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New Opportunities

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2009

I am today laying before the House a White Paper “New Opportunities” which sets out a strategy for investing in Britain’s aspiration and ambition for years to come.

The global economy of the 21st century brings new opportunities and new risks. The way the financial crisis has swept across every economy in just a few months underlines how interconnected our world has become. But beyond today’s global slowdown lies a world of new opportunities for which we must prepare. If we put in place the right foundations now, the price is not just a richer country but also a fairer society.

Alongside real help now for families and businesses, we will therefore invest today in Britain’s future. Over the next two years we will provide record investment in Britain’s public services in families, communities and every stage of a citizen’s life. In this way we will ensure that Britain’s future performance matches our future potential, and that accident of birth and social background do not hold people back. These two elements together, better jobs and fairer chances, will together produce a more upwardly mobile society.

We build on strong foundations. Over the last decade, provision for pre-school children has been transformed with increased resources and free places for all three and four year olds. Nearly 3,000 children centres are in place. Since 1997 school funding per pupil has doubled in real terms, 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty, the number of apprenticeships has more than tripled, and almost 300,000 more students are benefiting from higher education.

But we believe there is more to do to enable everyone, whatever their background, to fulfil their talents and potential. To prepare our country today for the opportunities of tomorrow, and supported by the record investment of the next two years, the “New Opportunities” White Paper outlines a number of new key measures:

The extension of free childcare to 15 per cent. of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds spread across every local authority in England: This will reach around 23,000 children per year, in addition to existing provision, and cost £57 million in total. They will provide 10 hours of care per week to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in the best quality settings for at least 38 weeks a year. Once the child turns three, they will then automatically be entitled to 15 hours of care per week.

A back to work entitlement of up to £500: Trial a back to work entitlement of up to £500 for those who have been carers for at least five years, including parents, to reward their contribution and support their return into the labour market.

The introduction of a new £10,000 incentive to encourage more of the most effective teachers to teach in the most challenging schools: The incentive will be payable in return for three years’ service in a single participating school. This package could reach more than 500 schools and up to 6,000 teachers per year. We will work with partners to ensure that this package is taken up by schools, works effectively to attract more of the best teachers, represents good value for money, and to ensure that we set in place the right long-term total reward for teachers who choose to work in the most challenging schools.

The introduction of a guarantee for high potential young people from low-income backgrounds to get the support they need to get into university: We will continue to target existing resources within Aimhigher, Aimhigher Associates and other funds so that more pupils from low-income backgrounds receive a package of structured assistance across their time at secondary school. And to make sure that this targeting is successful, we will guarantee that it ensures that those pupils from low-income backgrounds who are roughly in the top 50 per cent. of performers, wherever they are located, have access to a comprehensive package of assistance to attend university

A support programme for children leaving care: Fund the National Care Advisory Service (NCAS) for the next two years to work with local authorities to develop and test models of support for care leavers into employment. NCAS will work with nine LAs in year one, with a view to extending support to half of all local authorities in year two, as the first phased step of a national roll-out. As part of this policy, the National Apprenticeship Service will work with NCAS to ensure that from September 2009 all suitably qualified care leavers will be offered an apprenticeship place and intend to make this a legal entitlement from 2013.

The creation of 35,000 new apprenticeship places across the public and private sector to help individuals and businesses through the downturn: This will bring the total number of apprentices to well over a quarter of a million for the first time ever. We are expanding apprenticeship places and are legislating so that all suitably qualified young people will have a right to an apprenticeship by 2013. By this stage there will also be an equivalent commitment to a diploma for all learners that want one.

A tripling of professional and career development loans available from 15,000 to 45,000 over the next three years: Career development loans will be renamed professional and career development loans and tripled. As with existing loans they will be offered interest free while people study. We will also make them more attractive by:

Reducing the headline interest rates

By allowing people to apply for greater value loans to study at colleges, universities and private training providers

A fair access to the professions panel: We will establish a high level panel of the major professions which will work closely with the professions to identify barriers to access and propose concrete actions to address them.

A new full-time structured vocational volunteering programme is being created, with places reserved for those not in education, employment or training: We are supporting the charity to deliver volunteering opportunities that offer a clear route to gaining skills and employment. The 33 local authorities that have been selected to deliver this full-time programme will deliver 30 placements.

With the right policies, we can both raise the overall level skills, incomes and the number of good jobs, whilst at the same time building a fair society.

Copies of the “New Opportunities” White Paper have been placed in the Library.