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Technical and Vocational Education and Training

Volume 656: debated on Monday 11 March 2019

12. What steps his Department is taking to improve the delivery of technical and vocational education and training. (909687)

We are introducing T-levels from 2020, with the first ones being in construction, education and childcare, and digital. With longer teaching hours and substantive industry placements, T-levels will provide a high-quality technical alternative to academic education. That builds on the growing work with high-quality apprenticeships, which are now longer and better, with more off-the-job training and proper assessment at the end.

One of Sir Michael Wilshaw’s departing recommendations when he left Ofsted was that every multi-academy trust should contain a university technical college that offers maths, science and a technical specialism. Will the Minister look at taking that forward?

We want UTCs to join suitable MATs wherever possible, as it is beneficial to both of them. It allows UTCs and MATs to offer a broad base of education, which can only be in everyone’s interests.

The Minister’s rhetoric bears no relation to what we are seeing in our schools, where vocational education opportunities are shrinking all the time, and the Government’s sense of direction seems to be narrowing our young people’s curriculum. When will the statements that the Minister makes at the Dispatch Box start to have even the slightest relevance to what people are experiencing on the ground?

I am not sure where the hon. Gentleman was last week, but it was National Apprenticeship Week. The opportunities that are available from the age of 16 in apprenticeships are extraordinary, and the Government are putting substantial investment into T-levels. For the first time, I have seen technical and vocational education get some real traction both inside and outside schools.

23. As the Minister knows, Southport College in my constituency is a beacon of excellence in technical and vocational education and training, but will she review the cap on apprenticeship funding, in order for more young people to forge a pathway into employment? (909699)

I know that my hon. Friend is a fantastic champion of apprenticeships in his constituency and across the country, and I am delighted to hear that he will host an apprenticeship fair in Southport in May. It was a pleasure to visit Southport College last year. There were 1,250 events during National Apprenticeship Week this year, which was a 50% increase on last year. The opportunities for young people and, indeed, older people are quite extraordinary.

The Minister rightly talks about the opportunities of the National Apprenticeship Week, but the National Audit Office says that the financial sustainability of the apprenticeship levy, which is key to the Government’s strategy, is at risk. We have a crazy situation with the overspend on higher apprenticeships producing a £500 million deficit, but non-levy payers, which are the training providers for three out of four apprenticeships, are left without funding. Following the catastrophic falls in apprenticeship starts in 2017, why is this Department now looking at another disaster, and how will this Minister stop this driverless levy going over the cliff and taking huge numbers of chances with it?

I have to say that I do not think the hon. Gentleman always believes what he says from the Dispatch Box. [Interruption.] He talks apprenticeships down. How can he possibly talk about an overspend on higher level apprenticeships? In this country, we are desperate for people who are able to do level 4 and level 5 qualifications. The National Audit Office report was a very backward-looking report. I am sure he would agree with me in private, if not from the Dispatch Box, that the difference he will have seen between National Apprenticeship Week this year and the one last year is quite extraordinary.

Everybody in this Chamber believes what he or she says from either the Front Bench or the Back Benches. It is a point so blindingly obvious that only an extraordinarily sophisticated person could fail to grasp it.