Skip to main content

Education and Skills Bill

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 1 July 2008

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brabazon of Tara) in the Chair.]

Clause 3 [Level 3 qualification]:

22: Clause 3, page 2, line 11, after “means” insert—

“( ) the Cambridge Assessment Pre-U qualification in two subjects, or( ) ”

The noble Baroness said: In speaking also to Amendments Nos. 23 to 25, 33, 212, 213 and 231, I hope I will not confuse the Committee, although I cannot guarantee that I will not. I say that because I am fully aware that Clause 3 defines a level 3 qualification, and much of what I shall say concentrates on the generalities of qualifications.

These amendments simply emphasise our belief that the Government should not be limited in their thinking about qualifications, both in terms of which qualifications count at which level and in highlighting the difference between knowledge-based and practically based qualifications. In her book, Diminished Returns, Alison Woolf says:

“No one outside the education sector and the relevant parts of the Treasury talks about a level 2, 3 or 4 qualification”.

She goes on to say:

“When journalists have to explain the usage they generally refer to level 2 as the equivalent of 5 good GCSEs … A* to C”.

This, she says, is deceptive because other qualifications, such as the NVQ2 in food processing and cooking or the AQA level 2 certificate in enterprise and employability, are also level 2 qualifications but are not treated the same by employers and sixth-form gatekeepers.

I am a great believer in parity of esteem for vocational and academic qualifications. However, we will not achieve that by pretending that a qualification is something that it is not. My honourable friend John Hayes MP was absolutely right when he said in another place:

“It is the tragedy of the Government’s unwillingness to accept the integrity of vocational learning, that, in their view, to have legitimacy the subjects must be academicised”.—[Official Report, Commons, Education and Skills Bill Committee, 26/2/08; col. 703.]

To achieve the aim of maximising the level of attainment reached by every young person, we need to be honest about the type of qualification that they are working towards. We should accept that different qualifications are just that: different.

As an aside, but an important one, we have heard today, from research undertaken at Durham University, that we cannot always compare like with like between academic qualifications. Furthermore, I simply cannot resist commenting on the story in yesterday’s Times that pupils are rewarded for using expletives in their exams if the spelling was accurate and successfully conveyed a meaning. That hardly instils confidence in the system, and I wonder whether the Minister might comment on it because I cannot tell him how widely people are talking about it.

The best way to ensure that vocational and academic qualifications achieve parity of esteem is to make certain that they lead to good jobs for which the young person has been fully trained, knows what they are doing and makes the most of it. That challenge must be met and should not be simply glossed over by saying that equality in qualifications has been reached, full stop. Our amendments on the Cambridge Pre-U and the IGCSE, on which there were long debates during proceedings on the previous Education Bill, simply flag up that there are now a number of qualifications being pursued by schools and universities and ensure that they will be recognised at the appropriate level. It seems bizarre that, among the hundreds of recognised vocational and academic qualifications, the QCA does not recognise the IGCSE—a well-regarded and established qualification.

Half of all independent schools in the country are now entering their pupils for the IGCSE: the Cambridge version is offered in 2,000 schools in 125 countries around the world. They are obviously impressed with it, which rather begs the question: “Why isn’t the QCA”? The lack of recognition not only distorts results in league tables; we are in danger of opening up a two-tier system where 93 per cent of pupils educated in the state sector will not be able to study for that rigorous exam. As Nick Cowen, the author of a Civitas study, said,

“the result could be that pupils will soon find themselves competing for university here against European candidates with better British qualifications”.

He went on to say that that was,

“one of the clearest indicators yet of a growing ‘educational apartheid”

in Britain.

More absurdly, however, for the purposes of the Bill, pupils from the independent sector who take the IGCSE or the Cambridge Pre-U will not be considered to be in relevant education or training.

Amendment No. 25 is intended to determine how much unfettered power Clause 3(3) is giving to the QCA by adding those words to that subsection. We would give the Secretary of State the final say on what functions may be conferred on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to maintain departmental control over what may be classed as level 3 qualifications. Ultimately, the Secretary of State needs to be the official who takes important decisions about educational policy, because he or she is accountable to the Government they serve and to Parliament. I beg to move.

I must confess that, from these Benches, we have less sympathy for this batch of amendments. We agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, that it is extremely important that vocational qualifications should have equivalence: in fact, between them the QCA and the QAA accord a degree of equivalence between qualifications. This is no easy issue and, as the noble Baroness mentioned, the work done by Durham University in looking at the equivalence between different types of A-level has revealed differences, contrary to work done earlier by the QAA for Her Majesty’s Government, in the relative difficulty between what are sometimes regarded as the hard science A-levels—of physics, chemistry and, indeed, mathematics—and some others. The Government need to begin to take this issue seriously and consider how best to accommodate it within the university entrance system.

What worries me about introducing to the Bill mention of the Cambridge Pre-U, the IGCSE, and so forth is that they have their equivalents, but it will be very unfortunate if the divide between private and state education in this country is increased by the two sectors taking different types of examination. The more credence that we give to those alternative forms of examination, the more likely it is that the two sectors will separate. It is very important that we try to have a coherent set of school leaving examinations, if you like. From these Benches, we take the view that young people are required to go through too many tests and examinations. In the Finnish system, they stay at school until they are 18 and there is only one school leaving examination at 18. In some senses, that is a very sensible system.

We agree with Amendment No. 24 on equivalent qualifications, but we have great reservations about introducing to the Bill acknowledgement of the Cambridge Pre-U or the IGCSE.

Presumably, when the Government draw up regulations under Clause 2, they will have to accommodate examination systems worldwide, because pupils will be arriving in this country having gained all sorts of qualifications. They may have been abroad with their parents and been educated in the American system, they may have been to the Lycée or the German school here and followed those courses of education. To deal with those oddities, there will have to be an equivalence for all sorts of examinations that do not fall naturally within the British examination system.

I therefore very much hope that, whatever decisions the QCA may reach on the suitability of individual examinations, such as the IGCSE and the Cambridge Pre-U, for the state system, the Government will not seek to perpetuate the rather unfortunate collection of ruffled feathers in the Bill, which, to my mind, has a rather different purpose and where the QCA ought to be considering their equivalence because they are examinations that are widely taken, rather than in the light of any particular UK requirement.

I hope that, over time, the noble Lord will manage to settle those ruffled feathers. It seems very odd that the IGCSE should be excluded and I hope that the Cambridge Pre-U is set to come within the system. I understand that discussions have been fruitful, or at least positive in that direction. To have a system where, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, says, we are running different educational systems between private and state merely because the state, out of some amour-propre, refuses to recognise those qualifications, seems very unfortunate. If the IGCSE had just been welcomed into the fold as another way of doing GCSEs, no one would think that there was any difference. It would be just a question of what examination you took. The same applies to the Cambridge Pre-U and A-levels. It is a different board; it is a different way of doing it; it may suit different circumstances.

By keeping those examinations outside the fold, the Government are creating an image of difference and an image that state system children are allowed only second-class qualifications. That is unfortunate in itself and especially unfortunate in view of the aspiration, which I share, that one should aim for vocational and other practical examinations being valued more than they are. Creating that sort of über-class of academic examinations and giving them that added status by fighting shy of them goes very much against the Government’s best interests.

I try to prepare for everything conceivable when appearing before your Lordships, but I regret that I am not briefed on expletives. I promise to look into the issue and to return to the noble Baroness as soon as I have advice.

We entirely agree with the intention behind Amendment No. 23, which is that there should be sufficient flexibility in the system to allow for any qualification that is at level 3 to count for the purposes of this part of the Bill. I am glad to be able to tell the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, that the clause allows for this. Regulations under Clause 3(1) will enable the Government to list all level 3 qualifications that will count for the purpose of defining who is no longer required to participate. This also answers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I can state categorically that it is our intention to list without exception all qualifications that are accredited by the QCA as level 3.

On Amendment No. 25, I similarly reassure the noble Baroness that regulations made under Clause 3 will be laid by the Government and could confer functions on the QCA only if the Secretary of State approved.

Amendment No. 24 in the name of the noble Baroness would define level 3 as the level of attainment demonstrated by the achievement of an A-level in two “knowledge-based” subjects. It is not clear to me precisely what she means by knowledge-based, and she did not seek to elucidate this in her opening remarks. If she wishes to give me examples of A-levels that are not knowledge-based, I will happily look into them and see whether any issue arises. However, I expect that my reply to any specific instances that she might wish to give me is that there is a perfectly satisfactory knowledge base behind the A-levels in question. In my experience, when the disciples of particular disciplines start to argue the rival merits of different bodies of knowledge, it is probably best for politicians to stand aside than to make value judgments, which I took the noble Baroness to be inviting me to do. I willingly stand aside from that debate.

The noble Baroness’s Amendment No. 231 would approve the IGCSE for funding and use in the maintained sector. The IGCSE is a reputable qualification, which some schools in this country clearly regard as beneficial to their students. However, it is right that we should have a process for accreditation to ensure standards. The Secretary of State already has the discretion to approve qualifications for use in maintained schools under Section 98 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, and we have published a set of principles for the use of this power. In effect, this means that there is a process for approving qualifications for use in the maintained sector, through which awarding bodies can choose to put their qualifications. To date, awarding bodies have chosen not to put the IGCSE through this process. However, Cambridge International Examinations has submitted some of the IGCSE specifications for accreditation using the title “Cambridge Certificate”. These are being considered by Ofqual, the new agency, at two levels—level 1 and level 2—which equate to the higher and lower tiers of the GCSE. There are approximately 16 subjects under consideration, including English, mathematics and science. If the noble Baroness watches this space, she may receive some positive news in due course. As I say, this is a matter for the accreditation authorities, but we do think it right that the proper processes are followed and we do not see a case for circumventing them for the IGCSE.

Let me stress, also in response to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that the Government have no aversion whatever to diversity in qualifications where our advisers are of the view that those qualifications are of high quality and are consistent with the national curriculum. The IB, for example, is available in the state sector, and we have encouraged it considerably in recent years.

The Pre-U, to which the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred, has now been accredited and approved for use in maintained schools and colleges. If IGCSEs are accredited, they will come under the definition of an accredited qualification in any case, without the need to specify them in the Bill. If this happens, my department will make a decision on whether to approve them for funding in maintained institutions under Section 96 in the usual way.

Let me stress that independent schools are free to offer whatever qualifications they like, and young people taking IGCSEs or the Pre-U full time in independent schools will meet the terms of this legislation whether or not those qualifications are accredited. Specifically in respect of Clause 6, which is about part-time training undertaken alongside full-time employment, it is very unlikely that a young person will be doing IGCSEs or the Pre-U part time alongside employment, but if those qualifications are accredited, they would meet the requirements of the legislation.

I turn now to the adult skills provisions. Paragraph 6 of new Schedule 1A to be inserted into the Learning and Skills Act 2000 provides a generic description of level 2 qualifications citing five good GCSEs as the example. Amendment No. 212 inserts the IGCSE into this description. We use GCSEs as the reference point for the generic description of level 2 qualifications because they provide a widely recognised standard of education which is easily understood by potential learners. This is not the case with the IGCSE, which is not so generally well known or available, and therefore we do not think it would be appropriate at this time to include it in the legislation because it has not yet been accredited by the QCA. But as I have said, if accreditation does take place, the issue of its wider availability would then arise.

Similarly, paragraph 7 of new Schedule 1A provides a generic description of level 3 qualifications. As with level 2 qualifications, we use a widely recognised generic standard as our example, in this case two A-levels. Amendment No. 213 would insert the Cambridge Assessment Pre-U qualification into this description. The addition does not help to provide clarity, not least because the Pre-U qualification, unlike A-levels, is not a generic qualification offered by numerous awarding bodies; it is a specific qualification from a particular organisation. So, without prejudice to the virtues of either the IGCSE or the Pre-U, it would not be appropriate to insert them into the Bill in this way. However, I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on the substance of their points about these two qualifications and how there is no discrimination against them in the Bill.

I am encouraged by what the noble Lord has said. The Government seem at last to have separated the business of accreditation from the question of whether a qualification should be funded for use in state schools, and that is very sensible. I would be delighted if the noble Lord was able to tell me, if not now then later, what timescale it is believed applies to the IGCSE. Are we likely to see it coming in this autumn or will it take longer than that? On the question I asked about overseas qualifications, children will arrive here with qualifications that are never going to be accredited in the UK system. We will have people who have gone through the French and German systems in our native schools because those curriculums are followed in some schools, but we will also have people coming in particularly with American qualifications who, while abroad with their parents, have been in American schools. Some mechanism is needed to establish whether the qualifications they hold are level 2 or level 3, so presumably that process can be gone through whether or not a qualification meets a particular set of criteria, and therefore it ought to be possible to bring in IGCSEs offered by, say, Edexcel which have not been submitted for accreditation under the net of, as it were, foreign qualifications. The purposes of this Bill will then not get too wrapped in accreditation which has been developed for other reasons.

I, too, am heartened by what the Minister said and I thank him for his detailed answer. I thank also the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, who started by saying that she did not agree with our amendments but then seemed to support quite a lot of what I said. If we can get away with that kind of disagreement, I shall be happy.

On Amendment No. 22, perhaps I may pick up on what my noble friend Lord Lucas has just said. The Minister seemed to suggest that his answer would satisfy my noble friend and that there would be a list of qualifications accredited by the QCA. I am not sure how that would answer the question of young people coming in with diverse and different qualifications.

On Amendment No. 24, I shall take the Minister’s advice and stand aside. It was perhaps not as well worded as it might have been but I have never pretended that I would ever get a job as a parliamentary draftsman.

I was pleased to hear what the Minister said about IGCSEs and will indeed “watch this space”. However, I reiterate that these were probing amendments to raise these important issues. If we can go some way towards ensuring that 93 per cent of children in the state sector are able to take these more rigorous exams, I shall be pleased. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 23 to 25 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Appropriate full-time education or training]:

26: Clause 4, page 2, line 32, after “sector” insert “, at home”

The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 27. These amendments are designed to provoke and explore thoughts on what form appropriate full-time education and training might take. It must not be forgotten that non-formal learning can be supportive of and complementary to formal education. We should make sure that provisions in the Bill have regard to those programmes which do not necessarily lead to an accredited qualification but which can help young people to overcome issues related to their wider family and personal life that may have had a negative effect on their ability to engage in formal education.

Non-formal education provides opportunities for volunteering and participation in youth work which can develop necessary and basic skills which had hitherto been lacking. For some young people who are currently failing in, and being failed by, the formal system, non-formal education may be more suitable. If they have already disengaged from the education system, this could be a way of re-engaging them and preventing them from disappearing from the system altogether. The important thing is not to ensure that everyone by the time they turn 18 has a piece of paper with a qualification written on it, but that they have picked up the skills they need to take control of their own lives. I beg to move.

I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 28 and 31 in this group. They are both important amendments because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, mentioned, the Bill is targeted at the 10 per cent of school rejectors—the NEETs about whom we spoke at length in Committee previously. Many of these young people drop out of school when they are 14 or 15 having failed to have been motivated by the school curriculum. Many have minimal literacy and numeracy and many have special educational needs which have not been picked up earlier within the school system or, if they have been picked up, have not received the help and support that they need. For many of these young people, the experience of school has been a profoundly unhappy and unrewarding one and they will not be easily persuaded to re-enter the academic environment.

It may be that the various reforms to the education system—the personalised learning that we are introducing in primaries and at key stage 3 in secondaries, and the new diplomas—will have the effect of motivating these young people and that the problem with which we are now concerned will largely disappear. But we all have doubts as to whether this will really happen and Amendment No. 28 provides for the kind of programme that would be suitable for these young people. As the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, mentioned, basically they may be motivated by a work environment.

The Bill envisages that each person will have a personal mentor and that the programme of education and training set for each would be personalised. In the hearings held in the other place before the full committee sessions commenced, Barnardo’s, the Prince’s Trust and Fairbridge, in their evidence, made it clear that intensive work with these young people can help to get them back into education and training but that it takes time. The other day we also heard moving testimony from the Rose Trust that young people with learning difficulties can hold down jobs, which gives them confidence and self-esteem. They learn a lot from such employment, but never enough to take accredited tests or qualifications because their learning disabilities are too great to do so. It is vital that there should be a place in the Bill which recognises this.

I was heartened by the letter sent to my honourable friend the Member of Parliament for Yeovil on 13 February—I thank the Minister for circulating it —where, in the second paragraph, Jim Knights, the Minister in the other place, said:

“As I have said before, I do not believe that there should be groups of young people who are formally exempt from the duty to participate, and I have emphasised our belief that it is desirable for all young people to continue learning, wherever possible. We must put our efforts into developing suitable learning provision that is flexible and personalised enough, and providing the right support”.

Our two amendments aim to do precisely that. Amendment No. 28 seeks that regulations must provide that the appropriate “education or training” referred to in Clause 2 can take place not only in a formal educational institution but also through voluntary service or in a work environment; that it is not required to be accredited and includes personalised support for non-educational needs. Amendment No. 31 adds the rider to the “relevant training or education” in Clause 6 that, where a course is not accredited, it is part of a personalised learning programme.

Amendment No. 31 links up with two amendments we shall be discussing after Clause 10 relating to what a personalised learning programme might be and whether local authorities have the capacity to deliver such a programme. Both are important amendments and touch, to some extent, on the core of the Bill: how can we encourage back into education this 10 per cent of young people who have deserted or are deserting it? As we discussed on the previous occasion, if they are breaking the law by not attending school when they are under 16, why should we expect them to attend school when they are over 16 unless we can encourage them back in? We need to consider whether there are ways of encouraging them back in.

I hope that when the Minister replies to the amendments he will tell us that the Government already envisage a much wider spread of places in which education can take place—not least, for example, in the Youth Service, where excellent programmes are widely provided and where young people have a genuine progressive-gradient educational experience in many different aspects. This is knowledge-based in some cases as well, although I, too, think that is an interesting phrase.

I endorse what has been said about the contribution of employers, many of whom take their responsibilities extremely seriously. Although their qualifications have not been necessarily accredited by the all-powerful Ofqual or the QCA in the past—I declare an interest as having been on the advisory committee of QCA for some considerable time—they are widely respected and recognised, often internationally as well as nationally. Some of the large multinational companies provide education which is of a higher standard than the more formal—dare I say it?—public examinations that we have in this country. I look forward to the Minister’s reply and I trust that he will tell us the Government accept that.

I endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has just said. I, too, hope that this is part of the Government’s thinking. Having listened to what has been said and having read the letter from Jim Knight—to whom we are grateful for the detailed ideas—it seems that all four amendments go entirely in the right direction. They will certainly enable far more young people in a disadvantaged state to participate and gain some qualifications which will help them on their way. Some of the stories are remarkable: disadvantaged young people who have completely rejected education so far and come away with no skills or basic qualifications, can suddenly be re-inspired to join the rest of us and go on to lead useful lives. We must do everything possible for them. “Mentor” is the right word here. It is absolutely crucial in situations like this that there is a mentoring scheme.

We are back to a couple of themes we discussed on the last day. One is the need to have great flexibility for the local authority to decide what particular pattern of education is appropriate to any individual young person. You cannot specify these things from the centre. You are dealing with individual difficulty, character and circumstance. There has to be flexibility within an overall responsibility to allow the form of education provided to fit the case.

You are dealing, in a lot of circumstances, with people who are not at level 2. They are somewhere around level zero and have developed nothing but bad habits in the course of their education. They have ended up extremely averse to formal education and have great gaps and inadequacies in their knowledge. They have developed social habits which make them unemployable, like not turning up on time for anything or usage of language and methods of behaviour which would be likely to result in an early termination of employment—if they ever got any. These things have to be dealt with in the course of the two years, if these young people are to become useful members of the workforce and society and to enjoy themselves as they should. These things are not dealt with by accredited courses.

This business of accreditation has become a method of control—I know things have changed— and the QCA and related organisations control what should be taught and allowed. It comes back again to an issue I have raised previously. One of the difficulties in the Prison Service is that there are no level zero accredited programmes available for PSHE and related areas or all the work that goes on in the arts. You somehow have to graft a bit of literacy or numeracy on to your arts programme in order to get an accreditation to go with it.

There seems to be a belief that you can take these people at the bottom—they are absolutely flat on the floor—and make them employable by giving them a GSCE. First, you have to get them to take an interest in education. That will take an unaccredited course of some kind—at least unaccredited under the present system. Accreditation in terms of putting academic hurdles into the qualifications should not be there. You are not trying to evaluate what these people have done, you are just trying to get them started. Secondly, a system which is so rigid and based on accreditation is never going to work in the sort of environment that particular young people want to be in.

There are all sorts of ways to get educated when you are that age. Experience comes in all kinds of forms. As my noble friend Lady Perry has said, a lot can be provided through an employer who is dedicated to looking after the young people in their charge. They are not going to want to leap through the hoops. How long is it taking a professional organisation like Cambridge Assessment to get one of their exams through? An employer will not go through that for their own in-house experience. There has to be some way in which following such a course is allowed. The right way to do that is surely to allow a local authority discretion. It should get to know what is available locally, what the results are when young people go through that course, and that should become an available option for them. If something is much bigger than that, or national, perhaps accreditation is appropriate. One way or another, we have to approach this with great flexibility and understanding, and not try to cram these young people into a framework devised essentially for the other 90 per cent, but not them.

I have two comments on this. The amendments are interesting and I do not disagree with them in principle for trying to find ways of engaging and supporting young people, making sure that they leave this period of their lives well equipped to go into the next. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to two issues that are on my mind.

We have to be careful not to see the 16 to 18 group as not joined on to the 11 to 16 group. There is a real danger that we are seeing two curricula. We talk about the diplomas in the new curricula being addressed to 11 to 16 year-olds, then talk about the 16 to 18 year-olds as though they are in a different world. All that has happened is that a summer holiday has gone by and they are six weeks older. The big difference is that they are not subject to the national curriculum once they are post-Year 11. That, potentially, gives the flexibility. Yet if things like this could really make a difference to this 10 per cent of most difficult young people between the ages of 16 and 18, why on earth not involve them at the ages of 13, 14, 15 or 16?

Secondly, I still have a great wish to see children and young people get accredited courses. If I were to choose a different word and say they need to get courses where their progress is recognised and recorded, would that more meet the needs? I hope that my noble friend will respond to those two points. What are the safeguards against us not having the mindset that looks to this variety of courses in Year 12 and Year 13 when we could have introduced them earlier on? Where is the continuity; how are we bridging the gap between those years when they are subject to the national curriculum and those when we have more flexibility? On the accredited courses, I would be sorry if we moved to a situation where young people did not leave this extended period of compulsory education with at least a recognition or record of the progress that had been made. I am not sure whether that is “accredited”. I would like my noble friend to respond to that.

To respond to the noble Baroness’s point, which I absolutely understand and accept, we on these Benches are arguing about the nature of the accreditation. At the moment it is so rigid it has to be through Ofqual—the QCA as was. Yet multinational companies like Microsoft, BP and British Aerospace offer a real gradient of qualifications which are not accredited by anybody but themselves. If a young person who has been through such a programme—be it McDonalds’ well-graded system, Microsoft’s or whoever—is looking for a job elsewhere, employers are going to be just as happy, if not more so, with that than with an “educational” qualification that has been through the tortuous processes of accreditation by Ofqual.

We are asking for something that bursts the rigid boundaries of Ofqual. It is a pity to vilify the new organisation, the QCA, and its tortuous processes of accreditation when there are other perfectly respectable forms of accreditation, including from those employers, which are not within its boundaries.

I am in the happy position of being able to satisfy everyone who has spoken, to some degree. I was going to say I would be able to respond entirely positively to three of the four issues but, in being negative about the fourth amendment, I am responding specifically to the point raised by my noble friend Lady Morris in a positive way. So, here comes the land of milk and honey.

In response to the first two amendments, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, I assure her that home education and education in the workplace meet the requirements of Clause 4, but she may not have been immediately aware of that because of the way the clause is drafted. Clause 4(1) says:

“In this Part, ‘appropriate full-time education or training’, in relation to a person, means full-time education or training which is suitable for the person, having regard … to the person’s age, ability and aptitude, and … to any learning difficulty which the person may have, and is provided at a school, at a college of further education, at an institution within the higher education sector”—

and then, crucially, the two concluding words—

“or otherwise”.

Those two words fully encompass appropriate full-time educational training that takes place at home or in the workplace.

Amendment No. 28, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raises the important issue of non-formal education and training. We agree with her that appropriately tailored and personalised programmes of learning will be essential to engaging some of the young people who are hardest to reach. Some of those may not take place in formal educational institutions; they may happen, for example, at a centre run by one of the voluntary organisations mentioned by the noble Baroness, although some colleges and local authority providers have also developed excellent practice in providing flexible tailored learning programmes integrated with support. Young people may not find these more formal settings appropriate to their needs; where alternative providers are able to meet those needs better, they can do so under the Bill.

In Amendment No. 31, however, the noble Baroness seeks to allow for personalised learning programme-type provision for those in work undertaking part-time training. As I have just outlined, that type of provision may be the appropriate route for some young people and will be a valid way of participating in full-time education under Clause 4. It may also be a perfectly valid activity for those who are in work and need support to engage in training or education alongside it. However, it is our view that such programmes should not, for the purposes of the law, count towards the part-time training and education requirement under Clause 6 for that reason. It is important, in our view, that young people have the opportunity to acquire accredited training and qualifications that enable them to demonstrate what they have learnt to future employers, helping them to progress in work and to adapt to changes in the labour market.

Without a requirement for accreditation in respect of part-time educational training, there would be no guarantee of the quality or the quantity of the training undertaken in the workplace, and we would create a loophole whereby employers could provide very little training, or indeed none, under the guise of personalised learning programmes or suchlike. That is part of the issue raised by my noble friend Lady Morris, who wanted to see that people are making recognised progress in their learning beyond the age of 16.

I am able to meet three of the four points raised. I am sorry I cannot meet the fourth, but it is for the reasons I have just given.

We are back to the problem of accreditation again. Why does it have to go through these Ofqual hoops to be acceptable for the purposes of the Bill, when for the purposes of life afterwards there are all sorts of other things that will do just as well but happen not to be accredited? Can we not allow local authorities the flexibility to take on board, particularly at level zero, courses that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, says, give you a record of progress—a certificate of completion, fine, but not an accredited qualification? Most of these courses will do that, because if someone has gone through the courses successfully they will want the badge. Something that gets them started again and on the road to education can be an enormously important part of doing right by the children at the bottom of the pile between the ages of 16 and 18, but it will never be accredited in the way that Ofqual means. If an employer is offering something, someone must say whether it is satisfactory, but that person surely should be the local authority, which is at the appropriate level to take that sort of view, while Ofqual is just too far away to ever look at it. To clamp everyone into the formalities of an accredited qualification does not do right by those at the bottom of the pile.

The difference between us is less than the noble Lord has just set out. As I said in our previous debates on this issue, accreditation does not apply to full-time courses, where providers, by definition, will overwhelmingly be colleges or established education providers—provided that they can attract the funding from the local authority or the Learning and Skills Council, until local authorities take it over—and can be the best judge of the courses that young people want to take up, responding to demand. We are dealing here with the specific and much more limited issue of part-time courses for people in work. As I have set out, our concern is that, without accreditation, anything might go in respect of training provided by employers; it could be low quality or indeed of no quality at all.

The noble Lord, who is alive to this issue, did not say in his concluding remarks that there should be no check; he was proposing a different check from the one in place. He thinks that local authorities themselves should play the accreditation role. That is an issue for discussion. It is not a proposal I had heard before. We would be concerned about the capacity of local authorities to undertake that role, but I am happy to respond to him on that point when I have been able to consider it more fully. I would simply point out that that is effectively a different form of accreditation; it is not saying that there should be no accreditation.

Local authorities do this sort of thing all the time. They build all sorts of inspectorates, which they run very successfully. I do not see that they cannot be trusted. Most of the time they will use formally accredited qualifications, but there will be times when something else is right for an individual. Under the Bill, local authorities are focusing on individuals because they are ultimately responsible for bringing prosecutions against individual young people. They will be very focused on individuals’ needs. I do not want to see them tied to offering only courses that are clearly unsuitable to a particular young person because their needs lie outside the rather narrow spectrum of accredited qualifications that have mostly grown up to deal with the other 90 per cent of young people.

The big providers such as FE colleges can offer any course they want. Will they get funded for them, though? Most of the funding mechanisms in FE rely on the qualification being accredited. It was a hard enough battle, when the system came in of funding A-levels according to points, to allow any space within the FE funding mechanism for all the extras that sixth-form colleges had traditionally offered students. Although some funding was kept, there was noticeable shrinkage at that stage, and there is little, if any, allowance for activities outside the strict curriculum for vocational qualifications. Enrichment does not seem to be part of the funding mechanism. If an FE college wants to offer level-zero qualifications to improve people’s employability, sociability, management of money or any of the problems that young people present with, from where will it get the funding if the qualifications are not accredited?

If the full-time education is delivered by a voluntary body, such as Barnardo’s or Fairbridge, and there is no accreditation at the end of it because it is an access course helping young people to begin to learn how to learn, would it be recognised? The Minister is saying that this only applies where the young person goes into part-time work with some training off the job. I was moved and interested the other day when we had a session with the Rose project, which works closely with further education colleges to place young people with considerable learning difficulties in jobs where they would acquire skills and self-esteem but would never be able to sit down and write an examination. I know the Government are introducing the foundation tier of qualifications, but the testimony we heard indicated that these young people would find it quite difficult to meet the requirements of those qualifications yet they were learning a great deal in these placements. Could the Minister clarify the situation for young people with learning difficulties in full-time education, either in a further education college or with a voluntary organisation, and where there is placement into a job?

I can confirm that the kind of provision specified in the noble Baroness’s Amendment No. 28 —appropriate full-time education or training which is not in a formal educational institution, is not accredited and includes personalised support for non-educational needs—is within the current scope of Clause 4.

I thank the Minister for taking us back to the land of milk and honey and clarifying the term “otherwise”. As usual, he ensures that we will all go away and read word for word his response in Hansard to ascertain whether we are indeed satisfied. My noble friends Lady Perry and Lord Lucas are right that the provision required for that difficult-to-reach group with learning disabilities must be appropriate and accessible. Both my noble friends raised some questions that I do not feel the noble Lord has responded to fully.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, we had the pleasure and privilege of meeting some young people with learning difficulties from the Rose project who would be completely excluded from employment if they had to have paper qualifications. I hope the Minister agrees that we need to have a serious look at those young people who, whatever method we put in front of them, will not be able to fulfil the criteria of a paper qualification. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 not moved.]

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 [Full-time occupation]:

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Relevant training or education]:

[Amendments Nos. 30 to 34 not moved.]

Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Sufficient relevant training or education]:

35: Clause 8, page 4, line 25, leave out “guided learning” and insert “learning time”

The noble Baroness said: I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 37 and 39 to 48 inclusive. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for introducing us to the Rose project which raised issues about a group of young people who I had not thought about and who could be affected by the Bill. I encourage the Minster to find a way of looking into that.

The purpose of this group of amendments is to probe the meaning of the phrase “guided learning” and to have a debate about whether a young person’s duty to participate could be fulfilled by learning and practising for part of the time away from their instructor, whatever skill they are studying, as long as that work was specified by the instructor. If the instructor gives homework or work to be done in the library or on a building site or in a hairdressing salon, surely it might be legitimate to count that as qualifying learning.

I think there will be much confusion about what qualifies under Clauses 3 to 9. For example, is everyone going to have to add up the number of hours that they do throughout the year to know whether or not they qualify as participating? These amendments are designed to clarify the situation that might reasonably arise in the workplace so that we do not put the student outside the duties of the Bill.

I accept that all students will do homework, research, preparation—call it what you will. However, we must remember that we are not dealing with PhD students or even undergraduates but 16 year-olds who are often very disaffected and might not have stayed on in education at all had they not been compelled to do so. They may need a different kind of learning experience before they respond, perhaps being given a little more rope and responsibility for their own learning away from the instructor or out of the classroom. That might be very developing for them. Particularly where they are studying a practical skill, the tutor may deem it desirable to tell them to go away and practise by themselves without someone hanging over them. It might be better for their self-confidence to build up their skills in their own time where there is no one to see them fail, because many of the young people at whom the Bill is aimed fail over and over again. I want to make sure that the specification of what, where, when and how many hours they should study is not so tight as to eliminate the possibility of partly fulfilling the duty to participate by doing it by themselves where nobody can see them fail.

Every time we try a new skill, we fail the first time. This morning I coxed an eight on the river at Putney for the first time in my life and I did not do it perfectly. There was a bit of zigzagging going on. I am pleased to say that I did not hit anything, but I was very aware that there were eight men watching me fail. So I have sympathy with young people who are trying a skill for the first time and are perhaps a little bit self-conscious. It may help to build up their self-confidence if they are allowed to do some of the work somewhere else, as long as it is specified by the tutor and proof is given that it has been done. I beg to move.

Leaving out “guided learning” and inserting “learning time”, as the amendments would do, would allow a far more flexible approach to what is considered “relevant training or education”. Individuals may spend valuable time adding to their knowledge and skills in a way which is not possible in formal or guided learning, yet the Bill would not take that into account. The amendment recognises that preparation and private study time are important. All elements of study and learning play their part in a successful outcome. However, the implication of “guided learning” is important, suggesting that the training in question should be directed and mentored. Surely that is what we all want from the Bill. Mentoring is crucial to the success of the schemes. The young people we are talking about will not necessarily benefit from being left to their own devices; they may need someone to guide them towards achieving their potential.

Training should involve systematic training under a skilled mentor and should not end up simply as a work placement with the young person hanging around with nothing to do. Placing somebody in a workplace or training environment and leaving them to it is not the same as providing them with training or education. It is not enough to tick a box saying that another hour has been accounted for if nothing worth while takes place during it. A guided, mentored system is essential if we are to get anywhere with our aims. We hope that a balance can be struck in the Bill that recognises the importance of guidance but is not unimaginatively prescriptive about it.

I have had a meeting with the Association of Accounting Technicians, which worries that the Bill puts too much emphasis on input and not enough on output and takes insufficient account of different modes and speeds of learning. I hope the Minister will recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the most effective.

I am interested mostly in hearing the Minister’s explanation of how he will construe the phrase in question to take on board the various modes of computer-assisted learning that are available these days. Under the 280 hours-a-year rule, most courses at most British universities would fail.

After listening to this conversation I feel that both are required. Would it be too much to ask the Minister to see whether what is in the Bill can accommodate not only learning time but also guided learning? I hope it will be possible, because the flexibility which the noble Baroness’s amendment offers in allowing every form of learning and accreditation to be taken into account is important.

As the job of a cox in a rowing eight is pre-eminently one of guidance, I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, did an excellent job. I shall seek advice on whether she was providing guided learning hours—I think it depends whether the course of instruction was properly accredited. There are ways in which she can seek accreditation if she wishes it to be taken into account for her relevant qualifications in future.

The noble Baroness seeks to probe the meaning of “guided learning hours”. I am happy to be able to tell her that, unusually for legislation, it does mean what it says: it means learning hours that are guided by a teacher or instructor. The guidance can be provided online but it has to be genuine guidance. It cannot simply be the provision of a course without guidance being provided online.

Guided learning hours are currently assigned to all qualifications, providing an easy and objective way for young people, employers and local authorities to tell whether a young person is meeting the requirement. It is not our policy that private study time should count towards this requirement although, as noble Lords have said, private study will be a valuable component of any overall course. We do not wish to allow private study to count not least because it could enable employers to avoid releasing young people for any training at all by claiming that they are doing all their learning unsupervised at home in the evenings or outside the normal working day.

The noble Baroness asked whether everyone will bureaucratically have to add up their number of guided learning hours. The answer is no. That is the purpose of Clause 8(2), which makes reference to a course or courses leading to an accredited qualification which has or have been assigned enough guided learning hours. The student will be able to tell whether their course has enough guided learning hours on that basis; they will not have to count up the number of learning hours that they experience.

I understand the Minister’s difficulty with bad employers who might wish to claim that time spent at home thinking about the job qualified within the 280 hours, but I am appalled at the idea that private study is not a properly accredited part of learning. Most people in the second year of the sixth form would have much less than 280 hours of anything that would qualify as guided in the very strict sense which the Minister meant. Much of what people do in their final year in school—particularly if they are doing only three A-levels, as many young people are—is guided private study in the sense that they have been told which books to read and where to go. I speak as one who comes from the humanities rather than the laboratory end of the scale and I know that a tremendous amount of real learning—in fact, the best learning—happens when one is in private study. I am appalled by the idea that it would not count.

I taught for many years in American universities where one assumed that for every hour spent in the classroom there would be three hours of private study, leading to accreditation and credits. One did one’s teaching and lecturing on the basis that the students would have at least three hours of private study time either before or after the lecture. I am shocked at the idea that properly structured private study time will not count. Rather than excluding private study time, we need a better definition of properly structured and guided private study time.

I thank all noble Lords who have contributed. We are perhaps straying into the area of wanting to clarify exactly what we mean by “guided”, not just “guided learning”. I understood the Minister to mean that if a tutor, lecturer or teacher asked a young person to go away and do or read something, it could be regarded as “guided”—in which case private study, as long as it was sufficiently guided under the terms which the Minister used, could be regarded as “guided learning”.

The example of music students springs to mind. They may spend one or two hours a week with their teacher but they spend hundreds of hours a week practising. I suppose that if the tutor says, “These are the scales you have to practise; these are the pieces that I would like you to learn”, and the student does so, then that could be described as “guided”. But every hour that the student spends learning the instrument does not happen under the nose of the tutor, watched or assessed by him.

That is just one example that springs to mind. Despite the Minister’s attempt to clarify the issue, I am still confused by what would qualify as “guided learning”. I see that he has received another note. I wonder whether he would like to allay my confusion a little, or perhaps we should leave the matter until Report. Would he like to intervene?

I would like to intervene only to say that the words mean what I said—that guided learning must be learning that is under the guidance of an instructor or teacher. I was trying to tot up the hours in my head but have not succeeded. However, I am advised that it is inconceivable that a sixth form student of the kind that the noble Baroness mentions would not have more than seven hours’ teaching time a week, which would satisfy the hours requirement in the Bill. We can continue to bat this backwards and forwards, but the kind of sixth form course that the noble Baroness mentioned would meet the requirements even if it involved only two A-levels rather than the onerous programmes of four or five A-levels that some students take on.

My noble friend is quite right. I would not expect a student in the second year of three A-level courses to sit in front of teachers for 21 hours a week, which is what would be required. Two hundred and eighty hours a year is essentially the time it takes to do an A-level; that is the time allowance. Noble Lords mentioned accreditation and the hours that come with the course. My memory is that 280 hours is assigned as the guided learning time for an A-level. But a lot of that guidance in the second year is, “Go away and do this”. If that is what is meant by guidance then we would have far less of a problem with it than we would if it meant that they should be sitting in front of a tutor.

If you are using a computer-based learning programme, you will be sat down in front of it. The teacher will probably come back at the end of the period to review briefly what you have done and to pat you on the shoulder and say, “Well done. We’ll look at that next week”, or, “Would you like five minutes on this particular thing that is causing you difficulty?”. The teacher interaction is performed essentially by the computer, and it is done extremely well especially in mathematics. There are also some very good language courses and no doubt similar ways of doing it.

We are introducing computer-assisted learning to the Prison Service as the way in which prisoners will learn. Presumably there will be some pretty low-level courses taught through computers there, and it will not involve an interaction with teachers other than occasionally. What is happening is under guidance, because much of the guidance is provided by the programme. Much of the measurement and assessment is also provided by the programme. In a way, the teacher just supervises that. If that is guidance, we may be less worried about it than the idea that there should be a teacher, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, says, sitting there looking over people’s shoulders for seven hours a week. That is essentially what this provision requires, with a 40-week learning year, which I suspect is about what we would have. It is a question of what is meant by guidance. It affects the whole question of how this part of the Bill is understood.

When they get to university, many students will be lucky to have six hours a week in front of a teacher. Many get less, maybe four or five hours. In a 36-week university year—and that is stretching it when you take out the time allocated to examinations—there is far less than 280 hours of teaching taking place on a whole course, let alone for an individual examination. This concept of guidance needs filing down so that we understand what is meant. If the only way of establishing the number of hours is through what comes packaged with the course, we will come back to accreditation and the course having to go through some process that establishes the number of hours associated with it. Much of the education that I hope people will take under the Bill is not of that form.

In a way we are with the Minister in not wanting to impose a system that allows people to escape around the sides by being unsupervised at home yet still being educated. It has to be interpreted constructively. Something along the lines of “under the supervision of” rather than “guidance” is needed. If the cox only steered the boat for five minutes in every hour, we would be in trouble, but a teacher who has given instructions or uses a computer to help the student follow a course of instructions does not need to be there all the time. Indeed, they probably should not be there all the time. We should allow for that sort of flexibility in the way that we interpret this phrase.

I thank the Minister for that further clarification. I have to accept what he says about A-levels. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, says about university courses, but we are dealing here with 16 to 18 year-olds, not university courses. I still worry about somebody who might want to study a musical instrument between the ages of 16 and 18, rather than stay on in some other kind of course, because they would fall foul of this specification. I tentatively suggest that the Government’s mistake is to specify a number of hours. Elsewhere, the Bill simply gives the number of hours required to provide an accredited course. I think that the word used is “sufficient”. Clearly, I will have to read this debate again and think carefully about whether I need to probe further. I am somewhat reassured by what the Minister said about “guided” meaning “guided”, because some of my concerns would be covered by a reasonably liberal interpretation of the word. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

36: Clause 8, page 4, line 25, after “learning” insert “away from the individual’s work-station”

The noble Lord said: I will speak also to Amendment No. 38, because both amendments are about the definition of education and training. This is crucial to the Bill. When we first heard about the Bill, the Secretary of State said that it would require at least one day a week, or the equivalent, of off-the-job education or training. That is why many of us were excited by, and welcomed, the Bill. Yet when one looks at its detail, one finds no reference to off-the-job education or training, nor any guarantee of one day a week or the equivalent. These amendments seek to rectify those omissions, and thus to implement the Secretary of State’s original promise. This is not a minor issue; it is central to the character of the Bill. If this is to be a landmark Bill that reduces the huge educational inequalities in our country, it has to do more than simply improve the very specific skills of those affected by it. It must also raise their general ability to think about what they are doing, to analyse a problem and to communicate in writing. In a world in which specific skills rapidly become obsolete, it is these transferable skills that are important if we want to raise the educational level of the country’s less educated people.

At present, many young people in Britain lack these skills. Interestingly, at the age of 15 our young people now do as well in literacy and numeracy as young people in France and Germany, but by the time they are 20 twice as many British people are without a decent level of skill. The reason is absolutely simple; you only have to look at the descriptions of the education systems. In Germany and France, and many other countries, people go on developing their general skills between the ages of 16 and 19. In our country, many do not. To develop those general skills of thinking, analysing and writing requires a serious amount of off-the-job learning. Of course, it should be associated with the job; that is what motivates people when they are off the job, away from their work station.

Amendment No. 36 insists that, in the case of part-time education and training, the required number of guided learning hours take place away from the individual’s work station. It may be on the employer’s premises, around the corner; in many cases that is the best possible arrangement. It must be a place separate from where the individual does his job. It must be a place where he can concentrate on acquiring the underpinning knowledge, numeracy and literacy that develop through analysing problems. That is what the amendment proposes.

We know that many employers will not like this suggestion. They will argue, correctly, that on-the-job training is as valuable as off-the-job training. They may, incorrectly, argue that you can have one without the other, and that is enough. You need both. That is the point which everybody concerned with education inequality has always stressed. We need the off-the-job element to develop transferable skills. That is why this can claim to be an Education and Skills Bill, not just a skills Bill.

We should reconsider the enforcement issues that we touched on previously. Enforcement is important. How could we know whether 280 hours of guided learning was being undertaken if some of the learning that could count was on the job? Simply by looking at somebody who was working at his work station with his supervisor near by, how could we know whether he was getting guided learning? One cannot enforce the provision of guided learning hours on the job. It seems to me that if we want the landmark Bill which the Government want, we have to tighten up the definition of guided learning to mean that which is carried out off the job. I suspect that the Minister will refer to Clause 6, which states:

“‘relevant training or education’ means training or education towards an accredited qualification provided by a course or courses”.

He may try to argue that that somehow makes it off the job. If it does, let us call it off the job. If it does not, you can easily see how some qualifications, for example an NVQ which could be studied entirely on the job, could be redesignated as courses. The meaning of words can be changed. We do not want an Act in which the meaning of words can be changed in such a way that they completely alter its purpose.

In this connection I refer to some shocking statistics. Under the modern apprenticeship scheme, which the Government fund, the apprentice is meant to be studying not only for an NVQ but for a technical certificate, which allows, typically, a day a week off the job. Two surveys have been conducted on this. The 2005 survey found that apprentices were receiving five hours of off-the-job training a week. That is not too bad and is more or less in line with what we are talking about. However, an identical survey conducted in 2007 showed that this had fallen to three hours a week. That is an appalling situation and shows how efforts to develop the transferable skills of our workforce are being undermined. If the Minister wants to retain the education element of the Bill, he will have to accept Amendment No. 36, or something like it.

Amendment No. 38 concerns the amount of education or training; that is, 280 hours of guided learning. However, Clause 8(2) contains a let-out because it states that the relevant person can be “completing” a course which would normally require those hours. I am not sure what “completing” means; it is a very peculiar word, but I assume that it means participation. Does this mean that you do not have to have 280 hours of guided learning; that you have to be involved in a designated course but do not have to do those hours? It is easy to see how a youngster could be signed up for a course that he finds so easy that he does not need to do all the hours that are normally assigned to it. What do we as education reformers think should happen? If a course is so easy that the relevant student can do it in less time than is allocated to it, he should do something more difficult or he should finish it off quickly and move on to something more difficult. This is about raising the population’s education aspirations, not getting a quick fix.

Many employers will approach the Bill in a spirit of devising what is the least they can get away with. When you read it—I am sure that the Minister and his officials read it this way—you should ask yourself how employers will try to get round its provisions. Many young people will also want to get round them. Tens of thousands of young people will collude with their employers to do the least that they can get away with rather than satisfy the Bill’s spirit, which is to extend the part-time or full-time education leaving age to 18. That is what the Bill is about. Amendment No. 38 would close that let-out. I hope that the Minister can see the risks involved in Clause 8(2). I have been told that the aim of the clause is simply to allow for occasions when the relevant person fails to complete the 280 hours due to sickness. If that is the case, let us call a spade a spade and say that rather than have the remarkable form of words to which I referred.

There is a lot at stake in both the issues raised in these amendments. We are looking to the Bill to set the parameters of the education system for the next quarter of a century. We should not be thinking about what we can get employers to accept next year. In fact, the Bill will not be fully enacted for seven years. We should be thinking reasonably ambitiously about an education system that is appropriate for this country for the next 25 years. I am sure that the Government want this to be a landmark Bill which will transform the life chances of at least a third of our young people, but it will not do that unless they make the changes which I have suggested. I beg to move.

I have considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Layard. Clearly, none of us wants to let anybody off the hook as regards doing the right thing for young people and enabling them to learn in a way that is appropriate for their age and abilities and improving their employability in the long run. I am very keen on calling a spade a spade, but parliamentary draftsmen are not very expert at doing so in language which most of us understand. Therefore, the Minister may explain that these words are required to call a spade a spade in the terms in which a Bill needs to be written and do not provide excuses to allow people to get round what they ought to be doing.

Noble Lords will be aware that we on these Benches are not happy about the compulsion element in the Bill. However, we certainly agree that it is highly desirable that young people are given every opportunity by their employers to improve their skills and expertise, and are entitled to time and input from them in order to do so. I shall listen to the Minister’s reply before I fully make up my mind on whether I think the words suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Layard, are needed to achieve his objective.

I, too, am sympathetic to the sentiments behind the amendments of my noble friend Lord Layard, for two reasons. They inject aspiration into this part of the legislation. Although it was said in an earlier debate that we were talking about the 10 per cent who are not engaged in education, training or employment, we are talking about a framework for everyone in an age group. This measure would particularly affect 16 to 18 year-olds who are in employment but are not receiving education as well. It is directed not just at those who have chosen not to engage but at those who have engaged for whom we should be getting a better deal.

The amendments that we have discussed so far today have explored the parameters of education and training. We are trying to develop the concept of education and training further than we could in our Second Reading speeches. A lot of the earlier debates concerned accredited courses. I am very sympathetic to making progress, having accredited courses and gaining certificates. However, now we are talking about another very important element of education. If you are entitled to education, you need that time to reflect on your practice, which you cannot do unless you get some time away from it. That is just as important to me as having the right to follow a course that leads to accreditation or a certificate. Being away from the concentrated efforts of doing something and having time to reflect on your practice is education not training. I know that that was not always the case, having been head of a sixth form in a former life, but private study for sixth formers is an opportunity, if they take it, to reflect on what they have been doing in a more pressurised situation with teachers.

I have sympathy with the amendments, because they provide time to reflect, evaluate, set your next targets and work out whether you have been tough or soft on yourself. Such an opportunity away from the work station, with a teacher providing guided time—I am not in favour of non-guided time—would be an important element, along with accredited courses, that would help us better to describe exactly what we mean by the entitlement that we are giving all 16 to 18 year-olds.

The words of the noble Lord, Lord Layard, certainly raised some queries that I had not previously thought about. The yearly hours are stated in the Bill, but it would be important to know how they are spread out week by week. The noble Lord’s statistic that apprenticeship time has fallen dramatically from five hours to three illustrates the problems that we will face. I am sure that the Minister can explain that the position is not what we might think and that it is all neatly taken care of, but we would like a little more explanation.

The Government are being pulled two ways on this issue. I spent time in previous debates replying on issues related to concerns about excessive regulation by requiring 280 guided learning hours or courses that have been determined as equivalents to 280 hours—as provided in Clause 8(2). We have also been criticised for requiring courses accompanying employment to be accredited. We have taken that step because we wish these courses to be genuine and we want the 280 hours to be for real.

However, my noble friend wants us to go further and to specify that the guided learning undertaken by young people in full-time work should always be away from their workstation. We are trying to hold a credible middle ground between those two positions. It is not because of an oversight that we have not specified in the Bill that guided learning must be undertaken away from the workstation. My noble friend knows better than anyone what the intentions are behind our legislation, since there is no one more assiduous in engaging with us on the plans as we draw them up. I think that my noble friend has met every Minister in the DCSF concerned with these issues apart from me; and I know that a meeting will be forthcoming after the reply I shall give him. He knows it is our policy that there should be flexibility in this regard. It is not our policy that learning should always—I stress, always—be away from the young person’s workstation. Of course, many young people will be released by their employer to undertake training somewhere else, such as a college, so all of their learning will necessarily be away from their workstation. Other young people will receive part-time training provided by their employer, perhaps at a private training provider, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, but perhaps in their workplace also. It is appropriate that there should be that flexibility for training to be provided in those ways.

One of the principles behind the changes that we are making to the 14 to 19 curriculum and qualifications is that learning should be personalised and delivered in a way that engages the young person and suits their individual needs and interests. That theme has been raised repeatedly in our debates. Some young people learn best when they can see the immediate practical relevance and application of what they are learning, so it would not be right to specify in the Bill that for all young people learning must be away from their workstation, as my noble friend would wish.

However, we absolutely agree with him that the learning that young people undertake must be of high quality, that it must be actual, guided learning, and that young people must be learning new things, not simply doing their day-to-day jobs. That is why we were not sympathetic to earlier amendments under which informal, unaccredited, in-house training should count towards the 280 guided-learning hours requirement of Clause 8, or that simply being employed without training should count.

I hesitate to raise my next point, but I will do so and thereby guarantee a meeting with my noble friend afterwards. I am advised that recent research is equivocal on the benefits of training away from the workplace in all cases. A long research paper by researchers who are familiar to my noble friend—Andrew Jenkins, Charley Greenwood and Anna Vignoles—was published in September 2007 by the Centre for the Economics of Education, which has a relationship with the LSE: The Returns to Qualifications in England: Updating the Evidence Base on Level 2 and Level 3 Vocational Qualifications. The research concluded that for men, the wage returns to level 2 vocational qualifications are in fact strongest when those qualifications are acquired in work, as opposed to in college or other settings, which suggested that in those cases learning on the job can be the most effective way of learning. That was described on page 40 of the research paper, which I have here and will give to my noble friend afterwards, because I know that he will wish to engage with us more fully. That gives further support to our contention that there should be flexibility in how learning is provided and we should not impose a rigid straitjacket by saying that in all cases the part-time education or training should be away from the workplace.

I stress again that it is not sufficient for on-the-job training and education simply to comprise skill-accreditation NVQs. Clause 6(1) explicitly states that young people must be doing “a course or courses”, which means a series of classes or lessons on a particular subject. It is not a question of simply being signed up for a qualification that can be achieved without any additional learning. A course must be involved.

I hope that I have gone some way to reassure my noble friend of the seriousness with which we take the requirement that accredited courses should comprise the learning component of part-time education and training, although I fear that we cannot go the whole way with him and require that all such courses be provided away from the workstation.

I am grateful to my noble friend for his thoughtful answer. I have a few reactions. It would be helpful for there to be a definition of “a course” in the Bill, otherwise someone else, outside the Bill, can change the definition of a course. That is one obvious point. As regards the time, I have never said that all the guided learning should be off the job; all I was saying was that there should be a minimum amount. It goes without saying that a lot of guided learning should be on the job, but it is impossible to imagine any outside authority being able to or wanting to prescribe or monitor how much training is on the job, because that is not possible. You may be able to monitor the progress, but that is not part of this Bill. This Bill is about—and we should be clear about this—participation in education and training, not about an obligation on somebody to achieve a qualification, because you cannot have such a thing.

I was keen to stress the difference between away from the workstation and away from the place of employment. It is very desirable that things happen on the employer’s premises. It makes for the best possible integration, where the off-the-job element is happening as well as the on-the-job element—both on the employer’s premises, but not in the same room. One has to be careful about that distinction. I am wondering whether the Minister could get at the presumption that there is a minimum of off-the-job learning. This could be driven through with a cart and horses unless, somehow, there is a presumption that there is an off-the-job minimum or a tight definition of the person’s course, which ensures a quite substantial off-the-job minimum element. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 37 to 44 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Assignment of numbers of hours of guided learning to external qualifications]:

[Amendments Nos. 45 to 48 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

49: After Clause 9, insert the following new Clause—

“Part-time education and training: funding

(1) The part-time education and training, including apprenticeships under section 2(1)(b), of young persons aged 16 to 18 shall be subject to the same levels of funding per person as that provided in relation to young persons in appropriate full-time education or training.

(2) In this section, “funding” includes, but is not limited to—

(a) funding through the provision of educational maintenance allowances and child tax credits, and(b) payments made to providers of education and training including, where appropriate, employers.(3) The amount of funding provided under this section shall be calculated on an annual basis.

(4) The Secretary of State shall lay an annual report before Parliament setting out—

(a) whether funding has been provided in accordance with this section;(b) what sources of funding have been provided, and how much;(c) why, if funding has not been provided in accordance with this section, the requirement has not been met.”

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 49 relates to the funding of the additional education that the Bill seeks to promote. The greater part of the extra education induced by the Bill will be the part-time education or training, which is why we are spending so much time discussing it. That is aimed at people who presently do not get it. The amendment seeks to ensure that the annual funding, per person, obtained by the under-privileged group who are brought into education and training through the Bill is at least as good as the annual funding, per person, given to the more privileged people who go down the full-time route, most of whom, or their equivalent, are already going down it.

There are two arguments for the amendment, each in itself sufficient to justify it. The first is a practical one, the second a matter of principle and social justice. I shall start with the practical argument. There is really only one major problem with implementing the Bill—finding enough employer places to enable young people who do not want full-time education to have a part-time education. That is the only practical problem. If that can be satisfied, the problems of enforcement will not be a big deal because people on the whole will be quite happy to have a job with a wage. I estimate that the number of additional places, with training, to be provided by employers is of the order of a quarter of a million. This is a very serious challenge even though we have got some time. Unless we can find those places, the Bill means that we are forcing young people into full-time education who do not want it, which is a pretty explosive thing to be doing.

How are we going to find these places? It is quite clear that we will not find them unless we have a financial inducement that can be paid to employers who take on young people in a training capacity—like the payments made in many countries to employers who take on apprentices. Such payments would be entirely reasonable. I shall give a few broad facts. At present, a training provider who provides a modern apprenticeship—not normally the employer—is usually paid about the same amount as an FE college providing a full-time education to someone of the same age. So, there is parity, if you like, on the tuition payments. However, students in full-time education also attract EMAs, child tax credits and child benefit. That adds up to approximately £1.5 billion. If a student is in an apprenticeship, he does not need an EMA, a child tax credit or child benefit because he is getting a wage. However, he does need a place.

The main problem with the Bill concerns the finding of places that will give opportunities to young people. Therefore, it seems eminently reasonable to use money to provide employers with places for young people to get a part-time education, just as it is reasonable to provide EMAs to induce young people to take full-time education. These are both parallel and complementary policies for securing extra educational enrolments. That is the practical argument.

The second argument is one of social justice. If you consider most young people who are in full-time education beyond the age of 16, the great majority will get something like five years of post-16 education, including university, at major expense to the state in all of those years. Now, if you consider the people affected by this Bill, most of them get little beyond 16. As a result of the Bill, they will get an extra two years of education, but for most of them, probably not much more than that. The people we are bringing into education here are going to get two years compared to the five years of people going down the full-time route. How could we possibly justify a situation where the people going down the part-time route for that short period are getting less per year than those going down the full-time route for that longer period? However, that is what is going to happen, as sure as eggs is eggs, unless we do something about it. Therefore, there is a big social justice argument connected with the Bill. If we are going to corral these people into education, we should give them as good a deal as we are giving to the full-time people who will get so much more out of the system beyond the age of 16. We absolutely have to do that.

The amendment is necessary for two reasons. First, it is necessary to ensure that the Bill can work. Unless we can show how we can get the places, we should not pass such a Bill. Secondly, it is necessary as a matter of simple justice. I earnestly hope that my noble friend can find some way of including this principle within the Bill. I know that constitutional issues are involved. However, from the Government’s point of view, a Bill that gives no indication of how it could possibly be made to work and no guarantee of fairness to the group who are being forced into compulsory education is not the right way of going forward. I beg to move.

I support the noble Lord’s amendment. His point is a potent one. Those who enter into the part-time apprenticeship form of education, or go into education but have a part-time job, are those who lose out. One difficulty we face, as he rightly pointed out, is that while apprenticeships are probably the best way for these people to acquire education and training—because they are well-motivated when they are in a job and are motivated by that job—we nevertheless have a surplus of applicants for apprenticeships at present. Not enough companies offer apprenticeships. If you ask them, “Why are you not putting forward an apprenticeship?”, they constantly raise the problems of cost, bureaucracy and so on. I refer the noble Lord to the report last year on apprenticeships by the Select Committee on Economic Affairs. It pointed out how very satisfactory a lot of apprenticeships are. Nevertheless, there is quite a strong case for giving a subsidy to employers.

I point out to the noble Lord an anomaly that he has not mentioned; that is, under the train-to-gain scheme, which admittedly applies to current employees of a company, the company gets paid for employees training for a level 2 qualification but if it takes on an apprentice aged 16 or 17 to do a level 2 qualification, there is no subsidy for the company. In fact, it has to pay the apprentice’s wages and 50 per cent of his fees at the further education college for off-the-job training. There are positive cost disincentives to take on apprentices and a positive incentive for companies to take on people with no training whatever and put them through training subsequently through the train-to-gain scheme. This is totally absurd. The Government need to consider aligning the train-to-gain scheme with apprenticeship qualifications.

Those who stay on at school qualify for educational maintenance allowances but those who do apprenticeships do not. In terms of equity, it would seem sensible to establish a level playing field and make it clear that those who go into apprenticeships have the same rights as those in full-time education. We on these Benches support the amendment.

I support this amendment. I am reminded of those part-time-only providers, such as the Open University, that have done very badly out of some of the deals on extended education that the Government have rightly been encouraging in many other areas.

I listened only a few days ago to an employer who was providing apprenticeships at a fairly basic level and was doing very well but was complaining because, as soon as the young person on an apprenticeship had gained a qualification, experience and confidence, they were usually stolen by another employer. That trainer felt not that the money was wasted—they were doing it partly to help the individual—but very much out of pocket. It is only fair that this amendment is taken very seriously indeed. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Layard, will have got his facts more than verified and more than right.

I am very interested in what the noble Lord proposes. I absolutely take the point that employers need some inducement to provide these places, which are desperately needed, and that that inducement could be financial. However, I cannot work out from his amendment—I am probably just being slow—quite how it would work. First, the provider of education under the new scheme will provide it, if he is an employer, part-time; the provider of education referred to in subsection (1) of the amendment would provide it “full-time”. Is there an element of pro rata here? If someone is working, as it were, for two-thirds of the time, over a year, is that equated to an equivalent number of school days below the age of 16, or does it relate to a number of college days if further education is involved? Secondly, I cannot work out what proportion is intended to go to the employer. I think I understand what the noble Lord intends but it seems that it is split in subsection (2)(b) between employers and some others who are, presumably, the people with the workstation, as it were, as opposed to the people with the hands-on job. To help me in this and to shorten what I say, could the noble Lord tell us what he thinks the quantum of the benefit to the employer in a typical case would be, and how many employees would amount to a row of beans when it came to a big employer?

On the question of pro rata, I am not suggesting that. As emerged from our earlier discussions, the teaching side of part-time courses can be quite intensive. Many vocational courses are also more expensive than college-based courses. On top of that, there are problems evaluating an NVQ. That is why, as of now, expenditure on a modern apprentice, which is paid to a training provider—typically, a training company—and the work that they do with the apprentice, including finding him an employer, is the same as the amount that is given to an FE college for a full-time student at that college. There is that parity.

I suggest that extra money needs to go to the employer to find the places, in addition to the money going to training providers who arrange the off-the-job element, the evaluation and the assessment. A total of the moneys will go to people who are going down the part-time route, some of which, as was said, will go through the training provider—or the FE college, if that is where they are doing their part-time training—and some of which will go to the employer; there is that total. Another total comes from the money spent in respect of those in full-time education; some of that is for tuition, some is the educational maintenance allowance and some involves child tax benefits and so on. The aggregation that I am talking about would involve looking at this at the national level—or it could possibly be done locally—and asking what is the total of resources going to one type of person compared with another, and for those going down the part-time, job-related route, guaranteeing the amount of resources per person: that would be no less than the amount going to the more privileged group going through the full-time route. That was my suggestion.

I support my noble friend. One of the most important points about education for the people we are concerned with here is not only gaining knowledge but gaining confidence—the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, made that point. In the UK over the past 30 or 40 years, once young people leave their workplace and go to college, there has been a marvellous transformation—they have gained the kind of social confidence that formerly I used to see visiting the United States. Britain has been transformed by this. Nevertheless, there are whole areas of Britain in which not enough people can do that. We must make this funding available and have suitable colleges that are reasonably provided with the social and other facilities that are available for people attending universities. This area of justice is important.

It also makes those people more effective when they go to work, because they have the ability to communicate. It is when they are not as effective as they might be that there is a drain on our economy. I speak as a small employer of 25 people. With my colleagues, I have seen a transformation in the quality of people coming in when they have been to college. That is what we need to invest in, and it is an anomaly that we are not investing as much as we should be in this valuable part of our society.

We have some sympathy with the noble Lord’s amendment and agree that, if the Bill is to achieve what it sets out to do, those apprenticeships must be available in the first place. The complexities of how the different funding streams will work and how they can be accessed easily by employers must be looked at. We all agree that we must do everything we can to ensure that all employers are fully engaged in providing apprenticeships. We were assured in a recent meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses that it sees apprenticeships as important to the development of business. We will need to look much more closely at what the noble Lord, Lord Layard, has said.

I completely endorse my noble friend’s remarks on the value of apprenticeships. This is why we have increased apprenticeship starts from 65,000 in 1997 to 180,000 last year, and are projecting the number of starts to grow to almost 210,000 by 2010-11. In 2007-08, we spent £624 million on apprenticeships, up from £532 million in 2002-03. That is a significant increase in funding. We project that the £624 million of 2007-08 will grow to £776 million in 2010-11—an increase of nearly 25 per cent. We are putting significant resources behind the overall expansion of apprenticeships.

On the question of remuneration, apprentices aged 16 to 17, and those who are 18 and in the first year of their apprenticeship, have minimum weekly pay set at a level designed to ensure that they receive at least the same amount as those in full-time education or approved training who are attracting the package of EMA plus child benefit and child tax credits. This is the comparison that my noble friend was making.

A recently published survey shows that, in 2007, the average net pay for apprentices was £170 per week. That is significantly more than the maximum package of support available for young people in full-time education or unwaged training, even if any reasonable wages from a part-time job are added in to the equation. However, we have asked the Low Pay Commission to review apprentice pay and the exemption from the national minimum wage. It has called for evidence on this issue and is due to report on its findings and make recommendations to Government by the end of February next year. I am sure that my noble friend will make representations himself to the Low Pay Commission, and we shall certainly draw the commission’s attention to this debate in your Lordships’ House. We would not wish to pre-empt the commission’s report by legislating in advance of that evidence and analysis.

I put it to the Minister that perhaps one problem faced particularly by small and medium-sized employers is the level of apprentice pay. It may not be very high, but, as he has indicated, it is well above the educational maintenance allowance level, and paying apprenticeship wages is a very real cost for employers. Research evidence shows that, in the short term, companies are out of pocket on apprentice pay; but, with advanced apprenticeships, they get back more over the longer term than they do in the shorter term. The level of apprentice pay is a real problem. It is much higher in this country than in Holland, Scandinavia or Germany, where regulations keep apprenticeship pay very much lower than in this country.

The issue of the supply of apprenticeships by small employers is very much on our minds. How we seek to boost that supply is an issue of great concern. I will deal with the specific point mentioned by the noble Baroness; and also with the comments that she made earlier about the direct incentive payments scheme under the LSC’s Train to Gain initiative, whereby employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are eligible for a contribution to wage costs for employees, in order to help them achieve their first level 2 qualification and/or approved skills for life qualification. This was the specific point raised by the noble Baroness; that the scheme does not extend to apprenticeships. I draw her attention, and the attention of my noble friends, to the paper World-class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All that we published earlier this year. It addresses this issue, and the wider issue of how we might better incentivise employers to offer apprenticeships.

Paragraphs 5.16 and 5.17 refer specifically to the Train to Gain initiative and the wage subsidies that are provided to small employers. Paragraph 5.17 says:

“We believe that this approach should be extended to employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees recruiting Apprentices … We do not propose across-the-board eligibility for this incentive payment, as the particular risks of employing 16 to 18 year-olds vary across different types of business, as do the benefits for the programme of incentivising growth in this way. It will be targeted where it is likely to bring meaningful growth (for instance, a target group might be cost-sensitive small businesses in a sector that we know to be afflicted by skills shortages), and the criteria will be transparent”.

It goes on to give other examples of incentive payments that we might make to employers to offer apprenticeships. For example, it cites third sector organisations, which, it says,

“have also got a significant role to play in the expansion of Apprenticeships … In recognition of this, the pilot scheme will also include a number of Third Sector organisations. We will set aside sufficient budget to pilot the scheme in this spending period (and to pilot a variety of approaches with different groups), with the intention of revisiting the total budget and best approach, with the benefit of the pilot’s data, in the next Comprehensive Spending Review”.

So precisely the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and by my noble friend, about how we might more directly incentivise employers to offer apprenticeships, are being addressed by these pilot schemes and by other measures set out in the world-class apprenticeships paper. We would welcome the views of the noble Baroness and of my noble friend and we hope that, when we have got the data from the pilots, they will look at them with us and help us to reach conclusions about the way forward.

I am grateful to the Minister for that. On the question of the employer subsidy, we have a situation where only 30 per cent of large firms provide apprenticeships. It is not just small firms: two-thirds of large firms are not providing apprenticeships. We should not think that a pilot scheme just on small firms will necessarily deal with the problem.

Perhaps I, too, may quote paragraph 5.18 of the world-class apprenticeships paper, which says that,

“we believe that there is scope for moderate growth in Apprenticeship numbers by offering similar direct payment incentives to large companies, so that they can recruit more Apprentices than they need to meet their requirements”.

So the paper also addresses the issue of large employers offering more apprenticeships.

I believe that that is about people training more individuals than they are required to do and being paid for it. However, my impression is that in many cases training anyone will mean the receipt of a subsidy.

This world-class apprenticeships paper is a huge step forward. We have been pootling along over this issue, redesignating some workplace training as apprenticeships but, to be honest, without a major breakthrough until now. We are now poised for a major breakthrough and there is only one reason for that, which is this Bill. Unless we can provide many more apprenticeships and satisfy the apprenticeship guarantee, we cannot possibly implement the Bill, and the Bill is incredibly important because of all the other things that follow from it.

What concerns me about my noble friend’s reply is the lack of a reference to the general principle of how this group of people should be funded compared with those who go down the full-time route. These are the underprivileged people whose educational future we are trying to lift, but all the inertia in the system will lead to full-time people being treated better than this group. I wonder whether it is possible for the Government to think of some way of tying their own hands, because that is what is required. The pressures from the full-time lobby are so strong that the part-time people will never get a deal unless the Government do that. Surely the Bill is about trying to get a new educational philosophy going. It deals with only about 30 or 40 per cent of the population, and this is the first time that we have had a Bill which is concerned only with the less privileged part of the population. With all the old pressures, the full-time route will get the focus of attention and the focus of the money.

I remind the noble Lord that we will have another Bill next year, perhaps somewhat misleadingly called, again, the Education and Skills Bill, and I believe that it will deal specifically with issues relating to apprenticeships. It will certainly deal, for example, with the demise of the LSC and the establishment of the new funding council, and I believe that the apprenticeship issue will be picked up in it.

It will of course be a very important Bill. However, in this Bill we are dealing with the two groups who are not in full-time education: the apprentices and the others. This is the time when we should not forget the others; they will be less privileged than the apprentices and there needs to be a way of ensuring that they get a good deal.

I support the noble Baroness. The prospect of a diminishing perspective of Bills overlapping with each other is really alarming, and if this issue can be decided in this Bill, it should not be postponed until the next.

I am grateful for that intervention. I hope that it will be possible to think of some way in which this issue can be addressed in the Bill; otherwise, as I said, the Bill will convey no idea of how such funding could be implemented or how it could be justly implemented. I shall leave it at that and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage should not begin again until 8.25 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.