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Technical and Further Education Bill

Volume 782: debated on Monday 27 March 2017

Report (Continued)

Amendment 34

Moved by

34: Schedule 1, page 31, line 26, at end insert—

“( ) about permission for the use of the DfE logo and standard wording on technical education certificates;”

My Lords, I fear that this may be something of an anti-climax after the previous excitement. Nevertheless, I wish to move Amendment 34 and speak also to Amendment 35. They have the support of the noble Lords, Lord Lucas and Lord Watson, and of my noble friend Lord Storey.

As we set out in Committee, there are quite a few questions to be asked about the institute’s power to issue technical education certificates. We understand that this will not be done by the institute but be delegated to the Skills Funding Agency. Either way, public time and money will be used to duplicate a function which is already well covered under existing systems.

This proposal was not set out in the skills plan. It potentially removes any continuing link between the awarding body and the qualification that it has produced. We are here attempting to clarify the relationship between the issuing of the proposed certificates and the qualification certificates issued by awarding organisations. Are the Government proposing to issue these “technical education certificates” alongside the awarding organisation’s certificate?

We heard earlier from the Minister that employers would pay for the certificate. It would be helpful to hear more about who makes the application. Does it come from the employer, from the training provider or from the awarding body? Is it automatically triggered by attainment of a qualification?

I do not think that we have had an assessment of the resources required by the institute, or the SFA, to authenticate, print and send out the 3 million apprenticeship certificates to meet the government target. Will the institute require the addresses of all the candidates or will they be sent to the employer or training provider to distribute?

There is a very simple solution. Government issuing of certificates is not common procedure at qualification level in any other area of the education and training system and would appear to bestow unnecessary cost, duplication and complexity on to whichever body is tasked with carrying it out. Would it not be simpler if the certificate issued by the awarding organisation also carried the logo of the institute or of the Department for Education? This has been common practice in the past, including with national vocational qualifications, and would have the benefit of adding government backing and status to a certificate already being validated, processed and issued.

I assure your Lordships that awarding bodies can produce some immensely impressive certificates to meet immensely impressive achievements. I hope that the amendment will be seen as positive and helpful. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for tabling these amendments. A fundamental reason for introducing the technical education reforms is to tackle the weakness in the current 16 to 19 education system caused by fragmentation and variation in the quality and value of the qualification certificates currently provided by many individual awarding organisations.

To address this, it is important that the technical education certificates are issued consistently by one entity under consistent branding so that they are recognised and understood by employers regardless of the qualification or where it was undertaken. The Bill makes provision for the Secretary of State to issue a technical education certificate to any person who has completed a technical education qualification and any other steps determined under new Section A2DB.

Those completing either an apprenticeship or a technical education course will receive a nationally awarded certificate from the Secretary of State. This will confirm that they obtained as many of the key skills and behaviours as the institute deems appropriate for a particular occupation. The technical education certificate will also recognise the other essential elements such as attainment in English and maths, completion of work placements and other route-specific qualifications. The certificate will demonstrate to employers that individuals obtained the knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary to undertake their chosen occupation. It will provide clarity for employers and support the portability and progression value of the qualifications.

As currently drafted, these amendments will allow the Secretary of State to use the DfE logo and standard wording on technical education certificates—which of course she may already do. It is also right that only the certificate should bear the department’s logo and standard wording. This will also ensure that certificates for technical education align as closely as possible with certificates for apprenticeships. However, this will not affect any arrangements that the institute entered into with an organisational consortium that is approved to deliver a technical education qualification. These arrangements are likely to include the use of their own logo or branding on any certificate that they issue in respect of that qualification.

We expect costs to be incurred in issuing the certificates. It is therefore right that the Secretary of State should be able to determine whether to charge for the first technical education certificate and a copy of it, and if so how much. This is consistent with the procedure already followed for charging for the issuing of apprenticeship certificates or supplying copies of them. Our reforms will ensure we operate a system for the future, providing a national offer that is recognised and understood by employers regardless of the qualification or where it is undertaken.

I hope that clarifies the situation for the noble Baroness. She made a point about how the institute will be aware of the addresses of recipients. That information will come via the awarding organisation to the institute. Students must apply to the Secretary of State for their certificate. If I have not answered all the points that the noble Baroness is concerned about, I am happy to discuss this with her further and to provide more information. In that spirit, I hope she will feel reassured to withdraw her amendment.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I am slightly bemused because employers seem to understand very well the previous certificates that went out, with NVQ and awarding-body logos. There was not a particular confusion about the standards there. As I say, given that the awarding organisations already issue certificates, it would seem a much neater operation if it was combined into one certificate instead of having the confusion of two. I thank the noble Lord for his offer to have further discussion on this and meanwhile beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Amendment 35 not moved.

Schedule 2: Education administration: transfer schemes

Amendment 36 not moved.

House adjourned at 9.32 pm.