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Orders of the Day — Further and Higher Education Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:18 pm on 11th February 1992.

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Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn , Sheffield Central 7:18 pm, 11th February 1992

I intend to discuss that at length, but I shall not do so in the 10 minutes that I have been allotted this evening. If the Minister will ask me the same question another time when I am not under such a constraint, I shall answer it with pleasure.

Let me deal with the general issues of education and training, and how they are dealt with in the Bill. Although there was a considerable increase between 1979 and 1988 in the number of young people in youth training schemes, the absolute number of 18, 17 and 16-year-olds pursuing full-time education increased to 131,000, 232,000 and 336,000 respectively. Those figures represent percentage rates of 18,33 and 47. That may seem a good achievement, until it is compared with that of our major competitors— for instance, the United States, Japan, Germany and Belgium. In 1988, the percentage of 16 to 18-year-olds who participated in full-time education and training in the United Kingdom was only half that achieved by our major trading partners.

Between 1979 and 1989, there was a significant increase in the number of home full-time students in higher education—from 184,000 to 250,000. That is welcome, but it really means that it will be more difficult to widen the pool that has not grown significantly —the further education pool—unless access is made much easier. More counselling and development work will be needed at the bottom of the social ladder.

Funding is of great concern to many local authorities. Only a proportion of the provision currently made by further education and tertiary colleges will be funded. Students will count for funding purposes if they follow courses leading to vocational qualifications; but the non-vocational side is very important to inner cities. It is no good for the Government to come to the House and complain about riots after they have neglected those matters in the Bill.