Tempting as it may be, given the compelling case for raising the participation age, I am sure that my hon. Friend, as Chair of the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families, would not wish me to rush ahead of the ability of the system to deliver. It is important that we get the information, advice and guidance right, that the qualifications consistently work across the country and that we have the work force ready to deliver. I do not think that an accelerated timetable would allow us to do that.
As we face the current economic challenges, this is the time to invest in skills and training that will build a strong work force and a strong economy, and that will secure Britain's place at the forefront of global competition, innovation and productivity. Therefore, in spite of the economic difficulties we face—indeed because of them—this is education's moment. This Bill not only seeks to put in place the infrastructure that will ensure that the system can deliver the historic changes we have made, but supports the moral and economic ambitions of the 2008 Act. It will open up more learning routes to more people and support fairer access to that learning, through an expansion of apprenticeship places and a new right for adults to request time to train to help them to overcome constraints to their learning and develop the skills they need to progress. It will rationalise the national infrastructure, with lighter-touch bodies that will support local delivery, promote excellence and represent the choices and aspirations of learners.
In particular, the Young People's Learning Agency will be created to support local authorities in their new 16-to-18 funding role, Ofqual as an independent regulator of qualifications and assessment, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency to take on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's non-regulatory functions, and the Skills Funding Agency as part of a new demand-led system of post-19 education and training.
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