Clause 5

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships) 12:00 pm, 12th June 2007

My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry is absolutely right that the critical need is to upskill and reskill the existing adult population. Even if we got skills training absolutely right from the perspective of young people, the demographics make it clear that, unless we upskill and reskill the existing working population, we will not be able to meet the targets necessary if we are to remain economically competitive. That also means examining the access to learning and the re-entry to learning. I am very concerned about the decline of adult and community education. I make no apologies for saying that the loss of a number of adult and community places has been a disgrace, and I hope that the Minister might comment on that issue.

The clause abolishes the two statutory LSC committees—the young people’s learning committee and the adult learning committee. I draw attention to adult and community learning because, if we are going to upskill and reskill the existing working population, it  is critically important that we are as lateral in our thinking as possible about the routes to learning, including the re-entry to learning for many people who have perhaps been failed by the system the first time round.

These two committees provide an important voice for adult learners within the system and it would be interesting to hear from the Minister as to why he feels that they should go. They are low-cost and they provide valuable scrutiny of the LSC’s work on age-related issues. In particular, with the abolition of the adult learning committee and the end of an independent adult learning inspectorate, it appears that the distinctive nature of adult education and learning is losing much of its statutory underpinning.

These may seem like minor matters in relation to the Bill, but they speak volumes for very significant issues about adult learning. Many of us are strongly committed to the principle of adult learning. A few days ago, I was at the City Lit college in Covent Garden, which I am sure that both Ministers will know well. There are 52,000 enrolments and 3,000 courses there. The courses are overwhelmingly, perhaps exclusively, non-accredited and are attracting learners of all kinds, of all ages and from all backgrounds into education and back into education. The work of organisations such as that college should be celebrated. It deserves a voice in the system. I am concerned that in a small way clause 5 will diminish or quieten their voice unacceptably. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s comments on that.