Clause 1 [Persons to whom Part 1 applies]:
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—
“( ) This Part does not apply to any person who is the primary care giver to a child under the age of 12 months.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it seems a very long time since we last met to discuss this Bill; in fact it is 14 and a half weeks since we concluded the Committee stage, and the world has changed greatly in 14 weeks.
No one knows for certain what the next few years will bring or what the eventual outcome for the economy will be, but it is certain that we will need a workforce that is as highly skilled and well motivated as possible to take advantage of opportunities. We have to prepare for that now. For that reason, although we still have our doubts on compulsion and would not choose that route ourselves, we will not try to demolish the cornerstone of the Bill. It is therefore all the more important that the penalties for not participating are the right ones, a topic to which I shall return in a later group of amendments, and that genuine reasons for exemption from the duty to participate are recognised.
In Committee we moved an amendment listing various categories of persons who ought to be exempt. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, argued that the Government could see no case for a blanket exclusion, that each case would be dealt with on its individual merits and that Clause 39 would allow discretion in extreme cases. Although we have some reservations, we can see the Government’s point. However, we still have a concern over one category of possible exemptions: the primary care giver. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will be addressing the category of volunteers in later amendments, but for this amendment we are concerned with the exemption for the primary care giver to a young child under 12 months. Our concern stems as much from the needs of the baby as from the needs of the mother. It seems perverse that the Government extended maternity leave for working mothers, which we wholeheartedly supported, so that babies could enjoy a secure attachment and families would be given time to bond and settle down with their child, yet teenage mothers, who probably need this more, are expected to start courses relatively soon after their baby is born. What the Government are trying to do is perverse.
No one would wish to argue against the depressing picture that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, painted of the increased risk of entering poverty that teenage parents and their children face. Education and training is undoubtedly the way to mitigate this. We are arguing for the needs of children under 12 months also to be taken into account. I beg to move.
My Lords, in Committee was it not indicated that teenage mothers who had children under 12 months would not be expected to attend education or training, except in parenting, and is there not an issue of whether parenting classes could be accredited? Could the Minister clarify this issue?
My Lords, unfortunately, I was not here when this issue was discussed in Committee but I would like to make the alternative case that a teenage mother needs education and training as much as any other young person and should be given sufficient support with childcare arrangements to be able to benefit from this Bill’s requirement for all 16 to 19 year-olds to continue in some form of education and training. If the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, is saying that they should be allowed to opt out of this legislation, that would be a profound mistake and not in the interests of these girls’ future.
My Lords, Dr Roger Morgan, the person charged with listening to the voice of children and young people in care and leaving care, produced a report on care leavers. One of the comments from the young people was, “If we are parents when we leave care, we want support for ourselves and not just for the babies”. So they do not want to be left in a situation where things go out of control and the baby gets taken into care; they want support from the very start. I am simply highlighting the very important work of Dr Roger Morgan and the good work of the Government in appointing such an impressive figure to make sure the voices of children in care and leaving care are heard. Whatever happens, whether young parents are obliged to stay in education and training or not, they need every support we can offer them to make the best of their own lives and their children’s. I am sure we can all agree with that.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, that a lot has changed in the 14 weeks between Committee and Report—not only the economy and the circumstances surrounding that but also the Minister. I am delighted to be involved in continuing the discussions started by my noble friend Lord Adonis and in continuing—faithfully, I hope—the direction of travel that he initiated.
The fundamental point of this legislation—to raise the participation age—should be to give the same opportunities to, and have the same expectations of, every young person, whatever their background or situation. As we have stressed throughout our discussions, teenage parents or any other group of young people should not be treated differently from the outset and given a second-class offer. That is the prism through which we look at these issues.
In relation to teenage parents in particular, of course young mothers will not be expected to return to formal education if they are recovering from giving birth, as is the case with young mothers under the age of 16. They will be entitled to reasonable time off around the pregnancy, as is the case for young people currently in compulsory schooling. We will provide guidance to local authorities about what this should be and will fully consult stakeholders, representatives of the sector and others affected by the guidance. There will be a range of ways in which young parents can re-engage in learning when they are ready and they will receive support in doing so. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, highlighted, the question of parenting classes would come in here. Where possible we look to incorporate such classes into the foundation learning tier, which will be accredited.
A set of flexible learning opportunities, timetabling and settings will therefore be available to help young parents to participate in a way that suits them. Information, advice and guidance are available to help young parents through the Connexions service and the targeted youth services, which are very important to this group.
The Government are committed to having a Sure Start children’s centre in every community, where teenage parents can access a broad range of support in one place—that is key here—including childcare, education and training, parenting support and health-related information, advice and treatment. As the noble Baroness highlighted, training in parenting skills, provision to address the mother’s other educational needs and childcare may all be integrated, enabling the young person to combine learning and caring for their child. We will look for ways to facilitate further development of programmes such as this.
There are already many examples of good and innovative practice on which to build in supporting young parents back into learning, and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, is involved in promoting concerns such as that. For example, as my noble friend Lord Adonis mentioned in Committee, Newcastle-under-Lyme College in Staffordshire runs a learning programme for teenage parents at a local children’s centre where childcare is provided. As well as working on literacy, numeracy and ICT skills, the programme helps participants to access other support services for themselves and their children, such as those provided by health visitors. Most participants later progress to further learning at the college’s main site, so it is about giving parents the opportunity to progress.
Of course, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, highlighted, we must remember that teenage mothers do not always achieve the qualifications that they need to progress into further education. About 40 per cent of teenage mothers leave school with no qualifications. The ones who achieve better long-term outcomes for themselves and their children are those who gain employment, for which, as we all know, they need training and qualifications.
Research shows that young mothers who have previously been disengaged from learning are often motivated to take part when they become pregnant to help to ensure better outcomes for their babies. Thus it is often important that they can start courses relatively soon after the baby is born. That is why we do not want to exempt them from the duty to participate. It is also important that further education colleges, for example, have more flexible start dates—not just September—to capitalise on this high level of motivation that pregnant women experience.
There may be challenges in providing the same offer for this group of young people, but it should not mean that they are excluded. We already have a system of support, and we will make full use of the intervening five years to develop this further as we move towards implementation of raising the participation age. That will challenge the system to provide for everyone, and it is not right that any group of young people should be excluded, ignored or neglected. As my noble friend Lady Blackstone said, we have in mind the interests not only of the baby but the mother. We need to make sure that the mother can best serve her child. I hope that, with those reassurances and our absolute commitment to ensure that we meet the needs of young mothers, the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her thorough answer. I forgive her; it was remiss of me not to welcome her to the Dispatch Box to lead on this Bill. I always felt that she was part of the team anyway, so it was not exactly new.
The noble Baroness said that we discussed parenting classes, which we did, but the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said that that would happen only if they were for the requisite hours and it was accredited training. We would welcome that being put into the system. I do not disagree one jot with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. Nobody would want teenage mothers to have a second-class offer; that would not be right. Our concern is for the baby, which we discussed at great length on the Childcare Bill, when we spoke about the problems of shoving young babies into nurseries and their having lots of different carers. We just want to ensure that, when a local authority is trying to provide something for young mothers, the needs of the baby are taken into account. I would welcome a chat with the Minister between now and Third Reading to see if somehow that could be highlighted. I am sure that that would go some way towards reassuring me, but for now I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert “, and
(d) is not engaged in voluntary activity for more than 20 hours per week.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 64. Before making my remarks on Amendment No.2, I should say with regard to the previous amendment that the arrangements with Sure Start at the college in Newcastle-under-Lyme are just the sort of thing that we want.
This amendment probes a little further on the discussion we had in Committee when we established that when a young person had left school but was engaged in voluntary activities for more than 20 hours a week, that voluntary activity might count as work-based learning provided that the person undertook training activities within that voluntary activity that led to some form of accreditation. For many voluntary activities, such as working with children or older people, that would pose no problems. There are recognised qualifications to be gained leading to NVQs that are now required to work in those areas. Volunteers can easily participate in such courses.
A problem arises, however, in relation to the sorts of activities provided by the Prince’s Trust and Barnardo’s for young people who have been school drop-outs and who have left school with no qualifications and minimal, if any, literacy or numeracy skills. It is not clear whether they will be required to undertake courses that lead to accreditation. That is where Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 to Clauses 4 and 6 come in. The sort of programme provided by the Prince’s Trust might be called a personalised learning programme. The young people concerned are not ready to take accredited courses, but are pursuing courses of learning that are tailored to their needs and help them to gain fulfilment through education and to move on further. Those courses may equip them to move on to accredited learning at a later stage. It may be that their special educational needs are such that they are unlikely ever to attain levels of skill or competence required for accreditation.
In response to some of the issues raised both by us and by other noble Lords during the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on 28 July 2008. His letter sets out in more detail what would be expected in these circumstances. I should like to read a number of extracts from the letter because it is important that this is on the record so that people will know what was said. In the letter the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said:
“I agree with you that it will be vital that the provision available to young people is personalised to meet their specific needs and to give them the skills they need to progress further in education and to enter employment in future. As I set out previously during debate on the raising the participation age clauses, Clause 4 provides for young people participating in full time education and training do so by following an unaccredited programme of learning. This could include the type of re-engagement provision that is often provided by third sector and voluntary organisations.
For those young people participating through the part time learning route, whilst we recognise the valuable skills and experience that young people in full-time employment will be gaining through their day-to-day work, we do believe that it is important that the course they are undertaking in their day a week of guided learning should be accredited. This will ensure that it is of good quality, and without this requirement employers could get away with providing very little training”.
He then went on to say:
“For some of our most disadvantaged young people, who may have not enjoyed or progressed at school, the most appropriate option may be a programme of learning at ‘entry level’ or ‘level 1’. We recognise the vital role such programmes will play in successfully raising the participation age and are working hard to increase the range of provision available to young people. In the White Paper Further Education: Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances (March 2006) the Government confirmed its commitment to developing ‘The Foundation Learning Tier’ (FLT). This will be introduced across the country from September 2010, bringing coherence to entry level and level 1 qualifications and providing clear progression routes for young people onto level 2 and beyond. It will also include a skilled work pathway for young people who are not ready to undertake a full Apprenticeship.”
How far does all this fit in to what is being proposed under the learning support agreements, which we will be discussing later? In the Minister’s amendments after Clause 58, these, as she will admit, are not quite the same as personalised learning programmes, although such programmes could form a part of the conditional agreement between the local authority and the young person.
In responses to amendments on Clause 4 in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, made it clear that those pursuing full-time education might pursue courses which in the end did not lead to an accredited outcome required by Clause 6 but those pursuing work-based learning were required to have some sort of accreditation. Does working as a volunteer count as education or training in this respect? Can pursuing a personalised learning programme with one of the voluntary organisations, such as the Prince’s Trust, count as education and are they therefore exempt from the requirement to have this first-stage accreditation? There is still a lack of clarity here and I wonder whether the Minister can clarify precisely what will happen in those circumstances.
Amendment No. 64 relates to Part 2, dealing specifically with young adults with learning difficulties. It raises slightly different issues. In our discussions in Committee on Clause 64, which is now Clause 56, it was clear from the Minister’s reply that such services as are considered appropriate include the Connexions services. I pointed out to the Minister that many of these young people suffered from health problems, particularly mental health problems, and that providing them with appropriate services would mean bringing in the PCT and the child and adolescent mental health services. I asked him whether guidance would involve those two services as partners with Connexions.
He promised to think further on those issues and I am encouraged that the Government’s amendment to Clause 58 on support learning contracts includes support in the form of medical and social care. But again, I seek clarification on whether Clause 56, which includes the words,
“such services as it considers appropriate”,
includes health services, in particular mental health services. So many of these young people have mental health problems, and it is extremely important that the mental health services are brought in as partners with Connexions to help them to overcome them. I beg to move.
My Lords, I want to speak, but I want to listen to the Minister first. I am sorry, I am being totally daft, which is not unusual: I am looking at the wrong amendment.
I understand the aim of the amendment, but I have sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said in Committee about accreditation. The voluntary sector is pretty diverse, and to say that voluntary work, whatever it might be, counts towards a person’s education is putting it rather widely.
I am concerned about the process of accreditation which the Government envisage when it comes to entry-level qualifications. It really ought to mean no qualification at all. How can you have a qualification in an ability to work with other people, to behave in a social manner and to turn up to work on time—all the skills which many young people are leaving school without? If you are going to pick them up at 16 and turn them out as competent adults at 18, they are the first things you have to address. The obsession that the Learning and Skills Council has for everything having to lead into literacy, numeracy or some other chain of qualification is poisonous to these basic levels of education. It means that the whole structure of those courses must be bent towards box-ticking, because that is all you can do at that stage. Such bits of literacy and numeracy are entirely outside the main thrust and purpose of the education that is being provided.
I agree that there needs to be a structure and supervision, but surely the best way of handling this is through the structure which the Government are providing in later amendments; one of local authority supervision through a contract between the local authority and the young person. If under that scheme the local authority, with a voluntary organisation, is providing a programme that is aimed at getting these young people motivated, directed and involved in society and their own futures, surely that is enough. That programme does not need to go through an expensive, time-consuming and essentially irrelevant LSC process. The control is there through the local authority. Most of these courses, particularly the good courses, will be local because they will rely on being run by motivated and directed individuals and will not generally be suitable for rolling out to the ordinary run of commercial education. They will work well within the local voluntary sector. Under those structures, there should be total freedom for the local education authority to provide these courses without them having to be formally accredited in some box-ticking way.
My Lords, I shall briefly comment on what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said about the importance of ensuring a good partnership with child and adolescent mental health services for Connexions services working with these young people. I am particularly thinking of young people in care, or on the edge of care, because one can spend a short time in care in one’s early childhood or later on and not necessarily be entitled to the full support available otherwise. There are many other children who have experienced the death of a parent or both parents or multiple trauma and are vulnerable. It is helpful for a Connexions adviser to have the best professional support in maintaining a relationship with a vulnerable young person. It is sometimes difficult to sustain those relationships, but it can be very helpful for a young person who has experienced the loss of a parent or family member or who has had a number of placements with different carers to have one person consistently engaged in a relationship with him. However, that person needs good support, so I welcome what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said.
My Lords, I hope I can provide the clarity that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, is looking for. I have a rather long speaking note, but my speaking notes get shorter as the day goes by, so I am not going to drone on for hours.
I believe that all young people should benefit from staying in education or training until the age of 18 and that appropriately tailored, flexible and personalised programmes of learning will be essential to engage some of the hardest-to-reach young people. Speaking particularly to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7, if the noble Baronesses are thinking of the kind of informal or non-formal education or training often provided through the voluntary sector—the noble Baroness referred to the Prince’s Trust—that would be covered under full-time education or training. The type of provision described in Amendment No. 6 is recognised and allowed for under Clause 4. Appropriate full-time education or training is not required to be accredited. It can be provided at a school, college, higher education institution or otherwise, which allows for locations that are not formal education institutions. That is what the noble Baroness was pointing to. They may not always lead to formally accredited qualifications, although we know it is important to break down programmes into bite-sized sections and to start recognising young people’s achievements as early as possible in whatever way is most appropriate for them. There is nothing in Clause 4 to prevent personalised learning programmes being integrated with individual support where that is needed, and it would be good practice to do so. I therefore believe that Amendment No. 6 is unnecessary.
On Amendment No. 7, our strong view is that informal learning should not count for the purposes of part-time education or training alongside employment. We recognise the value of non-formal learning, where it has a clear aim and enables young people to progress, and have made it clear that it will be allowed under Clause 4. However, since young people in a job develop their “get up and turn up on time” side, we think it reasonable to require young people in full-time education to be working toward an accredited qualification. It is important that they have the opportunity to participate in good-quality, accredited training; without the requirement for accreditation there would be no guarantee of the quality level in the training being undertaken.
In this context, the requirement for accreditation is our guarantee that, where employers are providing training, the learning that happens is substantial and of high quality. Without it, there would be a risk of creating a way out for employers—and I know that we shall discuss that concern shortly, on an amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Layard. The noble Baroness has, however, raised an important point.
On Amendment No. 2 in particular, we certainly recognise that engaging in volunteering is an extremely worthwhile activity for young people. I have personally promoted that and believe strongly in it. It can help them to gain important skills and experience that contribute to their personal development and are valued by employers and universities. We are encouraging more people to get involved in voluntary work. However, I am also clear that those young people need to continue their formal learning in the same way as those in paid employment do. It might be as part of a volunteering programme, or mean undertaking a part-time course alongside the volunteering activity. Continuing in formal accredited learning will ensure that the skills they have developed are formally recognised and that they gain further qualifications. That is important to help them demonstrate what they have learned to future employers; it will help them to find work and to progress in it.
Amendment No. 64 would put a duty on local authorities to provide health and mental health services. For a minority of young people, access to and continued participation in education and training depends not just on the quality of teaching and learning—or even the quality of information, advice and guidance that they receive on learning choices—but on their ability to access specialist support to help them overcome health issues that can be barriers to their learning. This is an important issue, but I believe the amendment is unnecessary. Under the Children Act 2004, local authorities have a duty to co-operate with health partners, including primary care trusts, to improve the,
“physical and mental health and emotional well-being”,
of children and young people. The Act also introduces a duty on local authorities to co-ordinate the production of strategic children and young persons’ plans, to set a vision for all the services that children and young people gain in an area. Guidance on that duty emphasises the need for close partnership working, to ensure consistency between children and young people’s plans and the primary care trusts’ local development plans.
Recently, there have been significant improvements in the delivery of child and adolescent mental health services, partly as a result of increasing funding in that area. For example, we have seen a significant increase in the numbers of multi-agency services there, and reductions in waiting lists. However, we want to see further improvements: that is why our Children’s Plan commissioned an external review of such services, led by Jo Davidson, director of the children and young people’s service at Gloucestershire County Council and Dr Bob Jezzard, an eminent child and adolescent psychiatrist. They will develop their report to the Government shortly, and we will be able to respond in full to the proposals for better, joined-up services. To be absolutely clear, a full discussion on the partnership agreements will be coming up later today. These are vehicles for promoting and achieving the participation of young people—not the actual participation, which we will consider later in a different part of the Bill.
I am aware that I have gone on for rather a long time but I hope I have been able to give the noble Baronesses the reassurance that they rightly require on this issue.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. She has clarified most of the issues that I wished to be clarified in regard to voluntary activity. It was not quite clear whether the kinds of courses laid on by the Prince’s Trust would count as full-time education and that is what I was querying.
Still outstanding, however—we shall probably return to this—is what will happen to young people with relatively severe learning difficulties of one kind or another who take up some form of work but cannot be expected to go on to acquire any kind of accreditation. We discussed this at some length in Committee in relation to the Rose Trust. On the whole, these young people gain a great deal through the work experience that they get on these occasions, yet such is the severity of their learning difficulties that it is not reasonable to expect them to go on to accreditation.
On Amendment No. 64, I take it the Minister is saying that it is not necessary because Clause 56(1) states:
“A local education authority in England must make available to young persons and relevant young adults for whom it is responsible such services as it considers appropriate to encourage, enable or assist the effective participation of those persons in education or training”.
We established in Committee that such services were the Connexions services but it was left a little vague as to whether the PCTs and children and adolescent mental health services were involved. From her reply today it is clear that under the partnership agreement established in the Children Act such services are to be brought in and made available when required. I am delighted to have a clear answer to that issue and I am grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 2 [Duty to participate in education or training]:
3: Clause 2, page 1, line 12, leave out from “applies” to end of line 3 on page 2 and insert “shall be entitled to two years of free education or training up to level 3, to be taken at any time after leaving education at the present compulsory school leaving age”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I also welcome the Minister to her new role. She has always been seen as part of the Bill team but I compliment her on the way in which she has picked up the ball and run with it. I look forward later in our debates today to being able to thank her for a number of things she has now brought forward in response to the listening that she and her predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis—who we miss very much—did in our debates in Committee.
On Amendment No. 3, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, that it has been a very eventful 14 weeks. Indeed, the British economy appears to be in turmoil, and that turmoil clearly will not go away for quite some time. There will be a certain amount of shake-out in some of our industries and the need for upskilling and reskilling among the working population will be greater than ever. The difference between us is how that will be best achieved. The amendment demonstrates that we prefer an entitlement for all adults to free level 3 tuition, throughout their life, to compulsion on 16 to 19 year-olds to carry on with some kind of education or training.
We therefore come back to the debate about compulsion versus entitlement which we had in Committee. We would prefer the Government to put in place all the things they are doing to widen the opportunity for young people to participate in education or training, to take away the barriers and provide support and help before resorting to any compulsion. There was much support for this point of view from all over the Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, talked about the good reasons, such as parenthood, why a young woman may wish to postpone her post-16 studies; she has returned to that subject today. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, has talked about how compulsion does not work below the age of 16, since we still have a large—albeit falling—number of truants.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, talked about the attraction of teaching those who choose to be there, rather than those who are compelled, and emphasised that choice is a large contributor to their success. She also talked about the gradual transition to adulthood from 16 to 18, and worried about the fact that this Bill passes the duty from the parent to the child in relation to attendance at education, with the consequence that a criminal offence is created when a young person fails to participate. That criminal element is one that the Government openly accept. Only yesterday in a meeting with interested Peers for which we were most grateful, the honourable Jim Knight from another place accepted that quite clearly, despite the various measures that the Government have now introduced to reduce the likelihood and impact of that criminal offence, none of which is 100 per cent watertight.
The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, also supported entitlement, and felt that a lot of work is needed on the wider offer to 16 to 19 year-olds before making it compulsory for them to stay in education. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, expressed concerns about the local authority enforcement officer and his powers. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, talked about the consequences of giving a young person a criminal record, particularly in relation to their future employment prospects. It is because of this general disquiet about the compulsion element that we felt it necessary to return to the matter of compulsion versus entitlement at this stage. We believe that the country and its economy will benefit if as many as possible, and as many as are capable, take qualifications up to level 3. As I said, the world of work is changing rapidly; that will continue, and perhaps even accelerate with new technologies coming along. That is why we need to give people the chance to become lifelong learners. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, referred to Mr Gladstone, who formed his fourth Administration at the age of 83, declaring that he had been a learner all his life. I hope that when I am 83 I will still be a learner too.
However, the Minister’s predecessor claimed that this Bill, with its compulsion, would instil a greater culture of learning among teenagers and then, perhaps, further up the age range. It takes more than compulsion to change a culture. People change their attitudes when they enjoy something or see its benefit, not when they are forced to do something. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, talked about the increase in the number of young people already staying on, and the recent small reduction in the NEET category. Here he betrayed the real reason for the Government’s compulsion approach. This Bill, which affects every young person, is really designed to deal with the 9.4 per cent not in education, employment or training. As we all know, hard cases make bad law. We have a fundamental disagreement about what will deal best with those young people.
In this Bill, and others that we are promised in the next Session, the Government are planning to provide many of the right things: support, apprenticeships, the right to time off from work for training, a wider range of qualifications and financial support. These are all the right things, but making the whole thing compulsory introduces a negative element which is unnecessary and may even have a negative effect, which none of us wants. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, also prayed in aid a good many other countries that already have a higher participation age and better attainment levels. This is a very simplistic argument in a field where there are so many complex and interconnecting factors at work. That is why I have returned to this matter one more time.
We have tried in many of our other amendments, which we will debate later, to mitigate some of the potential worse effects of the Government’s compulsion approach. We have been pragmatic about that because it is likely that the Government will get their way. This amendment addresses our fundamental disagreement. Exemptions, minimal fines, support agreements and all, are fine in their way, but the Government, while claiming that a young person of 16 should be able to take responsibility for his own education and therefore bear the consequences if he breaks the law, in the next breath take away his right to decide when the time is right for him to continue his learning. We believe that that is wrong. The British Youth Council agrees with us. It carried out a survey recently which showed that a majority of young people do not want their free choice removed.
We should open the doors for young people, take away any barriers and help them to walk through those doors as soon as they are ready, but not create a one-age-fits-all situation. I am very keen on the entitlement to free level 3 tuition for all adults so that they can be lifelong learners. I beg to move.
My Lords, we made it quite clear at Second Reading and in Committee that we would much rather the Government proceeded with caution rather than compel young people to participate against their will, and that there should be a lot of carrot before any stick was applied. But we have not put down amendments on Report because, as I said in moving Amendment No. 1, the world has changed. We need to have as well skilled a workforce as possible and to ensure that as many young people as possible participate. As I said, we would not go down this route but we are not going to stand in the way of the Government bringing forward compulsion.
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend might in due course have an opportunity not to go down this route herself and that she will then take quite seriously what is proposed in the amendment. If we are to give people rights to educate themselves to a decent level, when the time is right for them appears to be the right way to go. To have a pupil who is motivated, who wants to learn and knows what they want to learn is so much better than having someone who is dragging their feet every step of the way. You can achieve so much more for the same amount of money. In a way, some children of 16 and 17 need some life experience; they need to get out there and learn how hard life is in the real world; they need to learn a bit more about themselves and what they want to do, and then come back to education. When that happens, they should be able to do so on the same terms as someone who already knows at 16 that they want to take a couple of A-levels and go on to university.
The idea of lifelong learning and the ability to do it should be core to our thinking. Lots of people find at certain periods of their life that they need some additional education. If they have not had a basic education and have not learnt what they should have learnt earlier in life, the easy availability of a retraining course and the money to do that which has not been wasted by keeping them in school between the ages of 16 and 18 but is available for them when they need it, is surely the right way to go. Why should they have to pay for it? To have a quick week of education available for Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross would be a thoroughly good idea.
My Lords, I cannot fault an iota of the very impassioned, excellent argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. My heart is with her; I wish that the Government had put their energies into providing a lifelong entitlement for people that would enable flexibility for the workforce, which will be so much more important now after the past few terrible weeks and all that that implies for the workforce of the future. I have amendments down about the criminal aspects arising from compulsion. I think that at this stage the Government will try compulsion, although there is no evidence that it works in other countries. I think we will keep our powder dry on that, although I wish very much that the Government had gone down the route that the noble Baroness has suggested.
My Lords, I agree strongly with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. While she was speaking, I was minded of two statements by two totally different people. One was a memorable statement by Winston Churchill, that there was a treasure in the heart of every man if only you could find it; the other was a statement by the learning and skills co-ordinator in a young offender establishment in Northallerton in Yorkshire, who said to me that the main job of trainers and educators in prisons was to motivate people to learn. One of the biggest factors in that motivation was time; therefore, it seems entirely sensible that time should be allowed to apply. If people have not been able to engage and connect during school, let us not expect them automatically to go on with it until time and other things have been able to motivate them because they have somehow discovered that there is a treasure which has not yet been found and that needs developing.
My Lords, I shall revert to the Prison Service when I speak to my amendment later. I had intended to refer to a prisoner named John, who, as a result of having been diagnosed and taught as a dyslexic, was able to say that he had learnt more in eight weeks than in the previous 41 years of his life. This provision is for people who miss diagnosis.
I also remind your Lordships that the world now is very different from even 10 years ago, including the speed of change in the skills needed to prosper. Old jobs are becoming obsolete and new jobs arising almost by the month as a result of technological development. The amendment offers a way in which the mistakes that people have made in not taking their education when they are young can be turned into an advantage, because they will be able to pick up again with learning that will be contemporary with, rather than prior to, the need.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, not only for tabling the amendment but for the splendid way in which she brought us all up to date with what had been said in Committee, which is now so many months ago that I think that quite a number of us have forgotten the detail. It is essential to reiterate what so many of us said at that time: we would prefer choice, or the carrot route, to compulsion. The more one hears about the sad situation that the world is in today, the more it would seem appropriate to look down that road. I recently attended a briefing by the Nuffield Foundation on the Engaging Youth inquiry. It made it clear that a wide range of young people will need all kinds of support before—and, one hopes, when—they see that they could engage in something rather more specifically educational. Among other things is a need for the personal mentor or helper to be around. That is where I would put a lot of my resources for these young people. Although I fear we will not persuade the Government to think again on this matter, about which I am sad, those of us who strongly prefer this route should make that absolutely clear.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for bringing back this important debate. As I said in Committee, I just about favour the Government’s view: I feel that it is a responsibility of adults to ensure as far as possible that young people use their time constructively, not self-destructively, and not to let their potential go to waste. However, it is a difficult argument. The key is implementation, about which my noble friend has just spoken. As a general principle, every young person needs a mentor to help them forward. It is crucial that they find that person in the future.
The noble Baroness’s response to the question about the Government’s investment in child and adolescent mental health services, about the Children’s Plan and thinking through the needs of children—particularly for their emotional support—and about the health partnerships is very important. What she said about the review of CAMHS and how they can be made more effective for young people is also extremely important. I welcome the designated looked-after children CAMH services, which, where they are available, make a great difference. They are crucial to successful implementation, especially for the most vulnerable children, because we do not want them to slip into the criminal justice system as a result of our not quite engaging with them properly.
Let us think of a young man who experiences domestic violence. His father is an alcoholic who would come home and brutalise the boy’s mother. The boy goes on and tries to seek work. That young man then displays all kinds of difficult behaviours: he is paranoid; he is subject to sudden and unpredictable rages; he displays difficult behaviour around women. People working with such young men need to be well supported, particularly by child and adolescent mental health services, to reflect on and understand the meaning of such behaviour and how successfully to engage with the young man. I welcome what the Minister said in the previous answer. It gives me some comfort that implementation will be effective and sensitive.
My Lords, I remind the House that the proposals in the Bill would not make it compulsory for young people to stay in school. We are talking about a choice between staying on in school in full-time education, taking a job and continuing in part-time training, and pursuing an apprenticeship. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that young people must feel that it is right for them to move on and get a job. We need to be clear that that is covered as an option in the Bill. Young people will have choices about the route that they pursue post 16.
As many Members have highlighted, in today’s fast changing economic circumstances and in a world where everyone will need skills to prosper, the Bill is extremely important. As we all know, the days when people leave school at 16 without qualifications but still make a good career for themselves by starting at the bottom and working their way up are pretty much gone. A recent CBI study showed that one in five employees still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. The warning given to us by the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, was stark: up to 50 per cent more jobs will require high-level skills by 2020, which is an enormous challenge. Yet, despite a steady increase over the past few years, we still have a low rate of participation compared to other developed countries and we all agree that we need to go further. Our ambition must be that all young people continue in education, training or whatever choice they make. That is why we are legislating now; and that is why our legislation must be based on the principle of compulsion.
Through the September Guarantee, all year 11s are already entitled to a suitable place in learning. We are ensuring more take-up of that entitlement. However, we are aware that the new requirement does not mean all young people staying in school; it means that every young person should carry on in the right form of education or training to allow them to develop the skills that they need to succeed.
That goes hand in hand with later provisions in the Bill which ensure that adults are able to obtain basic- and intermediate-level skills. Both are absolutely crucial to meeting the future skills needs of our economy. We have set our ambition to achieve world-class skills by 2020 and we know that 74 per cent of the 2020 workforce has already left compulsory education. We need to act now to ensure that all those people who were not able to benefit from the package of reforms that we are now putting in place for young people get a second chance. At present, adults can access funding for basic skills courses—a first full level 2 qualification and a first full level 3 qualification—up to age 25.
These arrangements are significantly strengthened by Clause 73, where, for the first time, the Learning and Skills Council will be required to ensure that facilities for obtaining specified qualifications at level 1 literacy, entry-level 3 numeracy and vocational full level 2 are available in sufficient quantity and of a quality adequate to meet the needs of learners and, in so doing, increase learner choice. This is an important step forward and a significant one in improving the career prospects of low-skilled adults.
If we replaced compulsion with the concept of an entitlement that could be postponed, as this amendment would, we would risk damaging the life chances of those who stand to gain most from the Bill—young people who are least likely to participate now and are vulnerable and disadvantaged, and adults who want to improve their skills and increase their prospects but are unable to do a full two years of full-time study.
There are carrots, but we need a stick as well. We have to put pressure on the system to gear up to deliver for these young people. Yes, the support has to be there; it has to be wrapped around so that vulnerable young people and children can fully participate and make the most of the choices that we want to create for them. I hope very much that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment because we have a duty to make a significant change for young people starting school this year.
My Lords, we obviously have not persuaded the Minister, but I fear that this fixation with compulsion is yet another demonstration of the top-down, “government knows best” approach of this Government, rather than the bottom-up approach that can be so much more effective. It also shows a lack of confidence in all the good measures that the Government have put in place, within and outside this Bill, which have the desired effect, encouraging young people and taking away the barriers to their further attainment.
I very much thank the members of Her Majesty's Opposition for their support. Should they by any chance be in a position to change direction on this issue before the Bill is implemented in 2013, I shall very much hold them to what they have said. I shall be watching.
We have had a shorter but no less trenchant debate on this issue than we had in Committee. I hope that the Minister has listened to the passion with which noble Lords have spoken. There is serious concern about the possible negative effects of compulsion, should it ever come to pass. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
4: Clause 2, page 2, line 3, at end insert “, or
(d) have signed, and be participating in, a learning and support contract entered into with a local education authority to provide personalised support leading to future participation in accredited education or training.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 10 and government Amendment No. 65, which are grouped with it.
We very much welcome government Amendment No. 65. The Government have taken up the idea of learning and support contracts and called them learning and support agreements. I welcome the briefing that we have received from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which strongly supports the learning and support agreement approach. We have retabled our amendment—formerly Amendment No. 15 in Committee—to ask some questions about what the Government propose and perhaps to persuade them to go just a little further.
We seek to find a genuinely personalised approach for these young people who do not fit into the normal categories of those who might go on to take the usual qualifications without too much difficulty. Young people are as variable as the leaves on the trees; they grow up at different rates and they have different problems. We are delighted that the Government have accepted the learning and support contract approach—even though they are calling it an agreement—including social and health support, which I assume includes mental health. The only unfortunate thing about it is that this help is available only if the young person continues in the type of study prescribed by the Government. However, I very much took on board the reassurances that the Minister gave my noble friend Lady Sharp about the breadth of non-formal provision being acceptable.
It is important that local authorities should be expected to go down the learning and support agreement route before embarking on any enforcement procedures. I should like the Minister to assure me that that must be done before they even apply for attendance notices. How will the Government ensure that they do that? Enforcement procedures should never commence if a young person has unmet needs. Will the Government issue guidance to ensure that local authorities do this? Will the Minister also assure the House that the duty to participate in Clause 2 will be fulfilled by a young person actively taking part in one of these agreements? How will local authorities be resourced to provide the necessary support within these agreements? How will current best practice be disseminated? I believe that there is some good practice out there.
Can the Minister also confirm that the sort of support envisaged can also be given to young people to help them to participate outwith one of these formal learning and support agreements, and can she say more about any guidance that she will send to local authorities about how they will tailor the package of support to each young person’s needs and how their parents or guardians will be involved in developing the content of the agreement? When the local authority is the corporate parent, how will it negotiate with itself in relation to looked-after children?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission expressed concern that the concept of reasonable excuse could be used as an excuse by government and local authorities and that this would mean that the most vulnerable and those most in need of support will continue to be ignored. It welcomes learning and support contracts because it thinks that that will help to ensure that that does not happen and will redress the balance in the Bill towards help and support and against some of the compulsion and penalty elements that we spent so much time debating and will do so again today. It is not going to be possible for all young people to participate without a good deal of help and support and taking away the barriers that they have had up to now to progressing in education beyond 16. That is what we all want to see. We very much welcome what the Government have done. I should be most grateful if the Minister could answer my questions and give us some of the reassurances for which I have asked. I beg to move.
My Lords, I added my name to the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, because we were strong advocates of learning and support contracts in the other place and in Committee. I, too, welcome the Government’s amendment, but I echo the noble Baroness’s plea that local authorities must have tried a learning and support contract before embarking on enforcement procedures.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Adonis explained in Committee that our reluctance to accept the proposed new clause introducing learning and support contracts stemmed from our concern that they would be unnecessarily prescriptive and bureaucratic. However, he also emphasised our support for the approach and said that we would reflect very carefully on whether there was a case for specifying more in the Bill. On reflection, I decided that it might be beneficial to include something along these lines to make it clear that local authorities can pursue this kind of enabling approach. As a result we are introducing this amendment, and I am pleased that it has been welcomed. It enables local authorities to enter into learning and support agreements. I am not sure whether the difference in terms is material.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked a number of questions but I am not sure that I got them all. If I do not pick all of them up then I will write to her and copy it to noble Lords who have taken part in today’s proceedings. She asked me to confirm whether enforcement could proceed where there was a young person with unmet needs. I want to make it clear that that should not happen. Enforcement should not proceed where a young person has unmet needs. Clause 39 states that even the first step—giving a final written warning before enforcement action begins—cannot be taken unless the right support has been offered and the young person has been given the opportunity to take it up. In addition, as noble Lords are aware, there are further safeguards to prevent enforcement happening inappropriately, such as the independent panel, which would be interested in the steps that have been taken.
The noble Baroness also asked how we will promote best practice around learning support agreements. Clause 39 requires local authorities to demonstrate that they have provided support and the opportunity to take advantage of it before enforcement action can be taken. A learning and support agreement, as the noble Baroness explained, would be a very good way of doing that. We will encourage local authorities to pursue this or similar approaches to re-engage young people who are struggling to fulfil the duty to participate long before enforcement action is considered. We want to make sure that we allow flexibility. However, having a tried and tested model of good practice is important and we will do our best to ensure that local authorities are made aware of that through guidance. I will write to the noble Baroness in more detail.
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness a couple of questions on her amendment. If such an agreement is entered into, could that constitute full-time education? Can whatever is agreed to under this provision constitute full-time education? If it is entered into in respect of a young person who is also in employment, will this agreement encompass all that is required to be provided by way of education? In other words, is this sufficient in itself, or does there have to be some kind of educational arrangement existing outside this agreement in order to satisfy the terms of the Bill?
My Lords, I can pick the noble Baroness up on this; it is the point that I was trying to make on the earlier group, when I should not have made it. The Minister has an amendment in this group, so she is not closing the debate. She is speaking to her amendment and it is open to Members of the House to question her on it. She can then close the debate. She gets two bites at this cherry and we all get a chance to comment on what she has said. It is a refreshing thing at Report stage.
My Lords, perhaps it would be appropriate for me to comment now, before the Minister replies. Will the pathway plan for care leavers introduced in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 be used as a model for some of these new contracts? I understand that these pathway plans have been well received, and it might be helpful to learn from best practice in this area when moving forward with these new support plans for young people. What particularly features as good practice in this area is the full involvement of the young person in designing the plan. It is such an obvious point that it is hardly worth making, but can the Minister confirm that all is being done to make the young person’s involvement as important as possible in developing these contracts? Perhaps there could be monitoring to ensure that young people are indeed being drawn into these contracts.
My Lords, I am very much enjoying this opportunity, having tabled an amendment, to speak again. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for reminding me and others of the opportunity.
I want to be clear on the full-time education point. It is a something-for-something agreement. It is about ensuring that the young person is clear not only about what support is being offered but, at the same time, about what they need to do to participate. I am assuming that that includes full-time education. If they are in employment, it would include them attending 280 hours of training. It is about setting out clearly both for the young person and for the support services what the young person’s needs are and what is defined as a service to meet those needs. Young people should know what to expect so that they know where they are and where they stand.
The point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is absolutely right. It is important that young people are consulted. Subsection (6) of our amendment requires the young person to be consulted. We will make it clear in guidance that parents or carers should also be involved in the process where possible and appropriate. I thank the noble Earl for giving me the opportunity to clarify that. To make it absolutely clear, we will also learn the lessons from the pathway plans as he suggests.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for both of her contributions. I am quite satisfied that she will write to me to pick up any points that she has not had the opportunity to deal with today. I would most appreciate a comment about the involvement of parents or guardians or the corporate parent. It is very important that best practice is disseminated, and I am sure that the Government will do everything that they can to do that. Some authorities have already taken a lead in this direction. I am grateful for her assurance that local authorities will be judged on the extent to which they have gone down this path before any enforcement takes place. Many people will be reassured by the Minister’s statement. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
5: Clause 2, page 2, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) The duty under this section shall not apply to any person until the Secretary of State has published an assessment of the availability of suitable education and training opportunities in each local authority area.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 221 and 222.
The purpose of the amendments is to ensure that all reforms that the Government are currently introducing into the secondary school curriculum, including the new diplomas and their vocational pathways into further education and training, have worked their way through the system before the raising of the learning leaving age is enforced. In Committee, we discussed the many reforms in hand, and the Minister reminded us that by 2013 local authorities will have inherited from the Learning and Skills Council the responsibility for assessing the sufficiency of provision within a local area and to make sure that there are enough places in schools and colleges—and, from now on, also on apprenticeships—to satisfy the demands of young people. In Amendment No. 5, we suggest that that should be the responsibility of the Secretary of State rather than the local authority. The local authority is responsible for the provision of these places. Is it to be both judge and jury in deciding whether it is providing sufficient places of the right quality and sort? Rather, this amendment suggests that ultimately the Secretary of State should be responsible for ensuring that provision is adequate and that local authorities have risen to the challenge of the reforms in hand.
Amendments Nos. 221 and 222 seek to delay the implementation of these reforms by two years. These amendments would allow the reforms in hand to bed down. As time goes by, this seems more sensible. New diplomas for the first five learning lines were introduced this September. However, only 12,000 pupils are participating, compared to the Government’s hoped-for 40,000. The Government are aware that what is happening is, in effect, a pilot exercise. The Government may wish to fine-tune the implementation of their reforms in the light of the developments of these first few years.
The Minister is under pressure from teachers and employers not to rush these reforms. The Select Committee in the other place, in examining these reforms, also urged the Government to take them slowly and not to move too fast. Raising the learning leaving age to 18 does not make sense until these reforms are under way and we can be sure that the secondary curriculum motivates young people and encourages them to stay in learning. As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said in Committee, seven years is a short time in education terms. Delaying the implementation of these provisions by two years, to make sure that the current reforms, which are a necessary part of the whole package, are well embedded in the system, is a sensible thing to do. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is clear that there is unhappiness on many sides about the issue of compulsion; placing the duty on young people to participate or face the consequences. If that happens, the Government must be absolutely certain that they will uphold their side of the bargain. They must put into place all the necessary investment, all the new courses, all the new provisions, so that the scheme runs smoothly from the outset. It would be intolerable to sweep young people into duty, and potentially punish them if they fail to comply, while the authorities were in a state of disarray and unpreparedness. 2013 may sound far off; it is in another decade. However, it will not be long in coming. The Government must be ready.
My Lords, I speak in favour of the Government’s position. I cannot recall any piece of legislation that has been prepared so far in advance of implementation. The normal practice with legislation and regulation is to ask schools to implement change from next September. Quite rightly, schools complain that they are given insufficient time to implement measures in a proper manner. I congratulate the Government on bringing forward this legislation and making preparations to give schools a reasonable period in which to prepare.
Secondly, there is a real danger for schools, and everybody else involved in this partnership—employers, colleges of further education and training establishments—in not being clear that, by that point, things have to be in place. I agree with the movers of this amendment that there is a tremendous onus on the Government and other partners to make sure that things are in place. However, I would resist any uncertainty about the date of implementation. The minute you bring in uncertainty, you lose the benefit of this legislation, which gives enough time to prepare and also clarity about the date of introduction. I praise the Government for giving sufficient lead-in time. It is now up to everybody in the system to make sure that everything is in order to be implemented at the point described in the Bill.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, is very persuasive. However, we have entered a new economic climate. Mention was made of the voluntary organisations involved in supporting young people. Some of them are heavily dependent on donations. Given the change in the economic climate, we need to think whether it would be wise to put back these proposals from the Government. I hope that this helps the Minister to think through the clear change in the climate for developing these plans.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Morris for giving us her sense of realism and her reminder of the importance of certainty in promoting change. We need to remember that we are talking about changes that will affect young people who started secondary school in September this year. We need momentum in taking forward these important proposals. These amendments were discussed in committee. My noble friend Lord Adonis set out the Government’s agreement that we must ensure that there is sufficient learning provision for all young people if we are to expect them to participate. We will deliver on our part of the bargain.
Part of our rationale for legislating now is to galvanise the system to provide appropriate support and opportunities for all young people. By setting clear expectations in law that all young people must participate until they are 18, we make it clear that it will no longer be an option to forget about the student who sits quietly at the back of the class, watching the clock and waiting until they can leave.
With reference to Amendment No. 5, in March we published a White Paper, Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver, which set out our intention to transfer the funding responsibilities for commissioning 16-to-19 provision from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities. In future, assessing the sufficiency of provision will become the role of the local authority; that is where the responsibility should lie. Local authorities will do this through the strategic commissioning plan that they will complete as part of, or alongside, the children and young persons plan.
I reassure noble Lords that we will be ready to implement the new participation age from 2013, and do not need to delay until 2015, as proposed. By 2013, the national entitlement to the new diploma—which I understand is very popular with young people taking part in it—and the apprenticeship guarantee will be in place, and the foundation learning tier for provision at entry level 1 will be established. The September guarantee, which was implemented for the first time in every local area last year, guarantees to offer a suitable learning place for all young people leaving year 11. This year it was extended to 17 year-olds. Already, we are gearing up the system.
In earlier debates, my noble friend Lord Adonis talked about the potential for this policy to bring about a change in culture; and we know how important culture is in promoting change. We need to see a change in the expectations and aspirations of young people. That is the other reason for making this change in 2013. As we know, the first young people to be affected began year 7 this September. They will start their secondary school career knowing—and with their parents and teachers knowing—that they will continue in learning post-16. We will keep our part of the bargain and create the best opportunities for these young people post-16. With that reassurance, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendments.
My Lords, the Bill represents an absolutely integral part of our commitment in the Children’s Plan. As the noble Earl knows, the Children’s Plan is reviewed every year. We will produce a progress report on it, taking stock of our achievements and challenges. I hope that that will be a good vehicle for meeting his concerns. However, if I can help him in other ways, I certainly shall.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I remind her, as I reminded the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, that our proposals would not create more uncertainty: they give a definite date. On the notion of postponing the date, there are so many reforms in hand. The noble Baroness mentioned that, by 2013, the diplomas should be rolled out and we have the new apprenticeships, foundation learning tier and all of this stuff. We want to ensure, before forcing young people to stay on in learning in some form or another, that this is working. This gives it an extra couple of years. The Minister may come to rue the day that the Government rejected the amendment. They may find things take rather longer to bed down than they think.
On Amendment No. 5, I take on board what the Minister says, but it puts a lot of emphasis on what local authorities are going to do. It is all very well having strategic commissioning plans and so forth, but they are the providers as well as the judges of whether it is sufficient. I question whether that is appropriate. Nevertheless, I accept what the Minister says for the moment, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 4 [Appropriate full-time education or training]:
[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]
Clause 6 [Relevant training or education]:
[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]
Clause 8 [Sufficient relevant training or education]:
8: Clause 8, page 4, line 29, after “learning” insert “away from the individual’s work-station”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment goes to the heart of what the Bill is about. If we are to ensure that every young person continues in education and training up to the age of 18, we must have a solid definition of what counts as “education and training”.
Before the Bill was published, we were led to believe that it would require at least a day a week, or equivalent, of off-the-job education and training. As it stands, however, it simply does not do that. There is no guarantee of anything that is away from the individual’s work station. In our view, that is simply not good enough. Just to have on-the-job training is not enough. On-the-job is of course incredibly important; that is how the person learns a specific skill that the employer needs them to have. However, it is important for the individual—and the Bill is essentially directed at individuals—also to have transferable skills which enable them to develop their thinking skills, their ability to write and calculate, and the underpinning knowledge that relates to their work. This can only be achieved in an off-the-job situation. It does not require abstract learning. We are talking about part-time education, which has the huge advantage that the individual can immediately see how what they are doing off the job is relevant to what they are doing on the job. However, there must be transferable skills which are, in most people’s minds, fundamental to what the Bill is about.
In a world where firms may disappear any day, and where people are not necessarily tied to one employer for a particularly long time, it is even more important that we teach transferable skills. The Bill is meant to be promoting the interests of young people. These skills cannot be got just by sitting next to Nellie. They must be taught in a different location, where the worker can step back from the work station a bit and interact with an instructor and fellow students in a different and more reflective atmosphere. We ought to be building that into our concept of every young person being in education up to the age of 18.
Of course, to arrange that for the numbers of young people involved will take a lot of time and organisation. Fortunately, we have them: we are talking about something that is coming in five to seven years. It will then set the scene for the educational chances of our young people for at least 10 years after that. We should really set our sights reasonably high, and not think of what we could do next year or the year after.
That is the basic argument in the amendment, but there is also a completely practical issue of enforcement. If we want young people to have 280 hours of guided learning, how can we possibly check that they have had it if all those hours could be spent at the work station? If a worker is sitting next to his supervisor, how can you tell whether he is getting guided learning or not? The Bill’s definition of guided learning is too loose. I shall quote a set of phrases that would satisfy the requirement for education and training, such as,
“participating in education or training under the immediate guidance or supervision of”,
a supervisor. That is not adequate. We need a tighter definition of education and training than at present.
It is wonderful that we are having this Bill. Many of us have wanted it for at least 20 years. The Government deserve enormous credit for having decided to introduce universal education and training up to 18. It really could be a landmark Bill, but I do not think that it is with this loophole. We urge the Minister to accept our amendment, or come up with something adequate at Third Reading. We would be happy to discuss this with her if she wishes.
My Lords, we on these Benches support the noble Lord’s amendment. As a party, we have long maintained that it is important that there is education as well as just training in this context, and that off-the-job education should be provided in so far as the young person continues in training. We very much go along with the noble Lord’s arguments.
My Lords, I also support the noble Lord, Lord Layard. In childcare, many people, such as Dr Gillian Pugh, the former director of the Thomas Coram Foundation, think that the best training one can have is to allow childcare workers one evening a month, or every fortnight, to be away from the children, to sit down with a senior manager or experienced practitioner and talk through individual children’s experiences. They might say that a boy does this or that, and that they are not quite sure what to do when he does. They might ask whether the senior manager thinks that they are doing the right thing. The whole group works together to reflect on the worker’s practice and improve her relationship with the child.
That is one of the best forms of training, but it gets cut when the money is short; it is the most expensive element of training in social care. The current economic climate reminds us that tough times come and tough decisions must be made. Businesses may unfortunately feel unable to prioritise investing in young people, and may feel pushed towards simply using them to get whatever work needs to be done, possibly to their regret. Perhaps this is protection for young people to ensure that they get the investment and time to reflect and develop that we all wish them to have. I hope that the Minister can respond favourably to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Layard.
My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment and I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Layard has said. I agree with every word of the amendment, possibly even more than he did. At Second Reading, I gave the Bill a huge welcome and said that I thought it was probably one of the most important pieces of educational legislation for many years. I referred back to the 1918 Act; we have waited 90 years to move forward. After waiting all that time, we really must get it right, otherwise, in 10 years, when we review what we have done, we will sit and regret deeply that we thought we were doing something progressive to help the most disadvantaged young people in our society, but find that all our aims and hopes have been dashed because we did not quite get it right by being more precise in how we define education and training.
Funnily enough, if a young person is unemployed, they may do better out of the Bill, as drafted, than if they have a job. I am sure that that is not what we intended. We have to remember that many young people aged 16 and 17 who have left school, often with very poor levels of prior achievement, will not be in good jobs; they will be in humdrum, often dead-end jobs. The kind of training and instruction that they receive will be pretty limited, which is why it is very important that the 280 hours of training should be spent away from their work stations.
I wish to make one small point to the Minister. Amendment No. 9 proposes that some of the clause should be deleted. I hope that in his reply, my noble friend does not spend 25 minutes telling us why those provisions should not be deleted. He would probably be right to say that some should remain in the Bill. My plea is that he focus on the real issue, which is where the 280 hours of education should take place. We do not have just a loophole, as my noble friend said, but a whopping great loophole which could become a cop-out for a lot of employers who do not take the education and training of young people as seriously as they ought to. It would be terribly naive of to believe that all employers would be good citizens in that respect. Some will be struggling to keep their businesses going; others will not be engaged with the idea that it is part of their job to move the skills of those young people forward. Those employers will be more interested in survival, profit and getting the most that they can out of the young people’s work than on focusing on their education and training.
For all those reasons, and those that my noble friend has given, a huge opportunity will have been lost if the amendment, or something like it, is not accepted. I do not argue that the training received by young people at work is unimportant. Of course it is important and it is often a way of motivating young people to attach education and training to what they are doing in the workplace. However, as well as that, they should have an opportunity to spend some time in a context where, as my noble friend said, they can discuss what they are doing with their peers. If the Bill is left in its current shape, many of those young people may receive some instruction, but because they will be working, they will not be in a context whereby they can reflect on what they are learning or discuss their training or instruction with other young people, or with those who are providing it.
In anticipation of what my noble friend may say, I do not believe, first, that the education and training given to young people off the job should be theoretical. It should not be about providing more opportunities for developing their literacy or numeracy, but be closely related to what they are doing at work. I am sure that every noble Lord in this House would agree that young people can be given some kind of development away from the workplace, whereby they can think about how that work can be applied to different situations or about whether the equipment that they are using would be relevant in other contexts. We need to focus on those sorts of issues. The Government have been incredibly courageous in the way in which they have framed the Bill. They have been specific that there must be 280 hours of training, so they should also be specific about how and where the education and training should take place.
My noble friend may say that a lot of good employers have excellent and highly technical training, and that taking employees away from the workplace for training outside would somehow disrupt that. I would not be convinced by that argument, because young people can get all that excellent training with a good employer but, in addition, any good employer and anyone who has been involved in training people in the 16-to-17 age group would say that in addition they needed to do something away from the job. I hope that the Minister will address that.
While specific skills are very important for young people in that age group, transferable skills are even more important. Many of those young people will change their jobs four, five, six or seven times between leaving school and the age of 25. For that reason, if we leave this issue entirely to the employer in the workplace, we will fail in doing all the things that we want to get out of the Bill.
Finally, I hope that my noble friend will be positive in his reply to ensure that we achieve the hugely important objectives of the Bill and turn it into the progressive and lasting piece of legislation that we all hope for.
My Lords, I have signed up to this amendment and wish to speak in favour of it in support of my noble friends. This goes to the heart of the Bill, because at the moment young people between 16 and 18 are in education, employment or training. This Bill is about quality, raising aspirations and raising standards throughout the sector. None of us, on reflection, would be happy if at the end of the passage of the Bill we had not raised the aspirations of the whole nation by providing better-quality training, leading to the adult training which is provided for elsewhere in the Bill.
My starting point is that it is very difficult to imagine a situation in which good-quality training did not involve some time away from the work station, but that could happen, given the way that the Bill has been written. I am prepared to accept in the details of debate that there might be some specialised courses in some occupations with some high-tech providers where good-quality training may take place at the workplace for 100 per cent of the time. However, no noble Lord would agree that in most occupations, 100 per cent training at the workplace, with no time away for underpinning, applied skills, mentoring or talking, was necessary. The truth is that that would be possible under the Bill. If we leave the legislation as it is to accommodate the very few good employers who perhaps can make an argument for 280 hours of training at the work station that remains good quality, we leave a gaping hole that will allow the less good employers to get away with sometimes shoddy training that is masqueraded as education, training or employment with training for 16 to 18 year-olds at the moment. I say this for one particular reason. If you look at this in terms of supply and demand, there is not a powerful demand side in this. The sort of youngster who will end up with this less good training at the workplace with no time away for reflection will not be demanding any better than they are given. That is the person whom this amendment protects—the 16 to 19 year-old who does not have higher aspirations or know that they could make the argument for anything better. This amendment underpins and protects them and that is essential. Not all 280 hours have to be spent away from the work station, but a very significant amount does. I think it has to be half or more. If half or more of the 280 hours were spent away from the work station—which is not much more than half a day a week—not only would we have legislation for the first time that meant that all 16 to 19 year-olds had the opportunity of education, training, or employment with training, but that it was good quality as well.
I have a number of specific points for the Minister. In government-funded training you can argue that quality can be guaranteed. It is government-accredited, if you like, and so by definition the Government are going to make sure that the course or the training is good quality. What happens with non-government-funded courses for 16 to 19 year-olds? Why would somebody offer non-government-funded training in this regard if it was not to get away with not having to comply with the spirit of the legislation? How would you monitor non-government-funded courses? If you have a financial lever, you are able to withdraw funding if the training is not up to the standard that you want. How will the Government make sure that the training of non-government-funded courses is of the standard we want it to be?
In conclusion, I do not think for a minute that the Government disagree with what those of us supporting this amendment want to achieve, but there is the difficulty of wanting to leave flexibility in the system for things that suit employers and learners, without tying them down, and making sure we have legislative underpinning in terms of quality of training. My judgment is that at the moment the Government have the balance wrong. If amendments are not forthcoming, some young people will carry on exactly where they are now. They will have training that is meant to be good quality but it will take place 100 per cent at the work station and it will lack the rigour and other qualities referred to by my noble friends to make sure that life changes for them and that this legislation is offering them something different from what they have at the moment. For those reasons, I support these two amendments and hope the Government are able to respond in a favourable way.
My Lords, I apologise for not being able to take part at earlier stages of the Bill. I speak now in support of these amendments with recollections of my time as chair of a further education college and in the former Department of Employment.
We have a national problem with good modern skills training, most particularly in technical subjects, and we have a deficit both of capacity and enlightenment on the part of employers, particularly some of those small employers whose advances are so crucial to our economy. A system of training which does not require the use of the most up-to-date means available would not be tolerated by our competitor allies in the European Union. Could your Lordships imagine sitting with Nellie in Germany or Switzerland, where technical skills are so highly developed, making their companies competitive and their employees self-respecting and well paid? I hope my noble friend will heed the principles behind these amendments.
My Lords, I remember being rather attracted by this concept in Committee and I am further beguiled by what has been said today. One of the aspects that attracts me is the requirement to abolish the subsections as specified in the amendment. As I find them extremely difficult to understand and interpret, abolishing them might end up being quite a positive thing.
I am persuaded that it would be a much better system if there could be time away from the workplace both for peer group discussion and, equally importantly, with someone available to make a more detached but equally expert contribution to the skills being acquired. The point made about transferability of skills is terribly important in today’s world. I anticipate that this amendment might be favourably received and I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, this is a very important amendment. I find myself entirely in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Layard, said about the importance of human interaction in a successful learning process and about getting together with one’s fellow students and in a personal way with people who know and understand the subject and can deal with you face to face. However, I see problems with the idea that you should spend all your time away from the work station. A lot of these people may be small employers. They may have their kids stuck in front of computer screens of some kind or another. To force them to provide extra computers and space for use an hour a day by the youngsters they employ is not sensible. Anyway, are not a lot of the courses they are going to be pursuing essentially distance learning courses which are designed to be absorbed at a work station? As long as there is a dedicated time set aside for it and they are not supposed to interrupt it every two minutes because another person is needed on the cash desk or whatever, the work station is going to be the sensible place for them to do it.
This problem is not restricted to this Bill. It is a direction which the Government are pursuing when it comes to learning within prisons. They are looking at getting students there to pursue distance learning individually on their own work stations rather than taught in classes by teachers. Once you go down that route, instead of having a group of pupils within a reasonably close physical proximity who are all studying the same course and are all at the same point on it, you have a group of pupils who are studying different courses, or if they are studying the same course, they are at different points on it. What is the point of getting that group of students together to discuss anything with anybody when all their interests and requirements are different? I am a believer in the old style and the way that education works. The noble Lord, Lord Layard, made a point about the importance of students as a group and students with teachers, and about the difficulty of translating that into a world dominated by personalised distance learning. The only model that I can think of—
My Lords, Report stage is very tiresome from that point of view, particularly when we are getting into an interesting discussion. I was about to say that the only example that I could think of was the Open University. It is the only institution that I am familiar with where you spend a lot of time working on your own but then everyone gets together. It does not mean that the whole programme is done away from your work station or whatever, but there is a requirement for some of the programme to be conducted in a human rather than a mechanical way. Perhaps that is what we should be trying to include in the Bill; otherwise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, the system will just be abused. No education will take place because it will be a formulaic course which happens to have been accredited somewhere and it will be delivered in a way that the students find extremely difficult to connect with. It will be a sort of blank, compulsory hour in every day that achieves very little.
For courses to be structured so that students, doing the same course at the same level, have to spend some time together and therefore presumably get away from the workplace to a proper place of education—an educational provider of some sort—seems to be the right direction to go in, but how we work that into the Bill I am not at all sure. Nor am I at all sure how we would work it for the Prison Service, and that will be a challenge for OLASS when it comes to look at that side of things. The question is how to reintroduce the human element if you go for distance learning. I think that this issue is well worth discussing between now and Report, and I very much hope that the Minister will take up the invitation from the proposers of the amendment to sit down and talk to them.
My Lords, I shall be very brief. It strikes me that the noble Lord, Lord Layard, is not asking for a great deal in Amendment No. 8. He is simply saying that the learning should be away from the work station, but it can still be in the same workplace. I shall limit myself to a question. In order to avoid a young person being exploited during these 280 hours—for example, in a hairdresser’s doing menial tasks—how will the Government ensure that, if they do not accept the amendment, the training that the young person gets will in fact be of good quality? That is the challenge: how to achieve that without an army of inspectors ensuring that it is done. I rest on that point.
My Lords, I could not help reflecting that, in dealing with my first amendment, I am up against a formidable array of educationalists: one former Secretary of State, one former Minister and the distinguished educationalists, my noble friend Lord Layard and the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. Therefore, I enter this debate with a certain amount of humility.
Amendment No. 8 specifies that the part-time learning undertaken by young people in full-time work should be done away from their workstations. It is not our policy that this learning should always be carried out away from the young person’s workstation. Of course, many young people participating in this way by combining a full-time job with part-time learning will be released by their employer to undertake training elsewhere, such as a college, so that all their learning will necessarily be entirely separate from their normal workplace. However, some other young people fulfilling the duty to participate in this way will receive part-time training provided by their employer—perhaps at a private training provider or at their workplace. We want to encourage this, as it can be very high-quality learning that meets the employer’s business needs and is immediately engaging and relevant to the young person. That is surely what we are all concerned about.
I also could not help reflecting on a recent visit that I made to the Yorkshire and Humber region, where I listened to an employer in a daycare nursery who believed passionately in providing high-quality training. They did so and the training occurred in the workplace, although admittedly someone from a further education institution was brought in to assist in the process. So successful was the quality of the training that they set up a sort of mini-academy, which attracted people from other daycare nurseries. Therefore, there is not only one single route to providing this learning. We need to reflect on and understand what people want, what employers’ needs are—a point referred to rightly by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—and what all of us who have contributed to the debate want; that is, ensuring that we provide a quality provision. I share that concern.
One of the principles behind the changes that we are making to the 14-19 curriculum and qualifications is that learning should be personalised and delivered in a way that engages the young person and suits his or her individual needs and interests. Some young people learn best when they can immediately see the practical relevance and application of what they are learning. Therefore, it would not be right to specify in the Bill that for all young people learning must be away from the workstation.
I speak from personal experience. As a young man, I suffered the worst and best of employers—those who provided no training whatever and exploited their workforce, and a much better employer who provided an apprenticeship with high-quality training. So I know exactly the kind of perils that young people face in employment situations, about which the best we can say is that they are rich and varied.
Therefore, we do not believe it is right to specify in the Bill that for all young people learning must be away from the workstation. Doing so would unnecessarily prohibit a whole range of very worthwhile learning experiences. Some employers are now so serious about the quality of learning that they are looking to be accredited as awarding bodies on the same terms as traditional awarding bodies, and we would not want to deny young people the opportunity to learn with those employers. Simply requiring the learning to take place in a different location would not in itself provide any guarantees about the quality of the learning.
I make it clear that I absolutely agree with my noble friend Lord Layard that the learning that young people undertake must be of the very highest quality. It must involve guided learning, and young people must learn new things, not simply do their day-to-day jobs. That is why I clearly oppose those who suggest that informal, unaccredited, in-house training or simply being employed without training should count. I remind noble Lords that that is the current situation. The Bill is a profound step forward. It is progressive legislation, which will make a fundamental change in the United Kingdom’s workplaces.
I agree that we need much more than that for our young people who are employed and that we would not meet their expectations if it were simply informal, unaccredited, in-house training, but we need to ensure that we continue to allow high-quality guided learning at the workstation, as we know that that is how some young people learn some things best. Although I know that it was meant as a passing comment, I thought that “sitting with Nellie” was an unfortunate phrase to use. I have had some of my best training by sitting down with people who have showed me exactly how to do something. That is very different from how I was taught at a further education college, which was good at the theory. However, when it came to the practical and to knowing exactly how to do a complex electro-mechanical task, there was no substitute for being with someone who had done that task and had a great deal of experience.
I turn to Amendment No. 9. I know that my noble friend is concerned that the clause as drafted could allow employers a way out from providing any training. I reassure him that the clause does not provide such a way out. It says that a young person can be deemed to have participated in enough training if he has participated in a course or courses leading to an accredited qualification that has been assigned sufficient guided learning hours. I stress that point. There have been many contributions and concerns expressed. I understand the concerns, but they do not seem to recognise that the training cannot be just anything that an employer dreams up. If training is funded then it has to go through an accreditation process. Ofqual assigns guided learning hours to each qualification, as part of the accreditation process, as an estimate of the amount of guided learning required to achieve the qualification. This provides a straightforward way for young people, local authorities, employers and others to tell at a glance whether a young person is participating in enough learning.
Deleting the reference to a course leading to a qualification with the right number of learning hours and relying on a definition that simply required a number of hours of guided learning would mean that someone could miss some hours of scheduled learning as a result of being ill for one day, for example, and would be required to participate in those hours at another time, rather than simply catch up on the learning they had missed, as would normally happen. To make it absolutely clear, this does not mean that employers can simply sign a young person up for a qualification for which they already had the skills and get them accredited without undertaking any actual guided learning. That would clearly not meet the terms of the legislation. In that case, the young person would not have completed a course involving a series of classes or lessons on a particular subject. They would not complete enough hours of actual guided learning to be accredited, so they would be in breach of the duty under the Bill, as would their employer.
We should remember that in many cases the employer will be releasing the young person to do their learning somewhere else, such as a college. We should not presume that all these young people will be at their workstation all the time. Many people will go off on day release and similar schemes. In these cases there will always be a set number of scheduled hours at a completely different location from the workplace, so the question of getting round the requirements will not arise. We are talking only about circumstances in which employers provide accredited training and fund it themselves. My noble friend Lady Whitaker said that she was worried about small employers. I share her concern, but they are the most likely people to go down the funded route. If they do so, be assured that it will have to be accredited. There are safeguards in these circumstances.
We need to ensure that we continue to allow high-quality guided learning that takes place at the workstation. We know that some young people learn some things best in that way. I have already dealt with the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who unfortunately is not here. I agree with my noble friend Lady Blackstone that we need to get it right in these circumstances. Perhaps I part company with her generalisation that someone would be better off unemployed than in a dead-end job. It may be a difficult choice.
My Lords, I was not suggesting that someone would be better off unemployed than in a dead-end job. I was saying that, from the point of view of the Bill, they would be better off unemployed because they would get proper education and guided learning rather than low-quality education and guided learning entirely at the workstation. Does my noble friend accept that nothing, but nothing in the amendment suggests that learning at the workplace is not desirable? All it suggests is that, on top of learning at the workstation, there needs to be some learning outside the workplace.
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that that is not the purpose of the amendment, but it would specify that the 280 hours of guided learning has to be in that form. I was trying to make the point that if people in that age range are in employment, there is a better chance of ensuring that they will receive accredited learning and proper training. Regardless of the type of job, the Bill will provide a real improvement.
My noble friend Lady Morris said that we need to be clear what the Bill requires and that simply accrediting existing skills without teaching or learning would in no way meet the requirements of the Bill. I will consider my noble friend’s point whether, in the specific case of employers who provide and fund the accredited training themselves, we need to do more to satisfy ourselves that the requirements are adhered to in practice. That could involve an increased and more proactive role for local authorities in verifying what is happening when a young person is registered as participating in employer-funded training and checking that a course is being followed. When a course of study leading to a qualification is being publicly funded, both the relevant funding body and Ofsted would have responsibility for ensuring that the appropriate number of guided learning hours was delivered and that the quality of learning experience was high. Mechanisms are in place for these organisations to require improvement if they have concerns about the guided learning conforming to the requirements of the Bill.
I say to my noble friend Lord Layard that, in the pursuit of happiness, a subject on which he is an expert, our officials met him five times. I was present on at least one of those occasions to see whether we could reach an understanding. I regrettably cannot announce peace in our time, but nevertheless we have had a serious exchange of views and I understand his concerns. I am grateful to him for raising these important issues and to all who have contributed to the debate.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his consideration of the points that I raised on non-government funded courses. I heard him say the word “consider” with some force. Can he say whether further amendments will be tabled on Third Reading or whether he was referring to existing, perhaps secondary, legislation? If the latter, will the guidance be statutory or non-statutory?
My Lords, if I were expert enough to give a precise assurance on that I would; but I can assure my noble friend that we will take it away and write to everyone concerned on what we will do in the circumstances I described as being under active consideration.
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Layard for raising these issues. I hope he is reassured that the clause will not allow employers to avoid providing actual learning to young people. We are equally committed to ensuring the quality of the learning experience for young people. We will be monitoring and reviewing the situation, as I am sure he will be, and I do not rule out further dialogue. In the light of those assurances I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply and for his offer of further dialogue, which would be fruitful as there are still a number of points that have not been fully clarified. On that basis I am willing to withdraw the amendment, though we will want to raise it again on Third Reading if we are not satisfied with the dialogue process. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 not moved.]