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16 To 19-Year-Olds (Education And Training)

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 7 December 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action he has taken on education and training in the 16 to 19-year-old age group over the past three months.

My right hon. Friend has initiated or co-operated in a number of measures, including additional expenditure provision for 16 to 19-year-olds staying on in 1983–84; statements on examinations at 16-plus and 17-plus qualification; a circular on the educational implications of the youth training scheme; the development of the technical and vocational initiative; and approving the merger of the business and technician education councils.

Is it not a fact that over the past few years there has been a lamentable failure in co-ordination between the Department of Education and Science, on the one hand, and the Department of Employment and the Manpower Services Commission, on the other, on this sector? What do the Government propose to do about relations between Ministers to improve on that in future?

That is not true. There has not been a lamentable failure. Co-ordination is excellent and is getting better all the time. I remind the hon. Gentleman that there is good collaboration between the MSC, the youth training boards, the advisory group on content and standards, the new area manpower boards and the DES.

As the youth training scheme has such large implications for local education services, should not local authorities think long and hard before dreaming of closing upper schools, because much of the problem of surplus accommodation and falling rolls will probably be taken up by the Manpower Services Commission w hen the full scheme starts next September?

My hon. Friend is right. The Department of Education and Science recently issued a circular asking local education authorities to look at the provision in school buildings for possible YTS youngsters.

Is the Minister aware that if the Secretary of State was involved in influential consultation in the process of introducing the most recent experimental scheme under the youth training scheme, he should be disgusted with himself? If he is not, we certainly are disgusted with him. As that scheme for 14 to 18-year-olds threatens to introduce a new form of secondary modern education, is unrelated to local authority democratic accountability, and has been undertaken without any effective or important educational advice, may we look forward to an arrangement for the MSC to control the school and college curricula, which will mean the prohibition of essential social and life scales, like political education in this country?

I find it difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman's question. I think that he is referring to the new technical and vocational education initiative. If so, my right hon. Friend will deal with that matter in reply to question No. 6.