Clause 29

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 14th June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby 3:00 pm, 14th June 2007

That is the perennial question; not whether it is right in principle, or whether it should be done or whether it is going to make for a better society, but what will it cost? That is exactly my point.

The hon. Member for Brent, East has reduced her party by firm discipline into total silence, although there were signs of life when this issue came up. The Whip has asked me to be brief, and I always accede to his requests, so I shall speak for only about a quarter of an hour.

I want to commend the principle behind the amendments and new clause. We had many problems in raising the school leaving age to 16, and we solved them inadequately. We will have more problems keeping people in education or training until they are 18, unless we provide the kind of imaginative framework outlined by my two hon. Friends today.

We always cater so well for academics, the middle class and the intelligent in this country, but they tend to get on, whatever happens, through their own ability. However, we do not cater for, support and sustain those who are less adequate intellectually. I understand the desire to get out of school and into adult life and to be free of school trammels, but such people are, in effect, throwing away their futures in many cases, unless they are helped adequately and are sustained for what is a difficult period. I am sure that parents help, but such people need some other support mechanism.

The SEN students from Sheffield, to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough has referred, will find it difficult. I constantly have to argue about the ending of courses at the institute in Grimsby because they do not lead to a diploma and therefore do not qualify for finance that would provide a specialist for each student. We must have an imaginative framework to help these people, because a skill, an education or an involvement is a platform on which to build life. Those people who are deprived of those things live a second-rate existence and it is our job, in providing training and higher and further education to see that people are sustained through the system and helped to seize opportunities, rather than being cast into the dustbin of life, as I would put it; that is, being cast out unsupported and unhelped. It is a little impractical to include such ideas in this Bill, but I hope that those are the lines that the Government are thinking along as we go in for this all-important transition.