulsion versus entitlement which we had in Committee. We would prefer the Government to put in place all the things they are doing to widen the opportunity for young people to participate in education or training, to take away the barriers and provide support and help before resorting to any compulsion. There was much support for this point of view from all over the Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, talked about the good reasons, such as parenthood, why a young woman may wish to postpone her post-16 studies; she has returned to that subject today. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has talked about how compulsion does not work below the age of 16, since we still have a large—albeit falling—number of truants.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, talked about the attraction of teaching those who choose to be there, rather than those who are compelled, and emphasised that choice is a large contributor to their success. She also talked about the gradual transition

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to adulthood from 16 to 18, and worried about the fact that this Bill passes the duty from the parent to the child in relation to attendance at education, with the consequence that a criminal offence is created when a young person fails to participate. That criminal element is one that the Government openly accept. Only yesterday in a meeting with interested Peers for which we were most grateful, the honourable Jim Knight from another place accepted that quite clearly, despite the various measures that the Government have now introduced to reduce the likelihood and impact of that criminal offence, none of which is 100 per cent watertight.

The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, also supported entitlement, and felt that a lot of work is needed on the wider offer to 16 to 19 year-olds before making it compulsory for them to stay in education. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, expressed concerns about the local authority enforcement officer and his powers. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, talked about the consequences of giving a young person a criminal record, particularly in relation to their future employment prospects. It is because of this general disquiet about the compulsion element that we felt it necessary to return to the matter of compulsion versus entitlement at this stage. We believe that the country and its economy will benefit if as many as possible, and as many as are capable, take qualifications up to level 3. As I said, the world of work is changing rapidly; that will continue, and perhaps even accelerate with new technologies coming along. That is why we need to give people the chance to become lifelong learners. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, referred to Mr Gladstone, who formed his fourth Administration at the age of 83, declaring that he had been a learner all his life. I hope that when I am 83 I will still be a learner too.

However, the Minister’s predecessor claimed that this Bill, with its compulsion, would instil a greater culture of learning among teenagers and then, perhaps, further up the age range. It takes more than compulsion to change a culture. People change their attitudes when they enjoy something or see its benefit, not when they are forced to do something. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, talked about the increase in the number of young people already staying on, and the recent small reduction in the NEET category. Here he betrayed the real reason for the Government’s compulsion approach. This Bill, which affects every young person, is really designed to deal with the 9.4 per cent not in education, employment or training. As we all know, hard cases make bad law. We have a fundamental disagreement about what will deal best with those young people.

In this Bill, and others that we are promised in the next Session, the Government are planning to provide many of the right things: support, apprenticeships, the right to time off from work for training, a wider range of qualifications and financial support. These are all the right things, but making the whole thing compulsory introduces a negative element which is unnecessary and may even have a negative effect, which none of us wants. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, also prayed in aid a good many other countries that already have a higher participation age and better attainment levels. This is a very simplistic argument in a field where

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there are so many complex and interconnecting factors at work. That is why I have returned to this matter one more time.

We have tried in many of our other amendments, which we will debate later, to mitigate some of the potential worse effects of the Government’s compulsion approach. We have been pragmatic about that because it is likely that the Government will get their way. This amendment addresses our fundamental disagreement. Exemptions, minimal fines, support agreements and all, are fine in their way, but the Government, while claiming that a young person of 16 should be able to take responsibility for his own education and therefore bear the consequences if he breaks the law, in the next breath take away his right to decide when the time is right for him to continue his learning. We believe that that is wrong. The British Youth Council agrees with us. It carried out a survey recently which showed that a majority of young people do not want their free choice removed.

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