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Comprehensive Education

Volume 22: debated on Tuesday 20 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had about the development of a comprehensive system of education and training for the 16 to 19-years-old age groups.

The Government are committed to extending education opportunities for the 16 to 19 age group and to the proposals for training in the White Paper, "A New Training Initiative". To this end, Ministers and officials have had numerous discussions with the local education authority associations, the MSC and others.

Does the Minister agree that it is very important that the Department of Education and Science, rather than the Department of Employment, should take a lead in these discussions? Is is not vital that the Minister recognises that, unless the problem of the 16 to 19-yearold is examined comprehensively, we shall be in danger of creating another form of education apartheid for 16 to 19-year-olds, just as we did after the Second World War for 11-year-olds?

The Labour Party publication "Learning for Life" has an authoritarian approach which the Conservative Party and the country would reject.

Can there really be an effective approach to education and training while two separate Departments of State are involved?

It has been the decision of this and previous Governments that the Department of Employment should be the main agent for training. I reassure my hon. Friend by saying that discussions between the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Employment are constant.

Is the Minister aware that there are still many 16 to 19-year-old students who would benefit from a traditional sixth form education or from a sixth form college, but who cannot do so either because of there own or their parents' poverty? Is it not high time that we gave an adequate grant to encourage them to stay on?

I did not hear the hon. Gentleman's question very well, but I believe that he asked about provision for staying on. I can give him two reassurances. First, about 10 per cent. more of our youngsters are staying on in full-time education. There are 25 per cent. more staying on in further education, for which the Government have made financial provision. We welcome that development very much.