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17-Plus Examination

Volume 20: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what linkage there will be between his plans for a course of education leading to an examination at 17-plus and the new training initiative.

These are complementary intiatives, and the youth training scheme is likely to have some elements in common with the new 17-plus courses. The forthcoming statement on the new qualification at 17-plus will describe arrangements for collaboration between the body which will be responsible for that qualification and the body responsible for the content of the youth training scheme.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there has been sufficient consultation between his Department and the Manpower Services Commission to ensure that when the new examination course is established there is a fairly clear and obvious choice for people who are being advised, whether to take that route or to go on to one of the schemes under the new training initiative? Can he also tell us whether there is a possibility of a person moving from the 17-plus to another exam?

I am aware of my hon. Friend's great interest in this matter and I assure him that there has been constant and steady consultation. The only way that one could move from the 17-plus to the youth training scheme would be through unemployment, which we hope will not happen.

In view of the cuts in the grants for colleges of further education, how does the Minister intend to ensure that young people have the off-job training that has been guaranteed under the new training programme?

The hon. Lady is wrong. There have been increased grants for colleges of further education. There have been two increases: part of the £50 million allocated will go to colleges of further education. In addition, there is the further £35 million announced by my right hon. Friend in December.

While my hon. Friend is considering initiatives on the 17-plus, may I ask whether he agrees that some confusion would be caused if we were also to introduce a new 16-plus? Will he resist any pressures that may be brought to bear on him to merge GCE O-levels and CSE examinations?

That is a separate question, but I can tell my hon. Friend that the matter is under consideration.

How can the Minister guarantee that the extra money that he has just quoted will actually go to further education? How does he know that it will not be diverted to other parts of the education service that are desperately short of money or, for that matter, spent on mending holes in the roads under the block grant system?