Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant document: 16th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
My Lords, 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.
12: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“International students and staff
(1) The Secretary of State has a duty to encourage international students to attend further education providers covered by this Act.(2) The Secretary of State shall ensure that no student who has received an offer to study at such a further education provider shall be treated for public policy purposes as a long term migrant to the UK, for the duration of their studies at such an establishment.(3) Persons, who are not British citizens, who receive an offer to study as a student or who receive an offer of employment as a member of academic staff at a further education provider, shall not, in respect of that course of study, or that employment, be subject to more restrictive immigration controls or conditions than were in force for a person in their position on the day on which this Act was passed.”
My Lords, it is fair to say that the question of international students is, to put it mildly, a somewhat thorny one. I do not want to draw parallels too closely with the higher education sector, but there is no reason why the further education sector should not seek to attract more students, and indeed staff, from overseas. The debates that have taken place on the Higher Education and Research Bill suggest that the Government do not fully appreciate the value to many institutions of the contributions made by students from abroad, and I am not just talking in financial terms. The financial contribution is of course important to the further education sector, but no less so is the general contribution made by the presence of students from other countries. Despite the result of the referendum, we do not—and, I would say, must not ever allow ourselves to—live in a world of our own, unwilling to acknowledge or embrace the benefits that flow from interacting with those from other countries and cultures.
There is not a consistency of view regarding the value of those benefits. The Foreign Secretary is a man with whom, I must say, I rarely see eye to eye, but I was at one with him when he said in a recent speech that overseas students should be excluded from the immigration statistics. That is certainly the position of the Labour Party, and I know that it is shared by many others across your Lordships’ House and much further afield. Of course, Mr Johnson was not espousing government policy and he was overruled by 10 Downing Street, but on this occasion certainly he was right. It is common sense to treat international students as a benefit to, and not a burden on, this country.
Amendment 12 would place the onus on the Secretary of State to encourage international students. She could of course delegate that role, and might usefully do so, to the institute. Some further education colleges already reach out and have a presence in other countries—some more successfully than others, it must be said—so this is an area in which there is surely room for expansion. It should be made widely known, particularly when government Ministers are abroad, that applications to further education colleges by young people or by those who want to teach in FE colleges would be welcomed. Students may use this provision as a means to gain the qualifications needed to enter higher education, or teaching staff may use it to broaden their expertise, but whatever the reason, as we close the doors to the European Union, we should be opening them wide to many other countries. This amendment offers a means of doing so by highlighting what further education providers have to offer internationally, and I hope that the Minister will accept it in that light.
My Lords, I support this amendment and entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Watson, on the importance of signalling to international students and staff that they are welcome. Not only are they welcome, they are invaluable in providing teaching skills that we are unable to provide from UK citizens and in bolstering student places in both quality and quantity.
Through this Bill, we would hope to send out positive messages to those from other countries that we are open for business, that we shall honour any commitments to staff or students and that we shall minimise the immigration conditions for all bona fide students and staff who wish to come to our further education colleges or providers. These measures are particularly important now in respect of EU nationals, who play such a significant part in the success of our further and higher education institutions and who are feeling particularly beleaguered and undervalued at the moment, but they are important too for the much wider international community. I hope that the Minister is able to accept this amendment.
My Lords, I shall speak briefly in support of this amendment. I want to remind your Lordships and the Minister that FE colleges come in a number of different guises and there are some specialist FE colleges for which this is particularly important. I am particularly a fan of the Ada Lovelace College—the newest college, I think, to be given FE status by the department—which is the National College for Digital Skills, based in Haringey. We have an acute shortage of digital skills throughout this country, including here in London, and there is a massive demand for them. If we can allow more international students to come and take advantage of studying at that college, we would do our economy and some of those young people an enormous service. I urge the Minister to listen carefully, as is his wont, and to be sympathetic to this amendment.
My Lords, the Committee will be aware that this issue is already being considered as part of the Higher Education and Research Bill. As a Government, we will want to consider our position across the board, and I can assure noble Lords that we are doing this. This topic is best discussed in the context of the Higher Education and Research Bill, where there will be ample opportunity to consider the issue during the forthcoming Report stage. However, I will briefly address the more specific points of the amendment.
While there are some further education colleges that have centres of expertise or offer higher level study that attract a significant number of international students, such as the one referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, as a whole the number of international students in FE is much smaller than for the higher education sector. Courses are on average shorter, and delivery is more locally focused and reflects local economic priorities. Where colleges take significant numbers of international students, the issues will parallel those that have been considered through proposed amendments to the Higher Education and Research Bill.
I do not propose to repeat the arguments that my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie made during that debate. I do wish to emphasise that we have and will continue to set no limit on the number of genuine international students who can come here. The controls in place are there to prevent abuse of the system and ensure that the reputation of the UK educational sector continues to be internationally renowned. The immigration statistics are controlled independently by the Office for National Statistics. It is not up to the Government to create the statistical definitions. Our responsibility is to set the policy, which in this case places no limit on numbers of students.
As I have said, there will be an opportunity to debate these issues further as part of the Higher Education and Research Bill, which is the more appropriate forum. In those circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
I thank the two noble Lords who contributed to the debate and the Minister for his response. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, about the positive message that this sends. That is what I was trying to get across in moving this amendment.
Equally, I accept the Minister’s use of the term “abuse of the system”. No one would be tolerant of that at all. There were such situations in the past in the case particularly of language schools. Some of them had been—to use about the kindest adjective that could be applied to them—“bogus”. Very largely, these have been driven out of the system. I would not say that there is no abuse, but there is not a great deal. Opening up the further education sector does not necessarily increase the likelihood of such abuse.
I take the Minister’s point that the Higher Education and Research Bill is the place to deal with that. Fortunately for him, he will not have to do that, but I will be returning to these subjects next week. I wanted to draw attention to the fact that, hopefully, the further education sector has the opportunity to broaden its scope a bit. Whereas local provision is what it is mainly about, there is scope to expand that and I hope that the sector will take the opportunity to do so and will not be prevented from doing so through the inability to bring students in from abroad.
With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment 12 withdrawn.
12A: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Apprentices as qualifying young persons for the purposes of child benefit
(1) The Child Benefit (General) Regulations 2006 are amended as follows.(2) In Regulation 3 (education and training condition)—(a) after paragraph (2)(a) insert—“(aa) is undertaking a statutory apprenticeship as defined under section A11 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (only statutory apprenticeships to be described as apprenticeships);”;(b) in paragraph (4) after “(2)(a)” insert “, (2)(aa),”.”
My Lords, this proposed new clause may not at first sight seem as if it is appropriate for this Bill or for the scope of the Department for Education. I would concede the second point, but not the first, and I hope that I can demonstrate that that is not a contradiction in terms. The new clause would enable families eligible for child benefit to receive that benefit for children aged under 20 who are undertaking apprenticeships.
The landscape of apprenticeships is changing, and from April the introduction of the levy will mean a greater focus on giving young people key skills and up-skilling current employees. Apprenticeships are receiving greater support from government than for generations, and the numbers of young people starting them are increasing exponentially. So it felt odd to read in a survey that more than 90% of 18 to 24 year- olds were not interested in starting an apprenticeship. It seems that apprenticeships still have a significant image problem. The survey results showed that not just young people but two-thirds of people aged over 55 thought that going to university would always be a much better career option. The biggest reason for this was said to be poor careers advice being given at school.
That is not the only reason why young people may be discouraged. In some cases, their parents may actually prevent them taking up apprenticeships because of the economic consequences. In one sense at least, apprentices are treated as second-class citizens, with those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds being denied thousands of pounds of financial support that is available for college and university students, according to a survey carried out by the National Union of Students. The research, which that body carried out in conjunction with the Times Educational Supplement, revealed that apprentices are also excluded from a number of means of support available to their counterparts in further education institutions.
In April, the apprentice national minimum wage will increase by a whopping 10%—I am sorry, I wish it were by that, but it is by 10p to £3.50 an hour. A college student with one child could be eligible for more than £10,000 a year in financial support and their families could receive thousands more. Apprentices, including those on the minimum wage earning as little as £7,000 a year, are not entitled to any of this. As well as being ineligible for Care to Learn childcare grants—again, unlike further education students— some apprentices also miss out on travel discounts, council tax exemptions and student bank account packages.
The reason is that apprenticeships are not classed as approved education or training by the Department for Work and Pensions. This means that, in the case of apprentices who live with their parents, their families could lose out by more than £1,000 a year in child benefit. Families receiving universal credit could lose more than £3,200 a year. Why should families suffer as we seek to train the young people desperately needed to fill the skill gaps in the economy? University students receive assistance from a range of sources, from accessing finance to discounted rates on council tax. Apprentices currently receive none of these benefits. The system must be changed so that both are treated equally and there is genuine parity of esteem between students and apprentices.
A large number of examples of apprentices being unable either to take up their apprenticeship or to complete it have been reported by further education colleges to the Association of Colleges. I would like to highlight one case involving a young man aged 16 at the time, who was enrolled in a full-time carpentry and joinery programme at New College Durham. He came from a disadvantaged area within County Durham, where he lived with his mother, a single parent, and his half-sister. From the outset of the programme, he made it clear that he was very keen to transfer to an apprenticeship and enquired weekly at the apprenticeship office about possible vacancies. Within a matter of weeks, he was offered a work trial with one of the employers with whom the college worked. The employer told the college that he was pleased with the commitment and work ethic demonstrated by the young man and offered him an apprenticeship, which was enthusiastically accepted. Soon after starting it, though, the college received a phone call from the employer saying that he would not continue to employ the young man, as his mother had been in contact to say that she would lose her housing benefit due to her son being classified as employed. Despite his disappointment, the young man continued on the full-time programme and completed his level 1 diploma but, understandably, the employer was disgruntled due to the wasted time and effort and stipulated that he would not again interview a potential apprentice from a welfare-dependent background. That really is a sad story.
We need to bear in mind such situations when we think about the extension of apprenticeships. Barriers surely should not be put in the way of young people who genuinely want to start an apprenticeship and see it through, better themselves and help the economy in broader terms. As the National Society of Apprentices said in its submission to the Public Bill Committee in another place, “It seems inconsistent—to put it mildly—
“that apprentices are continually excluded from definitions of ‘approved’ learners, when apprenticeships are increasingly assuming their place in the government’s holistic view of education and skills (which this Bill itself represents through unifying apprenticeships with technical education)”.
To repeat, there should be genuine parity between all educational and apprenticeship routes.
The risk of losing out financially can and does deter some of the most disadvantaged young people from becoming apprentices. The Government need to act to close this loophole and, although I accept that it is not within the Minister’s gift to do so, I suggest that he might at least signify his understanding of the position in which some apprentices find themselves—many of them from the kind of backgrounds where we are trying to attract more apprentices than is currently the case. That would help to reach the Government’s target of 3 million apprentices by 2020 and to ensure that every young person attracted to starting an apprenticeship was not prevented from doing so for financial reasons. I beg to move.
My Lords, I know personally several young people who will probably have to pursue a course much less suited to them than an apprenticeship because their welfare-dependent families will otherwise lose too much in benefit. That seems wrong. The Bill is surely not entirely about getting us a skilled workforce; it also has a social purpose—rescuing children from unsuitable parts of the education system, places where they will never learn what they need, when they really need to be in a decent apprenticeship. Finance must not stand in the way, but stand in the way it will—nobody wants their mother to lose housing benefit—unless we can find a way around this issue, which I suggest is by treating people in apprenticeships as if they were in further education.
My Lords, I wholly support what the noble Lord, Lord Watson, said, while equally recognising that benefits are not directly a matter for the Department for Education.
There are anomalies in the way in which we treat young people. For those in approved education or approved training, child benefit continues until the child 20 years-old. Reading the list of what counts as that, it seems even more incongruous that apprenticeships are not included. For instance, it includes A-levels, Scottish Highers, NVQs up to level 3—which, of course, can be closely linked to apprenticeships—a place on the access to apprenticeships scheme, foundation apprenticeships for traineeships in Wales, the Employability Fund programmes and places on Training for Success. There is a whole raft of education and training courses on which young people continue to get their benefits, but they lose them for apprenticeships.
We know that only 10% of apprenticeships are taken up by young people on free school meals, which is surely an indicator that that is a disincentive, particularly for families, because they will lose out on additional benefits when a child goes into an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship salary on minimum wage may be barely over £3 an hour, so the loss of child benefit and tax credits may be a significant penalty for that family to bear.
The National Union of Students said:
“If apprenticeships are going to be the silver bullet to create a high-skilled economy for the future, the government has to go further than rhetoric and genuinely support apprentices financially to succeed”.
We urge the Minister, in the interests of joined-up government, to talk to his colleagues in the benefits department to see whether something can be done to ensure that disadvantaged young people do not feel that this is a major disincentive to taking up apprenticeships.
My Lords, I spoke on this issue at Second Reading, so I just reiterate what my colleagues have said. It seems strange that benefits are available to young people until the age of 18, so we can have a university student who has a couple of lectures and a couple of tutorials a week, if they are lucky, who gets the benefit, and a young person doing an apprenticeship, where 20% of the time should be for training, who loses that money. As we heard from my noble friend Lady Garden, only 10%—let us underline that—of apprentices come from those entitled to free school meals. If we really believe in social mobility, we should be asking why it is only 10% and whether finance is a handicap.
The National Society of Apprentices said in its written evidence:
“It seems incongruous to us that structural barriers exist to disincentivise the most disadvantaged from taking up an apprenticeship”.
We need to take those comments on board. I realise this is slightly beyond the scope of the Bill, but it would be helpful if, in his reply, the Minister could suggest that we meet his colleagues outside the Committee and talk about this issue because if there is a resolution, it would really help those people in society whom we must support.
My Lords, I support all the points that have been made. I shall speak on one narrow issue. I was surprised to learn that an apprenticeship is not an approved form of learning. I assume that, when the Institute for Apprenticeships recognises these apprenticeships, they will automatically be an approved form of learning along with all the others. I hope that when the Minister replies, he will cover whether an apprenticeship is an approved form of learning and whether, when the Institute for Apprenticeships recognises the range of apprenticeships, they will come into that category.
My Lords, I support the amendment. It would be very useful if the Minister were prepared to meet separately with my colleagues to see whether a solution could be found. I want to reinforce a point about the challenge of transport costs for apprentices. They can be extremely irksome and difficult for them. The proportion of a very small income going on getting to and from work can be way beyond anything that we, as adults, have experienced.
I, too, support the amendment. Like other noble Lords, I recognise that this is not something that is easily in the Minister’s gift, but it is a major issue and has been for some time.
Apprentices are employees and they should be employees, so they are different from full-time students, but it is also important to recognise that they are not skilled workers, which is why they are apprentices. That is why it is also important that there is an apprenticeship wage, but that apprenticeship wage is very low. This is a major issue and has been a major issue for a while, but, curiously enough, the improvement in the quality of vocational training and the drive to improve vocational training and to make sure that young people go into apprenticeships rather than into some form of quasi, not-real apprenticeship has made the problem worse, because more parents are now faced with the situation in which they tell their children, “I can’t afford for you to take the apprenticeship”.
This is a major issue, and it cannot be beyond our capacity to do something about it. I add my voice to those urging the Minister to see what can be done to prevent young people from the most deprived families feeling that there is a serious barrier to them taking up an apprenticeship.
My Lords, I shall make one additional point in support of the amendment. I was one of the founding members of the Low Pay Commission. When it was first established, its job was to create the infrastructure around not just the minimum wage but the wage for apprentices and how that would play out in the world of employment. It was 19 years ago that we first grappled with these issues, so the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, is quite right that this has been a problem for quite some time. It is a structural issue.
I know that the Minister is very good at leaping over barriers to try to solve problems. I know it is not easy, but he can see the broader pictures and can try to bang heads together on an issue which will not go away unless something positive is done.
I fully endorse what my noble friend Lord Blunkett said. The Low Pay Commission had to agree to a very low wage not only to get a unanimous report but because we were pioneering and wanted to be absolutely sure that we were not going to damage the economy. When we look at that low wage, as it still is, and the transport implications, to be honest it is a miracle that anybody whose family receives benefits goes in for an apprenticeship at all. Far from being the group that needs the least motivation—we are trying to tackle the fact that the education system is failing that group at the moment—these people require the most motivation to keep going.
This is a plea for the Minister to do his Superman act—he is about to take his jacket off, so I am feeling much more optimistic—and try to find ways of breaking down barriers and breaking through this structural anomaly, which we all want to do.
My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint, but Superman is not responding to this amendment, and I am certainly no Superwoman.
We welcome the sentiment behind Amendment 12A tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Hunt, that young people should not feel financially disadvantaged by taking up an apprenticeship. However, I hope I will be able to persuade noble Lords who have taken part in this debate that sufficient safeguards are in place to support this aim. In saying that, the amendment focuses on child benefit rather than the broader issue of all other benefits, which are not part of this Bill. Therefore, it is very difficult to widen my response in that regard, but let us see what we can do.
One of the core principles of an apprenticeship is that it is a genuine job and is treated accordingly in the benefits system. A young person on an apprenticeship will receive at least the national minimum wage, which is now £3.40 per hour for apprentices following a 3% increase in October 2016. Of course, these figures do not remain static—indeed, I am moving a Motion on an SI tomorrow on upgrading the figures—and most employers pay more than the minimum. The 2016 apprenticeship pay survey estimates that the average gross hourly pay received by apprentices in England was £6.70 per hour for level 2 and 3 apprentices.
The purpose of child benefit is to support parents financially with the extra costs of raising a child—for example, with the cost of food, clothing and other necessities. If a young person is undertaking an apprenticeship, or is in training or education by virtue of a contract of employment, their parents are no longer eligible for child benefit for supporting that young person. However, parents can still receive child benefit for other children and qualifying young persons in their family.
An apprentice has to work only 6.1 hours—less than one full day’s work—on the minimum wage to earn the equivalent of the weekly child benefit amount for the eldest or only child, or four hours to earn the equivalent of the second and subsequent children’s amount. In that sense, there is more than a catch-up there. So I hope I have provided sufficient reassurance that the wages from an apprenticeship, even if paid at the apprenticeship minimum wage, will more than offset any household income reductions through the loss of child benefit.
Noble Lords talked also about the loss or reduction in housing benefit, credits and so on. As I said at the beginning, that is not within the scope of this Bill. Noble Lords have said they would like an opportunity to talk to my noble friend the Minister about this issue before Report. My noble friend is very happy to meet, but it is not within our gift to make a difference on this. The point has certainly been well put by noble Lords, but within the confines of this Bill it is very difficult to look beyond what we are already able to do for apprentices.
I hope that, on that basis, the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
Is there not a fairly simple way of bringing this within the scope of the Bill, as was suggested by my noble friend Lord Young? All you have to do is get the new Institute for Apprenticeships to design apprenticeships that count as further education, attract child benefit and do not interfere with benefits in the same way as a child in normal sixth-form education would? Is that not the short way home? I wonder what my noble friend Lord Young thinks.
I was going to ask the Minister to address that point. If the apprenticeship is approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships, is it an approved form of learning? The apprentices are in training for the most part. They are released at least one day a week. I would welcome some guidance on that.
The difficulty is that the institute cannot change the definition of an apprenticeship. However, my noble friend will meet with noble Lords who would like to discuss this issue further following Committee.
If the institute cannot change the definition of an apprenticeship, who can?
My Lords, the difficulty is that the definition of a job is a question for Parliament.
I thank the Minister for her response and all colleagues who have spoken in the debate. I particularly welcome the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and the noble Lord, Lord Storey. One of them mentioned social mobility, which is an important point. It is within the scope of the Government’s overall objective to increase social mobility; it is mentioned often enough. I do not see how it can be outwith the scope of the Bill, as the Minister said, because we are able to discuss it today.
There is no point in repeating a lot of the points that have been made, but I certainly take the issue about an approved form of learning, which my noble friend Lord Young mentioned; it needs to be clarified. Will the Minister write to noble Lords on that point?
The noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, perhaps did not fully hear my noble friend Lord Blunkett when he asked whether we could meet with the Minister separately to discuss the issue. It was not just with the Minister but with his opposite number in the Department for Work and Pensions as well to see what might be achieved on this. I accept the Minister said that more or less nothing could be achieved, but we are going to meet, so let us broaden the meeting so that we have somebody who has experience of those matters and we can go into them in greater detail.
My noble friend Lady Donaghy has a great deal of experience in these matters, as noble Lords will know. However, I am not sure that her metaphors stand close scrutiny of the very urbane Minister—leaping over barriers and banging heads together is not quite his modus operandi, and I will not go anywhere near the Superman reference. However, I think the Minister can at least open up channels for discussion on this. We would certainly need to have those discussions before Report.
At this stage, it is our intention to return to the matter because, at the end of the day, we want to increase the number of apprenticeships from all backgrounds. We need to increase the overall number, but many are being put off for reasons that will not be assuaged by the figures quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, and we have to find a way round this. With those comments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 12A withdrawn.
Schedule 1: The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
Amendments 13 and 14 not moved.
15: Schedule 1, page 21, line 7, at end insert—
“( ) After subsection (5) insert—“(5A) In the exercising of its functions, the Institute must cooperate with—(a) Ofqual,(b) Ofsted,(c) The Office for Students,(d) The Skills Funding Agency, andany other body identified by the Secretary of State as having an interest in the delivery or monitoring of apprenticeships.””
My Lords, at the heart of many of our debates so far there has been a desire to ensure that there is clear accountability for ensuring that at the end of the day we see the development of high-quality apprenticeships. Given the number of bodies involved and the complexity of the organisation and regulation of apprenticeships and technical education, I do not think there is any surprise that we see some ambiguity around this area. The question raised just now by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, about the definition of an apprenticeship and how to change it showed some of the complexities that we are struggling with.
The Minister very kindly sent us a chart showing where current responsibilities lie. In summary, they seem to be as follows. The Education Funding Agency funds provision for pre-19 students. The Skills Funding Agency funds provision for students over 19, plus apprenticeships, and operates the apprenticeship service. Ofqual regulates the qualification and awarding bodies, including certain apprenticeships. The Institute for Apprenticeships determines the scope of technical education, sets the criteria and awards licences for the delivery of technical education qualifications; it approves and reviews standards and ensures they are upheld through contractual arrangements. Then there is Ofsted, which inspects the quality of training for level 2 and 3 apprenticeships. The information from the Minister is that HEFCE’s role in relation to levels 4 and 5 is still to be determined.
On any reading, that is a pretty complex picture. Is any one of those organisations responsible, in the end, for high-quality apprenticeships? Which of those bodies does the Minister hold ultimately accountable? For instance, which would be called in by the Education Select Committee, or, as I suspect, would they all be because no one is actually going to take ultimate responsibility?
What about the actions of employers? We know that some apprenticeships fail because of a lack of commitment from employers. My noble friend Lady Cohen described this very eloquently on our first day in Committee. What enforcement powers can be taken against employers who, for instance, undermine the apprenticeship schemes which their employees are on, for one reason or another? Ultimately, if the institute is the nearest we have got to an oversight body, does it have enough clout to ensure that it can influence all the other agencies involved? If the answer to the question is Ministers, what mechanisms do they have to give strategic direction and oversight? My noble friend doubted whether the noble Lord liked to bang heads together. I assume he does like to, but can he and how is it going to be done?
The amendment is a modest but, I hope, useful contribution to this. I have borrowed the concept from health legislation, where we are used to having a number of national bodies—either quangos, quasi-independent or to a certain extent independent—which are under a statutory duty to co-operate with each other. It might be useful to have a similar concept in relation to apprenticeships and technical education, given the diffusion of responsibility among many different organisations. The amendment is modest, but behind it lies the plea that, in the end, there is some organisation that can clearly be held to account for the quality of apprenticeships in future. At the moment, I have some doubts as to whether we can actually do that. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have a couple of questions to add to those of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. It is important that a single organisation should keep a list of approved qualifications. At present, it is unclear whether this is going to be IFATE or Ofqual. I hope the Committee can have an answer to that. Secondly, I am unclear how far IFATE’s remit goes into the world of commercial qualifications: the sort of things where a commercial training provider will persuade an industry that this is a particular bit of training they should have for their staff; it has some sort of qualification name attached to it but is completely outside the government-funded system. Will IFATE have any influence in this area, or is it entirely outside its remit?
My Lords, I will focus on just one area because, as I understand it, the various bodies set out in the amendment each have a different role. When we debated this on the first day in Committee, the Minister told us that the body that was going to look at the quality of apprenticeships was Ofsted and that it was going to work on a risk-based approach. I told him that I understood the approach but would welcome some clarification of how it is going to apply. He said that he would get back to us on that. As far as I am concerned, there are two things here. I support the thrust of the amendment, in that we need to be clear about the roles and responsibilities, but my overall concern is ensuring that we deliver quality apprenticeships so that the brand has a good reputation among teachers, potential apprentices and parents. If the Minister has replied to this point, I have not yet seen it. Is he in a position to tell us how this risk-based approach will apply to apprenticeships?
Given that we are looking to drive up the number of SMEs involved, the risk will not be with the larger organisations with well-established reputations, such as Rolls-Royce, BT, British Aerospace and a whole host of others that have been mentioned before. We know that people who go into those organisations will get a quality apprenticeship. That is not the problem. The problem will be in small and medium-sized concerns. Given that the success of this enterprise in driving up significantly the number of apprenticeships will depend on ensuring that we embrace more of those organisations in providing apprenticeships, a lot more than currently do, this is not an insignificant issue.
My Lords, this is a very important amendment. The Government have set an ambitious target of 3 million apprentices, and it is good to have a target to work towards. However, as we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Young, those have to be quality apprenticeships. In a sense, I would rather have 2.5 million apprentices, knowing that there was real quality in the education and training.
I went to look at the apprenticeship scheme run by the BBC. I was struck by the diversity of the apprentices and the quality of the training and education component of the scheme. Young people deserve quality education and training. It is not enough to say, “Here are some books—go and sit in that corner. Here is a day off—go and learn that”. Somebody has to direct the training and education. If a scheme is to work, we need to make sure that somebody is responsible for that quality.
I hope the Minister will not mind me saying that, when we met before the Bill, I raised this question with him. He said then that Ofsted would be “sampling” some of the providers. To me, that is not good enough. We have to be absolutely sure that every apprentice gets only the best.
I support the amendment. I feel that, in all this, there is tension between what the Bill would like to see and what the Bill will be able to achieve. I keep looking for measures of enforcement, and not just because I am a native head girl or predisposed to police-type solutions. The history of apprenticeships in this country shows that they have mostly failed because of the employers. Indeed, why would it not be because of the employers? They are in charge; they are the ones with the power.
I believe that the role of the state must be to intervene where there is complete inequality between two parties. Between employer and apprentice, there can be little doubt where the power lies. I keep nagging on to see whether we can find out who has the right to complain, how to complain and what is decreed by the state to make sure that employers stick to the terms. It is all very well having perfectly designed apprenticeships, but if people do not stick to the terms, that is not a lot of use.
These sorts of things lie behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. This side of the Committee is trying very hard to persuade the Government to adopt these amendments, because we are all desperately keen that this apprenticeship system should work. We are very keen to get to 3 million apprenticeships, if we can. We do not think we are taking seriously enough the role of enforcement, and which organisations are doing it.
I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Lord Hunt, for this amendment. I could not help but notice that the moment the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, made the very inappropriate comparison with Superman that I appeared, according to the annunciator anyway, to be in two places at once, as was pointed out to me by the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie. I am not sure that even Superman managed that, but at least I am back now.
It is essential that all the public organisations that have a role in the delivery of apprenticeships and technical education, as elucidated by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, work together to ensure a coherent system which delivers a high-quality result.
The noble Lord asked the perfectly fair question, “Who is in charge?”. The Government will work to ensure that the system works and will keep this under review via the accountability statement, which we will share with noble Lords.
The noble Lord asked what the Minister’s role in this was. I guess, if the system does not work, Ministers will intervene to change the system, but individual bodies are responsible for their individual part of the system. The strategic guidance document will ask the institute to carry out a leadership role—a co-ordination role—across the system.
In response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on quality versus quantity, I repeat a point I made on the first day of Committee that our target is 3 million. We believe it is a realistic target, but quality must come first.
Paragraph 10(1)(b) of Schedule A1 to the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, which will be inserted into that Act by the Enterprise Act 2016, will allow the Institute for Apprenticeships to co-operate with any organisation that it deems necessary for it to carry out its specific functions. It is therefore unnecessary to include the requirement in the Bill.
The Bill includes a data-sharing provision to allow the named organisations freely to share data and information between them, to ensure that they can all deliver their functions properly. This, in addition to the legislation referred to above, is all that is needed in primary legislation to allow those bodies to work together.
In addition, the amendment would require the institute to co-operate with the named organisations but, without a similar requirement on them in return, the effect would be unbalanced. However, that is not my main point.
It is in the interests of all of the organisations named in this amendment to work well together to enable them to fulfil their statutory duties. Past experience demonstrates such a willingness. As the legislation will permit this, we see no need for a further requirement. In preparation for the launch of the institute in April this year, these organisations and others are working together to agree an accountability statement which sets out each of their separate roles and responsibilities in relation to apprenticeships. There is a very positive working relationship between them and a palpable desire to ensure the institute is a real success.
In answer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, about how Ofsted will carry out its risk assessment approach, I am meeting Ofsted later this week and will discuss this with it in some detail and write to the noble Lord and copy my letter to other interested Peers. I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured enough by what I have said to withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. We always thought that he had super powers and are glad to have confirmation of it. This debate has been helpful.
The Minister has promised an accountability statement and it would be helpful to have that before Report. He said that Ministers will intervene and, importantly, that the institute will have a leadership and co-ordinating role. One question is whether it would be helpful to have that backed up by some legislative provision to reinforce it, which is perhaps something that we can come back to.
On the question of the 3 million and quality, I hear what the Minister says. I take his point that 3 million is deliverable but that quality comes first. The question I would like to ask him is whether the Treasury and No. 10 Downing Street share that view. My experience is that, when push comes to shove, the key indicator on which his department will be held accountable will be the 3 million, rather than the quality indicator. Essentially, we are trying to give some cover to the Government to say that at the bottom line quality is more important than the numbers.
I take the point about the drafting of the amendment —that the duty should have been reciprocal—and we can probably come back to it, but this has been a very helpful short debate. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 15 withdrawn.
16: Schedule 1, page 21, line 13, at end insert—
“( ) After subsection (6), insert—“(6A) In performing its functions, the Institute must make provision to ensure that those undertaking education, training or apprenticeships as specified within subsection (6) have representation within its structures, which may include but shall not be limited to establishing—(a) a panel of persons undertaking approved English apprenticeships to inform and advise the Board of the Institute; and(b) a panel of persons undertaking study towards approved technical education qualifications to inform and advise the Board of the Institute.””
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 16 and 18, which deal with the issue of representation within the structures of the institute.
Apprentices should be able to influence the way in which their training is developed and delivered. From the front line, they know what has been and is being helpful to and successful for them and, equally importantly, what is not. I hope that the Minister, who has been clear in his support of apprenticeships and apprentices, appreciates that point. The National Society of Apprentices has said:
“At the moment, apprentices have no real opportunities to improve their education. Although most students going through the ‘traditional’ education system at college or university are able to give feedback through their class representative system, similar structures do not exist for apprentices”.
I might add that students can also give feedback through the National Student Survey.
The panels that we know are to be established for apprentices and technical education students were the subject of considerable debate in another place, in the Public Bill Committee. The Minister of State for Skills, Mr Halfon, was clear that he was in favour of them. He gave assurances related to them and the assurances were taken on board. As things stand, they will not be enshrined in the legislation.
We believe that to ensure that a future Secretary of State or Government less welcoming to the needs of those groups of young people cannot sweep away their right to a channel of communication, which is what it is, rather than representation, they are entitled to representation in some form. The rationale behind this amendment, at its most basic, is that it is better to have and not need than to need and not have. The concerns of those directly involved should have a means of being conveyed. At the moment, other than those panels—and we do not know how and when they will be established—nothing else is on offer.
Amendment 18 concerns the need to have a wide range of types of employer involved in setting the standards for the 15 occupation routes. The fear is that, because only employers with a wage bill in excess of £3 million will pay the apprenticeship levy, they will be the most prominent employers involved. Certainly, they will be spread across the sectors and the 15 occupations. That is self-evident. The question is what types of employer—not just the largest—there will be.
What about small and medium-size enterprises? They are very prominent in providing apprenticeships. Many of them feel that they have been marginalised in the current drive towards expansion. Whether that is the case, that is how many view recent developments. Whether the Government achieve their target of 3 million apprenticeship starts will ultimately depend on how many SMEs contribute to meeting that target. They are a vital part of the economy and should not be undervalued by government. If their needs are not factored in and they feel their voice is not being heard in the corridors of power, particularly when standards are being prepared, we can legitimately ask how they can be expected to play their part in this brave new world with enthusiasm. We might also say that of our other major employers—local authorities, for instance. They will be playing a significant role, I hope, in this, and they have to be borne in mind. It is about widening the base of employers involved in setting standards.
Referring to the Government’s proposals for reform of the sector, in giving evidence to the Public Bill Committee, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers stated:
“Reform proposals may not currently be giving sufficient weight to the input of stakeholders and the concerns of and about learners, which must be rectified by the inclusion of stakeholder representatives on the Board of the Institute”.
I am never quite comfortable with the word “stakeholder”, but I get the point that the association is trying to make.
I therefore supported in principle the amendment similar to this amendment that was submitted by the Opposition in another place. The arguments made then stand now, because although we are not advocating a place on the board of the institute—we would, if we thought it was achievable—we are seeking that a duty be placed on the institute to allow representation within its structures for those directly involved in delivering apprenticeships and technical education. If the institute’s foundations would be shaken by such representation, the foundations are by no means sufficiently robust. I beg to move.
This is an important amendment. I very much enjoyed the exchange at Oral Questions today in which the noble Lord, Lord Prior, responded for the Government on the importance of employee engagement. I felt he really understands how important it is in the private sector and, in some ways most surprisingly, in the public sector, particularly from his comments about junior doctors. In that spirit, obviously I hope that apprentices—who, as we have discussed this afternoon, are employees—will enjoy employee engagement with their employers, even though they are apprentices. It is equally important that the institute feels that it is accountable to learners and that the accountability of the institute is not more upwards to the Government than it is to employers and learners.
As I said last week in this Committee, I have general concerns that the dynamic, rapidly changing nature of the labour market presents ongoing challenges to the institute. I was set a challenge by my noble friend Lord Hunt to come up with a solution to some of that before Report. I have been mulling on that and may have at least the beginnings of a solution, but I shall wait to surprise the Minister with it at some future date. The point remains that, if the institute does not have within its structure a way of listening acutely to the learner experience, of assessing the relevance of the qualification in the labour market for learners not only while they are going through their apprenticeship but in the months immediately after they have completed it, and of being accountable to employers of all sizes, as my noble friend pointed out, I worry that our efforts in this Committee to try to help and advise the Government in making the institute a success will be in vain because it will too quickly become out of touch and out of date.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 36A, which is in my name and has been placed in this group. It is also about accountability, but a rather broader form of accountability which links the Government, who are encouraging young people and adults to enter training, and the changing environment, which means that many of them are put at risk in a way that was never the case before.
The amendment relates to Clause 13 and asks that any,
“training provider offering publicly funded apprenticeship training or offering publicly funded education training for students aged 18 or over”,
should be included in the requirements of that clause—in fact, what I would like to see is that extended through the whole chapter.
I apologise for telling people in this Room something that they probably know very well already, but which many people in the country do not know. A very large number, and proportion, of young people and adults in training or some form of technical or vocational education are not in further education colleges or universities but are with small or large training providers which are not in the public sector. Until now, this has been an extraordinarily ill-monitored part of the training sector and is almost unique in this country. For decades, Governments of different persuasions have encouraged the growth of a very wide range of providers.
We are finally getting some clear data on the scale of enrolment and the number of providers through the Centre for Vocational Education Research at the LSE. I am delighted that the Government are funding this; it is giving us really good data—on a number of things for the first time ever—but I declare an interest as chair of its advisory board. It confirms that this is a very large segment of the training and technical education sector, but even these researchers cannot track the flow of institutions as they come and go, change their names, are taken over, are reconstituted or, as happens all too often, fail. Many of them are very small affairs, but some are really quite big. There has always been a problem here, because many providers get overstretched and many start up then close down as they do or do not get contracts. We have added student loans to this mix and dramatically changed the nature of post-18 education and training across the country.
My amendment takes account of the resulting situation in which the Government encourage people to take loans at any eligible training provider, further education college or university. It is implicit that this is a good and safe thing to do, but at the moment the provider can, in many cases, walk away. I welcome the move to have an education administration regime for further education, but it is extremely important to recognise that a large number of people are now taking out loans who are not in further education colleges and who receive very little protection.
As an example, I will read from the most recent issue of FE Week, which does get its facts right although it sometimes adds some rhetoric.
“Another 100 learners appear to have been left with heavy student loans debt but no qualifications to show for it, after their training provider under investigation by the Skills Funding Agency went bust. … It comes … after the demise of John Frank Training”,
where people were left with student loans that were really sizeable—especially in relation to the incomes many of them were earning—but no recourse and no obvious regime to help them.
We have to recognise that a combination of this unique system in the United Kingdom, particularly in England, with the advent of student loans has changed the nature of the training environment dramatically. We need to make sure that government accountability catches up with it. This is important, morally, at any point but especially so in the context of this Government’s laudable desire to revive and improve technical education and reverse what has been happening over the last decades. On the one hand, we have had a rapid decline in the number of people doing any form of enhanced but non-degree technical qualification and, on the other, clear evidence of shortages in those skills.
When I raised in the House, in the context of the Higher Education and Research Bill, the absence of a protection regime for higher education students comparable to that now offered to further education students, I was told by the Minister that it was not necessary for higher education students, as they were not local in the way that further education students were. He said that they did not need this level of protection. I did not and do not accept that argument, but you certainly cannot advance it with respect to learners who are with training providers. They tend to be adults—often, low-income adults—who are now being asked to take out sizeable loans. These are a genuine burden for which they may well go on being liable for a long time. I really would like the Minister to take a serious look at whether it is not possible to extend this regime, perhaps in a slightly different form, to the many thousands of people who have loans and are with training providers, and where a continuation of this flux, collapse or reforming movement among these small organisations leaves them in an even worse situation than in the past.
My Lords, I support the principle of Amendment 16. It is right and important that the institute should have regular input from those actually undertaking apprenticeships and technical education. That will be essential if they are to have a state of awareness about what is actually happening.
I also support the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, in relation to training providers. Whether or not they are involved with student loans, they will still be involved in providing apprenticeships and, allegedly, in ensuring that those young people whom they recommend to employers are in a state of preparedness to undertake those apprenticeships.
My recent experience of one provider, which I will not name, leaves me with a great deal of doubt because the not-so-young person concerned—I think this one may have been 22 years old—arrived with little or no understanding of what was required of her when undertaking an interview. She arrived without us being supplied with any CV. We decided to stick with this organisation to see whether it had improved the next time we used it, after it promised us that that was an oversight—and the next time it still did not provide a CV until, on the morning of the interview with the next potential apprentice, it emailed one to us.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, is quite right to bring it to our attention that a significant amount of government money goes into these organisations and they ought to come under scrutiny. I was assuming that Ofsted has some sort of role in scrutinising training providers, but it was probably an unwarranted assumption on my part. When the Minister replies, it would be welcome if he covered this point.
I too support the amendment, although I think I may have got out of my depth with training providers. I should remind the Committee that I am involved with the BPP group and that we not only have a university but are training a lot of 16 to 19 year-olds. However, we are not providing all the training. If an employer comes to us and says, “Will you train our apprentices?”, then we do that. That is not the same as training apprentices to be interviewed; they have already been interviewed and are the employer’s pigeon. Indeed, I had barely heard of these training providers who are leaving people in a mess.
However, this inclines me the more to support the amendment because there is very little in the Bill about who students should complain to. Hopelessly, I asked my son, who lives in Germany and is a veteran of German apprenticeships, who German apprentices complain to. The question meant absolutely nothing to him because they do not do that. Apprenticeships work there because they have worked for 20 years, and I think you would be drummed out of the local CBI, or hung or something, if you abused your apprentice in any way. I am not thinking of physical abuse but of people being given a broom or a photocopying machine rather than proper training.
I do not know, and do not think that the Bill says, to whom the learner or student may complain if the employer is not doing its bit. I think they know to whom they can complain if the trainer is not doing its bit—they can complain to us, for a start—and we know that structure. However, we do not know the structure for what to do if an employer is looking after an apprentice very badly and not offering proper training. I do not think that this amendment totally resolves that. Input from students would be very useful but, again—and I feel as if I am banging on a bit—enforcement will matter in this area. Can the Minister tell me what that will be?
My Lords, I want to make a couple of points on these amendments. First, as I said at Second Reading, I very much welcome the desire and requirement to have learners themselves represented in the governance of the institute. I welcome also the fact that the Government have announced an apprentice panel for the institute, but I think it would be good if that was a statutory requirement in the Bill.
Secondly, it is important we ensure that the bodies creating the standards are employer-led but, at the same time, represent a cross-section of organisations. However, there is a further point to make on that. Yes, we should have SME representation, but that is easier said than done. Most SMEs find it hard to devote the time, resource and energy to being involved in these quite complicated standard development processes. I am very interested to hear the Government’s thinking on how the views of SMEs—which, after all, deliver more than half of all apprenticeships—can be represented in a way that is comparable to the others that will be represented.
I very much agree that independent training providers need to be subject to accountability and scrutiny, and that learners need to know who they can complain to. However, at the same time, I believe that independent training providers deliver a very substantial proportion of the training needed for apprenticeships, and we should be rather careful that we are not killing that golden-egg-laying goose. It is very important to have the right balance. Again as I said at Second Reading, I have a feeling that the role of independent training providers, including commercial training providers, is not very well reflected in the Bill as it stands. It is a key role and we should make sure we understand how it is going to be delivered in a way that meets suitable standards and scrutiny.
My Lords, I support the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf. FE Week seems to be getting quite a few mentions. I came across a piece on training providers by Peter Cobrin, who runs the Apprenticeships England Community Interest Company, which is important to highlight. He says that training providers feel,
“vulnerable, unrepresented, unsupported, unprotected, exploited and undervalued”.
Let us not forget that there are some very good training providers, just as in higher education there are some very good private providers and colleges. However, quite frankly, some need examining carefully. As the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, said, it is important to remember that many of the people who go to these private providers take out big loans, and if that private provider collapses or reforms, they are left. That is not good enough. The noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, said it is important that accountability catches up with them. I hope that, following her wise words, we might look more carefully at this area between now and Report.
My Lords, I support these amendments and the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf. Equally, I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and my noble friend Lord Storey say about getting the balance of this right. That is important.
I have one small thing to say on Amendment 18. I agree that it is almost impossible to get SMEs to participate meaningfully in these sorts of activities, however much you wish them to do so. The federation can sometimes be helpful in providing for somebody to speak, but individual SMEs very seldom have the time or interest to take part. In Amendment 18, proposed new paragraph (b) refers to, as well as employers,
“at least one person engaged in delivering relevant education linked to the standard being assessed”.
It is important that this group of people includes trainers and awarding bodies, who bring a dimension to these affairs. To have a broad range of people within this group would be particularly important.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Watson and Lord Hunt, for their two amendments relating to issues of representation for the Institute for Apprenticeships.
With regard to Amendment 16, the institute should obviously understand the views of those people undertaking this training to ensure that it is meeting their needs, because it is the organisation responsible for apprenticeships and technical education. Section ZA2 of the 2009 Act, inserted by the Enterprise Act 2016, already requires the institute to have regard to,
“the reasonable requirements of persons who may wish to undertake education and training within”,
the institute’s remit, and to other interested persons. The institute is also required to engage interested groups as part of the review of standards and assessment plans.
The institute has purposely been established as an independent organisation, with high-level responsibilities set out in legislation but with the freedom to decide how it delivers them. It is essential for the credibility of apprenticeships and the wider apprenticeship reform programme that the institute retains as much autonomy as possible. Government can provide the institute with advice and guidance about how it could carry out its functions. It has to have regard to this advice and must provide justification if it chooses not to follow it. The Government recently consulted on a draft of their guidance to the institute for 2017-18, which includes a request for the institute to establish an apprenticeship panel to advise the board. The shadow institute has already committed to doing this by the time that it is launched and good progress is being made. Members for the first apprenticeship panel have already been shortlisted and an initial meeting is planned for March.
On that point, can the Minister say how this was done? Were applications invited?
I will have to write to the noble Lord about that.
As well as advising the board, the first panel will decide how the panel will be run, including how future members will be recruited. The proposal is for the institute to take on responsibility for technical education from April 2018. I can confirm that it would be our intention to include a request in its guidance for 2018-19 for a panel to represent those undertaking technical education.
Amendment 18 would stipulate the make-up of the group of persons whom the institute could approve to develop a standard. In particular, it would require that the group includes a range of employers and at least one provider. I agree that it is essential that the standards that form the basis of reformed apprenticeships and new technical education qualifications are of high quality, and meet the needs of a wide range of employers and learners, but I am not convinced that this amendment is necessary. I have already explained that the institute needs to be independent from government to be able to undertake its functions with credibility. It will be well placed to make decisions about who can develop a new standard, based on a range of factors, and it is right that it should be given the flexibility to do so without the constraints that this amendment would impose.
However, in my remarks on the preceding amendment I referred to the strategic guidance providing a vehicle for government to advise the institute. The current draft of the guidance includes the recommendation on who should be able to develop standards and makes it clear that we will expect the institute to continue to ensure that standards are developed primarily by employers, but with input from others with the relevant knowledge and experience, such as professional bodies, other sector experts, providers and assessment organisations. If the institute decides not to follow the government guidance it must give reasons in its annual report, but it is crucial that, as an expert, independent organisation, it retains the ability to make decisions itself about delivery, taking into account all the relevant circumstances. We believe that our approach strikes the right balance. I hope that, on the basis of my explanation, the noble Lord will feel reassured enough to withdraw this amendment.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, for her Amendment 36A. I am sure it was prompted by concerns for publicly funded learners who may find themselves without a place to complete their course in the event that an independent provider shuts down. I share her concerns but just as with FE bodies, the likelihood of independent training providers becoming insolvent is low. The Skills Funding Agency has a robust entry process in place to ensure providers are capable of delivering a high-quality learning offer to loans learners. Once providers have met the entry criteria and are eligible to offer loans-funded provision to learners they are subject to a range of further measures and controls, including review of their financial health, audit, and assessment of their qualification achievement rates. Providers are also required to comply with robust funding and performance rules. A small handful of providers is facing difficulty, but the numbers affected by these cases represent less than 1% of providers operating in the advanced learner loans programme.
If it is not necessary to have protection because not very many people get affected, why is it necessary to have it for further education colleges, which also do not fail very often?
I will come to that in my explanation. These are private companies and it is not our role to interfere. I will elaborate in a moment.
In cases where independent providers delivering publicly funded training courses have closed down, our first priority is to support any publicly funded learners affected, ensuring they can continue their courses with minimal disruption. The SFA works closely with the SLC to ensure that, wherever possible, we identify a suitable alternative training provider or college where individuals can complete their learning. We have been doing just that in a recent case, which received a certain amount of publicity, when a provider went into liquidation in November: we have matched all the learners to alternative provision.
However, these are private companies, and it is not for the Government to involve themselves in their financial matters any more than those of other private companies. This is, essentially, the point I made in answer to the noble Baroness. We will always work to support learners affected in cases where the provider fails and it is right that we do so, in the way I have outlined. But as to whether we should have a special administration regime, we cannot make the same special and complex arrangements, which will often involve significant and additional public funding, where a private company has failed. This is, and must remain, a matter for the company and its creditors and shareholders. I hope the noble Baroness will agree, and will therefore not press her amendment.
I asked how they are subject to scrutiny and accountability for the quality of service they are providing, never mind the financial side. I gave the Minister an example where I thought they would. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, that there are some good examples of training providers, but who scrutinises the quality of service they are actually providing? That was what I wanted to know.
It is Ofsted.
I am happy not to press my amendment, but I would like some clarification on why a private company which is often entirely dependent on public funding should be in some sense exempt from any requirements. This does not seem to be consistent with much of what goes on elsewhere in the public sector and what it requires of people.
I think the Minister has sat down now and that the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, is very pertinent. From what has been said over the past half-hour or so, it is likely that we will return to this subject on Report. I have no doubt that the Minister and his officials will be looking at this in greater detail because the question of accountability is very important. Whether or not these are corporations, they are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, said, dealing with public money.
My noble friend Lady Cohen asked what recourse students have if they are dissatisfied. The Minister did not answer that point. Again, this comes down to accountability. People have to have some come back if they do not get what they thought they were getting. I am talking about situations that fall short of the provider collapsing into insolvency. Many people may feel that they are getting an inferior product and that has to be something that can be followed up.
I take the Minister’s point in respect of Amendments 16 and 18 about the institute being independent and having the freedom to decide how it delivers. However, he went on to say that there would be two panels: one for students and one for apprentices. That is what our Amendment 16 asks for and it goes no further, other than to say that it need not be limited to those two panels. The Minister has conceded the point, as did his colleague Robert Halfon in another place, as I said earlier. We knew that, but it would be helpful to have a commitment because—we say this in respect of many pieces of legislation—we may get a commitment from Ministers now, but what about the Ministers or Government who follow them? There is nothing to fall back on should views change. That is why it is important on occasions such as this to have it written into the legislation.
The same could be said about Amendment 18 on employers. The Minister said—I wrote it down—that there would be a range of employers. We are asking for almost the same wording,
“a number of employers who, taken together, comprise a broad range of employer types”.
We are surely talking about the same thing and I do not understand the reluctance. The Minister clearly wants to see a broad range; so do we.
I think we might want to revisit these matters because we are capable of reaching a situation where both sides are satisfied. We want to make sure that this works and works well: that the boards are representative and that the standards set are proper and reached with the full support of the sector. They have to be acceptable to employers within each of the 15 occupational groups and seen to be representative of their needs. We have a bit of common ground but there is some ground yet to be made up before we reach what either side might find a satisfactory outcome. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 16 withdrawn.
17: Schedule 1, page 23, line 1, after “outcomes” insert “, including at least one recognised technical qualification,”
My Lords, I shall also speak to the other amendments in this group. I remind the Committee that I am associated with City & Guilds, which obviously has an interest in what happens under this part of the Bill. I will leave remarks on intellectual property, as far as I can, to the next group, which seems to focus on that subject.
As part of the Sainsbury review, we have a proposal that each of the 15 routes that it suggests should have a single awarding body allocated to it and that those awarding bodies should be subject to review every seven years. The Department for Education took a long time thinking about this structure in regard to GCSEs and decided against. It decided to keep the current three and a half, as it were, awarding bodies available for every subject and I think it did that for a very good reason. A single awarding body is a single point of failure. If it goes wrong, we are stuck.
A seven-year franchise within education is a very short timescale. You really do not get time to invest in something, develop it and then make any money out of it. On a seven-year franchise, the awarding bodies cease to become long-term repositories of how to do things well and they lose any interest in the long term. In addition, we do not have a structure proposed for IFATE which offers the capacity to take on that long-term role. The institute employs 80 people. Apparently, 33 of them are involved in approving apprenticeships, presumably a similar number are in quality control, there are some in management and there are none left over to perform the role that the Government are proposing to destroy by having a single awarding body.
If you have multiple awarding bodies, with two or three bodies within a route, each thinks that it is probably there for the long term. Even if their fortunes fluctuate, they expect to be there. It is worth their while to build for the long term and to compete with the other awarding bodies in that route for the favour of employers and training providers. If you go for a single awarding body, particularly in an area such as this where the individual routes are very different from each other, why is an awarding body going to maintain an ability to create qualifications in, say, construction, if they are not the awarding body for that route? Come seven years’ time when you have the retendering, who else is going to be there except the existing awarding body? How would an awarding body begin to think that it could recreate what it had lost? Even if it did, why should it afford that level of investment when it has only a chance of becoming the next sole awarding body and may well—probably will—fail? You get to a system where awarding bodies that are in possession have no interest in improving the qualifications that they are in charge of and become impossible to remove from their posts. That seems to be not an ideal way of doing things.
We had a lot of debate, as noble Lords doubtless remember, about going to single awarding bodies for each GCSE qualification. The DfE must have somewhere in it an institutional memory of why it came down in favour of the system of multiple awarding bodies, but here we seem to have moved straight from a report to a Bill without going through a White Paper or a real digestion of whether this is actually the right way of dealing with awarding bodies.
We also have a proposal that all existing qualifications, names and reputations are to be swept away, so that we will just have IFATE qualifications. They will be that, and they will remain that whatever the awarding body is for any individual route. Have we really thought through whether we want to lose all that reputation and whether, in areas where employers really think they have some good qualifications, we want to junk them? Sometimes these qualifications have international reputations, particularly in areas such as technology. Are we going to say that this is a qualification we originated, the awarding body that supports it is here, but we do not recognise it in this country? Will we say that we have a history of employers recognising these qualifications and there is a hierarchy of people who have come through this qualification and are now looking for people to follow them, but we have abolished it?
In some areas, particularly technology, there is a system of qualifications which is independent of this country. In technology, CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft and various other companies and bodies are creating qualifications acknowledged around the world and what employers want. Will we really say that we will not recognise them in this country but recognise only the IFATE equivalent? Is that what employers are asking for? I talk a lot to technology employers, and I am unaware of any of them who would like to go down that route.
I do not place any particular value on the wording of the amendments—I am not sure I have that right; I am happy just to address the principle—but I encourage the Government not to do something in the Bill which makes it impossible to go down the same route as we decided to go down for GCSEs. Do not make it impossible to stick with the existing qualifications if that is what an industry wants. Let us give ourselves the time that it will take to put IFATE and the other structures together to consider whether we took the right decision on GCSEs or whether the Sainsbury proposals are better. I have great worries that, in our enthusiasm to create something better, we are destroying all that is good. I beg to move.
My Lords, I entirely support what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said. We have no pattern of a single awarding body which has been a success in any shape or form. With GCSEs, O-levels and all previous exams there was always a choice of learning styles, and each of the vocational awarding bodies brought something different in the material they used or type of learning style that lead to the final qualification. It was always up to the trainers, the teachers, to decide which awarding body they felt best met the needs of their students. Provided the standard is set, so you can guarantee that the same standard will be reached, there is immense benefit in having variety among awarding bodies and competition.
It is slightly ironic that whereas in higher education the Government seem to view more competition as the virtue above all others, in the Bill they are moving to a single source of awarding bodies. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, we need to be very cautious before destroying some worthwhile and reputable organisations and qualifications, not just in this country but internationally.
My Lords, I must rise to defend the position of the Sainsbury review, as I was a member of it and signed up to it, after a great deal of debate. No one in the group moved easily to the position where we recommended a single qualification for the college-based route—not, I should add, for all apprenticeships. Nothing in the Sainsbury review says that employers do not have a choice at that level. We did so for historical reasons and for comparative reasons. Historically, the model described by the noble Baroness served us quite well, but it is pretty much unique. Other countries have a single set of national qualifications. They do not have competing awarding bodies.
Historically, the Government set out consciously to destroy any near-monopoly in the vocational area. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, although there was no formal monopoly for City & Guilds, for example, none the less, construction awards were City & Guilds. If you wanted to train as a nursery nurse, you did NNEB. These were extremely well-known and well-respected qualifications. Since then, we have had repeated attempts to break that situation open and instil standardisation via standards. The result has unfortunately been in many cases a clear race to the bottom and, worse, the disappearance of any qualification which is clearly recognised and therefore has a brand and market value. This was, in a way, a slightly sadder but wiser recommendation.
When I wrote the vocational education review for 14 to 18 year-olds, I did not recommend a single awarding body. I hoped at that point that a regime within the Department for Education, which had clear standards for a qualification passing muster, would lead to a serious improvement in the quality of the vocational awards and the assessment, and the emergence of recognised market leaders. It really depresses me that that did not happen. We have a real problem at the moment: the old recognition has gone and the modified regime, which was brought in in the middle, does not seem to have done the trick. We have a gigantic number of qualifications on the books, many of them taken by tiny numbers of people, with no clear recognition at all. This area is by necessity very different from GCSE, where the Government really do not give awarding bodies much freedom any more. The degree of freedom which you have in the key areas of English or maths is pretty notional. The decision not to go ahead with the single awarding body was not because of a belief that we should not have one but because of Ofqual’s well-justified conclusion that it would not merely disorient the whole system but so destabilise it that we might have a national disaster.
There is a real issue in how the institute does its licensing, but it is not true that a body which holds a licence does so forever. Clearly, nothing will prevent the institute varying its regime in future years. However, I feel we are now in a situation where if we do not make a clear attempt to create a recognised, national qualification for each of these routes, people will not take them. They will feel that everybody knows what an A-level or a BTEC is, but we still have 15 of these things and do not know what any of them mean. So for once, unusually, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. The Sainsbury review was right to feel that a single licence for these classroom-based routes is what we have to do now, in 2017.
Yes, it is perfectly possible to do that but does the noble Baroness not think that we need a decent level of staff in IFATE in the middle of that? If she is saying that it will be the repository of this qualification and will maintain quality, integrity and innovation down through the years, can that be done on two and a half people, who seem to be all that are left to spare?
I hope that with the licensing situation there will be a chunk of time when it is worth investing. There are issues relating to the licensing system, which we will get to later in the Committee, but we are not asking the institute to run the qualification. We are saying that there should be a licensed awarding body but that if the situation is not restored to where there is one clear, recognised qualification for a route, the qualification will have no brand recognition. The Government also tried repeatedly to kill off BTECs and they failed, because people value and need something that is known. In the current situation, we have created something of a desert with a few rather feeble weeds.
I must admit that I am torn now between the two positions, having heard what both sides have said. I must admit that my fear is that while I understand the point the Sainsbury review came to, that there are too many qualifications and there is a need for rationalisation, I have a sinking feeling that the baby could well go out with this bathwater—I cannot think of another cliché. To describe some of these well-known qualifications, whether they are City & Guilds, HND or HNC as bathwater seems unfair, but they are recognised brands with good reputations. As I understood it from previous debates, it was not absolute that they would go.
I accept the point that if you have too many qualifications, that creates confusion. I welcome that bit of it but I would welcome hearing some analysis from the Minister which says that we need not worry about these well-established brands which I have referred to and that if they go, so be it.
I cannot help but feel that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is right to issue a word of caution about putting all our eggs in one basket. It will take time to establish a new brand—we know how difficult that is. The idea of these debates is to probe, and this is an area where we need to be sure that we are heading in the right direction.
My Lords, I remind the Committee that I am a patron of an awarding body, ASDAN. Also, as a Minister, I spent three years building a clear, recognised qualification in the form of diplomas, which then got killed off after a huge amount of time, effort and money were spent trying to develop them, although some of them certainly seemed to be well received—engineering comes to mind.
I paid close attention to what the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, said. I respect the work that she and the Sainsbury commission did. I certainly agree that we need these to be clearly recognised qualifications, but there are a number of ways to get to that point. I remember well the SATS marking crisis through which I had to navigate as a Minister. We had a problem with the company carrying out the marking. We ended up having to dismiss it from the contract and had to re-let the contract. We found that there was only one awarding body with the capacity to do that work. Edexcel effectively had us over a barrel. Happily, it was a responsible organisation and did not want to exploit the monopoly position in which it found itself, but it is really dangerous if you find yourself without the competitive capacity for different people to respond as and when circumstances change.
I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has done by raising this issue and giving us an opportunity to explore it. Clearly, there will be general capacity if different awarding bodies are awarded the contracts for different groups, but there would remain issues about their specialism in the subjects attached to each of those groups. My instinct is that the Sainsbury review might have got it wrong in this case. It may be that I just do not understand well enough what the department has in mind in terms of the model. I may not understand the extent to which it wants to specify the inputs into the qualification, how much it is concerned with the outcomes, how detailed it wants to be, how much it wants to specify the pedagogy, or whether it is thinking that these are wrappers in which you could put other qualifications, so that there is a single overarching contract-awarding body. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten me in his response or in some other way.
As the Committee has discussed, we must put quality first. As I keep saying, we must ensure that we have agility. The time it takes to develop qualifications reduces agility, and a seven-year contract makes me very anxious about how that agility can be preserved as skills needs change in the economy. I am particularly keen that we embed in the design the potential for innovation in assessment and awarding. I see innovative practice going on around the world, particularly by employers using digital badges that can have wrappers put around them to keep up-to-date with skills and the value of an employers’ own qualification, with a meta-qualification on top through the wrapper mechanism. It is crucial that we allow for that. The notion of a single contract for these qualifications, thereby reducing competition, makes me worry profoundly about innovation. I find myself, as a Labour Peer, arguing with a Conservative Government that we want competition. I hope that the Minister will revert to instinct, listen and agree competition is good to improve delivery and agility in the system.
I remember that my nursery nurses were terribly upset when their NNEB qualifications went and they became NVQ level 3. They were devastated, so there is something in a name and perhaps in a bit of tradition. I am a bit torn. I understand the Sainsbury review and the Government saying: let us create and agree a standard for the different pathways and maintain it. That is the qualification we will have so, presumably, various organisations can bid for it and, if they win the contract, the Government will ensure that they maintain the quality and standard.
However, as has been said, there is something about having competition. You have to look only at GCSEs, where the Secretary of State at the time wanted to have a single provider. There was a sort of rebellion against that and it did not come to pass. Schools and young people themselves can choose which awarding body to go for. Different awarding bodies suit pupils for different reasons—the content may match their study. We must think carefully about this. It is important for parents, young people and employers. Getting the name right is important but sometimes people also like letters after the name—there is a later amendment from my noble friend Lady Garden about that. I am caught on this, but I hope that we can explore the best way forward.
I am responsible for 2,000 degree-level apprentices and about the same number of others. At the moment, we do what the employer wants. If the employer arrives and says: “I would like the formal training to have these outcomes”, we say, “Right”, then we discuss it and bid for it. I had been assuming that we could adjust to the new regime. If the Institute for Apprenticeships stated the outcomes that it wanted, we could teach to those outcomes because that is what we do. We would be able, in essence, to do a wraparound to suit a particular employer, which would include the vital bits that the Institute for Apprenticeships wanted. I am a little puzzled if we are to be told that we all have to teach the same thing on, say, the finance course by the bit of the Institute for Apprenticeships that is working out finance training. At the moment, let us say that KPMG tells us how it wants us to do finance training. We would do that but if someone else wanted it to be slightly different, our competitive advantage over the years has been built on adjusting to do a different sort of finance training.
I am not quite sure where I am going with this, but are we providers still to be allowed variation in any way if an employer asks us to do it slightly differently, provided we include a certain number of outcomes and standards, as set out by the institute? To take an example from my experience, with our graduate law course we made our name by introducing a City law course that the City wanted. “Wait”, we said, “we’ll do that”. Of course, it is all the same law but it was specialist. We did that and not some other bits of law. I can imagine that being the outcome still: some City firms want varieties of law taught that nobody else cares about, as in shipping law, and some accountants want things that nobody else much cares about taught, as in shipping finance. Are we to end up with an agreed set of standards to which we must adhere, but around which we can wrap something that employers might want, or not? I am arguing for a setting of outcomes and standards by the institute but with a little deviation allowed, provided those apprenticeships include the basic standards and outcomes. Will the Minister tell me about that?
My Lords, I share the concerns that have been expressed about a single awarding body. I would have thought that the idea would be to have the sort of single recognised qualification that the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, is looking for, but delivered in slightly varying ways by two or three highly qualified, well-regulated and well-managed organisations. Having all one’s eggs in a single basket worries me from the point of view of what happens if it does not work and what happens if you want to change the franchisee.
Amendment 17 would require,
“at least one recognised technical qualification”,
in the outcomes. I very much welcome the fact that standards are to be employer-led. That should ensure that they are focused on skills for which there is a market and which will lead to jobs, but it is also very important to ensure that the needs of the learner or trainee are properly reflected. One of those needs is to acquire portable skills and attainments that are transferable to the different jobs or activities that trainees might move into. Having recognised technical qualifications included in the standards is a way of doing that. Many of those qualifications already exist in the form of NVQs, diplomas and what have you; new ones will no doubt emerge under the new process.
When I used to run employability training programmes for young Londoners not in employment, education or training, we quickly learned the value of including recognised qualifications in our programmes. Many of the young people we worked with had what you might call relatively chaotic lives and did not necessarily follow what might be considered a well-organised career trajectory. The fact that at the end of the programmes they could demonstrate achievement of some specific qualifications, whether in English, communications, basic employment skills, or ASDAN qualifications, which we also used, or health and safety or creative skills, gave them something to work with when it came to taking a new and possibly quite distinct step into a job or a career.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, mentioned that her courses are geared to what employers need, but the employers which tend to be predominant in defining those needs are the larger employers. Very often the requirements do not necessarily reflect the needs and realities of SMEs and the sort of young people seeking jobs in SMEs, as I define them. For that reason, there is great value in the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.
My Lords, this is an important part of the Bill because this is how the Government clearly intend the institute to instil some rigour in technical qualifications and apprenticeships. The method they are using is set out fairly clearly. There are two words which need clear definition in this part of the Bill: one is “standards” and the other is “outcomes”.
On standards, as I understand it, you have to choose your occupation. Let us say it is plumbing. The institute would then say, “We are going to do plumbing today”, so it would get a group of plumbers together to determine what the standards should be. Are the standards likely to have labels 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5? I assume that the department has worked out what a standard would look like. Could the Minister give us an example or write to us about it? It does not look as though the department have prepared them. It would be interesting to know what a standard would look like. That is not clear from the Bill.
Then there are outcomes. Can the Minister give us an example of what an outcome would be? Is it the same as on the next page of the Bill, “an approved educational qualification”? What will the outcome be of this operation? Will the institute say, “We have studied all the plumbing qualifications and we think the one from BTEC is the best”? “Outcome” means a specific something so that someone can say, “That is the end of it all”. It would be very helpful to have some explanation of how this system is to work.
My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Baker, in saying that, at heart, we want to hear how this will operate, because that will inform our future debates. Like my noble friend Lord Knight, I have no problem at all with competition where it can drive quality and innovation. However, that depends on the nature of the market and the capacity and nous of the commissioning body. Frankly, my concern is that government procurement has not usually shown itself able to have the agility that my noble friend asked for. The constraints put upon public sector procurement drive you to award tenders on a crude price basis. Ministers always sign up to concepts of value for money and outcomes, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said. But as anyone dealing with the Government will know, the reality is that it always comes down to price. The noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, made a very convincing argument on the principles, but the real question is on the practice of procurement and licensing.
There was a tension in what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said. He had two worries: one was that the franchising system envisaged would allow too little time for a provider to invest morally, intellectually and financially in the very long term; equally, the other was that because of the single-provider approach, there will be little competition at the end of the franchise period. I suppose he would say the risk is that we end up with the worst of all worlds, with low-quality provision and a provider that is not interested in the long term, and the institute having no choice at the end of the day.
It comes down to capacity. We are talking about an institute with 80 people. I hope that most of their time will be spent overseeing standards, because I for one simply do not trust the approach that is being taken. How can we rely on employers, given that their record in this country is so dismal? I hope the institute will have people who can talk to and challenge the panels. But who will be left to oversee these contracts? The record of government and public sector bodies in procurement is dismal.
My other question is to the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf. In its deliberations, did the review look at the ability of the public sector to commission in a sensible, grown-up way, rather than the usual crude way that is taken? My noble friend Lord Adonis is in his place, and I am tempted to invite him to talk about some examples of that in rail franchising. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, mentioned this at Second Reading, and clearly there are a number of examples of where the Department for Transport has gone for a bid that was overambitious from the company concerned and has had to come to the rescue. There are also examples of the argument around whether a franchise can be extended to enable the train operator to invest in the future development of services. I hope that the Minister’s department will look at that experience before getting into this sort of system. For me, it is not so much about the principle but about the capacity of the institute to handle what could be a very difficult issue.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords, and in particular my noble friend Lord Lucas, for this very helpful debate on these amendments. My task is to try to reassure all noble Lords that we are on the right page and that we are not talking about what we have had in the past, which was all about a race to the bottom. That was the reason the Sainsbury review was set up in the first place. I hope I can reassure noble Lords that we are trying to achieve the right thing, and I shall explain in more detail how this is going to work.
On Amendment 17, good-quality standards developed by employers and other relevant experts are at the heart of the apprenticeship and technical education reforms, and we must ensure that they are fit for purpose. In future, standards will form the basis of both apprenticeships and technical education qualifications in the reformed system, and they must be appropriate for both pathways. One of the cornerstones of the apprenticeship reforms has been to move away from a qualifications-based system—in the past, apprentices have collected a number of small, often low-quality, qualifications throughout their apprenticeship—to a single end-point assessment that tests all-round competency in the occupation.
By mandating, as the amendment proposes, the inclusion of a technical education qualification in each standard, we would be moving back towards this system, and reintroducing something which was a significant factor in the decreasing quality of apprenticeships in the past under the framework model. There may be some cases, such as degree apprenticeships, where including a qualification is appropriate, but we should not require it in every case. The purpose of the apprenticeship reforms is that they are employer led, so employers and other experts should have their input for each standard.
In addition, this approach may also blur the lines between the two pathways, which are intentionally different. For those on an apprenticeship, the individual primarily gains the knowledge, skills and behaviours set out in the standard through learning on the job and 20% off-the-job training, which is then tested through a single end-point assessment. A technical education qualification is taught largely in a college environment, often supplemented by a work placement and other steps leading to the new TE certificate. By including a technical education qualification in all apprenticeships—which would be the effect of the amendment—we would lose the essential flexibility of standards developed by employers and others and limit the breadth of skills that can be obtained through an apprenticeship.
I noted that a number of Second Reading speeches, particularly that of the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, were very strong on this point of flexibility. Several noble Lords have touched on this this afternoon. We do not want to lose flexibility through this process, and we must have some clarity.
The apprenticeship end-point assessment is the equivalent of the technical education qualification for those who have undertaken an apprenticeship, but also captures a wider range of skills and behaviours as well as knowledge. It needs to be given time to gain the value and worth with employers that many currently associate with qualifications. Including a technical education qualification would undermine this by narrowing an apprenticeship so that the measurement is more focused on a knowledge-based qualification and less on occupational competency.
I can, however, reassure the noble Lord that our apprenticeship system is flexible and that qualifications can be included in apprenticeships where that is what employers need, in circumstances, for example, where failing to include a qualification would put the learner at a disadvantage in the workplace or where it is a statutory requirement. We do not believe that technical qualifications should be included in all apprenticeships.
Amendments 26 to 30 relate to copyright. I understand the concerns my noble friend Lord Lucas has raised on copyright, and I hope that I might be able to provide an explanation that will put his mind at rest. My noble friend has proposed that the institute should retain the copyright for standards and common qualification criteria rather than for relevant course documents. Amendments in the Enterprise Act, due to come into force in April, already make provision for the copyright for standards to transfer to the institute upon approval. It follows that the institute would own the copyright for any common qualification criteria that it has produced. By common criteria, we mean design features of the qualifications that are the same, irrespective of the route studied.
The qualifications system in England is unique. Qualifications that attract public funding are developed and supplied not by the Government but by awarding organisations. Our reforms will see the institute taking responsibility for ensuring that only high-quality technical qualifications that match employer-set standards are approved by the institute. This will see the institute working with employers and other relevant stakeholders to set the content of qualifications. There will be a number of people involved in this, on the different panels, including ex-apprentices.
While we recognise that it is a departure from the current system, the transfer of copyright for relevant course documents is an important feature of the reforms. The scope of the licences for the delivery of qualifications and the details of relevant course documents will be established in due course. These may well include a specific technical assessment design specification, as well as other documents that are key to the make-up and assessment of a qualification. We would expect the institute to work closely with key stakeholders, as we propose to do, to make sure that the detail is right. This will, of course, include the organisations that develop qualifications.
If copyright for relevant course documents does not reside with the institute, we could end up with a technical education system where any innovation and employer needs are undermined by commercial interests. While we believe absolutely in competition, we want competition to raise quality and standards. If an organisation other than the institute holds the copyright for a particular qualification indefinitely, this would effectively create a stranglehold that would make it difficult for other organisations to enter the market. This would clearly not be in the public interest or fair value for the taxpayer.
However, we do not want an inflexible system. The institute will be able to grant a licence to an organisation or person for use of documents for which it owns the copyright. This could include granting a licence back to the organisation that has developed the qualification. There are also important safeguards provided for in new Section A2DA.
Amendments 28 and 29 seek to clarify that the institute may grant more than one person a licence or be assigned a right or interest in any copyright document. I would like to reassure noble Lords that it is precisely our intention that more than one person may be assigned a licence if in particular circumstances this is appropriate. I would also like to draw noble Lords’ attention to Section 6 of the Interpretation Act 1978. This stipulates that, unless it is clear that there is a contrary intention, wherever there are words in the singular these include the plural and vice versa. This means that the institute may grant a licence, right or interest in any copyright document to more than one person, should this be appropriate.
I hope that that goes some way towards reassuring noble Lords. In addition, I would like to touch on one or two of the questions—all of them if possible. If I do not reassure everybody, I would be very happy to write to noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Lucas questioned this single route, but each route will include a number of qualifications, each based on a cluster of occupations. If an awarding organisation fails, the institute’s copyright arrangements will allow another awarding organisation to step in. What is important is that this primary legislation does not tie our hands. Panels will be starting work this summer on the detail of the different courses. The noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, who is, sadly, not in her place, has explained in detail why the commission decided to depart from the existing system and say that it is much better to have one organisation.
My noble friend Lord Lucas expressed concern about who would be involved in advising on the content of qualifications. A panel of professionals will advise on the content of qualifications. The Government are currently recruiting employers and other relevant experts and will continue to do so over the next few months.
I say to the noble Lords opposite that the one thing we are not doing is leaving it to the public sector—I look at the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and hope that he is listening. He talked about it all coming down to price. Absolutely not. That may have been the situation under his Government, but if it was, we want to move away from it.
With the greatest respect, that is a ridiculous comment, and I do not know why the noble Baroness said it. We have not heard whether the institute, with its 80 staff, has the capacity to handle what looks to me like a very complex procurement situation. In fact, we have heard very little about the institute’s capacity, when it must also be concerned with whether the panels producing the standards are doing the right thing. I have yet to hear any explanation of why the contracting process that has been undertaken will ensure that quality is at the forefront. What I said was that public sector procurement tends not to go down that route. If the noble Baroness wants an example of what the Government are doing at the moment—I must declare my interest as president of the Health Care Supply Association—I would say that many of the current procurement processes in health are very much about price at the expense of quality.
I respect the noble Lord’s response, but 80 employees is quite a lot of people, and that is not where it will end. The number will rise by another 30 later this year as the process is introduced and developed. It is also important for noble Lords to appreciate that we want to use the expertise and interest of outside individuals who understand the needs of employers and what it was like as an apprentice and so on to support the institute so that we have a flow of expertise seconded, in a sense, to the institute, to work with it. So they are not the same individuals who are stressed and stretched at the number of 80.
The noble Lord does not look content with that answer, but is very important that price is not the point here.
My noble friend Lord Baker talked about standards. I am pleased to say in response that a number of standards for apprenticeships have already been published and are in use. We can, of course, send examples to noble Lords, but there are not enough completions to share outcomes yet. That will follow.
I understood the Minister to say that an outcome is not necessarily an educational qualification. Is that correct?
Then what is an outcome? I think that at some stage in her speech the Minister said that it was a level of knowledge. She then went on to say that it does not necessarily mean competence in applying that knowledge. When it comes to plumbing, I am all in favour of knowledgeable plumbers, but I want plumbers who can fix things.
I agree entirely with my noble friend. Forgive me if, when talking about knowledge, it seemed as though that was the end of the story. We are looking for occupational competence. That is the key to certification: that people are absolutely prepared and competent to enter the world of work as a fully-fledged employee in that area.
I want to be sure I understand this. If we stick to the example of plumbing, I am assuming that the individual would have carried out an apprenticeship that met the occupational standards that have been determined by the panel of employers. That may or may not include a technical qualification. I hope I have got that right. There are 15 routes, and panels have been set up under the categories of employers—there may be other people on the panels—and they are going to set the occupational standards that will form the basis of the apprenticeship. When an individual reaches the end of their apprenticeship, they should have met all those standards and there will, I hope, be some assessment outcome that will prove to the satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that they can do a Yorkshire fitting and a compression joint. I would like an example of where the noble Baroness feels an apprenticeship would not include a technical qualification.
Off the top of my head, I cannot give a particular example. The noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, talked about shipping law. Perhaps a technical qualification is not so appropriate for that.
A lawyer’s qualification would be required, but it does not necessarily have to be called “shipping law”.
Surely that is a good example.
I have been talking plumbers with officials so that I can understand what we are trying to achieve here. The noble Lord is absolutely right: it is about achieving occupational competence. However, if that panel decides, through time and through outcomes, that something is not right, we do not want the hands of the institute to be tied. The point is that the primary legislation will allow flexibility so that those standards could be changed in the light of any perceived failure or lack of occupational competence through practical application of the examinations of the qualifications. I hope that is helpful.
This is surely what awarding bodies are doing all the time—they are awarding qualifications but if things change, they adapt the qualifications as they go along. I do not quite see why we need this supra-body in the form of the institute to oversee work that goes on all the time with vocational qualifications.
That goes back to the core reason why we are doing this. There were multifarious organisations rather than one overarching body to say that the standards are just not good enough and the qualifications are not preparing x or y for the world of work. This is why the review was set up: there was no consistency in the standards and those bodies were allowed to fail the apprentices. That is what this legislation is all about. As noble Lords said at length at Second Reading, for too long we have failed apprentices and allowed them to be second class and ignored. The same rigour has not been applied in further education as in the higher education system, and that is what we are seeking to put right.
Noble Lords have asked some important, incisive questions this afternoon, and I am sure they will continue to do so throughout the passage of the Bill, about how we do this and what the process is. I reassure noble Lords that this legislation is a framework. It is not intended to prescribe the detail of what the institute will do going forward. The point is to set the framework to allow the institute and excellence to thrive. It will ensure standards of competence so that young people going out into the world of work have something in their hands which means something to all employers and which they can rely on for their future employment.
In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, providers will need to make sure that they include the core outcomes approved by the institute and developed by employers and others. However, they can add additional elements to meet employers’ needs. In a sense it could, as the noble Baroness suggested, be bespoke for a particular employer’s requirements, as it is currently. For technical qualifications at level 2 and 3, the content will be the same wherever it is taught. That is key: it gives employers a sense that they can trust that a person turning up with a qualification has something which is recognised and will provide what they are seeking. However, colleges will be able to tailor wider programmes of study to meet local needs.
I hope I have gone some way to reassuring noble Lords that these amendments are not necessary. On that basis, I ask—
I think I am clearer now on the standards. In the last part of her contribution, the Minister referred to technical qualifications. The Bill is very prescriptive on the institute’s control of approving and licensing technical education certificates. How does that leave the current technical education qualifications? The Bill says that:
“The Institute must maintain a list of approved technical education qualifications”.
How does that impact on existing technical education qualifications?
In essence, I am assured that it will lead to new qualifications. Is that any help to the noble Lord?
I would welcome a letter clarifying that situation. What happens to the existing ones? We have mentioned these brands almost ad nauseam. Will there be some transition process?
I would be very happy to write to the noble Lord but, in essence, the current qualifications will become obsolete and the funding will be removed. There will, obviously, be a transitional process.
We are learning a lot as we go along. It was quite interesting, although it was not very specific in the Bill. When all the existing qualifications are binned and new ones emerge, the awarding bodies which have lost will almost certainly challenge it under judicial review. This is going to be a lawyer’s paradise. If you are now going to decide that it is going to be City & Guilds for plumbing, BTEC will want to know exactly why you have said that and why its plumbing qualifications are no good. That is for the lawyers to decide is it not?
I reassure my noble friend that there will be a proper tender process for this. Through it, the current organisations can apply for a licence to continue what they are doing now as an awarding organisation.
I want to pick up on the very interesting point that the noble Lord raises. If you have a single relationship with a provider, when it comes to renewal you are in quite a perilous place, given the closeness that the organisation will have had to government, in terms of being assured that the retendering will be as fair as can be—and not just in terms of capacity. The Minister said what she said about copyright. I have some concerns about how much valuable work you will get from awarding bodies if they are going to hand over their IP to government, but I will park that worry to one side. Given this closeness to government, how are you going to make sure that the reprocurement will work?
First, it is not being handed over to the Government but to the institute, which is funded—
My Lords, there is no such thing as independent bodies in this area. All the bodies listed are going to be in one way or another under the heavy influence of government. The very fact that we are legislating for it means that, in the end, Ministers will take responsibility for what the institute does. There is no other way the Government can discharge accountability. Clearly, the Government will use the usual public sector tendering approach, which is a dead hand and will not, in my view, allow for innovation.
I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is going to do, but one thing that has struck me about the meetings we have had so far is that we have not really met the institute or its acting chief executive or the board members. I think it would be invaluable to listen to them to understand how they are going to take this process forward. We have not been convinced that the institute, to which I assume all the usual public accountabilities will apply, will have the actual capacity to handle the kind of sophisticated tendering that is required. That seems to me to be the problem.
I am sorry that the noble Lord seems to be taking quite a negative approach to this. As I said earlier, this Bill is for primary legislation to set a framework. Of course, there may be a situation where Ministers may have to have oversight, but the reality is that we want this to work as charged by the Sainsbury review. We are responding to a situation where we want to turn around something that has clearly not worked, and has clearly not been successful or provided the best outcomes for young people going into the world of work. We are trying to change that.
All I can say at this point is that we are happy to write to noble Lords to explain in more detail what we are trying to achieve through this process. As I said earlier, the legislation will not tie the hands of the institute. Flexibility and quality are key words in how this will develop.
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for her lengthy explanation. The main thing I would like to ask her is that, between Committee and Report, we have the chance to sit down and discuss this, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, says, with the people who are going to deliver this, as far as we can find them, so that we can get a real understanding of how this process is going to work.
I am delighted that my noble friend uses the word “flexibility”, but I cannot see how a seven-year provider four years into a contract is going to react when faced with an industry which says that it wants things changed because the technology or the requirements have moved on. The provider is going to ask, “How am I going to do this? It takes two years to change things and then I have a year to get my money back on this. What’s the game?”. I cannot see why, within the structure the Minister has described, two or three awarding organisations would be a problem; I can see why a single awarding organisation is a very deep problem in terms of the power transfer from government to the organisations.
I do not think that anybody who has spoken is opposed to the Government trying to make things better. We all have a sense of what is wrong with the current system, but we do not see that what is proposed answers that. That is not because the structure cannot answer it but because, to do the things that is asked of it, IFATE has to be a much stronger organisation. Alternatively, we need an arrangement, as we have with GCSEs, where below IFATE there is a layer or organisations that have a long-term commitment to and belief in improving things—they may be competing with each other but, essentially, they will work in partnership with IFATE and should expect to be there for the long term. That is better than a circulating body of people who are there and not there on a seven-year cycle, given that education cycles are so much longer. We would like to get an understanding of that and I very much hope my noble friend may be able to organise a meeting for us.
I am very happy to say that a meeting on the basis my noble friend suggests would be welcome between now and Report.
I am very grateful for that, and I am sure that other Members of the Committee would be delighted to come. I do not think there is any virtue then in continuing my peroration. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 17 withdrawn.
Amendments 18 and 19 not moved.
20: Schedule 1, page 25, line 23, at end insert—
“(1A) A technical education qualification approved under this section, which is undertaken by a person over compulsory school age but under 19, must support the person’s entitlement to the core entitlement under section 17C of the Education Act 1996 (the core entitlement).”
My Lords, Amendment 20 is designed to ensure that 16 to 19 year-olds in danger of an endless cycle of resitting maths and English GCSEs have the right to a full technical course in those fields. The background to this is the decision of the Government that, from August 2014, all students aged 16 to 18 who are starting or have already started a new programme of 150 hours or more and do not hold a GCSE at grades A to C in maths and English, or the new GCSE grades 9 to 4 equivalent, are required to study those subjects as part of their study programmes in each academic year. In 2015, this was changed so that the requirement applies also to all those with a grade D in those subjects—I am not quite sure who I am addressing at the moment on this; usually one addresses hot air, but there we are.
One can understand why the Government went down this route, but the problem is that figures released in August 2016 by the Joint Council for Qualifications show that almost 122,500 learners aged 17 or above did not get at least a grade C in maths, while 93,000 failed to secure at least a grade C in English. I looked at the comment of Mark Dawe of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, who said:
“this is evidence … that hitting students over the head with the same form of learning and assessment is not the way forward. Functional skills, designed to develop core maths and English skills but with the learning contextualised and relevant, is proven to engage and motivate these learners, particularly those who have been turned off these subjects by their school experience”.
Anyone who has come across teachers who have to teach and meet these students, resit after resit, will know that it can become a totally depressing exercise for everyone involved.
This was discussed in the other place and I note the comments of the Secretary of State, Justine Greening. She said:
“We have been clear that we do not want children to be left behind by not getting a GCSE in maths or English when they could have achieved one, so we want those who score a D to take resits. For others, however, there is the option to study for functional skills qualifications, and it is important for employers that we make sure those functional skills qualifications work effectively”.—[Official Report, Commons, 14/11/16; col. 41.]
I understand that the Minister, Mr Halfon, has pointed out that the Secretary of State has directional powers over the institute to achieve this.
No one doubts the need to ensure that relevant literacy and numerical skills courses are available to young people aged 16 to 18 that clearly support further technical education and apprenticeships. Clearly they are an opportunity to get employment. There is, however, a real concern that at the moment too many young people are having to go through a very dispiriting process of repeating studies that they have already failed, and which many of them will continue to fail.
I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that the Government are looking again at this area, in parallel to Sir Adrian Smith’s study into the feasibility of compulsory maths being continued for all pupils to the age of 18—the two very much run together. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 21, 24 and 25 in my name in this group. I pass on apologies from the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf. She has had to leave for an emergency meeting and has said that she will bring her Amendment 23A on Report.
Amendments 21 and 25 deal with issues of copyright. The Minister addressed issues of copyright in the previous group and I have been left somewhat confused. Issues of copyright were not referred to in the skills plan. It appears that the Government wish to retain copyright and intellectual property rights of qualifications, thus enabling them, if they should so choose, to transfer delivery of qualifications from one awarding body to another. It is not clear why the Government should wish to do this. It is hard to think of another market in which a supplier would freely cede ownership of copyright of its product for no material benefit. The model offers no incentive for any provider of regulated qualifications to enter into a market or take the responsibility for developing and supporting a qualification for which the copyright ownership has been transferred to a third party.
The issue of copyright is complex. The policy intention here seems to be one of control and safeguarding delivery of a consistent qualification should the Government wish to remove a supplier from the market. Surely adding further complexity to intellectual property ownership is not the best way to meet this policy objective. There is no detail on how the process might work. A lack of clarity in this area, especially if export earnings were put at risk, could be a further disincentive to awarding bodies to engage.
If the proposal is that the qualification should be wholly owned and developed by government, we would counsel some detailed research into previous forays by central Government into the vocational qualifications market space, including individual learning accounts or as the noble Lord, Lord Knight, has mentioned, the 14 to 19 diploma. I bear the scars of the development of GNVQ, which nearly bankrupted BTEC when the Government came up with a new design of the qualifications, and it was not at all clear that any promotional material had gone into convincing the public, pupils, teachers and learners that this was a good qualification. GNVQs did some good things, but they had such rotten publicity that they never had the chance really to get off the ground. A great deal of time and money were spent in trying to promote those. If we are to learn anything from the past, surely it is that qualification and assessment ownership, and design and development work, are better left to professional bodies with specialist expertise in qualification and assessment rather than being controlled centrally by civil servants or quangos or, dare I say, even by politicians.
Government ownership of qualifications is not a feature of other qualifications, or of undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications offered by the higher education sector. No evidence base has been provided to support the proposal to move to nationalisation of qualifications, nor any assessment of the intended benefits, costs or risks of any such model. If an awarding organisation did not wish to hand over its intellectual property, it would be in a position where the institute would not approve its qualification for use in the funded market. This effectively closes the 16 to 19 market to awarding organisations which do not wish to relinquish their intellectual property.
The copyright issue has the potential to impact on the adult education market, too. In some cases, AOs develop a single qualification which is suitable for use in different segments of the market, included the funded 16 to 19 segment. If an AO developed a qualification and was required to hand the IP over to the institute, it could not then continue to offer it in other segments of the market. So this arrangement completely closes down the opportunity for the AO to recoup development costs and constrains its ability to have a single offer in different market segments. This is a powerful disincentive to develop innovative materials and will deny learners access to the materials and qualifications they need. We have already heard of the importance of innovation in these qualifications. Awarding organisations—whether charities, professional bodies, chartered institutes, SMEs or other types of body—cannot reasonably be expected to invest in the development of a qualification only to have to sign away their copyright and, potentially, see it licensed to another AO in the market.
Amendment 24 is for clarification. As we have touched on already, qualifications currently feature in the Ofqual regulated qualifications framework. Will this list be separate and, if not, how will it relate to that framework? There are currently around 1,800 qualifications at levels 4 and 5 on Ofqual’s register of regulated qualifications. If the list proposed in Section A2HA is a replacement, there ought to be clear transitional arrangements in place now. If this list is parallel to the RQF, will this not add an additional level of complexity, rather than simplifying the system? Perhaps the Minister can clarify government thinking on this too.
My Lords, most of what I want to say has been said very well by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. I have a couple of questions to add. First, some of the existing awarding organisations have quite substantial overseas businesses in the qualifications that they currently run. Is it the Government’s intention that these should be destroyed? I cannot see how they could be continued under the proposed IP arrangements. Secondly, how do the Government propose to deal with the incorporation into their regulated qualifications of qualifications whose IP they cannot hope to own, such as a CompTIA or Cisco qualification? In other words, if an apprenticeship can have four or five of these qualifications stuck in it like a currant bun—which is very much what employers want—presumably no transfer of intellectual property is involved. If this is the case for CompTIA, why should it not be the case for any existing awarding organisation?
I remind noble Lords of my fellowship of the Working Men’s College. I support Amendment 20, not only for all the reasons so eloquently expressed by my noble friend but because it also offers a much more solid opportunity for young people from the Gypsy and Traveller communities to enter apprenticeships and to gain qualifications. These people have often dropped out of secondary school. A high proportion do so, for a variety of reasons. High among them are bullying and discrimination, and there is also a degree of alienation. However, these young people want to earn a living. They live in a work culture, an entrepreneurial one even. Their traditional trades—tarmacking, tree-lopping and scrap metal dealing—now need a high enough standard of literacy and numeracy to understand quite a lot of documentation, such as safety regulations and all sorts of papers. They do not often acquire these at school, so the implementation of this worthwhile amendment could result in many more such young people gaining a credential and raising their earning potential, so allowing them to join a society which, in the past, has tended not to be sympathetic.
I support Amendment 20. I had hoped that one of the most important things we were doing in the Bill was providing a route to employment that did not involve crossing apparently insuperable academic barriers, which some children seem to have no way to get through. These are children who, for some reason or another, have been unable to follow conventional education paths, such as the Travellers of whom my noble friend spoke, or who have suffered parental negligence or have been in care—those children have a notoriously poor track record in conventional education; or are children whom I did not know existed until I was in my 20s who learn not from books or from being told things but through their hands.
We had a nanny for my children who, after six years decided to leave us to train as a nurse, but she could not muster the necessary two O-levels to become a state-enrolled nurse. With the aid of very good references, we managed somehow to persuade the Royal Free to take her for that training. She passed third in the hospital because she was one of the people for whom, if your hands can do it, she can write it down and explain it.
I so hope that this will be another group of children who will be rescued, if you like, from misery in conventional education by the way out of an apprenticeship. I do not want them retaking their GCSEs. I want a special provision, and I hope that the Institute for Apprenticeships will be able to make it, while, by all means, if they need it, providing for further maths or other education. By the way, this proved a very successful way of integrating some of our immigrant population who do not have an academic background but are well capable of undertaking apprenticeships. The more enlightened jobcentres have been pointing them in exactly that direction, but you have not to disqualify them before they start. That goes back to the point that we were all making earlier about the benefit trap: many of our children will be unable to access an apprenticeship without paying an unaffordable financial penalty.
The Bill must be about rescuing many of our young from insuperable barriers to employment, and I very much hope that we can manage not to put any more in their way.
My Lords, I support the amendments and shall speak specifically to Amendment 20. When I ask employers what they value most about young apprentices, the qualities are what I often hear referred to here as soft skills, but they are not, really they are essential skills. They are the skills of being able to turn up on time regularly, work as part of a team, show enthusiasm and so on. Often, ironically, the complaints that you get from employers are about those who are technically well-qualified but lack those essential skills. This amendment is about creating flexibility and recognising that there are young people who will, for a variety of reasons explained today, find it difficult, as my noble friend Lord Hunt said, to go through the demoralising impact of resits for qualifications that will not assess their innate capabilities, as my noble friend Lady Cohen described. I hope that we will get a constructive response.
My Lords, I add my support to Amendment 20. Yes, it is absolutely right that we do all in our power to ensure that young people are numerate and literate. It seems reasonable to say that we want them to get to a certain level in mathematics, but that should not be a barrier to everything else. Special needs have not been mentioned. Are we to insist that children who have particular special needs or an aversion to numbers are to be included? We would not expect children who are dyslexic to get to certain standards in literacy because of the severity of their dyslexia.
We have heard about Travellers and immigrants, but there are young people for whom the system—perhaps poor teaching—has not helped them to get it. We then have this whole re-sit culture, and they get more and more fearful of failing and we do not want to label people as failures. I enjoyed the argument and think the word “flexibility” is so important. I know young people who have been taken on by employers, and the employer has said: “Well, they’ve got problems with numeracy and literacy, but they really sparked at this particular job”. Some of them have gone on to take some qualifications later. Let us not label people, let us have flexibility and do all we can to make sure that young people get to a certain level—“C”—in mathematics, but that should not be the be all and end all.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for the amendments and welcome the opportunity to debate them. I fully understand why the noble Lords, Lord Watson, and Lord Hunt, are supporting Amendment 20. Having a sound grasp of English, maths and digital skills is fundamental to getting ahead in work and life. Raising literacy and numeracy levels at all stages of education, including post-16, is essential and remains an absolute priority.
We recognise that current requirements are still low by international standards, and we believe that individuals should have higher aspirations. In the longer term, as the quality of pre and post-16 English and maths teaching and associated learner outcomes improve, the Government should raise maths and English requirements to reflect those of higher-performing international technical education systems.
Since we made it a condition of funding, all 16 to 19 year-olds beginning a study programme who have not achieved an A* to C GCSE in English and maths must continue to study these subjects until they do so, unless specific special educational needs or disabilities prevent them. I will repeat that to underline it: unless specific special educational needs or disabilities prevent them from doing so, so there are exceptions. This has resulted in thousands more students securing these GCSEs by the age of 19. The OECD has commended us on our reforms and, working with schools, colleges and employers, we will build on them.
We will do so by implementing the Sainsbury panel’s recommendations on English and maths. We have accepted the panel’s recommendation that there should be a single set of English and maths exit requirements governing college-based technical education and apprenticeships, and we will continue to require all 16 to18 year-olds to study English and maths if they have yet to achieve GCSE A* to C in these subjects.
The Government consider that English and maths requirements should be included as steps towards occupational competence. As well as good literacy and numeracy, everyone needs an essential set of digital skills to succeed in the modern workplace. Digital skills requirements should be tailored and groups of persons will be in the lead to specify digital skills that are required for entry into particular groups of skilled occupations.
We believe that there should be a minimum level of English or maths which all individuals must achieve ahead of securing technical education certification, as is already the case for apprentices. We will work with the institute to ensure that occupation-specific English and maths requirements are incorporated into each route.
Before I turn to the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, I repeat the point about exceptions. We are talking about people with special needs and so on, where it may be just too difficult. The noble Lord spoke about the resit culture, and we absolutely understand that. However, in an environment where we are offering young people the opportunity through apprenticeships for genuine employment in the world of work, there is a hope and desire that those people should understand that basic core skills in English, maths and digital skills will be essential for their future. That is not least because we all know that, in the current world of work, people change jobs a lot and are not necessarily going to follow the same role for ever. Therefore, they need that basic requirement to support themselves into their future.
I am grateful for the Minister’s reply, but how will these exceptions be decided? Will they have to have an education healthcare plan or will they be notified by the school? What will be the mechanism for exceptions?
The noble Lord raises a good question. I do not know the answer, so I will write to him on that.
I want to make sure that I understood what the noble Baroness said. Nobody would dispute that these young people should carry on learning English and maths—I certainly would not—but I would like clarification. Is the noble Baroness saying that if they still did not get a grade C, that would be a barrier to them undertaking an apprenticeship? We all agree on the importance being attached to the basic skills of literacy, numeracy and digital skills, but what if an individual did not achieve that, having made real and determined efforts? Suppose they managed only a D when they reached the age of 18, would that be a barrier to them undertaking an apprenticeship, assuming that the employer would be willing to take them on?
I hope that I can help the noble Lord, Lord Young. That would not be a barrier to an apprenticeship. We are saying that they would have to continue to study through the apprenticeship and stay in that process in order to receive their certification.
That is very helpful. So it is not a barrier to them doing an apprenticeship but they would be studying for their GCSE maths at the same time. Would the family then be entitled to tax credits because the young person is studying maths?
The noble Lord, Lord Storey, makes an interesting point, but I certainly would not want to commit on that. Let me clarify: they would study and do these resits, as we have been calling them, through the apprenticeship process—they would do them at the same time.
I want to attempt to reply to my noble friend Lord Lucas, who asked what would happen if awarding organisations have business overseas. The answer is that the institute can grant a licence back to the awarding organisation for use of the qualification documents—in other words, for use abroad. If there is an existing qualification for an awarding organisation that is out of the institute’s scope then the institute holds no copyright on that.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for tabling Amendments 21 and 25. I appreciate why she has put forward these amendments, which would allow awarding organisations to retain ownership of the copyright of documents under the new reforms. However, with respect, I cannot agree to them for the following reasons.
First, the qualification is to be approved by the institute, so it is right that the institute is the ultimate owner of the copyright. This will ensure that it can carry out its functions, including awarding licences for the delivery of the qualifications. Also, as there are likely to be multiple contributors to each qualification, the amendments are likely to make it impractical for the institute to carry out its functions to approve the new qualification. All contributors are likely to want a say in matters that relate to their particular part of the qualification. The institute should have the final say if the qualification is to be approved by it.
Secondly, the amendments would be likely to stifle competition once the licence comes to an end. Those awarding organisations whose documents have been approved by the institute would be in a far stronger position than those who were unsuccessful to rebid for a licence. Of course, the authors of documents that make up a technical education qualification should decide whether to give their consent to the copyright being transferred to the institute before the qualification is approved. If they do not, the institute can remove that document from the qualification. That is provided for in the Bill: I draw the noble Baroness’s attention to the provisions in new Section A2DA which provide safeguards for both the institute and the awarding organisations.
Furthermore, awarding organisations do not have to submit a bid to the institute for the new approved qualifications if they do not like the arrangements offered. Under the reforms, it is expected that awarding organisations will go through a comprehensive procurement process before being granted a licence to deliver a qualification for an occupation or group.
I just want to reassure the noble Baroness that we absolutely understand that the market must be attractive for awarding organisations to operate—I wonder if that is what the noble Baroness wanted to touch on.
Yes, that is the gist of it, but the question that both I and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, raised was: what possible incentive is there for awarding organisations to put a whole lot of their expertise into developing materials towards qualifications if they will all be snaffled by the institute?
It is not a question of their being snaffled by the institute. This happens in other sectors where people develop something but the copyright is retained by someone else. It is not peculiar to this sector, a first in this area or unique. If we are to have a single organisation that is to retain and underpin the standards and quality which we all want, and have flexibility without compromising the students, it is really important that we have one body that retains the copyright: the institute.
I understand where the noble Baroness is coming from: people feel that because they have created the content, they should hang on to it. However, the point is that we are changing the system so that the copyright will be with the institute, but those who have created the copyright can bid, along with others, for the licence. It is clarifying for awarding organisations what part of copyright should be retained by whom.
I wonder whether we could have a meeting on the copyright issue, because I find what is proposed incredibly confusing, and I do not think I am the only one around the table who finds that. It would be helpful if we could see how this ends up being a win-win situation for the awarding organisations and the institute, because at the moment it seems to be lose-lose for the awarding organisations.
I am perfectly happy to have such a meeting between now and Report. I re-emphasise that the whole point of this is not to undermine those who produce the copyright but all part of developing a new ethos, so that the best can be retained and be consistent across the board for all those who bid for the licence for those qualifications. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am feeling very disoriented here. A Conservative Government are arguing for nationalisation and against competition while I am arguing for more civil servants. This is not where I expected to be. My noble friend did not answer my question about external qualifications, such as Cisco or CompTIA, being embedded within apprenticeships or FE qualifications. Am I right in assuming that the Government are quite content under those circumstances to have no copyright whatever over those qualifications?
Yes, that is right. It would be absolutely outside the scope of the Bill.
My Lords, this has been an interesting debate, with two completely separate discussions. On the issue of copyright, a meeting would be helpful. I am puzzled, because the Government are saying they would encourage those people who wish to bid for work to be innovative in the bids they put forward, but actually the reward for innovation is to be stuck in a competitive tendering exercise—and, by the way, at the end of the tendering period we will nick your ideas. That does not seem to be quite what we want. Surely we want some partnership here and some commitment from the private sector to commit to R&D and innovation, but they must have some share of the proceeds. The idea that they can get that back in the short tender period that is going to operate is, at the least, problematic.
It seems that the Government are relying on the institute to be the innovator and then to tender that out. Okay, if that is the way it is going to work then we should be explicitly told that, but I do not think they can have it both ways. It would be interesting to have that debate.
On Amendment 20, regarding resits, I take what the Minister has said—that many of those young people who resit their GCSE maths and English as a result of the new policy introduced in 2014 now have grade C —and that is a good thing. However, we know there are thousands and thousands of young people who resat but are never going to get their GCSE maths and English. My point is that this can be a very discouraging process for both students and teachers, and I am looking for a more imaginative approach. I acknowledge it is important that someone going into employment can add up and understand percentages and percentiles, but this does not necessarily mean they have reached the GCSE qualification.
Some clarification is required as there is a point I am not entirely clear on. Is it the case that for someone who goes on to an apprenticeship under the auspices of the institute and continues to resit, and can satisfy the employer at the end-point assessment, because they do not have their GCSE maths they are not going to be able to qualify as an apprentice? I may have got that wrong, so having a letter in response to that would be helpful—I am certain I have got it wrong because officials are telling me so.
That is good news.
It is. I look forward to getting the letter. I think this has been an extremely useful debate, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 20 withdrawn.
Amendments 21 to 30 not moved.
31: Schedule 1, page 28, leave out lines 27 to 32 and insert—
“(b) about permission for the use of the DfE logo and standard wording on technical education certificates.”
My Lords, we now move on to the question of certificates, which has been raised already this afternoon. There are quite a few questions to be asked about the institute’s power to issue technical education certificates. This is another significant proposal and was not canvased in the skills plan. The proposal potentially removes any continuing link between the awarding organisation and the qualification that it has produced.
The amendment seeks clarity on the relationship between the issuing of the proposed certificates and the qualification certificates issued by the awarding organisations. Will these technical education qualifications be alongside the awarding organisation certificate? The Minister said that employers would pay for this certificate. Does that mean that the submission for it would come from the employer, the training provider or the awarding body? What assessment has been made of the resources required by the institute 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?
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 the Department for Education and/or the institute. 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? The amendment proposes the much simpler solution of adding the backing and status of the institute or DfE to a certificate which has already been validated, processed and issued. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment, and the Labour Benches support the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal. She has a great deal of experience in the field of technical qualifications, so I have little meaningful to add. In earlier debates on the Bill, I have said that I hope to see a situation develop which leads to a small and relatively focused group of technical education qualifications. GCSEs and A-levels are instantly and universally recognised and accepted; I want to see something similar for technical education certificates. The current plethora of qualifications means that too few are understood, far less valued, and that diminishes the hard work that young people put into gaining them. How dispiriting it must be to emerge successfully from the end-point assessment only to find that the qualification gained is not widely recognised or transferrable to other employers.
Allowing the use of the DfE logo and consistent wording would standardise the technical education certificates issued, make it clear that they are overseen by the Department for Education and thus have a value transferrable throughout England. That measure is long overdue.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 32. I am trying to follow up on Second Reading and make a couple of suggestions to the Government which I hope are helpful.
First, if they have got this system of issuing certificates, they should make sure that, at the same time, they get the ability to communicate with apprentices. If I were in government, I would use this as a means of making sure that quality was being delivered, by sending questionnaires out to apprentices as a means of improving the quality of apprenticeships by asking what needed to be done better, particularly by asking them a couple of years after their apprenticeship what, with the benefit of experience, might have been improved. I would also use it as a way of getting information with which to celebrate the schools that apprentices went to. Schools pay far too little attention to the apprentices they have educated, mostly because they do not know anything about them. With university it is there; it is easy; it happens immediately. Apprenticeship information is not gathered in the same way; it is not celebrated by schools or made available to them. There are lots of things that the Government could do on the back of having the ability to communicate and I encourage them to give themselves that.
Secondly—I am echoing what is being said in Amendment 31—let us give these young people something really worth having, something to which they can put their name. The point of GCSEs and A-levels is that they are recognised. If we are taking away the plethora of sometimes well-valued names that attach themselves to technical qualifications, let us create a name and be able to give young people some letters to put after their name, such as BA—I do not actually know what these letters should be, but they should be something that say that the young person has done this and have got the right to this. I am not a wordsmith to create this, but once they are not an apprentice they are nothing—they are a former apprentice; it is like being a former priest, something suspicious. We should give them something that celebrates what they have achieved, in the same way that we do for people who have followed the academic path.
My Lords, I support both amendments. I add—and would venture to do so only in Committee—a private loop around the question of naming and how apprentices get to be made more important. On further consideration, I do not like the title of the Bill: “Technical Education” does not seem to cover it. I have no idea how this could be done, but I wonder whether we could consider changing the name of the Bill to the “Professional and Technical Education Bill”. Among the groups named in the Bill that will be considered are lawyers, accountants and other variants. We tend to refer to ourselves as professionals. It would cheer up apprentices in those fields no end to know that they were recognised as professionals. In fact it would cheer up apprentices generally if it was not just about a technical education, but about a professional one, indicating that they will be a professional in their field. I am thinking also of some of the nursing and auxiliary qualifications that would sound a lot better if they were named as the professional qualifications that in fact they are.
We are learning such a lot this evening, and it is really very interesting. Clearly, the Government are taking draconian measures—and perhaps they should—to clear out a vast number of technical qualifications. That would be the consequence of this particular Bill finding its way to the statute book.
As a result of the process of establishing, with the help of industry, standards and outcomes, the Institute for Apprentices might apparently come to the conclusion that one particular technical qualification, for example in plumbing, is best done by City & Guilds. That seems to be the purpose behind what we are doing in this part of the Bill. The other awarding bodies would presumably not think it worthwhile to attempt to replicate that and have another plumbing qualification that is different, because that is the one that has the real stamp of approval with the Institute for Apprentices. Presumably, someone who is apprenticed to be a plumber will actually work for that qualification and hopefully get it.
This is a different system from that which has operated so far, but it is authoritative. If it is so perfect, are the Government intending to do this at GCSEs? If this wonderful system of technical awards is developed, should it not also be done for maths, English, history, geography and French? If what the Government are going to do is so wonderful and perfect, why should one stop with just technical subjects? If they are really persuaded that they have the best system for determining the best qualification in a technical subject, surely they should be able to decide what the best is in maths. If you are going to standardise things to this level, it might be GCSEs that would be the most effective. We must try to appreciate how thorough and complete a transformation will occur as a result of this.
My Lords, I want to follow the important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Baker. At the beginning of the first day of Committee, I said I hoped at the end of this to have a clearer understanding of the organisational chart and who was responsible for what. The longer the discussion has gone on, the more I am clear that this will be, as the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said, a fairly draconian change, which may be for the better.
However, I offer a word of caution. Some of us have lived through the birth, life and death of the Council for National Academic Awards or CNAA, some of us through the B Ed, and some of us through the area training organisations. At one stage, one of my roles at the former Institute of Education was to look after 48 teacher training colleges, which were training 26,000 teachers. It had a central and, it has to be said, very bureaucratic system of recognition for teachers at the university to ensure that they were all of the right standard and that all the institutions were offering the right quality. I emphasise that we had a complex and inadequate system. In trying to do something which is much needed and replace one system with a better system, we should not make some of the mistakes that we have all made—all Governments have made them; I am not trying to make a party- political point—by creating a structure which turns out to be Frankenstein.
My Lords, I shall not make any general assertions of what may or may not happen. I take the “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” approach to this. However, is the institute going to issue an apprenticeship certificate? The schedule refers to the:
“Power to issue technical education certificate”.
We heard some examples of where there could be an apprenticeship without a technical qualification, so is the institute involved in that?
I want to address the point the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made that on the completion of an apprenticeship there should be a stamp of approval, so that you have something to show. In the old days, you got a beautifully illuminated manuscript. I was not assuming that the Government would go that far, but I remember that the master bricklayer who lived across the road from me had an exceedingly impressive document from his apprenticeship. I am not expecting that but I want to know what this actually includes. Can we be assured that every apprentice, on completing their apprenticeship successfully, will get a certified stamp of approval?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, and my noble friend Lord Lucas for tabling these amendments relating to certification. While I appreciate the intention behind the proposed changes I hope that after I have outlined my concerns, they will withdraw or not press these amendments.
The primary purpose of a technical education certificate is to enable individuals to demonstrate to employers that they have obtained the knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary to undertake their chosen occupation. 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 have attained as many of the key skills and behaviours as the institute has deemed appropriate for a particular occupation. To answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, the Secretary of State will issue the certificate but it will be branded by the institute. For a technical education certificate, this is likely to include confirmation of maths and English qualifications, successful completion of a work placement and other route-specific qualifications. This will provide clarity for employers and support the portability and progression value of the qualifications.
The organisation or consortium of organisations which the institute has approved to deliver the technical education qualification will, however, be entitled to issue its own certificate for that qualification. It is therefore right that responsibility for issuing technical education certificates should be retained by the Secretary of State. This will also ensure that certificates for technical education align as closely as possible with certificates for apprenticeships.
Amendment 31 would allow this function to be delegated to individual awarding organisations. To do so could lead to unequal status or recognition of the value of certificates. It is also right that the Secretary of State should be able to determine whether to charge for the initial technical education certificate or further copies and, if so, how much to charge. Likewise, it will be up to the organisation to decide whether and how much to charge for issuing a certificate confirming that an individual has successfully completed their qualification. I will come on to questions when I have finished speaking to Amendment 32.
Amendment 32 would entitle those who successfully complete a technical education certificate to add letters or words after their name, in a similar way to those holding a degree level of certain professional qualifications. In academic education, the use of letters after the name signifies achievement at degree level or above. Also, certain industries use post-nominal letters to indicate an individual’s professional membership or accreditation.
The technical education certificate is not in itself a qualification or accreditation. Its purpose is to capture an individual’s attainment and experience in the round, and it will enable the individual to provide a signal to employers of what they can do. To receive such a certificate, the individual will be required to pass a technical education qualification, for which they will also receive a certificate from the relevant awarding organisation. Some students may pass their technical education qualification but be unable to complete all the components of the course, and therefore will not be issued with a technical education certificate.
The reforms to technical education are intended to simplify the system, making it easier for young people and adults to navigate and for employers to understand the skills that individuals have gained. Most importantly, the certificate shows that a person has completed a course of technical education in alignment with the same standard as a person who has undertaken an apprenticeship in the same occupation. There is already a large variety of post-nominal initials or titles used to indicate that an individual holds a particular position, qualification or accreditation. If the Government were to introduce further post-nominal initials for those who hold a technical education certificate, we risk confusing employers and individuals. For the reasons above, we believe that the certificate will speak for itself. The reforms will ensure that we operate a system for the future, providing a national offer recognised and understood by employers, regardless of the qualification or where it was undertaken.
I will quickly refer to specific questions asked by noble Lords. First, the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, asked about apprenticeship skills. The Skills Funding Agency will print the certificates. The information for certificates to be sent out is contained in the individualised learner record. The Skills Funding Agency will not award a certificate without confirmation from the awarding organisation that the apprentice has passed the end-point assessment. Also on Amendment 31, the noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, asked whether it would be beneficial to add the word “professional”. I absolutely understand where she is coming from, and I am assured that we will reflect on that between now and Report. It is important that in changing the system, we recognise that these qualifications are meaningful and important. They will give people a status that gives them confidence when they enter the world of work, which we have been very poor at hitherto.
On Amendment 32, my noble friend Lord Lucas asked how data on apprentices could be used. The Skills Funding Agency will keep data on who has completed the apprenticeships as part of the certification process. It will be able to share these with the institute.
In conclusion, I absolutely understand where the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, is coming from, too. Of course there are lessons to be learned from the past and, to the best of our ability, we must ensure that we encourage the institute not to make the same mistakes again and look to a brighter future. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and to all noble Lords who have spoken. As the noble Lord, Lord Baker, said, we have had some interesting discussions this afternoon on various aspects of the Bill.
I am not sure that my questions about certification were entirely answered. We had a lot of experience with this when NCVQ came in. I realise that my memory is longer than others’. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Donaghy, some of us go back a bit too far. There was never any problem about putting that brand on the certificate along with BTEC or whatever else it was. Awarding bodies are quite used to having a national branding on their certificates alongside their own award. The Secretary of State is going to have his job cut out issuing all these certificates to people. I would be interested to see the detail of how that is going to happen. The duplication of certificates is not necessarily helpful and will not help employers.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Cohen, on getting her idea of “professional” at least agreed to be thought about. It would be something if we could add that word to the title of the Bill, because many of us are a bit concerned about its narrowness.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, brought up the business of post-nominal letters. When I worked for City & Guilds, I set up the senior awards department there, which was rationalising post-nominal letters for levels 4 to 7, some of which had been awarded for over 100 years. Because of the royal charter, we had to get Privy Council approval to do an additional one. It always struck me how much it meant, particularly to the level 4 people who got a licentiate award and could put the letters “LCGI” after their name. They often went into being small business people, and it raised their spirits and gave them status and standing to know that they could have LCGI after their name on their cards. I went on to get robes designed for them, but I am not suggesting that we do that for apprenticeships. Post-nominal letters are an issue. I am not sure how it would work with the institute to get approval for them, and I entirely take the Minister’s point that it can be more confusing to get a whole range of post-nominal letters that people do not understand. In our case, we were starting with 100 years of people having understood some of our City & Guilds post-nominal letters.
I am still baffled about quite how the mechanics of issuing all these certificates is going to happen and what the benefit is to the students and people who have succeeded in getting one certificate from the awarding body and a duplicate one from the Secretary of State, however prestigious that might be. I would welcome a little bit more clarity on quite how this is going to work but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw.
Amendment 31 withdrawn.
Amendment 32 not moved.
33: Schedule 1, page 28, line 37, leave out from beginning to end of line 13 on page 29 and insert—
““40AA Sharing of information by or with the Institute(1) The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education may disclose information to a relevant person for the purpose of a relevant function of that person.(2) For disclosure of information by the Institute for the purposes of its own functions, see paragraph 10 of Schedule A1.(3) A relevant person may disclose information to the Institute for the purpose of—(a) a function of the Institute, or(b) a relevant function of that person.(4) In this section “relevant person” means—(a) Ofqual,(b) the OfS,(c) Ofsted, or(d) a prescribed person.(5) In this section “relevant function” means—(a) in relation to Ofqual, the OfS or Ofsted, a function of that body, so far as the function relates to England;(b) in relation to a prescribed person, a prescribed function of that person, so far as the function relates to England.(6) In this section—“Ofqual” means the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation;“OfS” means the Office for Students;“Ofsted” means—(a) the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills, and (b) Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills.(7) Regulations under this section prescribing functions of a person may prescribe all of the person’s functions.”
My Lords, these government amendments will allow the Secretary of State to make sure that the data-sharing gateway in new Section 40AA remains fit for purpose through regulations. The regulations can include persons to whom the institute can disclose information or who can disclose information to the institute, and the functions about which the information may be disclosed. New Section 40AA will establish data-sharing gateways between the institute and Ofsted, Ofqual, the Office for Students or any other person set out in the regulations. There is already a separate provision for the institute to share information in relation to its own functions.
The bodies with which the institute is likely to need to co-operate and share information to do its job effectively are expected to change over time. That is particularly important given the reforms in higher and technical education. For example, the Quality Assurance Agency will not be named specifically in legislation and the quality arrangements in that area may change over time. It will be important to ensure that the institute can work effectively with whatever body is designated in that case, as well as any other bodies which take on roles in relation to education and training. All the disclosures under the gateways take precedence over any non-statutory restrictions, but they would be subject to all the important safeguards in the Data Protection Act 1998.
I reassure noble Lords that I am, however, absolutely mindful of the need to ensure full parliamentary scrutiny each time the Section 40AA power is used. Although not common in relation to similar regulations, where the negative procedure will be used, it is proposed that these regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure. In view of this, I hope that noble Lords will accept this amendment.
Will the DfE be able to access this data, for instance to try to understand what history at school leads to what sort of performance in technical qualifications and apprenticeships?
My Lords, I welcome these amendments and want to say just a brief word about them, and in particular about Amendment 33.
On Report in another place Labour raised the issue of introducing the Quality Assurance Agency as a body to whom the institute can communicate information. The Minister, Mr Halfon, resisted at that time, saying that it depended on developments in the Higher Education and Research Bill. That Bill is still under way, but things have clearly moved on and the Minister has had second thoughts because we are pleased to hear that the Government now want to empower the institute to exchange information with all bodies with which it might need to do business, apparently without worrying about data protection legislation.
I would like one point of clarification on that. The amendment to Schedule 1 refers to “a relevant person” —we understand that a “person” is an organisation—and lists Ofqual, the OfS and Ofsted and then “a prescribed person”. The Quality Assurance Agency would be a prescribed person. When the Minister replies, will he specify the difference between somebody who is “relevant” and somebody who is “prescribed”? Presumably a prescribed person is not irrelevant but is not relevant.
The Minister and his colleagues are adopting the Opposition’s wider view of the role of the institute. Will he say which persons or bodies he and his colleagues have in mind to add, apart from the QAA, to which he referred? An obvious one is local government which can provide a bridge between school education and the world of work. Local government still retains various statutory duties for 16 to 18 year-olds, including duties under the Education Act 1996 in respect of ensuring education and training for persons over compulsory school age and of encouraging employers to participate in the provision of education and training for young people. The Minister may be aware that local authorities have duties in respect of young people with special educational needs and disabilities for whom the local authority maintains an education, health and care plan and for care leavers up to the age of 25. I should have said the Minister will be aware; it is a bit unfair to say he may be.
I also note that government Amendments 48 to 54, which we shall consider on Wednesday, make the local authority director of children’s services a person who must be informed about the insolvency of an FE college because, according to the Government’s explanation, such colleges will be educating care leavers, and the local authority needs to know to ensure that the local authority–appointed personal advisers to the care leavers know of the insolvency.
There are numerous reasons for local government to be involved. Perhaps the Minister will make a statement—I will be perfectly happy for it to be on Wednesday—about the anticipated roles of the local authority and the institute and how they will interact.
If I may answer my noble friend Lord Lucas’s point, the answer is yes under a separate provision in the Bill. On the point about the difference between relevant and prescribed, a prescribed person is somebody set out in regulations and a relevant person is set out in the Bill or in regulations.
Amendment 33 agreed.
34: Schedule 1, page 29, line 13, at end insert—
“27A In section 40D(3)(interpretation of Part 1A)—(a) the words from “affects” to the end become paragraph (a);(b) after that paragraph insert— “(b) authorises the disclosure of any information in contravention of any provision made by or under any Act which prevents disclosure of the information.””
Amendment 34 agreed.
Amendment 34A not moved.
35: Schedule 1, page 29, line 33, at end insert—
“29A In section 262(6)(orders and regulations subject to affirmative procedure), after paragraph (aa) insert—“(aza) regulations under section 40AA;”.”
Amendment 35 agreed.
Schedule 1, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 2 to 6 agreed.
36: After Clause 6, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for or in connection with—(a) the delivery to the registrar of companies of documents that relate to the insolvency of further education bodies;(b) the registrar’s function of keeping records of information contained in such documents under section 1080(1) of the Companies Act 2006;(c) the publication of, or access to, those records or related information.(2) The regulations may, in particular, provide for any provision made by or under the following sections of the Companies Act 2006 to apply (with or without modifications) in relation to those documents or records. Provision of Companies Act 2006 Description sections 29 and 30 copies of resolutions etc to be forwarded to the registrar section 859K registration of enforcement of security sections 1077 and 1079 public notice of receipt of certain documents sections 1081, 1084 and 1085 to 1091 keeping and inspection of register of companies sections 1093 to 1097 correction or removal of material on companies register section 1104 documents relating to Welsh companies sections 1112 to 1113 supplementary provisions
Provision of Companies Act 2006
sections 29 and 30
copies of resolutions etc to be forwarded to the registrar
registration of enforcement of security
sections 1077 and 1079
public notice of receipt of certain documents
sections 1081, 1084 and 1085 to 1091
keeping and inspection of register of companies
sections 1093 to 1097
correction or removal of material on companies register
documents relating to Welsh companies
sections 1112 to 1113
My Lords, we have tabled this amendment to ensure that should an FE body become insolvent, there will be an accessible public record of documents relevant to the insolvency procedure for that body. FE bodies that are statutory corporations are exempt charities and not companies. As such, they are not subject to filing requirements with any particular regulatory body, although they are required to keep audited accounts and to publish them, for example on their websites.
When the Bill was originally drafted, it was thought that we could rely upon certain provisions of the Companies Act 2006 so that an insolvency practitioner could file documents required by the court as part of any insolvency procedure, including education administration. However, it is now clear that specific provision is needed within the Bill to ensure that an accessible and workable file for insolvent FE bodies may be created and managed by the registrar. This amendment therefore creates a new clause to provide for exactly that and allows the Secretary of State to make regulations relating to the delivery of documents about the insolvency of FE bodies to the registrar, about the registrar’s function of keeping records of information within those documents and about the publication of and public access to such records or information.
The power in the new clause also allows the Secretary of State to permit the Registrar of Companies to make rules relating to filing requirements, such as about the form of documents to be filed. As I hope the Committee will appreciate, this amendment is necessary to permit the paperwork of an insolvency procedure for an FE body to be properly managed. I beg to move that this amendment be accepted and that the new clause stand part of the Bill.
Amendment 36 agreed.
Committee adjourned at 7.18 pm.