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Post-16 Education and Training Bill

Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 18th May 2007.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Education & Skills Committee 2:24 pm, 18th May 2007

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

In the short time available, I shall provide a quick profile of the Bill. It is a modest Bill, but it will make a tremendous difference to many young people leaving school at 16. There is already the Children Act 1989 and we also have "Every Child Matters", which deals with five major outcomes for children. However, we still live in a country and society in which those outcomes seem to desert children at 16. We seem not to care very much about what happens to some children at 16. Many of them become NEETs—not in education, employment or training—and some go into routine, mundane jobs that have no training attached to them.

My Bill is in four parts. First, I believe that every child leaving school should have a guarantee of an holistic assessment of their time in education. That should involve not only the bare academic qualifications that they have gained—or not gained—but something much deeper and richer involving their strengths and weaknesses and their out-of-school activities, to give a fuller sense of what the person has achieved as well as what they might be able to achieve if they make the right decisions about their career. Such assessments should already be taking place in most schools through the Connexions service, but in many parts of the country that service does not deliver. Connexions is going through a time of change, and soon it will again be run by local authorities. This is therefore an opportune time to ensure that every child leaving school has the right to a profile and an holistic assessment.

Secondly, my Bill proposes a guarantee of a mentor for every child between the age of 16 and 18. That mentor would be there for the young person either via the internet or through face-to-face meetings. If the young person did not have the family backing that many children have, the mentor would be there to give advice and guidance at those critical times when a child must decide whether to stay on at school and do A-levels, go into further education or go in for an apprenticeship. That is the time when a mentor can be vital, particularly in the lives of children who do not have a rich backing at home.

Thirdly, my Bill would introduce vital guarantees for children with special educational needs and disabilities. When the Select Committee on Education and Skills, which I have the privilege to chair, recently investigated special educational needs the area that gave me the most concern was what happens to children with special educational needs and disabilities from the age of 16 through to 18 and beyond. My Bill will help those between 16 and 18, but of course that experience can be built on thereafter.

Lastly, my Bill would deliver for every young person between 16 and 18 a minimum of two weeks' intensive training in community leadership. I do not mean picking up newspapers and wiping off graffiti; I mean training in leadership skills. We know how to impart such skills, and we know that an intensive two-week period of community leadership training can make a great deal of difference to getting young people into work, and into work with training.

This is a modest Bill. I am sure that any Government who want to ensure a fuller life for young people would want to back it. I am sure that the Minister will say that he backs it, and that the new Prime Minister would like to embrace it because he really wants to make a difference in our country.

Photo of Parmjit Dhanda Parmjit Dhanda Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education and Skills 2:28 pm, 18th May 2007

My hon. Friend Mr. Sheerman has put across the real qualities of his Bill very well in those four minutes. He will be aware, however, that the Government have a number of measures in train at the moment, not least the recent Green Paper "Raising Expectations: staying in education and training post-16". I know that he welcomes the measures in that Green Paper.

My hon. Friend also mentioned his focus on children with special educational needs. He and I have had many a debate, here in the Chamber and in Westminster Hall, on that issue, and I respect the work that he and his Committee have done on it. I am sure that we will continue to have a good, full dialogue on the matter.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend's work on a range of issues in relation to the measures in the Bill. Although we are pleased to hear him raise the issues, he will not be surprised, given that so much work in the Department—

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed on Friday 29 June.