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We should open the doors for young people, take away any barriers and help them to walk through those doors as soon as they are ready, but not create a one-age-fits-all situation. I am very keen on the entitlement to free level 3 tuition for all adults so that they can be lifelong learners. I beg to move.

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Fookes): My Lords, if this amendment were agreed, I could not call Amendment No. 4, by reason of pre-emption.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, we made it quite clear at Second Reading and in Committee that we would much rather the Government proceeded with caution rather than compel young people to participate against their will, and that there should be a lot of carrot before any stick was applied. But we have not put down amendments on Report because, as I said in moving Amendment No. 1, the world has changed. We need to have as well skilled a workforce as possible and to ensure that as many young people as possible participate. As I said, we would not go down this route but we are not going to stand in the way of the Government bringing forward compulsion.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend might in due course have an opportunity not to go down this route herself and that she will then take quite seriously what is proposed in the amendment. If we are to give people rights to educate themselves to a decent level, when the time is right for them appears to be the right way to go. To have a pupil who is motivated, who wants to learn and knows what they want to learn is so much better than having someone who is dragging their feet every step of the way. You can achieve so much more for the same amount of money. In a way, some children of 16 and 17 need some life experience; they need to get out there and learn how hard life is in the real world; they need to learn a bit more about themselves and what they want to do, and then come back to education. When that happens, they should be able to do so on the same terms as someone who already knows at 16 that they want to take a couple of A-levels and go on to university.

The idea of lifelong learning and the ability to do it should be core to our thinking. Lots of people find at

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certain periods of their life that they need some additional education. If they have not had a basic education and have not learnt what they should have learnt earlier in life, the easy availability of a retraining course and the money to do that which has not been wasted by keeping them in school between the ages of 16 and 18 but is available for them when they need it, is surely the right way to go. Why should they have to pay for it? To have a quick week of education available for Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross would be a thoroughly good idea.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, I cannot fault an iota of the very impassioned, excellent argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. My heart is with her; I wish that the Government had put their energies into providing a lifelong entitlement for people that would enable flexibility for the workforce, which will be so much more important now after the past few terrible weeks and all that that implies for the workforce of the future. I have amendments down about the criminal aspects arising from compulsion. I think that at this stage the Government will try compulsion, although there is no evidence that it works in other countries. I think we will keep our powder dry on that, although I wish very much that the Government had gone down the route that the noble Baroness has suggested.

12.30 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I agree strongly with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. While she was speaking, I was minded of two statements by two totally different people. One was a memorable statement by Winston Churchill, that there was a treasure in the heart of every man if only you could find it; the other was a statement by the learning and skills co-ordinator in a young offender establishment in Northallerton in Yorkshire, who said to me that the main job of trainers and educators in prisons was to motivate people to learn. One of the biggest factors in that motivation was time; therefore, it seems entirely sensible that time should be allowed to apply. If people have not been able to engage and connect during school, let us not expect them automatically to go on with it until time and other things have been able to motivate them because they have somehow discovered that there is a treasure which has not yet been found and that needs developing.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I shall revert to the Prison Service when I speak to my amendment later. I had intended to refer to a prisoner named John, who, as a result of having been diagnosed and taught as a dyslexic, was able to say that he had learnt more in eight weeks than in the previous 41 years of his life. This provision is for people who miss diagnosis.

I also remind your Lordships that the world now is very different from even 10 years ago, including the speed of change in the skills needed to prosper. Old jobs are becoming obsolete and new jobs arising almost by the month as a result of technological development. The amendment offers a way in which the mistakes that people have made in not taking their education when they are young can be turned into an advantage,

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because they will be able to pick up again with learning that will be contemporary with, rather than prior to, the need.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, not only for tabling the amendment but for the splendid way in which she brought us all up to date with what had been said in Committee, which is now so many months ago that I think that quite a number of us have forgotten the detail. It is essential to reiterate what so many of us said at that time: we would prefer choice, or the carrot route, to compulsion. The more one hears about the sad situation that the world is in today, the more it would seem appropriate to look down that road. I recently attended a briefing by the Nuffield Foundation on the Engaging Youth inquiry. It made it clear that a wide range of young people will need all kinds of support before—and, one hopes, when—they see that they could engage in something rather more specifically educational. Among other things is a need for the personal mentor or helper to be around. That is where I would put a lot of my resources for these young people. Although I fear we will not persuade the Government to think again on this matter, about which I am sad, those of us who strongly prefer this route should make that absolutely clear.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for bringing back this important debate. As I said in Committee, I just about favour the Government’s view: I feel that it is a responsibility of adults to ensure as far as possible that young people use their time constructively, not self-destructively, and not to let their potential go to waste. However, it is a difficult argument. The key is implementation, about which my noble friend has just spoken. As a general principle, every young person needs a mentor to help them forward. It is crucial that they find that person in the future.

The noble Baroness’s response to the question about the Government’s investment in child and adolescent mental health services, about the Children’s Plan and thinking through the needs of children—particularly for their emotional support—and about the health partnerships is very important. What she said about the review of CAMHS and how they can be made more effective for young people is also extremely important. I welcome the designated looked-after children CAMH services, which, where they are available, make a great difference. They are crucial to successful implementation, especially for the most vulnerable children, because we do not want them to slip into the criminal justice system as a result of our not quite engaging with them properly.

Let us think of a young man who experiences domestic violence. His father is an alcoholic who would come home and brutalise the boy’s mother. The boy goes on and tries to seek work. That young man then displays all kinds of difficult behaviours: he is paranoid; he is subject to sudden and unpredictable rages; he displays difficult behaviour around women. People working with such young men need to be well supported, particularly by child and adolescent mental health services, to reflect on and understand the meaning of such behaviour and how successfully to engage

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with the young man. I welcome what the Minister said in the previous answer. It gives me some comfort that implementation will be effective and sensitive.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I remind the House that the proposals in the Bill would not make it compulsory for young people to stay in school. We are talking about a choice between staying on in school in full-time education, taking a job and continuing in part-time training, and pursuing an apprenticeship. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that young people must feel that it is right for them to move on and get a job. We need to be clear that that is covered as an option in the Bill. Young people will have choices about the route that they pursue post 16.

As many Members have highlighted, in today’s fast changing economic circumstances and in a world where everyone will need skills to prosper, the Bill is extremely important. As we all know, the days when people leave school at 16 without qualifications but still make a good career for themselves by starting at the bottom and working their way up are pretty much gone. A recent CBI study showed that one in five employees still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. The warning given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, was stark: up to 50 per cent more jobs will require high-level skills by 2020, which is an enormous challenge. Yet, despite a steady increase over the past few years, we still have a low rate of participation compared to other developed countries and we all agree that we need to go further. Our ambition must be that all young people continue in education, training or whatever choice they make. That is why we are legislating now; and that is why our legislation must be based on the principle of compulsion.

Through the September Guarantee, all year 11s are already entitled to a suitable place in learning. We are ensuring more take-up of that entitlement. However, we are aware that the new requirement does not mean all young people staying in school; it means that every young person should carry on in the right form of education or training to allow them to develop the skills that they need to succeed.

That goes hand in hand with later provisions in the Bill which ensure that adults are able to obtain basic- and intermediate-level skills. Both are absolutely crucial to meeting the future skills needs of our economy. We have set our ambition to achieve world-class skills by 2020 and we know that 74 per cent of the 2020 workforce has already left compulsory education. We need to act now to ensure that all those people who were not able to benefit from the package of reforms that we are now putting in place for young people get a second chance. At present, adults can access funding for basic skills courses—a first full level 2 qualification and a first full level 3 qualification—up to age 25.

These arrangements are significantly strengthened by Clause 73, where, for the first time, the Learning and Skills Council will be required to ensure that facilities for obtaining specified qualifications at level 1 literacy, entry-level 3 numeracy and vocational full level 2 are available in sufficient quantity and of a quality adequate to meet the needs of learners and, in so doing, increase learner choice. This is an important

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step forward and a significant one in improving the career prospects of low-skilled adults.

If we replaced compulsion with the concept of an entitlement that could be postponed, as this amendment would, we would risk damaging the life chances of those who stand to gain most from the Bill—young people who are least likely to participate now and are vulnerable and disadvantaged, and adults who want to improve their skills and increase their prospects but are unable to do a full two years of full-time study.

There are carrots, but we need a stick as well. We have to put pressure on the system to gear up to deliver for these young people. Yes, the support has to be there; it has to be wrapped around so that vulnerable young people and children can fully participate and make the most of the choices that we want to create for them. I hope very much that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment because we have a duty to make a significant change for young people starting school this year.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, we obviously have not persuaded the Minister, but I fear that this fixation with compulsion is yet another demonstration of the top-down, “government knows best” approach of this Government, rather than the bottom-up approach that can be so much more effective. It also shows a lack of confidence in all the good measures that the Government have put in place, within and outside this Bill, which have the desired effect, encouraging young people and taking away the barriers to their further attainment.

I very much thank the members of Her Majesty's Opposition for their support. Should they by any chance be in a position to change direction on this issue before the Bill is implemented in 2013, I shall very much hold them to what they have said. I shall be watching.

We have had a shorter but no less trenchant debate on this issue than we had in Committee. I hope that the Minister has listened to the passion with which noble Lords have spoken. There is serious concern about the possible negative effects of compulsion, should it ever come to pass. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 4:

4: Clause 2, page 2, line 3, at end insert “, or

(d) have signed, and be participating in, a learning and support contract entered into with a local education authority to provide personalised support leading to future participation in accredited education or training.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 10 and government Amendment No. 65, which are grouped with it.

We very much welcome government Amendment No. 65. The Government have taken up the idea of learning and support contracts and called them learning and support agreements. I welcome the briefing that we have received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which strongly supports the learning and support agreement approach. We have retabled our amendment—formerly Amendment No. 15 in

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Committee—to ask some questions about what the Government propose and perhaps to persuade them to go just a little further.

We seek to find a genuinely personalised approach for these young people who do not fit into the normal categories of those who might go on to take the usual qualifications without too much difficulty. Young people are as variable as the leaves on the trees; they grow up at different rates and they have different problems. We are delighted that the Government have accepted the learning and support contract approach—even though they are calling it an agreement—including social and health support, which I assume includes mental health. The only unfortunate thing about it is that this help is available only if the young person continues in the type of study prescribed by the Government. However, I very much took on board the reassurances that the Minister gave my noble friend Lady Sharp about the breadth of non-formal provision being acceptable.

12.45 pm

It is important that local authorities should be expected to go down the learning and support agreement route before embarking on any enforcement procedures. I should like the Minister to assure me that that must be done before they even apply for attendance notices. How will the Government ensure that they do that? Enforcement procedures should never commence if a young person has unmet needs. Will the Government issue guidance to ensure that local authorities do this? Will the Minister also assure the House that the duty to participate in Clause 2 will be fulfilled by a young person actively taking part in one of these agreements? How will local authorities be resourced to provide the necessary support within these agreements? How will current best practice be disseminated? I believe that there is some good practice out there.

Can the Minister also confirm that the sort of support envisaged can also be given to young people to help them to participate outwith one of these formal learning and support agreements, and can she say more about any guidance that she will send to local authorities about how they will tailor the package of support to each young person’s needs and how their parents or guardians will be involved in developing the content of the agreement? When the local authority is the corporate parent, how will it negotiate with itself in relation to looked-after children?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission expressed concern that the concept of reasonable excuse could be used as an excuse by government and local authorities and that this would mean that the most vulnerable and those most in need of support will continue to be ignored. It welcomes learning and support contracts because it thinks that that will help to ensure that that does not happen and will redress the balance in the Bill towards help and support and against some of the compulsion and penalty elements that we spent so much time debating and will do so again today. It is not going to be possible for all young people to participate without a good deal of help and support and taking away the barriers that they have had up to now to progressing in education beyond 16. That is what we all want to see. We very much welcome

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what the Government have done. I should be most grateful if the Minister could answer my questions and give us some of the reassurances for which I have asked. I beg to move.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, I added my name to the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, because we were strong advocates of learning and support contracts in the other place and in Committee. I, too, welcome the Government’s amendment, but I echo the noble Baroness’s plea that local authorities must have tried a learning and support contract before embarking on enforcement procedures.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Adonis explained in Committee that our reluctance to accept the proposed new clause introducing learning and support contracts stemmed from our concern that they would be unnecessarily prescriptive and bureaucratic. However, he also emphasised our support for the approach and said that we would reflect very carefully on whether there was a case for specifying more in the Bill. On reflection, I decided that it might be beneficial to include something along these lines to make it clear that local authorities can pursue this kind of enabling approach. As a result we are introducing this amendment, and I am pleased that it has been welcomed. It enables local authorities to enter into learning and support agreements. I am not sure whether the difference in terms is material.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked a number of questions but I am not sure that I got them all. If I do not pick all of them up then I will write to her and copy it to noble Lords who have taken part in today’s proceedings. She asked me to confirm whether enforcement could proceed where there was a young person with unmet needs. I want to make it clear that that should not happen. Enforcement should not proceed where a young person has unmet needs. Clause 39 states that even the first step—giving a final written warning before enforcement action begins—cannot be taken unless the right support has been offered and the young person has been given the opportunity to take it up. In addition, as noble Lords are aware, there are further safeguards to prevent enforcement happening inappropriately, such as the independent panel, which would be interested in the steps that have been taken.

The noble Baroness also asked how we will promote best practice around learning support agreements. Clause 39 requires local authorities to demonstrate that they have provided support and the opportunity to take advantage of it before enforcement action can be taken. A learning and support agreement, as the noble Baroness explained, would be a very good way of doing that. We will encourage local authorities to pursue this or similar approaches to re-engage young people who are struggling to fulfil the duty to participate long before enforcement action is considered. We want to make sure that we allow flexibility. However, having a tried and tested model of good practice is important and we will do our best to ensure that local authorities are made aware of that through guidance. I will write to the noble Baroness in more detail.



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Lord Lucas: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness a couple of questions on her amendment. If such an agreement is entered into, could that constitute full-time education? Can whatever is agreed to under this provision constitute full-time education? If it is entered into in respect of a young person who is also in employment, will this agreement encompass all that is required to be provided by way of education? In other words, is this sufficient in itself, or does there have to be some kind of educational arrangement existing outside this agreement in order to satisfy the terms of the Bill?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I have already sat down.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I can pick the noble Baroness up on this; it is the point that I was trying to make on the earlier group, when I should not have made it. The Minister has an amendment in this group, so she is not closing the debate. She is speaking to her amendment and it is open to Members of the House to question her on it. She can then close the debate. She gets two bites at this cherry and we all get a chance to comment on what she has said. It is a refreshing thing at Report stage.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, perhaps it would be appropriate for me to comment now, before the Minister replies. Will the pathway plan for care leavers introduced in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 be used as a model for some of these new contracts? I understand that these pathway plans have been well received, and it might be helpful to learn from best practice in this area when moving forward with these new support plans for young people. What particularly features as good practice in this area is the full involvement of the young person in designing the plan. It is such an obvious point that it is hardly worth making, but can the Minister confirm that all is being done to make the young person’s involvement as important as possible in developing these contracts? Perhaps there could be monitoring to ensure that young people are indeed being drawn into these contracts.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I say “hear, hear”, from a standing rather than sitting position, to add force to what the noble Earl has just said.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am very much enjoying this opportunity, having tabled an amendment, to speak again. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for reminding me and others of the opportunity.


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