Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.
11: After Clause 10, insert the following new Clause—
“Listening to views of children
After section 175 of Education Act 2002 (c. 32) insert—
“175A Listening to views of children
(1) It shall be the duty—
(a) of a local education authority, in the exercise of any of their schools’ functions, and(b) of the governing body of a maintained school, in the exercise of any function relating to the conduct of the school,to have due regard to the ascertainable views of the pupil on matters that affect him or her, taking account of his or her age and maturity.
(2) In this section “maintained school” has the meaning given in section 39.””
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, before introducing this amendment, I should declare an interest as president of the National Governors’ Association.
The purpose of the amendment is to create a statutory right for children to participate in decisions that affect them in their education by introducing a new duty on local authorities and governing bodies of maintained schools to have due regard to the views of children. As your Lordships will know, the Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. That gives all children the right to express their views and have them taken into account and given due weight, according to their age and maturity, in all matters affecting them. However, when in October 2008 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed the implementation of the convention in the UK, it concluded that,
“participation of children in all aspects of schooling is inadequate, since children have very few consultation rights”.
The committee of 18 independent experts called for the Government to ensure that there is a statutory right for children to influence education decision-making. It called for the Government to,
“promote, facilitate and implement, in legislation as well as in practice, within … schools … the principle of respect for the views of the child”,
“strengthen children’s participation in all matters of school, classroom and learning which affect them”.
That recommendation echoes those of the four UK children’s commissioners and the 2007 investigation into citizenship education by the Education and Skills Committee.
In September 2007, a review commissioned by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on school councils called for all secondary schools to have a school council. The review found that the majority of teachers agreed that school councils should be a statutory requirement in England.
Concerns were expressed in Committee that we should not be unduly prescriptive on schools as to how they listen to children. That is, of course, a very important qualification. In light of these concerns, the amendment has been redrafted. It does not specify the methods that schools and LEAs should employ to pay due regard to the views of children. However, it ensures—and surely it is right, in today’s world, to do so—that every child has the opportunity to give their views on their education and for these to be taken seriously.
Many of your Lordships will have participated in similar debates in 2002, when Section 176 of the Education Act 2002 was introduced. It obliges schools to have due regard to guidance on participation. But, sadly, this is not having the desired impact. In 2006, a freedom of information survey by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England found that less than 45 per cent of local education authorities had taken any action to inform school staff of the guidance. The action taken, unsurprisingly, was minimal. Less than 20 per cent had run any training and only 10 per cent had informed children of the guidance.
A 2007 Ofsted national survey of children’s views found that nearly four in every 10 children—38 per cent—reported that children’s views are listened to “not much” or “not at all” in the running of their school. A further 11 per cent of children said that they did not know whether children’s views were listened to or not. That is nearly half of all children surveyed. A clear gap has opened up. I beg to move.
My Lords, my name is added to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, in supporting the amendment. The noble Baroness mentioned Article 12 of the UN convention. In addition, Article 4 requires the Government to undertake all appropriate legislative measures for the implementation of the convention’s provisions. This is a call for legislation, not just to spread best practice.
The children’s Minister recently accepted the Government’s obligations under the convention, saying:
“We have an obligation under international law to ensure that the rights set out in the convention are given effect”.—[Official Report, Commons Public Bill Committee, 24/6/08; col. 45.]
Legislation is clearly required here, given the gap that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, has mentioned.
As the noble Baroness said, there was some criticism that our previous amendment was a little too prescriptive, and we have tried to respond to that. There are many ways in which schools—at least, those which demonstrate best practice—very effectively listen to the voices of children and give their views due weight. I would like to give one example of the way in which that is done. In doing so, I declare an interest as a trustee of UNICEF UK.
I refer to the Rights Respecting Schools programme. If any of your Lordships have not visited such a school, I think that they would find it very inspiring to do so. I have visited them at primary and, more recently, at secondary level, at an Andover school. I have never been to schools where the children are so empowered, happy, inspired and engaged in their education. That is because they really are valued, not just by the support staff and the teachers but because they value and respect each other. That respect is built on their understanding of their rights under the convention. Their rights are very overt in the curriculum and, as a result of those rights, so are their duties and responsibilities to each other. It makes for a happy school, high-quality learning and responsible and well adjusted young people; and it can only be to the advantage of everybody that young people grow up in schools such as those.
That is just one way of involving young people and taking account of their views and, while it is one of the best ways, it is not the only one. That is why our amendment is not prescriptive. I welcome the fact that since we had our debate about this in Committee, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has supported our amendment. It says that Article 12 of the UN convention, which covers respect for the views of the child, states that when adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinion taken into account.
The commission believes that this amendment will help to protect that right. So we hope that the Government, who have made great strides in listening more to the views of children and giving them their rights under the convention, will listen to the calls on all sides for this right to be heard to be enshrined in UK legislation. This Bill is the first opportunity we have had in legislation to put into effect what the Committee on the Rights of the Child called for in its report of 3 October, so I hope that we will take this opportunity.
My Lords, I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Young, is going to reply, but it rather looks as though he is. Perhaps I may take the first opportunity that I have had to welcome him to his new post and to wish him the greatest success in it. I hope that, by joining the list of people with whom he has to deal, I have slightly reduced the height of the fence that he feels he has to jump.
I apologise to your Lordships, first, for not having attached my name to this amendment and, secondly, for, with disgracefully bad manners, tabling an amendment after today’s Marshalled List had been printed, both of which I deplore. Unfortunately, three and a half of the past 10 days of my life have been wiped out by a virus. In the haste to catch up with other things that have become undone in that time, some things to do with this Bill have fallen by the wayside.
I support the amendment. It has already been demonstrated that the Government are under a legal obligation to include a provision of this kind in the Bill. That bears repeating: they are under a legal obligation to do so, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, made clear. I shall add only a grace note or two to what has been said already. The benefits of consulting children are obvious when they are drawn into the process, but they lie elsewhere as well. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, did not mention the exercise, which she mentioned to me earlier, whereby an education authority consulted children about the architectural design of their school. It learnt a great deal of valuable material from it; in particular, ways of avoiding little secret places in which small children could be bullied by bigger children. Lower down the age range, it is very useful for a six-foot architect to be talked to by a three-foot child about what it is like to be in a room designed by the six-foot architect. These things are very valuable.
It is an opportune moment to mention that the Government are engaged with rather less publicity than one might have expected in a 15-year programme of pulling down almost all the schools that exist and replacing them. If there was ever a moment when children’s advice was terrifically needed, it is now, and this amendment, therefore, or something very like it, should go straight into the Bill.
My Lords, the amendment, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, pointed out, was moved in a slightly longer form in Committee by my noble friend Lord Elton. My noble friend Lady Morris then agreed that it was desirable to take the views of children into account, but sounded a note of caution that it would not do to lay down to every school how they should go about it. The amendment has been tailored to meet that small concern and I am happy to offer my support for it.
We have argued, sometimes—quite rightly—at length, that one of the biggest obstacles to getting young people to continue in education is the lack of engagement that some feel. It is quite right, therefore, that schools and local education authorities make an effort to encourage such engagement. Of course, there may be concerns about giving a veto to mischievous children, but I think that the wording of this amendment avoids that risk. I agree with the spirit of the noble Baroness’s arguments.
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that the voice of pupils and young people is extremely important. This Government are committed to involving young people as widely as possible in matters which affect them.
We make decisions that impact on children and young people every day. Ensuring that their views are heard and valued not only has the potential to improve services for young people, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, pointed out, but has a positive impact on the school environment and the local community.
Through effective pupil participation, schools give young people the opportunity to develop critical thinking, advocacy and influencing skills, helping every child to fulfil their potential. This is clearly very positive, and the Government seek to encourage it.
The amendment, however, places a direct duty on school governing bodies to establish a school council or other mechanism and to have regard to the ascertainable views of all their pupils on matters that affect them. I do not agree that amending primary legislation is the most powerful or effective way of bringing about the improvements that we all seek. Research shows that more than 95 per cent of schools already have a school council—I can point to my own experience as a governor of a local primary school, where we have an effective school council that ascertains the views of its pupils. We have updated and strengthened guidance, which should serve to encourage the introduction of school councils in the few schools which do not have them and support those schools which run them well and use them as one of a number of ways of listening to their pupils. I echo some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, who gave another example of an effective means of involving and empowering young people.
We have a powerful lever, which we should not underestimate, in Ofsted inspections. They evaluate how well schools take account of the views of children and young people. The value of inspection is that it involves dialogue with the school about improving where necessary and recognising its strengths.
Section 176 of the Education Act 2002 already provides for the consultation of pupils on issues that affect them. It provides for statutory guidance, to which local authorities and governing bodies must have regard, about consultation of pupils when decisions affecting them are taken.
We have just reviewed and strengthened the guidance, Working Together, to help schools effectively to put the principle of pupil consultation into practice. Furthermore, we have ensured that school inspection arrangements assess how well schools take account of the views of children and young people.
The current arrangements offer a non-prescriptive approach, allowing schools to find the best way of involving young people. A rich variety of methods is being used by schools in addition to school councils. Supporting schools through guidance enables them to develop approaches that work for them and to adapt them over time as circumstances change.
The amendment would require all schools to consult all pupils in all circumstances. This is against our drive to free schools up, within boundaries—provided, in this case, through guidance—to take their own decisions. We want to avoid introducing a broad statutory requirement that is likely to cause schools difficulties.
I shall answer some of the understandable concerns expressed by a number of noble Lords. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and all noble Lords who entered into the debate, talked about the legal obligation and the current provision not giving children the right to be consulted, as required by Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We continue to embed in practice the spirit of that resolution in a meaningful way for children and young people. Listening to children is an important outcome for all children, in Every Child Matters. We are ensuring that Ofsted inspectors look at how local authorities, as well as schools, are doing.
It has also been said that we are not meeting the obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although that has no direct legal force, and the detail of implementation is left to individual states, we think that the guidance is in the spirit of the convention and will provide a helpful mechanism in allowing schools effectively to listen to the views of their pupils.
There is no difference between us on the need to ensure that schools involve and empower their young students and pupils. This is really about whether we need something in the Bill. We do not believe that we do—we believe that we have enough effective powers already.
I could not help smiling at the two references to height made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as my colleague and I are a bit sensitive to that, being somewhat vertically challenged. He made a point about consultation on the architecture and design of schools. That is a point very well made, but do we really need it in the Bill? We think that we have demonstrated in what we have achieved so far, with the guidance and Ofsted inspection, that current provision is more than sufficient. We hope that noble Lords will take that into account and that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, will withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am pretty disappointed with the Minister’s reply. Having done exactly what the previous Minister in charge of the Bill required by taking away the prescriptive requirements for exactly how the obligations should be carried out, I should have thought that the Government would have been more than pleased to adopt what is suggested. It surprises me that a number of noble Lords seem to think that there is a legal requirement to put this into practice under the Bill, and that this right has to be adhered to by schools, local authorities and governing bodies. In Scotland, children have had this right since 2000 and there has been no problem there at all. Indeed, Wales and Scotland have a much better record in this respect. Are we really prepared to be second to them in how we carry out legislative requirements?
All I can say is that I am very disappointed, as I had expected a much more sympathetic response. I do not mind at all being told that certain words or commas are wrong and that the amendment should be taken away and redone, but we made it clear that children would be consulted in accordance with their age and maturity. We obviously do not intend that children should be consulted who cannot give any form of constructive reply that makes any sense.
I shall for the moment withdraw the amendment because, not expecting anything but warm encouragement, I had not even bothered to think in terms of dividing the House. However, there may well be a need to do so at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 11 [Educational Institutions: promotion of good attendance:]
12: Clause 11, page 6, line 14, at end insert—
“(e) a city technology college, a city college for the technology of the arts or an Academy.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 12 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 13, which is grouped with it. In our Amendment No. 64 in Committee, my noble friend Lady Sharp asked why academies, city technology colleges and so on were not included in the Clause 11 duty to promote attendance. She supposed that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, would say that it was because such a duty would be in the funding agreement, and so he did—that is exactly what he said. He also said that, through that agreement, they must have regard to the same guidance as maintained schools on improving behaviour and attendance. However, those agreements cannot be challenged once they are set. He also claimed that there was no need to extend the legal duty to CTCs because they are successful schools which already have high levels of post-16 attendance, and that was why they were not listed in this Bill. Well, if that is the case, there is no harm in including them for the sake of equity and completeness.
We have tabled this amendment again in order to emphasise the point and to ask the Minister why community schools will have a legal duty to promote post-16 attendance while academies will not. I should have thought that it was in the interest of all schools to do this once post-16 education becomes the law. This, by the way, is another amendment on which the Equality and Human Rights Commission agrees with us. That is a matter of some satisfaction to us.
Amendment No. 13 would amend Clause 12, which is headed:
“Duty to make arrangements to identify persons not fulfilling duty [to participate] imposed by Section 2”.
We return to this issue because it raises the question of local authority responsibilities in the implementation of this part of the Bill. They are responsible for chasing up the young person who flouts its directions and fails to register for either education or training. They are responsible for keeping a register of all young people in their area and checking up on what they are doing between the ages of 16 and 18 and for enforcing the provisions of the Act. In Committee, we had lengthy discussions on how they might do that and the resources at their disposal.
As the Bill stands, the authority must establish,
“so far as it is possible to do so”,
the identities of the people in its area to whom this part of the Bill applies. Amendment No. 13 therefore adds the rider that that should be “possible and reasonable”. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said in Committee, the Bill as it stands puts no limit on things. What is “possible” may be wildly expensive. Is the local authority expected to employ private detectives to chase children who may have dispersed around the world? Reasonable, he said, seems to be the right word, to which the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, replied that it was really just a matter of semantics. He said that,
“the definition of what is possible must encompass what is reasonable”.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, who is no longer in his place, then responded by asking that the Minister consult his lawyers. He said:
“Most of us are much more familiar with the use of ‘reasonable’ in legislation than with ‘possible’, and there may be advantages in using it”.—[Official Report, 1/7/08; col. 214.]
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, promised to write to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and my noble friend Lady Sharp on the subject, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said that he would also like a copy of the letter. As the Minister was writing, he was asked if he would also explain the mechanisms by which a local authority was expected to track down all these young people. My noble friend has not received a letter on the subject and I would be interested to know whether the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Lucas, have received one.
I return to where we started. What is “possible” is very open-ended. There are clearly limits to the expenditure that local authorities should conscientiously incur on such searches in carrying out their duty to identify who is failing to participate. It is therefore wholly reasonable that the words “and reasonable” should be added to Clause 12. I beg to move.
My Lords, in Committee the Minister raised the issue of good attendance while addressing Amendment No. 12, and we on these Benches agreed that it seemed inconsistent to list on the face of the Bill only some of the institutions that are to have a duty to promote good attendance but not others. When the Minister responded on this point, he made a somewhat less than watertight argument against the need to accept the amendment. He said that the city technology colleges,
“and the one city college for the technology of the arts are, without exception, successful schools with very high levels of post-16 participation from committed pupils with good attendance and behaviour, so we do not think it appropriate to extend the statutory duties to them”.—[Official Report, 3/7/08; col. 402.]
That raises two points.
First, I am sure that some if not all of the institutions listed in the Bill will be dismayed by the implication that they have been included because they are unsuccessful schools with uncommitted and poorly behaved pupils; in other words, they cannot be trusted in the same way as the Government’s handpicked favourites. I hope that that is not the message that the Government wish to send out.
Secondly, the exemption from being placed under a statutory duty seems to be based on a potentially ephemeral criterion. These colleges are successful now, and their current crop of students is currently committed, but will that always remain the case? What will happen if that fortunate situation changes? I can see the loophole in that argument opening up before our eyes.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, merely used a poor choice of words to express himself. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, is right to seek clarification. I agree with her that the two words “and reasonable”, which would be inserted by Amendment No. 13, would improve the drafting of this clause. It may seem a trifling point. However, as my noble friend Lord Lucas said when he spoke in favour of the amendment in Committee, simply asking the local authority to do what is possible is not practical in a technical sense. A local education authority could go to any number of lengths to establish the identities of those who are not complying with the duty; but not all will be feasible. It is right that there should be a duty for local education authorities, but it must be reasonable and practical.
My Lords, I strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on Amendment No. 12. It is time that the Government faced up to the problem of these funding agreements and put in primary legislation what they actually intend. We spent most of this morning saying that this is a flagship piece of legislation that will change the world and make life different for all young people between 14 and 19. It is essential to the economic prosperity and well-being of our nation. It is even more important now, given the economic recession that may be coming, that we make sure that this is as good as it can be.
Apparently, through all the debate, there has been a caveat that exempts 16 to 19 year-olds who go to city academies or other schools outlined in this amendment. I do not for a minute think that the Minister intends that this legislation should not apply to 16 to 19 year-olds who attend these schools; I would be amazed if she stood up and made that point. Presumably the answer is, “Well, we deal with that in a separate way, by making it part of the funding agreement”. However, there is no reason for a twin-track approach. These are publicly funded schools. Every penny of revenue funding for these schools comes from the taxpayer. Life has indeed changed, and the money that formerly was given by sponsors to support these schools—accounting for 10 per cent of the cost of academies—is now no longer given in most cases, and never did arrive in the case of city technology colleges 20 years ago. The first question for the Minister is, why should wholly publicly funded schools, that take in children who are funded under the same financial regulations as any other child attending a state school, not be subject to this flagship legislation?
The second is, can the Minister give your Lordships an example of any circumstance in which she or a ministerial colleague would negotiate a contract in which abiding by this legislation was not a part? If she can, I would be amazed. The truth is, by not including these schools in primary legislation, she gives the impression that there is a separate negotiating business deal going on; that she is prepared to sit down with the funder who is going to sign the sponsorship agreement and talk to him or her about whether this legislation should apply to children in their schools. I do not believe that she is going to do that.
The possible answer is, “Why do this? Why not just accept the funding agreement? You have accepted that what I intend will be implicit in this piece of legislation”. There are two reasons. I praise the Government, particularly under the leadership of the new Secretary of State, for trying, over the past 12 months, to draw academies and city technology colleges into the family of schools. Minor legislative changes have covered the teaching of core subjects of the national curriculum and admission arrangements that were included in the previous flagship Education Bill. The Secretary of State has been clear that academies will have to abide by these good things. I cannot think why the Government have not seized this opportunity to build on this, by making this the piece of legislation in which academies and city technology colleges are listed as institutions to which it will apply.
This is about transparency. In primary legislation, it is transparent to all parents and taxpayers that this legislation will apply to children in maintained schools. The funding agreement is secret. I am not even sure that it is published. It is certainly not amendable through representations by the public. I do not think that it is even covered by the Freedom of Information Act, but I will stand corrected if I am wrong on that. There is no way in which the voter, the taxpayer or parent of the pupil can have an input. I find it difficult to think of any of my political colleagues who can make a case for it being acceptable to put into this flagship piece of legislation a secret funding agreement, negotiated on a one-to-one basis behind closed doors rather than openly and transparently.
My final plea is that this legislation is not about schools, sponsors and the Government but, to my mind, about giving entitlement to young people. It gives entitlement to young citizens of this country between the ages of 16 and 19 to expect that we, as adults in this legislature, give them a right to high-quality education and training. Why are we creating a situation in the law of the land whereby this adult Parliament gives that right by primary legislation to all 16 to 19 year-olds apart from those who attend academies and city technology colleges? It is about time that the Government looked seriously at how they deal with these funding agreements. I am surprised that the Secretary of State has not taken the opportunity to do it now. I could not speak more strongly in favour of Amendment No. 12. It makes sense. We owe it to the 16 to 19 year-olds who will attend these schools, and their parents, to ensure that their entitlement and opportunities are defended in primary legislation, just as they are for every other 16 to 19 year-old.
My Lords, first, I apologise to noble Lords who did not receive a copy of my noble friend Lord Adonis’s letter to the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I am not sure why it did not get to other Members who participated in Committee. I shall ensure that that letter is circulated.
On the points on the use of the language to which that letter referred, we agree that we should limit the burdens on local authorities in general. Clause 12 forms a key part of the local authorities’ overarching duty to promote participation. It is clear that, for a local authority to fulfil its duty of promoting participation, it will need to know who is not participating and what is being done to re-engage them.
If the amendment were accepted, it would weaken that duty on local authorities and could lead to them failing to provide the necessary support to help some young people re-engage. While Clause 12 would require the local authority to go beyond what is merely reasonable, we intend to make clear in guidance the kind of arrangements that, if made, would be taken to satisfy the duty; that is exactly what the noble Baroness was asking about. There will be guidance to help local authorities understand exactly what is expected of them.
However, I also suspect that the difference between our interpretations of the use of this language is not as great as it seems. While many of us in this House are familiar with the term “reasonable” in legislation, as opposed to “possible”, I assure noble Lords that there are in excess of 200 examples on our statute books of the phrase in question. I have not counted them, but I am advised that this is the case. While there may be a fine distinction between the terms, an interpretation of what is possible—I cannot believe that I am saying this—would also encompass what is reasonable. Altering the wording as proposed in Amendment No. 13 would give the wrong impression to local authorities on the importance of the duty. We are concerned that suggesting that local authorities should not use their best endeavours would downplay the pivotal importance of identifying young people who have fallen out of the system.
On Amendment No. 12, I have received advice to reiterate strongly the words of my noble friend in Committee. He said we are requiring academies, through their funding agreements, to have regard to the same guidance as maintained schools on improving behaviour and attendance. I am hearing an impassioned plea that I should perhaps expand on those words in a more demanding fashion. I heard very clearly the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and my noble friend Lady Morris that this House wishes to hear in a convincing tone our commitment to making sure that the Bill is there to benefit all children; that is exactly what we seek. I would be very happy, if given the opportunity, to come back and attempt to do that again for noble Lords.
My Lords, if my noble friend is to approach the funding agreements by saying, in even stronger words, that she would not under any circumstances negotiate a funding agreement with an academy that did not incorporate adherence to this legislation, would she also not wish during her time in office to make sure that no future Secretary of State could negotiate a funding agreement with an academy that meant that it did not have to follow the legislation? Perhaps she might reflect that the point of primary legislation means that, beyond her decisions in her office during her time as a Minister, the opportunities laid out in the legislation will be available to children and young people. I spoke in support of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I am not satisfied by a promise of just stronger words. Perhaps my noble friend might reflect on whether she might come back at Third Reading with a government amendment.
My Lords, I fully understand my noble friend’s interpretation of the purpose of legislation to create entitlements and commitment in perpetuity. That is very much what we are attempting to do through this landmark Bill, as it has been described. I certainly understand and hear very clearly the message she is giving me.
My Lords, the Minister and the House know that it is my life’s ambition to make life easy for this Government. Therefore, I suggest that instead of amending the ambition to have 400 academy funding agreements, it would be much easier to put it in legislation and add it to the list. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, has made a most telling point, which I failed to do, and I pay tribute to her for that; it is a matter of transparency and of how it looks. If the Government want academies to be seen to be giving the same rights and entitlements to 16 to 19 year-olds as everyone else, there is no reason why Amendment No. 12 should not be accepted. We will come back to this issue.
On Amendment No. 13, we are rather like angels dancing on the head of a pin but the Government seem to be saying that in guidance they are going to define what is possible. It is not possible in guidance to define what is possible, unless it is extremely long guidance. It is possible in guidance to define what is reasonable, and I recommend that the Minister think again about this. Guidance can certainly advise local authorities on the range of things they could put in place which the Government would regard as reasonable in carrying out this duty to identify young people who are not participating. I accept that they cannot carry out their other duties unless they know who the young people are, but it is not possible to define in guidance everything that it is possible for a local authority to do. If you do that, you are not defining what is reasonable. The Government might think they are limiting what a local authority would have to do but I think what they are proposing is actually broadening it and opening the cheque book that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, who is not in his place, has warned us about. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 12 [Duty to make arrangements to identify persons not fulfilling duty imposed by section 2]:
[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]
Clause 14 [Educational institutions: duty to provide information]:
14: Clause 14, page 8, line 6, at end insert “provided that the relevant pupil or student has given written consent for the information to be provided”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in Committee we tabled a rather larger group of amendments relating to data protection. I have narrowed down the numbers somewhat so that these amendments relate to informing persons if their data are being abused and obtaining their consent. I have brought these amendments back because they are extremely important. I heard what the then Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, had to say in response, and I have read his words carefully in the official record.
Despite the Government’s replies then, I think it is necessary to get absolute assurances on this point. The collection, use and sharing of people’s personal details, which can include some highly confidential information, must be treated with utmost care and respect. The Minister’s predecessor said himself in Committee that he understood that Parliament had an absolute duty to see that personal data are handled appropriately and not in an unauthorised way, and that security is paramount. He went on to point out that the provisions in the Bill are very similar to those which Parliament has agreed in respect of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. A good deal has happened since 2000 and while it may be embarrassing for the Government to be reminded, they none the less have a truly dismal record in keeping records safe. I do not think that it is unreasonable to look carefully at what reassurances and safety mechanisms we can place in the Bill.
Amendment No. 14 concerns written consent for the provision of information. This creates an opt-in approach rather than an opt-out. It may be true that this is more cumbersome for the authorities than making the hapless individual do the running, but perhaps it could be said that this will make authorities think more carefully about what information they are prepared to go to the trouble of collecting.
Amendment No. 15 would require educational establishments to write to their students to inform them of their rights under subsection (4). In Committee the Minister responded by saying that learning providers have had arrangements in place since 2000 to do this with regard to information disclosures to Connexions. If that system is working well, I cannot see why the Bill should not adopt this good practice.
Amendment No. 19 would simply specify that a local authority must notify the young person concerned within seven days of the information being supplied that it has done so. That may seem a very tight time frame, but once again it should spur efficiency and care on the part of the local authority, which would have to make a deliberate and considered choice about what information it was going to supply rather than simply offloading personal data indiscriminately.
Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 66 reflect what I see as the desirability of opting in. They simply hand a measure of empowerment to the people whose details are being collated. They are, after all, their data and they should be allowed to say whether they may be used.
I hope that noble Lords will recognise that I am not trying to be difficult on this matter. I strongly believe that we in this place owe it to the people whose lives will be affected by the measures in the Bill to show that we have considered the consequences. It is unfortunate that in the past year or so we have seen the worry, confusion and concern that are caused when vast amounts of personal data get lost in the post, are stolen from an office or are left uncoded on a laptop on a train. I hope that the Government have had the time and inclination to give more thought to this matter. I beg to move.
My Lords, we on these Benches very much share the Opposition’s reservations about the degree to which data are given proper protection but we do not agree with them in relation to all the provisions that they have written into this series of amendments. In particular, we agree with the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, when we debated this matter in Committee: given the constituency of young people to whom this provision is addressed, it is unnecessarily bureaucratic to expect them to have given their written consent to this information being included.
However, we very much go along with Amendment No. 15, which requires that:
“Each educational institution shall, at the beginning of each academic year, write to every student attending its institution informing them of their rights under subsection (4)”.
They should know what information is being provided about them and they should have the right to check that information, as everyone has under the Data Protection Act.
I want to speak specifically to Amendment No. 18, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Walmsley. It suggests that the Border and Immigration Agency should be included in the list of institutions at Clause 16(2). We retabled this amendment because the answer provided in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, was inconclusive.
The issue is whether the Border and Immigration Agency should be added to the list of information providers in Clause 16(2). The list comprises all the agencies that are expected to supply information to the local authority about the activities and movements of young people so that the local authority can build a comprehensive database of all young people in its area. It includes the health authorities, police and probation services, and young offender services. We pointed out that, with the substantial number of people immigrating into this country, and especially with the arrival of a considerable number of unaccompanied minors, the Border and Immigration Agency should also be on the list. The Minister responded by saying that the list exactly reproduced that in the Learning and Skills Act 2000 and he did not see that the Border and Immigration Agency would provide information that could not be obtained elsewhere. However, when I questioned that, giving the example of eastern European families settling in some areas of the UK, he promised to go away and think about the issue further, asking officials how such a family might otherwise be picked up. I wonder whether the department has indeed had further thoughts on the subject, and I shall be interested to hear from the Minister what they are.
My Lords, I strongly support my noble friend on this group of amendments. Young people can be acutely sensitive about their personal data and what is known about them—perhaps in some ways more than adults are. They mind very much what people say about them—behind their backs, as they would see it. On many occasions, the information about us is wrong; there is a lot of sloppiness and carelessness. You are very dependent on the people who enter the information being scrupulously careful, but that is not always the case. I have seen my own health records and was appalled at the number of errors there were. I am sure that that is multiplied many millions of times over in the huge plethora of information that various government agencies now hold about us all.
A young person should know that this information has been recorded. They should see it so that they can find out whether it is correct. They should understand who holds it and who has access to it. I understand very well why my Liberal Democrat colleagues feel nervous about young people’s ability always to sign things. The only way to know that somebody has actually read something and knows what is being said about them is if they send back a written return. Otherwise they may just shove it in the bedroom drawer and not bother to read it. It is terribly important that they know what is being said about them and that they have an opportunity to correct it. I very strongly support the amendment and hope that the Government will think seriously about it.
My Lords, I simply add my concern that the information we are talking about, in Clause 14(3)(c), does not provide any restriction on what it may be about as long as it relates to the child. It does not say that it must be relevant to any of the functions of the authority or school. If I am wrong, I shall be glad to be reassured but it seems that there could be some eccentric gathering of information that could be quite harmful to the individuals concerned. That being so, it is all the more important that consent should be sought before such information is distributed.
My Lords, as far as I am advised, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, is wrong, but by the time I have finished speaking, I may have further inspiration so that I can give him a fuller answer. If I do not get further inspiration I shall ensure that he gets a fuller answer.
I shall start my response to this important discussion by outlining some of the general points about the information-sharing provisions in the Bill. It is worth being clear again that this information sharing is not new. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, alluded to that. Information sharing between learning providers and Connexions and between Jobcentre Plus and Connexions has been in place since the Learning and Skills Act 2000, as my noble friend Lord Adonis made clear in Committee. Schools, colleges and job centres currently provide information to Connexions so that it can track young people and provide appropriate and timely support.
Accepting the amendments would add bureaucracy and complexity to the system, although I understand the concerns that have motivated them. They would reduce the ability of local authorities to provide the timely and appropriate support to young people that is so important. We know that interventions that are rapid are most likely to be effective in getting a young person back into learning. That is what is so important. In addition, and probably most importantly, a number of safeguards are already in place. Under the Data Protection Act individuals have the right to request a copy of the personal information held on them by an organisation. As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said, if there are concerns about accuracy, that is the route for people to ensure that information is correct. The organisation must inform the individual if personal data relating to him or her is being shared, if notification is practicable. That is a very important safeguard.
Amendments Nos. 14, 16, 17 and 66 require consent. There is a great risk of inertia in any system in obtaining consent, whether written or not. If consent were required, many young people or their families might simply forget or neglect to sign and send the necessary form. This is a particular risk for young people who have a wide range of needs and may have chaotic lifestyles. If a young person did not provide consent to his basic identification information being passed on, the local authority could not track the person or know when that person had dropped out of education or training. That local authority might not be able to provide that person with any support, let alone timely support that was tailored to their needs.
I would also like to clarify, and to reassure the House, that although these clauses create powers to provide information, this does not remove the responsibility to act in accordance with the Human Rights Act, the common law of confidence and the Data Protection Act. Although they do not specifically require consent, it could be required by other legislation and in legal principles, which present a series of safeguards determining whether disclosure is lawful or not.
A requirement to consent would add complexity to the system, placing considerable additional burdens on local authorities and other public bodies. It also has the potential to cause delay in getting important information to the local authority, which would in turn prevent it from tracking young people effectively and therefore from intervening to provide support that is timely and appropriate to their needs. I believe that Clauses 14, 15 and 16, as they stand, strike the right balance—and it is a balance—between enabling the local authority to deliver its functions of promoting participation and identifying young people who are not participating with respecting young people’s rights to prevent certain information being shared about them. These amendments on obtaining consent would do no more than obstruct the process that is already in place and functioning well.
Regarding Amendment No. 15, learning providers have had arrangements in place to notify parents about information disclosures to Connexions since 2000. It is normal practice to write to all parents of pupils approaching the age of 13, letting them know that information about their children will be shared with Connexions unless they request that it should not be. That position will continue.
On Amendment No. 19, the Data Protection Act means it is necessary to inform people when personal information about them is being shared, provided this is practical. It would be an unnecessary and inflexible burden to set in primary legislation such a specific time limit as set out in this amendment. I hope that, in the light of the reassurances with regard to the Data Protection Act, current practice and so on, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, given the safeguards.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked if we would think about Amendment No. 18, and we have done so. The question was whether we should add the border and immigration agency, now known as the UK Border Agency, to the list of public bodies under Clause 16. The list in Clauses 16 and 64 reproduces the list of Section 120 of the Learning and Skills Act. This was because we want Connexions to be able to access the same information under Clause 64 as it does under Section 120 of the Learning and Skills Act. We want it to have access to exactly the same kind of information as it does now. We have, however, worked with the Home Office to consider further the information-sharing powers available to the UK Border Agency, and it is clear that, through a common law power, they are already able to share information with local authorities. In addition, the new Immigration and Citizenship Bill will further support their role of promoting the well-being of young people. It is important to emphasise that this common law power already exists. Given the situation and the progress under way, I hope that noble Lords will accept that it would be inappropriate at this stage to add the UK Border Agency explicitly to Clause 16 as it could have unintended consequences for the common law provision.
If I may quickly respond to the query of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, the information has to be in the possession of the school or college but must be relevant information in relation to the local authority’s functions under the Bill.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to the debate. My noble friend Lady Perry raised a strong argument in our wishes to empower young people. These amendments offer the opportunity to provide that empowerment.
I have listened with care to the Minister and I still believe that this is an area where we need to accept bureaucracy if it is to safeguard personal data and avoid the implications of data being recorded wrongly or found in the wrong hands. I am not sure that I agree with her argument, but I shall read Hansard carefully tomorrow. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 15 not moved.]
Clause 15 [Supply of social security information]:
[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]
Clause 16 [Supply of information by public bodies]:
[Amendments Nos. 17 to 19 not moved.]
20: After Clause 18, insert the following new Clause—
The Secretary of State shall commission an independent review into the effectiveness of the provision of careers advice in England and the appropriateness of a single all-age advice and guidance service as established in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendments in this group were tabled in Committee and I have tabled them again today for slightly different reasons. Amendment No. 20 inserts a new clause on careers education. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, while supporting the amendment, suggested that it could sit better in a different part of the Bill. That may be so, but I am less concerned about that than with the meaning of the amendment. I would like the Secretary of State to conduct a review into how effective the provision of careers advice is in England and whether it would benefit from a single, all-age advice and guidance service.
I have read carefully the response of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, in Committee. He said that he recognised that the reforms under way for 14 to 19 year-olds would present a challenge to information, advice and guidance providers and that the Government would need to focus on continuous improvements and bringing the performance of all providers up to the highest standards. Yet while he acknowledged that the system was imperfect, he concluded his remarks in a somewhat offhand way by saying that the Government had conducted significant reviews of Connexions in recent years and they did not believe that a review of itself was likely to be a lever to drive up standards. I am sorry that I am repeating the previous Minister’s words to the current Minister, but I feel that the Government have understood my argument. I am not seeking a review for the sake of having a review—that would be a waste of time, effort and money—but I have said previously in this place that I do not believe that Connexions is up to scratch as a careers adviser. If, as the noble Lord said, the reforms affecting 14 to 19 year-olds are challenging the nature of existing systems, it seems sensible that the fitness for purpose of existing systems needs to be examined.
As noble Lords will see from the wording of the amendment, I am not calling for a review of the system in a vacuum; I am calling specifically for it to be compared with systems in place in the other countries of the United Kingdom. I am well aware that devolution to the smaller UK countries means that different parts of the Kingdom may have different policies, but that should not exclude each country from looking at what the others are doing. If we spot a good idea in practice somewhere else, we would be foolish, to say the least, not to consider it. That is what will drive up standards, not the mechanisms of reviewing the system. Like all noble Lords, I want to see the best possible careers advice provision to help young people at all stages of their education to make the most appropriate decisions for their future. I hope that the Minister will give due consideration to this proposal.
I have brought the second amendment in this group back today because when I moved it in Committee, the Minister, who was not the Minister at that stage, was caught unawares and did not feel that she could address the matter fully. She promised to take the issue away and consider it. I trust that she has now been able to do so. The amendment makes a simple point. It allows young people to have direct contact with those who might be considered role models in their chosen career, training or education path.
As I said before, I applaud the Government for including in Clause 61 the means to provide information electronically. The internet is a useful tool, and young people happily use it to inform themselves as well as for entertainment. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said in July in support of this amendment,
“face-to-face interviews are extremely important and we should make sure that we do not simply rely on the internet”.—[Official Report, 21/7/08; col. 1515.]
My amendment would make sure that as many options as possible are considered to help young people get a good feel for the decisions they must take on the direction they are going in. I hope that when the Minister was reflecting on this she saw that I intend this amendment to be helpful and to allow young people to arm themselves with as much useful information as they can before they embark on their future. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, said that in Committee I said that her Amendment No. 20 was in the wrong place. I maintain that it is still in the wrong place. It is between a chapter on local authorities and one on employers. The right place to put this amendment is before Clause 60, which is about careers education. However, the noble Baroness persists in putting it early on, which leads us to discuss careers education now.
I supported her then, and I support her now, in maintaining that there is much to be improved in the information, advice and guidance given to young people and the careers education they are given in schools. I know that the Government are doing their best at that and have increased the amount of money going to Connexions so that it can improve its service. I hope that that is so because it is important that young people in primary schools are given access to knowledge about careers and begin to think about what careers they might pursue at a later stage. Of course, children often change what they want to do, but it is extremely important to get them thinking about jobs and what they involve. Good careers education, particularly in the lower half of secondary school, is vital.
On Amendment No. 67, the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, quoted me saying that face-to-face interviews are important. We cannot rely just on information, advice and guidance through the internet or over the telephone. The interview with the careers adviser at the appropriate point in school is vital. We cannot do away with careers advisers in schools; a specifically trained Connexions careers adviser is vital. There is no reason why teachers should not provide careers education, but they must be given training. If we are going to use general teachers, they should have specific CPD training on careers education. Many of them do not know about issues outside.
Amendment No. 67 is concerned with getting specific information about particular careers and talking to people who are pursuing them about what they involve. I mentioned last time, and I shall mention again, the website horsesmouth.co.uk. Another website called Vitae is being developed by the Cambridge-based Careers Research and Advisory Centre. It involves people who practise particular careers talking about what they do. In that sense, an internet exchange is quite useful. Horsesmouth.co.uk is interactive, so a young person can ask questions of the person who has pursued a career.
Amendment No. 68, a little amendment in my name and the names of my noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lady Garden, seeks to put right what seems an anomaly. Sections 43 to 45 of the Education Act 1997 give the Secretary of State the right to extend by regulation the scope of careers education and guidance. The Secretary of State has used the powers in Section 45B to extend the scope of careers education to primary schools and lower year groups in secondary schools, but it does not apply to those aged 16 and over—precisely the 16 and 17 year-olds whom this legislation catches.
It is an anomaly. In responding to an amendment that I tabled in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said that it did not matter as those young people get it anyhow. If I may say so, that was not a good enough response. If there is a duty on schools to provide careers education and information, advice and guidance on careers, it is appropriate that the duty should include those aged 16 or 17. Our simple little amendment provides that the Minister may by regulations extend that provision—it is only by regulation that the Minister has to operate—and makes good that anomaly.
My Lords, I will speak briefly on Amendment No. 67. I pricked up my ears when the noble Baronesses, Lady Verma and Lady Sharp, spoke. They reminded me of a programme broadcast 10 years ago, where a black man in America, who had run a programme for young black boys in schools, had recruited professional black men to go into schools to help boys with their reading. After a period of months, it culminated in those men taking the boys to their place of work and showing them around. If that is what the noble Baroness is driving at here, then it is very welcome. People with professional experience coming from outside to talk to young people would give them the benefit of that experience.
That prompts me to ask the Minister about Criminal Records Bureau checks, because, while children are concerned that people working with them have those checks, they can be an obstacle for people working outside to coming in and engaging with young people. Particularly, it appears that there is often quite a long delay in processing those checks. Perhaps the Minister might write me a little note on what is being done to speed up Criminal Records Bureau checks and ensuring that they are not repeated too often. That would get the balance right between ensuring that someone is safe and avoiding too much bureaucracy.
My Lords, I hope that I am not out of order in addressing these amendments, and particularly the last of them, Amendment No. 68. I do so because I tabled an amendment in Committee on non-stereotypical careers advice and work placements and I was so reassured by the Minister’s answer that I did not put down any amendments for Report. However, I have since had some correspondence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was very disappointed to learn that,
“the ‘Work-related training guide’ produced by DCSF”,
for employers, schools and colleges does not, in fact, mention that issue once. Of course, that has rather upset the commission. It believes, not unnaturally, that this must be addressed because the current work placement model is deficient. Obviously it can operate in a number of ways. Those who are well connected find their own placements, usually of good quality; some people will choose from lists because lists can be presented to them; and the third group will be allocated to placements. That means that some people are still being stereotyped in the decisions made for them. As we all know, they will be those who have less information, who are more likely to be at the bottom of the pile and who have less access to those who can advise them more carefully. The commission found, for example, that only 15 per cent of girls and boys received any advice on non-traditional placements.
I ask the Minister to again look at this area to see whether an outline of how schools and employers can tackle stereotyping in work placements can be produced. A statement of information and guidance should not be limited because of assumptions about gender, race, disability and so on. Education-business partnerships could perhaps be developed, with careers advisers being more proactive in supporting and/or finding non-traditional placements.
I hope I have not taken the Minister unawares but I received this brief only this morning and this is too good an opportunity not to bring it up now, not least because we were all reassured by what she said on the previous occasion which, sadly, so far has apparently not been put into action.
My Lords, I do not support Amendment No. 20, not because I do not think careers guidance is important—I do—but I am not sure that a review at this time is needed. I support the content of the debate about the importance of careers education and guidance and I should like to make a few brief points.
As we move more towards a personalised curriculum and give people more choice, the more important careers education and guidance becomes. However, there is a danger in concentrating too much on the provision of information. It is absolutely crucial that the provision of information is accurate, timely and of high quality, but that by itself will not produce a good guidance system which is supportive of people in making appropriate decisions at appropriate times. That is far more complex and difficult to legislate for. Will the Minister assure the House that her department is considering how young people make decisions and what support they need?
In the north-east there is a 14 to 19 commission which includes all the partners at regional, school, FE and employer levels. They are coming together to try to make the 14 to 19 agenda work. I have the privilege of chairing the commission at the moment. We have set up a youth board so that young people can advise us on what they think. Interestingly, they put proper careers education and guidance at the top of their agenda. They did so because they felt it was the part of the system that was not working. This part of the legislation covering careers education and guidance is for young people and this is a time when we particularly need to hear their views and their voice. Perhaps my noble friend will also reassure us that there is provision for the department to listen to young people about how they think careers education and guidance can be best provided to them and at what point in their lives.
My Lords, I hope I can reassure not only my noble friend but all those who have spoken in the debate that we see careers advice, information and guidance as being extremely important and worthy of a great deal of attention at the highest levels within the department. I start by responding to Amendment No. 67 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. She is right: it is the amendment that came up when I was surprised to be sitting in the hot seat. I am delighted that the noble Baroness has tabled the amendment for debate again today so that I can respond. She explained very eloquently the need for young people to have access to the widest possible arsenal of tools to help them in making their decisions about future career options.
The national service, Connexions Direct, offers information, advice and support to young people in England. It has been extremely successful. The service provides profiles of more than 800 jobs through its jobs4u careers database, which is an important resource. This does not detract from other resources, such as horsesmouth.co.uk. The jobs4u careers database includes case studies of personal experiences in specific roles, and the profiles are frequently updated. If a young person cannot find information on the specific role that they want, Connexions Direct will provide more information for them via the website, and find an appropriate case study. It is about giving young people access through the internet to real-life examples of careers. The provisions that the amendment would make are already available, and it is our intention that the service should continue to offer advice and information of this kind, and to make sure that we are connected to the services that other providers make available to young people.
Amendment No. 20, which would require the Secretary of State to commission an independent review, is not necessary. Noble Lords will be aware that there have been reviews on this subject, as the noble Baroness highlighted. They have been undertaken in recent years. That is not to say that further consideration of this vital subject is not important, but the end-to-end review of careers education and guidance, which reported in July 2005, and the Leitch review of skills, completed in December 2006, also addressed the issues of careers services for adults.
We have listened carefully to the arguments for an all-age careers service and we do not disagree with them per se. We see that there is a need for a joined-up service that meets the needs of people at all ages. Teenagers face different challenges from adults, not least learning choices and the personal issues associated with the transition to adulthood. The Connexions service, working in partnership with schools and colleges, is best placed to meet these needs. Clause 56 will transfer, as noble Lords know, the delivery of the Connexions service to local authorities. This will help local authorities to embed Connexions within integrated youth support arrangements to improve support for the most vulnerable people, which must be key.
The Government have accepted the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, to establish a universal adult careers service, which will be operational from 2010-11. The key elements of this service are described in the Adult Advancement and Careers Service prospectus, which was launched yesterday, I believe. We will ensure that links are made between the adult and young people’s careers services; for example, through case conferences between adult advisers and Connexions advisers. We are talking about an all-ages strategy, which is very important.
Amendment No. 68 would extend the requirement for schools to provide careers education to include learners aged 16 to 18. Section 46 of the 1997 Act, which is the focus of this amendment, already allows regulations to be made to extend the age for careers education in schools and requires further education institutions to provide a programme of careers education. Therefore, new primary legislation would not be required to extend these duties to pupils above the age of 16.
I do not believe that this amendment is necessary, but I believe that the subject is extremely important. High-quality, impartial information, advice and guidance help young people to make choices that position them for success in life. As my noble friend highlighted, and as I know from when I was working with students to find out what they saw as priorities, information, advice and guidance came top of the list.
My Lords, I am looking for advice from my colleagues, and they are shaking their heads. I hope that I will be able to convince the noble Baroness that we have a strong enough commitment. We see this as very important. It will become more important as our 14 to 19 reforms offer young people a wider choice of learning and increasing numbers stay on in education and training. Diplomas are delivered by partnerships of schools, further education colleges and other learning providers. To begin delivering diplomas, each consortium must demonstrate that it offers high-quality information, advice and guidance to young people. This is a key part of our strategy.
My department is offering support to all consortia to ensure that the guidance they offer meets our national quality standards. Those standards, which were debated recently, focus on independent high-quality advice for young people. We are also working with the National College for School Leadership and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service to raise the profile of careers advice and to help school and FE leaders improve the quality of their provision.
This is a challenging agenda, but we can also take time to celebrate success. The recent Ofsted review of 14 to 19 implementation found that the quality of information, advice and guidance was good or better in 12 of the 16 partnerships visited and at least satisfactory in three others. That is encouraging, but we need to continue to improve information, advice and guidance services.
These reforms are important and I hope that they will be welcomed. We will put forward further proposals in the spring in support of provisions in the forthcoming apprenticeship Bill and the new education and skills Bill, in which we will cover the development of the adult advancement service.
Officials met with the Equality and Human Rights Commission this week, and we are taking forward its concerns about the work-related learning guidance. I shall be very happy to talk to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, about this at any stage should she wish to do so. I am also happy to write to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about Criminal Records Bureau checks. That is another huge area of interest to me, but now is probably not the moment to go into it in detail.
My Lords, I thank the Minister and all noble Lords who have spoken. On understanding information, it is really important to include personal interaction so that young people can raise issues and concerns that are not always addressed through the internet. I am disappointed that the Minister will not consider further an all-age careers service. I think that we are missing a great opportunity to respond quickly and flexibly to career changes and opportunities, especially when young people will make several different choices throughout their working life.
I will consider carefully the Minister’s comments. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 22 [Financial penalty for contravention of section 21]:
21: Clause 22, page 12, line 21, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—
“(a) particulars of the contravention of section 21 in respect of which the penalty is imposed,”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I welcome the careful scrutiny that the Select Committee on the Constitution gave to the Bill. I also welcome the Committee’s detailed and helpful comments on the duties on employers, the related sanctions and the rights of objection and appeal which were set out in a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, to my noble friend Lord Adonis on 11 June. The Government agree that it is extremely important that fair procedures are followed. My noble friend undertook in his reply to the letter to consider whether there was a need to strengthen the provisions in the Bill to make it clear that employers will be able to challenge a decision by a local authority to take enforcement action and that there is a satisfactory appeal route.
We have considered this matter carefully and are today proposing amendments that provide for employers to object to a fixed-penalty notice in the first instance and to appeal against such a notice to the first-tier tribunal in the second instance. As we have discussed previously, the enforcement powers that local authorities have in relation to employers will be used only as a very last resort and will always be preceded by informal engagement with employers to ensure that they understand their duties and are given the chance to put right the situation voluntarily. We will develop clear guidance in conjunction with employer organisations during the next five years to ensure that employers fully understand what is expected and do not risk facing enforcement action. However, should the enforcement provisions need to be used, it is important, as I hope that noble Lords will agree, to make it clear that employers have the rights of objection and appeal that I set out. I therefore hope that noble Lords will support the amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome the Government’s amendments, which reflect concerns raised by the Constitution Committee. It is very important for employers—and I speak as one—to know exactly where they stand. It is crucial that they are able to appeal fines imposed on them under these clauses. I am pleased that the Government have taken on board the widespread concern that provisions in the Bill risk adding to the burdens that small businesses must carry. However, I reiterate my concern about the necessity for a system of fines and penalties at all.
My Lords, we on these Benches also welcome the direction in which the amendments are taking us. There is a recurring theme throughout this debate: the balance between persuasion and coercion. For the measures in the Bill to succeed, employers must be fully engaged with colleges, schools and other learning providers. Their active involvement is fundamentally important. It is far preferable that they be willing participants and convinced of tangible benefits both for the young people concerned and for their business.
We recognise that if young people are entitled to receive appropriate training in their employment, it will impose duties and responsibilities on employers. But it should be as a very last resort that enforcement is required. I welcome the Minister’s assurances on that score.
We are pleased that provisions have been introduced to clarify what employers can expect if they do not meet requirements and that the Government have responded so positively to concern expressed by the Committee on the Constitution that employers should have opportunities to set out their objections to a penalty notice. We also welcome the assurances that any reduction in penalty would be repaid with interest.
In the debate on 3 July, noble Lords asked questions to which the answers remain unclear. How are Clauses 22 and 23 going to work? How will a local authority find out if employers do not allow access to education and training when they should? The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, stated that information could be obtained through the Connexions service, through engagement with young people and through contact with employers, where it may transpire that young people are not participating in education or training. But it may not be a simple task to obtain sufficient reliable information to prove contravention. This could be time consuming and tie up resources that the authority may feel would be better spent elsewhere. Even if a local authority has obtained convincing evidence, it could have reservations about enforcing penalties. We had assurances from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that the word “may” in Clause 22 meant that the local authority had discretion over whether to require the employer to pay a financial penalty.
Enforcement is going to take resources of time and finances and, as the CBI and others have advised, risks deterring employers from taking on young people. It would not help the aims of the Bill if the penalties alienate small businesses, where the majority of young people find employment. Since this was debated in Committee, the economic climate has not made it any easier for employers large or small to give high priority to training programmes and a light touch on enforcement is even more desirable than before. Recently, the Government have been particularly encouraging of the public sector to increase its work placements. I wonder how enforcements will be managed within the public sector and what safeguards there are that public sector resources will not be diverted to cover appeals and penalties.
The Government have responded encouragingly to the concerns raised previously and, while we might like a few further assurances, we congratulate the Minister on taking note of suggestions and views expressed and thank her for introducing these more detailed amendments.
My Lords, I am more than happy to write in detail to the noble Baroness, answering her questions in full. However, my main point is that in the Bill the whole emphasis on enforcement is to create a power not a duty. We are very much expecting local authorities to take a balanced and proportionate approach to this whole question of enforcement. I appreciate that we have tabled some fairly lengthy new clauses on this and we are pleased to respond to the Committee’s concerns in full. I hope very much that I can answer all the noble Baroness’s questions in detail and copy that answer to the rest of the interested Peers.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
22: Clause 22, page 12, line 25, at end insert—
“( ) the steps that the employer may take if the employer objects to the giving of the penalty notice, including how the employer may appeal against it,”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
23: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—
“Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 22 following notice of objection
(1) This section applies where a penalty notice has been given to a person (“the employer”) under section 22 by a local education authority.
(2) The employer may, by giving notice (a “notice of objection”) to the authority, object to the giving of the penalty notice on either or both of the following grounds—
(a) that the employer did not commit the contravention of section 21 stated in the penalty notice;(b) that the amount of the penalty stated in the penalty notice is too high.(3) A notice of objection—
(a) may be given to the authority only during the period of 2 weeks beginning with the day on which the penalty notice was given to the employer, and(b) must state the grounds of the objection and the employer’s reasons for objecting on those grounds.(4) A local education authority must consider a notice of objection given under subsection (2) and, by giving notice (a “determination notice”) to the employer—
(a) withdraw the penalty notice,(b) if the amount of the penalty determined in accordance with regulations under section 22(2) is smaller than the amount stated in the penalty notice, replace the penalty with the smaller amount, or(c) confirm the penalty notice.(5) The determination notice must be given within the prescribed period beginning with the day on which the notice of objection was given.
(6) Where, under subsection (4)(b), the amount of a penalty stated in a penalty notice is replaced with a smaller amount, the notice is to have effect as if it had originally stated the smaller amount.”
24: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—
“Appeal against penalty notice given under section 22
(1) This section applies where a penalty notice has been given to a person (“the employer”) under section 22 and—
(a) the period during which a notice of objection may be given in relation to the penalty notice has expired, and(b) if a notice of objection has been given in relation to the penalty notice, a determination notice has been given in relation to the notice of objection.(2) The employer may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against the giving of the penalty notice on one or more of the following grounds—
(a) that the employer did not contravene section 21 in the way stated in the penalty notice;(b) that the circumstances of the contravention of section 21 stated in the penalty notice make the giving of the notice unreasonable;(c) that the amount of the penalty stated in the penalty notice is too high.(3) On an appeal under this section, the First-tier Tribunal may—
(a) allow the appeal and cancel the penalty notice,(b) if the amount of the penalty determined in accordance with regulations under section 22(2) is smaller than the amount stated in the penalty notice, allow the appeal and replace the penalty with the smaller amount, or(c) dismiss the appeal.(4) Where, under subsection (3)(b), the amount of a penalty stated in a penalty notice is replaced with a smaller amount, the notice is to have effect as if it had originally stated the smaller amount.
(5) In subsection (1), “notice of objection” and “determination notice” have the same meanings as in section (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 22 following notice of objection).”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 23 [Withdrawal of penalty notice given under section 22]:
25: Clause 23, page 12, line 39, after “where” insert “—
26: Clause 23, page 12, line 40, leave out “(and has not already been withdrawn) and insert “, and
(b) any appeal made under section (Appeal against penalty notice given under section 22) in respect of the penalty notice has not been determined.”
27: Clause 23, page 13, line 1, leave out “subsection (2)” and insert “section (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 22 following notice of objection) or (Further power to withdraw penalty notice given under section 22)”
28: Clause 23, page 13, line 4, at end insert—
“(3A) If the amount of a penalty is reduced under section (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 22 following notice of objection), any sum already paid or recovered must, to the extent that it was paid or recovered in respect of any amount in excess of the reduced amount, be repaid to the employer with interest at the appropriate rate running from the date when the sum was paid or recovered.”
29: Clause 23, page 13, line 5, leave out “For the purposes of subsection (3)” and insert “In this section”
30: Clause 23, Divide Clause 23 into two clauses, the first (Further power to withdraw penalty notice given under section 22) to consist of subsections (1) and (2) and the second (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 22: further provisions) to consist of subsections (3) to (4)
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 27 [Contravention of section 24 or 25: enforcement notice]:
31: Clause 27, page 15, line 32, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—
“(a) particulars of the contravention of section 24 or 25 in respect of which the notice is given, and”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 28 [Financial penalty for non-compliance with enforcement notice given under section 27]:
32: Clause 28, page 16, line 30, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—
“(a) particulars of the failure by the employer in respect of which the penalty notice is given,”
33: Clause 28, page 16, line 34, at end insert—
“( ) the steps that the employer may take if the employer objects to the giving of the penalty notice, including how the employer may appeal against it,”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 29 [Withdrawal of enforcement notice given under section 27]:
34: Clause 29, page 16, line 42, after “where” insert “—
35: Clause 29, page 16, line 43, leave out “(and has not already been withdrawn)” and insert “, and
(b) if a penalty notice has been given in respect of the enforcement notice under section 28, any appeal made under section (Appeal against penalty notice given under section 28) in respect of the penalty notice has not been determined.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
36: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—
“Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 28 following notice of objection
(1) This section applies where a penalty notice has been given to a person (“the employer”) under section 28 by a local education authority in respect of a failure of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) of that section relating to an enforcement notice.
(2) The employer may, by giving notice (a “notice of objection”) to the authority, object to the giving of the penalty notice on one or more of the following grounds—
(a) that the employer did not contravene section 24 or 25 in the way stated in the enforcement notice;(b) that the requirements imposed by the enforcement notice were unreasonable;(c) that the employer did not fail in the way stated in the penalty notice;(d) that the amount of the penalty stated in the penalty notice is too high.(3) A notice of objection—
(a) may be given to the authority only during the period of 2 weeks beginning with the day on which the penalty notice was given to the employer, and(b) must set out the grounds of the objection and the employer’s reasons for objecting on those grounds.(4) A local education authority must consider a notice of objection given under subsection (2) and, by giving notice (a “determination notice”) to the employer—
(a) withdraw the penalty notice,(b) if the amount of the penalty determined in accordance with regulations under section 28(3) is smaller than the amount stated in the penalty notice, replace the penalty with the smaller amount, or(c) confirm the penalty notice.(5) The determination notice must be given within the prescribed period beginning with the day on which the notice of objection was given.
(6) Where, under subsection (4)(b), the amount of a penalty stated in a penalty notice is replaced with a smaller amount, the notice is to have effect as if it had originally stated the smaller amount.”
37: After Clause 29, insert the following new Clause—
“Appeal against penalty notice given under section 28
(1) This section applies where a penalty notice has been given to a person under section 28 in respect of a failure of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) of that section in relation to an enforcement notice and—
(a) the period during which a notice of objection may be given in relation to the penalty notice has expired, and(b) if a notice of objection has been given in relation to the penalty notice, a determination notice has been given in relation to the notice of objection.(2) The person may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against the giving of the penalty notice on one or more of the following grounds—
(a) that the person did not contravene section 24 or 25 in the way stated in the enforcement notice;(b) that the circumstances of the contravention of section 24 or 25 stated in the enforcement notice make the giving of an enforcement notice under section 27 unreasonable;(c) that the requirements imposed by the enforcement notice were unreasonable;(d) that the person did not fail in the way stated in the penalty notice;(e) that the circumstances of the failure stated in the penalty notice make the giving of the notice unreasonable;(f) that the amount of the penalty stated in the penalty notice is too high.(3) On an appeal under this section, the First-tier Tribunal may—
(a) allow the appeal and cancel the penalty notice,(b) if the amount of the penalty determined in accordance with regulations under section 28(3) is smaller than the amount stated in the penalty notice, allow the appeal and replace the penalty with the smaller amount, or(c) dismiss the appeal.(4) Where, under subsection (3)(b), the amount of a penalty stated in a penalty notice is replaced with a smaller amount, the notice is to have effect as if it had originally stated the smaller amount.
(5) In subsection (1), “notice of objection” and “determination notice” have the same meanings as in section (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 28 following notice of objection).”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 30 [Withdrawal of penalty notice given under section 28]:
38: Clause 30, page 17, line 22, after “where” insert “—
39: Clause 30, page 17, line 23, leave out “(and has not already been withdrawn)” and insert “, and
(b) any appeal made under section (Appeal against penalty notice given under section 28) in respect of the penalty notice has not been determined.”
40: Clause 30, page 17, line 27, leave out “subsection (2)” insert “section (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 28 following notice of objection) or (Further power to withdraw penalty notice given under section 28)”
41: Clause 30, page 17, line 30, at end insert—
“(3A) If the amount of a penalty is reduced under section (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 28 following notice of objection), any sum already paid or recovered must, to the extent that it was paid or recovered in respect of any amount in excess of the reduced amount, be repaid to the employer with interest at the appropriate rate running from the date when the sum was paid or recovered.”
42: Clause 30, page 17, line 31, leave out “For the purposes of subsection (3)” and insert “In this section”
43: Clause 30, Divide Clause 30 into two clauses, the first (Further power to withdraw penalty notice given under section 28) to consist of subsections (1) and (2) and the second (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 28: further provisions) to consist of subsections (3) to (4)
On Question, amendments agreed to.
44: After Clause 33, insert the following new Clause—
“Annual progress report
The Secretary of State shall report annually to Parliament on the operation of this Part of this Act, with particular reference to—
(a) the effectiveness of arrangements for providing advice to young people about the range of working, training and further study opportunities which are open to them,(b) the effectiveness of advice and support given to employers to enable them to fulfil the duties imposed on them by this Part, and(c) the quality of learning programmes and qualifications available to young persons to whom this Part applies, and the relevance of such programmes and qualifications to the needs of young persons and employers.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Government have rightly put a great emphasis in all their public sector programmes on measuring outcomes and ensuring that things that are put in actually produce results at the end. This amendment is an attempt in small part to ensure that the effectiveness of the legislation is measured carefully and reported on widely.
I am grateful to the Confederation of British Industry, which sent a very helpful briefing on this subject. It emphasised that reporting of this kind would increase business confidence, which it feels is not at the moment entirely with the provisions of the Bill. Furthermore, the impact of the current economic crisis on the employment prospects of young people is a terribly important outcome from the provisions of the Bill, and whether the provisions work should be carefully monitored and reported. That is why I am asking in the amendment for an annual report to Parliament.
There are three categories of report, but they are not at all comprehensive; there should be other areas as well. We have talked a great deal under previous amendments about careers advice to young people. It is relevant here to quote the CBI’s employment trends survey this year. It highlighted the fact that 52 per cent of employers said that they were dissatisfied with school leavers’ knowledge about their chosen careers. In other words, some very shaky careers advice had been given to those young people when they made their choices, because employers felt that the choices were inappropriate. It is vitally important that the effectiveness of the new arrangements that are put in place for 16 to 18 year-olds should be monitored and the genuine outcome from these new arrangements reported.
Secondly, we have not talked enough about the duties being imposed on employers, which are very new. They feel a great deal of discomfort about them. The CBI says that its members are unenthusiastic about some of the provisions in the Bill. They dislike not only the idea of requirements on them to provide time off for young people to attend training courses equivalent to one day a week but that it involves police participation, checking that the young person has arranged a suitable course, and that there are enforcement notices, financial penalties and so forth. They are unhappy. They are asking for good advice and support to reassure them that they will not face financial penalties if they have acted in good faith, and that they will have good advice and help in identifying and accessing high-quality and relevant training and provision for their young employees. Above all, they would like reassurance that they can continue to employ these young people. Otherwise we will find that many employers will not want to employ them. They will say that it is too much trouble because they run the risk of incurring penalties which they do not want and that they do not have time to check on programmes themselves and so forth. The effectiveness of the advice and support given to employers to enable them to fulfil their duties is something that Parliament should be told about and should be carefully monitored by the department.
Thirdly, there is a real risk that as we impose on young people the duty to undertake education and training in their latter years—16, 17 and 18 year-olds—the quality of the learning programmes available to them will not be of the highest quality. It will still not reflect the real needs of employers. The CBI again points out that employers spend £39 billion a year on staff development. But the CBI-Edexcel education and skills survey this year highlighted that only a third of employer training leads to a recognised qualification. Therefore, the requirement that the young person must follow only government-specified training may discourage employers from taking on a young person.
The CBI emphasised that it supports the progress that the Government have made on qualification reform, but asked the Government to maintain their momentum in accrediting employers’ own in-house training and ensuring that it is easier for employers to award their own recognised qualifications. An annual progress report on the quality of the learning programmes and the relevance of these programmes to the needs of the young people themselves and their employers would be an important thing. I know that the Minister has been telling us that there is a good reason why none of the amendments that have been moved today can possibly be taken on board, but I hope that she will give a more favourable response to this one. I beg to move.
My Lords, I give strong support on behalf of the Opposition Front Bench to the amendment of my noble friend Lady Perry whose suggested annual progress reports succinctly encapsulate a number of the points that my noble friend Lady Morris and I made in Committee. The amendment covers three areas.
On the issue of practical support for firms, we pointed out in Committee that if conditions on firms are too onerous they will simply avoid employing the very people that this Bill is designed to help. Small and medium-sized enterprises are concerned that the additional costs incurred by implementing the provisions in the Bill will be considerable when set against their profit margins, especially now as we head into recession. If the Government are determined to press ahead, red tape and costs must be kept to a minimum, or the consequence will be a reluctance to employ young people.
We said in Committee that qualifications must have relevance to what the young person is trying to do. There must be a good provision of qualifications, so that he or she is not unable to follow his or her chosen path because there is only a limited number of courses open to them. Employers are more likely to find young people employable if they trust the standard of the qualification and see that is has accorded the young person some relevance to their business. These matters are crucial to the success of the Bill. My noble friend Lady Perry is right that progress on them must be reported annually to Parliament.
My Lords, we on these Benches also support the proposal from the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. The measures would be of great benefit in strengthening the Bill. It is not clear whether some would be implemented immediately or whether they would come into effect only after the Bill is implemented in 2013. However, an annual progress report would be a great asset to the Bill.
My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy for what the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, have said. The Government collect an enormous amount of information and statistics. It is hard to believe that we do not collect the information that would help her.
With reference to the support and advice given to employers, we are committed to working with employers, when drawing up employers’ guidance, to ensure that it is effective. I am happy to meet the noble Baroness and others to discuss how we can make sure that the plethora of information that we collect can meet people’s needs effectively. I hope that the noble Baroness will consider withdrawing her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that generous reply: it was not quite a refusal to accept the amendment, and it kept the issue open. I gladly accept her offer to discuss it further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 38 [Parenting contracts and parenting orders: further provisions]:
45: Clause 38, page 21, line 5, leave out from “(c. 56)” to the end of line 6
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 212. Both amendments were suggested by the National Governors’ Association. They have little in common, although they are grouped together.
Amendment No. 45 raises the issue of who is a parent, and what happens when the so-called parent of a young person, who flouts his duties under Clause 2 of the Bill, is a local authority. Clause 38(4), which comes at the end of the chapter dealing with parenting contracts and orders, defines a parent using the formulation given in Section 576 of the Education Act 1996. This excludes a person who is not an individual. The ordinary person might wonder what sort of person is not an individual. To the legal mind, the answer is obvious: institutions are sometimes defined as persons, but are not individuals. In this instance, the person who is not an individual is presumably the corporate parent; and specifically, the local authority in the guise of the corporate parent. The question therefore arises, what happens when the young person who fails to attend education or training is in local authority care? Since the local authority is responsible for monitoring what the young person is doing, and for remonstrating with the parents, who is responsible for remonstrating with the local authority? What procedures are there for making sure that the local authority fulfils its role as a responsible corporate parent? I hope that the Minister can give me a response.
The second amendment, Amendment No. 212, is about a different issue; schools forums. As the House knows, schools forums are a relatively recent innovation, introduced in the Education Act 2005. We set up procedures for the passporting of moneys for schools directly to schools’ budgets, giving local authorities no discretion on the size of the budgets. However, the allocation between schools, although formula-based, leaves a little discretion to local decision-making. This was put into the hands not of local politicians, through the local education authority, but of the newly created schools forums, to be composed of representatives of school head teachers and governors.
The guidance on schools forums issued by the department is explicit. Paragraph 1.18 of the good practice guide states that,
“it is good practice for Schools Forums to aim for a membership structure based on an equal proportion of head teachers and governors, though this is not always possible for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless it is vital that even where equal numbers of head teachers and governors cannot be achieved there is sufficient representation of each type of schools member in each group to ensure debate within the forum is balanced and representative”.
It is clear that this is not happening in many parts of the country. The National Governors’ Association has had many complaints about this from its members. Indeed, its research has revealed that, while some authorities have equal numbers, many do not. Norfolk, for example, has a schools forum of 22, with 14 heads and, at present, only five governors. Nottinghamshire has nominally 32 members, but currently 16 heads and eight governors. West Sussex has nominally 28, with 18 heads and eight governors. Birmingham has nominally 22 members, with 17 heads and four governors.
There are, of course, other authorities—Oxfordshire, Durham, East Sussex and Essex—where there is parity in numbers. However, there are enough examples of where there is no parity, and where local authorities seem to be doing little to achieve it. Rather, they retreat behind the excuse that they cannot find governors to fill the slots. I have received a comment from the chair of the National Governors’ Association in response to that criticism:
“I would add that we receive comments periodically from our members about the lack of governor representation on schools forums, but have never had any suggestion from them that there are difficulties in recruiting members for this very important purpose. Most governors recognise how vital the schools forum is and want to ensure that the governor voice is present and are concerned to have parity with the heads’ representatives”.
Amendment No. 212 takes advantage of the fact that Clause 148 deals with the constitution of schools forums and seeks to tighten up the wording in relation to membership. Whereas new subsection (4A) states that the forums shall include membership representing schools’ bodies and head teachers, the amendment would ensure that, as the good practice guide suggests, there should be equal membership from both parties. I beg to move.
My Lords, I again declare my involvement as president of the National Governors’ Association. I support everything that was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. Now that the NGA and the head teachers’ association have got together on their respective responsibilities, it seems not only fair but sensible that there should be equal numbers represented on school forums, which have quite considerable power. I cannot think of a more sensible way of going about that than through a probing amendment such as this.
There is also a slightly dubious situation when excess money sometimes comes back into the local authority. What is that to be spent on or recycled into? If an equal number of governors and head teachers cannot guide the local authority on particular needs, perhaps spending decisions might not be seen as entirely fair from an outsider’s viewpoint. Sometimes a school has unspent money in excess of some 5 per cent of its annual budget, which is not an insignificant amount.
Then there is the issue of the status of “parent”. I very much hope that my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham might provide some guidance on the situation that has been discussed of the status of “parent” in relation to people in prison. Various things happen, whereby the state may not be as good a parent as it should have been when looking after the health of the prisoners in its care. That is not a dissimilar situation to that of children in care. We know that a child in care is 10 times more likely to be excluded from school and that three out of every four children in care will leave school with no qualifications, compared to 6 per cent among the general population.
I stress these issues because they need to be looked at in more detail. It would be extremely useful to receive some guidance from the Minister.
My Lords, the point made by my noble friend Lady Howe relates to our extensive debate during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill on the in loco parentis responsibilities of care officials for those in custody who had no real parenting, other than from those officials. We were concerned that the social care worker responsible for the young person when they went into custody remained with the young person throughout the period of custody and acted in loco parentis. The question of how those responsibilities will be exercised for those in custody relates to the whole concept of this Bill, as has been mentioned on a number of occasions. Therefore, I hope very much that when the Minister takes what has been said into account, she does not forget this important group of people, not least because they will come out of custody and back into the community. It is essential that they are picked up from that moment and receive the support outlined in the Bill.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for giving me an opportunity to do what he asks.
I shall respond quickly but, I hope, comprehensively. It would not make sense for local authorities to enter into parenting contracts and apply for parenting orders in relation to themselves. I know that I am stating the obvious, and we all understand that; I shall not labour that point.
There are separate means of enforcing the important responsibilities of local authorities, which have their own duties to promote participation for all young people, including children and young people in care. The Secretary of State has the power to give a direction to a local authority under Section 496 or 497 of the Education Act 1996 if they are failing in that duty, and that is the duty that we will be relying on when we are talking about the role of corporate parents. Looked-after children, including children in care, will be able to stay in their care placement until they are 18 if they want to. This is something important to have come out of the Children and Young Persons Act. We are flipping over the normal assumption. We will be encouraging children and young people to stay in care until the age of 18, and there has to be a very good reason for them to think about leaving. They will receive focused support to stay in learning and succeed. We will ensure that young people in care and leaving care receive information, advice and guidance tailored to their needs, particularly through the very important targeted youth support arrangements being introduced, and that their social worker or young persons adviser, as their lead professional, has access to information about the choices available to them.
On Amendment No. 212, local authorities currently decide the composition of their schools forum, and in the vast majority of areas this happens in consultation with the forum members and includes both head teachers and governors. Current regulations, as we have heard, state that school members must be elected by members of the relevant group, and local authorities with strong associations will certainly find this easier to facilitate than those without. This amendment will not change poor practice in local authorities, and the schools forums practice guidance already states that schools forums should aim for a membership structure based on equal proportions of head teachers and governors, although this is not always possible. Officials monitor the workings of schools forums on a regular basis and can look again at the national picture of composition and the effectiveness of forums. If there proves to be a case for making stronger regulation for the proportion of governors to head teachers, the power already exists for this to happen through secondary legislation, but I assure noble Lords that we are looking at this situation.
Taking into account the comments about support for looked-after children and schools forums, I hope that the noble Baroness can withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. In relation to looked-after children, it is a case of “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”. What do you do with the local authority if a child is in care but nevertheless is flouting the regulations? The Minister makes clear that it is the responsibility of the child’s social worker and that ultimately, if the local authority does not seem to be performing its duties, the Secretary of State has to step in and remonstrate with it. It is the Secretary of State who is responsible for making sure that the local authority performs its functions as the corporate parent.
I am glad that we have clarification on this. I do not know that it gives those of us who have had experience of local authorities in their responsibilities for children in care much reassurance because one knows of cases where they fall down quite badly on these duties. We know that, as a result of recent legislation, including the Children and Young Persons Act, they should be improving their performance. Let us hope that they do so. It is reassuring to know that the Secretary of State has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that.
I am a little disappointed by what the Minister said on Amendment No. 212. Here, there is explicit legislation concerned with the constitution of schools forums, and, if I may say so, it would be so simple just to introduce the amendment that I am suggesting rather than try to achieve the same thing later through regulations. The Minister tells me that we do not need such a provision in the Bill as it can be achieved through secondary legislation, but, as she can see from the figures that I quoted, many authorities are falling down on their responsibilities. What parity of representation is there here? As I said, a very small amendment to the legislation would do the trick.
We will think about these things and consult further, but we may conceivably see the issue come back at Third Reading. I am not sure that we are satisfied that secondary legislation is sufficient but, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 43 [Appeal arrangements]:
46: Clause 43, page 24, line 37, at end insert “; and
(c) to secure that, before a decision is made by an attendance panel in a person’s case, the person, or the person’s nominated representative, has an opportunity to make representations to the panel”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have agreed behind the scenes not to move this amendment or the others in this group in exchange for the offer of a meeting with the Minister on this subject. I hope that Barnardo’s can be included in that meeting. However, I should like to put on the record that, if I am not satisfied with the answers to the questions that I ask at that meeting, I may bring the amendments back at Third Reading. Under those circumstances, I shall not move the amendment.
[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]
Clause 45 [Offence of failure to comply with attendance notice]:
47: Clause 45, page 25, line 27, leave out first “an” and insert “a civil”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 48 and 49, and will also speak in support of the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lady Perry.
In Committee, we raised fears of criminalising young people for failing to participate in education or training at the ages of 17 and 18, especially as some of them may be working but without their efforts being recognised by the Government because of the number of hours worked or because the training is not accredited. That any young person might receive a criminal record because of provisions that we pass in this Education and Skills Bill really should give pause for thought. Many organisations that work with young people share our concern.
At Second Reading and again in Committee, we persistently questioned the Government about the possibility that a young person who would not participate or pay their fines might, once they had reached the age of 18, be liable to a prison sentence. Despite his initial reassurances that that was not the case, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, had to admit that it was a possibility, so we are grateful that the government amendments in this group will not allow that to happen.
However, we are still left with the likelihood that some young people will be criminalised by the Bill and we are unwavering in our view that this is wrong. If the Government insist on compulsion and the necessary sanctions they will need to impose this, the young people in question should be dealt with by the civil courts.
In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said that the Government had concluded that a civil endorsement system would not work in practice. He argued that civil penalties would be enforced in the civil courts, which are not geared up to deal with young people in the way that youth courts are. He said that judges who sit in the youth courts receive specialist training on dealing with young people and that the court is not open to the general public. I have to say that those comments have been met with incredulity by the judges to whom I have spoken. The civil courts have lots of dealings with young people under the age of 18, and to suggest that judges do not have the necessary skills to deal with them is somewhat insulting.
One area in particular where the courts deal regularly with young people is when they issue ASBIs—their take on the ASBO. These are injunctions that a landlord can bring against anti-social behaviour, and quite often they are taken out against young people. The courts have the powers to appoint a litigation friend for a young person under the age of 18 and also to sit in private.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, admitted:
“While debts may be enforced using civil recovery methods—for example, recovery by bailiffs—in practice such methods are rarely used against young people under 18”.
That is true. The courts can use other final sanctions, such as attachment of earnings or benefits, which are sensitively means calculated and which must not tip a young person into poverty. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis continued:
“In addition, the local authority would have to pay a court fee to pursue a civil enforcement method which, again, might not be appropriate in practice and would lead to mounting costs.—[Official Report, 3/7/08; col. 469.]
We are constantly being told that this sanction will apply to only a handful of people. If the Government are right, the costs cannot be that great. But the risk of incurring these costs may act as another incentive on the local authority to do all in its power to engage the young person in training rather than launch proceedings against them. I cannot tell your Lordships how strongly we on these Benches feel about this. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak briefly to my amendments. The fact that I hope to speak only briefly does not at all reflect how passionately I feel that the Government are on a totally wrong course in criminalising any young person who remains outside education and training. I feel deep despair that all the work done to make education attractive and positive for young people, to turn it into something that offers pleasure, joy and satisfaction, could so easily be damaged by the sharp alternative, which will be seen as, “Either you stay in education or training, whether you want to or not, or you may end up going to prison and having a criminal record”.
I cannot believe that the Government are going down that route. People of all political views and occupations find it impossible to believe. They say, “Surely this cannot be right”. They say that they heard the item on the radio about raising the school leaving age and thought it a splendid idea, but nobody mentioned that the alternative to someone staying on in training or education was to turn them into a criminal. If the Government change nothing else, I beg them to reconsider this extraordinary provision. To my knowledge, we would be the only country in the civilised world with such a provision.
There is absolutely no evidence that compulsion of any kind makes a difference. Six out of the top seven countries on the OECD table showing the percentage of young people staying on in education and training have no compulsion at all. Not only is there no criminal element to compulsion; there is no compulsion whatever. They have a culture that makes education desirable and where it is clearly relevant to the needs of the adult population and the young people as they become adults. We need to try to foster that culture in the United Kingdom. We are not doing so at the moment. We are very low on the international league table on the numbers of young people staying on. Not only making the provision compulsory but having a criminal offence as the alternative could make our culture worse. It could make education even less attractive and less important in this country.
I beg the noble Baroness to think for a moment of the success that her Government’s policies have already demonstrated in providing what I called in Committee the carrots: the educational maintenance grant, the new curriculum, and so on, which I support and of which I wholly approve. They have begun to turn the statistics round and more young people are staying on. Why spoil it now by making this horrendous sanction? Even if the Minister says that it will be in extreme cases only and will probably never happen or will be a last resort, nevertheless the message is there, which is crucial to young people. The message it conveys is that education is something that you have to do or you will be criminalised. I beg the Minister to please think again before she and the Government go down that route.
My Lords, it follows from our view about the argument on compulsion versus entitlement that we would enthusiastically support the noble Baronesses on the Conservative Benches as the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, was kind enough to support me in that earlier discussion. It is quite clear from the meeting we had yesterday afternoon with Jim Knight MP, the Minister in another place, that the Government accept that there will be a criminal offence in some cases. He told us that he thinks this is right if young people decide that, despite all the help they are given and despite all the barriers being taken away, they will not comply with the law the Government wish to introduce.
We do not agree with that. We think it is wrong to criminalise young people. There is no doubt that this offence will be revealed in CRB checks—soon to be ISA checks—and that young people will be obliged to disclose it under certain circumstances when making job applications. It is quite wrong: a criminal offence should be something that is anti-social and that hurts other people. The Government would say that this hurts only the young people themselves. In a free country, people should be free to hurt themselves if they really must. We would rather they did not, but in a liberal democracy they should be free to do that, as long as it does not hurt anybody else. If young people conscientiously believe that now is the wrong moment for them to pursue their education, they should have the freedom to do that as long as they have an entitlement to go back to education later on.
The Minister, Jim Knight, told us yesterday that, at the end of all these procedures, young people could be accused of contempt of court if all attempts to persuade them to comply and to pay the fine have failed. That is a criminal offence. It is clear, therefore, that the Government are proposing to criminalise young people on a matter about which they are not hurting anybody but themselves. We think that is wrong. We would support the Conservatives if they wanted to bring this back at Third Reading.
My Lord, there is no point in taking any further time on this because it goes without saying that what has just been said has my entire support and both myself and a number of Cross-Bench Members would back it. It is inevitably going to be those who are least able to look after themselves and the more deprived who will be hit by this provision. It is appalling that the Government are prepared to take this responsibility. We have all made our views clear on previous occasions.
My Lords, I strongly support full-time education to 18 but I beg the Government not to introduce a criminal offence. The people who are likely to be caught by this are the people who are likely to be the most disadvantaged in life. To add that to their problems is intolerable.
My Lords, as we have discussed previously, enforcement action will always be a last resort. The focus of the policy is firmly on ensuring there is an appropriate and engaging learning opportunity for all young people and with the right support for them to stay in learning and succeed so that all who want to participate can do so. Successful implementation will depend on achieving this. If a young person is not participating, the emphasis will always be on help and support to address problems and re-engage the young person in learning long before any enforcement action is even considered. Looking specifically at Amendments Nos. 50, 52, 55 and 57, the presence of sanctions is necessary to make a reality of the new requirement to participate. If the new requirement is to be a serious one and to have the impact that we want in practice, we need to be clear that it is possible to enforce it as a last resort if absolutely necessary.
Similarly, local authorities are used to holding in reserve a range of powers which they rarely, if ever, use, but which help to make a reality of requirements that they are responsible for implementing. As the representative of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services said in evidence sessions held in another place,
“as a director of children’s services, I have a range of powers that I never use. However, if I did not have them, I would have different conversations with a range of people … without them, my leverage on the activity would be much reduced”.
Numerous safeguards are built into the system to ensure that a young person does not face enforcement action unexpectedly and inappropriately. There must be no reasonable excuse for their non-participation, and they must have been given appropriate support to participate. They must be given 15 days’ notice of the authority’s intention to begin the first stage of the enforcement process, as noble Lords are aware. There is a route of appeal to an independent panel at every stage and if at any point in the enforcement process the young person returns to learning, formal action will stop.
So a young person will be given an attendance notice only after all other attempts to engage them have failed, and there are a number of checks and balances to ensure that they are used only appropriately. However, in introducing the process of attendance notices, we need to be clear what will happen if they are not complied with; otherwise they will be ineffective.
It is this set of clauses that clearly lays out the consequences of failing to comply with an attendance notice. As I think everyone in the House accepts, it will be extremely rare for a young person actually to reach this stage in practice, but it is absolutely necessary to make the rest of the system work. For this reason, these clauses must stand part of the Bill.
I will now speak to Amendments Nos. 47, 48 and 49, which seek to classify as a civil offence the offence of breaching an attendance notice. I appreciate the strength of feeling opposite. We have previously considered this option in some detail and concluded that it would not be in the interests of the young person or the local authority for the offence to be a civil offence, with a civil enforcement system. As the noble Baroness has said, civil penalties are enforced in the county courts, which are not set up to deal with young people in the way that youth courts are. I know that she takes issue with this, but, importantly, for example, judges in youth courts receive specialist training. We see it as important that as a matter of course youth courts are closed to the general public.
I hear what the noble Baroness is saying and I am very interested in her views and in what she has brought to the discussion. However, a civil enforcement system for those under 18 could lead to greater financial costs to them. In a county court, the amount of debt for which a person is liable can increase as interest, court costs and recovery costs are added. In addition, the local authority could face mounting costs of pursuing the action.
But that, for me, is not the issue. Let me also remind noble Lords that the criminal sanction comes only at the very end of the enforcement process. Civil sanctions alone do not present a realistic means of enforcing an attendance notice. I appreciate the noble Baroness’s strength of feeling, but I hope that she will withdraw her amendment today.
On the government amendments, during Committee important points were raised in relation to the enforcement system for young people who fail to participate in education or training, and we did listen. That is why we have taken the incredibly unusual steps that we have. On 17 July in Committee, detailed questions were raised about the fine enforcement process for adults, as opposed to the youth courts system, and my noble friend Lord Adonis committed to come back on them. It was agreed that there was a need for amendments to ensure that a young person could not enter into custody as a result of defaulting, after the age of 18, on a fine imposed on him for failing to participate in education or training. As noble Lords are aware, it is the clear position of this Government that no person should enter custody as a result of committing the offence of failing to comply with an attendance notice without reasonable excuse. I appreciate the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, but if someone is over 18 and is in contempt of court, that is a different issue. In relation to those aged under 18, we are satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that that will not happen, and custody is not an option available to the youth courts for default of payment of a fine.
However, my department has been working with the Ministry of Justice to consider this matter. While we do not believe it is realistic in practice that a court would impose a custodial sentence for non-payment of a level 1 fine on someone aged over 18, we would like to remove the possibility to achieve greater certainty on this point, about which the House was so concerned. It is particularly important for all those affected by this legislation that we are absolutely clear about this. The government amendment achieves greater certainty by transferring from the magistrates’ court to the county court the enforcement of a fine imposed for this offence only once the individual turns 18.
Similar provisions already exist under Section 87 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act to enable the magistrates’ court to transfer enforcement of a fine to the county court. However, in the case of this fine, if the court felt that it was appropriate to continue with enforcement action, it would be required to do so once the young person had reached 18. These provisions do not alter fine enforcement in general. They apply only in the specific case of a fine imposed for the offence in Clause 45 of failing to comply with an attendance notice without a reasonable excuse.
I hope that noble Lords will welcome these reassurances and that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment and support the government amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for her answer, but I am deeply disappointed by it. I did not once say that local authorities should not have within their armoury sanctions or powers to use against people who fail to undertake education or training. I just simply do not buy into the argument that the civil courts are not set up to deal with young people. I was speaking to a group of civil judges at the weekend, and they deal with young people every day on a range of issues. I should like to speak to the Minister between now and Third Reading because I do not understand the Government’s thinking on this. One does not have to be a mathematical genius to work out that the combined forces of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Cross Benches mean that we could hold the Bill up for a while on this point. Nobody really wishes to do that because we have got to get it on to the statute book as there is a lot of work to be done. We are not saying that there should not be a sanction. We are simply saying that we do not want to take part in any legislation that criminalises a young person simply because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, he has chosen, without hurting anybody else, not to participate for whatever reason. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 48 to 50 not moved.]
Clause 46 [Restrictions on proceedings for offences under section 45]:
[Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 not moved.]
Clause 47 [Failure to comply with attendance notice: penalty notice]:
53: Clause 47, page 26, line 38, at end insert “(but subject to subsection (6))”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am grateful to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for its careful scrutiny of the Bill and for its report and recommendations. I tabled these amendments last week to give effect to those recommendations, as my noble friend Lord Adonis committed to do in his letter to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, on 14 July.
Government Amendments Nos. 53 and 54 ensure that the maximum amount that can be set in regulations for the financial penalty given to a young person could never exceed the maximum fine that a young person could receive in the court in the final stage of the enforcement system, as recommended by the committee. The maximum sentence that a young person could receive in the youth court is set at a level 1 fine, which is currently a maximum of £200, although the exact amount is determined in each case by the court depending on the individual’s means and circumstances. Of course, in practice, we have already said that the financial penalty for young people would be significantly less.
Further government amendments in this group ensure that any regulations made setting the financial penalty that a local authority can give to an employer who has failed to comply with their duties would be subject to affirmative procedure, except where those regulations reduce the penalty. The committee in fact recommended that the affirmative procedure would only be needed for the first use of the regulation-making power and for any subsequent regulations that raised the penalty by more than inflation. However, it has proved difficult to link the provisions to inflation in this way and we have therefore gone beyond the committee’s recommendation and propose the affirmative procedure for every use of these regulations, except where they reduce the amount.
I hope that, on that basis, noble Lords will feel able to consider these amendments, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I am pleased that the Minister has been able to announce this concession, notwithstanding what I said on the last group, which still stands. The issue of fines has been a sore one, and not simply because noble Lords have sought to make life difficult for the Government; it is because we have heard from groups outside the House—such as the Z2K Trust, which puts in long and thankless hours trying to help young people who find themselves in difficulty—that have been utterly dismayed at the prospect of fines being imposed. It would be quite ruinous to start slapping large fines on the very people who need help the most—teenagers who have few employment prospects or are on benefits, or who may have dependants of their own and simply could not afford to pay a large fine.
My Lords, I welcome these amendments but want to ask the Minister a few questions, which were suggested to me by Barnardo’s. I think that she has been briefed about these. Barnardo’s welcomes the Government’s amendment to impose an upper limit on the fines that can be imposed, but seeks assurances on a number of issues.
First, any penalty should be set at a level that reflects the financial support available to the poorest young people. Can the Minister reassure us on that? Secondly, could we be assured that young people would be able to make payment of any penalties in instalments, and would not be financially penalised for doing so? That should really be an option at the first issue of the penalty; the young person should not have to come back later to make an extra appeal to be able to pay by instalments.
We also need assurance, thirdly, that the amount payable will not escalate like a congestion charge penalty if the notice is not paid within a certain period—especially where there is evidence of financial hardship. Fourthly, will the department work closely with voluntary organisations like Barnardo’s to review financial support for 16 to 18 year-olds and in developing financial incentives to encourage participation? The EMA is helpful for a number of young people, but a lot of organisations hope that the Government will be able to go somewhat further than that.
My Lords, I am looking for inspiration on one of the questions. In considering and consulting with others about the appropriate penalty, we will take into account the wider context of the income available to young people at the time, including through financial support. On instalments, we have said that that should be possible and that we will use our regulation powers to provide for it. As I understand it, it is not possible for fines to escalate in the way the noble Baroness is concerned about. I stress for the record that we will be happy to work with Barnardo’s and all stakeholders concerned about the interests of young people to ensure that the system works and is fair and appropriate given the financial resources of young people.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
54: Clause 47, page 27, line 20, at end insert—
“(6) The amount of any penalty payable by virtue of regulations under subsection (4)(b) must not exceed the amount for the time being specified as level 1 on the standard scale of fines for summary offences.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]
Clause 48 [Penalty notices: appeal arrangements]:
[Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 not moved.]
58: After Clause 48, insert the following new Clause—
“Non-participation fines: interpretation
(1) In this section and sections (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18) to (Application of amounts recovered by virtue of section (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18) or (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over))—
“non-participation fine” means a fine imposed—
(a) for an offence under section 45, or(b) in respect of a failure to comply with any sentence imposed for such an offence;“the relevant sum”, in relation to a non-participation fine, means—
(a) the non-participation fine,(b) any surcharge ordered under section 161A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44) (surcharges) to be paid solely in relation to the offence, and(c) any costs ordered by a court to be paid by the person on whom the fine was imposed in connection with the offence or proceedings relating to the offence or any sentence imposed (including proceedings on appeal);“relevant local education authority”, in relation to a non-participation fine, means the local education authority which issued the penalty notice under section 47 in respect of the offence to which the fine relates.
(2) References in those sections to a fine being imposed are, in the case of a fine varied or confirmed on appeal, references to its being varied or confirmed.”
59: After Clause 48, insert the following new Clause—
“Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18
(1) This section applies where—
(a) a non-participation fine has been imposed on a person aged under 18, and(b) the relevant sum, or any part of it, remains unpaid when the person reaches the age of 18.(2) When the person reaches the age of 18, the relevant sum ceases to be enforceable as a sum adjudged to be paid by a conviction of a magistrates’ court.
(3) Accordingly, after the person has reached the age of 18—
(a) the normal enforcement provisions do not apply in relation to the relevant sum, and(b) the normal enforcement powers are not exercisable in relation to the relevant sum,except so far as necessary to permit current enforcement processes to be concluded.(4) Any order or warrant made or issued in relation to the non-participation fine, other than—
(a) an order under section 75 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (c. 43) (power to dispense with immediate payment),(b) an order under section 85A of that Act (variation of instalments of sum adjudged to be paid by conviction), or(c) a current enforcement process,ceases to have effect when the person reaches the age of 18.(5) A magistrates’ court may, after the person has reached the age of 18, order that payment of so much of the relevant sum as remains unpaid may be enforced as if it were a sum due to the relevant local education authority in pursuance of a judgment or order of a county court.
(6) An order under subsection (5) may not be made unless—
(a) the person appears to the court to have sufficient means to pay the sum forthwith, and(b) any current enforcement processes have been concluded. (7) For the purposes of this section, “current enforcement process” means an order or warrant mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) and any reference to its conclusion is to be read in accordance with that paragraph—
(a) a warrant of control—(i) issued under section 76 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (c. 43) (warrants of control etc) for the purpose of recovering the relevant sum (or any part of it), and(ii) by virtue of which an enforcement agent has, before the person reaches the age of 18, taken control of any goods of the person under Schedule 12 to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (c. 15) (taking control of goods),is concluded when property in all goods of the person has, in accordance with paragraph 6 of that Schedule, ceased to be bound by virtue of the warrant;(b) an order in force when the person reaches the age of 18 under—(i) section 81(1)(b) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (c. 43) (enforcement of fines imposed on young offenders), or(ii) section 137(1) of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) (power to order parent or guardian to pay fine, costs, compensation or surcharge),requiring that the relevant sum (or any part of it) be paid by a parent or guardian of the person is concluded when it is revoked;(c) an order in force when the person reaches the age of 18 under section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 (c. 4) (youth default orders) in respect of the relevant sum (or any part of it) is concluded when it is revoked.(8) Subsection (2) does not affect the exercise of any power, or any order made, in respect of the offence before the person reached the age of 18.
(9) The Lord Chancellor may by order amend subsection (4) or (7) by—
(a) adding to it provision about any warrant or order that may be issued or made, or step that may be taken, in relation to a non-participation fine before the person on whom it is imposed reaches the age of 18, or(b) removing any such provision for the time being made by that subsection.”
60: After Clause 48, insert the following new Clause—
“Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over
(1) This section applies where a non-participation fine is imposed on a person who has reached the age of 18.
(2) Payment of the relevant sum may be enforced as if it were a sum due to the relevant local education authority in pursuance of a judgment or order of a county court.
(3) The relevant sum is not enforceable as a sum adjudged to be paid by a conviction of a magistrates’ court.
(a) the normal enforcement provisions do not apply in relation to the relevant sum, and(b) the normal enforcement powers are not exercisable in relation to the relevant sum.(5) But subsections (3) and (4) do not prevent a magistrates’ court, on imposing the fine, from—
(a) making an order under section 75 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (c. 43) (power to dispense with immediate payment), or (b) making an order under section 80 of that Act (application of money found on defaulter to satisfy sum adjudged) for the person to be searched before leaving the precincts of the court-house; and subsections (2) and (3) of that section apply in relation to a search in pursuance of any such order.”
61: After Clause 48, insert the following new Clause—
“Enforcement of non-participation fine: further provisions
(1) In sections (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18) and (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over), “the normal enforcement provisions” means—
(a) Part 3 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (c. 43) (satisfaction and enforcement);(b) sections 135 and 136 of that Act (committal and detention for short period);(c) section 108 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (c. 6) (detention of persons aged at least 18 but under 21 for default or contempt);(d) Schedules 5 and 6 to the Courts Act 2003 (c. 39) (collection of fines etc and discharge of fines by unpaid work); and(e) section 300 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c. 44) (power to impose unpaid work requirement or curfew requirement on fine defaulter).(2) In sections (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18) and (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over), “the normal enforcement powers”, in relation to any sum, means—
(a) any power of a magistrates’ court or an officer of such a court—(i) to enforce payment of the sum; or(ii) which is exercisable in consequence of a default in payment of the sum or any part of it;(b) in the case of a fine imposed, varied or confirmed by a decision of any other court on an appeal, any power of that other court to enforce the decision.(3) The Lord Chancellor may by order amend subsection (1) or (2) by—
(a) adding a reference to any statutory provision which relates to enforcement of fines, costs or surcharges, or to any power to enforce payment of such sums, or(b) removing a reference to any provision or power for the time being listed in that section.(4) Where—
(a) a sum is payable at a time or times specified by—(i) an order under section 75 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (c. 43) (power to dispense with immediate payment), or(ii) orders under that section and section 85A of that Act (variation of instalments of sum adjudged to be paid by conviction), and(b) the sum would (but for this subsection) be treated by virtue of section (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18) or (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over) as due to a local education authority in pursuance of a judgment or order of a county court,the sum is to be treated as so payable to that authority at the time or times referred to in paragraph (a) by virtue of an order of the county court under section 71(1) of the County Courts Act 1984 (c. 28) (satisfaction of judgments and orders for payment of money).”
62: After Clause 48, insert the following new Clause—
“Application of sums recovered by virtue of section (Enforcement of non- participation fine etc: person reaching 18) or (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over)
(1) The Lord Chancellor may by regulations make provision as to the application of amounts recovered by local education authorities by virtue of sections (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18) and (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over).
(2) Any such regulations must make provision for securing that any such amount recovered, so far as not—
(a) attributable to county court enforcement costs, or(b) paid to a magistrates’ court, or to an officer of such a court,is repaid to the person on whom the non-participation fine to which it relates was imposed (or other person who paid the amount).(3) Regulations under this section may make provision, in particular, as to—
(a) the extent to which amounts recovered by virtue of section (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: person reaching 18) or (Enforcement of non-participation fine etc: fine imposed on person aged 18 or over) are attributable to county court enforcement costs;(b) further payments, or repayments, to be made in consequence of any appeal, or of any remission or variation of a non-participation fine or any other amount required to be paid.(4) In this section, “county court enforcement costs” in relation to a non-participation fine means costs incurred by a local education authority in connection with the recovery of the relevant sum in a county court.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 53 [Financial penalties]:
63: Clause 53, page 29, line 31, at end insert—
“( ) Where a person is required by a penalty notice given under section 22 or 28 to pay a financial penalty, and
(a) has given a notice of objection to the local education authority under section 23 or 29, or(b) has appealed against the giving of the penalty notice under section (Appeal against penalty notice given under section 22) or (Appeal against penalty notice given under section 28),the penalty is not enforceable until the authority has given a determination notice under section (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 22 following notice of objection) or (Withdrawal or variation of penalty notice given under section 28 following notice of objection) in relation to the penalty notice, or, as the case may be, the appeal has been determined.”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 56 [Support services: provision by local education authorities]:
[Amendment No. 64 not moved.]
64A: After Clause 56, insert the following new Clause—
“Assessment for specific learning difficulties
(1) Each pupil in a maintained and voluntary aided school must—
(a) before his sixth birthday;(b) in the second year after completion of Key Stage one; and(c) in the first year after Key Stage two,receive an assessment for risk of specific learning difficulties.
(2) Each person sentenced to imprisonment in one of Her Majesty’s prisons or a young offender institution or a secure training centre must within one calendar month of the commencement of his sentence receive an assessment for risk of specific learning difficulties.
(3) The assessment shall be carried out by a prescribed person with prescribed qualifications.
(4) The specific learning difficulties referred to in subsection (1) are—
(a) dyslexia;(b) dyscalcula;(c) dyspraxia;(d) dysgraphia;(e) Asperger’s syndrome;(f) attention deficit disorder;(g) attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder;(h) Meares-Irelen syndrome;(i) a high level of co-morbidity of any two or more of the above conditions.(5) In this section “prescribed” means prescribed by order of the Secretary of State.
(6) The Secretary of State may, by order, specify conditions to be added to those referred to in subsection (4).”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, as a result of exchanges within the wings of this parliamentary theatre, I understand that the Government are under great pressure of time and would be greatly helped if we curtailed this debate. I am happy to take the minimum of your Lordships’ time on the understanding that the Minister will come forward with assurances and that if they are not satisfactory she can be assured of a somewhat lengthy and perhaps acrimonious exchange at Third Reading.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that there are two legs to the amendment, one relating to maintained schools and the other to places of detention, and I will need assurances on both legs.
Other noble Lords have remained in the Chamber specifically to speak on this amendment. If they were to restrain themselves to contributions no longer than mine and to an expectation as eager as mine for Third Reading I should be most grateful. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall be as short as possible. I am particularly interested in the second part of the amendment, which refers to children in custody. This is by no means the first time that this issue has been raised. Indeed, as Chief Inspector of Prisons, I raised it in 1999 as a requirement to enable speech and language therapists to assess everyone coming in for what they could do, could not do, their communication difficulties, healthcare and so on. This went on to a trial proving that these people were indispensable in every young offender institution, not only in the areas of speech and language but to guide disciplinary staff, education, healthcare and so on.
It was then picked up by the Bercow review, which reported this summer. A large part of that review is devoted to the desperate importance of assessment as early as possible. All the points in the amendment are in line with what the Government have known for some time and have had put to them on many occasions. I hope the Minister will accept that ministries such as the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health should be included in discussions about the amendment, because the provision of people to do this will affect ministries other than the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
My Lords, I have one question for the Minister, which applies to both legs of the amendment. Will there be some facility to explain what the hidden difficulty is, either to the parent, in the first case, or to that young person who is in the system? By this I mean that if you tell somebody that they are dyslexic—to use an example that I know about—their first question is, “What does that mean?”. If you then give some diatribe about working harder and not getting your Bs and Ds wrong, you probably deserve to have something thrown at you. If you explain that it is something to do with problems of short-term memory and the way one functions and processes information, and nothing to do with intellectual ability, you may open the door to that person being receptive to forms of help in the future. That is why it is very important that somebody is there to explain, either to the parent or the young person, exactly why they have failed—or, at least, one of the reasons why they have failed—in the past. Without that, simply going back to something like a classroom situation, particularly in the case of young offenders, is only going to make a bad situation worse.
My Lords, the amendment will save not only money, but a lot of lives, or at least the point of lives. There are far too many people with obviously treatable problems, such as dyslexia, who end up in prison because their problems are never spotted. Good schools carry out this kind of diagnosis anyway, but far too many do not and tend to forget about those children, who fail as a result. This is a simple, well understood remedy, which the Government could easily take, given sufficient money.
My Lords, I have a lengthy speaking note in response to this. This is an incredibly important subject, of great concern to your Lordships’ House. I appreciate that that is why the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has tabled this amendment. I would never presume that any conversation we might have between now and Third Reading would necessarily rule out his absolute right to bring his concerns to Third Reading. I hope we can meet before then to discuss his concerns, and not only those about dyslexia. Jim Rose is undertaking a review of dyslexia at the moment. We are thinking about such things as specific modules in teacher training, and so on. There is much to say on this, but I know that there are other areas of concern to the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Addington and Lord Lucas. They have legitimate points to make. I am happy to meet to discuss further, and hope I can offer more reassurance in a lengthy discussion about how we are taking this whole agenda forward.
My Lords, I think that will read, in Hansard, like a very firm undertaking to discuss, with no undertaking whatever as to what will emerge from those discussions. I am glad to meet for such discussions. I hope they may include noble Lords who have spoken in his admirable mini-debate, which has brought out the main points, and that they can be timely, so that we are not again rushing to do something which ought to be done with great deliberation. With warm thanks to those noble Lords who have stayed for this rather formal little dance, prior to the real debate—which will not, alas, be recorded in Hansard—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
65: After Clause 58, insert the following new Clause—
“Provision of support on conditional basis: learning and support agreements
(1) Services provided for young persons in pursuance of section 56 or 58(1)(b) may include the provision of support on a conditional basis.
(2) For the purposes of this section—
(a) “support” provided for a person means any form of support and includes, in particular—(i) support in the form of medical or social care, including care provided otherwise than to that person,(ii) support in the form of incentives, including allowances and payments, and(iii) other financial assistance;(b) support is provided for a young person on a conditional basis if it is provided under arrangements (a “learning and support agreement”) under which its provision is subject to the young person’s agreement to fulfil conditions (“learning and support conditions”).(3) Subsections (4) to (6) apply where support is provided for a young person on a conditional basis by virtue of subsection (1).
(4) The learning and support agreement must include provision (whether or not in the form of a learning and support condition) relating to the young person’s participation in education or training.
(5) The person providing the support (the “service provider”) must consider that providing it on a conditional basis would be desirable in the interests of encouraging, enabling or assisting the young person—
(a) to fulfil the duty imposed by section 2, in a case where the young person is a person to whom Part 1 applies, or(b) in any case, to participate effectively in education or training.(6) The learning and support conditions must be conditions—
(a) determined in consultation between the service provider and the young person, having regard to an assessment of the young person’s needs conducted by the service provider and the young person for the purposes of this section, and(b) to which in the course of that consultation the young person has agreed;and the service provider must make arrangements for the learning and support conditions to be reviewed periodically. (7) Learning and support agreements made by virtue of subsection (1) do not create any obligations in respect of whose breach any liability arises in contract or in tort.
(8) Subsection (1) is subject to section 56(2) and (4).”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 59 [Educational institutions: duty to provide information]:
[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]
Clause 61 [Internet and telephone support services etc]:
[Amendments Nos. 67 and 68 not moved.]
69: Before Clause 69, insert the following new Clause—
“Personal, social and health education
In section 84 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) (curriculum requirements for first, second and third key stages), after subsection (3)(g), insert—
“(ga) personal, social and health education, and”.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, as with an earlier group of amendments, I have agreed behind the scenes not to move this amendment in exchange for a meeting with the Minister, at which I will have the opportunity of asking my questions. However, I will not resist heartily congratulating the noble Baroness on the Government’s recently announced proposals on PSHE. I also congratulate other colleagues in this House, particularly the noble Baronesses, Lady Gould and Lady Massey, on supporting me in constantly returning to this issue, which I hope has been effective in persuading the Government to make their move. I simply ask the Minister to hold her nerve on this matter, despite some of the things that are being said in the press.
[Amendments No. 69 not moved.]
[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]
Clause 70 [Provision of transport etc for persons of sixth form age: duty to consider journey times]:
71: Clause 70, page 41, line 5, after “statements)” insert “—
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 72 and 73. The amendments replicate those which we tabled in Committee. We have brought them back because we did not think that the Minister’s reply in Committee was adequate. As I said at the time, the noble Lord told me what I had already told him.
We think that this is a very serious issue. Already, well over 1 million young people aged 16 and 17 are travelling to pursue education courses. An increase in this number will come when this legislation comes into effect. The Government are very anxious that young people have a choice in their education options and that they learn to use public transport. Yet often that choice cannot be exercised and young people have no alternative but to resort to private cars because there is no public transport available or because it is unduly expensive.
We know that under the terms of the 2002 Act, strengthened by the Education and Inspections Act 2006, local authorities are supposed to have transport plans which demonstrate how they are promoting these objectives, and there are a number of outstanding examples where this has been done. Notable is the example of London, where transport is now free for all young people up to the age of 18. I referred in Committee to Somerset, where, for £420, young people can obtain an annual Rover ticket to cover all transport needs. However, far too many local authorities are not doing what they are required to do, and transport to and from college remains a big issue for many young people.
It is very lame for the Minister to respond that local authorities have these duties and should be carrying them out. This Bill will in many senses exacerbate the problem, because it will increase the number of young people seeking to travel to and from home to school or college. However, it also offers an opportunity to strengthen the local authorities’ duty, and the amendments do precisely this. Instead of lamely lamenting the fact that local authorities do not do their duty, the Minister can accept the amendments or promise to bring forward others that do the same.
It is quite wrong that colleges have to devote between £3 million and £4 million of their funds to providing transport facilities that local authorities are not providing when that money should be devoted to the education of young people.
Amendment No. 73 is also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Low. I pass on the noble Lord’s apologies for not being here to speak to it. Again, we are bringing back this issue, because although there has been some progress and discussion since the Committee stage, the trail seems to have gone cold. We would like to know what has happened to it and to have assurances that the Minister will take up the cudgels and make sure that things happen.
We have redrafted the amendment in order to meet some of the objections that have arisen. As before, the amendment puts an explicit duty on local authorities to ensure that qualified disabled students up to the age of 25 have access to a means of transport. We define qualified disabled students as those who, by reason of their disability, cannot use public transport without assistance and for whom private transport is also out of the question; for example, blind and visually impaired students.
The main stumbling block in the discussions that have been held has, as always, been costs, and the danger that the amendment would lead to vast expenditure on taxis for long journeys for the students concerned. There are two responses to this objection. The first is that the total number of students involved is extremely small, in the region of 10,000 from a total in further education of well over 1.5 million. The number is so small in relation to the total that it should not worry the Ministry.
Secondly, “qualified disabled learners” consist only of those who are visually impaired or who have complex disabilities. There is a large number of people who are listed as disabled but who are perfectly able to travel by public transport. Even among those who might be listed as qualified disabled learners there are quite a number who, if given assistance, can use public transport. A number of local authorities are providing what are called “travel trainers” so that the students concerned can be trained to travel. For example, a visually impaired student might well be able travel by train or bus provided that they learn the route and know what changes have to be made. Given a certain amount of travel training in this respect, they can and like to be independent. Similarly, a blind student is often able to travel with a dog. If the student concerned is making the same journey as other students, other students might be able to travel with them as travel assistants. Local authorities could employ them in that role. Given a little creative thinking, local authorities do not have to provide expensive taxis; there are other means of meeting the requirement. That is why, in rephrasing the amendment, we have defined “access” so that it,
“may include the provision of training or assistance with travel on public transport as well as the direct provision of the means of transport”.
This issue has been around for a very long time. When we discussed it in Committee, I spoke about the extent to which I had worked on it with Lady Darcy de Knayth. We saw a little movement from the Ministry during the summer. Some meetings took place, and there has been correspondence with Skill about it. However, the trail seems to have gone cold. I hope that the Minister will tell me that she will take up the cudgels on behalf of the disabled students that we are discussing. These rights and duties already exist in legislation relating to local authorities but, once again, local authorities are not delivering on those duties. The Ministry should make sure that they do. I hope that the Minister will see fit to accept our reasonable amendment and that we can see some real progress. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with what the noble Baroness has said. As I prepared for this Bill I had the opportunity to meet representatives from a wide range of organisations, many of whom have devoted years to helping young people to find the opportunities that we are discussing in this Bill. By and large, they welcomed the Government’s proposals to one degree or another, but one point that was impressed on me several times was that even if the Government and local education authorities opened up new courses, apprenticeships and training programmes, they would be worthless unless the people supposed to benefit from them were able to get there. Young people who seek training and education opportunities may not have the wherewithal to travel from place to place in pursuit of their duty under the Bill unless some provision is made for them.
I have already spoken about the need for the Government to be quite certain that they have done all they can to enable young people to fulfil their duty. These amendments follow that theme.
My Lords, we share the noble Baroness’s views that access to affordable transport is integral to helping young people to access education and training. Current legislation strikes a balance between protecting the interests of young people everywhere and giving local authorities the flexibility to direct resources to local priorities.
I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that local authorities should have the discretion to determine how to target their funding to meet local needs. By 2010-11, the increase in total government grant for local services since 1997 will be 45 per cent in real terms. Drawing on this funding, the current duty requires local authorities to take into account the costs of transport in preparing their transport policy statements and this should ensure that transport is affordable for young people.
Furthermore, I can announce that we will use the opportunity of the fourth Session Bill to amend the current post-16 transport duty and strengthen local accountability. We will do that by bolstering the current duty on local authorities to prepare and publish a transport policy statement, requiring them to set out in the statement the assessments they have made in drawing up their transport policy, and by improving the route for appeal to local authority policy, if a parent or young person believes that transport provision is a barrier to their participation in education or training and that their circumstances have not been adequately considered in the transport statement. I therefore hope the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.
Amendment No. 73 relates to transport provision for learners with learning difficulties. In Committee, my noble friend Lord Adonis committed to looking at this issue over the summer. Over the summer we have been working with Skill: National Bureau for Students With Disabilities to work out the best way forward. I recently met the noble Lord, Lord Low, who is unfortunately not able to be here today, to discuss progress and the need for momentum. As part of this work, my department has looked at the services and support that are made available to learners with learning difficulties by local authorities and how we can support them to develop commissioning and other systems to improve their efficiency and reach. We have also commissioned some work from Skill, looking at the needs of this group and possible solutions. This research is in its final stages, and we will consider the findings very carefully; in particular, it will inform decisions about how we legislate in the new fourth Session Bill.
As noble Lords will be aware, this new Bill proposes transferring the funding and responsibility for commissioning 16 to 19 provision from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities from 2010. Local authorities will also have responsibility for commissioning provision for learners with learning difficulties and disabilities. We are sympathetic to the purpose of this amendment and think it needs to be considered within the changes as a part of the fourth Session Bill. The proposal made in the White Paper was that responsibility for the participation of these learners will sit with local authorities.
In the mean time, we believe that we can make a number of improvements to the existing system. The noble Baroness highlighted those, including strengthening the current learning difficulty assessment guidance to include an explicit reference to considering the young person’s wider needs, including transport. We will consult on this guidance directly after the Bill receives Royal Assent.
The noble Baroness is right that travel training can be extremely beneficial for this group of young people. It is an area that we particularly asked Skill to consider. Its interim findings advocate the benefits and the good work that is going on in many areas but it also recognises that it can be of variable quality and not available everywhere. To address that we have committed to highlighting good practice in travel training through our guidance on transport to local authorities and we will underline their responsibilities in this area in a series of workshops to take place in the spring. We will also work with awarding bodies, which I see as an important mechanism to encourage the accreditation of travel training as part of the foundation learning tier to enable colleges and providers to attract funding for this training more easily. That will really help.
We believe that these measures will improve the transport support available to this group and will bring all local authorities up to the standards of the best. I will be looking closely at progress and will consider whether it is necessary to do more alongside other local authority duties as we introduce legislation in the fourth Session. I assure noble Lords that the trail is not going cold. In the light of my comments, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for a positive reply on both scores. As I understand it, the Government will bring forward legislation in the next Session to put rather more pressure on local authorities to require them to be specific in their travel plans and to justify their assessments of what is needed. There will also be appeals where it is felt that they are not doing what they should. In relation to the first two amendments, that is a good response. We shall be looking at what comes forward in the next Session and will raise the issue again if we feel that it is not being adequately addressed. We look forward to seeing what comes forward.
In relation to the third amendment, I am delighted to hear what is happening. All that the Minister mentioned sounds positive. I know that the Government have been working with Skill partly in order to establish the numbers involved. As I indicated, it looks as though the actual numbers needing help in this way are relatively small in relation to the total number of disabled students and those with learning difficulties. Many of them do not need special transport arrangements. I am pleased to hear that the Minister will carry these discussions forward. Again, we look forward to seeing legislation in the next Session. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 72 and 73 not moved.]
Clause 73 [Learning aims for persons aged 19 and over]:
74: Clause 73, page 44, line 10, leave out “25” and insert “30”
The noble Lord said: Lords, this is one of a group of three amendments, the first of which proposes that the financial support that the Bill proposes should be given to those between the ages of 19 and 25 to obtain a level 3 qualification should be extended to those up to the age of 30. I propose this amendment against the background of what our Select Committee on Economic Affairs in 2006-07 said about apprenticeships in this country. In its report for 2006-07, the committee said that whereas we had 43 per cent at level 3, France had 52 per cent and Germany had 78 per cent. That is indicative of how far behind we have fallen.
The noble Lord, Lord Leitch, in his final report on world-class skills, tells us, in section 3.50, that we need to deliver more than a doubling of the number of adults at level 3. Bearing mind that the Germans and French will not stand still, that seems about right. It is an awesome challenge, born out of the necessity to be competitive; and it is the foundation from which we can aspire to move on from level 3 to meet the targets that the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, sets for us to be competitive at level 4.
The Government and others have talked, in the light of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, of the need for 40 per cent of our adults to reach level 4 by 2020. The noble Lord, Lord Leitch, says in his report that we need to reach 45 per cent to be competitive. The United States and Germany were already at 40 per cent two or three years ago. To aim for 40 per cent by 2020, when major competitors are there already, hardly strikes me as aiming to be competitive. The figure of 45 per cent, which the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, says is necessary, is a modest target.
The history of this country is one of report after report telling us that we are not competitive in our skills base. The first report that I know of was in 1867, at the time of the great Paris Exhibition, which awakened us to the fact that we were no longer out in front. Professor Alison Wolf, in a book a few years ago, recalled I think 23 reports in the following century repeating that message. Of course, there have been more since; the report of the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, is the latest. Looking at that evidence, are we doing enough? By raising the issue of level 3, are we confident that we will not be once again in the same position as all those illustrious persons and committees who have made their recommendations and said, “We must wake up and do much better”, only to find themselves saying the same again a few years later?
I welcome what the Government are doing, but they must do more. Originally, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and I were proposing, as with level 2, that we should cover all ages. We have brought that down to 30 because we know that money is scarce now. However, given the challenge of our imperative need to be competitive, it seems that the Government need to consider the means by which we will achieve what needs to be achieved—I refer to the call of the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, for a doubling of the number of those at level 3. I put forward the amendment on that basis.
The following two amendments refer to those who left school with least to show for it; not even a level G pass in their GCSE. The Government have provided—and this corresponds with the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Leitch—that, for those who left school without the English or maths to make sense of life and be basically competent at a low level, there should be free educational opportunities throughout their working lives. This is excellent. However, I say to myself, this is good for starters, but they need vocational skills as well. What is proposed at level 2 is the equivalent of five GCSEs for free in vocational subjects. These people need vocational skills. They are our fellow citizens who have least to offer to employers. I have heard it said that employers are not interested in investing in vocational skills at these very low levels. That may be because they can meet their requirements through the highly skilled workers coming from eastern Europe, notably Poland which has first-rate vocational education. That is reflected in those coming across to this country. Are we going to say that we are not going to do as much for the people whose need is greatest as for other groups, to enable them to get a job and contribute to the economy? I fear that we are not doing what we need for both our own interests and theirs.
The amendment is much more modest than that which we originally had in mind. We had proposed that such people should have the same deal as is offered to those who are aiming for level 2. We have watered that right down and limited it to the 19 to 25 year-olds, mirroring what the Government propose at level 3. We have referred specifically to information and communication technology as part of the area which should be under consideration. The government policy paper published on 17 October identifies information and communication technology as on a par with English and maths as the requirement for any pathway in the foundation framework that they are developing. We argue for other qualifications as well, but leave it to the Secretary of State to specify what they should be.
In tidying up my inexpert drafting of these amendments, the Table Office has missed out what was, to me, a key word from Amendment No. 76. I wished to say of the Secretary of State’s power to determine what should happen, that it “shall be” as—the word “as” was missed out—
“specified by the Secretary of State from accredited units and qualifications within in the foundation learning tier”.
That leaves the Secretary of State to decide when and what. In other words, this is a marker—an opportunity for and challenge to the Secretary of State to pick up what he thinks that the Government can afford, and what is more useful at a particular time. It could not be a more discretionary amendment to the Bill. It does not make immediate demands on the public purse.
I move the amendment on level 3 out of concern for our competitiveness and have tabled Amendments No. 75 and 76 regarding those at the foundation stage out of concern for our fellow citizens who most need our help, for their own sakes and for ours. I beg to move.
My Lords, two things are different from the last time I was on my feet on this subject. First, the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has been able to take forward these complicated matters. I am enormously thankful for that. Secondly, sadly, the economic situation has changed quite dramatically. So, as we have already heard, we are reluctantly looking at a different situation.
What is decided at level 3 bears directly on what we can achieve at level 4. Let us focus on that. Our achievement at level 3 will largely determine the ceiling of what can be achieved at level 4. In supporting the amendment to extend to 30 the age limit for support for level 3 students, I note that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, referred to Germany and the United States having already exceeded the commonly quoted target of 40 per cent at level 4 by 2020. The same may of course also be said for Japan, Canada and Russia, which have similarly already achieved that level 4.
How can a Government be serious in setting targets for 2020, as we know this Government are, which five competitor nations have already achieved? Who knows how many more will join them, including France and South Korea, for example? It would not be extremely worrying if we could assume that, having already passed 40 per cent at level 4, those countries would rest on their laurels; but we have no grounds for assuming that that will happen, when it is commonly accepted across the globe that competitive advantage is achieved by investment in education. In 12 years, those countries could well reach 50 per cent.
Speaking bluntly, I am more than sad that we are pulling back from the proposals that we made earlier that support for students aspiring to level 3 should extend across the entire working life, or certainly until at least the age of 50; but I am aware that cost is very much an issue. I note, however, that at the Labour Party conference—admittedly it was last year, but nevertheless it was important—the Prime Minister said that,
“this is the century when we cannot afford to waste the talents of anyone … we need to unlock the talents of all our people. In the last century the question was can we afford to do this? In the face of economic challenge, I say: in this century we cannot afford not to”.
I would gladly accept the argument that there are more cost-effective ways of achieving progress towards the kind of level 3 performance that we need by 2020—somewhere between 45 per cent and 50 per cent, as my noble friend Lord Dearing argued. However, if the Government cannot even accept our proposal to extend the age limit for support to 30, or something around that age, bearing mind that 70 per cent of those who will be of working age in 2020 are already at work, will the Minister answer the following now, or before the next stage of the Bill? First, in the light of the performance of other countries, what is a desirable level of achievement for level 4 by 2020? Secondly, by what measures will the Government achieve that figure and what will each measure contribute?
My Lords, I have listened carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and I quite understand why he made these proposals. I am sorry to say, however, that I cannot support his amendments. I am worried that if a person has not yet reached the required standards in English and maths, they should not be attempting level 1 in French or any other subject. I am concerned that the free offer in these proposals may be used for educational training in areas other than maths or English, at a time when those skills are absolutely key to the modern jobs market in whatever employment people choose to go into, particularly in the current economic climate.
My Lords, my name and that of my noble friend Lady Walmsley were added to these amendments and we did that with pleasure. In many senses, the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, knows that we believe that the amendment is rather tame. He and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, explained that they would have liked to endorse the earlier Liberal Democrat amendment which proposed that there should be an entitlement to a level 3 education at any age—including after retirement—for all students if they had not received the benefit of it previously.
These days, we often talk about the lack of aspiration of young people, and perhaps of the teachers of young people. Here there is a lack of aspiration by the Government. We know perfectly well, from the Leitch report, that we must look to mature students to fill the gap in our skills base, which the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, rightly pointed out. The gap at level 3 is glaring and has been for a long time. The Government are doing practically nothing to fill that gap. We have not got enough young people coming through the system at level 3 and level 4 and we must be prepared to help students achieve qualifications at this level.
The minimum we can do is give those who aspire to a level 3 qualification the same rights as we give to those at level 4. Those at level 4 have the right to a loan to cover the cost of their tuition. Part-time students at level 3 do not have the same rights. Mature students at level 3, even if they are full time, do not have the same rights. There is a gross inequality here for those at level 3, many of whom lost out in the education system at an earlier point. That the Government do not have the inspiration or the aspiration to meet their needs is a very sad indictment. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, quoted previous Labour Party manifestos and their aspirations as to what should be achieved. The Government are letting down a whole group of the population.
As for the foundation-tier levels, these seem to be minimal qualifications. It is very sad that the Conservative Party takes the line it is taking, and very mean indeed. Here we have people with no qualifications whatever. The Conservative Party knows very well the importance these days of accreditations or qualifications of some sort or another. Surely people have a right to aspire to the lowest level of qualification. We are giving everybody the right to take what we call the full-fat level 2 qualification. If people do not have the capability of doing the full-fat level 2, surely the minimum we can do is encourage them to acquire the level 1 foundation-tier qualifications that we are now providing. From these Benches we endorse these amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Dearing.
My Lords, I understand noble Lords’ intentions in tabling these amendments. My officials and I have met them on a number of occasions since they raised similar amendments in Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, accuses us of a lack of inspiration and aspiration. I find that a bit over the top given that here we are discussing an Education and Skills Bill which is raising the participation age and applying free funding to a significant range of individuals. I reject her charge. I feel that, as we approach Christmas, I am somehow being labelled Scrooge and I will endeavour to prove that that is not a fair description.
This Bill gives us something extra in our efforts to raise skill levels. For the first time it introduces a legal requirement to ensure the Learning and Skills Council waives fees for adults undertaking specified basic skills—first full level 2 and, for adults aged 19 to 25, first full level 3 qualifications. This is a really strong signal of the Government’s commitment to supporting skills development. Amendment No. 74 would extend to those aged up to 30 the duty on the Learning and Skills Council to secure free tuition for a first full level 3 qualification. We know level 3 skills deliver good returns to individuals and the economy. The returns over the lifetime of a person moving from level 2 to level 3 are around £45,000, so it is right, as the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, said and many employers demand, that as many people as possible should be qualified at higher levels, including at level 3, which is often a gateway to further higher level learning. However, level 3 learning programmes do not come cheap and our initial analysis is that extending the duty on the Learning and Skills Council to include free tuition for a first full level 3 qualification for adults aged between 25 and 30 would cost around £85 million over the next three years. This includes education and training secured by the LSC through both Train to Gain and mainstream further education routes.
We are already doing much to help all adults, including those over 25, to reskill and upskill by helping them gain full qualifications at level 2 and level 3. Compared with 2001, there are now 2.2 million more adults of working age with qualifications at level 3 and above, and around 100,000 adults achieved a level 3 qualification in 2006-07 through LSC-funded programmes. Over the next two years alone, we plan to increase by 20 per cent the investment in level 3 training that the economy needs. I do not see a lack of aspiration in that kind of investment.
Unfortunately, if I were to agree to this amendment—and I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that we have considered it carefully—I would have to divert resources within the Learning and Skills Council’s budget away from the priorities that we have set out for the next three years. That would have a significant impact on the provision available for the lowest-skilled and most disadvantaged individuals in the country—a subject on which I know from my conversations with him that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has strong feelings.
I want to address the question of competitiveness, which was touched on by both the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. Compared with countries such as France and Germany, we have far fewer young adults achieving a level 3 qualification. Evidence shows that the number of 19 to 21 year-olds qualified to level 3 as a percentage of the population is on a par with our competitors in Germany, the US and France. However, our competitors have caught up and overtaken us in relation to 25 year-olds: 74 per cent of adults aged between 25 and 28 in Germany and 62 per cent in France have level 3 qualifications or higher, compared with 54 per cent in the UK. We need to build on a strong base up to the age of 19 to keep pace with other countries, and that is a rational and reasonable approach. Even when the other provisions in the Bill that raise the participation age are fully implemented, there will still be young adults up to the age of 25 who, for various reasons, will benefit from being able to undertake level 3 qualifications without having to pay tuition fees.
I have cut out some of the argument in the interests of time, not because it was not necessarily important.
In Amendments Nos. 75 and 76, noble Lords focus on the other end of the learning spectrum and wish to make qualifications within the foundation learning tier free to those aged 19 to 25. As a Minister with responsibility for skills, I am fully behind the goal of supporting the most disadvantaged adults in developing new skills and bettering themselves. This is already a key objective of the Government and a core mission of our department. I wish to be clear, as was the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, that level 2 is the platform of skills that will make a real difference to an individual’s career prospects. People with skills at level 2 or higher are half as likely to be unemployed as those with skills below it. There is no evidence that individuals achieving qualifications below level 2 reap such fruitful returns. Therefore, it is right that we prioritise our efforts and resources on supporting as many individuals as we can in getting to this level.
We have a set of actions already in place that we believe will address the concern expressed by noble Lords that, for some learners, a full level 2 qualification is an extremely challenging step. Those in receipt of means-tested benefits and many on the working tax credit do not have to pay tuition fees for any LSC-funded learning. This includes those undertaking qualifications which will, in the future, be part of the foundation learning tier.
In addition, we continue to drive forward integration of the employment and skills services that we offer jointly with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that the most disadvantaged individuals are given the opportunity to develop the skills that they need to find sustainable employment and progress in their careers.
We are backing up our commitment to learning below level 2 with significant funding. Each year we invest a total of £1.5 billion in learning below level 2. Again, that does not strike me as lacking in aspiration or willingness to invest. In 2008-09 alone, we expect to support more than 2.2 million LSC-funded places on learning below level 2. Shortly, we expect to publish the Learning and Skills Council’s grant letter for 2009-10, which will reflect our strategy for continuing investment in further education and skills.
I should like to address the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, emphasised. We believe that equipping people with essential skills in numeracy and literacy is one of the best ways in which we can help them. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, wanted what they saw as a rather modest extension to that to include information and communications technology. Having done a bit of investigation, I can say in response that in many cases of improving literacy and numeracy, ICT is used as a means of delivery. It is a very good means of doing it. Also I am told by those involved in further education that it is not the only means of delivery. Some people respond much better to embedding this in other forms of delivery. We are going some way towards equipping people, albeit not quite as far as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, and his supporters wish.
I stress that we still believe that we have got it right in focusing on numeracy and literacy, as did the Leitch report. We are committed to examining the scope for extending administrative entitlements to free learning into the foundation learning tier in the future, as set out in the Adult Learning and Skills: Investing in the First Steps document, which we published in November 2007. Over time and as resources allow, we will concentrate public funds on programmes that align with these ladders of progression. In particular, we have stated our commitment to look at extending the administrative entitlement for 19 to 25 year-olds to foundation learning tier programmes.
The Government will continue to monitor progress towards the ambitions of the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, very closely. In the future, should we decide that we are in a position to extend the funding duty in proposed new Section 4B(4) to courses below level 2 or to those aged over 25 at level 3, the proposed order-making power in proposed new paragraph 9 of Schedule 1A will give the Secretary of State this flexibility.
I return briefly to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. The Leitch report did not say 45 per cent; it suggested exceeding 40 per cent at level 4. In response we said that we would aim for 36 per cent of adults qualified at level 4 and above by 2014, on the way to world class by 2020. This is up from 29 per cent in 2005. I shall write about the impact of measures to get to level 4 because the amendment is on level 3. The noble Baroness has that assurance.
I hope that noble Lords are sufficiently reassured that the Government are serious about improving higher level skills and supporting the most disadvantaged adults, and that the Bill builds in flexibility to reassess our priorities in the future. We do not have infinite resources, but we believe that we are focusing and targeting them in areas where the Leitch report indicated there was the greatest need, and in areas where employers identified the greatest need. That will benefit employers, employees, and the country as a whole. In light of that I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and found his remarks on the foundation stage very encouraging. I took it as meaning that the Government will look for opportunities to help these people. As for the level 3 people, it would be helpful if the Government were to respond to the request of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and say how they expect and plan to achieve whatever the league target is. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Leitch, did say that we need to aim for 45 per cent. I note what the Official Opposition said, which related specifically to the foundation learning tier. There was silence on the other matter, which may or may not be significant. I thank the Liberal Democrats for their support. We will read the Minister’s remarks carefully, but in the mean time I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 75 and 76 not moved.]
Clause 79 [Independent educational institutions]:
[Amendment No. 77 not moved.]
Clause 82 [The register]:
78: Clause 82, page 51, line 6, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we come to a large group of government amendments. I wrote to noble Lords on 23 October setting out the detail of the amendments that were laid in response to concerns and debates in Committee. The amendments put into effect the commitment made by my noble friend Lord Adonis that the Government would no longer seek to move the responsibility for registration, regulation and monitoring of independent educational institutions and non-maintained special schools from the Secretary of State to Ofsted. I will outline them rather than go into detail because I have written to noble Lords on the question.
Noble Lords may ask why the Government have decided to implement this change to the Bill through a large number of separate amendments to Part 4 rather than deleting it in its entirety and relying on the regulatory regime as it exists for independent schools in Chapter 10 of the Education Act 2002 and for non-maintained special schools in Section 342 of the Education Act 1996. Chapter 1 of Part 4 of the Bill re-states the entire regulatory regime for independent schools and, as we have just discussed—or as we might have discussed—offers the opportunity to ensure that protection is in place for children in the growing independent and part-time sector. In doing so, Part 4 makes a number of drafting and policy improvements. As one example, the Bill introduces a new right of appeal for proprietors of independent educational institutions and non-maintained special schools against decisions by the regulator, such as the refusal of an application for initial registration from a new institution.
There are other changes in Part 4, which, my noble friend Lord Adonis stated, the Government will continue to support. In particular, he drew attention to the two issues of concern to the Independent Schools Council and on which, having discussed further with the ISC, we have reached agreement. To avoid any doubt, it is worth reiterating these commitments here. First, we have agreed that regulations sitting under the new standard for leadership and management in Clause 81 will be modelled on the Independent Schools Inspectorate’s criteria for judging leadership and management set out in its current inspection framework. Secondly, in abolishing the category of schools “approved” under Section 347 of the Education Act 1996, we are clear that we do not want to introduce extra bureaucracy as a result of a deregulatory measure. We are therefore committed to publishing a central list of all independent schools that are registered as being specially organised to provide for children with special educational needs. In doing this we will look to the possibility of enhancing the information available to parents and local authorities that is contained on the list. To discourage local authorities from creating additional red tape for schools, we will be publishing strengthened, clear guidance, on which we will consult. Indeed, throughout the implementation of these changes, my department will continue to work closely with the sector and schools affected by the repeal of Section 347. It is with these commitments as a backdrop that the amendments in this group are tabled, and I refer noble Lords again to the letter I wrote containing the full detail on these amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, in Committee I expressed my enormous gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, when he indicated that the Government had reconsidered these issues, so I warmly welcome the important concessions embodied in this vast group of amendments. Many barriers have been broken down, and there is now a good relationship between the state and the independent sector, which the Government’s action and these amendments can only strengthen.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
79: Clause 82, page 51, line 10, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
80: Clause 82, page 51, line 11, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 85 [Applications for registration]:
81: Clause 85, page 52, line 4, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
82: Clause 85, page 52, line 21, at end insert—
“(4) The Secretary of State must notify the Chief Inspector of an application under this section.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 86 [Determination of applications for registration]:
83: Clause 86, page 52, line 23, leave out from “the” to “on” in line 25 and insert “Chief Inspector is notified under section 85(4) that an institution has applied to be entered on the register, the Chief Inspector must—
(a) inspect the institution, and(b) make a report to the Secretary of State”
84: Clause 86, page 52, line 25, leave out “it appears from the inspection that”
85: Clause 86, page 52, line 29, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
86: Clause 86, page 52, line 30, leave out “findings on the inspection” and insert “report of the Chief Inspector”
87: Clause 86, page 52, line 35, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
88: Clause 86, page 52, line 37, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
89: Clause 86, page 52, line 40, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 87 [Institutions no longer required to register: power to deregister]:
90: Clause 87, page 53, line 4, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
91: Clause 87, page 53, line 10, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
92: Clause 87, page 53, line 11, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
93: Clause 87, page 53, line 13, leave out “Chief Inspector’s” and insert “Secretary of State’s”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 89 [Requirement to apply for approval for material change]:
94: Clause 89, page 53, line 34, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 90 [Inspection and report where applications made for approval]:
95: Clause 90, page 54, line 3, leave out “Chief Inspector may” and insert “Secretary of State may direct the Chief Inspector to”
96: Clause 90, page 54, line 4, leave out from beginning to “on” in line 5 and insert “Where such a direction is given, the Chief Inspector must—
(a) inspect the institution, and(b) make a report to the Secretary of State”
97: Clause 90, page 54, line 5, leave out “it appears from the inspection that”
98: Clause 90, page 54, line 8, leave out “subsection (2)” and insert “this section”
99: Clause 90, page 54, line 9, after “standard” insert “—
(a) specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of the inspection, or(b) ”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 91 [Determination of applications for approval]:
100: Clause 91, page 54, line 13, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
101: Clause 91, page 54, line 18, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
102: Clause 91, page 54, line 20, leave out “the findings on any inspection carried out” and insert “any report of the Chief Inspector”
103: Clause 91, page 54, line 23, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 92 [Power to deregister institution that makes unapproved material change]:
104: Clause 92, page 54, line 31, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
105: Clause 92, page 54, line 39, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
106: Clause 92, page 54, line 41, leave out “Chief Inspector’s” and insert “Secretary of State’s”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 95 [Duty to inspect certain registered institutions at prescribed intervals]:
107: Clause 95, page 55, line 35, leave out from beginning to “likely” in line 36 and insert “make a report to the Secretary of State, in relation to each inspection, on the extent to which any relevant standard is being met, and is”
108: Clause 95, page 55, line 37, at end insert—
“( ) In this section “any relevant standard”, in relation to an inspection, means any independent educational institution standard that is—
(a) specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of the inspection, or(b) considered to be relevant by the Chief Inspector in the circumstances of the case.”
109: Clause 95, page 55, line 39, leave out from beginning to end of line 10 on page 56 and insert “make a report if the Chief Inspector has been notified by the Secretary of State that the institution is to be inspected instead by an independent inspectorate.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 96 [Duty to inspect registered institution on direction of Secretary of State]:
110: Clause 96, page 56, line 21, after “may” insert “at any time”
111: Clause 96, page 56, line 26, at end insert “in relation to the institution”
112: Clause 96, page 56, line 26, at end insert—
“( ) The Secretary of State may at any time arrange for an independent inspectorate—
(a) to inspect a registered independent educational institution in relation to which it is approved under section 93, and(b) to make a report to the Secretary of State on the extent to which any relevant standard is being met in relation to the institution.”
113: Clause 96, page 56, line 28, leave out from “standard” to end and insert “that is—
(a) specified by the Secretary of State for the purposes of the inspection, or (b) considered to be relevant by the person carrying out the inspection in the circumstances of the case.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 97 [Power to inspect registered institution]:
114: Clause 97, leave out Clause 97
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 99 [Fees for inspections by Chief Inspector under this Chapter]:
115: Clause 99, page 58, line 3, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 100 [Failure to pay fees]:
116: Clause 100, page 58, line 23, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
117: Clause 100, page 58, line 25, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
118: Clause 100, page 58, line 27, leave out “Chief Inspector’s” and insert “Secretary of State’s”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 101 [Publication of inspection reports]:
119: Clause 101, page 58, line 33, leave out “may arrange for the publication of” and insert “must comply with a direction given by the Secretary of State to publish”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 102 [Action plans]:
120: Clause 102, page 58, line 40, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
121: Clause 102, page 59, line 4, leave out paragraph (a)
122: Clause 102, page 59, line 5, after “by” insert “the Chief Inspector or”
123: Clause 102, page 59, line 8, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
124: Clause 102, page 59, line 10, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
125: Clause 102, page 59, line 16, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
126: Clause 102, page 59, line 20, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
127: Clause 102, page 59, line 24, leave out first “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
128: Clause 102, page 59, line 24, leave out second “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
129: Clause 102, page 59, line 27, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 103 [Power of Chief Inspector to take enforcement action]:
130: Clause 103, page 59, line 31, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
131: Clause 103, page 59, line 35, leave out paragraph (a)
132: Clause 103, page 59, line 36, after “by” insert “the Chief Inspector or”
133: Clause 103, page 59, line 39, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
134: Clause 103, page 60, line 1, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
135: Clause 103, page 60, line 5, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
136: Clause 103, page 60, line 10, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
137: Clause 103, page 60, line 17, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 104 [Enforcement action available to Chief Inspector]:
138: Clause 104, page 60, line 21, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
139: Clause 104, page 60, line 22, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
140: Clause 104, page 60, line 25, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 105 [“Relevant restriction”]:
141: Clause 105, page 60, line 44, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
142: Clause 105, page 60, line 45, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 106 [Relevant restriction imposed by Chief Inspector: supplementary]:
143: Clause 106, page 61, line 7, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
144: Clause 106, page 61, line 15, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
145: Clause 106, page 61, line 17, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
146: Clause 106, page 61, line 19, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
147: Clause 106, page 61, line 22, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 107 [Unsuitable persons]:
148: Clause 107, page 61, line 28, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
149: Clause 107, page 61, line 35, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
150: Clause 107, page 61, line 37, leave out “Chief Inspector’s” and insert “Secretary of State’s”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 108 [Application to justice of the peace for order]:
151: Clause 108, page 62, line 8, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
152: Clause 108, page 62, line 17, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
153: Clause 108, page 62, line 21, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 110 [Order of justice of the peace: notification]:
154: Clause 110, page 62, line 38, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
155: Clause 110, page 63, line 1, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
156: Clause 110, page 63, line 6, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
157: Clause 110, page 63, line 8, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 111 [Provision of information by proprietors]:
158: Clause 111, page 63, line 17, leave out “the Chief Inspector or”
159: Clause 111, page 63, line 26, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
160: Clause 111, page 63, line 35, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
161: Clause 111, page 63, line 38, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 112 [Appeal by proprietor against decision of Chief Inspector to deregister]:
162: Clause 112, page 64, line 4, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
163: Clause 112, page 64, line 21, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
164: Clause 112, page 64, line 23, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
165: Clause 112, page 64, line 24, leave out from second “the” to end of line 25 and insert “First-tier Tribunal.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 113 [Appeal by proprietor against other decisions of Chief Inspector]:
166: Clause 113, page 64, line 28, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
167: Clause 113, page 64, line 38, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
168: Clause 113, page 64, line 41, leave out “Chief Inspector’s” and insert “Secretary of State’s”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 114 [Appeal by proprietor against order of justice of the peace]:
169: Clause 114, page 65, line 27, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
170: Clause 114, page 65, line 29, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
171: Clause 114, page 65, line 36, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 115 [Relevant restriction imposed by Tribunal: supplementary]:
172: Clause 115, page 65, line 43, leave out from “with” to “or” in line 44 and insert “Tribunal Procedure Rules”
173: Clause 115, page 65, line 44, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 116 [Prohibition on participation in management]:
174: Clause 116, page 66, line 36, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 118 [Directions under section 116: information]:
175: Clause 118, page 67, line 10, leave out “Chief Inspector, the Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State, the Secretary of State”
176: Clause 118, page 67, line 12, leave out from “which” to end of line 13 and insert “appears to the Secretary of State to be relevant to the exercise of the appropriate authority’s functions under section 116 or by virtue of section 117.”
177: Clause 118, page 67, line 17, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “Chief Inspector”
178: Clause 118, page 67, line 18, leave out from “which” to second “to” in line 19 and insert “appears to the Chief Inspector”
179: Clause 118, page 67, line 27, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “Chief Inspector”
180: Clause 118, page 67, line 28, leave out “Chief Inspector, the Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State, the Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 119 [Directions under section 116: notification]:
181: Clause 119, page 67, line 34, leave out first “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
182: Clause 119, page 67, line 34, leave out second “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 122 [Proceedings for offences]:
183: Clause 122, page 69, line 14, leave out “the Chief Inspector or”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
184: After Clause 126, insert the following new Clause—
“Transitional provisionContinuity of the law
(1) This section applies where—
(a) by virtue of one or more amendments made by paragraphs 20 to 29 of Schedule 1, a provision of or made under Chapter 1 of Part 10 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) (“the old provision”) that applied in relation to independent schools in England has ceased so to apply, and(b) a provision of or made under this Chapter (“the new provision”) re-enacts, with or without modification, the old provision as it so applied.(2) The amendment or amendments mentioned in subsection (1)(a) and the re-enactment mentioned in subsection (1)(b) do not affect the continuity of the law.
(3) Anything done (including any subordinate legislation made), or having effect as if done, under or for the purposes of the old provision that—
(a) could have been done under or for the purposes of the new provision (had the new provision then been in force), and(b) is in force or effective immediately before the coming into force of the new provision,has effect from that time as if done under or for the purposes of the new provision.(4) Any reference (express or implied) in this Chapter or any other enactment, instrument or document to the new provision is to be construed (so far as the context permits) as including, as respects times, circumstances or purposes in relation to which the old provision had effect, a reference to the old provision.
(5) Any reference (express or implied) in any enactment, instrument or document to the old provision is to be construed (so far as the context permits), as respects times, circumstances and purposes in relation to which the new provision has effect, as being or (according to the context) including a reference to the new provision.
(6) This section has effect subject to any specific transitional provision of or made under this Act.
(7) In this section “subordinate legislation” has the same meaning as in the Interpretation Act 1978 (c. 30).”
185: After Clause 126, insert the following new Clause—
“The register and fees
(1) On the coming into force of section 82, the register of independent schools in England becomes the register of independent educational institutions in England.
(2) The power in section 99(3)(d) to make provision prescribing circumstances in which the amount of a fee may be waived includes power to make such provision in relation to a fee (or any part of a fee) payable by virtue of section 162B(6) of the Education Act 2002 (fees payable to Chief Inspector).”
186: After Clause 126, insert the following new Clause—
“Prohibition on participation in management
(1) A person falls within this subsection if—
(a) immediately before the relevant day the person is subject to a direction under section 142 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) given on grounds prescribed for the purposes of this section, and(b) prescribed conditions (which may include conditions relating to decisions taken on or after the relevant day by the Independent Barring Board under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (c. 47)) are satisfied in relation to the person.(2) Regulations may provide that, as from a time specified in or determined in accordance with the regulations, persons who fall within subsection (1) are to be treated for prescribed purposes as if the direction given under section 142 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) were a direction given by the appropriate authority under section 116 of this Act.
(3) Regulations under this section may make provision in connection with the determination of any appeal under subsection (1) of section 144 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32), or application for review under subsection (2) of that section, which is pending on the relevant day.
(4) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (3) may, in particular, provide for an appeal, or application for review, under section 144 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) to be treated as an appeal under section 117 of this Act.
(5) In this section—
“appropriate authority” has the same meaning as in sections 116 to 119 (see section 116(6));
“the relevant day” means the day on which section 116 comes into force.””
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 127 [Interpretation]:
187: Clause 127, page 71, leave out lines 16 and 17
188: Clause 127, page 71, line 20, leave out “relevant” and insert “appropriate national”
189: Clause 127, page 71, line 21, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
190: Clause 127, page 71, line 22, at end insert—
“( ) Section 342 of that Act (approval of non-maintained special schools) is amended as follows.
( ) In subsection (1)—
(a) for “Secretary of State” substitute “appropriate national authority”;(b) omit “his”.( ) In subsection (5)(a) for “Secretary of State” substitute “appropriate national authority”.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 128 [Functions of approving schools transferred to Chief Inspector]:
191: Clause 128, leave out Clause 128
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 129 [Right of sixth-form pupils to opt out of religious worship]:
192: Clause 129, page 71, line 37, leave out from “education” to end of line 38 and insert—
“(i) in the case of a pupil of sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding, in accordance with the pupil’s own wishes; and(ii) in any other case, in accordance with the wishes of the pupil’s parent, and”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we now return to the issue of young people of sufficient competence opting out of religious worship and religious education as it is now taught in many schools. Because this Bill forces young people to remain in some sort of education until they are 18, Clause 129 allows those over 16 to exempt themselves from religious worship. I do not believe that that goes far enough. Amendment Nos. 192 to 194 would allow a pupil of sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding to opt out of religious worship in school, and Amendment No. 195 would allow such a pupil also to exempt themselves from religious education.
I want to make it clear at the outset that by using the word “intelligence” it is not my intention to exclude from these measures young people with special educational needs or those whose IQ is below the average. Many of those young people know their own mind in matters of morals and ethics perfectly well, and they should not be excluded from the meaning of these amendments.
Since we discussed these matters in Committee, I have received briefings from a new multifaith organisation, Accord, which shares my concerns about the quality and content of religious education in the UK of today. It believes that in a pluralist society, it is important that students are taught about different values and beliefs. While this is done well in some schools, it is not in others. It reports that at the moment RE syllabuses fail to take sufficient account of the many children who are not religious, or who have a different religion from the one they are assumed to have.
Many children are not receiving the benefit of instruction about the wide range of faiths in our country and around the world. Religion is an important aspect of culture and, if well taught, can add enormously to a child’s understanding of the world around him. If I believed that it was being well and broadly taught everywhere, I may not have felt the need to propose these opt-outs. Surveys have found that a high proportion of young people are not religious, and the Human Rights Act now equally protects the right to hold and to manifest either religious or non-religious beliefs.
However, the views of Accord are not just those of people who profess no religion, but also those of many, of several different faiths, who are profoundly religious but are concerned about the quality of RE syllabuses. So I call their views in aid to support my case, though they have not overtly supported my amendments. I also call in aid the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which does support my amendments.
Since our original discussion of this issue in debates on the Education and Inspections Act, the JCHR has produced a trenchant report with very strong recommendations to the Government. In our discussions on this Bill in July, the Minister ignored those recommendations, saying that the Government’s position had not changed since the previous Bill. Section 70 of the School Standards and Framework Act requires pupils to “take part in” a daily act of worship, not just to attend—a rule that is honoured more in the breach than in the observance by most schools. It is manifestly obnoxious to expect or require older children to worship a god or act in accordance with rites in which they do not believe. At the very least, that section needs to be amended to remove that requirement. Would it not be far better to require schools to have inspiring, inclusive assemblies that explore ethics to which all pupils can relate and which bring people together, rather than giving them something to mock?
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, relied heavily in his response on the so-called administrative burden on schools, suggesting that a large number of young people would seek to opt out and the so-called Gillick test would have to be applied to each. Our children are some of the most tested in the world, and I cannot see that it would be beyond the capacity of schools to include a test of all children at some stage to gauge their understanding of the importance of moral issues and the strength of their personal beliefs.
As I said in July, the thing is done by school nurses every day, when young people under 16 ask for contraceptive services but do not want their parents to know. This situation does not bring schools to a halt. Giving young people their human rights under UN conventions to which we are signatories would not bring schools to a halt either, and it is not an adequate excuse.
Young people would not be likely to fulfil the Gillick competence criteria until they had already sat through about 10 years of compulsory religious education and worship. If that is not enough time to convince a child that he wants to hear more, I do not think there is any justification for forcing him to carry on any longer. Passing these amendments would put pressure on the local standing advisory councils on religious education and on the agreed syllabus conferences to improve and broaden the syllabuses and bring them more into line with what children need in the 21st century to prepare them to live in our multifaith society. If the content and quality were better, fewer students would wish to opt out. It would also put pressure on those schools that do not do it already to prepare the sort of inclusive, inspiring assemblies to which I referred earlier. A lot depends on the schools themselves, but they are currently fettered by the unreasonable and unfair requirements of legislation. By these amendments, I seek to free schools and students from those constraints. I beg to move.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice president of the British Humanist Association. I support the amendment moved so fully and eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I do not think it is right that a particular creed should be forced on students who are able to think, learn and explore for themselves. As the noble Baroness said, they should have education in ethics and values to fit them for the kind of broad, inclusive society that we hope to attain.
My Lords, I do not think I shall add a great deal to what my noble friend said in Committee, but I shall take this opportunity to be clear. The amendments in this group extend the right set out in Clause 129 for sixth formers in non-maintained special schools to withdraw from collective worship to all competent pupils in every school. In addition, the amendments, if accepted, would allow competent pupils to opt out of RE as well as collective worship and, for the first time, extend the statutory rights to pupils of academies.
Fundamentally, they would change the settlement that has been in place since 1944 regarding the provision of religious education to children and young people and the right of withdrawal that may be exercised by parents. I know that the noble Baroness is aware of that, but it is not something that the Government can support right now. The amendments also introduce new arrangements for the withdrawal of pupils from collective worship.
The Government recognise the value of collective worship in schools because it contributes to young people’s spiritual, social, moral and cultural development by exploring social and moral issues and their own beliefs. Collective worship is a long-standing aspect of school life, and many parents want their children to benefit from it, whether or not they have a strong Christian belief themselves. The current position in the case of maintained community, foundation, voluntary and special schools is that all pupils must receive RE unless withdrawn by their parents, as the noble Baroness is aware. All pupils should attend collective worship unless withdrawn by their parents up to the age of 16 or they withdraw themselves in the sixth form.
Clause 129 replicates these provisions for pupils at non-maintained special schools so that all maintained schools and non-maintained special schools would be placed on the same footing. The Government judge that there is no good reason for children in non-maintained and maintained special schools to have different rights in relation to collective worship.
These amendments reproduce similar ones debated in Committee. Indeed, the noble Baroness reminded us of a debate, which noble Lords may remember, during the passage of the Education and Inspections Act in 2006. At that time, the Government agreed with the noble Baroness that there was a case for extending the right of withdrawal from collective worship to children over compulsory school age, and we duly brought forward amendments to the Bill. Noble Lords on both sides of the Committee recognised the difficulties that would result from the amendments currently before us, and my noble friend Lord Adonis made it clear that the intention behind them was a step too far. Over the Summer Recess, the Government’s position has not changed. We believe that the balance has been struck in the right place by allowing sixth form pupils to withdraw themselves from collective worship.
As noble Lords may recognise, religious education is a distinctly different issue that relates to the content of the schools’ curriculum. A non-statutory national framework for religious education now seeks to ensure that children gain a broad and balanced understanding of religion. More local standing advisory councils on religious education are now adopting syllabuses based on that framework. We welcome that development and see no case for changing the law at present to provide children with an opt-out from religious education.
Yet again, my Lords, I see that I have not convinced the Minister. Perhaps I could tentatively mention that I regard this issue as another PSHE. Not so long ago, the Government rejected our amendments on PSHE with the same fervour as the noble Baroness and her predecessor have rejected these amendments, whose day will come.
This Government have moved a long way towards giving children their human rights. Clearly, for the moment, they will not go as far as giving them this particular right, but I have every confidence that they will see the light one day—as I hope they also will on reasonable chastisement, and the child’s right to have equal protection under the law from assault as adults do. However, it is quite clear that the Government will not move on this, so I shall not waste any more of your Lordships’ time. I shall withdraw the amendment, but we will come back to this on every appropriate Bill in future.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 193 to 195 not moved.]
Clause 130 [Protection of pupils in an emergency]:
196: Clause 130, page 72, line 17, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 131 [Appeals]:
197: Clause 131, page 72, line 29, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
198: Clause 131, page 72, line 31, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
199: Clause 131, page 72, line 40, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
200: Clause 131, page 73, line 3, leave out from “to” to “, and” in line 4 and insert “the First-tier Tribunal”
201: Clause 131, page 73, line 7, leave out “Chief Inspector” and insert “Secretary of State”
202: Clause 131, page 73, line 19, leave out from “to” to “, and” in line 20 insert “the First-tier Tribunal”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 133 [Approval of independent schools: consequential amendments]:
203: Clause 133, page 74, line 13, after “appropriate” insert “national”
204: Clause 133, page 74, leave out lines 17 to 19
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 136 [Sixth form admissions etc]:
205: Clause 136, page 78, line 29, at end insert—
“( ) For the purpose of this section and section 86A, the expression of a preference for a school includes a particular course of study provided by the school.””
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a probing amendment to find out whether the Government are aware that the current law on post-16 admissions in schools needs to be updated to take account of the current and future patterns of provision and young people’s choices. Young people currently have a statutory right to state a preference for the school or college of their post-16 education. However, today they do not really distinguish between educational provision made by a school or college. They decide what they want to do, then look around for institutions providing the right courses. The law has not completely caught up with that fact.
Most schools set out to admit external candidates to their sixth forms. They advertise information meetings and have application forms to complete. Schools welcome those external applicants, although admission numbers are rarely set for new entrants unless the school is designated to provide sixth-form education for young people from a number of schools. Schools set relatively low admission requirements for academic achievement, but they must of course be the same for both internal and external candidates. That is because schools now provide a wide range of courses for all abilities, some being more popular than others.
However, schools operate course oversubscription criteria. The first criterion, for those who can get onto courses, is often to admit internal applicants first. That is not generally published. Thus, a school may be prepared to give external candidates three out of their four A-level choices, and thus offer them a place, but not to give them their fourth—on the basis that all the places available have been filled by internal candidates. A place is often offered on a less popular A-level course to fill it up. However, it may have been that fourth course that the young person particularly wanted, but there is no appeal to the schools’ adjudicator, as there is no refusal to admit the student. In other words, it is relatively easy to be offered a school place, thus ruling out the chance of appealing against refusal to admit the applicant, who therefore has no rights of appeal despite not being admitted onto the course that he or she wants. Indeed the only recourse for a young person in these circumstances would be to accept the place, complain to the governors and then, if the governors do not yield, go to the Secretary of State to intervene on the grounds that the governors’ refusal has been unreasonable to meet the person’s curricular needs.
This goes to show that as the country moves, with the development of diplomas, towards a de facto tertiary post-16 system where a majority of young people at 16 access part of their option courses at different institutions, the law on post-16 school admissions needs to be reformed. Has this registered with the DCSF or DIUS—I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Young, on the Front Bench at the moment—as the only change in the Bill is found in Clause 136, which introduces weak, meaningless appeal rights. If all young people were able to have equal access to the post-16 provision that they wanted to follow and not be dependent on where they studied previously, it would be a very good thing even if it was somewhat difficult to deliver.
An anomaly has crept in here and, as we move to a post-16 education system where we are expecting young people perhaps to opt for courses and be at one institution or another institution, there is inequality. As I say, if they change institutions and opt for courses that are already filled with internal candidates, they are put on the bottom of the list and cannot get on to the courses they require. I beg to move.
My Lords, I understand the noble Baroness’s arguments, which would give sixth formers a greater choice, not only in the preference they express for schools but also with regard to what course they take when they get there. Ideally schools would provide all possible options so that no one would be disappointed. However, we do not have an ideal system but one where budgets, staffing availability, pupil numbers and much else besides influence what courses of study schools can provide for their pupils. We should be wary of placing on statute an aspiration that is best met by allowing schools the flexibility to offer their pupils the courses of study which are available according to their individual circumstances.
My Lords, I share the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about making maximum real choice available but I do not believe that this is the vehicle with which to achieve it. We are dealing with admissions and I shall go on to develop why.
As regards Amendment No. 205, we are placing a duty on young people in England to participate in education or training until the age of 18. The duty to do so will be on the young people rather than their parents; therefore it is only right that young people are able to decide for themselves at which school they wish to continue their education. The purpose of Clause 136 is to give young people in England and Wales the same rights as their parents to apply for a place at a particular school of their choice, and Clause 138 gives them a right to appeal against a decision to refuse them admission.
The amendment seeks to extend the rights of those stating a preference for a school to include an additional right to specify a particular course of study. This right would apply only in the context of sixth-form education. An effect of the amendment would be to place a duty on admission authorities—which, in many cases, would be the local education authority—to ensure that a particular course of study was available to a particular young person. That should not be the job of the admission authority but should be left to the school, where a discussion can take place as to which course is appropriate for the young person.
In addition, where a sixth form does not offer a particular course of study, a young person will be entitled to state a preference for a place in another sixth form where the course of study is available. I am sure that many of us, as parents, have been through the process of helping our children to find the right sixth form college or school. As noble Lords will be aware, the next Education and Skills Bill will propose transferring the funding and responsibility for commissioning 16 to 19 provision from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities from 2010. As part of this duty, local authorities will be responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient provision available to meet the needs of all learners in their area. That is where we are directing, with due respect, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.
It will be a duty of the local authority to ensure that there is, from 2010, sufficient provision available to meet the needs of all learners in their area. We will be stressing the importance of ensuring a diversity of provision so that it includes access to a range of provision that will genuinely increase learner choice. This and other changes that we are making to the range of post-16 options will ensure that all young people can access a course of learning that is appropriate and relevant. I echo the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, in relation to this. We should be wary of giving them an almost impossible task of trying to ensure, through the process of admissions, that every course of study that any particular student might wish for will be available at every school or college. I hope that the assurances I have given on the duty of local authorities—to ensure a diverse range of provision from 2010—show that we are cognisant of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. On those grounds, I hope that she will withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. The purpose of this amendment was really to bring to the department’s attention the fact that there is a degree of inequality here that is a problem. Clearly, if some students have to change school at 16 and others can stay within the same institution, it should not necessarily be the inherent right of those staying within the institution to fill up all the popular courses. It may be that a student chooses a particular institution because it is well known that it teaches a particular subject. We have all these specialist colleges and schools now; some are much better at teaching some subjects than others and have a very good reputation. As this Bill is implemented and we have more young people staying on in school wanting to opt for particular courses, this could be a bigger issue. It is important that the department should think about this issue and how best to meet it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 140 [Power of governing body: educational provision for improving behaviour]:
206: Clause 140, page 92, line 23, at end insert—
“( ) prohibiting a governing body from exercising the power conferred by subsection (1) in such a way that any pupil is required to receive educational provision outside the school premises for a greater number of days in a school year than is specified in the regulations,”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I move on to government Amendments Nos. 206 and 207. Clause 140 provides a specific power for governing bodies to require registered pupils to attend a place off-site in order to receive educational provision that is intended to improve their behaviour. A school governing body already has the power, under Section 29(3) of the Education Act 2002, to direct pupils off-site to receive instructional training. The power was intended to enable schools to send pupils to other schools or FE colleges to take academic or vocational subjects that their own school could not provide. However, there are concerns that governing bodies may also be exercising this power for a number of purposes that go beyond those stated in the Act, albeit that they are used to benefit the pupil concerned. This amendment seeks to allow regulations to be made concerning the maximum length of time that a pupil can be referred off-site for education relating to their behaviour. It has always been our intention that referrals to off-site provision to improve pupils’ behaviour should be only for a temporary period.
In response to a concern expressed earlier in the process by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, we will reinforce this by having regulations stating that governing bodies cannot direct a pupil off-site beyond the end of the academic year in which they are so directed. Along with the statutory review that must take place when a pupil is off-site, we can be confident that students will not be pushed out of mainstream education on the back of this clause. In addition, Clause 140 allows regulations to be made requiring a governing body exercising the power to require a pupil to attend off-site provision to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State. It is the intention to issue guidance on the use of the power and, indeed, illustrate guidance that has already been issued in draft, to show how it is intended that the power should operate.
The Government are committed to transforming the quality of alternative education provision and, as part of this, to raising the standards of education for pupil referral units. We published our White Paper, Back on Track, in May, setting out our proposals for achieving this. Central to our strategy is a focus on early intervention to prevent behavioural problems leading to permanent exclusions and on stronger accountability by holding local authorities to account for the outcomes of young people in pupil referral units, which I hope noble Lords will agree is extremely important. We are determined to improve this sector, which is so crucial to the life chances of some of the more disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. I beg to move.
My Lords, I intend to say little more than, “Thank you very much”. However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has expressed concerns that this power could have had a serious disproportionate impact on some groups which are already overrepresented in school exclusions, such as disabled people and African and Caribbean boys. We share its concern and are delighted that the Government are going to prevent governing bodies using this power as a way of dumping inconvenient pupils. It will be important to see the detail of the regulations and the accompanying guidance. I will ask only one question about that today, because of the late hour. Will governing bodies be able to renew, in the following school year, the same power to send a young person somewhere else for the purposes of improving their behaviour? In other words, could one order finish at the end of a school year, only to be replaced by an identical action at the beginning of the following school year, thus neutralising the Government’s limitation on the power in the amendments?
My Lords, my noble friend Lady Morris voiced some concern regarding the original provision. I would not want headmasters’ ability to impose discipline in their own schools to be taken away by this approach, so I should like to read carefully what the Minister said.
My Lords, I hear the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. We do not want a loophole which would detract from the intention of this amendment. I will get proper advice and write to her before Third Reading.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
207: Clause 140, page 92, line 25, leave out “any such requirement” and insert “a requirement under subsection (1)”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
208: After Clause 141, insert the following new Clause—
“National Curriculum for England: duty to implement assessment arrangements
(1) In section 88 of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) (implementation of the National Curriculum for England in schools), in the existing provision (which becomes subsection (1)), at the end insert—
“This subsection does not apply in relation to assessment arrangements.”(2) After that subsection insert—
“(1A) In relation to any maintained school—
(a) the local education authority and the governing body must exercise their functions with a view to securing, and(b) the head teacher must secure,that the assessment arrangements specified for the time being in the National Curriculum for England are implemented.””
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendments in this group make a small legislative change, although they may cause a few larger ripples. I set out the rationale for these changes in a letter to noble Lords on 23 October. They amend Section 88 of the Education Act 2002 to allow the Secretary of State to remove the obligation on schools and local authorities to administer key stage 3 national curriculum tests from 2009 onwards.
On 14 October, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families announced that from the summer of 2009, children would not be required to take key stage 3 tests. Over the summer, my department looked at the assessment arrangements for the national curriculum, taking account of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families in its third report of the 2007-08 Session on testing and assessment. We fully agree with the Select Committee that the principles of national testing are sound. Testing, assessment and accountability must encourage and reward the best teaching so that it properly supports pupils in their learning and development and schools are judged fairly on how they support the progress and well-being of every child.
In his Statement on 14 October, the Secretary of State described in detail the key principles that must guide our approach. He said that our system of testing and assessment should, first, give parents the information that they need to compare different schools; secondly, enable head teachers and teachers to secure the progress of every child and their school; and, thirdly, allow the public to hold to account national and local government and governing bodies for the performance of schools.
National curriculum tests at key stage 2 meet these key principles. Key stage 2 tests provide a reliable and consistent source of information for parents at a crucial transition point for their child, as well as allowing the public to hold the system and the Government to account for the performance of primary schools.
I do not wish to speak at length to the amendments; I have written in detail to noble Lords about them. Amendment No. 207 requires schools and local authorities to implement national curriculum assessment arrangements as they exist at the current time—that is the key change that we are making.
I assure noble Lords that the amendments refer only to the assessment arrangements within the national curriculum. We are not providing for a power to change any other part of the national curriculum after the start of the school year, because that would make the job of planning and delivering the curriculum in schools extremely difficult and undermine the thoughtful planning of teaching and learning that has already taken place.
We want the changes to the assessment arrangements to come into effect as soon as possible. That is why Amendments Nos. 219 and 220 bring the legislative changes into effect on Royal Assent. Amendment No. 238 is a consequential amendment, ensuring that the amendments to the legislation are carried forward when Section 74 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 comes into force. I have spoken quickly to the amendments, but I know that noble Lords will be keen to progress their effect. I beg to move.
My Lords, from these Benches, along with all year 9 students, we say hurrah to this decision. We thank the Minister for sending us the letter and informing us. We are delighted that the Government took into account the advice of the Select Committee. The Minister did not mention that the Select Committee also pointed out that SATs for 14 year-olds were both expensive and unnecessary. My honourable friend Mr Laws in the other place made it quite clear in the middle of July that he thought that we should scrap them there and then, because the debacle over their marking had shown that they were not only expensive and unnecessary but also unreliable. He called for the money that we were saving to be put into one-to-one tuition to tackle basic problems in reading and writing of the kind that we discussed when considering the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. There is a need for money to be put into those basics, and we are delighted to see it. In general, we very much welcome this development.
My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the scrapping of key stage 3 tests. As my honourable friend Michael Gove said in another place, we need fewer national tests and much more rigour. We would like to see tests that are designed to drive up standards. We do not want to see standards brought down so that children can quickly be put through a succession of exams. This is not a matter for this Bill. It deserves a great deal more thought and consultation and a sea change in attitude from the Government. I hope, however, that we can see in these amendments, tucked away at the end of these proceedings, the beginnings of that process.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
209: After Clause 141, insert the following new Clause—
“Exclusions: pupil representations and access to information
Before section 52(3)(a) of the Education Act 2002 (c. 32) (exclusion of pupils) insert—
“(za) requiring the responsible body to—(i) notify the pupil of the exclusion, or the proposed exclusion;(ii) enable the pupil to have an opportunity to make representations in relation to their exclusion or proposed exclusion; and(ii) provide all information that may be relevant to such representations in language capable of being readily understood by, or explained to, the pupil himself, having particular regard to any special educational need the child might have,”.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 209, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 210. These amendments are about the right of a young person to represent themselves in exclusion proceedings from school, to receive all the appropriate information and to have an advocate speak for them, if that is what they wish and need. I am very pleased to say that after we tabled these same amendments in Committee there was a development.
The Minister wrote to me on 14 October, saying that she is minded to move in the direction that we would like to see. Indeed, she would like to move on a broader front than the specific issue of children’s rights to represent themselves which we have raised in these two amendments. This is a response to the report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child of 3 October in which it set out its concerns that children have no right to appeal in their exclusion or to appeal the decisions of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. The UN committee recommended that the Government ensure that children who are able to express their views have the right to appeal against their exclusion as well as the right to appeal to SENDIST, in particular those who are in alternative care.
The Minister pointed out that there were several areas in the educational field, not just exclusion appeals, where young people might be given such a right. She has undertaken to consult on the matter in early 2009 and then come back on the issue. I replied to her letter and gave her a number of areas on which I should like to ask her some questions tonight. She has notice of the questions, which are as follows.
Will it be a three-month formal consultation, in line with the Cabinet Office consultation code, or will it be a different period of consultation? What will be its scope? Is the consultation on proposals for how to give children the right to appeal or on whether they should be able to appeal—or do different things apply to different rights of appeal? Will the consultations be on both the right to appeal exclusions from school and the decisions of SENDIST? Will it be for both primary and secondary schools, or are secondary pupils alone regarded as being capable of making such appeals?
Will the consultation explore the use of advocates as an aide to children, particularly those with communication difficulties? Will it simply cover England or England and Wales? What would be the response to Scotland and Northern Ireland, or is it a completely devolved issue? How does this link with the developments in Wales that we already have to allow children to appeal exclusions? They are consulting on enabling them to appeal to SENDIST as well, so they are ahead of us in this particular respect, as they are in many others relating to children.
What efforts will be made to engage children and young people in the consultation, rather than just adults or their carers, and especially those who have already been excluded and gone through the experience of not having a voice in the matter? How will the Government involve young people with special needs?
I also gave the Minister notice that I would ask her some questions about SENDIST, because considerable concerns have been raised about the tribunals that have been lumped in with mental health tribunals and others. We received a letter from a couple of parents expressing severe concerns about the new system of tribunals. They said that they were unfair to children with special needs as they will be more complex and costly and that, for the vast majority of parents who cannot afford legal representation, their chances of obtaining justice would be much reduced. With a second level of hearing for the case management directions as well as no limitation on the number of witnesses, there will be significant additional costs. It is important that access to this sort of appeal is not limited to those who can afford legal representation from somebody who understands the complexity of the system. It is important, too, that the further complexity does not extend the time that these procedures take, because young people are desperate sometimes for their needs to be met. That is why their parents are appealing on their behalf; and, in the future, they may be able to do it themselves, subject to the results of the consultation.
Those are my questions. I very much welcome and thank the Minister for agreeing to look further into this issue, because it is important. I look forward to seeing the scope of the consultation. At this late hour, I should be happy if she wishes to write to me to answer the questions and puts a copy in the Library. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will need to write to the noble Baroness and put a copy of the letter in the Library but I will take just a few minutes—I predict about four—to respond. We are sympathetic to the broad intentions behind the amendments. However, as she said, my noble friend Lord Adonis stated our position when we discussed this issue previously—namely, that it is not necessary to legislate to give pupils a right to make representations in exclusions since statutory guidance already covers this by allowing pupils several opportunities to give their views. Neither do we wish to impose new financial burdens on local authorities by requiring them to make arrangements for the provision of independent representation or assistance. Our position remains the same.
My noble friend Lord Adonis, however, did agree to consider giving pupils under 18 a right of appeal following permanent exclusion. After further consideration during the Summer Recess, particularly in light of the observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, I am happy to reassure noble Lords that, as I outlined in my letter of 14 October to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, it is our intention to consult on giving pupils under 18 their own right to appeal in their exclusion proceedings, within the wider context of other appeal forums including appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal—SENDIST—and admissions.
I take this opportunity to outline some additional details of this proposal. It is our intention that there be a three-month formal consultation, in line with the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Written Consultations. The consultation will be widespread, including engagement with young people who have been excluded or have special educational needs, to seek their views. This will be done in various ways, such as through 11 Million and voluntary sector groups.
The scope of the consultation will be, as set out in my letter—although I am happy to write further if I have not covered the noble Baroness’s question—to consider the broad principle of giving young people their own right of appeal following permanent exclusion, as well as on the specific areas in which they might do so. It will be primarily about how a right of appeal following permanent exclusion might be implemented, and what other policy areas, such as SENDIST, this should apply to.
In addition, we will be consulting on the appropriate age for a pupil to have the right of appeal. We will obviously want to see the outcome of the consultation, but at this stage it is anticipated that different ages might need to apply to different policy areas. Finally, I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, was interested in the new arrangements for SENDIST. The Tribunals Service at the Ministry of Justice consulted last year on the proposed new arrangements for the tribunals following the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, including the proposal that SENDIST become part of the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber of the new first-tier tribunal. On the whole, the responses supported the Government’s proposals. The Tribunals Service has also consulted on the rules for the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber this summer. The final version of the rules will come into force on 3 November and has been altered in response to representations from people with an interest in special educational needs.
I will ensure that a copy of the consultation is sent to the noble Baroness. I am very grateful to her for highlighting the important issue of pupils’ rights to appeal, and hope that together we can make progress on these important issues.
[Amendment No. 210 not moved.]
211: After Clause 141, insert the following new Clause—
“Traveller Education Services
It shall be the duty of all local education authorities to establish a traveller education service which shall be resourced in proportion to the population of gypsies and travellers identified in the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessments required under the Housing Act 2004 (c. 34).”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 211 requires all local authorities to establish a Traveller education service, resourced in proportion to the GRT population in their area. We tabled this amendment to revisit some points made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, in his reply in Committee on 21 July. He said that,
“a good proportion of local authorities maintain a Traveller education support service … I have written to all local authorities to urge them to ensure that their provision is good”.
Can the Minister tell us what response there was to this reminder? We pointed out that eight to 10 local authorities did not provide any Traveller education service, in spite of the fact that they had GRT populations, and there was anecdotal evidence that others were giving it very low priority. A Traveller education service worker recently told Frieda Schicker of the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit of his concern that Traveller education services in London are being quietly allowed to die, and there is no mention of Traveller education services on any of the London borough websites.
What guarantee is there that Traveller education services will be maintained separately and not absorbed into the general funding for ethnic-minority achievement, and that when TES staff leave they will be replaced? Does the Minister agree that funding of Traveller education services should be separately identified in local authority budgets? What assurances can the Minister give that both funding and service quality will be maintained, commensurate with the number of GRT children in an area?
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned the importance of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Achievement Project, which was launched in 2006 to improve the quality of educational provision for, and the rates of attendance and standards of behaviour of, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils, and thus raise their attainment. He said that:
“Forty-seven schools in 12 local authorities are currently involved in that programme and a further 40 schools in 10 new local authorities will join the programme in the autumn of this year”.—[Official Report, 21/7/08; col. 1632.]
Can the Minister say whether that has happened and what results this programme has achieved so far? Perhaps a note could be placed in the Library, in view of the lateness of the hour. Could she give details of the schools involved, and any strategy for further expansion? Could she say how the Traveller education services are involved in the programme, and whether the department is consulting ACERT, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, so helpfully did on a number of occasions?
The Minister went on to mention the publication, in February 2008, of The Inclusion of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children and Young People, which offered practical advice to local authorities, schools, pupils and parents on how to raise attainment among GRT pupils. How are local authorities responding to this advice, and has there been any attempt to get feedback on the outcomes?
The Minister commented on the e-learning programme, which began in 2004, and said that it had already increased pupil motivation, improved achievement and produced easier reintegration for those pupils who returned to school. In strand B, for key stage 4 pupils who had disengaged from education, he said that the majority of the initial participants had gained successful results in the first level of a wider skills GCSE. Since the majority of GRT pupils drop out of education by key stage 4, that seems to be a promising route to higher achievement. It would be good to have a further progress report—again in writing, if the noble Baroness prefers.
Finally, I ask about a couple of points made by the Minister in his letter to the Traveller Law Reform Project, which he referred to in that debate. The letter referred to a suggestion by the TLRP that the duty in Clause 65 to assess the needs of young people with special educational needs should be widened to include all those disadvantaged in the education system. The noble Lord undertook that:
“Officials will work to explore if there is a way to take your concerns around this issue forward”.
Can we have an update from the Minister?
In the same letter, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said that DCSF officials were working to set up a group drawn from the GRT community that would meet to discuss ongoing and future education policy, and that he envisaged the group meeting twice a year. I have not heard, through my contacts with the GRT community, of any developments on that, and again it would be helpful to know what strategy the Minister has for taking the matter forward.
Finally, I congratulate the DCSF on the outstanding success of Gypsy Roma Traveller history month, and thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for the impetus that he gave to that project. I hope the current Minister and the DCSF will build on that achievement, which inspired and excited many people in the communities. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendment. Young Gypsy and Traveller people are among those whom this good Bill most needs to reach. Now that their traditional ways of earning a living are diminishing, they and their parents are coming to want educational and skill qualifications to equip them to continue to do so. However, they still face astonishing discrimination and bullying in secondary education, as I heard from a most impressive group of young Roma Gypsy students last week. I will not read out the report of that meeting at this hour, but it is harrowing. Without Traveller education services, many of them will lose heart, as they do now. My noble friend’s predecessor was positive on this point, as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said, but local authorities did not follow his lead and make provision. They must do so, or many of these young people will be unable to make much at all from the opportunities furthered by the Bill.
My Lords, I welcome the genuine concern that the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, showed in moving his amendment. I assure him that the same concern is felt by those of us on these Benches: that all children should receive the high-quality education that is their right. Because all children should receive that education, it is unnecessary to establish a separate Traveller education service. It is the duty of local education authorities to educate all children for whom they are responsible, regardless of their background.
My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord for the amendment and for again giving us the opportunity to discuss these important issues. Funding is not ring-fenced, as this is against DCSF policy. Traveller education services are funded through the authorities’ revenue support grant, and ethnic minority achievement grant. These grants are for all vulnerable pupils, not just for the Gypsy Roma Traveller community.
The noble Lord asked for an update on progress. Since July, the national strategies Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Achievement Project has been extended across