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I want to be clear on the full-time education point. It is a something-for-something agreement. It is about ensuring that the young person is clear not only about what support is being offered but, at the same time, about what they need to do to participate. I am assuming that that includes full-time education. If they are in employment, it would include them attending 280 hours of training. It is about setting out clearly both for the young person and for the support services what the young persons needs are and what is defined as a service to meet those needs. Young people should know what to expect so that they know where they are and where they stand.
The point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is absolutely right. It is important that young people are consulted. Subsection (6) of our amendment requires the young person to be consulted. We will make it clear in guidance that parents or carers should also be involved in the process where possible and appropriate. I thank the noble Earl for giving me the opportunity to clarify that. To make it absolutely clear, we will also learn the lessons from the pathway plans as he suggests.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for both of her contributions. I am quite satisfied that she will write to me to pick up any points that she has not had the opportunity to deal with today. I would most appreciate a comment about the involvement of parents or guardians or the corporate parent. It is very important that best practice is disseminated, and I am sure that the Government will do everything that they can to do that. Some authorities have already taken a lead in this direction. I am grateful for her assurance that local authorities will be judged on the extent to which they have gone down this path before any enforcement takes place. Many people will be reassured by the Ministers statement. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
( ) The duty under this section shall not apply to any person until the Secretary of State has published an assessment of the availability of suitable education and training opportunities in each local authority area.
The purpose of the amendments is to ensure that all reforms that the Government are currently introducing into the secondary school curriculum, including the new diplomas and their vocational pathways into further education and training, have worked their way through the system before the raising of the learning leaving age is enforced. In Committee, we discussed the many reforms in hand, and the Minister reminded us that by 2013 local authorities will have inherited from the Learning and Skills Council the responsibility for assessing the sufficiency of provision within a local area and to make sure that there are enough places in schools and collegesand, from now on, also on apprenticeshipsto satisfy the demands of young people. In Amendment No. 5, we suggest that that should be the responsibility of the Secretary of State rather than the local authority. The local authority is responsible for the provision of these places. Is it to be both judge and jury in deciding whether it is providing sufficient places of the right quality and sort? Rather, this amendment suggests that ultimately the Secretary of State should be responsible for ensuring that provision is adequate and that local authorities have risen to the challenge of the reforms in hand.
Amendments Nos. 221 and 222 seek to delay the implementation of these reforms by two years. These amendments would allow the reforms in hand to bed down. As time goes by, this seems more sensible. New
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The Minister is under pressure from teachers and employers not to rush these reforms. The Select Committee in the other place, in examining these reforms, also urged the Government to take them slowly and not to move too fast. Raising the learning leaving age to 18 does not make sense until these reforms are under way and we can be sure that the secondary curriculum motivates young people and encourages them to stay in learning. As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said in Committee, seven years is a short time in education terms. Delaying the implementation of these provisions by two years, to make sure that the current reforms, which are a necessary part of the whole package, are well embedded in the system, is a sensible thing to do. I beg to move.
Baroness Verma: My Lords, it is clear that there is unhappiness on many sides about the issue of compulsion; placing the duty on young people to participate or face the consequences. If that happens, the Government must be absolutely certain that they will uphold their side of the bargain. They must put into place all the necessary investment, all the new courses, all the new provisions, so that the scheme runs smoothly from the outset. It would be intolerable to sweep young people into duty, and potentially punish them if they fail to comply, while the authorities were in a state of disarray and unpreparedness. 2013 may sound far off; it is in another decade. However, it will not be long in coming. The Government must be ready.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, I speak in favour of the Governments position. I cannot recall any piece of legislation that has been prepared so far in advance of implementation. The normal practice with legislation and regulation is to ask schools to implement change from next September. Quite rightly, schools complain that they are given insufficient time to implement measures in a proper manner. I congratulate the Government on bringing forward this legislation and making preparations to give schools a reasonable period in which to prepare.
Secondly, there is a real danger for schools, and everybody else involved in this partnershipemployers, colleges of further education and training establishmentsin not being clear that, by that point, things have to be in place. I agree with the movers of this amendment that there is a tremendous onus on the Government and other partners to make sure that things are in place. However, I would resist any uncertainty about the date of implementation. The minute you bring in uncertainty, you lose the benefit of this legislation, which gives enough time to prepare and also clarity about the date of introduction. I praise the Government for giving sufficient lead-in time. It is now up to everybody in the system to make sure that everything is in order to be implemented at the point described in the Bill.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I remind the noble Baroness that, under Amendments Nos. 221 and 222, there is certainty; change is just delayed by a couple of years. This follows advice from many sources.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, is very persuasive. However, we have entered a new economic climate. Mention was made of the voluntary organisations involved in supporting young people. Some of them are heavily dependent on donations. Given the change in the economic climate, we need to think whether it would be wise to put back these proposals from the Government. I hope that this helps the Minister to think through the clear change in the climate for developing these plans.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for giving us her sense of realism and her reminder of the importance of certainty in promoting change. We need to remember that we are talking about changes that will affect young people who started secondary school in September this year. We need momentum in taking forward these important proposals. These amendments were discussed in committee. My noble friend Lord Adonis set out the Governments agreement that we must ensure that there is sufficient learning provision for all young people if we are to expect them to participate. We will deliver on our part of the bargain.
Part of our rationale for legislating now is to galvanise the system to provide appropriate support and opportunities for all young people. By setting clear expectations in law that all young people must participate until they are 18, we make it clear that it will no longer be an option to forget about the student who sits quietly at the back of the class, watching the clock and waiting until they can leave.
With reference to Amendment No. 5, in March we published a White Paper, Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver, which set out our intention to transfer the funding responsibilities for commissioning 16-to-19 provision from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities. In future, assessing the sufficiency of provision will become the role of the local authority; that is where the responsibility should lie. Local authorities will do this through the strategic commissioning plan that they will complete as part of, or alongside, the children and young persons plan.
I reassure noble Lords that we will be ready to implement the new participation age from 2013, and do not need to delay until 2015, as proposed. By 2013, the national entitlement to the new diplomawhich I understand is very popular with young people taking part in itand the apprenticeship guarantee will be in place, and the foundation learning tier for provision at entry level 1 will be established. The September guarantee, which was implemented for the first time in every local area last year, guarantees to offer a suitable learning place for all young people leaving year 11. This year it was extended to 17 year-olds. Already, we are gearing up the system.
In earlier debates, my noble friend Lord Adonis talked about the potential for this policy to bring about a change in culture; and we know how important
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The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her persuasive and helpful response. Might she consider producing a letter indicating where there might be vulnerability in service commitments given the recent changes in our economy? That would be helpful.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the Bill represents an absolutely integral part of our commitment in the Childrens Plan. As the noble Earl knows, the Childrens Plan is reviewed every year. We will produce a progress report on it, taking stock of our achievements and challenges. I hope that that will be a good vehicle for meeting his concerns. However, if I can help him in other ways, I certainly shall.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I remind her, as I reminded the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, that our proposals would not create more uncertainty: they give a definite date. On the notion of postponing the date, there are so many reforms in hand. The noble Baroness mentioned that, by 2013, the diplomas should be rolled out and we have the new apprenticeships, foundation learning tier and all of this stuff. We want to ensure, before forcing young people to stay on in learning in some form or another, that this is working. This gives it an extra couple of years. The Minister may come to rue the day that the Government rejected the amendment. They may find things take rather longer to bed down than they think.
On Amendment No. 5, I take on board what the Minister says, but it puts a lot of emphasis on what local authorities are going to do. It is all very well having strategic commissioning plans and so forth, but they are the providers as well as the judges of whether it is sufficient. I question whether that is appropriate. Nevertheless, I accept what the Minister says for the moment, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment goes to the heart of what the Bill is about. If we are to ensure that every young person continues in education and training up to the age of 18, we must have a solid definition of what counts as education and training.
Before the Bill was published, we were led to believe that it would require at least a day a week, or equivalent, of off-the-job education and training. As it stands, however, it simply does not do that. There is no guarantee of anything that is away from the individuals work station. In our view, that is simply not good enough. Just to have on-the-job training is not enough. On-the-job is of course incredibly important; that is how the person learns a specific skill that the employer needs them to have. However, it is important for the individualand the Bill is essentially directed at individualsalso to have transferable skills which enable them to develop their thinking skills, their ability to write and calculate, and the underpinning knowledge that relates to their work. This can only be achieved in an off-the-job situation. It does not require abstract learning. We are talking about part-time education, which has the huge advantage that the individual can immediately see how what they are doing off the job is relevant to what they are doing on the job. However, there must be transferable skills which are, in most peoples minds, fundamental to what the Bill is about.
In a world where firms may disappear any day, and where people are not necessarily tied to one employer for a particularly long time, it is even more important that we teach transferable skills. The Bill is meant to be promoting the interests of young people. These skills cannot be got just by sitting next to Nellie. They must be taught in a different location, where the worker can step back from the work station a bit and interact with an instructor and fellow students in a different and more reflective atmosphere. We ought to be building that into our concept of every young person being in education up to the age of 18.
Of course, to arrange that for the numbers of young people involved will take a lot of time and organisation. Fortunately, we have them: we are talking about something that is coming in five to seven years. It will then set the scene for the educational chances of our young people for at least 10 years after that. We should really set our sights reasonably high, and not think of what we could do next year or the year after.
That is the basic argument in the amendment, but there is also a completely practical issue of enforcement. If we want young people to have 280 hours of guided learning, how can we possibly check that they have had it if all those hours could be spent at the work station? If a worker is sitting next to his supervisor, how can you tell whether he is getting guided learning or not? The Bills definition of guided learning is too loose. I shall quote a set of phrases that would satisfy the requirement for education and training, such as,
It is wonderful that we are having this Bill. Many of us have wanted it for at least 20 years. The Government deserve enormous credit for having decided to introduce universal education and training up to 18. It really could be a landmark Bill, but I do not think that it is with this loophole. We urge the Minister to accept our amendment, or come up with something adequate at Third Reading. We would be happy to discuss this with her if she wishes.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, we on these Benches support the noble Lords amendment. As a party, we have long maintained that it is important that there is education as well as just training in this context, and that off-the-job education should be provided in so far as the young person continues in training. We very much go along with the noble Lords arguments.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I also support the noble Lord, Lord Layard. In childcare, many people, such as Dr Gillian Pugh, the former director of the Thomas Coram Foundation, think that the best training one can have is to allow childcare workers one evening a month, or every fortnight, to be away from the children, to sit down with a senior manager or experienced practitioner and talk through individual childrens experiences. They might say that a boy does this or that, and that they are not quite sure what to do when he does. They might ask whether the senior manager thinks that they are doing the right thing. The whole group works together to reflect on the workers practice and improve her relationship with the child.
That is one of the best forms of training, but it gets cut when the money is short; it is the most expensive element of training in social care. The current economic climate reminds us that tough times come and tough decisions must be made. Businesses may unfortunately feel unable to prioritise investing in young people, and may feel pushed towards simply using them to get whatever work needs to be done, possibly to their regret. Perhaps this is protection for young people to ensure that they get the investment and time to reflect and develop that we all wish them to have. I hope that the Minister can respond favourably to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Layard.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment and I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Layard has said. I agree with every word of the amendment, possibly even more than he did. At Second Reading, I gave the Bill a huge welcome and said that I thought it was probably one of the most important pieces of educational legislation for many years. I referred back to the 1918 Act; we have waited 90 years to move forward. After waiting all that time, we really must get it right, otherwise, in 10 years, when we review what we have done, we will sit and regret deeply that we thought we were doing something progressive to help the most disadvantaged young people in our society, but find that all our aims and hopes have been dashed because we did not quite get it right by being more precise in how we define education and training.
Funnily enough, if a young person is unemployed, they may do better out of the Bill, as drafted, than if they have a job. I am sure that that is not what we intended. We have to remember that many young people aged 16 and 17 who have left school, often with very poor levels of prior achievement, will not be in good jobs; they will be in humdrum, often dead-end jobs. The kind of training and instruction that they receive will be pretty limited, which is why it is very important that the 280 hours of training should be spent away from their work stations.
I wish to make one small point to the Minister. Amendment No. 9 proposes that some of the clause should be deleted. I hope that in his reply, my noble friend does not spend 25 minutes telling us why those provisions should not be deleted. He would probably be right to say that some should remain in the Bill. My plea is that he focus on the real issue, which is where the 280 hours of education should take place. We do not have just a loophole, as my noble friend said, but a whopping great loophole which could become a cop-out for a lot of employers who do not take the education and training of young people as seriously as they ought to. It would be terribly naive of to believe that all employers would be good citizens in that respect. Some will be struggling to keep their businesses going; others will not be engaged with the idea that it is part of their job to move the skills of those young people forward. Those employers will be more interested in survival, profit and getting the most that they can out of the young peoples work than on focusing on their education and training.
For all those reasons, and those that my noble friend has given, a huge opportunity will have been lost if the amendment, or something like it, is not accepted. I do not argue that the training received by young people at work is unimportant. Of course it is important and it is often a way of motivating young people to attach education and training to what they are doing in the workplace. However, as well as that, they should have an opportunity to spend some time in a context where, as my noble friend said, they can discuss what they are doing with their peers. If the Bill is left in its current shape, many of those young people may receive some instruction, but because they will be working, they will not be in a context whereby they can reflect on what they are learning or discuss their training or instruction with other young people, or with those who are providing it.
In anticipation of what my noble friend may say, I do not believe, first, that the education and training given to young people off the job should be theoretical. It should not be about providing more opportunities for developing their literacy or numeracy, but be closely related to what they are doing at work. I am sure that every noble Lord in this House would agree that young people can be given some kind of development away from the workplace, whereby they can think about how that work can be applied to different situations or about whether the equipment that they are using would be relevant in other contexts. We need to focus on those sorts of issues. The Government have been incredibly courageous in the way in which they have framed the Bill. They have been specific that there
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