What assessment he has made of the effects of removing statutory guidance on work experience at key stage 4 on the promotion of vocational education to young people.
In her report on vocational education, Professor Alison Wolf recommended the replacement of work-related learning at key stage 4 with high-quality work experience beyond the age of 16. Thanks to that report, funding reforms and the introduction of new 16-to-19 study programmes are supporting those changes, which were announced last July and will take effect from September.
Apart from the fact that most of that was fairly waffly, how would the Secretary of State know what is going on in his Department, given that his former children’s Minister told the Select Committee on Education last week that it was more like a department of Grace Brothers than a Department of State? What will the Secretary of State do, therefore, to ensure that people are being served? The Engineering Employers Federation, the Forum of Private Business and others have all said, “This isn’t working. Get your act together.”
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but as Minister responsible for vocational education I do not know why he is so dismissive of department stores. Retail provides many opportunities for young people to learn the skills that they need to be successful in the world of employment. Last week we had the opportunity to discuss qualifications at 16 and the importance of vocational education. I was delighted then that those on the Opposition Front Bench endorsed every recommendation in the Wolf report, and I am delighted also that we have an opportunity now to carry through those recommendations.
My local education business partnership does fantastic work linking local businesses with schools and giving pupils a bit more understanding of the world of work and the workplace. What are the Government doing to help to promote such social enterprises?
I am absolutely delighted that business, not only in my hon. Friend’s constituency but elsewhere, is playing an increasingly positive role in supporting work experience in schools and promoting an understanding of the world of work among the next generation. In particular, I have been delighted to be able to work with Business in the Community, an outstanding organisation supported and established by the Prince of Wales, that has done much to ensure that business plays its part in encouraging our young people to aspire to achieve more.
This morning, the Under-Secretary of State for Skills tweeted his support for the Policy Exchange report on vocational education, but that report and Tim Oates’s report for Cambridge Assessment were both heavily critical of the Government’s approach, including of their move away from immersion in the workplace for young people. Will the Secretary of State tell us how many schools have now withdrawn provision for work experience for 14 to 16-year-olds, and whether he wants that provision to be ended completely?
It is for each school to decide what is appropriate for its own students, but Alison Wolf’s report, which was welcomed across the House, clearly underlined the importance of high-quality work experience after the age of 16. That position was supported by the CBI and by the Labour party at the time, and our reforms to the funding of post-16 education now facilitate that provision.
Will not the removal of the statutory guidance assist schools and further education colleges to work more closely together to maximise vocational opportunities for all vocational students in a particular area?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We need better integration of schools and further education colleges, and that is happening as a result of the Wolf report. The barrier that prevented those who are qualified to work in further education colleges from working in schools has been removed, and children over the age of 14 have the opportunity to be taught in FE colleges, which they did not have before. Greater integration of the two sectors is vital if we are to build on the successes of both.