House again in Committee on Clause 66.
195: Clause 66, page 38, line 25, at end insert “, and
( ) any such advice and information should not be limited on grounds of disability, gender, sexual orientation, race and religion or belief, and( ) any such advice should be accompanied by an offer of a work experience placement in a non-traditional sector, details of which will be specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”;”
The noble Baroness said: This is a probing amendment suggested by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Its purpose is to encourage debate on, and awareness of, the need to improve and broaden careers advice and to challenge continuing stereotypes regarding gender, disability, race and the other areas covered by the commission. By making this amendment to the Bill, we would, at the same time, promote equality of opportunity in its broadest sense.
Currently, some careers advice continues to make assumptions about the expectations and abilities of certain groups of young people and, as a result, directs them into work that is often low-paid and of a low status. Can the Minister explain how this will be dealt with in the guidance that is being developed at present, and can he give a commitment that work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission on this will continue until the guidance is complete?
The Government’s welcome aim in raising the school leaving age to 18 will, it is hoped, reduce the number of young people who are NEETs, but the Bill also provides a very welcome opportunity to address persistent underachievement among certain groups and individuals identified by the equalities review. One particular problem is stereotyping according to gender, race and so on. That certainly continues to channel certain groups into occupational segregation, which, without doubt, leads to a loss of potential for both individuals and the economy. For example, the EOC, when it was in existence, found that, although more women than men are now entering the professions of medicine and the law, for many girls—particularly those who are entering jobs through vocational pathways—there has been little significant change in recent years, with only 1 per cent of women in construction and only 22 girls enrolling for plumbing apprenticeships in England in 2004. As we know, the same is true in reverse for men, who, for example, make up only 2 per cent of the childcare workforce.
Such segregation is also pronounced for ethnic minorities, as research shows that about a quarter of ethnic minorities are employed in the distribution or hotel and restaurant industry sectors, compared with less than a fifth of white people. For disabled young people, research also shows that, although the scope and level of aspirations among disabled 16 year-olds are similar to those of their non-disabled counterparts, at age 26, disabled people are nearly four times as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people. I hope that a lot of that will be put right by the announcement that has been made today. However, among those in employment, earnings are 11 per cent lower for disabled people than for their non-disabled counterparts with the same level of educational qualifications.
At the same time as training and labour markets are characterised by occupational segregation, industry is experiencing major skills shortages. It is significant that sectors with the lowest number of women are also those experiencing severe skills shortages. I am sure your Lordships will be aware that engineering, for example, is an area where we have not moved anything like as fast as we should have done following the reports on the engineering industry that came out some 30 years ago.
The amendment would also place in the Bill the offer of a non-traditional work placement. We believe that work experience placements are vital in the choices that young people make, as they can be very much influenced by what they see. If they are unable to go somewhere to test their skills, they can at least see how the work operates. However, EOC research found that only 15 per cent of girls and boys received any advice on work placements in areas dominated by the other sex.
I hope the Committee will consider that this is an important area to discuss, and I very much look forward to hearing what the Minister says about its future. I beg to move.
I support the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, in all aspects of her amendment. On Second Reading I mentioned research carried out by the YWCA which showed that the three lowest-paid apprenticeships were filled almost entirely by women, while 99 per cent of the highest-paid apprenticeships were—surprise, surprise—filled by men. We must do all we can to break down gender stereotyping and the other issues that the noble Baroness raised.
We on these Benches also support the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. The YWCA’s briefing notes that Ofsted evaluated the young apprenticeships programme and reported that, in over half the partnerships inspected in 2006-07, strategies to tackle gender stereotyping were either non-existent or had very limited success. In most vocational subjects the number of participants was dominated by one gender. Ofsted has recommended that gender stereotyping be tackled rigorously in the different vocational areas. The statistics clearly illustrate what we need to tackle. It is extremely important that in the push to expand apprenticeships we open up all these areas and end gender stereotyping.
Amendment No. 195 of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, seeks to ensure that the careers advice that schools provide is not limited on the grounds of disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief and that stereotyping of all kinds is robustly challenged through work experience placements. I entirely agree with what she said. Clause 66 places the young person’s interests firmly at the centre of careers education, advice and guidance and introduces a new requirement for maintained schools to have regard to statutory guidance in fulfilling their duty to provide careers education and information. We intend this guidance to include as one of its core principles an expectation that careers advice should actively challenge gender, race, disability and other stereotyping. When the Bill is enacted we will consult on the detailed content of this document and ensure that key stakeholders, such as the YWCA and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, are fully consulted.
As for requiring an offer of work experience in a non-traditional sector, evidence from our 2006-07 data on work experience unsurprisingly show that most young people are fairly conventional in their choices. For example, 19,000 boys—but only 1,500 girls—went on construction placements, while 20,000 girls, compared with only 2,000 boys, took up hair and beauty placements. We should certainly not be seeking to encourage young people to go against their own careers preferences, but it is important not to stereotype. That is why the QCA’s framework for work-related learning specifically promotes the idea that learners should be given a wide range of opportunities to explore different occupations and sectors in their work experience. This underpins our policy that all young people should participate in work experience. Ninety five per cent of them do so, amounting to over 500,000 placements a year.
In addition, last year’s Children’s Plan outlined measures to present young people with more exciting and challenging careers education in school. Opportunities such as taster sessions are intended to broaden their horizons. Detailed planning will start this autumn, with the intention of trying out and evaluating different approaches and writing this up as best practice for schools to be available by 2010. Some £250,000 of development funding has been budgeted for this purpose. It will then be for schools to take note of the good practice and make these opportunities available as they see fit, with the support and guidance of local 14-19 partnerships. I hope that this meets the objectives that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, set out in her opening remarks.
My Lords, I am most grateful to Members of the Committee who supported the amendment and to the Minister. He has given the assurance that I was hoping for. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 196 and 197 not moved.]
Clause 66 agreed to.
198: After Clause 66, insert the following new Clause—
“Personal, social and health education
In section 84 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) (curriculum requirements for first, second and third key stages), after subsection (3)(g), insert—
“(ga) personal, social and health education, and”.”
The noble Baroness said: I shall also speak to Amendment No. 199, which is in the group. The new clause would add personal, social and health education—PSHE—as statutory subjects within the national curriculum at key stages 3 and 4. This proposal has been raised from these Benches previously, and my noble friend Lady Walmsley has long been an enthusiastic and vocal champion of PSHE as a vital part of a child’s education. The Bill now provides an opportunity for this to be put into effect.
For PSHE to become a statutory part of the curriculum, it is estimated that there should be a minimum requirement of an hour a week, incorporating the existing statutory requirements for education in sex and relationships, drugs and alcohol, as well as careers guidance. From Ofsted reports we know that the quality of PSHE as it currently stands is extremely variable and not universally well taught. Under this amendment, PSHE would become a teaching specialism, with initial teacher training set up to ensure a high-quality teaching workforce. That would raise the profile of the subject and reinforce the Government’s commitment to promote pupil well-being.
The National Children’s Bureau reports messages that it has received from young people talking about what they want to learn, and it has come up with five categories of what they want to learn. The first is “to stay safe”—how to build safe relationships, learning about risk and responsibility. The second is “to be healthy”, which includes dealing with pressure and stress. It is about healthy minds and healthy bodies. Thirdly, young people want to make a positive contribution and to learn skills for being confident and outgoing and how to make decisions. The fourth category is “to achieve economic well-being”—how to manage a home and finances and avoid debt. If ever that were necessary, surely this is an occasion, as the country faces tight times, when young people need to know how to manage finances. The last category was “to enjoy and achieve”. That includes communication, motivation and the confidence to try new things.
The school curriculum should enable young people to acquire the skills and the knowledge they need to achieve those aims and to equip them to be successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens—in short, to deliver the outcomes of Every Child Matters. In the course of that they would acquire self-respect and learn to respect others. We read all too frequently—it is almost a daily occurrence—of young people who are caught up in turf wars and violent situations involving knives, alcohol or drugs.
Government figures last week highlighted the UK’s unacceptably high rates of teenage pregnancy. Abortion rates for young people under 15 have risen by 12 per cent, from 1,042 to 1,171, and there is a particularly disturbing rise among young girls under 14—from 135 to 163, a rise of 21 per cent. Last week we also had the report from the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, which, along with the FPA, is making clarion calls for PSHE to be a statutory part of the curriculum so that young people can get easy access to appropriate contraception and sexual health services both in the community and in schools and colleges.
In tackling the many different forms of irresponsible youthful behaviour we need to address the causes as well as the effects. The Government may well be looking for mechanisms immediately to reduce knife crime—which is currently top of the media statistics—but we should not lose sight of the longer-term solutions. The addition of PSHE as a statutory requirement would send a powerful message that the Government are fully committed to promoting children’s well-being for their own long-term benefit as well as for the benefit of society. I beg to move.
I am not convinced of such a provision being almost an examined subject in schools. I see it as much more of an entitlement. It is extremely important that children should be offered exposure to this area, and schools are generally pretty bad at it. Schools do not offer children much education on how to manage money, on how to get on with relationships of various sorts or on sexual health, other than that set out at the moment in some rather unimaginative structures. Anthony Seldon at Wellington College is, as ever, showing the way to make this area of education exciting, engaging and likely to have an impact on children. He is showing that it needs to be part of the whole school life. If we want these sorts of things to work, we need to look at the way the whole school is working. It should be within Ofsted’s remit to look at the way a school works to bring up its children to become proper citizens.
The sort of thing that matters to me in this area is the extraordinary rules that are now being promulgated in teacher training that teachers are not allowed to touch children: children who cut themselves in the playground are to be given a plaster to put on themselves; a teacher may not put the plaster on them. I have checked that with teacher training institutions: that is the advice currently being given to young teachers. Under no circumstances should they touch a child. To bring up children with the idea that that is the proper relationship between adults and children is deeply damaging to children, but that is not a curriculum subject and it is not set out in some way in the curriculum; it is the way that schools are managing themselves these days. That is the area where we have most effect on children in terms of many of the subjects that are covered by PHSE. It should be a whole school thing. It should be within the spirit of the school and the way that it conducts itself; otherwise, we start taking bits of learning into little discrete corners by themselves, turning them into things that are taught by rote in the classroom and risking the inevitable: children do not absorb them or take them on board. There are some kinds of learning that are not taken on board in that way; they are taken on board because it is the philosophy of life promoted by their peers and the school. It permeates the whole school environment.
Although I support what the noble Baroness said about the aim of this amendment, we have to be careful about how we achieve it and how other things we are doing in a school undermine these objectives by creating—to go back to the ban on hugging, which I find extraordinary—a class of children who think that physical involvement with each other is anathema and dangerous. Inculcating that sort of idea has far more lasting effects than anything ever said in PSHE class.
I have a lot of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, but I wish we could leave everything to the leadership and ethos of each school. However, we have to accept that some schools are rather better at putting that form of leadership into practice. I support the intentions behind this amendment. When the Government introduced citizenship classes, it was quite brave because Governments had put them off again and again thinking that they would be used as political propaganda for the side that was in power. However, they were introduced and it was thought that citizenship would be a subject, instead of which it has been distributed into all other subjects being taught.
The one thing that I and my noble friend Lord Northbourne, who I am sad to say is not in his place, were keen on was that parenting would be taught; not relationships with parents, because when teenagers are growing up there are tiffs with parents, but how to be a parent, what responsibilities parents have to take on board and what pleasures they can hope to receive from and impart to their children. Sadly, that has not happened. Perhaps somehow, as well as contraception and all the other more practical forms of encouraging young people not to have children before they are old and mature enough to make those kind of decisions, one could get discussion going about how we bring up the next generation, which will be crucial—even more than usual because there will be so few of them. They will need to be cherished by us all. I support the amendment.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, for moving the amendment and apologise to the Committee for unavoidably arriving only towards the closing remarks of her introduction. I therefore heard my noble friend Lord Lucas on the subject of hugging. He put his finger on an extraordinarily important feature of current society. Unfortunately, it is not just that children are being taught that hugging is not to be expected; adults outside the school are being taught that hugging is not to be done. These days, physical contact with a child can so easily result in a legal response. That is not the subject of the amendment, so I will not go on about it, except to say how very important I think that it is.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, mentioned cross-curricular subjects. I have a deep suspicion of any claim that a subject is taught as a cross-curricular subject, resulting—unless things have changed very much—from the day on which I embarked as a lecturer at a college of education. I was giving what I thought was rather a good and interesting series of lectures on the French Revolution. At the beginning of the series, I had the close—indeed, amused—attention of my students, which I found very gratifying. Suddenly, the following week, I found it impossible to reach them. They had something else on their mind. Eventually, I said, “Look, chaps, you are not with me. What are you worrying about?”. They said, “We have our first practical teaching in school”. I said, “It is not too difficult. You know your subject very well—a great deal better than the children do. All you have to do is keep order and keep them interested”. They still looked worried, and it was not about their knowledge of their subject; it was about their ability to keep order. I said, “Surely you have been taught how to keep order in the classroom; you have had discussions about that with people in the education department, and so on”. They said, “No, no”. So I abandoned the French Revolution and gave what my students, I regret to say, thought were my most valuable three periods on how to keep order in the classroom.
When my noble friend Lord Baker was Secretary of State for Education and Science, he appointed me to conduct an inquiry into discipline in schools. Naturally, we inquired of all the teacher training colleges whether they taught keeping good order or discipline. With no exception, they said “Oh yes, we do”. I did not believe them, so we sent a questionnaire to every student taught in training colleges for the past, I forget exactly how many, years and discovered that only one of them actually taught it; all the others said, “Oh, it is a cross-curricular subject”. It is very important that parenting is not treated in the same way.
The question then arises whether it should be a subject at all. I return, I am afraid, to my constant theme in these debates: the aspect that touches on criminality. An awful lot of children are launched into society with no idea at all of how to relate to other people. They have been brought up by teenage parents who were themselves the children of teenage parents and who do not have the skill to transmit to the children. I have no magic solution to parenting, and I am not at all sure how it should be taught, but it will be vital to our society in the coming years because the phenomenon is increasing. Once that golden chain of knowledge from parent to child to parent to child is broken, no amount of good will or kindness will put it back. It must be organised consciously by the people who are responsible for bringing the child into society. My simple request to the Minister is therefore for an exposition of how his department, or departments collectively across government, propose to tackle this problem. If they do not tackle it, it will overtake us.
I think that the Minister thought he would be spared hearing me banging on about PSHE yet again. I support my noble friend’s amendment and will make a few brief comments.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, did not like the idea of examining the subject. I tend to agree, but it may not be necessary to examine the subject as long as Ofsted inspects the quality. I also agree that PSHE should permeate the whole school and has an effect on the school ethos. We, too, believe that it should be an entitlement, which is why we tabled the amendments, which seek to ensure that every child receives PSHE and that it is high quality. Making this a statutory requirement would mean that teachers were properly trained to deliver some of these very sensitive subjects. Some of the CPD budget could be devolved to train people who already deliver PSHE in many schools but have not been properly trained to do so.
I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that parenting skills should be an important part of PSHE. After all, the subject should be teaching for life, which is of more value than almost any academic subject, perhaps with the exception of English and maths. Teaching the mechanics of sex in science lessons is simply not enough. Young people should be taught about the complexities and difficulties of relationships. When they are taught about parenting, they may improve their relationship with their own parents because they will understand how difficult it is to be a parent if they study the subject in some depth.
Knowledge is power, and power gives confidence. It is important that young people have the confidence to avoid any unwanted hugging. I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lords, Lord Lucas and Lord Elton, have said about the difficulties of touching children these days, but there is such a thing as unwanted hugging. A confident child can say no to that and to unwanted advances from young men of their age if they are approached to have sex before they are ready. Perhaps only when they have looked into this matter with a trusted adult will they build up the knowledge of what might happen if they say yes to unprotected sex, and build up the confidence to stand up and say no when no is the right answer for them.
I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I can think of no subject taught in schools that is less relevant to maintaining discipline in the classroom than the French Revolution. He might have found by the time he moved on to Bonaparte that his material was more relevant.
My notes on the various issues that could be raised in relation to the amendment include maintaining discipline in schools. They say that the 1989 Elton report on discipline in schools is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review of school discipline carried out in England. Having moved on from his French historical studies to examining the specific issue of maintaining discipline in schools, he is now an authority.
As an historian myself, I believe that you can turn the study of history to any eventuality and any other aspect of life. The noble Lord simply reinforces the point.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, said in introducing her amendment, we debated PSHE at length during the passage of the Education and Inspections Act, at the instigation in part of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. The Government’s policy on making PSHE statutory has not changed, but it is far from complacent. In the first place, much of PSHE is already statutory in schools. All schools must have a sex education policy, which is supported by statutory guidance issued by my department on the content and teaching of sex and relationships education. This education is required in law to include education about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. In addition, statutory content in the science curriculum supports teaching about sex and drugs, healthy eating and the importance of exercise. As we discussed earlier today, schools are also required to provide careers education at key stages 3 and 4, and work-related learning must be provided at key stage 4.
Secondly, the department’s priority has been to improve PSHE teaching and learning by providing clear guidance, supporting teachers in continuing their professional development, and identifying and spreading good practice. The national PSHE continuing professional development programme is now accredited and attracts nearly 2,000 participants each year, with substantial government funding to make this possible. The status of PSHE has also been raised through measures such as including it as a requirement for achieving healthy schools status, and we are on track to reach our target of 75 per cent of schools achieving that status by 2009.
Guidance on healthy school status is made available to all schools, and all its opening sections relate to PSHE. It states that a healthy school:
“Uses the PSHE framework to deliver a planned programme of PSHE … Monitors and evaluates PSHE provision to ensure the quality of teaching and learning … Assesses children/young people’s progress and achievement in line with QCA guidance”,
“Has a named member of staff responsible for PSHE provision with status, training and appropriate Senior Management support within the school”.
A healthy school:
“Involves professionals from appropriate external agencies to create specialist teams to support PSHE delivery and to improve skills and knowledge, such as a school nurse, sexual health outreach workers and drug education advisers”.
We have been providing a good deal of support for PSHE. Indeed, I launched the new PSHE Subject Association two years ago to help to promote PSHE in schools, and I am glad to say that it now has more than 900 members and is doing excellent work.
The position is improving, and this progress has been reflected in recent Ofsted reports. Ofsted reported in March 2007 that in primary schools, teaching and learning was judged to be at least adequate in nearly all PSHE lessons and good in three-quarters of them. In secondary schools, the quality of teaching and learning has shown a steady improvement, with 66 per cent of lessons in key stage 3 and 75 per cent of lessons in key stage 4 judged as good.
However, we continue to keep the position of PSHE under review. The review of the primary curriculum, which is currently being led by Sir Jim Rose, has a specific remit to consider how to develop an integrated framework for the personal skills that all pupils should develop through their schooling. Good PSHE is essential to this process. There are also ongoing reviews of drugs education and sex and relationships education. We will consider all three reviews when they report and the future position of PSHE in the curriculum in the light of them. Although I fear that I cannot go further than the Government’s existing policy on PSHE, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, will be reassured by that and by the fact that we are taking forward many of the component parts of PSHE that she highlighted.
I take on board everything that the noble Lord has said. I remain anxious about the teaching of parenting, which is what tempted me to put my name to these amendments. I am not convinced that the school is necessarily the best place to do it. I think that when we come to the later stages of the Bill, we will find that the school can require a child to attend elsewhere than school to receive his or her education. It may be that that duty should fall to a local authority or some other body. I do not pretend to have an answer, but an answer is very much needed. I hope that we may return to this issue at a later stage when we have all thought about it more.
I was not quite quick enough on my maths when the Minister talked about the assessment of good and adequate teaching and how much was neither good nor adequate. Does the Minister know how many teachers teach PSHE without a specific qualification or training? One of our concerns was to raise the professionalism of the subject as a whole.
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. There is a great deal of interest in this subject. We may not have complete agreement on where the solution lies, but there seems to be agreement that it is a very important aspect of the school curriculum for these subjects to be taught professionally, thus enabling young people to become more responsible and more fulfilled citizens as a result of their schooling. It is encouraging to hear what the Minister has said in his reply about the various moves that are being taken forward. I shall read his comments carefully. I am disappointed that he has not gone that extra step to move to this complete proposal and we may wish to return to it at a later stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 199 not moved.]
Clause 67 [Apprenticeships: functions of Learning and Skills Council for England]:
200: Clause 67, page 39, line 27, leave out “contract of employment or a”
The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 201 and 202. The amendments relate to Clause 67, which amends Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, to ensure that the Learning and Skills Council is under a duty to provide proper facilities for apprenticeships for 16 to 18 year-olds. The intention of the amendment is to return to traditional employer-based apprenticeships, rather than apprenticeships based with an independent training provider.
As an employer I can speak with personal experience. It is a very straightforward concept. Employer-provided training is the best method of training people for employment. To me that seems very plain. If we are to ensure the flexible and dynamic training provision that is necessary in an ever more advanced economy, we must put in place the most effective method. I believe that employers must lead the apprenticeship system if we are to raise the skills level. They are best placed to know what skills and training an apprentice will need.
I have had a meeting with Colin Willman of the Federation of Small Businesses. He told me that most of the members of his organisation want to see traditional apprenticeships return. The federation is not convinced that the training envisaged in the Bill will be appropriate to the jobs that it has to offer. It is right to call for a reassurance in the Bill. Currently, there is a shortage of apprenticeship places owing to a lack of employer engagement.
There were only 239,000 apprenticeships in training in 2006-07 and the numbers appear to be falling. Last summer, the Economic Affairs Committee of this House reported that most of the increase in apprenticeships over the years is the result of converting government-supported programmes of work-based learning into apprenticeships. All that new training has been below level 3. Lower-level training has increased at the expense of higher-level training. Of those 239,000 apprenticeships, only 97,000 are at level 3. To drive up standards of apprenticeship, we should look towards the providers out there; that is, employers who are waiting and willing to take on young people to train them to mutual benefit, as long as it is not overly complex and a financial constraint. I beg to move.
Those on these Benches have a great deal of sympathy for the amendments proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. It is extremely important that young people are able to get into apprenticeships. There is no doubt whatever that the provision of work-based learning, as distinct from programme apprenticeships, is considerably better.
I am delighted to speak to this amendment. Given the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, we have a lot in common on this issue. In particular, we had the publication of the draft apprenticeship Bill last week, around which there will be a great deal of debate and discussion, to which I look forward. I have a long speaking note on this. However, I fully appreciate the points made by the noble Baroness. It is essential that apprenticeships are real and employer-led. I am advised that the fall in the numbers to which the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, referred at level 3 is a result of an increased emphasis on level 2, which is employer-led. In order to achieve the Leitch aspiration of 400,000 apprenticeships by 2020, we envisage a significant increase not only in level 2, but also in higher level apprenticeships.
We have very ambitious plans for apprenticeships. The draft Bill goes into some detail, but the Committee needs to recognise that Clause 67 puts down a very important marker; namely, that these proper employer-led apprenticeships, within an apprenticeship framework with a completion certificate, are legitimate training activities covered by this important Bill. That is why this clause is in the Bill. I do not want to detract from a very important and significant debate, and I welcome the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. I understand that there is a huge commitment to promoting really strong demand-led and employer-led apprenticeships for young people. I believe that the Government are putting in, with the new national apprenticeship service, the matching service, significant investment in making the aspiration that Leitch very clearly articulated a reality. As we have said on many occasions, it is about working with employers, which is a tough call that we have to make happen.
I thank the Minister for her thoughtful response. I would have listened with interest to her notes. However, she is right that the draft apprenticeship Bill will discuss apprenticeships much more in depth. I look forward to that discussion. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
[Amendments Nos. 201 and 202 not moved.]
Clause 67 agreed to.
Clause 68 [Provision of transport etc for persons of sixth form age: duty to consider journey times]:
203: Clause 68, page 40, line 5, after “statements)” insert —
The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 203, I shall support Amendment No. 207A in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Low, to which I have added my name. Amendment No. 203 proposes a revised duty for each local authority relating to home-to-education transfer for 16 to 18 year-olds. There are 1.9 million 16 to 18 year-olds in England, 76 per cent of whom participate in education or training, and colleges of further education account for the largest share of educating these young people with 727,000 attending FE colleges as compared with 447,000 attending school. Research shows that young people are often frustrated by the limitations of public transport and that the demand to learn to drive is high. Poor access to public transport in rural areas is a particular impetus to learn to drive. More than 180,000 out of a cohort of 650,000 teenagers obtain a driving licence at 17, which means that something like 25 per cent of all 17 year-olds seek to obtain a driving licence.
The journey to school or college might be one of several made during the day, but is worthy of attention for several reasons. An estimated 10 million journeys to educational establishments are made each week by 16 to 18 year-olds. The journeys are made during the day, often at peak times, which adds to congestion if undertaken by car. Young people and their passengers account for a disproportionate number of the 3,500 road deaths each year. These journeys often make a public transport option viable, with sufficient numbers travelling to the same destination at the same time. Limited funds and limited access to cars among this age group makes public transport a reasonable choice, and the habits developed as young adults often stay with people for the rest of their lives. If young people get used to travelling by bus or by train, they are not afraid of doing so later. Anything we can do to encourage the use of public transport at this stage, the better.
I believe that the Government are currently consulting on a long-term strategy towards a sustainable transport system that supports economic growth in a low-carbon world. The strategy proposes five tests that should be applied to judge transport projects: improving economic competitiveness; addressing climate change; protecting safety, security and health; improving the quality of life; and promoting greater equality of opportunity. More effective home-to-education transport for 16 to 19 year-olds passes all those tests at relatively limited cost.
Local education authorities have a statutory responsibility for home-to-education transport for the 16 to 18 age group. Under the 1996 Act as amended by the 2002 Act, local authorities should have regard to the,
“need to secure that people in their area have reasonable opportunities to choose between different establishments at which education or training is provided”.
The local education authority is required to take into account income, cost, distance travelled from home to school and the needs of those who could not easily attend a particular institution if no such arrangements were made. The Education Act 2002 strengthened those duties by requiring local authorities to publish transport plans, and in 2006 the responsibility for managing these statements passed from the Department for Education and Skills to the Learning and Skills Council. An example of good practice is illustrated by what has happened in Avon and Somerset, where councils and transport operators have co-operated to provide a £420 youth rover card, an annual season ticket for young people. This has increased the numbers using public transport and has also contributed to rising participation in education and training. In London, all those aged under 18 get free travel under the subsidy introduced by Transport for London.
It is important that the Government should pursue the policy of improving the provision of home-to-education transport in the interests of making wider choices available to those on low incomes. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 extended local authority powers to provide transport for school-age children in the interests of encouraging choice and sustainability. However, that provision is insufficient for the following reasons. First, some local authorities are not fulfilling their statutory duty to produce appropriate transport plans. For example, some authorities disregard the issue of choice and suitability by simply assuming that the closest place of study is the right one, regardless of the courses available. Secondly, education institutions have to provide increasing subsidies to fill the gaps in existing public and local authority supported provision. A survey undertaken by the Association of Colleges in 2006 showed that 87 per cent of colleges are subsidising transport at an average cost for each college of over £300,000. Thirdly, the Education and Skills Bill will require councils to consider travel time as well as distance in meeting their responsibilities for 16 to 18 transport provision.
The aim of these amendments, particularly Amendment No. 203, is to propose a revised duty for each local authority relating to home-to-school transport for 16 to 18 year-olds. The duty presently relates to cost, distance travelled, travel time and the needs of those who are unable to access provision. The duty should take greater account of the ability of young people to pay.
I should like to speak briefly to Amendment No. 207A tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Low. We strongly support this proposal, and this issue is one that the late Baroness Darcy de Knayth and I pursued on one or two occasions. It is vital that those with disabilities who cannot access public transport are provided with proper transport to and from their place of education. It is an important aspect of our equality legislation, and I hope that the Minister will look favourably on it. I beg to move.
I shall to speak to the amendments in my name in this group, which have been tabled because I have concerns about whether the Government have adequately thought through the new challenges that students and local authorities alike will face with transport, and to ensure that sufficient funding will be in place to cope. More routes of transport will be needed as new students travel to college, to training placements, and in and out of work. They may need to travel to several different sites to fulfil their obligations. The nature of the new education dispensation means that young people will not necessarily be confined to a single campus.
There may be issues of cross-local authority area transport. Young people are going to take up places on courses convenient to them and relevant to their needs which may not necessarily fall neatly within local government boundaries. I should like a reassurance from the Minister that the Government have considered how they are going to transport the increased numbers of students and apprentices to where they need to be. It would be prudent for the Secretary of State to commission a review into both the effectiveness of transport plans and how much they are likely to cost before passing on the costs to what are already hard-pressed local authorities that simply may not have the necessary mechanisms, tools or funds to cope with the Government’s demands.
I also offer my support to the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, which raises the problems faced by disabled learners. I support fully the aim that no one should be excluded from the Bill because of disability, and I hope that the Minister will consider this issue, ideally as part of the review proposed in my amendments.
I shall speak to Amendment No. 207A, which has already been referred to by the noble Baronesses. This amendment would place on local education authorities a duty to provide transport for disabled learners up to the age of 25 who are pursuing a course of education or training at a further education institution but who, on account of their disability, cannot use public transport or access private transport to attend the course.
The failure to provide transport to disabled students aged over 19 who remain in further adult and continuing education and work-based learning until 25 has been a problem for many years, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, alluded to. A local LSC can agree to continue to fund a disabled person’s education but the local authority is under no obligation to provide transport. This Bill, with its changes to post-16 education, gives us an opportunity to remove this defect.
I have recently become president of Skill, the National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, in succession to the late Lady Darcy de Knayth, and I pay tribute to her and to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for their efforts on this question over the years. The Committee will understand, therefore, that this gives me not only an interest to declare but a sense of responsibility in this matter. Skill has sought legislation on this issue for some considerable time. It has tabled amendments, had meetings and considerable correspondence with Ministers, and had hoped that the Government might have resolved this issue by now having been given a number of assurances to that effect. But, as no amendment from the department has been forthcoming, it is necessary for me to ask your Lordships to make an amendment in this House. This is, therefore, not so much a probing as a prodding amendment.
There is currently a duty on local authorities to provide transport for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities in education who have not yet reached the education leaving age. However, many disabled people may require longer to complete their education and their transition to adult education and services. In recognition of this, legislation also exists that puts a duty on the LSC to provide educational opportunities for these learners up to the age of 25, and the Government give a fee waiver for those pursuing their first level 2 and level 3 qualification up to that age. However, there is a major gap in provision in that there is a power but no duty to provide transport for those learners between the ages of 19 and 25 who remain in education for reasons relating to their disability and may require transport to get to their place of education.
The amendment seeks to address this lacuna in the legislation. Guidance for local education authorities on the provision of transport states that provision should also be made for students with learning difficulties and disabilities up to at least the age of 21, although local authorities should seriously consider extending this to 25, yet there is continuing evidence from voluntary sector organisations and the LSC’s review, Through Inclusion to Excellence, that current arrangements, responsibilities and DCSF guidance on transport for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities post-16—but particularly between the ages of 19 and 25—are not sufficient. For example, the Black Country Connexions Partnership reports that three out of the four LEAs in its area will not fund the transport costs of disabled students beyond the age of 19, and evidence from Skill suggests that this is not unusual. This is affecting progression into employment for these learners and therefore impacts upon skills targets proposed by Leitch and welfare-to-work targets proposed by Freud.
Resolving these issues would allow more disabled young people to take advantage of free further education up to 25. This provision will not be needed by all learners with learning difficulties and disabilities but it must be recognised that a few disabled people will never be able to access mainstream public transport because of their impairments, so those who have transport specified in their transition plans should be entitled to free transport.
Previously it would have been more difficult to legislate for a duty to provide transport for this group of learners as the transport powers lay with the local authority while provision of education lay with the LSC. However, the Bill lays the foundation for transferring to local authorities the responsibility for providing education to learners aged over 16, which provides an opportunity to clarify transport provision for these learners too. LEAs already have a duty to consider transport for all learners as part of the 14-to-19 agenda and have to consider a partnership approach in relation to matters such as urban, rural and cross-border transport. Extending the duty up to age 25 for disabled learners should not therefore impose too great an additional burden on planning and logistics but it will have a huge impact on learners’ access.
As I have said, not all learners with learning difficulties and disabilities will require transport provision to and from their place of education. One approach which has been suggested for reducing students’ reliance on publicly funded transport is travel training. It will not remove the need to provide transport altogether, but it could increase the number of learners who can travel independently and has been shown to lead to considerable savings in unemployment benefit as well as the cost of providing statutory transport. The information available is too limited for a full cost-benefit analysis but I understand that the Department for Transport has recently undertaken some analysis of travel training schemes. Can the Minister confirm that they do indeed represent a useful approach which could reduce the need for students to rely on publicly funded transport and make its provision for those who do need it all the more viable?
The amendment calls for a duty to be laid on local authorities to provide transport free of charge for those identified as disabled in education and needing transport up to at least the age of 25. I have had a helpful meeting with the Bill team and a range of officials in the responsible department and it appears that there is uncertainty about the numbers involved. But spread between more than 100 local authorities, even on the highest estimates which have so far been put forward, the numbers should not be great—not more than 200 or 300 students per authority. There has been more than enough time to resolve these uncertainties while all the talks have been going on. What is needed now to concentrate minds is a duty laid on the responsible authorities.
It should not be the case that a young disabled person has an identified need for learning and that funding has been identified to provide this learning, yet the young person cannot take this opportunity for lack of transport. The amendment has wide support among organisations working in the field of provision for disabled young people and I commend it to the Committee.
Every year I have the pleasure of receiving some work shadow students from Greenhead College in Huddersfield. We were having a discussion on school transport and they told me that the problem they face, which may well be illustrative of the problem many people will face when 16-to-18 education becomes compulsory—particularly when children have to get to educational and vocational opportunities which may be some distance from them—is that although transport arrangements are well organised within a particular district, once you try to travel between districts you get into considerable difficulties. In somewhere quite populous such as the outskirts of Manchester, where the districts are tightly drawn, if you are the wrong side of the boundary you find yourself unable to get free travel to Greenhead, whereas if you are within the right transport district, you do. This practice has grown up as arrangements have been made locally between local authorities and transport providers, and the boundaries are quite strict. Why should the outskirts of Manchester provide transport to Huddersfield when it is out of area, as it were?
I think this has come about because the entitlement is phrased not as a right of the student to have transport to the proper provision but as a right of the ability of the authorities to co-operate in any way they choose to provide transport. Although for sixth-form students it is only a reduction in price rather than free, it is none the less important to children of that age and to their ability to take advantage of the educational opportunity they find best. We need to find some way of focusing the entitlement on the student, rather than for it to be subject to convenience and arrangements that have not been put in place between local authorities.
With regard to Amendments Nos. 205, 206 and 207 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, I entirely agree that we need to look at the transport needs associated with the introduction of the new diplomas and delivery of the 2013 entitlement. That is why we commissioned independent research from York Consulting into the transport needs stemming from the introduction of the 14-to-19 reforms, including diplomas, which was published on 30 June, and I placed a copy in the Library of the House. The report comes in at 126 pages, but I am happy to circulate it to Members of the Committee so they can have a chance to read it prior to Report.
The research found that local authorities do not see transport as a significant problem in the short to medium term. If I read out the conclusion for the noble Baroness, she may not even need to read all 126 pages. Paragraph 52 states:
“In the short to medium term, 14-19 transport issues associated with curriculum-generated additional travel do not appear to have as high a profile as might have been expected or indeed predicted by our preliminary analysis. The majority of areas appear to be coping at present and do not expect numbers of travelling learners to increase substantially during the early period of Diploma rollout”.
However, the York Consulting reports also highlighted some longer-term issues that we are committed to working with local authorities to address. In particular, the report says in paragraphs 30 and 31:
“Future funding issues are most likely to arise in relation to peripheral inter-site transfer which, at present, in most areas is funded by individual learning centres. The scale of future costs is generally not known …
“As the scale of additional journeys increase, there is a need to adopt a more collaborative approach which addresses occupancy levels, shared costs, circular trips, joint timetabling, centre location etc. and ensures that only the most optimal solutions are implemented. For example, minibus leasing and contract negotiation of carrier contracts has, where introduced, demonstrated significant cost savings over learning centre owner operation of buses”.
There is a good deal more on that in the report. We will work with a sample of local authorities to model the transport needed to deliver the 2013 entitlement, and we will publish the results of that work in the summer of 2009. We will also explore the potential of non-transport solutions, such as common timetabling and e-learning, in carrying out that work.
Alongside that research we have published a report focused on solutions already being employed by rural areas, where, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, transport issues feature prominently. We have committed £23 million to support rural areas in developing local solutions, and we will share widely the good practice that they develop.
With regard to Amendments Nos. 203 and 204 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, we share her concern that affordable transport should be available to all young people to access education and training. Local authorities already have a duty to draw up a transport policy statement relating to young people of sixth-form age travelling to school or college. That statement must set out the provision of transport they consider necessary to facilitate the attendance of people of sixth-form age in education. There is already a requirement for local authorities to take cost into account in preparing their transport policy statements, alongside a range of other factors; for example, the distance from home to school or college and the need to ensure choice of education provision. Local authorities must also consider the needs of students who would not be able to attend a particular education or training establishment without help or support.
I turn to Amendment No. 207A, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Low, which would require local authorities to make such arrangements for the provision of transport and otherwise as they consider necessary, or as the Secretary of State may direct, to facilitate the attendance of learners up to the age of 25 with disabilities in further education. I know that there are examples of good work by local authorities in supporting this important group of young people to access provision. In particular, a limited evaluation carried out by the Department for Transport of travel training schemes, which is a scheme where young people with learning difficulties are supported to use public or other forms of transport, shows potentially significant benefits. It shows that travel training can provide new skills and confidence to the young people, allowing them to access education independently as well as being able to travel to other locations and so play a full role in the community. In addition, because they enable learners to travel independently, such schemes have been shown to provide significant cost savings that have enabled the funding available to be targeted more effectively at providing specialised transport to those learners who need it most.
However, while there is some good practice in this area, I agree with the noble Lord that it is patchy and that more needs to be done to ensure that no young person is prevented from participating due to lack of appropriate support. That is why we have committed to working with Skill over the summer to look further into the scale of this issue, the number and needs of the learners affected and how the latter can best be met. That work will include a further assessment of travel training as well as consideration of other ways to mainstream good practice and to bring all areas up to the standards of the best. From our findings we will develop a firm strategy including dates for implementation, and I am happy to discuss with the noble Lord, Lord Low, the outcome of that work prior to Report. I hope that on that basis he will be satisfied that we intend to take serious, concrete action in this area, and will not feel it necessary to press his amendment today.
I thank the Minister for his response to my amendments. Along with all Members of the Committee, I look forward to reading the report. Will he just confirm—I may have misheard—that he believes that learner centres will pay towards the cost of transport in partnership with other partners, and would those other partners include employers and students themselves? I am not sure if I heard it right.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness. I am still comparatively inexperienced in this place, and once when I sought to withdraw an amendment that was grouped I was told that that was not the correct procedure, so I was waiting for my amendment to fall with the rest. However, I am happy to take my cue from the noble Baroness.
I am grateful to the Minister for his careful response. I am sure that Skill will be more than anxious to participate with the discussions and the work of which he has spoken over the summer. I look forward to hearing from him about the outcome of that work before we return to these issues on Report. On that basis, I am more than happy not to press the amendment.
I shall respond on Amendment No. 203 and make one or two remarks about Amendment No. 207A. I am delighted that the Minister is going to do something about this. About 18 months ago, the late Lady Darcy de Knayth and I met the Minister, Mr Rammell. We received promises that action would be taken, but nothing much has emerged from that. I hope that the Minister will pursue this and ensure that we succeed in getting something done.
With regard to Amendments Nos. 203 and 204, I hear what the Minister said, although to some extent he told me what I told him: local authorities should be making plans and talking this into account. It is clear, as I said, that some local authorities are not fulfilling their statutory duties to produce the appropriate transport plans. It is awkward for them; it costs money and we know that they do not like spending money on these things. Money is very tight for local authorities, but nevertheless it is necessary. A lot of young people in the 16 to 18 year-old age group are seeking education and training and it is necessary that they are able to pursue the choice of training that they want.
We will almost certainly bring the amendment back on Report because we need to consider it further. However, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 204 to 207 not moved.]
Clause 68 agreed to.
[Amendment No. 207A not moved.]
Clauses 69 and 70 agreed to.
Clause 71 [Learning aims for persons aged 19 and over]:
208: Clause 71, page 41, line 36, after “their” insert “aspirations and”
The noble Baroness said: I have tabled Amendments Nos. 208 and 209 with the intention of upholding and furthering the spirit of aspiration which is the aim of the Bill. Clause 71 amends the Learning and Skills Act 2000 so that the Learning and Skills Council must secure the provision of facilities for relevant education and training for adults which is suitable to their requirements. My amendment would change the wording to “aspirations and requirements”. We do not want the provision of facilities to be limited to the barest minimum. Mere requirements are relatively easy to meet. However, I, along with, I am sure, all noble Lords, would like people to be able to fulfil whatever aspirations they have and not be obliged to undertake whatever happens to be available simply because it is there and they have no other option. It is individuals who best know what route they wish to follow, and we should use the opportunity afforded by the Bill to provide as great a selection of options as possible.
It is clear that the Bill will not stand or fall on the basis of these amendments, but I am tempted to insert a more generous form of wording. I would like to send a message that we are wholeheartedly about providing education and training, and the provision for those over 19 should not be a grudging afterthought. I beg to move.
If only parliamentary draftsmen could be encouraged to listen to the noble Baroness’s plea for a more generous form of wording, it would keep us all much happier. I need to resist the amendments, but I hope to convince the noble Baroness that the aspiration to which she refers is fully catered for not only in the Bill but administratively.
I have a lot of sympathy with the amendments. Naturally, the debate so far has focused on improving the skills of young people, which is crucial for the country’s future economic prosperity and the life chances for generations of the most vulnerable. I am, however, pleased to be able to turn to the part of the Bill concerned with meeting the challenge we face in building the skills base of the nation’s existing workforce.
We want to help as many adults as possible to improve their skills and achieve their aspirations, whatever they may be. Some adults may aspire to being able to read a novel or to helping their children with their maths homework. Others may wish to gain skills for employment or to further their career prospects.
As I said at Second Reading, much progress has been made in the arena of adult education and training. Both quality and quantity have improved: the success rate on courses in FE colleges reached 77 per cent in 2005-06, up from 59 per cent in 2000-01; and 1.34 million adults have upskilled to level 2 since the end of 2002. I therefore believe that we are making progress.
The reforms to the post-19 learning and skills system are now focused on building on the successes to date to create a system that is more responsive to learner and employer demand and provides everyone with the platform of skills needed to succeed in life and work. The new duties in Clause 71 are a key part of our drive for world-class skills in 2020, which was encapsulated in the Government’s response to the report of my noble friend Lord Leitch on the UK’s skills needs.
Since the Learning and Skills Act 2000 was passed, the Learning and Skills Council has been able to fund a range of provision for adults at varying funding rates. Until now, however, there has not been a legal duty on the LSC to secure free tuition for adults. This is one of the things that the clause provides. It will also give individuals the right to expect education and training in skills at basic and intermediate levels which they will need to achieve their aspirations, or at least to take the first crucial steps towards achieving them.
To help learners achieve their aspirations, we need to create a system that responds to learners’ individual requirements. I think that that is exactly the point that the noble Baroness is making. Ensuring that people have the opportunity to obtain a wide range of skills at basic and intermediate levels is the most effective way to improve the life chances of those with fewer skills and to support social justice.
To this end we are placing a new duty on the Learning and Skills Council to secure the provision of proper, rather than reasonable, facilities for certain specified adult qualifications. To fulfil this duty, the LSC must secure the provision of facilities for education and training of a quantity sufficient and quality adequate to meet the reasonable needs of individuals, and which is suitable for their requirements. For specified courses, this will bring the duties on the LSC in relation to adults into line with those for young people. This is a very important step forward.
In practice, that means that adults can expect free and appropriate provision of basic skills qualifications at level 1 literacy and entry level 3 numeracy, their first full-time level 2 qualification. In addition, for 19 to 25 year-olds, there will be free tuition for their first full level 3 qualification. Because learner choice is clearly paramount in meeting the reasonable needs of adults, the legislation will require the LSC, in exercising its duty, to increase opportunities for learners to exercise choice and to encourage a wider range of education and training opportunities, as set out in new subsections 5(d) and (e) of new Section 4A to be inserted into the Learning and Skills Act 2000. That should offer the noble Baroness some reassurance. The provision includes ensuring the provision of part-time courses and a close fit with the needs of the local, regional and national job market. Effective information, advice and guidance from the Adult Advancement and Careers Service will support learners in identifying the right courses for them and, if necessary, finding a range of suitable alternatives to meet their needs and aspirations.
Despite my general support for the intention behind the amendment, I do not think that it is appropriate at this stage. The LSC is a high-level strategic funding body which does not have the day-to-day contact with individuals that would be needed to assess their needs according to their future goals or aspirations. I would suggest that the Adult Advancement and Careers Service, the learndirect advice line and learning providers are best placed to engage directly with learners to help them access the courses best suited to them, as I know that the noble Baroness is keen to see. The clauses are carefully balanced to ensure that the duties on the LSC enable it to operate in practice, while at the same time enabling learners’ needs to be met. That is why it uses the language of “requirements”. I assure the noble Baroness that I believe that the provisions in Clause 71 provide the essential building blocks that learners need in meeting their aspirations.
On Amendment No. 209, the new duty on the LSC to secure the provision of proper facilities for relevant education or training for adult learners requires that those facilities are, as I said, “sufficient” in quantity and “adequate” in quality to meet the reasonable needs of individuals. As I said, our further education system is good and getting better. Over three-quarters of students in learning go on to achieve their qualification and by 2011, with the assistance of these new adult skills provisions, we hope to increase this success rate to over 80 per cent.
I hope that I have offered the noble Baroness the reassurance that she rightly seeks and that she will be able to withdraw her amendment.
I ask the Minister for clarification of what she said, to which I tried to listen very carefully. The language of requirements is neutral; it can be either the requirement of the recipient or the requirement of the person who identifies whatever are—and I quote another phrase that the Minister mentioned—reasonable needs. We have words such as “reasonable needs” and “aspirations”, the latter of which the Minister used herself many times although she is rejecting it in the amendment, and then “requirements”. I am not quite clear who is to define those requirements. Will the LSC be able to take into account the aspirations of the adult or will the needs of the local area for employment have to balance them? Perhaps I am being unnecessarily stupid in not understanding what the Minister said, but I would be grateful for some clarification. “Requirements” is a neutral word; it does not tell us who is going to define these requirements—the individual or the LSC.
I do not want to be flippant but while I was reading the speaking note I was thinking about Harry Potter and the room of requirements. I do not know whether noble Lords have read the book, but the room can supply you with whatever your requirements might be. It is a very interesting concept.
My interpretation is that the LSC must create a balance between all the duties placed on it. On requirements, it is clear that we are providing an entitlement to new additional skills level training, and that the LSC must make provision that takes into account the local employment market and the skills gap in the population. Those are the high-level duties on the LSC. The argument that I am trying to make—and whether I am making it very successfully is another question—is that, for an individual’s aspiration, there will be a toolkit of funding provision and courses available. There will be the Adult Advancement and Careers Service, which will support any individuals who could benefit from a level 3 numeracy booster or a level 2 training provision. The Adult Advancement and Careers Service would talk in detail to adults and discuss with them what their aspirations might be, then help them to identify what courses are available. Some of those courses will be fully funded by the LSC and some may not be—but that adult advancement service will help individuals to identify a tailored menu of options for that adult learner.
I am happy to write to the noble Baroness in fuller terms, if that would help, but that is what we are trying to explain here and that is why we are amending the 2000 Act to make it more explicit—in legalese terms.
I hope that we may share that letter. The Minister’s reply to my noble friend’s very humble amendment was quite surprising. We have three or four paragraphs on how excellent the present system is and what it has delivered, then we had many more on how much is going to be delivered under the new system, but there was nothing much addressing the question of aspirations as distinct from requirements. We have now had requirements defined, but I have not heard a reason why aspirations should not be included, except for the suggestion that the council will be too exalted to assess them—although it can apparently assess requirements.
At this point I am tempted to reflect that every Bill team, backed and encouraged by every parliamentary draftsman, starts from the position that the Bill is perfect and must be defended and only slowly yields to a suggestion that it could be in any way improved. Parliamentary draftsmen can, on occasion, be persuaded to revisit an issue; this may not be such an issue—but until we know how the Minister interprets “aspirations”, as compared with how my noble friend interprets the word, it is really very difficult to see whether we should ask the Minister to do so or not.
I shall attempt to respond. The noble Lord has a great deal of wisdom in his remarks. I had a wonderful sentence which I could not bring myself to read out—and I shall not do so now—which said that adequate could be defined as sufficient and, of course, sufficient as adequate. I am not sure that that helps to take us forward.
The Learning and Skills Council is operating at a population level and the Adult Advancement and Careers Service is operating at a one-to-one individual level. The argument that we are making is that aspirations are defined at an individual level and requirements less so. I am very happy to write to noble Lords and we can have this discussion again, if the noble Baroness will be kind enough to withdraw her amendment and give me another chance. I appreciate that these are very important definitions that need to be clear, so I am not belittling her amendment in any way.
I have just been handed a further note that says that this—whatever “this” is—reflects the current duty on the Learning and Skills Council in relation to young people in the Learning and Skills Act 2000. That refers to another point that I have not made clear, about consistency with the legislation applying to young people. The adult provisions here are consistent with what already exists for young people. We are keen not to create an inconsistency.
I have another note saying that aspirations are subjective, while requirements are measured against national priorities—literacy and numeracy, level 2 and level 3.
I thank the Minister for her generous response. I do not think that those last two notes helped her very much. However, I know that she is minded to understand my desire to ensure that adults are able to reach their aspirations and requirements as well as ensuring a much sought-after skilled adult workforce. I thank my noble friends for their contributions, which opened the discussion further. I am disappointed, however, that I could not persuade the Minister to be more generous in responding to my amendments but, as I said, the Bill will not stand or fall on the basis of those amendments. I hope that I will continue to highlight our need to ensure that individual learners are given every opportunity and choice to reach and acquire those needed skills. I will read very carefully the Minister’s well chosen comments.
On Amendment No. 209, when I heard the Minister refer to “sufficient” and “adequate”, I thought what grey words they were. However, at this point, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 209 not moved.]
209A: Clause 71, page 42, line 18, at beginning insert “co-operate where appropriate with local education authorities and”
The noble Baroness said: This is an unassuming little amendment. The need for it in the Bill is so clear that I have a faint hope that the Minister will accept it. Clause 71 specifies many duties that we very much welcome, although some of us feel that it does not go far enough, as the Committee will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, in the next two groups. The Learning and Skills Council must take into account a number of issues. New Section 4A(5)(d) states that it must,
“act with a view to encouraging diversity of education and training available to individuals”.
FE colleges will supply the majority of the post-19 market, and there will of course need to be close co-operation between them, the 14-to-19 partnerships, local authorities and the Learning and Skills Council to ensure effective planning and commissioning and that there is enough capacity throughout pre- and post-19 provision.
We know that next year the duties of the Learning and Skills Council will be devolved elsewhere. However, for the moment, it is the organisation with responsibility for post-19. It is blindingly obvious that if the LSC and its successors are to have regard, as it says in new paragraph (d), to,
“act with a view to encouraging diversity of education and training available to individuals”,
it will need to co-operate where appropriate with the local authority.
That is the unassuming little amendment that we have added to the new section in Clause 71. I look forward to hearing the Minister accept it or, if not, justifying not accepting it. I beg to move.
We have some sympathy with the amendment. It would have the Learning and Skills Council co-operate with local education authorities when encouraging the diversity and training available to individuals. As local education authorities are likely to be the bodies that facilitate much of the training and education opportunities, it seems a sensible move to require them to be involved with the LSC’s planning and decision-making processes.
I have a sense of déjà vu, because a year ago we debated the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and talked about this question of local area agreements and co-operation with different bodies. I am advised that it is appropriate to resist the amendment because it is not necessary, not because we do not agree with it.
It is of course important that the LSC co-operates with local education authorities. The LSC already engages with local authorities in a range of contexts. Local authorities prepare local area agreements that set out the deal between central and local government and their partners to improve services and the quality of life for local people. The Learning and Skills Council is a key partner authority and plays a central role in ensuring that local area agreements can help to deliver the right level of skills in the right priority areas. Ninety per cent of local area agreements include a skills target. The best model for securing the achievement of the skills target is through the creation of a local coalition of partners who together bring a wide understanding of the community—such as future employment trends and the skills and qualifications that local people will need to secure those jobs.
Further to strengthen those arrangements, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 introduced a new duty on responsible local authorities and partner bodies to co-operate in agreeing local improvement targets in local area agreements. In addition, the LSC now works with around 150 local partnership teams. Their role is to work on a day-to-day basis with local stakeholders, including local authorities, employers and others, to identify the learning and skills needs of each area.
The geographic area of the local partnership teams that the LSC has established broadly follows those of local authorities. This approach has already provided a positive model for local partnership working and a more flexible response to local and sub-local learning and skill needs. In London, the London Skills and Employment Board, which is chaired by the Mayor of London, formulates strategies for the work of the LSC in Greater London. That has given us the model for a strategic body that can lead on employment and skills issues on a city-wide basis.
The amendment would impose an additional requirement on the LSC so that when performing its duty to secure the provision of proper facilities for education and training under proposed new Section 4A(1) to be inserted into the Learning and Skills Act 2000, the LSC would be required to co-operate where appropriate with local education authorities. As we have heard, proposed new subsection (5) provides a list of factors that the LSC must take into account, or act on, when performing the duty to secure the provision of proper facilities for education and training. The LSC must, for example,
“act with a view to encouraging the diversity of education and training” ,
“act with a view to increasing opportunities for individuals to exercise choice”.
It is implicit in such requirements that in order to fulfil its duty in proposed new Section 4A(1), the LSC will need to co-operate with a range of partners at local, regional or national levels—local education authorities, Sector Skills Councils, Jobcentre Plus and regional development agencies, for example. None of those partners is specified in this section of the Bill.
As part of the machinery of government changes announced in June 2007, we proposed creating two bodies. Responsibility for funding the education and training of young people aged 16 to 19 will transfer to local authorities, supported by, as the Committee is aware, a new Young People’s Learning Agency. For adults, the Skills Funding Agency will underpin a new system that will be developed to deliver a comprehensive set of entitlements for learning, advice and support, with colleges and providers having the freedom that they need to meet the needs of employers and individual learners. Clearly, it will be important for both the new funding bodies to engage with each other and local authorities in order to respond to the skills needs at national, regional and local level.
I hope that the Committee will see that the Learning and Skills Council already works co-operatively with local authorities, and co-operation by the Learning and Skills Council and local education authorities is implicit in the duty in the new section. In addition, introducing the requirement would create a mismatch with the duty on the LSC in Section 2 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. Given the approach I have described, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. I am delighted to hear that it is implicit in the Bill’s wording that the LSC will have to co-operate with local authorities. She has made that clear from the Dispatch Box. I take from that that it is inconceivable that the LSC might ever fall down in its duty to co-operate appropriately with local authorities. I very much hope that that is the case. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
210: Clause 71, page 43, line 10, leave out “but not the age of 25”
The noble Baroness said: I move this amendment because the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, is not well enough to be present. However, I am sure that he will speak to it at a later stage. Certainly, it is welcome news indeed that level 3 qualifications will be available up to the age of 25. However, the amendment seeks to remove that upper age limit.
The Leitch report is a great wake-up call for action and the Government’s response—to be a world leader in skills by 2020, with more than 40 per cent of people having a qualification at level 4—is certainly brave. However, given that Germany and the USA have already achieved that 40 per cent figure, that will not be enough. Those countries will not stand still for 15 years. They have the basis at level 3 for moving on well beyond that figure by 2020.
The report on apprenticeships produced in the 2006-07 Session by our Select Committee on Economic Affairs tells us that in 2003, 78 per cent of Germans were already at level 3 and above by their early 30s; a massive 35 percentage points more than our score of 43 per cent. Against that competitive imperative, we need to reformulate our target to at least 45 per cent. In fact, we argue that it needs to be a straight 50 per cent, and that we need to begin to face up to that now.
The short guide to the Bill tells us that 74 per cent of the UK’s working age population in 2020 will be over the age of 18. We can respond to the national economic imperative only by bringing far more of our workforce up to level 3, so that there is a basis for many more moving on to level 4. If we face up to the reality of what needs to be done, instead of ducking it, as has happened over the past 140 years, we need to go all out to lift the proportion of the working population up to level 3, irrespective of age. If people did not have the opportunity given to others to get to level 3 at no cost when they were young—I accept it might partly be their fault that they did not engage with education at an earlier stage—we owe it to them and to the national interest to offer them that opportunity to get a level 3 qualification now.
Therefore, while we welcome the Government’s intention to provide for a first level 3 qualification without fees up to age 25, I stress again that in our view that will not meet the imperative needs of the times. I suspect that the Minister will refer to cost. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I do not say too much about that because the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has had extensive consultation on it with officials and the Minister and will want to return to it on Report. I beg to move.
I support the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, as the Committee would expect me to given some of the amendments that I moved earlier. It is vital that some of the most vulnerable and poorest are given the opportunity to increase their level of educational attainment as far as possible. This starts with a level 1 qualification. To achieve a GCSE at level D to G may be regarded by some people as a great achievement. Without a level 1 you cannot go much further. You need to build on it. If you have not achieved that level of qualification by the age of 19, you will have to start at the bottom. If we are to tackle child poverty, it is particularly important that parents are able to get the qualifications to enable them to hold down a job. I hope that if that occurs, we shall not get the cycle of unqualified parents not having any great knowledge of the world of education or experience of qualifications passing that on to their children, and thereby creating a downward spiral.
I, too, shall duck cost, but, frankly, whatever it costs, it is worth it because it will be an investment in the long term. People with qualifications will be able to get a job, whereas otherwise they might end up on benefits. They will pay tax. Qualified people tend to get better jobs. With job satisfaction comes a certain balance in one’s life style. The possibility of stress and other mental health problems that unemployment brings will be avoided. I hope that the Minister will not refer to silos of funding as regards this group of amendments. It is important to bear in mind that if we invest in education, we may save on expenditure in other departments, including health and criminal justice. I very much support the amendment and shall leave it to others to discuss cost.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has done the Committee a great service in making us look at experience outside the country as we build this country’s education system. One has only to look at the exchange rate for sterling at the moment to see that a very important issue is at stake. We are in competition with the rest of the world and cannot afford simply to look at the internal standards of this country if we are to hold our place in it. Therefore, I certainly support the attempt of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, to move us on.
I hope that the noble Baroness can clear up a confusion for me. I understand that one of the qualifying courses is level 1 literacy. However, if someone is not yet at a level where they can take on level 1 literacy, but needs to do an entry level qualification first, will that be free? The noble Baroness nods. That is encouraging. I did not read the Bill that way.
Despite the financial qualifications to which the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, referred, which I am sure will weigh heavily on my Front Bench, it seems to me that the age range during which people really need this provision is that of 30 to 45. Below 30 you can be desired for your body alone. You have a decent set of muscles, as yet undamaged, and you can do heavy work such as tree surgery. You can take on danger and situations needing quick reactions and probably do not yet have family responsibilities. There are a lot of jobs for young men—and, doubtless, young women—who are prepared to work hard. However, when you hit 30, your bones start to creak and you may have broken one or two. You can see that you will not be able to do such work for the rest of your life. That is the period when the need to get a qualification comes to the fore. It is also when you are short of money and you cannot just go without beer for a few months to find the funds for an evening course, because you are committed to family and all the expenses that brings with it. After about the age of 45, perhaps, the utility to the nation of your getting a qualification is not there. We ought to be concentrating on that period of 30 to 45. Limiting this provision to 25 really just picks up a few young people who realise quite early on that they need an extra qualification. I do not think that it will pick up the people to whom it should apply.
The amendment removes the upper age limit for those who will receive free tuition. The idea is certainly attractive; education and training should be seen as lifelong processes. We should never wish to say to someone, “You are too old to get this training”, or “You have left it too late to enhance your education”. At any stage in a person’s life, they should have the opportunity, should they want it, to take up education or training. However, I worry about how this would be funded. Aspirations are one thing, but if they are to be encouraged, we must be sure that we can provide for them. Would the Government be prepared to make any extra funding available? We would not like to see the budget for other areas of training being cut.
I can confirm that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has been in extensive contact with the department and with me. I am very sorry that he is not well enough to be here today, because he has put a lot of thought into the amendments. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for her remarks and for moving the amendment, which has allowed us to have this debate.
It is right to say that we are talking about the priority of where we feel that we can invest funding to have the biggest impact. I make no bones about that; that is what the focus on this age group is about. I understand the intention behind the amendment and the desire to engage as many adults as possible in level 3 qualifications. The provisions in the Bill are aimed at doing just that. We are focusing resources on ensuring that as many adults as possible have literacy and numeracy skills that allow them to function in life on a daily basis and, beyond that, that they have the basic platform for employability that a level 2 qualification provides.
So why are we focused on helping young people aged 19 to 25? Compared to countries such as France and Germany—it is right that we look beyond our own shores—in the UK we have far fewer adults achieving level 3. Among 19 to 21 year-olds, the evidence shows that the number of people qualified to level 3 as a percentage of the population is on a par with our counterparts in Germany, the US and France. But by the age of 25 to 28, our competitors have caught up and overtaken us: 74 per cent of adults aged 25 to 28 in Germany and 62 per cent in France have level 3 qualifications or higher, compared to 54 per cent in the UK.
Noble Lords are aware of the challenge that we face in terms of level 3. Learners in that age group are more likely to study full-time and are less likely to have an independent source of income. Evidence suggests that focusing resources on young adults during their transition into work is an effective use of government resources.
The adult learning survey, last conducted in 2005, shows that the incentives that most appeal to younger adults who are not in learning are those aimed at removing practical obstacles to learning, such as help with learning costs, addressing childcare problems, providing learning in more convenient places and providing time off work to learn. As learners get older, the quality of advice becomes increasingly important. In addition, data on average wages suggests that adults under the age of 25 without a level 3 qualification are in greater need of a government subsidy. According to the labour force survey, mean average weekly wages for 19 to 24 year-olds without a level 3 qualification are £285, compared with £370 for those aged 25 to 29. I think noble Lords can see where I am going with this.
There are also strong policy reasons for our position. Up to the age of 19, every young person who wants to participate in education and training is guaranteed free access. Beyond 19, there is a clear, well-understood pathway for young people who have achieved a level 3 qualification to progress into higher education. They are well supported to continue their initial education. Even when the other provisions in the Bill that raise the participation age are fully implemented, there will still be young people who, for various reasons, will benefit from being able to access free level 3 qualifications up to the age of 25. That provision will help those young people to finish their education and, I hope and believe, will move more young people on to higher education and careers.
Finally, there are good, practical reasons why now is not the time to extend the entitlement to free first level 3 qualifications to a wider age group. The administrative entitlement—I understand that means what we are actually doing rather than what we are putting in law—the first full level 3 qualifications began to operate in September 2007. So it is still relatively new, and its practical operation and success need to be assessed and its affordability tested before we examine options for extending it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, suggested, we need to test it. Level 3 learning programmes are expensive, and our initial analysis is that extending the provision to include all adults would cost around £470 million over the next three years. We do not want to put pressure on the resources set aside for helping those with the lowest skill levels, which is crucial to our future economic success and for social justice.
I reassure noble Lords that we are not closing off the possibility of extending the duty in the way in which the amendment proposes. The proposed power in proposed new subsection 4B(6) would give the Secretary of State the flexibility to change by order, subject to approval by Parliament, the age bracket to which the duty applies. In the future, it may be, for example, that our policies pre- and post-19 are so successful that the current skills gap closes. Then we may wish to refocus resources towards a different age group that had been identified as being in greater need of additional support. We are not, therefore, closing down the avenue that the amendment explores. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.
I am very grateful indeed for the comments that have been made, and even for the doubts that one or two noble Lords who have spoken had about the amendment. I am particularly grateful for the detailed way in which the Minister replied.
I admit that, if I were looking at this issue from just the point of view of the education budget, I would see at least some of the Minister’s points. But one needs to think, as was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that there are health reasons, including mental health and keeping people alive and out of hospital, that might very well contribute more to the national well-being as far as budgets are concerned.
On behalf of my noble friend Lord Dearing I thank the Minister very much. I know that my noble friend will be most grateful for what she has said, particularly on flexibility that there may be—if things improve—for a different age level. For the moment, I will withdraw the amendment, read very carefully what has been said and decide what to do at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
210A: Clause 71, page 44, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) a specified vocational qualification at level 1,”
The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 211A. Both amendments are in the names of my noble friend Lord Dearing and myself. We very much welcome the provision that has been made in the Bill for those without level 1 skills in English and maths to receive free tuition, but the amendment is designed to give those aiming for a level 1 qualification the same right to free tuition as the Bill gives to those aiming for a level 2 qualification. This means that in addition to a free course in English and maths provided for in the Bill, there would be an additional right to three vocational qualifications at level 1—the equivalent to GCSE passes in grades D to G.
The people whom we are talking about are the most vulnerable to unemployment as unskilled jobs disappear over the next decade. They are also likely to be the lowest-paid workers and least able to afford any fees. In view of their experience at school, which may not have been beneficial for them, and which may not have been entirely their own fault, they are the people who find it most difficult to get back into the education system. They need incentives, not barriers.
Empowering them to earn a decent living is surely the best way of meeting the Government’s commitment to ending child poverty. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and others have touched on the cycle of deprivation. Improving the attitude of these people to education through coming back into it after failing at school is surely an excellent way of enabling and encouraging them to support their children in learning. I have seen excellent examples of that in Sure Start schemes. It is remarkable how a parent who has been absolutely terrified of their schooling can come back into a primary school and start to do courses on their own and, perhaps, with their children. They change their whole attitude to the school. I am sure we would all agree that action to improve the life chances of these people is certainly needed to promote social harmony. We need to be alert to the high proportion of ethnic minority children in this group, particularly those from the Muslim community.
As an economy, we cannot afford a tail of unskilled and unqualified adults. I quote the speech of the Prime Minister at last year’s Labour Party Conference. He said that,
“this is the century when we cannot afford to waste the talents of anyone. Up against the competition of 2 billion people in India and China, we need to unlock all the talent we have. In the last century the question was, ‘can we afford to do this’. In the face of economic challenge, I say: in this century we cannot afford not to”.
For their sakes and for all our sakes—especially for the sakes of the children—we must help these people to earn a living in the challenging times that lie ahead. As the Prime Minster said,
“we cannot afford not to”.
I beg to move.
I touched on this issue in discussing the previous amendment. I support the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. For some people, level 1 is the first stepping-stone, and English and maths alone are not enough—they need to have free tuition in two or three other subjects to be equipped to do a job at all. English and maths on their own will not be enough to get them out of the spiral of poverty and deprivation.
We support the introduction of vocational subjects at level 1, to be included with level 1 in English and maths. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, said, it is the groups that are the hardest to reach that need to be encouraged. Level 1 in vocational subjects is the right route to assist them to do that, particularly given that, as the noble Baroness eloquently said, we live in fast-moving times and these groups will need those basic skills if we are to be competitive. We wholeheartedly support that.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, for moving the amendment and allowing us to have this short debate. It has been especially interesting because it has led me to think more carefully about the difference between the learning process for school-age children and young people and the policy assumptions we make about adult learners. I hope to convince noble Lords that we see a difference in the approach to adult learners which will enable them to leapfrog level 1. We want adult learners to achieve level 2, which we regard as the foundations for employability and so on.
I have great sympathy with the intention behind the amendments. As with the other amendments on level 3, if we had greater resources, we would endeavour to make more courses completely free to learners. However, we need to focus on the priority areas set out in the Bill. I understand noble Lords’ concerns that some learners without the ability to undertake a course for a level 2 qualification might be missing out because they need to move through the various qualification levels. The school-based system of qualifications where children progress from one level of learning to the next does not necessarily fit adults in the same way. Provided that adults have an opportunity to address the basics of literacy and numeracy, they should be able to access a level 2 qualification and skip one or more of the levels. It is precisely because we want to improve the work and life opportunities of adults and their families that we are proposing incentives to undertake qualifications that make people more employable.
I want to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and others who have contributed on the issue of helping unemployed adults or those on a low income. We are committed to supporting learners on low incomes. Those in receipt of means-tested benefits and many on working families’ tax credit do not have to pay course fees. This includes those undertaking level 1 qualifications. People with skills at level 2 or higher are half as likely to be unemployed as those below level 2. There is not the same evidence that individuals achieving level 1 qualifications reap such rich returns, and that is why we want to focus on level 2. People can skip directly to level 2. This does not mean that we doubt the importance of other levels of learning, which often provides a valuable progression route into other qualifications and promotes a positive attitude to learning and education. We just do not believe that providing level 1 vocational qualifications free to those without relevant skills is the right use of government funding, as we want to incentivise adults to undertake qualifications from which they stand to gain most. Therefore, again, it is a question of priorities.
It is important that the Committee does not take away the message that the Government do not value entry and re-engagement learning below level 2, which has been a concern of noble Lords. Indeed, we are investing a total of £1.5 billion each year in learning below level 2. Some £210 million of this annual investment will be spent on informal adult learning, which I know is an issue of great interest in this House. We have just finished consulting on how best to use some of these funds to support individual learning and engagement, and will report back in the autumn. I am sure that we will have the opportunity to have a good discussion about it when the House returns. The Learning and Skills Council’s annual statement of priorities, published in November 2007, sets out that in 2008-09 we will support around 380,000 places on foundation learning tier programmes, more than 1.2 million Skills for Life places and around 630,000 places through the adult safeguarded budget. That is more than 2.2 million LSC-funded places on learning below level 2.
Through the creation of the foundation learning tier, we are also rationalising qualifications at entry level and level 1 to ensure that learners who take these courses from age 14 onwards will be gaining valuable qualifications that help them to progress. We also made a commitment in the further education White Paper to extend the level 2 entitlement, over time and as resources allow, so that it can include programmes within the foundation learning tier that support progression through to level 2—the key level—and beyond. Even without that extension, we expect a significant proportion of learners undertaking level 1 qualifications via the foundation learning tier to have their fees remitted in full and thus receive free learning.
As with my previous answer on extending the free entitlement to level 3 courses beyond the age of 25, the Government will continue to monitor progress towards the Leitch ambition very carefully. In future, as I have said before, should we decide that we are in a position to extend the legislative duty to courses below level 2, the proposed order-making power will allow us to do that.
I hope that I have convinced noble Lords that we are committed to funding support for learning below level 2 and that the amendment is not necessary.
The noble Baroness’s last remark was reassuring because the door is left open for her to do what the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, would have her do. However, speaking as someone who is not yet familiar with this range of education, perhaps I may ask her to clarify something for me. Has she been saying that vocational education is not based on cumulative learning and that therefore it is not necessary to have level 1 in order to get level 2; or is she saying that it is necessary to have level 1 but that people should find another means of paying for it; or is she saying that it is embedded in a system altogether different from that in the Bill?
I am saying that, provided people have the literacy and numeracy skills to function in normal life, we believe that a level 2 training course is accessible for them and that adults will benefit most in terms of improved job opportunities and life chances by going straight into a level 2 course. A great deal of effort and thought has been put into defining level 2—I am told that it is a question of both height and breadth—and we really do want to incentivise level 2. I suppose that I am trying to have it both ways, because I am also saying that there is funding for people on low incomes and for those on benefits if they choose to do a level 1 course and are unable to pay because of a lack of means. However, in terms of making an entitlement for adult learners, our priority is level 2 because we believe that it is possible for adults to skip a step and to go straight in provided that they have those basic skills.
The noble Baroness may not be surprised at my continuing confusion. She said clearly that paragraph 1(c)—
“a specified vocational qualification at level 2”—
does not include a specified qualification at level 1, but earlier she indicated to me that paragraph 1(a)—
“a specified qualification in level 1 literacy”—
would include an entry-level qualification in literacy. I just do not see how the wording admits of both interpretations.
I was referring to the fact that through Skills for Life and a whole range of initiatives we fund training which is entry-level literacy, so it is not an entitlement in the Bill. I was trying to draw attention to the £1.5 billion that we invest in pre-level 2 skills, which include Skills for Life and the incredible amount of adult literacy work that goes on, but it is not in the entitlement. I shall write to the noble Lord to clarify that and will copy it to others.
I am rather more disappointed by the answer to these amendments than was the case previously. Although I understand—at least, I hope I do—what the noble Baroness is saying about the ability of certain people to go straight in at level 2, I was trying to draw attention to the group that would probably need to have their confidence re-established by level 1 so that they could continue. Perhaps not all those people will be affected, but if it includes those who have very little money but do not have funding made available for these courses—
I do not wish to interrupt the noble Baroness but I know that in a few minutes we will be going on to the dinner break debate. I wanted to spend a couple of minutes reminding noble Lords that when we talk about the investment that the Government are making in learning below level 2, we are talking not only about an annual investment in informal adult learning—about which I know the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has been very concerned—but about 1.2 million Skills for Life places. When we have more leisure, I shall be very happy to send a note to Members of the Committee setting out exactly where that funding goes. I do not wish noble Lords to have the impression that we are not committed to helping people to progress to level 2, as that is the whole point of what we are trying to do. However, that commitment is not entirely encapsulated in the Bill, as an awful lot of work goes on outside this legislation.
I was merely trying to put across that the last thing one wants to hear is that those who are trying to increase their skills for their own sake and for the sake of the whole community are to be further deprived of the ability to do that. Bearing in mind that we have to move on to the dinner hour debate, I thank noble Lords who have contributed to the debate and have kindly supported the amendment. I shall withdraw the amendment but shall definitely have to read carefully what has been said, as will my noble friend Lord Dearing. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 211 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]
[Amendments Nos. 211A to 213 not moved.]
Clause 71 agreed to.