Clause 29

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 14th June 2007.

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Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Minister of State (Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education), Department for Education and Skills 3:30 pm, 14th June 2007

The implied rebuke for the hon. Member for Henley was clearly heard all the way across the Chamber.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills eloquently put the case in response to the points on apprenticeships that were raised. People can play with figures, but the reality is that today, we have 250,000 young people in apprenticeships, compared with 70,000 10 years ago. Completion rates have gone from 28 per cent. to 60 per cent., just behind the performance of Germany, which has always been seen as an exemplar in that regard. I am the first to admit that we can and should do more, but given what happened to apprenticeships in the 1980s and 1990s, we should not take lectures from the Conservative party. In response to documents written by the right hon. Member for Wokingham, I say that putting skills training in his hands would be like asking King Herod to manage the Sure Start programme.

New clause 5 deals with the transition from school to post-16 provision and adult life of young people with special educational needs and disabilities. It is an important issue for the Government. The 2005 report of the Prime Minister’s strategy unit highlighted the difficulties that young people face in their transition to adult life. It is crucial that we do more. I am sympathetic to the sentiments behind the new clause, but arrangements to provide those young people and their parents and guardians with advice and information to help with the transition are already in place, along with the statutory transition planning arrangements, under the Education Act 1996, for young people with statements of special educational needs. Crucial in that regard is the annual review meeting, following which a transition plan is drawn up. A special educational needs code of practice gives the Connexions service responsibility for overseeing its implementation and liaising with the young person, their parents or carers and post-16 providers. To my hon. Friends, I say that we need to keep transition planning for those with special educational needs under review. I have been discussing the issues with campaigners recently and I hope that we can continue to move forward on them.

New clause 6 seeks to give the Secretary of State the power to

“provide or secure the provision of services to encourage, enable or assist...the creation of programmes” to develop young people’s skills and qualifications,

“in particular...for the development of leadership skills and skills for future employment.”

I agree that it is important to help young people to develop those skills, which are key to supporting the transition to adulthood and to success in the modern workplace. The new clause is not needed, however, because there are already sufficiently broad statutory powers for the Secretary of State to arrange that kind of provision. Sections 2 and 3 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, for example, give the LSC statutory functions in relation to securing the provision of facilities for post-16 education and training.

The third sector, to which a number of hon. Members referred, also has a crucial role to play. Schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh award, the scouts and guides and the Prince’s Trust do invaluable  work in that regard. The third sector is also a key partner with local authorities in delivering youth opportunity and capital funds.

A wide range of opportunities to develop skills for leadership and work is already available to young people aged 14 to 19, such as functional skills in English, maths, information and communication technology, and personal, learning and thinking skills. This has been an important debate. We have had a good exchange of views. Many of the changes that have been called for are already in train through particular strategies that we are pursuing or ones that are under consideration. I hope that my hon. Friend will therefore feel able to withdraw her amendment.