Wednesday 22 February 2017
Technical and Further Education Bill
Committee (1st Day)
Relevant document: 16th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
If there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, this Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.
Clause 1 agreed.
1: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on quality outcomes of completed apprenticeships
(1) The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education must report on an annual basis to the Secretary of State on quality outcomes of completed apprenticeships.(2) A report under subsection (1) must include information on—(a) job outcomes of individuals who have completed an apprenticeship;(b) average annualised earnings of individuals one year after completing an apprenticeship;(c) numbers of individuals who have completed an apprenticeship who progress to higher stages of education;(d) satisfaction rates of individuals who complete an apprenticeship with the quality of that apprenticeship; and(e) satisfaction rates of employers, who hire individuals who complete an apprenticeship, with the outcome of that apprenticeship.(3) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of any report under subsection (1) before each House of Parliament.”
My Lords, as we embark on three days of Committee on the Technical and Further Education Bill, I must admit that I have been caught slightly unawares by the changed groupings that have been issued, further to those circulated yesterday. So I may have to edit as I go along on some of those to which I shall speak.
Be that as it may, the first group comprises Amendments 1, 4, 5 and 19—though not Amendment 17, as I had thought—and is mainly about the quality of outcomes. That concerns not only the input to but the outcomes of the apprenticeships that are a central part of the Bill. I say “outcomes” because outputs and outcomes are not necessarily the same thing, a point we want to stress with Amendment 1. Despite some progress in recent years, the situation for those young people who remain not in employment, education or training remains of some concern and we cannot be complacent about the job that still needs to be done to deal with many of the 16 to 24 year-olds in what is known as the NEET category.
As my noble friend Lord Hunt and I said at Second Reading, the focus for the Government’s target of 3 million apprenticeships must be high standards, not simply a concentration on meeting what was, after all, rather an arbitrary figure. Ministers must now choose either to honour their pledge to increase the quality of apprenticeship training or allow themselves to be consumed by the need to hit those targets. Last year the Public Accounts Committee emphasised the need for the Government to be unrelenting in their focus on the quality of apprenticeships and we believe that this is very much the key. While the temptation may exist to water down apprenticeship standards to hit the 3 million target, such short-termism would ultimately prove counterproductive. Unless there is an increase in quality, people will continue to look down their noses at apprenticeships and technical education when they should be viewed with the same respect as other forms of further education, such as university degrees.
Young people themselves are very keen to ensure that their apprenticeships are marked by quality. In last year’s Industry Apprentice Council survey, their main concern was quality because industry apprentices rightly see their apprenticeships as badges of honour—as, it is to be hoped, do their employers. It was satisfying to learn that nearly nine out of 10 level 2 and 3 apprentices were satisfied with their apprenticeships, but with such an increase planned it is essential that the satisfaction rate is maintained.
Given the new routes and standards for technical education and apprenticeship expansion, it is vital to track the outcomes for each group. The last two years’ apprenticeship evaluations showed small increases in the proportion that had completed their apprenticeships and were in work, but monitoring those trends is important. Related to that is monitoring progression and pay, which is not just important but very important. Apprentices have talked about a number of positive impacts in the workplace, but that does not always translate into pay or promotion benefits. Some 46% of apprentices received a pay rise after completing their apprenticeship and 50% had been promoted. Both figures represented an increase, and we certainly hope that trend will continue because it is important that young people who have worked hard to complete their apprenticeships are made to feel that it has been worth while. If they do not have that sense, perhaps because they feel that they have to some extent been exploited, demoralisation can set in, and that can dissuade the next cohort.
This issue was highlighted in last month’s report by the Low Pay Commission, which revealed that 18% of apprentices were being paid less than their legal entitlement. It is vital that these headlines do not act as a deterrent for non-graduate groups going into professions, and do not deter future young people from taking up apprenticeships. We believe that when the apprenticeship levy comes into force in April, tackling issues concerning exploitation should be a priority for the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.
Preventing such misbehaviour will require a strong regulator with power to punish instances of non-compliance on minimum pay. I repeat: this is a legal entitlement and there should be no exceptions under any circumstances. I accept that the Government very much hold to that view and I am certain that the institute will be told that it is an important part of its operation. Without that, the potential for further long-term harm to the reputation of apprenticeships is considerable. Research undertaken last year by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants showed that apprenticeships face something of an image problem among many 16 to 18 year-olds. More than half the young people polled thought that apprenticeship routes would lead to their earning less over the course of their careers than if they studied at university. Apprenticeships are still seen as the poor relation when compared to traditional forms of higher education. If the Bill achieves anything by helping to reduce that perception, it will, in that sense alone, have been something of a success.
The duties that we place on the institute by the amendment are not onerous. Surely the Secretary of State would expect nothing less than an annual report from the institute on the quality of outcomes of completed apprenticeships. My question is: why not include that provision in the Bill? It follows, particularly while the Government are in pursuit of the 3 million target, that Parliament should have the opportunity to receive and debate the report. If the Government are serious about quality trumping quantity—I have done it again and I no longer feel comfortable using that word; I should have said “quality triumphing over quantity”—we should ensure maximum transparency in that regard.
Those sentiments dovetail with our Amendment 4 on standards and are a natural fit with new Section ZA11 on page 22 of the Bill, which sets out how the institute should publish standards in relation to the 15 occupations highlighted by my noble friend Lord Sainsbury in his seminal report. It is, of course, important to differentiate between quality and standards—terms that are often wrongly used interchangeably. It will be for the institute to set and maintain standards, while Ofsted and, in respect of maths and English, Ofqual, will have the task of ensuring that quality is widely established and then maintained. It is to be hoped that all the organisations charged with oversight will not overlap too much. I say “too much” because some overlap is preferable to gaps being allowed to develop through which who knows what might fall. To a significant extent, this is a question of resources and it will be the Government’s duty to ensure that staffing levels and resources of other kinds are not held at levels that restrict the effectiveness of any of the oversight bodies, particularly the institute.
Some surprise has been expressed by organisations in the sector at what Amendment 5 is intended to achieve. Let me be clear: first and foremost, it is concerned with achieving the best quality of teaching in further education institutions. No one would gainsay that, but before one can claim quality, one must have a means of measuring it. That is not to say that no measurement is currently undertaken, nor have there been suggestions that teaching quality in further education is poor. However, the detail we have is less than is available in higher education and, as noble Lords will know, when the teaching excellence framework is introduced in universities, the level of scrutiny will increase. We believe simply that, warts and all, the use of some sort of metrics would be advantageous, and Amendment 5 is not prescriptive as to what they might be. We simply call on the Secretary of State to bring forward a scheme to be operated by the Quality Assessment Committee of the Office for Students to ensure good-quality teaching in the further education sector. We also advocate a simple pass/fail outcome, with no suggestion of the cumbersome and ultimately unhelpful gold, silver and bronze scheme suggested for higher education. This would assist in achieving consistent levels of quality, with a broader aim of allowing the sector to build a relatively focused group of qualifications that carry the recognisability and acceptance of GCSEs and A-levels. People know what they are getting with those qualifications and the ultimate aim should be for something similar to develop with technical qualifications.
Finally, Amendment 19 would require the institute to publish apprenticeship assessment plans for all standards. Recent analysis of real-time experience shows that number-crunching on the government figures published last October suggested that there are no approved awarding organisations for over 40% of learner starts on the new apprentice standards. That is surely a matter for concern, although moving from a framework to standards involves moving down a road that will not, by any means, always be smooth. But apprentices on the standards will have to face end-point assessments for the first time and those assessments have to be carried out by organisations that have been cleared for the task by government or Skills Funding Agency-registered apprentice assessment organisations. Is the Minister confident that this will happen and that it will happen evenly across the country?
There is a degree of uncertainty about how this will evolve and what role the institute will have in relation to, say, Ofqual. Because of that it is important that we have transparency on who is being cleared and who is doing the clearing. As this process strengthens and multiplies, as it needs to do to meet all the government targets, the Government will have to pay close attention to the issue of capacity; otherwise, they will find themselves in a logjam of standards approvals as early as the middle of next year. That is the point at which any Government of any political persuasion, when they have the Opposition and other stakeholders bearing down on them, might be tempted to cut corners. Clearly, we do not want to see that but, like other stakeholders, we want to see what progress is taking place in real time. That is why we have tabled these amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I was not going to speak this early but I support these amendments. The desire across all parties in the Committee to achieve high standards in apprenticeships is unquestioned. We know that is what needs to be done. We know that is what we have failed to do in the past. I think the jury is still out on whether or not the Bill will achieve that.
We know from experience that new structures do not always achieve the ends that we want. There is a real danger in politics that because structures are the things we can control, that is where we put our emphasis. It is the one thing we can do. We do not teach, we do not mark, we do not assess; we can give funding and we can build structures. Sometimes there is a danger that we persuade ourselves that as long as in our mind and on paper the structure looks right, all will be well and things will be delivered. The education system is littered with gaps between the intentions of the structures and the reality of what is being delivered to children and young people. If you look at any part of our education and skills system, nowhere is that more the case than in skills and apprenticeships. We do not have a strong basis on which to build. We are not building on a record of high standards.
To be honest, you have to be as old as I am to remember the day when apprenticeships were generally thought of by the public as being high-quality training that did young boys and girls good in terms of the opportunities they had for life. Anyone a bit younger than me has an impression of an apprenticeship as being second best, not wanted—perhaps okay for someone else’s child but certainly not for mine.
Throughout the Bill the testing of whether we have done enough to ensure high standards is crucial to what happens in the future. The Government have a real quandary about how to deal with it—whether to go for the 3 million target or for standards. I feel certain that at some point along the line those two really good ambitions—nothing wrong with either of them—will come into conflict with each other. It is important as we go through the Bill that we put in some measures to make sure we are monitoring the standards and outputs of these new structures that we are putting into place.
Amendments 1 and 4 do that. Why would we not want to know what is happening to people who have taken the initial apprenticeship route? Why would we not want to know what employers think of people they might recruit? Why would we not want to know what the students themselves thought of their apprenticeships? I do not doubt for a moment that the Government have plans for how to get that feedback. Indeed, I know that to be the case because they are not silly; of course they will want feedback.
My noble friend on the Front Bench made a crucial comment: this is as much about building trust with the public and the people involved in apprenticeships, both employers and users, as it is about anything else. It is not enough for the Government to collect the statistics and then amend structures or legislation on the back of them. This is not a highly charged Bill politically and there is a great deal of good will across both Houses of Parliament to make sure it succeeds. Our joint endeavour is to build confidence and trust among teachers, parents, employers and learners. Even if the Minister wants to amend it in some way, because we could have lots of arguments about the detail of the information to be collected, this is a reasonable amendment. Its aim and thrust would stand us in good stead in the Bill we are now considering and I support it.
My Lords, I too support these amendments and the words we have just heard about the importance of raising the profile here. Only one thing concerns me about these amendments, which is that the institute will be set up with a remarkably small number of people to sort things out. If it were to undertake these safeguards and produce all these reports as quite reasonably requested in Amendment 1, and on standards in Amendment 4, it will probably need more staff than is currently envisaged. My question for the Minister is: what are the priorities for the institute among the aims and objectives it has been set? It will need to prioritise quite carefully where it concentrates its efforts.
My Lords, I support the amendments because their aim is the right one in the circumstances. I thank the Minister for our useful meeting with him. He responded promptly, although he did not cover quite all of the issues we raised, and I will come to that in this contribution.
The concerns that have been raised by my noble friend Lord Watson are legitimate because, as we have said on a number of occasions, both at Second Reading and during meetings with the Minister, aiming for a target of 3 million apprenticeships is very ambitious but there must be complete consensus in the Committee that what we want to achieve is quality as well as quantity. If we fail, I think we will do real damage to the apprenticeship brand. Here I must part company with some others because a lot of good, high-quality apprenticeships are out there. Some people know how to run them, although perhaps not as many as we would like. But when we look at the number of applications for apprenticeships at BT, Rolls-Royce and a range of others, we find that they are inundated with applications. There are those who argue that it is harder to get on to some of these schemes than it is to get into Oxford or Cambridge. However, I do not know whether that is an anecdote or statistically correct.
The real point here is that of preserving the quality of the brand and encouraging trust among would-be apprentices and their parents. We have another problem that we will probably address elsewhere, which is getting schools to recognise that the vocational or technical path is just as valid as the academic one, and indeed that one can lead to the other. I hope the Minister will take these amendments as being constructive and designed to ensure that the Government can reassure us that they will be safeguarding the quality of these apprenticeships.
I have had a quick glance at the letter the Minister sent on 22 January, and unless I missed it because it was a bit of a skim read, I do not think he covered a question we put to him. We were told that two groups would be dealing with these issues. As I understand it, one will be the Skills Funding Agency, which will deal with the money side and ensure that they are getting the bang for their buck, and Ofsted, which will look at the quality of the apprenticeships.
At our meeting with the Minister, we said, “Okay, in theory, but given the expansion rate of these apprenticeships, that’s going to put quite a degree of pressure on Ofsted. Can we be sure that there really are enough resources there, so that they’ll have the means of carrying out the inspection, which is a vital part of them?” Those are my concerns in supporting these amendments. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I want briefly to add my support for these amendments, particularly Amendment 1. There needs to be a real commitment to assembling the data we need to assess how well apprenticeships are working and whether there are areas that need improving, looking at or changing. I also agree with a number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, that this is a key part of being able to raise the esteem for apprenticeships and vocational education. I add to the issues covered those relating to whether we are meeting the skills needs not just of the UK but of all the employers concerned. Are there sectors that are not doing as well as they should? Are SMEs being suitably addressed by the system and is it working? The amendment is a helpful way of ensuring that we are committed to collecting the data we need to measure, assess and demonstrate that apprenticeships are working.
I, too, support the amendments and thank the noble Lord, Lord Nash, for his helpful letter. My heart lifted when I saw in it that there would indeed be controls to prevent employers refusing to release apprentices for training. That is jolly good; it will improve the quality of apprenticeships no end right there.
I retain an area of muddle in my head. We are all talking about apprenticeships, and degree-level apprenticeships operate rather differently. I thought degree-level apprenticeships would be designed by the Office for Students. I believe the Bill says that their conditions will be enforced, including the formal condition that people must be released for training, by the SFA—that is fine if I have understood it; there is nothing wrong with the SFA—while the design of all other apprenticeships and the setting out of conditions will be done by the new Institute for Apprenticeships. Do I still have this wrong, or will the new Institute for Apprenticeships design all our apprenticeships, including degree-level apprenticeships? There is a cross in responsibilities between the higher education Bill and the technical education Bill. To be frank, I am still “Slightly Muddled” of the House of Lords here. I would welcome assurance on this point.
My Lords, I apologise for not being present at Second Reading. I hope that when the Institute for Apprenticeships is up and running the first apprenticeship it approves will be to teach the acronyms in this complicated area—it might do the whole country a service. As an educational administrator of 33 years, I do not understand the Bill, which I think is because we have a very complex and inadequate system which we are trying to turn into an adequate one. I fully accept the Government’s intentions; I am not absolutely clear whether they will be achieved.
I understand from the Minister’s briefing that the work to develop the detail of what the new system will look like is yet to be done and that the measures in the Bill are the first step, so I recognise that he will not have all the answers. However, in echoing the concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, who takes the final decision about judging the quality will be a measure of the success or failure of the scheme. If the 20% off-the-job training works, the compliance issues are reliable and the Skills Funding Agency has the material—
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
I will be brief, because some of these issues will come out when we deal with other amendments. In supporting issues of quality, it is first important that we know what the organisational chart will look like. A valiant attempt was made at an organisational chart, but whether I was any wiser at the end of reading it, I am not sure. I am not sure that an individual applicant, their parents or providers would be clear either. It seems to me that there is a separation of important issues of quality, not unlike the break we had just now—we were talking about one subject and have come back to talk about another. I am interested in the 20% off-the-job training. How will compliance with that fit in? To what extent will the integrity of the employer be relied on? How will it fit in with the qualifications that will be subject to either the Institute of Apprenticeships or the successor body to HEFCE? I am just not clear what the organisational chart is.
I do not expect the Minister to give me an answer straight away, but if I cannot see my way through this, acronyms and all—I have a bit of background in this area—I do not think we have necessarily got it right when it comes to the function of the Bill. Who exactly is in charge? Who will enforce compliance? Will it be separated out? If so, that relates to the issue of quality that my noble friends Lady Morris and Lord Young have spoken to very clearly. I am asking for clarity as the Bill goes through Committee, rather than for all the answers now.
I, too, am not asking for all the answers now. I think we have a muddle with providers here. As I think everybody knows, I am chancellor of BPP University, which provides degree-level apprenticeships. We had expected that to be looked after and designed by the Office for Students. Fine—but the Bill says that all apprenticeships will be looked after by the Institute for Apprenticeships. Outside the university, we do skills training and proper apprenticeships, and I think I am clear that that part of our work will be looked after, regulated and designed by the Institute for Apprenticeships. If the Bill said that it applied to all apprenticeships, including degree-level apprenticeships, I would know where I was, but is this what we mean? I thought that bit of the university, of which I have the honour to be chancellor, was to be regulated, along with the rest of the university, by the Office for Students. There will be more and more universities doing this—they are natural providers of degree-level apprenticeships—but I think they will be in as much of a muddle as I am.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Hunt, for these four amendments. I am delighted to discuss matters relating to how we will ensure that the quality of technical education and apprenticeships is improved, as this is as the heart of our reforms. I echo what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, about the importance of improving the reputation and the esteem of apprenticeships and technical qualifications. On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, about the target of 3 million, I say, as I believe I did on the Floor of the House, that 3 million is the target but standards and quality must come first. The institute does not have a statutory responsibility to meet the target, but a statutory responsibility to have regard to quality.
Regarding Amendment 1, it is of course critical that reporting measures are in place to enable us to assess how well the programme is achieving quality outcomes. I agree, therefore, with the spirit of this amendment, which proposes that this type of information be monitored, measured and reviewed regularly. However, we do not need the amendment to achieve that aim. This amendment was discussed in Committee and on Report in other place, and the Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills gave a sound justification for why such an amendment is unnecessary.
The institute will be required to report on its activities annually under the Enterprise Act 2016 and the report must be placed before Parliament. This will include information on how the institute has responded to the statutory guidance provided to it by the Secretary of State. In addition, the Enterprise Act includes provisions enabling the Secretary of State to request information from the institute on any other topic she deems appropriate. The information set out in the amendment is already collected and published by the Secretary of State on the performance of the FE sector, which includes apprenticeships. To inform its activities, we would expect the institute to make good use of these data in its annual report, when it assesses its performance and impact each year. Indeed, the shadow institute has explained in its draft operational plan that it,
“will make more use of learner, employer and wider economy outcome data when reviewing the success of standards”.
The institute’s core role is to oversee and quality assure the development of standards and assessment plans for use in delivering apprenticeships and, we expect, from April 2018, college-based technical education. Much of the information that this amendment proposes that the institute should provide goes well beyond what is in scope of its remit. It would not therefore be appropriate for the institute to be asked to provide this type of information; it would be an unnecessary duplication of effort given that this information is already collected and published by the Secretary of State. It is right that Government collect and monitor this information, but where this falls outside the remit of the institute, it cannot reasonably be expected to provide it.
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, about Ofsted’s resources, we have had detailed discussions with Ofsted and it is confident that it has enough resources to deliver against the current remit, including apprenticeships up to level 5, based on a risk-based approach. If its role expands, we will obviously discuss the resourcing level again. The noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, asked if she had got it right; I think she basically had but, to be clear, the IFA will approve all apprenticeships and funding for degree apprenticeships comes from the levy, like all others, and is subject to SFA rules. The Office for Students will have a role in regulation of HEIs but not in the approval of standards. If that is not clear, I shall try to set it out in writing so that it is clear to everybody, including myself.
I listened carefully to what the Minister said about the role of Ofsted and a risk-based approach. I shall try to define that. If I were Ofsted, I might think, “Do I need to worry too much about a Rolls-Royce apprenticeship, a BT one, or whatever?”—literally, not metaphorically. I could probably say that I would have a look at them but they are not at the top of my list. But if I was looking at an area where the numbers are very high—for instance, carers—that would worry me as there is a high turnover. I do not necessarily expect the Minister to have the answer now but would welcome more clarification on a risk-based approach.
If we look at the last time Ofsted said it was dissatisfied with a range of apprenticeships, to be fair the Minister responded to that and got rid of what were not really apprenticeships anyway. There was the six-month scenario. I would welcome further clarification so that we understand what is meant by the risk-based approach and the statement made by the Minister that Ofsted is confident it can ensure quality throughout the range of apprenticeships.
We welcome what the Minister said about the target, which he said even more explicitly here, but maybe my memory deceives me. It is welcome that the Minister places that emphasis on it.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am meeting Ofsted shortly, either next week or the week after. I will certainly dig deeper into the issue so we can explain more what we mean by a risk-based approach.
The noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, asked who takes the final decision about judging quality. The institute takes the final decision on whether the standard of assessment plan is high-quality enough, but obviously the market—in terms of whether employers will deliver these apprenticeships and whether the apprenticeships will be taken up—will be another good test of how good they are.
I fully understand the importance of Amendment 4 and agree that there should be appropriate measures to ensure that standards are in place and the quality of further education technical qualifications is maintained. The core role of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education from April 2017 is to oversee and quality assure the development of standards and assessment plans for use in delivering apprenticeships, as I said, and, from 2018, college-based technical education. The institute will be required to report on its activities annually.
In developing these standards, consultation is a key feature of the institute. It already has a statutory duty to undertake its functions with regard to industry, commerce, finance, the professions and other employers regarding education and training within the institute’s remit. It must also ensure that the standards, assessment plans and, from 2018, technical education qualifications represent good value for money and are of appropriate quality. Also, in her strategic guidance, the Secretary of State may set out specific areas for the institute to take into consideration when performing its functions. When carrying out its core functions, the institute will need to consider the wider skills market, and will be expected to make good use of the data on outcomes made available to it through public data sources and surveys, and to explain in its annual report how it has deployed them.
Turning to Amendment 5, I agree that ensuring high-quality training provision is a very important part of our apprenticeship reforms, but I am not convinced that this amendment is desirable or necessary. It would introduce an additional scheme to regulate the quality of teaching in further education institutions. We believe that it is unnecessary to require in legislation for the Office for Students to run a quality assessment scheme in this case. The change proposed in the amendment would be a significant increase in the scope of the office, expanding its remit into, for example, apprenticeships, other than degree apprenticeships, and technical education at level 3. While I appreciate the noble Lord’s motivation, Ofsted already fulfils this function. Given the diversity of FE provision and providers and the overlap with schools in terms of provision at 16 to 18, the Government believe that Ofsted should continue to have the lead role in quality oversight for teaching in FE institutions to ensure continuity. I therefore believe that the proposed new scheme is unnecessary and duplicative and would lead to confusion.
Amendment 19 would require the institute to publish an apprenticeship assessment plan for each standard that it approved. As currently drafted, the Bill would allow the institute to decide whether an assessment plan is appropriate for each standard. This is to reflect its proposed future role in relation to technical education. While all standards can be used for both apprenticeships and technical education qualifications, some will be developed specifically for the college-based route and would be inappropriate for an apprenticeship, because of the nature of the occupation and the knowledge, skills and behaviours that need to be acquired. Technical education qualifications are not tested through an apprenticeship end-point assessment and therefore do not need an assessment plan. This amendment would therefore require something that was not necessary.
Lastly, let me deal with the understandable concern of the noble Lord, Lord Watson, about enforcing the low pay rules. HMRC is a strong enforcement body, which can and does take action to enforce the minimum wage for apprenticeships.
I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured enough on the basis of my explanation not to press these four amendments.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that answer, but could he enlarge on what he said about how parents can have the confidence to encourage their child to do an apprenticeship? As I understand it, the IFATE is the body that will say whether an apprenticeship has been set up right. I would be grateful for my noble friend’s thoughts on how many such apprenticeships it has to cover, how often it will review them and what staff it intends to allocate to that job. I will come back to this frequently, because I am astonished that the IFATE thinks that it can do its work with 80 people.
Secondly, am I right in thinking that the IFATE also looks at the design of delivery—the whole process by which an apprenticeship will be delivered? Over how many instances of that does it think it will have oversight and what resources does it intend to devote to it? What burden of work does the IFATE think it has in this area and with what regularity does it expect to carry out its reviews?
Perhaps my noble friend could also enlarge on what he said about Ofsted. Ofsted is a pretty variable visitor to schools. To some it will come every six months and to others it will come every 16 years. Given that we are in a pretty unmapped part of the world, I hope that the Government are budgeting for fairly frequent Ofsted inspections to enable the reputation of this area to grow quickly. I would be grateful if my noble friend could tell me what Ofsted is planning in terms of the number of visits that it intends to make a year and the average frequency with which it expects to visit providers.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this lively debate. It is important that the Minister in his response began by saying—I wrote it down—that the 3 million target is a target but quality comes first, and that the institute is not responsible for meeting the target but for ensuring quality. Those words will be well received, and to have them in written in Hansard will be a comfort to many people. However, that is the aim and it has to be followed through to ensure that apprenticeships achieve what everyone in this room would want them to achieve.
There seem to be three primary aims for apprenticeships, at this time anyway. One is that the aforementioned word “quality” must be everywhere. The second is that they are able to produce young people, and perhaps not-so-young people, equipped to fill the skills gaps in the economy that we know are there. The third aim is that apprenticeships and everything surrounding them should ensure what my noble friend Lady Morris said: that they have public confidence and that parents in particular are not just willing but knowledgeable enough to guide their sons and daughters into apprenticeships with the confidence that they will get something worth while out of them. If that public confidence is not there, the 3 million target will not be met. I therefore hope that those three aims will be met as a result of the institute being reformed.
The Minister mentioned Ofsted. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, covered some of the points I wanted to make but the Minister said Ofsted tells him that it has sufficient resources. I am tempted to say that it would, would it not? However, with a new head of Ofsted, I should have thought that this was a time to increase resources to take account of increased responsibilities and duties. There will clearly be far more apprenticeships than there have been. If Ofsted has the work deriving from Bill added to its ability to inspect schools—some are inspected rarely—it is hard to see how that can be done without additional resources. The Minister did not mention additional resources and I suspect that is because there may not be any, but it would be helpful if he could clarify the point about Ofsted. It is difficult for us to take on board that Ofsted could suddenly adopt extra responsibilities without additional resources.
The Minister also mentioned the Office for Students, particularly in respect of Amendment 5. He did not believe that it was appropriate for the OfS to have the regulating duty set out in that amendment and that the body’s role was regulating higher education. I agree that Ofsted will have the lead role but that does not preclude the OfS. I must ask the Minister for clarification because—with due deference to my noble friend Lady Donaghy—there are five acronyms in the letter he issued today for bodies involved in apprenticeships and technical education. The OfS is not one of them, yet it has some role in the provisions of the Bill. If Ofsted is going to take the lead role, it impacts on the resources argument. We need some clarification of what the OfS is expected to do.
I must also ask about another comment the Minister made in his response. He said that Ofsted had sufficient resources up to level 5. However, the chart at the back end of the letter we received today said that Ofsted inspects the quality of training for level 2 to level 3 apprenticeships. Perhaps that can be clarified because the two comments do not sit easily together.
The points made by my noble friend Lord Young, a former skills Minister, about the importance of safeguarding quality, and the Minister’s acceptance of the basis of these amendments, particularly Amendment 1, are important. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for his enthusiastic welcome. It is good to have cross-party support in these situations.
To some extent, the Minister has answered the points that we put to him. Some concerns remain, not least about who will be doing what. He seeks refuge in HMRC being the answer to enforcing the national minimum wage and apprenticeship rates. In my experience, HMRC is unable to enforce the national minimum wage for adults, again because of a lack of resources. I do not think much attention has historically been given to apprenticeships, and clearly much more should be, as recommended in the report from the Low Pay Commission, which I outlined earlier. But you cannot just add additional duties to public bodies without giving them the resources to make sure they can meet those. However, we have covered most of the points in some depth. On that basis, I thank the Minister for his response and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
2: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Careers education: duty to publish strategy
(1) The Secretary of State must publish a strategy for the purposes of improving careers education for persons receiving education or training—(a) in the course of an approved English apprenticeship;(b) for the purposes of an approved technical education qualification; or(c) for the purposes of approved steps towards occupational competence.(2) The strategy shall be laid before each House of Parliament.(3) The strategy shall specify provisions under which the Secretary of State will seek to—(a) ensure that persons receiving education or training under subsection (1) receive information, advice and guidance relating to their future careers, and that such information, advice and guidance is delivered in a way which meets each person’s needs and is impartial;(b) ensure that such information, advice and guidance may be taken into account by relevant authorities and partners to meet the needs of local or combined authority areas;(c) ensure parity of esteem between technical, further and higher education; and(d) monitor the outcomes of such information, advice and guidance for recipients.(4) The provisions specified in subsection (3) shall have specific regard to particular needs of different groups of persons receiving education or training under subsection (1), including—(a) persons with special educational needs;(b) care leavers;(c) persons of different ethnicities;(d) carers, carers of children, or young carers, as defined by the Care Act 2014; and(e) persons who have other particular needs that may be determined by the Secretary of State.(5) The strategy shall include guidance for the purposes of improving careers education, to which the following bodies shall have regard—(a) the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills;(b) the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education; and(c) the Office for Students.(6) The Secretary of State shall by regulations designate relevant authorities and partners for the purposes of subsection (3)(b).(7) The Secretary of State may by regulations designate—(a) further groups of persons under subsection (4)(e); and(b) further national authorities or bodies under subsection (5).(8) Regulations made under this section—(a) must be made by statutory instrument; and(b) may not be made unless a draft has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”
My Lords, as this is the start of Committee, I remind the Committee that my wife is a consultant for the Education and Training Foundation.
In our discussion at Second Reading, and in the very helpful meetings we have had with Ministers and officials since, there has been a unanimity of view that people, and young people in particular, should have every opportunity to consider a quality apprenticeship as a serious option. My eyes were opened when I visited the Skills Show at the NEC in Birmingham some three years ago under the auspices of David Cragg, who did so much to develop this concept. It was an amazing experience. The exhibitions by some of our best companies were of high quality, ranging from aeronautics to car motor engineering and from catering to the media. It was fantastic to see the opportunities available to young people, if they choose to go down the apprenticeship route. Thousands of young people and their parents have been to the Skills Show and to similar events in other parts of the country. They have had their vision widened. However, many young people and their parents have not had that opportunity. Therefore, the lack of robust, high-quality and, dare I suggest, impartial advice to young people about the possibility of apprenticeships is a worrying issue that we need to tackle if the Bill, and the actions taken by government, are to be successful.
The noble Lord, Lord Baker, asked at Second Reading: how do you get knowledge of apprenticeships over to young people? He said that you cannot expect schools to do the job and pinpointed a weakness in the current situation. First, schools often have very limited knowledge of apprenticeships, and, secondly, they have a vested interest in keeping their bright young people in school, ready to go into their sixth form. By the way, this is also an issue in relation to young people who might be better off going to a sixth-form or FE college to do A-levels, rather than staying in a small sixth form that offers a limited variety of A-levels. Again, the issue is about the pressure that schools put on young people to stay, even though it is against their best interests.
The Minister accepts the issue. There is no doubt that since the Education Act 2011 and the stripping away of the grant connections, we have seen a huge reduction in the quality of the careers advice available to young people. At Second Reading, the Minister promised a government strategy. In essence, Amendment 2, in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Watson, seeks to flesh out the strategy and ensure that young people receive high-quality and impartial advice.
In dealing with this group, we will hear from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and his colleagues on Amendment 11, which covers much of the same ground and which clearly, given its drafting, the Government will support. I welcome the noble Lord’s amendment, although I think that between now and Report there is room for more discussion. Perhaps in speaking to my amendment I will put a few points to the noble Lord to enable discussion. My reading of his amendment is that it does not apply to institutions in the further education sector. If that is so, there is a not inconsiderable number of 14 to 16 year-olds in FE colleges who would not benefit. That is my first point.
The second is the question of enforcement. As I see it, there is no provision for making sure that this really grips and makes education providers ensure that, in the end, young people receive quality advice. Thirdly, there is still an issue about whether adequate facilities may be made available. I know that the noble Lord’s intention is to make education providers set out a policy statement and the terms on which external providers of technical education can gain access, but I have to say—with apologies to all current or past head teachers who are in your Lordships’ Committee today—that heads are ingenious at ensuring that if they do not want something to happen in their school, it will not.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, I was saying—with apologies to the noble Lord, Lord Storey—that heads are ingenious at finding a way round things if they do not want something to happen. I understand the intention of publishing a policy statement about the ability of providers to come into schools, but I am concerned about whether you can really make it happen in practice if heads do not want it to. This is where our amendment comes in and where the Government—in the end—have to take ownership of it. The Minister has already promised a strategy but we need to hear that there is going to be some beef to it.
We also need some recognition on why schools should be reluctant. I am interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said. If students are leaving at 14 to go to UTCs, clearly we want bright young people to do that where it is appropriate. We do not want schools resisting or offloading the students that they do not want to stay in their own schools. That has been a problem with some UTCs. Equally, you have to accept, if you are a head, that losing young people means a financial loss. The Department for Education needs to think about a sensible approach that will provide some incentive to schools to encourage young people to go to UTCs at that age if they think it is appropriate. It would be a great pity if the UTC approach went under because parents and young people are not getting the right information about what UTCs have to offer. That is but one example of the issues that we face.
Amendment 9 takes its remit from the industrial strategy Green Paper recently published by the Government. Page 43 of Building Our Industrial Strategy talks about the creation of a course-finding process for technical education similar to the UCAS process. That is very welcome. I see this as being in parallel to impartial advice and encouragement of young people into the apprenticeship approach. The strategy says:
“Effective information and support should be available for everyone, regardless of their education and training choices. People choosing apprenticeships or courses in colleges currently face significant complexity when selecting and applying for a course. Applications for higher education institutions, in contrast, are much more straightforward, with a way of searching and applying for courses similar to the UCAS process”.
The Government say they will explore how to give technical education students clear information and better support throughout the application process, with a similar platform to UCAS. This is very welcome and my amendment merely provides a useful vehicle for the Government to establish this and I am sure the Minister is going to accept it. I beg to move.
My Amendment 11 is also in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Storey, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley. It is very important that when one is proposing a significant change, which is what the amendment does, one should seek to get all-party support for it because that will secure acceptance across the party lines. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that providers of technical training and apprenticeships will have the right to go into local schools and explain to students at different levels and of different ages exactly what they have to offer. The ages will be 13, 16 and 18.
The key to the success of the Bill is not only providing first-class apprenticeships and technical education routes but ensuring that young people recognise them as worthy career paths. The curse of our education system at the moment is that secondary schools or comprehensives seem to have only one target: three A-levels and university. You go and speak to heads and they will tell you about the students who have got into university and the ones they want to get into university, and for the rest it is middle-distance interest, frankly. There are many pathways to success and it is our duty to try to open them to more people. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, we cannot expect teachers, many of whom have no experience of industry or commerce, to advise their students. They have simply left school, gone to a teacher training college and gone into education, and they do not realise the enormous range of skills and interests that is needed in the industrial and commercial world.
The amendment will strengthen the Bill significantly by giving all young people the chance to hear directly from providers of apprenticeships and technical qualifications about what they can study. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, the phrase in the amendment that covers FE colleges is “education … providers”, as referred to in subsection (1) of proposed new Section 42B. So FE colleges are included in the amendment. This will help our young people make better-informed and more confident decisions at important transition points.
The age of 14 has become a transition point because university technical colleges have now been promoted for some time. I am one of those who believe that that is a much better transition point than 11. The reason we have 11 is because in Victorian England the school leaving age was 11 and the only schools that went beyond that were grammar schools. After the great 1870 Act the elementary schools started the post-school leaving age and it happened to be 11. That is why we are landed with 11-to-18 and 11-to-16 schools. I personally believe that the two ages of transfer in the education system are round about nine and 13 or 14, which is what the private sector does and what many other countries in the world do.
Of course, having the transition at 14 presents marketing difficulties because youngsters, having gone to an 11-to-16 or 11-to-18 school, do not expect to make another choice until they take GCSEs. Certainly, UTCs have had difficulty recruiting at 14. It gets better each year as the UTC movement expands and gets better and more widely known, but as the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Watson, said, many schools resist anybody who comes in and tries to persuade a pupil to go on another course. It is a loss of money—about £5,000 a head—and they are very hostile.
We had one classic case when the head of a UTC went to a school to explain to the students what the UTC was about. He was met at the door by a teacher who said, “You can go over there to the 16 year-olds”. The head said, “Yes, but what about the 13 and 14 year-olds?”. The teacher said, “You can’t go to those at all”. The head said, “What is your role in this school?”, and he said, “I am the careers adviser”. You can see an instinctive and permanent hostility to anything that will attract students to a different course—which in many cases may be more appropriate for them.
For the past three years, we have been pressing the Government to help us with recruitment at 14. We asked for two changes to be made, both of which required legislation. The simpler one involved laying a statutory instrument, which was laid and has now come into force. It requires all local authorities in the land to write to all year 9 parents telling them of the existence of choice at 14 and, specifically, that UTCs, studio schools and indeed FE colleges are available for them. We really did not get very far until Justine Greening became the Education Secretary; she is the first in seven years who actually likes UTCs. She visited one in Didcot and described it as brilliant and, when I took her to open another in Scarborough, she said that it was also brilliant. Last week she went to see JCB—also brilliant. So the mood in the department changed, and a statutory instrument was laid.
The other change we wanted is contained in this amendment. Legislative action was needed—there was no general education Bill in this Parliament. When I saw the Long Title of this Bill, I asked the Public Bill Office whether it would be appropriate to table an amendment, and outlined what I wanted. The office said that it would be. An excellent clerk, Susannah Street, not only said yes but presented me with a brilliant amendment—five lines long—which was absolutely perfect and did everything I wanted. Then of course I showed it to the Minister and the department. They liked it and redrafted it to a page and half, which only goes to show that the parliamentary draftsmen in the department today are just as good as they were when I was there more than 30 years ago. The drafting is very clear. Subsection (1) of the proposed new section states that:
“The proprietor of a school in England”—
which covers all schools in England, but not private schools—
“must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers”—
including university technical colleges, studio schools, career colleges, FE colleges and providers of apprenticeships—
“to access registered pupils during the relevant phase of their education”.
This is really at the heart of the clause.
By this, we wanted to achieve a recognition of the importance of technical and vocational education. As one knows, for the better part of 150 years, it has never had the same sort of rating as academic education in England does. This is a great pity. When we started the UTC movement, we asked a team at Exeter University to explain to us in a report why every attempt to improve technical education since 1870 had failed—and every attempt had failed. At the end of that presentation, we were told that there were two that would be approved by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and we had to decide whether to have two experimental schools or a movement. If we had accepted just two experimental schools, I would have thought that, by this time, we would probably have half a dozen UTCs operating. Ron Dearing and I decided no, and that we should start as many as we could as quickly as we could—all with the approval of the department, I must say. We do not just turn them on. There is a very demanding process of selection, as the noble Lord, Lord Nash, will know: we have to persuade him that they are in fact worth funding. We now have some 48 UTCs open, with nearly 12,000 students.
One thing we are most proud of in the UTC movement is the destination of the students. The destination data for students in ordinary secondary schools are farcical—the students are tracked 18 months after they have left, through national insurance numbers and tax records. When the figures are published, no one pays any attention to them, including the heads of the schools, and they disappear into the distance. Our destination data are taken in the four months of July, August, September and October. We trace what happens to each of the students; it is not too difficult for us because, from the very beginning when students join the UTCs, they are thinking about what their destination is going to be. That is a very thorough and proper analysis.
Last July we had 1,292 leavers and of those only five were NEET. Literally no other group of schools in the country can match that. Our unemployment rate at the age of 18 is 0.5%, while the student unemployment rate in this country is 11.5%—something that is often forgotten. When it comes to the destination of our students, 44% go to university, which is higher than the English national average of 38%, and we also produce 30% of apprentices at 18 years old where the national average is 8.6%. That is a remarkable record of achievement for UTCs.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, hinted at, sometimes we have to take difficult students, and I am very proud of the fact that we have remarkable examples of turnarounds where a student’s life opportunities have been fundamentally changed. One has to recognise that the famous key stage 3 for 13 and 14 year-olds is a very troubled stage indeed. You have a large number of disengaged and uninterested students, and that is not getting better; it is always there. We provide an opportunity for them, and we also provide a great opportunity for talented students. The standard of education in UTCs on the technical side is very high. When Justine Greening opened the new UTC in Scarborough, as we walked around we saw that there was a cybersecurity suite sponsored by GCHQ. That is because GCHQ does some work up there and, as it cannot easily recruit the students it wants from the local schools, has quite openly funded a suite. We saw a group of sixth-formers working on advanced computing projects. I can assure noble Lords that there is no other cybersecurity suite in any other school in the country.
Last September a UTC opened close to London City Airport. I went to see the sixth-formers, all of whom were taking advanced computing at A-level, along with maths. I was absolutely staggered by that, but what really amazed me was that they were all wearing virtual reality headsets. At this moment, no other schools in the country are teaching using virtual reality. So I am quite convinced that we are meeting a huge need, and the recruitment help we are going to get will be beneficial to us. The letters have begun to go out from local authorities and will continue to do so for the next three or four weeks. I am sure that that will boost recruitment for this year.
On the implementation of this clause, it is important that noble Lords should note that the Government will be publishing statutory guidance to which schools must have regard. This is a strong incentive and schools will have to follow what the Government have decreed. That guidance will be published when the Bill has gone through its final stages. The Government will work with Ofsted to monitor compliance with the duty. However, the measure also includes a regulation-making power so that in the event of a large number of schools failing to comply, the Secretary of State may make further provision. For example, she might specify in law who should be given access to pupils and when. This change will be fully supported by the department, and I think that it will be highly beneficial to our education system. It will improve the life chances of thousands more of our young people.
My Lords, I shall speak generally to this group of amendments and specifically to Amendments 11 and 61. It is important that students’ eyes are wide open and they know exactly what their options are. I could not put it any better than a DfE spokeswoman who, when commenting on Ofsted’s report on careers education, said:
“Every child deserves an excellent education and schools have a statutory duty to provide high-quality careers advice as part of that”.
That is perhaps the most important thing that parents and society want for children and young people. When they go to school, we want excellent teaching and opportunities, but we also want excellent careers education. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to Connexions. Connexions was good but some of it was pretty ropey. I do not think there has ever been a time when we have had really outstanding, first-rate, quality careers education. I think I have said this before but, interestingly, if you talk to professionals they say that the best careers regime was at the time of John Major’s premiership.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, also asked how we can ensure that careers education is of a high quality. It is no good just providing a scheme, a strategy, books and prospectuses, or visitors to schools. How do we ensure that quality careers education is embedded in schools and colleges? The answer is in Amendment 61. The only way we can ensure quality is through Ofsted. It is strange that we do not get Ofsted to say, “Yes, this school or college has quality careers education”. Amendment 61 says that for a school to be good or outstanding it has to have good careers education. I was asked why I tabled this amendment in relation to colleges. We are not talking about careers education in schools, but I hope that if we get significant changes to the quality of careers education in colleges, it will permeate through to schools.
In a sense, the noble Lord, Lord Baker, should not have had to table his amendment. It is bizarre that schools do not invite different providers in, but he gave the answer. First, society has a view that we should go down an academic route. In my children’s school, they said, “Yes, they will do very well in their GCSEs. They will do very well in the sixth form. Yes, they’ll get a university place”. My cousin lives in Switzerland, with two children, where there is a wholly different approach: what is better for the child? The school of one of her children said, “Actually, it is a vocational route”. He went into an apprenticeship and has gone back to university.
We have this tramline approach in this country that there is only one route to go down. We need to break free of that, which is why the amendment is so important. It is also about changing parents’ perceptions. For some reason, parents think that unless their child has gone to a good secondary school, sixth form and university, somehow they have failed education. Is that not sad? We need to make real changes.
We should not have to table an amendment saying that, but of course for head teachers, each child, pupil or young person is a sum of money. Again, we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that if a maintained school or an academy loses pupils to other providers, whether FE colleges, UTCs or studio schools, it will lose that money. That then blinkers schools’ approach to what is best for the child. Sometimes they will look at the viability of sixth-form groups and say, for example, “Susan would be better going to a UTC or an FE college, but she is quite good at history and the group is struggling a bit at A-level and if we don’t get the right numbers, we’ll lose that group”. So the school pushes pupils down that route. That is the wrong way. Slightly pushing the door open and getting other providers in to make parents aware of what is available and making pupils and young people themselves aware is hugely important.
I mentioned the Ofsted report of last year into careers education, which was pretty concerning. It referred to, for example, chaotic careers education hampering the economy and the lack of an overarching government strategy. I will not go through it all. The DfE responded, and we know that the Careers & Enterprise Company has been established. I hear good reports about that. The Minister will no doubt tell us how the huge £20 million investment is turning things around. However, it is not turning things around for every school or indeed college. I hope that we will not fail our children but will realise that we need good-quality careers education, which is inspected. We also need other opportunities, providers and routes—whether they be academic, vocational or technical—to be part of a young person’s choice in their future education and career.
My Lords, as a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Apprenticeships, I meet a lot of apprentices and am constantly surprised and shocked at how few have either heard about or been directed towards the apprenticeships that they are on through their schools or any formal careers education. As we have heard, schools have an in-built bias towards promoting the academic route and I do not need to say any more about that.
However, with the best will in the world, teachers and parents may have only a limited understanding of the sorts of jobs and careers available in today’s job market, the opportunities they offer and the routes available to access them. Again, as we have heard, the careers education system, if one can call it that, has been at best patchy and at worst shockingly poor. Some good initiatives are beginning to emerge. The National Careers Service offers a valuable central online resource; the Gatsby benchmarks have defined what good careers education looks like, which is important; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, has said, the Careers & Enterprise Company in particular is creating a vital network of enterprise advisers and co-ordinators to support schools.
However, all those initiatives need to be properly linked, and the gaps that even they allow in provision need to be identified, measurement systems need to be put in place and we need a strategy driven by government. Indeed, I am delighted that the Government are committed to producing a strategy later this year. However, there is real value in including a provision for that in the Bill. Part of that strategy, as we have heard, should be a much better, UCAS-like system for identifying and applying for technical education and apprenticeship opportunities. I am delighted that that is promised in the industrial strategy but support the idea of it being incorporated in the Bill through Amendment 9.
I also support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. The careers system provides a bit of supply push but unless there is some demand pull, and unless schools want or are required to allow those systems to work, and young people and their parents are aware of them, the system is not going to work.
Finally, I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, reminded me of my visit to the Skills Show some years ago because that was one of the most inspiring ways in which to promote apprenticeships and technical education that I have come across. There was a real buzz about it; there should be skills shows all over the place. There needs to be an incentive to ensure that schools do what we need them to do. I therefore support Amendment 61 to ensure that only colleges with good careers education can get good or outstanding Ofsted ratings.
My Lords, I can only second what has been said this afternoon. I was interested to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that he started off with a five-line amendment that seemed to encapsulate what this issue is about. Will the Government reconsider whether they need to put all of Amendment 11 into primary legislation?
I will give the Committee an example of why I read the whole thing with mounting grief, after thinking that the five lines were splendid. I am the governor of a small specialist sixth-form academy. We have a small group of young people who have already chosen a specialist route, in this case mathematics. I am very proud of the fact that our first class included one young lady who went off to be a Dyson apprentice at 18 with her extremely good A-levels, and your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that we have been visited by people from the Dyson Institute of Technology who are very keen that we should send them some more apprentices.
We already have 67 policies on our website; I guess we will now have 68. Do we really need regularly to update, and therefore be inspected constantly on, the exact details of the premises and facilities to be provided to a person who is given access to talk to our young people? I suggest that this level of detail is not necessary and it diverts very scarce time and resources from the heart of the matter, which is providing information and careers advice oriented to the particular young person.
It is really important that we bear in mind that our schools are hugely stretched and that at 16 to 19, and indeed at other ages, they are clearly underresourced. This is something that officials and Ministers will agree is not going to change in a hurry. Therefore, before we pass anything like this into law, we really need to think about what needs to be made very clear and where we want schools and colleges to place their attention, and not create artificial barriers to following through on the intent of making sure that every young person gets the advice they need, by diverting more attention and resource into meeting formal requirements, which, because they are in primary legislation, we will not get rid of for at least a decade, if ever.
My Lords, I support the amendments in this group, particularly Amendment 11, to which I have added my name. I have some concerns about Amendment 61 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Storey, which I will mention. I do not want to go over the arguments again except to add weight of numbers to the strength of the arguments we have heard from other Members today. I do not disagree with anything that has been said, I just want to make two or three points which perhaps have not been made or have not been made frequently enough. I hope I will not speak for long.
First, I hope the Minister will be really clear about when this careers strategy is about to appear. We have been promised it for a very long time and I think I saw something by his colleague who leads in the department for this piece of legislation about it coming later in the year. Given that it is about two years since a careers strategy was promised, I am not sure why a Bill such as this, which will fail unless there is good-quality careers education, is coming so far in advance of the careers education strategy. They should go hand in hand. We would not be having this debate if we had the careers education strategy. I think a lot of these amendments have been tabled in sheer frustration. We almost panic because we know it is such a weak area of our system and we are about to pass the Bill with no effective careers education system. We need to know when the strategy will arrive and we need to understand why it has been delayed. If there is a problem, we need to know about it. I worry about that.
Secondly, I agree with the information bit but that in itself is not careers education. There are two parts to this. We need the information but then we need to make the decision. As a young person—or even an older person—just having information is not sufficient. The skill of making the right decision is far more complicated. You can let as many people into the school to give information about as wide a range of jobs as you can, but when they leave at the end of the day, it is the teacher who is there with the young person when the decision is made. That is a very important other part of this situation. Information by itself will not necessarily change the young person’s mind—it might but it might not.
There are three big influences on the child in making the decision: their parents, their friends and their teachers. The strategy must encompass and reflect that. We cannot squeeze teachers out of careers education. We can bring people with a wide range of knowledge and experience into the classroom, but teachers will have an important impact on the decisions reached because they are the pastoral carers and they spend an awful lot of time with young people. We have been critical of teachers, and rightly so, but we need a careers strategy that supports them in the job they are being asked to do. We do not want to give them the impression that we want them out of this business. They have an important role to play in supporting young people to make the right, effective and appropriate decision.
Thirdly, we are moaning about schools—I do not disagree with a word my noble friend said; he made this point brilliantly—but the incentives the Government have put into the system are causing the problems. What do we do? We moan at the teachers. We are complaining about the schools responding in an entirely predictable and understandable way to the incentives that we have put into the system—including me in my time. The answer to that is to change the incentives, but we want to leave the incentives in place and change the behaviour. That will not work. Where is the discussion about changing the incentives because that is the surest way of changing behaviour? I agree absolutely with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that the UTCs are a force for good. They had a difficult birth and baptism but they are still a major player in the field. In a way, they encapsulate the problems of the incentives in the system. Their very existence is threatened because we have the wrong incentives, and I say that collectively of politics and Parliament. The case he has made about having access to young people is strong, but other things need to be done as well.
My only concern about Amendment 61 is that it is too easy to say, “Leave it to Ofsted. It cannot be a good school unless it has good careers education provision”. We always say that, and then every 10 years we have to prune what we ask Ofsted to inspect. We pile so much on to Ofsted. With every new initiative that is introduced we say, “Let’s get Ofsted to inspect it”. That is how the relationship between schools and Ofsted breaks down; the inspectors are always seen as the bearer of the big stick. I want to turn the amendment the other way around. We are saying that if a school does not have good careers education, it will go into “requires improvement” or “special measures” because those are the only two categories left. There are implications in that for a college that we ought to be aware of if Ofsted is to be used as the lever in this. It is a bit mean, or premature, to put a college into the “requires improvement” or “special measures” category because it has not got right a plank of policy that we have not got right either. It behoves us to get our bit right before we say to any educational provider, “If you don’t get this right”—despite the fact that we have not—“you will go into ‘requires improvement’ or ‘special measures’ and the consequences will be big”.
I say to the Minister that we would not be having this conversation if we had more information about the Government’s plans for the careers strategy. It is a big and dangerous hole at the moment and therefore I strongly support the amendments, with the caveat about Amendment 61.
My Lords, the incentive I would like to see is schools being allowed to take credit for the performance of the children they let go into technical education. If a child might get only Ds in history and English but they are good for an A* in BTEC business, and the school can get credit for that, the school’s interests will align with the child. It would also be a good thing for the performance tables. We have superb data because it is easy enough to collect them, but why should a school be penalised for a kid who arrives in the year before GCSEs, having had a dreadful education beforehand? That is not fair; nor is it fair that a school which has really looked after a child and brought them on to the point where they have the get up and go to attend a UTC then gets no credit for it. If a school feels that the best interests of the child will align with the way it is going to appear in the tables, there is a real hope for making progress in this area. We should be doing this anyway to ensure equity between schools, so I hope that this is a direction we might consider going in.
I like the amendment about a technical version of UCAS, which is immensely helpful to schools. Everything is in one place and it would all look and feel the same. You know how it works and what is required and it becomes easy to provide support and advice for the children using it.
Apprenticeships are a great challenge. Companies have a horrible habit of not admitting they have apprenticeship places until about two weeks before they want people to apply. They suddenly appear, enough people apply, and they disappear again. This is not the way in which a school can work or how young people should be asked to work. We have to discipline companies to make it clear in good time that they are open to apprenticeships so that people who are interested can see what is on offer year round and put their names down. I know that it will never be a regular cycle such as UCAS, but we need to discipline the system so that it works in the interests of children, and something like UCAS would help. A UCAS system would also provide a place to find all the information. If someone is looking for an apprenticeship they might not cotton on to who the education provider is, who to go to, which Ofsted report applies, where to look to find the outcomes, and other data that will tell them whether a particular apprenticeship is worth while. Something like UCAS would draw all that together. I would not actually use UCAS. It is a horrible institution that believes in making as much money as possible from the students passing through its system and it is run in the interests of universities rather than kids. But as a concept it is great, and we really ought to see whether we can do something along those lines.
It is high time that Amendment 11 was brought in. We all know how badly schools can behave. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, says that it is a matter of incentives as well. Let us have a structure which provides the stick and the carrot—this is the stick. Let us have a system where schools know that they are expected to do things. I presume that access means physical access. It cannot just be, “Well, we’ll pass your emails on”. Clearly the access will be moderated by the school and the teacher will sit down with the kid afterwards and tell them where they need to be really careful about such and such. However, at least it is progress in the right direction.
I hope that we might look at expanding subsection (3). There are some really important intermediary organisations which perform a function in this area. To name just one—Women in Construction. It performs a specialist job and looks after a particular subset of pupils, and it is doing that in a co-ordinated way, which makes it much better than your average local FE college, let alone a building company that happens to have some apprentices. Giving access to some of these collaborative organisations is a very useful supplement to the direct education and apprenticeship providers.
Turning to the carrot element again, there are other ways of doing this, and that is what my Amendment 34A seeks to achieve. It would allow money to flow to schools and organisations and would open up in a positive way the pipeline between what is going on in the creation of technical opportunity and the kids in schools.
There is a lot beyond what appears in Amendment 1l and schools are doing much that is positive. They invite people in to talk, and make arrangements for internships and work experience placements for their children. A lot of organisations are helping, but it is an immense burden on a school at a time when we are facing something like an 8% cash reduction for schools over the next three years. It is a hell of a thing to ask a school to add to its functions without in any way adding to its budget.
For employers faced with paying the apprenticeship levy who would like to recruit some apprentices but cannot, it seems worth finding some way of giving them the power to ask, “Can we use some of this money to open up the pipeline into schools and improve the interface between business and technical education?”. I am not trying to push the Government into doing that now, but I would like to see them have the power to do so. I would also like to see them have the power to support organisations such as Women in Construction in their efforts to get through to schools if this is what is needed to open up the pathway into schools for particular areas of industry. This is an entirely positive thing for schools. They would not be looking at immediately losing their students, although it may have that effect. This is about supporting students, improving their education and giving them resources at a time of great shortage to connect with all that is possible. As I say, the amendment is not trying to compel the Government to do anything, but I would love them to have the power to do it.
I apologise that I was not able to be at the Second Reading of the Bill and I declare an interest as a fellow of the Working Men’s College, whose chair I used to be. I support all these amendments but I shall speak briefly to Amendments 9 and 11. Careers advice has not exactly been the jewel in the crown of maintained education, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said. It is imperative that our young people have comprehensive advice on routes to the later stages of education. That will give them the capacity to fulfil themselves as well as help them to build up the technical expertise our economy needs. We have never been in more need. I think that the Government approve of choice, so I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
My Lords, I also apologise that I was not able to speak at Second Reading and I remind the Committee of my interests in respect of my employment at TES, which is probably where I was when the Second Reading debate took place. As others have said, careers education has been a failure under successive Governments, including the one of which I was a part. It is a hard area to resource well and it is hard for professionals in this area to keep up with the real world. From the contacts I have had with careers education professionals, they feel that the situation is getting worse, but that is for people generally to judge. I certainly mourn the loss of the education business partnerships that were part of keeping schools in touch with employers in their localities.
I join with those who are looking forward to a careers strategy from the Government, as set out in Amendment 2, but I am not sure about Amendment 9 and the need for a platform. I remind the Committee that UCAS itself has apprenticeship routes on it. You can search for apprenticeships on the UCAS website. I also remind the Committee that there are other providers. There is a company called Unifrog, which has been set up by a young man who is a Teach First ambassador. It takes the API feed from UCAS, provides a range of advice around apprenticeships, higher education and various learning providers, and as far as I can see it does that very well. I have some scepticism about requiring the Government to set up websites when others are providing them perfectly well and are probably better able to keep up with how technology is being used on the ground by young people.
I am very pleased to see that Amendment 11 would apply to all schools, including academies. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has added his name to it. I remember a similar amendment to the Education and Skills Act 2008 requiring the provision of impartial careers advice, but that applied only to local maintained schools because my then fellow Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, did not want it to apply to academies. However, there were not very many of those at the time. I also remember that in the following year the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act came in which required all post-16 institutions to give specific advice on apprenticeships.
To an extent, we have been here before. That is why the comments of my noble friend Lady Morris are so important on the incentives, and indeed the disincentives, in the system around giving impartial careers advice. So much is loaded on the intellectual, academic route and, in the end, that is what our schools system is designed for. It was designed in a bygone age to route people towards intellectual destinations in the knowledge that there would be a lot of wastage along the way but that those people would be picked up by the labour market employing them in factories or by marriage to someone who worked in a factory. However, we do not live in that labour market any more.
The substantive point I want to make to the Committee is this: how are we going to keep up with the rapid changes in the skills environment that are going on in the labour market? How do we ensure that these apprenticeship qualifications continue to have currency with the level of technological and demographic change that is altering things so dramatically? How do we ensure that careers advisers know the reality of what is changing? Demographic change means that a child starting school last September has a more than 50% chance of living to be over 100. The only way it is affordable for them to live to such a ripe old age is for them to carry on working into their 80s. They will have a 60-year working life and will, therefore, change career on many occasions. We need a skills infrastructure that allows them to be credited for the skills they acquire in work, to take short, intensive breaks from work to acquire new skills, and to take longer sabbatical periods to reacquaint themselves, if they have been there before, with higher education. How we design that is a big challenge, as is how we give young people through their educational journey, particularly their statutory one, a fundamental love of learning and the skills to learn so that they can retrain as technology deskills them. That way, they will have the resilience and reflective ability to understand that need.
Yesterday, I was discussing an Oxford University study, being done jointly with NESTA, on the skills needed for 2030. It is a bit of a mug’s game trying to predict what those might be, but a good projection is that the particularly vulnerable skills are in transport, customer services and sales, administration, and skilled construction and agricultural trades. These are among the themes that are picked up in the letter we were so pleased to receive from the Minister yesterday and in the 15 routes set out in the Sainsbury review. But some of those will go. For example, we have seen huge investment into driverless vehicles, particularly in Silicon Valley, and know the number of people who will be affected if that investment achieves a return—we can be pretty sure that it will over the next 20, 30 or 40 years. We have also seen the first humanless retail outlets being opened by Amazon. We can start to see some of these changes taking place, and I question how we are going to keep the advice, qualifications and structure sufficiently agile to keep up with the rapidity with which these changes may come and the new sectors that will emerge. We should not be wholly pessimistic about what will happen to the labour market, but advanced cognitive skills will undoubtedly be in increasing demand as artificial intelligence and robots take over some occupational categories.
How often does the Minister see the occupational categories set out in Schedule 1 being reviewed? How often are we likely to review the agility of the qualifications themselves? Qualifications generally are losing credibility with many employers because it takes too long to design them and get them approved. In particular, the suggestion set out in the letter—of procurement on a single licence for each one—means that whoever wins the qualification has to get a return on investment for delivering it. That might lock them into a period that removes the very agility that I am talking about. Finally, and most importantly, how will the new institute work with employers to ensure that that agility is informed by the best possible predictions about future skills needs five and 10 years hence?
My Lords, I support the amendments in general. I declare an interest as a director of Parkside Federation Academies Multi-Academy Trust and as a governor of the UTC Cambridge UK. We have had all the difficulties recruiting for the UTC that the noble Lord, Lord Baker, has so eloquently adverted. No school has wanted to let us come in and take their kids.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, before we continue, I have a special request. Because the loop is not working, could noble Lords speak up when they are contributing? Thank you.
My Lords, I had got as far as noting that the university technical college in Cambridge had encountered major difficulties with recruitment. The jury is still out on this, but the technical college has joined the Parkside multi-academy trust, and we believe that because the multi-academy trust has financial responsibility for all four secondary schools in our charge, it is probably going to be a little easier to envisage recruiting children from one of our schools over into the academy trust, if they would be better suited there. But it seems to me a possible route to help the UTCs, because the money does not go away from the multi-academy trust—it stays in. We hope this will be a little better.
On careers advice generally, I support the amendments. However, I have been wondering, particularly in view of the provisions that make the Institute for Apprenticeships responsible for producing careers advice, whether one ought to take it away from schools. It is very difficult for a school to keep up with its expertise, but then I was horribly reminded by my noble friend Lady Morris that individual teachers at a school are very influential in what their students choose to go on and do. So I wonder whether we could group schools’ careers advice. We could probably do that inside a multi-academy trust, and I will take home from this debate the suggestion that we try. For example, the University of Cambridge provides a perfectly effective careers service, with professional, HR-trained people, who will never have met the people whose careers they are advising on but seem to be doing it perfectly satisfactorily. Providing experts in careers, rather than forcing teachers to become experts, might have legs as an idea. Indeed, I know there are parents paying for professional careers advice because it works better than what they are being offered by the school. I do not want to propose it as a formal amendment, but I would be interested to know the Government’s thinking on that.
My Lords, I will endeavour to be brief, because we have had a very extensive debate on this. I particularly support Amendment 11, because that is probably the most practical way forward. On careers advice, I incline to the point that my noble friend Lady Morris made. Whatever you do, you cannot take away the role of teachers, who are a very powerful and continuing day-to-day influence. However, as my noble friend pointed out, the problem is that the incentives are to direct their young people towards the sixth forms, which we encouraged or allowed many of them to set up. The point about the financial incentive is a difficult one, but nevertheless will not go away.
As for where people get information about apprenticeships, I cannot help but remind my noble friend Lord Knight that we set up the Apprenticeship Vacancy Matching Service, which I think is referred to in the letter, and that is still there as part of the National Apprenticeships Service. It is true that not all employers register their apprenticeships there, but there are certainly significant numbers on there and we should not ignore that.
What I really want to address is what happens when I go into secondary schools and speak to the sixth form: when I ask the students where they are going I get the inevitable response that mostly they are going to uni. Then when you ask them what the alternative career paths are, if you are lucky you will get one or two answers. They might mention apprenticeships. Apart from all the compulsory stuff that is outlined in Amendment 11, which I am not opposed to, it seems important that every school ought to have links with business, as has been said, such as the collaborative links that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to, which are good.
If you want to really enthuse and inspire young people about apprenticeships, the best thing you can do is send successful apprentices back into the schools. There is no better influence than sending young people back in to say, “Look, I’m doing it. I’m not going to get a £50,000 debt. I’m likely to get to a job at the end of it”. Young people are not stupid. They soon begin to think about the attractions of earn while you learn, with a definite job destination as well. I do not know how we will encourage that but we certainly should. If we are talking seriously about trying to improve the brand image of apprenticeships—the esteem in which they are held by both pupils and parents—this surely has to be a part of that process.
Again, it is interesting when you go into secondary schools and look at what they are proud of—on the walls you always see the number of people who have gone on to university, especially Oxford and Cambridge. I have yet to go to a school which has another board saying, “These people were our successful apprentices. They had degree-level apprenticeships. These people graduated in apprenticeships”. Some companies are now beginning to realise the importance of having a graduation ceremony on the completion of apprenticeships. That is another important way of improving the brand.
I will address the point made by my noble friend Lord Knight about the 15 routes and whether they will survive. The good thing about them is that they are generic. Look at transport and logistics: the nature of transport might change but it will still be there in one form or another. I am not too worried about that. However, how they actually work out in defining future skill needs will be a real challenge for the Institute for Apprenticeships. We have some very powerful indicators of what the needs are. If we look at the demographics of the engineering industry or the construction industry, we see that there are huge numbers of vacancies. The biggest age groups there are those in their 50s and 60s. We know there is significant demand there, as well as in information technology. Taken at its broadest description, there is significant demand there. I hope that when the Minister replies he will address some of these points.
My noble friend Lord Knight was right to remind us that if you look at the career path of young people who are starting their careers, they will require lifelong learning and probably will change their careers a number of times. Who knows, we might even get to the point of introducing significant sabbaticals for everybody, so that they can take career breaks. We still have a very fixed attitude towards employment. I welcome the amendments and I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for the first of four amendments relating to the important matter of careers education and guidance.
We are committed to transforming the nature of careers guidance to underpin our reforms to technical education and apprenticeships. This will give everyone the necessary skills and training to open up opportunities and jobs for their future. We set out in the industrial strategy Green Paper that we will publish a comprehensive careers strategy for all ages. The Minister, Robert Halfon, set out the key principles of our approach in a speech last month. The strategy will look carefully at the role of careers provision in supporting people from primary school right through to retirement. It will look at how we can ensure widespread and high-quality support, and how that leads to jobs and security. The strategy will focus on giving people the information they need to access education and training through their working lives. This will include steps to raise the prestige of technical education and make it easier for people to apply for opportunities.
Our careers strategy will be at the heart of the Government’s focus on social justice. We want to nurture the aspirations of those who are disadvantaged and ensure that everyone, regardless of background, has the opportunity to succeed in life. I do not accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that stripping advice away from Connexions resulted in a decline in careers education. I have spoken to many young people who engaged with Connexions and I have to say that I found few fans. As the noble Lords, Lord Storey and Lord Knight, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, acknowledged, there is no previous golden age of careers education. It has always been pretty poor. What is clear is that the more engagement with the world of work that students in school have, the more engaged they become in their studies, and the more they realise why they are at school. McKinsey carried out a good study across Europe, which concluded that one-to-one careers advice was generally of little value and that the best experience was project-based working with employers.
That is why we have made such a significant investment in this area, including £70 million or so in the Careers & Enterprise Company and nearly £80 million in the National Careers Service. The work of both organisations provides an excellent base on which to build. The National Careers Service’s website receives over 24 million visits a year and supports more than 650,000 people in community locations with face-to-face advisers. The Careers & Enterprise Company, ably run by Claudia Harris, has made a great start. As my noble friend Lord Aberdare said, it has made good progress in rolling out its enterprise adviser network. Some 1,500 schools and colleges now have an enterprise adviser, helping them connect with local employers to provide experience of the workplace for young people. The company is also scaling up the number of business mentors—a subject close to the heart of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris—who work with young people at risk of underachieving or dropping out of education. Our goal is for 25,000 young people a year to benefit from this by 2020.
We will carefully evaluate the effect that our work has on careers provision. As of January, we are including destination data in national performance tables. They will help ensure that schools and colleges place an even greater importance on helping their students transition successfully to positive destinations. We fully acknowledge the importance of strong partnership working. As we develop the Government’s careers strategy, we will work with a diverse group of stakeholders, such as the Institute for Apprenticeships.
I welcome the obvious commitment to high-quality careers provision that noble Lords have shown in proposing this new clause. The Government share that commitment. However, it is our view that because we have set out the principles of our approach to careers and have confirmed that we will publish a strategy later this year, the proposed new clause is not necessary.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, said that people moaned about teachers—I am not quite sure in what context. Certainly, this Government are not moaning about them in the context of careers. Teachers are busy people and it is important that they identify the passions, interests and aptitudes of their pupils, but they cannot be expected to keep up with the rapidly changing world of work and make those important links to businesses that are so necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, said how important they were. It is important that we link schools to the world of work. That is what the Careers & Enterprise Company and its advisers are all about. I personally believe that all schools should have one person focused purely on engaging with careers, the world of work and all those wonderful, free resources available to schools, if they would only engage with them, from many charities and employers. We do this in my academy group and I recommend it. The payback in terms of pupil engagement is massive and we should engage with this model in more detail. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, asked how we might revise the various pathways and qualifications. Obviously in this rapidly changing world we need to revise them on a regular basis.
I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Hunt, for tabling Amendment 9 and I am pleased that they share the Government’s enthusiasm for a new system that would give prospective technical education students clear information and better support throughout the application process. We consider this new system to be key to ensuring that technical education is more on a par with academic education. Therefore, it is important to get it right. While I appreciate the keenness of noble Lords to have detailed proposals for the new system as soon as possible, it is important that we take the time to explore all the options. This will allow us to ensure that the new system meets the needs of the students who use it. We are considering the scope and implications of the new system, including working with a number of key stakeholders to discuss the potential options. It is crucial that the new system can support our ambition to increase the number of people pursuing quality technical education options. This is too important to rush. We intend fully to deliver on proposals for the system as set out in the industrial strategy Green Paper published just last month, but it would not aid the development of this complex project to commit to particular timescales at this stage. For these reasons, I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured enough to not move the amendment.
I thank my noble friend Lord Baker for tabling Amendment 11 and pay tribute to him for his work in developing the UTC programme, which is now offering young people a technical education at 48 UTCs across the country. I particularly enjoyed his unbiased commercial for them. The amendment would require schools to give education and training providers the opportunity to talk directly to pupils about the approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships that they offer. I agree that it would strengthen the Bill by promoting technical education and apprenticeship opportunities more effectively so that young people can make more informed and confident choices at important transition points.
As a number of noble Lords have said, the range of information on education and training options that young people receive is too narrow. Ofsted’s 2013 careers survey, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, found that college-based technical education, training and apprenticeships were rarely promoted effectively. We need to address this if young people are to benefit from the Government’s ambitious skills reforms which are supported by this Bill. We want institutions to co-operate in the best interests of young people. A school that chooses not to invite a local UTC or an FE college to speak to young people denies them information about opportunities which might be better suited to their long-term career goals, and does them no favours at all.
We need to tackle the myth that apprenticeships and technical options are not suited to high-achieving pupils. A study by the Sutton Trust in 2014 found that 65% of teachers would not advise a pupil with the grades for university to pursue an apprenticeship. I agree with noble Lords that it is time to end this outdated approach. We must get away from a two-tier system of careers advice where the information that young people get from their schools fails to correct or even reinforces the impression that college-based technical education and apprenticeships are second best to academic study. Schools will be required by law to collaborate with UTCs, studio schools, further education colleges and other training providers. This will ensure that young people hear more consistently about alternatives to academic routes and are aware of all the routes to higher skills and into the workplace. This is vital if we are to set our technical education on a par with the best in the world. I thank my noble friend for this thoughtful amendment and I accept it.
Amendment 61 was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Storey. I begin by saying that I appreciate the intent behind this proposed new clause. Our careers strategy will not be effective unless schools and colleges are held to account for the quality of their careers provision. Ofsted has an important role to play in this regard. However, I do not believe that the amendment is necessary because the current inspection grading structure provides appropriate coverage of careers provision. Ofsted has already sharpened its approach to the inspection of careers provision. As part of standard Ofsted college inspections, inspectors make graded judgments on: effectiveness of leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and pupil outcomes. Matters relating to careers provision feature in all four of these judgments.
It is important that, in reaching judgments, inspectors are able to balance their considerations on a range of aspects to form an overall view, rather than this being determined by one specific aspect of a college’s provision. Furthermore, Ofsted evaluates provision offered by the college, including 16-to-19 study programmes, apprenticeships and traineeships. Judgments about all the types of provision within the inspection framework are informed by consideration of the quality of careers provision, work experience and the development of employability skills.
Destination data are now a more significant part of college accountability. For the first time last month, destination data featured as a headline measure in 16-18 performance tables. This encourages a sharper focus on how well colleges prepare their students to make a successful transition. I hope I have provided sufficient reassurance that colleges are held to account properly for the quality of their careers provision. I urge the noble Lord to not move his amendment.
Turning to the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, I thank him for his interest in this important matter. I agree that it is essential that the careers information, advice and guidance provided covers the full range of options available so that young people can make important choices about their future pathways. Schools and colleges must secure independent careers guidance. In doing so, they should provide access to a range of activities such as employer talks or hearing from young apprenticeship ambassadors. However, it would not be appropriate for the Government to distort the independence of careers advice and guidance by finding recruiters who promoted a single pathway over others.
The Secretary of State already has very broad powers to fund education and training. Funding for schools is provided by the EFA, and it can implement any policies that require adjustments to government funding for schools. In addition, we do not think the amendment is necessary from a legal perspective. The Secretary of State can fund matters connected to apprenticeships under Section 101A, which was inserted into the Deregulation Act 2015, and we are able to fund matters connected to technical education under Section 101B, which is provided for in the Bill. In view of what I have said, I hope the noble Lord will not move his amendment.
Lastly, I shall comment on remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, about the extension of the succinct five-line amendment produced by my noble friend Lord Baker. I would be happy to set up a teach-in with the draftsmen in the department as to precisely why this is necessary, but I am assured that it is. With regard to her general comment about the number of policies that she seems to be burdened with, I would be delighted to hear from her—I am sorry to see that she is not in her place—about how we might reduce these. I always welcome suggestions for reducing bureaucracy. To take a leaf out of my noble friend Lord Baker’s book, when I finish this job I think I shall try to jump on the next piece of education legislation and try to bring in a law that precis should be taught in schools again at every possible opportunity. In view of what I have said, I hope noble Lords will feel able to respectively withdraw or not move their amendments.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that comprehensive response. I am very pleased that he has accepted the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. Like my noble friend Lady Morris of Yardley, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and the UTC movement; I agree that UTCs are a force for good. It may have been an advert, but I thought the destination analysis that the noble Lord referred to—the fact that so much information is available—was good, and on the face of it the statistics in relation to apprenticeship and university places are impressive. All I would say to the Government is that I hope they hold their nerve in supporting UTCs in the future.
We are all agreed that we want to see quality advice given to young people and their parents. The careers strategy is going to be very important, and the Minister has set out some of the things that are going to be in it. I thought the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, were important, because often schools are burdened by many regulations and requirements. I guess in the end it will be made clear to schools in the statute guidance issued by the Minister—succinctly, I hope—what is required, without having to go into enormous detail about how that is going to be done. I recognise that that is difficult, but we come back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and my noble friend Lady Morris: we have to recognise that in the end we will want schools to wish to do it. Statutory intervention is necessary because that is not happening at the moment, but in the end we somehow have to get to a stage where schools want to do the right thing.
I agree with my noble friend that teachers are not going to be experts in careers advice—the Minister is absolutely right about that—but they can be very influential in setting the terms in which young people will listen to that careers advice. Perhaps we are mistaken: it is the teachers who should go to the Skills Show. Part of this has to be an educational programme with teachers about the opportunities for apprenticeships, alongside the links with business and employment that the noble Lord has talked about.
Finally, I thought the Minister’s response to the challenge set by my noble friend certainly met the precis test by being very succinct, but this is a major issue. We all realise that the world of work is going to change dramatically and it seems to be happening very quickly indeed. Yet when you look at arrangements for what is going to happen in vocational qualifications, with the translation of the 3,500 at the moment to the 15 pathways that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, set out, the first routes are going to be available for delivery only in September 2019.
The Minister sent us a very helpful letter today. He then set out the responsibilities of the different agencies. We will come back to this: it is very clunky and it is very difficult to see, in the end, who is the person to whom the Minister turns to sort it all out. My concern is about this, but also a response to my noble friend Lord Knight’s speech: if we have this great clunky apparatus trying to deal with a legacy of failure over many years, how on earth will we be able to respond quickly to the kinds of challenges we face? Fortunately, my noble friend Lord Knight will table an amendment, I hope, on Report which will help us set that out. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Before the amendment is withdrawn, I thank everybody who spoke in this debate for the support they have given my amendment. I also thank the Minister because we have been dealing with UTCs together for nearly four years and he has seen the successes and also the problems we have. This clause helps very much with our big problems of recruitment. I thank the clerk who did the five-liner. Her name is Susannah Street and she is a star.
I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, who is not here, that every word of the clause is needed because the clause is going to be met with great hostility in every school in the country. They are going to be required, by September, to produce a policy for implementing a right for people to come and tell them about other competitive sources of learning and training. It will require all the resources of the department and the powers of the Secretary of State to ensure that this happens, so that in September and October of this year we should have providers going into all the schools. It is not an easy pathway but it has the full support of the Government and I welcome that very much.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
3: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Institutional autonomy and academic freedom
(1) The Secretary of State, in issuing guidance and directions, and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, in performing its functions, have a duty to uphold the principle of institutional autonomy for English further education institutions.(2) In this section “institutional autonomy” means—(a) the autonomy of English further education institutions—(i) to determine which courses to teach, the contents of particular courses and the manner in which they are taught, supervised and assessed,(ii) to determine the criteria for the selection, appointment, promotion, remuneration, and dismissal of academic staff; and to apply those criteria in particular cases,(iii) to determine the criteria for the admission of students and to apply those criteria in particular cases, and(iv) to constitute and to govern themselves in a manner which they deem appropriate for their purposes, subject to legal requirements relating to the corporate form and purposes that they may adopt; and(b) the freedom of academic staff within the law—(i) to question and test received wisdom, and (ii) to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing jobs or any privileges they may have at an institution.(3) All persons or bodies exercising powers under this Act are under a duty to protect the principle of academic freedom in accordance with subsection (2)(b).”
We will pass Amendment 11 when we come to it.
The noble Lord, Lord Baker is, of course, a novice at these procedures; or perhaps, like me, he is still getting his breath back following the words “I accept” from the Minister, which were much welcomed.
This is a probing amendment and, to some extent, a read-across from the Higher Education and Research Bill. It is pretty much self-explanatory, although that does not mean I can resist the temptation to say a few words. Almost three decades have passed since the Education Reform Act 1988 ended the tenure that had long been enjoyed by British academics, but an amendment to that legislation protected in law the freedom of academics to question and test received wisdom and to put forward new ideas and controversial and occasionally unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or the privileges they may have had at their institution. That right that should apply across the board to all academics, whether in higher or further education. I accept that this is an issue of more concern in higher education, but increasing staff insecurity in further education colleges and other further education providers leads us to believe that the principles that apply in higher education should also apply in further education.
The Minister may well say that academic freedom is already established by common practice, but that is not the view of teaching organisations. This amendment applies to the Secretary of State in issuing guidance and directions, and to the institution in performing its functions, giving them a duty to uphold the principles of academic freedom and institutional autonomy. It is not a draconian measure; it merely states unequivocally that institutions have the right to determine which courses to teach and who they appoint to teach them, and that academic staff have the right to speak freely about how their institution is run, what courses should be pursued and how, and to advance unconventional or perhaps unpopular opinions. Such expressions should not impact on the job security of academic staff, and for that reason we believe they have the right to have such protections clearly set out in the Bill.
Amendment 3 would also incorporate the human rights to freedom of expression, assembly, thought and belief. It is unfortunate that this amendment is necessary but, given the threats felt by universities as a result of the dramatic changes being introduced to the sector by the Higher Education and Research Bill, who is to say that providers in the further education sector will not sooner or later experience a similar feeling of threat? Forewarned is forearmed, which is why this issue must at least be highlighted today.
Freedom of speech is the subject of Amendment 7. It, too, is a provision that ought not to be necessary, but the hard facts are that it is necessary. Recent events, particularly in some educational institutions involving Jewish students or staff, demonstrate that for some people freedom of speech can and does become unlawful speech. My view on this goes back to my days as a student activist, some four decades ago, and is that a demand to no-platform a particular speaker is wrong. I have never believed that you deny someone a platform simply because you disagree with them. Even if you disagree vehemently with what they are saying, my response is that you should take them on by argument, but when that kind of speech enters the world of racism, misogyny, homophobia or threatening behaviour, it contravenes the law, and the law should intervene.
It is unfortunate that these matters have to be aired, but I believe they should be. They are matters of concern in the further education sector as well as the higher education sector. I hope the Minister will take them on board and given them due consideration. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support these amendments. We had extensive discussions on these issues during the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill, and they are no less relevant to further education colleges. Institutional autonomy is as important for colleges, where the people who work in them really know what works for their pupils and students, and academic staff having the freedom to question and test received wisdom is just as important for colleges as it is for universities. So is freedom of speech and preventing unlawful speech, which seems an increasing aspect of student life these days. In a way, it is almost more relevant for colleges as they have such a wide variety of students under their roofs. Both these amendments are entirely relevant to this Bill.
I feel quite strongly about this at both levels. Looking back 10 or 20 years, we would never have thought that we would be debating the need for academic freedom and freedom of speech in 2017. If something is against the law of the land, that person should not be allowed to propagate it in any way, but the notion that students no-platform particular speakers is totally wrong. We should say loudly and clearly that it must not happen. I just want to add my voice to these two very important amendments.
My Lords, turning first to Amendment 3, I think we can all agree that academic freedom and institutional autonomy are important considerations. I am sympathetic to the spirit behind the noble Lord’s amendment. The principle of institutional autonomy and academic freedom is already well entrenched in the Bill and in the existing legislation covering further education corporations. In practical terms, the principle is also very much reflected in how the Government support and work with the sector on a wide range of issues and activities.
Further education college corporations are charitable, statutory bodies under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Under the Act, colleges are conducted by statutory corporations, which enjoy many freedoms and powers. For example, Ministers have no powers to issue directions in respect of the administration or management of the college, whether regarding employment matters or the content of courses, except in the very restricted circumstances in which the college is failing. As charities, colleges and their governing boards must also be independent from government. The changes introduced through the Education Act 2011 strengthened this independence, for example by removing the power of Ministers to make changes to the instrument of government and articles of a corporation, which was contained in the original 1992 legislation.
The Secretary of State’s powers are therefore extremely limited. As the principal regulator of college corporations, the Secretary of State has a duty to promote compliance with charity law. In clear cases of failure, the intervention powers under the 1992 Act allow the Secretary of State to remove or appoint members of, or issue directions to, the governing body of the institution. But those are powers of last resort, where it is not possible to address failure through other means and there remains a very strong public interest in doing so. In practice, they have never been used. Indeed, outside legislation, the way in which the Government work with the further education sector more generally demonstrates full respect for the principle of autonomy.
For example, the programme of local area reviews which will draw to a close soon is based on the principle that the governing bodies of colleges are the decision-makers when considering the future organisation of provision in their local areas. The Government have established the reviews to facilitate that decision-making, working in partnership with the sector, but have not sought to impose decisions. Similarly, although professional development activities for teaching staff are supported through government funding they are delivered through a sector-owned body, the Education and Training Foundation, reflecting the independent status of colleges and other providers. The legislative framework and the day-to-day relationship with the sector already reflect these principles and there is no need to legislate further. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I move on to the second amendment in this group, Amendment 7. I thank noble Lords for raising the important issues of freedom of speech and unlawful speech in our further education system. I agree entirely that free speech within the law is a key principle of further education in the UK. We want students to be exposed in the course of their studies to a wide range of ideas and opinions, and to learn the skills to debate and challenge them effectively. There is an existing duty placed on further education providers to take reasonably practicable steps to secure freedom of speech within the law. That duty was introduced in the Education (No.2) Act 1986; it is taken seriously by FE providers and they have raised no issues or concerns with us in relation to its practice.
The requirement in this amendment would place an additional freedom of speech duty on providers so that they must “ensure” that staff, students and invited speakers are able to practise free speech on the premises of the providers, or in forums and events. I am sympathetic to the intention behind this amendment—championing free speech must be central to our further education sector—but it is not clear what such an additional requirement would mean in practice, nor how we would expect providers to change their policies and practices to meet the new standard. I fear the new threshold in this amendment unreasonably and unnecessarily imposes an additional and disproportionate burden on providers, in particular the duty to “ensure” freedom of speech without any caveats. To move away from a standard of taking reasonably practicable measures may well require FE providers to address matters that are simply outside their control. We should be wary of creating cases where a duty to ensure free speech could come into conflict with other, important considerations, such as the security of attendees at a particular event.
Further education colleges are places where individuals must feel able to express and debate their opinions, but this freedom is not unconstrained. There is no place whatever for hate speech, discrimination, intimidation or harassment against anyone. Equally, there is no room for anyone who is trying to incite violence or support terrorism. This is why there is a wide range of existing legislation on unlawful speech, with which FE staff, students and visiting speakers must comply. This includes: legislation which makes certain forms of behaviour and hate speech a criminal offence; laws against encouraging terrorism and inviting support for a proscribed terrorist organisation; and the Prevent duty, which requires providers to consider the impact of external speakers. All these laws are supported by effective mechanisms for reporting hate speech, whether through a provider’s own procedures, the police or organisations such as the Community Security Trust or the excellent charity, Tell MAMA. Unlawful speech can undermine the safety and welfare of staff and students and erode the ethos and cohesion of the further education provider. It is absolutely right that we highlight the importance of ensuring that it cannot and should not take place.
However, the sector has not told us that preventing unlawful speech is a problem. Introducing a new standard would risk unnecessary confusion, and could create caution and risk-aversion which would stifle free speech. Further education providers will continue to be subject to the existing freedom of speech duty. On unlawful speech, we can best protect staff and students by working with them to implement existing legislation rather than by introducing additional legislation. I hope the noble Lord will therefore feel able to withdraw this amendment.
I thank all noble Lords who spoke on this group and I welcome the noble Baroness to her first stint on the Front Bench in Grand Committee. I thank her for a thoughtful and detailed response. There are one or two points that I want to come back on. First, I accept what she said on Amendment 3; she gave a considerable amount of detail on the legislation that covers what we were seeking to achieve, and I and others will want to look at that. On that basis, she may well have dealt effectively with the issues of institutional autonomy and so on.
However, I am not so convinced by the noble Baroness’s arguments in respect of Amendment 7 on free speech, particularly when she said that introducing the provisions of this new clause could in fact stifle free speech. I find that rather a strange concept to get my head round. I noted down certain comments: she mentioned that it would require further education colleges to change policies and practices and that they have not identified problems. I would value a letter from her explaining some of her comments, such as why that would be what she termed a “disproportionate burden”—how so? She also said that it would involve colleges addressing matters that could be outwith their control, including attendees at a particular event. Any event on the premises of a college becomes its responsibility, even if the college has not organised it. If it has allowed the property to be used then it is ultimately responsible for what happens there at a meeting. I do not see how colleges can escape that and I do not see that it would be a disproportionate burden. In any case, colleges have to do basically what the amendment says—that is, ensure that,
“students, staff and invited speakers are able to practise freedom of speech within the law”.
I would therefore value some explanation of the noble Baroness’s reasoning in saying that she finds Amendment 7 unacceptable. If it is not a problem, that does not necessarily mean that nothing needs to be done. I think that this amendment would strengthen the ability of further education colleges and providers, if appropriate, to ensure that their premises were safe havens—places where people could express themselves freely and be able to engage in debate, at all times within the law. If the noble Baroness could provide a bit of additional information on that in a letter, it would be much appreciated. However, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Amendments 4 and 5 not moved.
6: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“New further education institutions
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education must not recommend to the Secretary of State the authorisation of a new further education institution unless—(a) the provider has been established for a minimum of four years with satisfactory validation arrangements in place;(b) the Quality Assessment Committee is assured that the provider is able to maintain the required standard expected for the granting of approved qualifications for the duration of the authorisation; and(c) the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education is assured that the provider operates in the public interest and in the interest of students.”
I should say at the start that I am not quite sure why Amendments 6 and 8 have been grouped but, as they say, we are where we are.
Noble Lords may feel it a little odd that, in a Bill very largely concerned with assisting further education colleges that have slipped into insolvency, we find an amendment seeking to address new further education institutions. I am being upbeat here: it is to be hoped that the time will arrive when the Government of the day fund the further education sector adequately and the post-16 skills plan and the 15 occupational routes for apprentices are successful, so that the sector will be seen as attractive to new entrants. That is the situation in higher education and safeguards have had to be built in in anticipation of an influx of more new entrants. It may well be the case that a so-called challenger institution will seek to establish itself in the further education sector and, when that happens, the sector needs to be prepared.
It is no more than reasonable that, before the institute recommends to the Secretary of State that a new further education institution be admitted, that institution should be able to demonstrate that satisfactory validation arrangements have been in place for a minimum of four years. Noble Lords may be aware that the Higher Education and Research Bill suggests that new entrants should be able to be given, albeit temporarily, degree-awarding powers from day one. We strongly believe that that is not appropriate and that there has to be an amount of time in which an institution has shown its ability not just to operate as a business but to provide students with everything that they are entitled to expect when they sign up for courses. That is what is behind the mention of a minimum of four years in the amendment.
The Minister may say that this is unnecessary, but he said at Second Reading that he did not envisage the insolvency procedures being used other than in very rare cases. With 28 out of 45 clauses in the Bill concerned with insolvency, methinks he may have protested too much. None the less, reasonable man that I am, I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that these clauses may well prove necessary from time to time and that we need them. In return, I hope he will be willing to accept that Amendment 6 envisages a situation that may prove equally necessary in the future, and I await his response on that point with interest.
Amendments 13 and 14 are concerned with broadening access to post-school education or training, and Amendment 14 is specifically about equality of opportunity. The Learning and Work Institute gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee in another place in which it said that people with disabilities and learning difficulties and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds had been under-represented in apprenticeships for many years. The introduction of the institute offers an opportunity to make a real difference by improving access to apprenticeships for traditionally under-represented groups.
The Government already have targets to increase the proportion of BME apprentices by 20%. Perhaps the Minister can say whether the intention is to do the same—not necessarily in terms of the percentage but in setting targets—for people with disabilities and those leaving care. Giving the institute a duty to widen access and participation would be beneficial for all parties. Only 50% of disabled people have a job, compared with eight in 10 able-bodied people. The Government have stated their aim of halving the level of unemployment among people with disabilities, so we believe that this offers an opportunity to use apprenticeships as a step towards narrowing that gap.
When it is fully established, we believe that the institute should consider as a priority what can be done for groups which are under-represented, not only women, those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds or those leaving care but also those who leave school with no qualifications at all. During consideration of this Bill in another place, the Minister for Schools, Mr Robert Halfon, talked about traineeships and the possibility of them forming an introductory route into apprenticeships. Traineeships would be particularly appropriate for the groups of people I have mentioned when it comes to promoting equality of opportunity for access and participation. Traineeships are also appropriate for retraining, particularly as the institute has now been given additional responsibility for technical education. I hope that the Minister will follow that up with his colleagues to consider what might be achieved. I beg to move.
My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 8 in this group, which covers some of the same ground that we have already addressed. It seems appropriate, in setting up this new institute, to specify what it is supposed to do—its functions and duties. I have rather optimistically put its “additional” functions and duties because, looking through the Bill, it is difficult to see any clarity on what its functions and duties actually are. However, the role it will play in apprenticeship standards is obviously set out clearly in the Bill. I have added certification, although I think there is a later amendment on this aspect, which perhaps we should address at that point because I do not think it is as straightforward as it appears. It is particularly important that the institute should have an overview of where the skills shortages are and be in a position to divert funding and encourage participation to address those shortages.
The second part of the amendment deals with promotion and consultation. As we have discussed on previous amendments, having set up the new institute, surely it is only right that it should have a role in promoting apprenticeships and work-based skills. It would be a pretty poor body if it did not support the qualifications it has been set up to oversee, and we have such a long way to go. We have already discussed careers education, advice and guidance quite comprehensively, but we have heard from school leavers many accounts of the difficulties they face if they want to pursue the apprenticeship route rather than the university one.
There are steps that the Government could take, as we have already heard from the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Young, and the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. One would be to expand the measurements for school league tables to include vocational and practical achievement alongside academic results. Currently, schools get public recognition purely on their academic results, so obviously there is a lot of pressure on them to make sure that youngsters are diverted on to those routes regardless of where their aptitudes lie. They could also encourage schools to celebrate their students who leave to take up apprenticeships with the same enthusiasm they give to their university entrants. One can see on school noticeboards long lists showing how many students have gone on to university, and it would be cheering to read alongside them that a certain number went on to take up apprenticeships. However, schools do not seem to take that on board as something to celebrate. Instead, they keep trying to dissuade bright young people from seeking out apprenticeships, as we discussed when we were considering careers advice.
There was too little consultation with stakeholders before the Bill was drafted. It is difficult to believe that, in a rare further education Bill, they would have chosen that a major part of it—more than 30 clauses—should be devoted to the insolvency and financial difficulties of further education bodies. What a negative view of the sector when there are so many positive aspects of further education that could have been assisted through legislation. Even before the Bill has become law, this is having an impact. We are already hearing that, because of these provisions, banks and other financial organisations are treating colleges with some suspicion. The biggest area of current concern for colleges is the impact on local government pension scheme funds. What was the rationale in casting doubt on colleges, which will be one of the main providers of the qualifications the Government have said they wish to promote? With so many doubts being cast on the viability of the providers, how will that help to generate the 3 million apprenticeships being sought? There appear to be only sticks and no carrots from the Government.
The current situation requires very expensive financial consultants filling in enormous spreadsheets and application forms to the transaction unit—time and resources that could be spent more constructively. It may be better to have an orderly college insolvency regime that colleges hardly ever use than continuing the risk of a disorderly one, but why make it such a large part of the Bill? Which of the stakeholders supported this part of the Bill?
We are concerned that the reforms contained in the Bill never went through a formal Green Paper process. The Government published the Post-16 Skills Plan alongside the Sainsbury review, accepting all its recommendations in full. From that perspective, the recommendations in the Sainsbury review were never put out to wider stakeholder consultation to inform the White Paper. Furthermore, the Bill that was announced in the Queen’s Speech of 2016—the education for all Bill—which was supposed to contain the key technical education reforms, was subsequently abandoned. The reforms contained in the current Bill were published in October with no prior warning.
This is important because a key reform in the Bill, such as transfer of copyright, was not previously referenced in either the Sainsbury review or the skills plan. We would hope that there is full consultation with the sector as part of the implementation phase that is running concurrent to the Bill and which will continue through to the institute assuming full responsibility for technical education in April 2018. The organisations listed for consultation are all ones with varied expertise. Employers, colleges, lecturers and awarding bodies all play a key role, but so too do livery companies, some of the original purveyors of apprenticeships. They continue today to frame and support apprentices in their particular fields, and collectively work, through the Livery Companies Skills Council, as powerful and very experienced champions. Could the Minister say what discussions have been held with the livery companies to make use of their long-standing experience of apprentices? Given the emphasis on students in the Higher Education and Research Bill, it seems only right that further education student voices should be heard on matters that relate to their learning and qualifications. The institute should surely be aiming to speak for them too.
We are not starting from scratch. The country has a long and miserable history of downrating practical achievement, and we welcome anything the Bill can do to reverse this and give vocational skills the credit they richly deserve. The Government need to consult and take account of experienced stakeholders who have so much to offer and could advise on making the Bill a success.
My Lords, I find these amendments very interesting because they pose the question of what sort of beast we are creating in the Institute for Apprenticeships. The points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, exactly address that. In the Institute for Apprenticeships we have created a body with clear functions. It has to sort out shoddy apprenticeships and try to bring some sense to the maze of technical qualifications. They are very important jobs, but they are essentially administrative, functional jobs. Surely the Institute for Apprenticeships will not be spending government money in the future; it will be spending money provided by industry and commerce. Therefore, the Government should really take a back seat from then on. They should be concentrating on what they are responsible for—the skills gap. They have to devise policies that close the skills gap. The improved apprenticeship system will do a great deal towards that, but it cannot do it alone. Closing the skills gap also needs major reforms in further education colleges to improve their effectiveness. If they had been as good as they think they are, we would not have as big a skills gap as we do at the moment.
The Government’s other responsibility is to try to ensure how our education system can improve technical education, which in fact it is destroying in schools at the moment. Those are policy matters and the main policy of the Government in this regard is what they can do to close the skills gap.
Where does that leave the Institute for Apprenticeships? It leaves it as a much more independent body. It is not spending government money. The question that the Government should be asking the Institute for Apprenticeships is: what contribution are you making to closing the skills gap? They should not therefore interfere with the institute apart from that, in my opinion. The eight directors appointed so far are quite a feisty lot of independent people. The institute should become the main policy area for apprenticeships and should do the sort of things indicated in the Liberal amendment.
This is a very different body, I suspect, from the one the Government think they are setting up. They still want to keep their sticky fingers on the Institute for Apprenticeships even though they are not providing the money. The money is being provided by industry and commerce—by business. The steering wheel should be taken away from them, and the Institute for Apprenticeships should become an important body, reviewing each year whether the whole apprenticeship system is right. It should decide whether apprenticeships should start at 14, not the Government—which I happen to support. It should decide about approving new providers, the terms for which are set out in Clause 6, and I am sure it would do it in a very professional way.
This is quite an interesting group of amendments, and I look forward to the Minister’s reply. This is an area that should slip away from immediate government control because the Government are not putting up the money.
My Lords, I support what my noble friend has said. The Government are creating a very powerful body. It will own the intellectual property in all the technical qualifications for the routes described in the Bill. There will be no other institution with any long-term interest in evolving or maintaining those qualifications or in developing a name and a reputation that parents and others can rely on. Below the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, we have a series of short-term contracts. City & Guilds—I sit on its council, which everyone knows is nothing, but at least indicates affection—will disappear at this level. There will be no City & Guilds qualifications; they will become qualifications of the institute for apprenticeships. City & Guilds, being a charity, may bid for a seven-year contract to be an awarding organisation or to look after one or two of the routes, but it will not be awarding City & Guilds qualifications, rather it will just provide a function for the institute.
We are creating something much closer to the German model. We are losing what remains of the lodestars that the British Computer Society, City & Guilds and others have been providing in terms of the name and quality of their qualifications and replacing them with a new structure. This structure needs to be more powerful and conscious of its role than it is described as being in the Bill. I would like to see the Government follow the logic of what they have produced in the Bill and create a creature which is capable of the long-term responsibilities being placed upon it. It may be that the Government need to acquire City & Guilds, which is after all a quasi-government organisation anyway. Perhaps they need to take it on board to provide the strength, history, continuity and the people needed to run the sort of thing that is being set up in the Bill, or at least to provide the engine for it. I do not see how dispensing with all that the good awarding bodies have created and providing a structure which does not have the power to do what is necessary is a safe way of proceeding with a very important part of our education system.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Hunt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, for the four amendments in this group. They address important issues relating to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and, in particular, what functions it will have. I will address my remarks only to these four amendments and will start by responding to Amendment 6. Ensuring that new further education institutions provide high-quality provision is of course of the utmost importance. Through the area reviews process for the further education sector, we are also putting the sector on a secure financial footing by ensuring that the provider base matches student demand.
However, the institute is to be established with a very specific remit in relation to the quality of reformed apprenticeships: to set the quality criteria for the development of apprenticeship standards and assessment plans; to approve or reject proposed standards or plans and review them periodically, as appropriate; and to ensure that all end-point assessments are quality assured, including the potential to quality assure them itself. It will also advise the Government on the maximum level of government funding available for each individual apprenticeship standard. And, of course, the proposals in this Bill seek to extend its functions to technical education qualifications and related matters. It has no role at all, and is not expected to have a role, in relation to the authorisation of new further education institutions, even those that will deliver technical education qualifications in the future. It is therefore not appropriate to make this amendment to the Bill in the light of the expected remit of the institute.
I turn to Amendment 8, for which I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and I wish her a happy birthday.
I hope that she will be pleased to hear that we plan to finish at 7.45 pm, so she will have time to enjoy it and celebrate.
The amendment includes a number of functions that are essential for the institute to be able to discharge its remit effectively. However, the institute already has responsibility for carrying out the vast majority of these functions. Setting, maintaining and overseeing standards for apprenticeships and technical education is absolutely central to its role. We will also ensure strong recognition and transferability through continuing to secure the delivery of apprenticeship certificates for reformed apprenticeships which have real value and worth for the employer and the apprentice. We expect that the institute will also have some responsibility in relation to certification, working with the Skills Funding Agency in its operational role of delivering certificates. As part of this, a record of all apprenticeship completions will be kept. The institute will use this to inform a number of its functions, including the review of standards in the context of the country’s wider skills needs.
Section ZA2 of the 2009 Act, inserted by the Enterprise Act 2016, requires the institute to have regard to the reasonable requirements of those with an interest in apprenticeships. This includes many of those listed in the amendment, including employers, apprentices and technical education students. The Government are able to write to the institute with guidance to which it must have regard when carrying out its functions; this can include asking it to consult certain bodies. We have just completed a consultation exercise on the draft of the first guidance document which asked the institute to work with particular organisations, such as those listed in the amendment, when carrying out particular functions.
We share the noble Baroness’s enthusiasm for the promotion of apprenticeships in schools and colleges. Legislation is in place that requires schools to inform pupils about apprenticeships and other options. Noble Lords will be aware that we have recently announced a careers strategy and we will consider how apprenticeships can be promoted in schools and colleges as part of the development of that strategy.
Moving on to Amendment 13, I fully understand the importance of ensuring that all young people are able to access a range of suitable education and training opportunities, including technical education and apprenticeships where appropriate. I know that this concern is shared by a great number of noble Lords, some of whom made eloquent and most welcome contributions at Second Reading, including the noble Lord, Lord Addington, my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. The key to achieving this aim is to ensure that suitable provision is available to accommodate the needs of a wide range of learners. The effect of this amendment would be to require the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, when exercising its functions, to have regard to the duty of local authorities to ensure that sufficient provision is available for all young people in their areas between the ages of 16 and 19, as well as for those young people in their areas aged 19 to 25 who are covered by an education, health and care plan.
I would like to reassure noble Lords that I am absolutely mindful of the need to ensure that the institute takes account of the needs of all learners, including those who have had a difficult start in life or who have special educational needs and disabilities. However, legal provision has already been made to ensure this. Section ZA2(1) of the 2009 Act, when it is commenced in April, will require the institute to take account of a range of factors, including the reasonable requirements of persons who wish to undertake training and education, when carrying out its functions. This will apply regardless of the type of provider serving those learners or indeed how that provision has been commissioned. As many young people as possible should be able to access technical education, which is valued by employers and has been approved by the institute. Noble Lords will also be aware that the Equality Act 2010 places a duty on public sector bodies, including the institute, to promote equality of opportunity across all forms of education and to ensure that their actions do not disadvantage those with protected characteristics, including disability, pregnancy and maternity.
Our wider reforms will also support access for those who have low prior attainment or require additional support. In particular, the transition year will provide young people aged 16 or older where their education has been delayed, with tailored catch-up provision to enable them to access the same range of education and training opportunities as their peers, getting them back on track and helping to tackle the challenges they face obtaining qualifications valuable to their future career prospects.
We have also undertaken an equalities impact assessment of our technical education reforms. This was published alongside the post-16 skills plan, and concluded that our proposals would be likely to have a positive impact on individuals with protected characteristics, as defined by the Equality Act.
I fully understand the importance of Amendment 14 and agree that apprenticeships and technical education should be accessible to all, including disadvantaged members of society. I know from Second Reading how important this is to many noble Lords. Promoting equal opportunities for all, including those who are vulnerable, is very important and goes to the heart of our reforms. I reassure noble Lords that the institute will have due regard to widening access and participation. Amendments made by the Enterprise Act 2016 require the institute to have regard to the reasonable requirements of persons who may wish to undertake education or training that is within its remit. This means that a person’s background should have no bearing on whether they are able to take a course of technical education. In addition, that legislation allows the Secretary of State to provide the institute with further guidance.
Furthermore, the need to promote equality of opportunity across all forms of education already exists in legislation under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010. As noble Lords will be aware, this provides a legal framework that protects the rights of individuals and advances equality of opportunity to all. Noble Lords might also be interested to learn that our equalities impact assessment established that individuals with protected characteristics are likely to benefit from the reforms to technical education. This includes those with a special educational need or disability, those with low prior attainment, and those who are economically disadvantaged.
I hope that my responses to these four amendments provide noble Lords with sufficient reassurance about our plans for the institute and its functions that they will withdraw or not move their amendments.
I thank the Minister for that response and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, for her contribution. I should have said at the start that we support the suggestions in Amendment 8. I noticed that the Minister said that most of these were already covered. That impacts on a point that I will come back to in a minute about the operational plan for the institute.
The Minister somewhat took the wind out of my sails on Amendment 6 by saying that there was no role for the institute with regard to new institutions. I take it that just the Secretary of State would have the ability to give them the green light, if that is the case. In which case, I am rather surprised that it got accepted as an amendment. None the less, I hear what the Minister says, and if that is the case, so be it.
On Amendment 14 in particular, the Minister did not answer a couple of the questions I put to him. One was the point about the percentages for categories of those underrepresented in the take-up of apprenticeships. I mentioned the 20% target for people from black and minority ethnic communities and asked whether there were plans for anything similar for women, care leavers and indeed any other underrepresented groups. I am happy for him to write to me on that. I do not suggest what the percentages should be, but these are underrepresented, so by definition it is appropriate that some action is taken to bring them more into line with other groups.
Yes, but that is a bit woolly. Students have always had the opportunity; the point is that certain groups are not taking it up in sufficient numbers. It would be interesting to know why black and minority ethnic people have been specifically identified, and yet others have not. If work needs to be done there to bring underrepresented groups more into the mainstream, surely the institute should concentrate particularly on that. However, that would impact on the institute’s operational plan. In the Minister’s letter today, he mentioned that the shadow institute’s draft operational plan is out for consultation but only for a few more days. He said that that will provide more detail on how the institute would be expected to deliver its role. I have not yet looked at that but I will do so. I hope that it will have something to say on broadening participation because we may wish to return to that matter on Report.
For the moment, we have covered the issues and I thank the Minister for his response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 6 withdrawn.
Amendments 7 to 9 not moved.
10: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Technical Education Qualifications”
In this Part “technical education qualifications” means the full range of work-based qualifications, whether technical, craft, creative, public sector, or professional.”
The amendment is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Storey. I have previously raised concerns about the limitations of the word “technical” in the Bill. The long-standing term “vocational”, which was inclusive of all trades, crafts and professions that involved skills and practical aptitudes, has apparently fallen out of favour and “technical” has been deemed to carry more status. However, stonemasons, florists, film-makers, nurses, care workers and caterers do not see themselves as primarily technical operatives.
I worked for City & Guilds for 20 years. In my day, we did not think of it as a quasi-governmental organisation but rather as a long-standing, highly respected, royal chartered, charitable educational organisation. But there we are. I hope that times have not changed too much. In my day there were two main strands of vocational qualification—technical and craft. Then there were personal services, which was another important skill area, in which people skills were of paramount importance.
At Second Reading, the Minister, in reply to my question about whether craft, creative and service skills were intended to be covered by technical education, said:
“The answer is that they are”.—[Official Report, 1/2/17; col. 1261.]
However, the Bill does not say that. It is surely only in an Alice in Wonderland world, or perhaps even under the new American regime, that words mean what I say they mean. I checked the dictionary—at my age, one has to do that sort of thing—and found that the prime definition of technical is,
“pertaining to the mechanical arts and applied sciences”.
It was some comfort to find a secondary definition, which was,
“appropriate to a particular art, science, profession or occupation”.
That is better but not what is widely understood by “technical”.
For everyday purposes, the Bill should not be marginalising all those whose practical, work-based achievements are in craft, personal services or creative fields. The wording in my amendment may need some changes but the gist is that “technical” does not cover the myriad of work-based achievements. It needs expanding to be more inclusive if the new institute is really to be seen as a champion for all types of skill and practical achievement.
Rather than go through the whole Bill expanding “technical” each time it is mentioned, I propose that at the outset we explain that non-technical work skills will also come within the remit of the Bill. I hope that the Minister will see that this makes sense and be prepared to accept this modest and, I hope, helpful amendment. I beg to move.
My Lords, there is virtue in encompassing all this sort of education within one structure. I do not see the point in excluding bits because, presumably, they are felt to fall below the status of “technical”. Areas such as retail or caring are as technical as a lot of jobs that are included in this structure. I therefore hope that this is an amendment and approach to which the Government will give consideration.
My Lords, I add only one very small point: it seems to me that part of the problem with the esteem in which some of these technical and professional qualifications are held is that they are seen in a rather narrow light. The word “technical” rather reinforces the problem. A lot of people who might be interested in creative or public sector qualifications or some others might be put off by the word “technical”, which makes it seem more narrow than it needs to be.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey, for tabling this amendment. I understand that they wish to ensure that all technical or work-based qualifications are included within these reforms and can benefit from them. I assure them that all relevant and appropriate occupations in the economy will be covered within the technical education routes and the qualifications offered to students following these routes. However, having thought carefully about how to achieve this, we hope to address it in the following way.
Each route, of which there are currently 15, provides a framework for grouping together occupations where there are shared training requirements. Each route will have an occupational map. Each map will identify all the occupations in the scope of that route, such as the digital route or the engineering and manufacturing route. These maps are currently being developed through a robust, evidence-based process, with input from employers, employer representatives, industry professionals and professional bodies.
It is important to be clear, however, that it will not be appropriate to include some occupations within the routes. The independent panel of the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, established the principle, which we have adopted, that technical education must require the acquisition of both a substantial body of technical knowledge and a set of practical skills valued by industry. As the panel made clear, there are some unskilled or low-skilled occupations which do not meet this requirement, as they can be learned quickly and on the job; such as that of a retail assistant. Therefore, it is not necessary or appropriate to offer technical education qualifications to people wishing to work in one of these occupations. It would not be the best use of their time or of taxpayers’ money.
With this exception, I can assure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that within the technical education routes there will be comprehensive coverage of the skilled occupations that are vital to the success of our economy. I can also assure them that the occupational maps will be reviewed regularly to ensure that they continue to reflect the needs of industry. We will listen to any evidence-based case from an employer who identifies a gap, if it meets the above criteria and they can demonstrate employer need and a genuine skills gap. I hope that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will feel reassured enough to withdraw this amendment.
Before the noble Baroness responds, I have two points. The Minister quoted from the Sainsbury review the definition of “technical” education. Why has that not found itself in the Bill? If the Sainsbury definition is going to set the boundaries of the 15 pathways, would it not have been helpful to pin it down some more? The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, is absolutely right to say that it would have been helpful to have that in the Bill.
My second point comes back to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. Sadly, in this country, “technical” does not have the status that we want it to have. You cannot legislate for that, but as we go through this it would have been interesting to hear from the Government how, in general, they think we are going to raise the status of the word “technical”, so that when young people in particular consider a technical education, they see it as something to aspire to.
My Lords, I am sorry that this has become more complicated to involve occupational maps and routes. I thought it was a very simple explanation: that there are different emphases in different vocational routes, for the want of a better word. Actually, included in the routes there are such things as “hair and beauty”. There are technical elements to that, but there is a tremendous amount of personal skills and creativity also. Also included are “creative and design” and “catering and hospitality”. There are technical aspects in just about all of these, but that is not their prime activity or focus. The people who go into those sorts of fields are not doing so because they love doing technical things but because they like working with people and creating things, and doing things that are not primarily technical.
I am sorry if the word “technical” has now been downgraded, but we really are running rings round this. We apparently do not like and have abandoned the word “vocational” because it is considered downmarket. The word “technical” was supposed to raise the profile and be a lot better, but now, suddenly, here are the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Aberdare, saying that “technical” is a pretty rubbish word too. I always quite liked “work-based”, which is one of the terms that we used, as well as “practical”. There are other terms that might not be deemed quite so lower class as “technical”.
As I said, my amendment was intended simply to try to protect all those people working in fields where they think of themselves primarily not as technical but as creative, with personal skills and so on, which is what the Government are trying to include in the Bill. I accept that the Institute for Apprenticeships has to encompass all those routes too. I am sorry but I may have to bring this back on Report. We will perhaps have a discussion before then to see whether the noble Lord can think of a really upmarket word to take in all the different aspects of practical skills that we are looking for.
I shall be delighted to have a very technical conversation with the noble Baroness about this. I heard what she said about words meaning what they mean, but I am sure that she did not quite mean what she said when she used the expression “lower class”. However, we can have a discussion about this to see whether we think that anything more needs to be done.
Amendment 10 withdrawn.
11: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Information about technical education: access to English schools
(1) The Education Act 1997 is amended as follows.(2) After section 42A insert—“42B Information about technical education: access to English schools (1) The proprietor of a school in England within subsection (2) must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils during the relevant phase of their education for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships.(2) A school is within this subsection if it provides secondary education and is one of the following—(a) an Academy;(b) an alternative provision Academy;(c) a community, foundation or voluntary school;(d) a community or foundation special school (other than one established in a hospital);(e) a pupil referral unit.(3) The proprietor of a school in England within subsection (2) must prepare a policy statement setting out the circumstances in which education and training providers will be given access to registered pupils for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships.(4) The proprietor must ensure that the policy statement is followed.(5) The policy statement must include— (a) any procedural requirements in relation to requests for access;(b) grounds for granting and refusing requests for access;(c) details of premises or facilities to be provided to a person who is given access. (6) The proprietor may revise the policy statement from time to time.(7) The proprietor must publish the policy statement and any revised statement.(8) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision supplementing subsection (1), for example provision about who is to be given access to pupils, to which pupils they are to be given access and how and when.(9) For the purposes of this section the relevant phase of a pupil’s education is the period—(a) beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 13, and(b) ending with the expiry of the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 18. (10) In this section “approved technical education qualification” means a qualification approved under section A2DA of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009.”(3) In section 42A (provision of careers guidance in schools in England), in subsection (7), omit the definition of “apprenticeship” (which has become outdated).(4) In section 45A (guidance as to discharge of duties: schools in England), in subsection (2), for “42A(1) or (4)” substitute “section 42A(1) or (4) or 42B”.(5) In section 46 (extension or modification of provisions of sections 43 to 45), in subsection (1)—(a) after “42A,” insert “42B,”;(b) after “42A(6),” insert “42B (9)”.”
Amendment 11 agreed.
Committee adjourned at 7.31 pm.