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Following these negotiations, I understand that government Ministers are minded to table various amendments on Report. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that these amendments will obviously be scrutinised on Report. They should meet many of the concerns referred to in the various amendments tabled in my name and those of other noble Lords. Any further assurances that the Minister may be able to make on other matters would be most welcome. I beg to move.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: With the indulgence of the Committee, I was hoping to save a bit of time. I am pleased that, with the extensive discussions that have taken place with the Special Educational Consortium, Skill, Mencap and other key interest groups, and the progress that has been made, we will bring forward amendments on Report to address these issues. They will enable people with learning difficulties to meet the entry requirements through alternative evidence, rather than the qualifications set out in Clause 93, and may extend the age range of the apprenticeship entitlement up to 25 for people with learning difficulties. In developing those regulations, we will continue to work closely with those key interest groups to ensure that we have criteria that mean that this extension is available to those who genuinely need it without lowering the bar around the entry requirements or the quality of the apprenticeships.
I understand the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, about the timing of these amendments. I hope that he will recognise that it has been essential to have the discussions to which I referred to ensure that we get the amendments right. I hope that, on this basis, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Lord Addington: I thank the Minister for his comments and for the meetings, but will he also ensure as he goes through this that everything is at least within the spirit of the Disability Discrimination Act? As the Bill is drafted, there may be a legal challenge against it. It has what I, and many people to whom I have spoken, regard as an arbitrary element, although the Minister did not like that term when I used it in discussions with him. The Government have to achieve certain levels but have not achieved the spirit that we have established in many arguments on disability and education over many years in this House, even with changes of government, which is that the system must be flexible to include people. If the noble Lord can give me an
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Lord Young of Norwood Green: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for his comment. We will probably have to agree to disagree about my not particularly liking the use of the word "arbitrary" because I regard basic literacy and numeracy as of vital importance. Of course we want to ensure that we are true to the spirit of the Disability Discrimination Act. This is a new provision, not mirrored elsewhere. However, regulations will ensure that we meet the public sector disability equality duty under Section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act. It is in line with the Education and Skills Act 2008, which requires the needs of those with learning difficulties and disabilities to be taken into account.
Lord Rix: My Lords, I thank the Minister and the Bill team for their co-operation in this matter. I am most grateful and I look forward to reading these amendments when they are forthcoming. I hope that we will be able to agree them. With those good wishes, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Layard: My Lords, the entitlement that is currently proposed is really quite limited. For somebody without level 2 qualifications, it guarantees that they will have access only to a level 2 apprenticeship, but to nothing further beyond that. That would be the equivalent, on the academic route, of guaranteeing somebody without GCSEs the entitlement to study for GCSE grades A to C, for example, but it would not guarantee them, if they were successful, the right to progress to A-levels or diplomas. We would never consider a block to progression of that kind along the full-time route and we should be equally unwilling to consider a block to progression along the part-time route. Therefore, we urge that anyone who completes a level 2 apprenticeship before their 19th birthday should be entitled to progress to a level 3 apprenticeship. If their existing employer did not want to provide one, the National Apprenticeship Service would have to help them to find a place elsewhere.
As I have said, this is a matter of fairness, but it is also much more important economically as a matter of national efficiency. On the continent, the standard
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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I would like just to say, also in the interests of brevity, that I thoroughly support the amendment. Indeed, it speaks for itself that it should be adopted by the Government. I hope that they will do just that.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Layard that progression from a level 2 to a level 3 apprenticeship is important. I disagree slightly with my noble friend that the entitlement is quite limited, given that he said in the previous debate that it was very ambitious. It is not often that I feel that I have to draw his attention to something like this, but it cannot be quite limited and very ambitious at the same time. I believe-and I think that the Committee believes, given the comments that have been made on all sides-that our ambitions, as defined in the Bill, are ones that will take a great deal of effort to achieve.
In many industries, such as construction and engineering, the progression happens naturally, as apprentices usually continue the level 3 element of their training on completion of their level 2 apprenticeship. We are working to ensure that this is the norm across all sectors. First, the Government will fully fund the training costs of level 3 learning for all apprentices who start their learning before the age of 19. Secondly, the guidance to the specification of apprenticeship standards in England will emphasise the importance of progression through the various levels of apprenticeship and routes into and out of apprenticeships. Thirdly, the National Apprenticeship Service will work with those sectors without a strong track record of progression from level 2 to level 3 to identify specific barriers to progression and actions to overcome these. There are such sectors; there is no doubt about that. We also hope that, through this legislation, the right to request time to train will have an impact. Fourthly, following discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Layard, we will ensure that the apprenticeship agreement has a prescribed term that requires discussions to encourage progression from level 2 to a level 3 apprenticeship.
Ultimately, unfortunately, this comes down to matter of priorities. I absolutely agree that we should seek to increase progression rates still further, but now we are clear that our focus has to be on ensuring the availability of a first apprenticeship place. I remind noble Lords
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Lord Layard: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his reply. It is important to put this in some perspective. It would not come into force for another six years or so. It would then set the pattern for our system of education for this group of young people for at least 10 or 20 years, so we should be willing to raise our sights. I am not completely happy with the reply. Perhaps we will have to come back to this on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, I can offer some clarification here. Clause 94 mirrors the interpretation of qualification levels in Part 1 of the Education and Skills Act 2008, which was passed before Ofqual was established. Obviously, as the Bill progresses through Parliament, Ofqual is being established. Perhaps we should write to the noble Lord with a further explanation of our intentions before Report stage because it seems to me-and possibly to the noble Lord-that maybe the clause should say Ofqual.
"( ) volunteers within community amateur sports clubs"
Lord Addington: With this amendment we go slightly away from the main thrust of most of the discussion. The Bill is entitled Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, and I consider that sporting activity is covered under skills, children and learning. The Government should provide greater financial resources for sporting activity given that they are encouraging everybody to be more active and they have a target to encourage 2 million people to take up exercise or sport. Further, if you train people properly and they know what they are doing, they tend to enjoy what they are doing more and tend to continue doing it. They also have a skill base that can be reignited later in life. That is why I suggest that the wording of Amendment 211 should be added to Clause 98. If we make resources available to the volunteers who are achieving a government objective with no financial reward, we shall save money in the long term, certainly as regards health costs. In addition, such a measure would assist the Government to achieve one of their immediate objectives.
The Government may well tell us that money is being put into other areas, but I am talking about volunteers, who comprise most of the grass-roots participation. Those who volunteer their services in community amateur sports clubs are not the only group in this regard but they have a legal identity and we know what we are dealing with. It is a containable group and constitutes a way into this issue. This is a probing amendment to see whether two parts of Government can join together to implement the designs of Government as a whole. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says. I beg to move.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I know that this is an issue in which the noble Lord has taken considerable interest in this and previous debates, and it is one to which the Government are committed.
Coaches play a critical role in Sport England's strategy to build a world-leading community sport system and getting 1 million more adults doing more sport by 2012-13. Sport England is making available £480 million to national governing bodies of sport over 2009-13 to drive the development of their sports to deliver these goals. Of this, at least £100 million will be invested in coaching. While the bulk of funding comes from Sport England, I confirm that the Skills
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Volunteers within community amateur sports clubs may be eligible for some funding from the Skills Funding Agency towards the costs of training, though it is likely that they would also have to make a contribution. However, some learners will be able to have access to full fee remission. They will include those on means-tested benefits, and those who are eligible for the adult entitlements as set out in Clauses 85, 86, 87 and Schedule 5.
We place enormous store on the importance of more informal learning for personal, family and community development. We want more individuals to participate in learning generally, and for colleges and others to continue to provide a wide range of opportunities for informal learning, including opportunities for volunteering.
While I recognise the particular contribution of volunteers at community amateur sports clubs, I hope the noble Lord will recognise that it would be impractical to list all categories of learners who may be eligible for funding on the face of the Bill. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which was slightly more helpful than I had expected, but nowhere near as helpful as I had hoped. I could wax long about the importance of volunteers in sport but I think that noble Lords' attention would wane if I did so. The Government have said that funding routes are available in this regard. However, it is evident that volunteer coaches do not have a grab-hold on this system of funding. I do not know whether that issue will be followed up in the Bill but I thank the Minister for clarifying the position. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I declare an interest, as I did yesterday, in that I am married to a lady who runs a prisons education charity. I looked in the Explanatory Memorandum for an amplification of Clause 113 and see that it says exactly the same words as the clause, near enough. Can the Minister amplify the intentions here? It seems to me that it might mark real progress in the relationship between education and prisons.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I hope that I can amplify as requested. I know I hardly need make the point that prisoners are among the most disengaged and disadvantaged learners in the country. It is clear from exchanges yesterday and earlier this week on the education of young offenders that the Committee is well aware of the importance of the offender learning agenda. I know, therefore, that there is broad support for the Government's position that addressing learning needs in order to develop the skills prisoners need to get and retain employment on release is very important.
The offender learning agenda remains a key component of the Government's reducing reoffending strategy. The Bill places a duty on the chief executive of Skills Funding to consider the needs of prisoners as an integral part of his or her role. This is the first time that a piece of education legislation has set out the duties for the mainstream education delivery services-the local education authorities for those held in youth detention accommodation and the chief executive of Skills Funding for those in adult detention-in meeting the learning needs of offenders since that responsibility passed from the Home Office to the predecessor of our two departments in 2001.
This is an important though brief clause that reinforces the critical importance of the Skills Funding Agency in maintaining a focus on the skills agenda for adult learners in prison and continuing to deliver the improved service to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred yesterday.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I take this opportunity to come back to the question that we debated yesterday on the meaning of the wording in Clause 117(4), which duplicates that in Clauses 73, 74 and Clause 59(10).
The question here is where that wording leaves the line to be drawn. I have had some very useful discussions with members of the team since last night, and my understanding is that their intention is to leave the line fuzzy and, as it were, to be determined in each case, but that it is clearly out of court for a Minister to try to direct how an individual institution should be funded. It would be clearly allowable that the Minister should direct, say, that additional funding was given to sixth-form colleges generally and that the interpretation of any particular instruction would have to come down to the particular circumstances, because clearly no exact rule is specified in the clause. The line, in terms of the wording, could come anywhere. It is important to establish on the Floor of the House what the Government's intention is and how in practice the line should be drawn.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, the key is whether the direction would affect funding to a particular college. If it would, it is not permitted under Clause 117(4). So a direction to give more money to a named college would clearly not be permitted, nor would a direction to give money to a particular class of colleges. If there is only one college in the class, for example a direction to give more money to FE colleges in Winchester, which was quoted previously, a more general direction-a direction to allocate more money to skills training in a particular region-perhaps would be okay, because it would not necessarily affect the funding to any individual college or individual.
This subsection was intended to be a check on the Secretary of State to make him or her consider whether a direction is really about setting objectives for the chief executive as set out in subsection (1), or whether it is aimed at determining the levels of funding for particular providers. If a direction is framed in too specific a way, it may be vulnerable to challenge in the courts.
"( ) enables personal data to be shared between persons to whom this section applies without first gaining the consent of the individual to whom it belongs"
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