Apprenticeships, Skills, Children And Learning Bill - continued          House of Lords

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Clause 243: Information about planned and actual expenditure

816.     Subsections (1) and (2) enable the Secretary of State to direct a local authority to provide information about its planned and actual expenditure on its education and its children’s social services functions and about “accountable resources” held, received or expended by any person in relation to a school maintained by the authority. “Accountable resources” are defined in clause 244(4).

817.     Subsections (3) to (5) respectively provide that the information must be provided in accordance with the direction, the direction may specify the period to which the information relates; the form and manner in which the information is to be provided; the persons to whom the information is to be provided; and requirements for the publication of this information; and, where a direction requires information to be provided to a person other than the Secretary of State, it may also require that person to make that information available for inspection in accordance with the direction.

818.     The purpose of the financial statements is to provide schools, parents and other interested bodies such as the Local Government Association and CIPFA, for example, with details about local authority funding and expenditure on schools and children’s social services. The Government sees it as important that finance data is available to help inform debate and planning about differing levels of expenditure between local authorities. The information informs policy making in the Department for Children, Schools and Families as well as providing information to Parliament in its role of monitoring that Department’s accountability for public funds.

Clause 244: Information about expenditure: supplementary

819.     Subsections (2) to (4) define the education and children’s social services functions of a local authority and accountable resources in relation to a school maintained by a local authority. Local authority education functions include the determination of individual school budgets, and what is spent by the local authority centrally to support those responsibilities, including provision for pupils with special educational needs, and learner support. Local authority functions for children’s social services include expenditure on the children’s services strategy and services to young people, including youth justice.

820.     Subsection (5) enables the Secretary of State to amend the clause by order for the purposes of adding, removing or changing the description of education functions or children’s social services functions. Orders made under this subsection are to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

821.     Subsection (6) defines certain other terms used in this section.

Clause 245: Information about expenditure: consequential amendments

822.     Subsection (2) amends section 52 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 in order to restrict its application to local education authorities in Wales.

823.     Subsection (3) repeals section 53 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, (certification of expenditure statements by the Audit Commission). The Secretary of State no longer requires local education authorities to make arrangements for the Audit Commission to examine their expenditure statements. This power has not been used during the past three years.

Support for participation in education and training

824.     Part 1 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 places a duty on young people to participate in education or training until the age of 18 (or until attaining a level 3 qualification if earlier) and requires local education authorities to promote the effective participation of young people in their areas who are subject to the duty to participate. That Act also provides for local education authorities in England to establish support services for people aged 14 to 19, and those aged up to 24 who have learning difficulties. These services are known as Connexions services provided by local education authorities themselves or contractors.

825.     Sections 15 and 76 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 provide for limited social security information to be provided to local education authorities, and Connexions service providers, respectively for the purposes of functions under Part 1 of that Act or Connexions services.

826.     Section 17 of that Act enables information held by LEAs and by Connexions service providers to be supplied and used either for purposes under Part 1 of that Act or for Connexions services purposes.

827.     Clauses 246 and 247 amend provisions of that Act about the holding and supply of information for the purposes of Part 1 of that Act or for Connexions services purposes.

Clause 246: Provision of social security information for purposes of functions under Education and Skills Act 2008

828.     Subsection (2) of clause 246 omits section 15 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 so that social security information may no be longer supplied directly to an LEA for Part 1 purposes. Social security could still be provided by a Connexions service provider to a local education authority where that is permitted under section 76 of that Act.

829.     The Government intends that information that can be shared by a LEA and its Connexions service provider under section 17 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 will be held on a database operated by the authority or service provider. Subsection (4) amends section 17(1) to make clear that this is permitted. The database for each area will be known as “the Client Caseload Information System” (CCIS).

830.     Subsection (5) excludes, from the category of information that can be shared under section 17, information that was supplied to a Connexions service provider under section 72 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 (which relates to 16/17 year old benefit claimants.)

831.     Subsection (6) amends section 17 to make it clear that the ability to share information under that section does not displace any statutory prohibition on disclosing the information.

832.     At present, section 76 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 allows the Secretary of State (here the Department for Work and Pensions) or a contractor of that department, to provide limited social security information to a Connexions service provider for use for Connexions purposes. Subsection (9) amends section 76 to allow the information to be provided instead to the Secretary of State (here the Department for Children, Schools and Families) or a contractor of that department (inserted subsection (3B) of section 76) for onward transmission to Connexions service providers. Inserted subsection (3A) confers the necessary power on the Secretary of State (here the Department for Children, Schools and Families) to make arrangements for the transmission of information in this way.

833.      Inserted subsections (3B) to (3E) set out the circumstances in which information that originated with the Department for Work and Pensions or a contractor of that department and is supplied under section 76 may be disclosed. These include enabling or assisting the exercise of any function of a LEA under Part 1. Subsections (4) and (4A) also create an offence which prevents this information being provided for any other purpose, and replaces the offence for which section 76 already provides.

Clause 247: Provision of other information in connection with support services

834.     The Department for Children, Schools and Families will make arrangements with a contractor to collect and hold relevant Connexions service information and supply it to those involved in the provision of Connexions services to assist in the provision of those services. This will involve a database known as the National Client Caseload Information System (NCCIS). The NCCIS will enable a Connexions service provider to find out whether a person for whom the service provider has been providing support has moved to a different area.

835.     Subsection (3) of clause 247 inserts a new 76A into the Education and Skills Act 2008, subsection (1) of which enables the Secretary of State to make these arrangements. Subsection (3) of the new section allows local Connexions service providers to provide information to the contractor operating the NCCIS. This information is information obtained by a Connexions service provider about a person for whom services are provided but excludes information provided under section 72 of the Welfare Reform and Pension Act 1999. Subsections (4) to (6) of the new section contain restrictions on the disclosure of information held on the NCCIS.

836.     Subsection (1) allows the Secretary of State to ensure that information is provided by local Connexions service providers to the NCCIS. It does this by amending section 69 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 to allow the Secretary of State to give directions to a LEA about the terms of the arrangements that it makes for the provision of local Connexions services.

Further education corporations

Clause 248: Further education corporations in England: co-operation and promotion of well-being

837.     Subsection (2) of this clause amends section 19 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (the “1992 Act”) to enable a further education corporation in England to provide advice or assistance to other persons, where it appears appropriate to do so, either for the purposes of or in connection with the provision of education by those persons. Subsection (3) inserts a new section 19A into the 1992 Act. The new section provides that, in carrying out their functions under sections 18 and 19 of the 1992 Act, further education corporations in England must have regard to the objective of promoting the economic and social well-being of the local area, including the people who live in that area. In doing so, the corporations must have regard to any guidance which the Secretary of State may issue about cooperating, or working jointly, with other educational institutions, employers or other people.

Student loans

Clause 249: Student loans under the 1998 Act: IVAs, and Clause 250: Student loans under the 1990 Act: IVAs and bankruptcy

838.     These two clauses amend the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998 (c.30) (“the 1998 Act”) and the Education (Student Loans) Act 1990 (c.6) (the 1990 Act) so that a student loan made to a borrower who enters an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) will be treated in a similar way as it is currently treated under a bankruptcy in England and Wales. Clause 250 also amends the 1990 Act by inserting bankruptcy provisions for Northern Ireland that correspond to those in England and Wales in regard to student loans.

839.     IVAs were created by the Insolvency Act 1986. An IVA enables a debtor to avoid bankruptcy by coming to an agreement with creditors to pay off a percentage of his or her debts over a given period.

840.     At present, the treatment of student loans under an IVA differs from their treatment under a bankruptcy in England and Wales. There are two types of student loan. The newer type of loan, known as an income contingent loan, is repayable by a borrower under the 1998 Act, and the older type of loan, known as a mortgage style loan, is repayable under the 1990 Act.

841.     The 1998 Act excludes loans from a borrower’s bankruptcy debts, so that during and upon discharge from bankruptcy, the borrower remains liable to repay his student loan. Repayments are linked directly to a borrower’s income so the student debt will not need to be repaid until the borrower’s income is above the income threshold. Clause 249 amends the 1998 Act to provide that similar arrangements will apply to student loans under an IVA as currently apply under a bankruptcy. This means that the liability of a borrower to repay a student loan will not be reduced when the borrower enters into an IVA.

842.     Clause 250 makes similar provision in respect of the 1990 Act, so that a mortgage style loan is not to be included in the voluntary agreement. This means that the liability to repay the mortgage style loan will not be reduced when someone enters into an IVA. In respect of Northern Ireland, clause 250 inserts similar provision about IVAs and also makes provision about bankruptcy corresponding to the existing provision under that Act for bankruptcy in England and Wales.

843.     These provisions apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

844.     Subsection (4) of clause 250 amends Schedule 2 to the 1990 Act in respect of Northern Ireland. The 1990 Act provides that, in respect of England and Wales, a mortgage style loan is prevented from forming part of the estate of a person who becomes bankrupt and also from forming part of the bankruptcy debts where the loan was taken out in England and Wales. Subsection (4) makes similar provision in respect of Northern Ireland.

Clause 251: Power to award foundation degrees: Wales

845.     The Privy Council has power, under section 76 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (“FHEA 1992”), to make orders that enable institutions providing higher education to grant one or both of two groups of awards. Institutions providing higher education can be given a power to grant awards to students who complete a course of study, or a power to grant awards to students who complete a programme of research, or both. These are commonly referred to as taught and research degree awarding powers respectively.

846.     A number of further education institutions provide courses leading to foundation degrees. Originally, only institutions with full taught degree awarding powers could award foundation degrees in their own right. Section 19 of the Further Education and Training Act 2007 amended section 76 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 so as to enable the Privy Council to make orders granting further education institutions in England the power to award foundation degrees.

847.     Currently foundation degrees provided by further education institutions in Wales are awarded by other higher education institutions with full, taught degree-awarding powers through franchise arrangements. This clause amends section 76 of the FHEA 1992 so as to enable the Privy Council to make orders granting further education institutions in Wales the power to award foundation degrees.

848.     As a result of this provision, further education institutions in Wales providing courses leading to foundation degrees will be able to apply for powers to award foundation degrees themselves. In order to be granted this power, institutions will have to meet certain non-statutory criteria, which will be published in draft during the passage of the Bill. As with taught and research degree awarding powers, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education will advise on whether an institution meets the criteria.

849.     Subsection (2) requires Welsh Ministers to lay before the National Assembly for Wales a report about the effect of the provision within four years of it coming into force.

850.     The provision applies to further education institutions in Wales as defined under section 91 of the FHEA 1992, which only includes institutions conducted by further education corporations and institutions designated under section 28 of that Act. The new legal category of sixth form college corporation created by the Bill does not apply in Wales.

Clause 252: Complaints: Wales

851.     This clause amends section 29 of the Education Act 2002. Section 29 (1) places a duty on the governing bodies of maintained schools to establish procedures for dealing with complaints. Governing bodies must publicise procedures under section 29(1)(b) and, in establishing and publicising them, governing bodies in Wales must have regard to guidance from the Welsh Ministers (section 29(2)). Currently, governing bodies have discretion to put in place whatever procedure they judge fit for handling complaints. This amendment gives a power for the Welsh Ministers to make regulations which would set out a complaints procedure that will become compulsory for all governing bodies of maintained schools in Wales. Such regulations are able to specify how and where this procedure should be published.

Clause 253: Local Government Act 1974: minor amendment

852.     This clause makes a minor amendment to paragraph 5 of Schedule 5 to the Local Government Act 1974. The Local Commissioner may currently investigate complaints about maladministration by local education authorities in relation to their education functions subject to the exclusions in paragraph 5 of Schedule 5. This effect of this amendment is to provide that a complaint about special educational needs may be considered by the Local Commissioner, even where it may relate to conduct, curriculum, internal organisation, management or discipline of a local education authority maintained school.

PART 13: GENERAL

Clause 254: Orders and Regulations

853.     Clause 254 contains general provisions about orders and regulations under this Bill. All orders or regulations are to be made by statutory instrument apart from any made under Chapter 1 of Part 1, or Part 3, or Part 4 which are exercisable by the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland which are to be made by statutory rule.

854.     Affirmative resolution procedure is required for any orders made by the Secretary of State under the clauses listed in subsection (6). These have been noted in the Commentary on Clauses section of these Explanatory Notes. All other statutory instruments have to follow the negative resolution procedure apart from orders made under clause 37 specifying apprenticeship sectors and commencement orders which require no Parliamentary procedure.

Clause 256: General interpretation of Act

855.     This clause provides that the clauses in Parts 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, Chapter 4 of Part 10 and clauses 241, 243, and 244 are to be construed as if they were contained in the Education Act 1996 unless a different meaning is given in the clauses of the Bill in which case that meaning prevails. Subsection (4) provides that section 562 of the 1996 Act (as amended by clause 48), which provides that the Act does not apply to certain persons detained under order of a court, does not apply for the purposes of Part 4 of the Bill. The effect will be that the Secretary of State’s functions in respect of Part 4 (which relate to the Chief Executive of Skills Funding) apply to those persons.

Clause 257: Power to make consequential and transitional provision etc

856.     This clause enables the Secretary of State to make supplementary, incidental, consequential, transitory, transitional or saving provision for the purposes of, in consequence of, or giving full effect to, any provision of the Bill. Where such an order amends or repeals primary legislation it is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.

PUBLIC SECTOR FINANCIAL COST AND MANPOWER IMPLICATIONS

857.     The transfer of responsibilities to LEAs will result in a significant transfer of public expenditure from central to local government of some £7 billion, but the Government expects that overall public expenditure on 16-18 education will remain broadly the same and will still count against the Departmental Expenditure Limit of the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

858.     The costs of operating the new post-19 system, including staffing and on-going costs, will be met from the LSC’s current staffing budget, and are also expected to be revenue-neutral compared to the current system.

859.     There are likely to be transitional costs relating to premises, assets and people and pensions. There will, however, be savings from lower transactional costs, which will ensure more of the money is used to fund learning. Further administrative savings may be possible through centralisation of functions and shared support services, and through the reduction in the number of offices that the LSC currently retains.

860.     The reform will also result in significant staff movements. Roughly 1,000 of the LSC’s staff are expected to transfer to local education authorities and some 1,800 will form the new Skills Funding Agency (including 400 posts in the National Apprenticeship Service) which will mean they are added to the DIUS headcount. 500 will transfer to the new YPLA and as such will remain NDPB staff.

861.     The new system will, at worst, be revenue neutral for FE Colleges and other education and training providers, but there could be significant benefits in terms of better informed and integrated commissioning of services; and through a reduced bureaucracy on providers through streamlined performance management and data arrangements.

862.     The reform of the QCA will result in a relatively small increase in public expenditure as a result of new functions which Ofqual will take on to improve the effectiveness of its regulation (partly though not entirely as a result of these reforms). Around 120 of the QCA’s existing 600 staff will transfer to Ofqual, with around 480 remaining with the re-named the QCDA. As Ofqual will be a Non-Ministerial Department, this will result in an increase in Civil Service headcount, and the Treasury has approved the changes. Again some transitional costs will be incurred but these will be met from existing budgets.

863.     The apprenticeships proposals will underpin the Government’s plans for an increase in the number of people starting apprenticeships to 250,000 by 2020, but the Government intends to deliver this number of apprenticeships within previously agreed budgets.

864.     The Government does not expect any of the other measures in the Bill will result in a significant increase in public expenditure. Many of the proposals relating to children’s services, schools and behaviour provisions reflect and reinforce existing practice. Other proposals should result in or facilitate savings. These include:

  • the introduction of a new Ofsted Health Check will support savings of around £4.5 million by enabling longer inspection intervals for some schools;

  • the extension of powers to issue warning notices to schools should result in net savings of £9 million a year which will arise from catching schools earlier before they are placed in special measures;

  • the establishment of the proposed Support Staff Negotiating Body may have some bearing on the public sector pay, and HM Treasury has approved this and other relevant measures included in the Bill.

865.     There are no tax implications arising from the Bill.

SUMMARY OF THE IMPACT ASSESSMENT

866.     A separate Impact Assessment (IA) has been produced to accompany the Bill. This analyses the costs and potential benefits of the proposals and assesses their possible impact on race, gender and disability equality. Copies are available for Members in the Vote Office. It will also be available online at http:www.dcsf.gsi.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsskillschildrenandlearningbill and in hard copy from the Department for Children Schools and Families. The Impact Assessment shows that each policy area is at least cost neutral in terms of benefits and costs to the public, private and third sector.

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

867.     Section 19 of the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the Minister in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament to make a statement before second reading about the compatibility of the provisions of the Bill with the European Convention on Human Rights (as defined by section 1 of that Act).

868.     Having considered the possible implications, Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Children, Schools and Families has made a statement saying that in her view the provisions of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill are compatible with the Convention rights. There are some areas where it would be helpful to provide further comments for clarification, as follows.

Clause 33: Status of an apprenticeship agreement

869.     Apprenticeship agreements are to be treated as contracts of service, as opposed to contracts of apprenticeship. Contracts of apprenticeship are more difficult to terminate by an employer, and claims for higher levels of damages can be made for wrongful termination. The Government has considered whether such treatment engages Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR, but has concluded it does not.

870.     The Government’s view is that the clause does not prevent the entering into of traditional apprenticeship agreements; any new agreement will be entered into voluntarily and will set out rights and responsibilities clearly; and apprentices will be entitled to damages for wrongful and unfair dismissal under such agreements.

 
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