Before we begin, I have a few preliminary announcements. Members may, if they wish, remove their jackets during Committee sittings. Please would all Members ensure that mobile phones, pagers, and so on are turned off or switched to silent mode during sittings.
I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution in connection with this Bill—copies are available in the room. I also remind Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairman, Mr. Bayley, do not intend to call starred amendments, including any starred amendments that may be reached during an afternoon sitting of the Committee.
We are still in the early days of taking oral evidence in Public Bill Committees, so it might help if I briefly explain what is proposed, so that we can all be clear. The Committee will first be asked to consider the programme motion that is being circulated in the Committee room, which supersedes the motion on the amendment paper. Debate on the motion is limited to half an hour. We will proceed to a motion to report written evidence a motion to permit the Committee to deliberate in private in advance of the oral evidence sessions, both of which I hope we can take formally.
Assuming that the second of these motions is agreed to, the Committee will then move into private session. Once the Committee has deliberated, the witnesses and members of the public will be invited back into the room and our oral evidence session will commence. If the Committee agrees to the programme motion, the Committee will hear oral evidence today, on Thursday 24 January and on Tuesday 29 January before starting clause-by-clause scrutiny on Thursday 31 January.
I beg to move,
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday 22nd January) meet—
(a) at 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 22nd January;
(b) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 24th January;
(c) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 29th January;
(d) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 31st January;
(e) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 5th February;
(f) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 7th February;
(g) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 19th February;
(h) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 21st February;
(i) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 26th February;
(j) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 28th February;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following table:
Tuesday 22nd January
Until no later than 11.40 a.m.
Tuesday 22nd January
Until no later than 12.20 p.m.
Tuesday 22nd January
Until no later than 1.00 p.m.
Association of Colleges
Tuesday 22nd January
Until no later than 4.40 p.m.
Confederation of British Industry
Tuesday 22nd January
Until no later than 5.20 p.m.
Trades Union Congress
Tuesday 22nd January
Until no later than 6.00 p.m.
Association of School and College Leaders
Tuesday 22nd January
Until no later than 7.00 p.m.
Association of Directors of Children’s Services; Local Government Association
Thursday 24th January
Until no later than 9.40 a.m.
Independent Schools Council; Independent Schools Inspectorate
Thursday 24th January
Until no later than 10.25 a.m.
Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills
Thursday 24th January
Until no later than 1.40 p.m.
Professor Alison Wolf; Professor Lorna Unwin
Thursday 24th January
Until no later than 2.20 p.m.
Association of Learning Providers; Campaign for Learning
Thursday 24th January
Until no later than 4.00 p.m.
National Union of Teachers; National Association of Head Teachers
Tuesday 29th January
Until no later than 11.30 a.m.
Ioan Morgan, Principal of Warwickshire College; Ian Pryce, Principal of Bedford College; Paul Head, Principal of College of North East London
Tuesday 29th January
Until no later than 12.15 p.m.
Tuesday 29th January
Until no later than 1.00 p.m.
Tuesday 29th January
Until no later than 4.50 p.m.
British Youth Council
Tuesday 29th January
Until no later than 7.00 p.m.
Department for Children, Schools and Families; Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills;
(3) the proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 14; Clause 57; Clause 15; Clause 61; Clause 16; Clause 62; Clauses 17 to 56; Clauses 58 to 60; Clauses 63 to 145; Schedules 1 and 2; Clauses 146 to 150; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 4.00 p.m. on Thursday 28th February.
I am delighted to report to the Committee that there was an outbreak of consensus in the Programming Sub-Committee meeting—very amicable it was too—and we unanimously agreed this programme motion, which we commend to the Committee.
I am delighted that there is consensus on the programme motion, because the purpose of these evidence sessions is, as the Modernisation Committee report said last year, to inform Members of an evidential basis to the Bill; and—this is a very important role of evidence sessions—to raise the reputation of Parliament amongst the public. This Select Committee-type style is part of that process. I think the Government agreeing to the list of witnesses proposed by the Opposition—the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives—is part of that process, and we are grateful that was done on this occasion.
We, too, would like to thank the Minister and his team for being willing to amend the list of witnesses to include a broader spectrum. We are therefore very happy with the programme motion.
Welcome to our witnesses, Martin Narey and Anne Pinney; we are grateful to you for coming. My name is John Bercow; I am the Member of Parliament for Buckingham, and I am chairing this Public Bill Committee, of which these evidence sessions form part. Could you briefly state your names and titles for the record? We will then go straight into the questioning, beginning with the Opposition Front Benchers and proceeding to other Members. We have a strict timetable and must have finished this session at 11.40, which carries its own implications for the pithiness of both the questions and responses.
It is a pleasure to welcome you both to the Committee. Mr. Narey, you have been released from your previous role with the Prison Service. It is nice of both of you to be with us today. On the survey of opinion, in your brief you say that young people who you have surveyed said that choice is best. The British Youth Council said that it found that 46 per cent of young people were against compulsion. What did you find from the survey that you conducted of young people?
Martin Narey: Anne can say more about the survey, but it certainly confirmed our view that choice is vital, which is from our experience of working with many young people who have fallen out of education. Alternative sorts of provision and choice are very important, giving the opportunity for a young person to find somewhere they can do well. Nevertheless, ultimately, after all the safeguards within the Bill, our position is that we support compulsion as a means of ensuring that the most disadvantaged young people have their horizons broadened and are prepared for a world of work, rather than a world of benefits and long-term poverty.
Anne Pinney: To expand on that. These were young people in our alternative education and training services. They were overwhelmingly from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds and all had very complex barriers to learning: homelessness, substance abuse, mental health problems, long-term under-achievement, low self-esteem and so on. These young people did not feel they had a choice at the moment because of their very poor experience of education to date. The challenge in this Bill is to give those young people a real choice by making sure there is the right provision for them and the support to enable them to engage.
You say in your brief that you are concerned that young people are not left with a criminal record which could jeopardise their future employment prospects. Could you say a bit about those concerns?
Martin Narey: It would be ironic, indeed, if action that had been taken to make sure that a young person’s life chances were transformed by making sure they were given the qualifications to be a member of the work force then damaged those chances by giving young person a criminal record that followed him or her into adulthood. We feel there are steps that could be taken to prevent that happening, with amendments to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and perhaps taking the record from the police national computer. There are a number of solutions that should make it possible to ensure that the slate would be clean at 18 and a young person would not be disadvantaged in looking for a job because of immature actions he had perhaps committed at 16.
Martin Narey: After all the support has been there, after the attendance panel has scrutinised that support is adequate and so forth, we feel that, ultimately, compulsion is necessary to make sure that we do not leave a small proportion of young people behind. However, we are suggesting that that criminal record should be expunged at the age of 18.
Anne Pinney: I have a couple of points on the attendance panel. We would want the reasonable excuse for non-participation that must include consideration of the support provided. We would welcome a much clearer articulation of an alternative pathway for young people who have additional support needs, as an alternative to the enforcement process. Advocacy is not mentioned in the proposals at the moment but clearly some young people may have difficulty representing their own position, why they are not participating, and what has gone before—the history behind it; they may need advocacy. We would want them to have it, particularly if they have learning or communication difficulties.
You have touched on the benefits that participation in education or training would give to the young people you work with. What do you think is more important in maximising that participation? Do you think it is having the enforcement measures at the end of the road or do you think it is the signal—the culture change—that raising the participation age sends out?
Martin Narey: I think it is the latter which is the more important, from our experience of working with a lot of young people and getting many more of them believing that the world of work is something to do with them. A real problem in my experience, both in Barnardo’s and previously running prisons, is that there is a frightening minority of young people who think the world of work is simply nothing to do with them—that work is something that people like you and I do. You have to break through that. Compulsion is ultimately important, but it is much more important to convince the young person that they have abilities—that there are things that they can do well in—and to give them a huge amount of support. It is naive to expect a young person from a chaotic background simply to turn up at a training course by themselves, for example. You need a huge amount of support to get them there. In my view, some of those young people will have to be literally delivered to their place of training, if really want them to benefit. We should not think that doing that is being soft on the individual.
You work with some young people who have particularly challenging lives.
Clearly, those are the young people who find it the most difficult to participate. Do you think that some of those young people should therefore be exempt from the duty, or should we be finding ways of supporting them towards participation? If the latter, what sort of support do you think that those young people should be receiving?
Martin Narey: It is very much the latter; we should be supporting them. We take young people at a number of our projects who, at the age of 16 or so, are condemned utterly as unemployable, for all time. We would be very happy to show members of the Committee that if they ever have time. Our work takes a long time; we cannot do it in a few weeks—at one of our projects in Harrogate where we teach catering skills, it sometimes takes two or three years—but, at the end of that process we have young people who are employable and can look forward to a life of work. Part of that is sticking with people and accepting that young people will often fail and fail again, but sticking with them until they can find the way to success.
Anne Pinney: You link that question to the duty to participate. One of the amendments that we will be seeking is for local authorities to be required to audit the sufficiency and diversity of provision, in terms of both the learning provision and the support available, as a prerequisite to the duty to participate applying to the young person. The question to ask before putting the duty on them to participate is: can we be confident that there is a real learning choice for every learner out there, whatever their particular needs?
I want to follow up the point about the particular difficulties of very vulnerable groups. You said that young people may have to be physically delivered to the point of training. Do I take it that for those groups you are expecting that there would be specialised training? Surely you are not suggesting that we would physically deliver someone who was living such a chaotic life to an employer? It would be very difficult to give that support in an employment situation.
Martin Narey: It is vital that we have huge variety of training and education opportunities and that we find the right thing for the right young person. Our experience is that you can do that even with gravely disadvantaged people. My point about delivering them arose from both my career in Barnardo’s and earlier in my career when working with offenders. As those of us who have brought up children know, we as parents spend a lot of time making sure that our children—well into their 20s—get to where they need to be: we take them to school, we take them to FE, we deliver them to work and we offer the sort of support that sometimes young people need. But for our most disadvantaged young people, we often offer no support like that at all. We expect them to all this on their own, and they will fail. Adequate support—one-to-one support for many young people—is really vital if we want them to succeed.
Anne Pinney: Often, that is needed just on a transitional basis. Perhaps three to six months of intensive one-to-one support to help a young person to address their key problems—debt, substance abuse, housing difficulties or whatever it is—can be enough to help them to re-engage, to start believing in themselves and to think about their aspirations and what they want to do. I have had examples from our projects of the sort of one-to-one support that they do. Someone from one of our projects in Cardiff was telling me that they have gone so far as to buy a young man an alarm clock because he just seemed incapable of getting out of bed in the mornings, and that helped.
Coming back very briefly to the issue of compulsion—in paragraph 3.1 of your evidence you mention that for young people “choosing to participate was critical to their motivation to attend and achieve.” Are you worried that if we have to get some of these young people involved in education and training through compulsion, we may have real problems motivating them and getting them to attend the particular courses?
Martin Narey: We want to be very clear. There is a long list of organisations that like us, we understand, are opposing compulsion. We do not want to give the impression that we are gung-ho about this. Essentially, we think that compulsion will be a mark of failure and we should do everything we can to avoid it.
I believe that ultimately there are a group of young people, mainly young men, who may resist any sort of participation at all. We now meet young people in Barnardo’s who represent the third generation of their family who have never worked. The belief that work is nothing to do with them is really important. I think it was Michael Gove who said on Second Reading that you cannot take a horse to water, but my experience is that you can. I am not suggesting that you do not try to get people there voluntarily, but my experience with offenders in prison for example, when they were literally captive, was that we could take young people who had fallen out of education, often from the age of 13, and put them on to a vocational training course where they would do remarkably well. I am not saying that this often happens in prison because prisons are overwhelmed in numbers, but I have seen lots of evidence of young people compelled to participate in education who have done extremely well.
In paragraph 1.2 you describe some of the work that you are already doing with this group of young people—often those with multiple disadvantages. If the Bill goes through, do you have any concerns about whether or not those services will be available to an adequate depth and extent to pick up the increase, presumably, in the number of these people with quite high needs who will need to be dealt with by organisations such as yours and others?
Martin Narey: I am quite certain that greater provision will be necessary. I am quite sure that we have services scattered around the country dedicated to what I think of as vocational training. We are opening a new one in Stepney very shortly. My guess is that if we opened 10 more this year, we would fill them all very quickly because there are a lot of young people for whom, for all sorts of reasons, the normal model of school and classroom-based learning simply will not work, but they can flourish if the right provisions are made available. So I am quite sure that there will be an additional supply of that sort of training.
To ask one, final question, in paragraph 5.2 you say that “Attendance Panels must consider the extent of support provided by the LEA in assessing whether a young person has a ‘reasonable excuse’ for not attending.” In your view, as opposed to anything that may be implicit in the Bill, should there be for any quite exceptional cases any reasonable excuses for not taking up the obligation to be in education and training up to the age of 18?
Anne Pinney: We would want a clear assurance that a young person did not have any unmet support needs. If they have unmet support needs, then the compulsion duty should not apply and they should not be expected to participate. We would welcome greater clarity from Ministers on that point, that the enforcement process will not be used if there are outstanding support needs.
So you cannot envisage any circumstances in which young people with particular family, health and other issues might have a reasonable excuse not to be in education and training in these particular two years?
Martin Narey: There may be individual cases where circumstances, such as caring for a parent, make it very difficult for a young person. But what impresses me about the intention behind the Bill is that it is about raising our ambitions for all children—that we do not accept that there is a category of children we can just forget about. That is the net result of what we have at the moment.
The exceptions would have to be genuinely exceptional. Even with children for whom it would be quite easy to say there is a very good case for leaving them out—because they have learning difficulties, for example—our experience is that, with the right investment, we can turn their lives around and find a way of making them employable.
You have talked, very movingly I feel, about the barriers to learning for many young people and about raising expectations for young people who have been in families where there has not been an expectation of work, or success, or of moving forward in their lives. You have also talked about the success of the projects you have been running. Are there acceptable alternatives to the proposals in the Bill that you have been running in your projects that surmount these barriers and raise expectations and which could be implemented in the Bill? Could you also talk about the support and expectations that employers will need to have in place to tackle the needs of young people who do not have the commitment and expectation of continuing in education in schools?
Martin Narey: In answer to the first question, repeating myself somewhat, it is about breadth of provision, having the widest possible opportunities and choices for different sorts of education and training and giving young people who are, for whatever reason, opposed to classroom-based learning a different approach and giving them a choice. Choice, from our experience of working with young people is really important.
For this hard-to-reach group, it has to be something intensive and long-term. For the most disadvantaged young people, you cannot turn this around in three months or six months, sometimes it will take years, but it can be done. The problem of course is that it is eye-wateringly expensive to do that. One of our projects of which I am most proud, the restaurant I mentioned in Harrogate, is fantastic. I am confident that if any of you saw it, you would be moved by what young people achieve there. The problem is it is hugely expensive because sometimes, it might take us two years to get someone a level 1 NVQ, but in terms of what it will mean for their life, it is worth it.
I would like to visit this restaurant in Harrogate at some stage, particularly if the food is as good as you say it is. You said that work is very important and some of the young people you deal with have three generations not in work. Do you fear that the duties imposed on employers in the Bill might deter some employers from taking on the very people you suggest need to be in work, for whom just being in work is a fantastic step forward, even if that work does not have any training with it?
Martin Narey: I have heard that said. I know there has been some debate about that and I do not pretend to know the answer. My experience with employers in my previous life, when I was trying to persuade them to take offenders, was that the vast majority of employers were perfectly willing to accept a certain element of social and corporate responsibility. The one obstacle to them taking young disadvantaged people on to their books was that they didn’t have the skills. I found with offenders, who are often an unpopular bunch of people to place in employment, that if we turned offenders out of prison with the right skills, employers were willing to give them a go. So if we can get the right sort of vocational provision for this group, I think most employers would conscientiously do their bit.
The timetable of this Bill implicitly says that we should be starting to talk to children when they are 11 about the fact that they will be continuing until they are 18. Your experience of those who, at 13 or 14, drop out of the mainstream system is well known. Do you think there are steps that could be taken at that sort of age in order to engage them then and bridge that gap? As you say, it can take two or three years to give people the right skills, perhaps we should be doing things earlier with young people. If so, what sorts of things should we be doing to engage them at that age, ready to carry on?
Anne Pinney: You are absolutely right, disengagement begins well before 16 and if we think of this as a reform for only 16 to 18-year-olds, it will not work. It needs to be in the context of reform of the 14-to-19 curriculum, but also a much wider look at support structures all the way through school. Something that Barnardo’s recommends, which comes directly from the young people in our projects, is the need for key workers in secondary schools and colleges to give young people someone fairly independent whom they can talk to in confidence who can help them to access the support they need. They did not feel it was appropriate to talk to teaching staff, but they were dealing with such pressure outside school that they simply could not engage in the classroom effectively.
The reason that 11 per cent. of year 11 students, just before they go on into the area we are talking about, are truanting is because many of them have a deep sense of stigma and shame about going to school. Is that correct?
They cannot read and write, they have fallen behind. They come from families where they cannot afford the school trips or donations that are required. They are deeply socially excluded.
Is it really right that we are saying to these youngsters—who already feel this sense of deep shame and stigma—“Oh well, the answer is that we are going to give you another two years of hiding at the back of the class, or being chased around as though you are a truant”?
Martin knows, as well as I do, that the average reading age in prisons is eleven. Do we not need to tackle this basic problem of literacy and numeracy at a much earlier age—and really get a grip on that—before we talk about compulsion?
Martin Narey: I think an early concentration on literacy and numeracy is very important, but actually there is something to be said about variation for children of a younger age, because it is right that, by year 11, a lot of people have dropped out. Either they have truanted, or a lot of young people are being excluded from school. I used to see swathes of excluded young people coming to young offender institutes a few years later, so I know what damage it can do.
This is not me giving another bid for a bit of Barnado’s work, so I volunteer the fact that other organisations do this as well. I think that there are a lot of young people—who can be identified at a much earlier age than 16—who cannot thrive in a classroom of 30 children, for whatever the reason. I could take you to some of our residential schools where young people who have often been multiply excluded do extremely well in a residential setting—but crucially, in a class size of frequently six or eight. Identifying young people at an early stage who cannot flourish in mainstream education is really important. Otherwise, there is a danger that we wait until they get to prison and we teach them to read then.
But when you talk about Harrogate, you are talking about something voluntary. There are lots of good charities and voluntary bodies rescuing people that the system has failed—you and lots of other charities do it. But what makes you think that compulsion is going to be the answer—forcing youngsters to stay on in colleges, stay on in school or go to some work-based training scheme? Why is that the answer, rather than cracking the real problem—which is illiteracy and innumeracy not being tackled at a much earlier age?
Martin Narey: I would agree with you. I think we should try to crack that problem, and I stress again that we are not advocating compulsion. If you use compulsion simply to force a 16 or 17-year-old back into the same classroom environment from which he has been truanting since year 11, it will fail. But, if you use compulsion to open his or her eyes to a different form of education or training, it can work.
When the evidence of compulsion is compared, I can give you another example. I was given a huge amount of money when I was director general of prisons for drug treatment for 1998. I was told over and over again that I was wasting my time because prisoners forced into drug treatment would not flourish. The research four years later was absolutely straightforward—there was no discernible difference whatsoever from those who had been forced to engage in drug treatment and those who went as volunteers.
Compulsion, if it is accompanied by a bit of imagination in terms of offering alternative provision, could as a last resort be effective. But we stress that we see this genuinely as a last resort and are very keen to be assured—as we have been by what we have seen of the Bill—that it will be used as such. If compulsion is used routinely, it will fail.
Martin Narey, you have already said that you do not think any particular groups of young people per se should be exempted from participation. But you acknowledge that there are groups—I think you mentioned young carers—who will find it particularly challenging in these present circumstances. Can you think of any other groups of young people for whom this is going to be a particularly difficult challenge?
Martin Narey: There are no particular categories which spring to mind, Mr. Marsden. Our general view would be that we would accept that there will be individuals for whom this is very, very difficult, and they should be viewed sympathetically. My caution about that is that it would be very easy for practice to develop in such a way that there were large categories of young people who are just left out of this.
It is certainly not my intention to suggest that they should be. I was trying to suggest that there were particular categories that might need particular and additional support.
Staying with the young carers issue for a moment as an example, in that context is it your opinion that the work you have described on bringing young people back to participation, which you do successfully, is time consuming, inevitably labour intensive, and—as I suspect—fairly costly? What evidence do you have that young carers, for example, will be getting the support that they will need from local authorities, under the Bill’s provisions, to square the circle of continuing to do their caring while matching the participation requirements of the extended leaving age?
Martin Narey: I do not think that we can give that assurance. We have, I think, 26 or 27 projects supporting young carers; some of the challenges facing them throughout their education are very significant—and, frequently, not understood by schools. There is certainly a serious issue of stigma, with young carers not wanting to admit to their situation at their school. Teacher unions acknowledge that it is difficult to recognise the plight of young carers. I accept that that group might need additional support, which, I suggest, generally needs to have been delivered long before their 16th birthday.
Anne Pinney: Which brings me back to our point about auditing the sufficiency and diversity of provision before the duty can be applied. We will be doing further research this year, since we work extensively with these groups. We will be looking into the barriers to participation that particular groups face, what can de done to overcome them, and what works best in incentives, sanctions and so on. We will be publishing that before Christmas.
Does the sort of situation that you describe on intensive work mean that, in your view, we have to have additional obligations under the Bill to meet, for example, the financial provision requirements?
Anne Pinney: We would like to see an amendment to require local authorities to audit the sufficiency and diversity of provision. So, yes, we would like to see clearer expectations on local authorities to require needs-based planning and a planned expansion of support services, as well as provision for these learners.
We have focused on local authorities there but, for the groups of young people we are talking about—and understanding that this Bill is not just about keeping children in school to 18, but in other forms of work-based and educational provision—will there need to be different obligations for other education providers?
Anne Pinney: Yes. Clearly, the biggest and key area of expansion will have to be in work-based learning, particularly in its early stages, as we already have the ones who are going to stay on in school or college largely doing so. There will also have to be alternative provision, of the sort that the voluntary sector overwhelmingly provides at the moment, to enable young people to make that transition back from total disengagement and alienation to some sort of formal learning.
Do you think that employers are currently geared up to have an open attitude when dealing with the sort of groups mentioned?
Following that question, regarding the audit for the sufficiency and diversity of provision, you will be pleased to know that the Opposition have tabled an amendment in exactly those terms. I have no doubt that the Government will accept it with enthusiasm.
You have also argued strongly, both today and in your briefing, for a strong emphasis on the workplace. Knowing that work-based learning has declined by half in the last 20 years, what specific measures would you put in place to increase the degree of opportunity to engage sufficiently in that learning?
Anne Pinney: I know that the Government are placing much hope in the expansion of apprenticeships, but clearly those are slightly a function of the economic cycle. We work more at the supported end, where there will need to be a big expansion because many of the NEET population will, in the first instance, need to be more supported than for pure apprenticeships.
So is that principally about getting more employers engaged, or about putting additional mechanisms in place to provide the kind of support that you already do?
Presumably, then, you would welcome an increase in pre-apprenticeships, preparing young people who have not got employability skills, and programme-led apprenticeships, which might lead those young people coming out of colleges to getting employment and a proper, fully fledged apprenticeship?
Anne Pinney: Indeed, both of those will have to be part of the package. Programme-led apprenticeships need not only be in colleges; there often needs to be a very different environment than school or college for young people who have had a really poor experience of education so far to want to engage.
Thank you, Mr. Bercow, for allowing me in again. Martin, when we were talking earlier about the need to deliver some young people right to the premises, where they might engage with learning, you said that even parents with children in their 20s might need to be that active in their support. That led me to recall some of the aspects of the Second Reading debate, when we had an interesting discussion on what age we think young people are responsible enough to make their own decisions. A strong argument was put—I disagreed with it—that 16 is an age when we should not interfere with their rights to stay at home and play “World of Warcraft” if that is what they want to do. How would you respond to that?
Martin Narey: Our view is unequivocal. A single cut-off depends on maturity, but we think that children should be viewed as such until their 18th birthday. I read the Second Reading debate with some interest, but we do not share the view that a 16-year-old can make an informed, autonomous decision that, if it is their own decision, could have such a catastrophic effect on their future.
One of our priorities at Barnardo’s is to see some alleviation in the dire levels of child poverty in the UK. One of the things that makes child poverty such a challenge for us is that there is a significant cycle of child poverty. Young people grow up in poverty, have children at an early age and bring their children up in poverty—all the while, generation after generation of that group are not working. Just as we would do for our own children, we need to bear some heavy influence on the decisions that 16-year-olds make at that point, to make sure that they do not regret them in later life. We feel strongly that 16-year-olds are children, and we should treat them as such.
And do you think that this applies in particular to children from more disadvantaged or less aspirational backgrounds? Or does it make no difference according to what sort of person they are?
Martin Narey: I think that all 16-year-olds are children. They may be approaching adulthood and there is clearly a difference between a 16-year-old and a 12-year-old, but they are all children, no matter what their background. The challenge in the Bill is to pick up those young people who do not have the advantages that most of us will have afforded to our children—the emotional, financial and practical support that helps young people to find their way in the world, either getting them to university or getting them to work. I have worked for many years with many young people who have utterly chaotic lives and are effectively completely on their own at 16 years of age. Indeed, we have several young people—I am delighted to see that the Government are addressing this with some energy—who leave care on their 16th birthday. They are on their own, and in my view, they are not in a position to make informed decisions that will have such significance for their future.
Can I briefly clarify two points? First, on the audit that you are suggesting the LEA should do, are you saying that you want that audit of the sufficiency and diversity of provision to take place before the duties in the Bill apply in relation to compulsion, so that we make sure that we have got the services first?
You would not want the duty for people to be in training or education beyond 16 to be in place without the provision being in place to deal with them, is that fair?
From your experience of disadvantaged youngsters, are there any who might need a lot more care and support than they are getting at the moment—the services that you are providing—who, for a period of that time between 16 and 18, would need that care and support, medical or other, and who, rather than being in education and training at the same time, would benefit from doing the education and training afterwards?
Anne Pinney: Yes, and there will need to be flexibility and pragmatism by the attendance panel. We hope that such issues would be covered in the guidance issued to the attendance panel. Clearly, if a young person is suffering ill health or cannot attend for a short period for another reason, flexibility is needed. It might be more helpful to look at it as an entitlement that they could defer if there was a compelling reason why they could not attend.
Can I ask you about a different subject: the enforcement of data and information-sharing provisions in the Bill? Clause 16 talks about the duty to supply information by the local authority, the primary care trust, the strategic health authority, the chief officer of police and the probation board to a local authority in order to assess the enforcement of those provisions. Does Barnardo’s have a view about that data on young people?
May I briefly bring you to a new part on financial support for young people? Many people felt that the education maintenance allowance was a sort of sweetener to encourage people to stay on from 16 to 18. If there is a duty to participate between 16 and 18, the Government have said that they will look at restructuring financial support. You give a couple of options in your evidence—a minimum income guarantee and parity of financial support. Do you think that that should be done through the education system, or should we be looking to other benefits to tie into that?
Anne Pinney: The experience from our services is that financial support—the EMA—has been beneficial as an incentive. There are problems with the administration of it, but it has been beneficial and financial incentives are a powerful experience. We would not want to see the loss of financial incentives, although, clearly, they will need to change when participation is compulsory. There are two important points, though, that I wanted to feed in. There is a need for parity across different routes. We have a crazy situation where three different learners are working in a factory, doing a similar role but paid different levels of support, because of the learning route that they are on. That must not continue, because it will influence people’s learning choices, perhaps inappropriately. There also needs to be a minimum income guarantee for young people living independently, who are twice as likely to be in poverty as those living with family. They are a vulnerable group, and we need to do better for them.
That concludes the questioning. I should like to thank Martin and Anne very warmly, both for their oral evidence today and for Barnardo’s written evidence. The Committee is extremely grateful, and you have contributed to some enlightenment for all of us. Thank you.
If we can have a speedy turnaround, that would be great. We shall move on, as quickly as people can get to their seats, to the Prince’s Trust.
Welcome and good morning. Perhaps I can ask our two witnesses from the Prince’s Trust to introduce themselves and then, as in the previous session, I am minded to move straight into Q and A.
Thank you very much for coming to give evidence today. May I just ask you about compulsion, which is one of the basic principles of the Bill? What is the Prince’s Trust view on whether the participation age should be raised to 18?
Martina Milburn : It is fair to say we do not have a black-and-white view, which is probably unhelpful. We have great concerns about compulsion. If we are looking at the experience of the Prince’s Trust with the young people on our programmes—basically, what we do is get young people into education, training and work, and we did that with 40,000 young people last year—the bulk of those young people came through on a voluntary programme. However, some young people, particularly those who were dealt with by the court system and the probation service, came to us as a condition of their probation. As Martin said in relation to the research that Barnado’s had done, there was no difference between the outcomes of either group.
Martina Milburn : I guess that the question is what you do with the young person who just says, “No, I’m not doing it.” The big issue is the assumption that every young person has an adequate adult behind them, but most of the young people who we come across do not. The other part of the debate is that the bulk of the 40,000 people who we worked with last year had issues with drugs and alcohol. What do you do with a young person who is already going down the path of taking too many drugs and drinking too much and who just says, “I’m not going to do it” and disappears? That happens not just in the age group that we are talking about. I was talking to a young person yesterday who started drinking at eight and who was on heroin by the time he was 11; he certainly was not in school after that time. The question is how you deal with that. Do you increasingly criminalise young people and just say, “Right, we’re going to lock you all up,” or do you find some way of trying to reach them and sort out some of their issues?
I went to one of the Prince’s Trust projects in Glasgow, and I was hugely impressed by the way it brought these challenging young people into the workplace, so that they could set up their own businesses and so on. What role do you believe the voluntary sector should play? Does this legislation pay enough attention to the voluntary sector?
Martina Milburn : The honest answer is probably no, it does not. The voluntary sector has a strong role to play, and the reason why a lot of these young people are not in the system is that they see it as part of the enemy. I think that it was Phil Hope who said in a speech recently—he did not know that I was in the audience, incidentally—that it is no coincidence that so many young people who go through the Prince’s Trust initially become youth workers when they leave, because the Prince’s Trust was their first positive experience with an adult. They do not have a positive experience of adults at school and certainly not in their families, and on the whole, they do not have a positive experience of adults with the police or in their community. So, to an extent, the Bill has hit something much bigger than keeping young people in school.
Indeed. I recently sat in on an interview for Teach First. One young woman was studying for her postgraduate certificate of education while holding down four jobs. There must be many 16 and 17-year-olds who are holding down one, two or three jobs simply to keep the wolf from their family’s door. What effect could the Bill have on such people? In your briefing, you say that the trust believes that all young people have potential talent but not all people can work towards an accreditation and that, in the minority of cases, it is clear that they will not achieve certain qualifications and that they would be set up to fail. How do we help those people not be set up to fail by this legislation?
Martina Milburn : That is where you use the voluntary sector, and that comes back to the thorny issue of funding and how much money is going to be available to work with those who are more disadvantaged. As Martin just said, some of these young people are not going to be turned around in a few months—it takes years. The Prince’s Trust team programme is a 12-week personal development programme, which takes only unemployed young people and the NEET group. In our experience, we do not see many who are holding down jobs to be able to achieve something.
We have an issue on the team programme regarding mental health, so we have just funded, through the King’s Fund, a pilot programme to see whether we can use some kind of assessment tool to find out whether a young person is on the right programme, whether they are they going to benefit or whether their needs are actually so acute that the Trust cannot help them at this point and they need to go to a different agency.
It is very early days—we are halfway through the pilot—but the information that we have had back is that at least a third of the young people on something like the team programme have a recognised mental health issue and at least one, if not two, on each programme—each will take only 15 young people—have such an acute mental health issue that they actually need key intervention. We have been able to use local mental health groups—in one case, a young woman opted for treatment through her GP—to enable them to get that treatment. They have gone off the programme, had the treatment and come back six or nine months later to a similar programme. That is all before they could even think about sitting down and starting a pre-apprenticeship programme. You are looking at that kind of need with some of the young people who we work with.
I have four quick and related questions. First, do you think it is desirable that all young people aged 16 to 18 should be in some form of education or training, assuming that their support needs are being met?
Do you think that it is possible to get to 100 per cent. participation in education and training without raising the participation age?
Let me put it another way, because that is an extremely reasonable answer. Is there another way of maximising and doing better in terms of participation other than raising the participation age?
Martina Milburn : I think that there probably is not. We are definitely broadly in support of the age being raised. The devil is always in the detail—where you deal with the compulsion and where you deal with the young people who we work with who are already very marginalised.
I do not think that it is complete doom and gloom. I think that with the right intervention and the right programmes—the Trust certainly is not the only one doing it—you can make a significant difference. Of the 40,000 people in our groups last year, 78 per cent. went into education, training or employment, which I think is phenomenal, given the backgrounds that most of them were from. It is not easy; it is not cheap; and it requires a lot people doing a lot of the right things.
So if support needs—perhaps in respect of the young people who you talked about with drug and alcohol addiction problems or teenage mums—have not been met and those people are excluded from compulsion, would you then have a problem with compulsion in dealing with those who willingly and deliberately just do not want to do it? They do not really have any support needs; they just do not want to engage.
Martina Milburn : Yes. I have three teenagers myself. Sometimes compulsion is very useful. I think that, on the whole, we all work it out and get there somehow or another. As Martin said, most of us do it because we have great support from our families and our schools. How do you replace that? I know that you probably think that I am being very woolly, but I do not know exactly how you do that. I do not think that there is some kind of great answer where you can say that if we removed this and we just dealt with the difficult ones then life would be fantastic. I think that being a teenager is a challenge—perhaps being a parent of teenagers is more challenging, I do not know. I do not have an issue with getting young people into training, education or employment; it is what we should be doing as a society. This is about how we do it, so that it makes the situation better and not worse.
My final question was on whether you have sought the views of the businesses that you work with in the Prince’s Trust and what they then said to you about the proposals.
Martina Milburn : We have sought the views of businesses about getting these young people into some kind of training. Our great worry was that, on the Prince’s Trust team programme, you took them through the 12 weeks, you built up their expectation and they fell off the cliff face. So we started a programme, which is mentioned in the paper called “Get Into”—which means get into whatever trade or pre-apprenticeship that we are trying to get them into. The response from employers has been overwhelmingly positive. We are struggling at the moment to meet the demand of both employers and young people, but you always get little issues with funding. We took 400 young people through it last year; we will take 1,000 through it this year, so it is ratcheting up very quickly.
The big issue that we have found with employers is providing enough support and resources to train the employers to understand, in our case, the category of young people who they are going to be taking in. I can give you a really trite, but none the less quite pertinent story. The Ritz was one of the first employers to sign up with the trust, and they did something called “Get into hospitality”. I think that they have run three or four where they have taken five of our young people, often from an offending background, and trained them in various trades within the hotel. The Prince was going for a dinner there, so they thought that it would be great if he went to meet them. One of their best and brightest sparks did not turn up that day and nobody could understand why; she had been doing fantastically well. After lots of phone calls, she was eventually found in a heap in the corner sobbing her heart out and refusing to come in, because she had been told that she could not wear trainers to meet the Prince of Wales; she had to wear shoes and she did not have any. Bless them—they whisked her off to Oxford street, got a pair of shoes, and she stood in line and everything was fine. On the whole, our young people cannot cope with what they perceive as those kind of knocks. Whereas you or I would just say, “Fine, I’ll just go and get a pair of shoes” or whatever, it does not happen in their world. Another example was with Marks and Spencer, we had—
Martina Milburn : I am sorry; I will be quick. We had someone who had been promoted. After two years, he suddenly did not turn up for two weeks, and they did not know why. He had had a big issue with his family, and he was too ashamed and embarrassed to tell them. It is about trying to work with employers and saying that these are the kind of things that you have got almost to allow for if you are prepared to take this target group. Bovis will tell you that, where you get it right, you get the most loyal and fantastic work force that you can have.
I should like to pick up some of Martina Milburn’s earlier answers, particularly those on the role of the voluntary sector. You indicated that you were disappointed that the Bill does not recognise the role of the voluntary sector; what, in particular, would you like to see added to the legislation to give recognition to the work that you and other voluntary sector practitioners do?
Martina Milburn : I would like to see work with the voluntary sector about how you set the targets—how is all this going to be measured? Because targets can often cause some of the issues that we are trying to overcome. I would like to see some of the users’ voices represented—where are the young people around here, particularly those in our category? And I would like to see what provision would be made for the voluntary sector to be able to help with some of the issues like pre-apprenticeship training, like doing the early work with employers and like taking young people from probation.
On that point about user voices, are you suggesting that there should be some sort of forum? There is provision in the Bill for more independent advice and guidance, but are you suggesting that there could also be a role for young people to comment on the services that they have been offered?
You said earlier that the vast majority of those who access the Prince’s Trust’s services are there because they have chosen to do so, although some are on court referrals. If, under the Bill, the trust was to take people who were compelled to be with you other than under a court order, which would concentrate their minds, would it affect the positive outcome that you currently achieve?
But do you think that part of the reason for your success at the moment is that the majority those with you now choose to access your particular type of education and training?
Martina Milburn : Logic would tell you that that was the case; but in my experience, I have found that, when you test these things, you do not always get the answers that you think you will get. That is an impossible question for me to answer, because I do not have any facts either way to support it.
Given what research you must have on why people come to you, what is the primary reason for people accessing the services offered by your organisation, rather than the more formal services offered by schools and colleges—or, indeed, directly by employers?
Martina Milburn : The primary reason is probably that they want to do something different with their lives, and they have got themselves to a point where they want to see something else happening. The comment that I hear most often is, “I was fed up of sitting at home getting wasted.” The other big reason is word of mouth, because their chums have been on it and it has made a difference for them.
You mentioned in an earlier answer that there will be clear difficulties with people who come from dysfunctional backgrounds, such as those with alcohol problems or who are dependent on drugs—or those who have someone else in the family at home with such a background. Do you think that enough support and recognition is given in the Bill to dealing with people from such backgrounds, given the difficulties that they have in their lives—for instance, in meeting a set timetable?
Martina Milburn : No, and I would like to see that improved. The issue for all of us is understanding quite how chaotic some of these young lives are. If you do nothing else, read a book called “Wasted”. It will take you about two hours, but it explains very clearly, in the voice of a young person, how chaotic a lifestyle he lived until he was able to sort himself out. We are not talking about someone under the age of 18; by the time that he started to want to change, he was in his late 20s.
Thank you for that reading tip. I shall ask the House of Commons Library whether it has a copy. Do you know who wrote it?
You spoke about picking up young people with mental health problems. Obviously, at the moment, your programmes are voluntary—people choose to go on them. In my experience with Portsmouth Foyer, it is the support workers that encourage young people to go. Do you not think that having a duty to participate will bring more such people into the fold, enabling us to find out who they are and to devise programmes for them? At the moment, vast swathes of them are not being picked up at all. But if we have a duty to participate, we can devise programmes to help.
Martina Milburn : Many programmes already do that, and they help. There is something about ensuring that they are adequately funded, not necessarily bringing in new people with new programmes, that will make a difference. A lot of your answer is already there. If you make it compulsory and you put in adequate resources—a lot of resources will be needed—then it would make a big difference because, yes, you would get that shift on the ground.
You can say what you want, but unless you actually put that work in on the ground with the money, I do not think that it will actually make a difference. If it is adequately resourced, that will make a difference—and if it is a real partnership with the voluntary sector. If people are prepared to listen to what young people are telling you then, yes, you could make a significant difference.
You talked about your work taster programmes and your pre-apprenticeship work. On the apprenticeships themselves, to what extent could the trust encourage people who have set up businesses through its auspices to feel that they have a responsibility to offer apprenticeships? Do you think it possible to change the culture to a point where businesses generally think it part of their duty to train up the young to follow them on? That used to be the culture at one time, but it very much died. The Government have their scheme, but what thoughts do you have on getting a real apprenticeship culture back?
Martina Milburn : Certainly, businesses that we work with are extremely supportive, as I said earlier. We are launching an alumni scheme for the businesses funded by the Prince’s Trust on 25 May, which all of our businesses will join. Part of what those businesses will be asked to do when they become established is to take young people in—not necessarily on apprenticeship courses, since some of them are small businesses—for work experience and help with CVs, for example. Obviously, if they become wealthy businesses they will be asked to donate some profits to the trust; some have done that by themselves.
The butchers are one group that I have been talking to recently. We are running a series called “Get into butchery”, because butchers cannot get young people at the moment. I know that there have been lots of jokes about us honing knife skills, but there we go. I go and talk to schools; for example, I asked a group of teachers in Swindon, “How many of you, in the last year, have suggested that any of your young people might like to try butchery?”, and the answer was, clearly, “Nobody”.
Young people need to understand the different apprenticeships that could be available to them. With many current apprenticeships, the threshold is, certainly, too high for our young people if they require NVQ level 3 to get on to the apprenticeship programme. The bulk of our young people come to us without NVQ level 1. If our butchery thing works—we have run two, and have plans to run some more this year—I hope that we can put the two groups together. We are looking very much at skills areas where there are shortages of young people going into industries.
Another area is the markets, as in Borough market as opposed to financial markets, which are again finding it increasingly difficult to attract young people. However, you can earn a good living there. With the first group that we took to Borough market, they did not bother showing them the fruit and veg stalls; they took them out the back, showed them the Porsches and said, “If you do well, this shows what you can earn.” You then get the young people interested, and they want to come on the course. However, you need back-up from the schools and employers and you need to look at the threshold for current apprenticeship schemes.
There used to be an idea that, if you were a tradesman or had a market stall, it was almost your duty to take on some young person and train them up. That seems to have been lost, so can anything be done to encourage that spirit of solidarity in trying to help some of these young people?
Martina Milburn : Yes; you name it, and I think we get into it at the moment. The other issue concerns the support for the trainee. That is why many small businesses have been reluctant, particularly with our target group. They have had issues; I know that my shoe example was a bad one, but they have to overcome that sort of thing, so we as the voluntary sector offer that support to help a young person. Our big “Get into” is with the construction industry; we are doing a six-week course where we encourage the young people to take their site certificate. That industry is then taking them straight into the apprenticeship courses. It was finding that it had low retention rates there, because they were getting bored by having to do the site certificate first.
The Bill has some very important provisions about adult skills as well as skills for younger people, and I know from the excellent work that the Prince’s Trust has done in Blackpool that you are concerned with both groups of people. What would you pick out as the most helpful provisions on adult skills in the Bill for the work and activities that you do?
Martina Milburn : One difficulty for us is the demarcation of adults at 18, because the team programme is for 16 to 25-year-olds, and there is a reason for that, which is that the positive outputs increase. I find it quite difficult to separate out. We have all met people who at 22 were more childish than the 16-year-old down the road. That is the difficulty. From the trust’s point of view, the more that can be done—we were very encouraged by some of the noises coming out about the 19-plus group—the better, because we work across that age range. We do not hold statistics—I looked beforehand—on the differences between those under 18 and those over 18. I have not really answered your question, but I just do not know the answer.
May I focus on the last point you made, about differences in relation to age? The Bill contains some commitments about the LSC supporting and funding skills up to the age of 25. Would you rather see that as a first step than as a complete cut-off?
With regard to how we build up adult skills, the Bill places a duty on the LSC to provide basic literacy and numeracy courses and there are level 2 and level 3 entitlements to funding. Will that be sufficient of itself to deliver the step change that we need in that group, or are there other ways of getting young adults back into a skills environment that we need to promote as well?
Martina Milburn : If I could talk personally, from the trust’s point of view, an unintended consequence of the cut-off is likely to involve the team programme, for example, because the LSC will fund the 19 to 25-year-old bit and the local authorities, we are told, will consider funding the 16 to 18-year-old bit. The difficulty is that I do not know in advance which person from which age group will go on to the programme. The programme is for 16 to 25-year-olds, as I said, because we get more positive outputs, and in the mix that happens you get a lot of peer mentoring. The issue with the cut-off at 19 is this. Although we would welcome any extra support, and it certainly provides that—on the whole, the LSC has done a very good job with that group and we would want that to continue—the fact that we now have one programme that has to find funding from all different bits will make it quite difficult to sustain. Ten thousand young people went through that programme last year, most of whom are now in education, training or employment.
May I return to a point that you raised earlier to ensure that I understand your view on it? You were talking about the very high-need youngsters, who might have health, drug or alcohol problems. I think that you were suggesting that it might be difficult for them to engage in the education and training opportunities that the Government want them to have between 16 and 18 on a compulsory basis, before sorting those problems out. First, have I got that right, and secondly, if that is a legitimate concern—returning to Sarah McCarthy-Fry’s point—is it better, in your view, to amend the Bill to make the obligation one that is not focused just on education and training but could be about sorting out those problems before allowing young people to take up an education and training entitlement? Or do you think that does not really add much and we should just focus on putting more money and backing behind the services that will deal with those problems for the minority of youngsters who will have those very severe social, health and other problems?
Martina Milburn : Probably the latter, but there needs to be some recognition that those kinds of issue have to be sorted out. I am not a politician or parliamentarian, so I do not understand all the bits and pieces of different Bills. All I can do is come here and tell you my experience and the experience of the young people we work with.
But what you are certainly saying is that you are concerned there might be some young people between the ages of 16 and 18 for whom we have to unravel other problems before we can engage them in education or training?
You stress very much the flexibility and creativity of the voluntary sector, and their success in tackling the problems of disadvantaged and alienated young people—and I think we would all recognise that. What I am not clear about is whether you are also saying that you feel there is an inability or difficulty for local authorities in providing this flexibility and creativity, that would give the sufficiency we need to tackle the larger numbers coming through if we move towards this extension to 19.
There is also the issue of actually tackling the problems—especially of chaotic lives—before people get to 16, and whether or not you feel there is enough in place to do that now, and whether you see there being a greater role for the voluntary sector in working with the statutory bodies to create more flexibility at 12 to 14, when so many of these problems manifest themselves?
Finally, how would you see enforcing the duty to participate being implemented? Are there sanctions—you talked as a parent of the importance of compulsion and sanctions—that you see actually being successful in the work that you do now?
Martina Milburn : The move to push the funding to local authorities will work, providing local authorities are given adequate training and time, and I suspect that some kind of transition funding is available. The local authorities that we have approached for funding post-2010—obviously we cannot wait until then suddenly to discover that we have to dismantle the infrastructure or whatever; we have to do some planning—have said that they are not even ready to start thinking about it, and that is a real concern.
Some local authorities will be fantastically brilliant at it and the partnerships—we kind of know almost now where they are—and some will be really bad at it. I guess that somebody in Government has got to work out where the bad ones are and what kind of training they will need in order to be able to make this provision relatively quickly and to the people who really need it. So that would be my first point on local authorities.
In terms of provision in schools—particularly for, I think you said, under-14s—we run xl clubs, which are actually for 14 to16-year-olds, for young people who are already going down the exclusion route, but they are small, so we would take six at the most, maybe eight, into an xl club, and work with them. Again, we have had quite a lot of success—as have other voluntary sector organisations—at keeping those young people in school and stopping them going down the route they were already taking.
It comes back yet again to resources and to class sizes. I know there was a programme on television recently about a school that somebody had set up for kids who had been excluded—again, keeping them in very small classes with targeted support. We also work in xl with the pupil referral units with some success, and where it works well it is fantastic. I have met so many young people whom it has made a real difference to, and where there is a real partnership between the voluntary sector and the school, it is brilliant. But where you do not get that, it does not work. It does not matter really how much money you put in. So I suppose that one of the difficulties that society has is how you legislate for human behaviour, and where you get the head teacher who just says “Well, all right, do it, but I am not really interested,” on the whole it does not work.
Your last question concerned how I would go about using sanctions. I have absolutely no idea. I do not know.
May I just return to the biggest question of compulsion. You have made a very powerful case for there to be adequate resources to support the needs of young people in general, and in particular in the age group we were talking about. You have also expressed concern that, were there to be compulsion associated with this, it should not lead to the criminalisation of young people, and I think that is entirely understood. But may I just check that I have understood what you are saying in general terms about compulsion?
As I understand it, you are not objecting to the principle of compulsion, and indeed you seem to have accepted that compulsion—or at least some measure of sanctions—is likely to be necessary in some circumstances, if participation is to be at a high enough level. You seem also to be saying that, on the experience you have had, compulsion did not necessarily affect the outcomes of those who engaged in education and training in this age group. Have I understood that correctly? You do not object in principle; there may be some necessity in certain circumstances and the outcomes may not be adversely affected?
Martina Milburn : No, not exactly. I am saying that we would have genuine concerns about compulsion and I do not think you can separate it out from adequate resourcing and what you are doing about the other bits that we have just spent nearly an hour talking about. Sorry, I am looking at the Chairman, who is telling me to be quick.
So we do have concerns about it, yes. But, in the experience that the trust has had, to be honest, where young people have been sent to us compulsorily, we have not seen a difference in the outcomes. In terms of the broader issue, would it eventually make a difference? I do not know, because I have not tested that and we do not have that data.
You appeared to accept in your earlier evidence that, were there not to be some degree of compulsion and some element of sanctions, the degree of participation would not be adequate or satisfactory. Was that not the case?
I have actually read the book “Wasted” that you referred to earlier, and I met Mark Johnson when he was giving a speech about his experience at a drug rehabilitation centre. I would lend Mr. Williams the book but it is a signed copy and he should just buy it. Mark Johnson was in his 30s when I met him. He got into drugs at a very young age and his experience at school was appalling, but he is an intelligent person. Do you find that a lot of your clientele have had very bad experiences at school, because the schools are not providing education? In particular, may I pick up on the questions that Mr. Heald asked about literacy levels. What do you find about literacy levels amongst the people whom you are trying to help?
Martina Milburn : The literacy levels are mixed. We have had young people from university on our programmes who have had a similar issue with drugs. It is not as easy as saying that it is all the fault of the school, or that the young people have had a bad experience with school. The experiences probably start at home, and some of that anger they go into school with is then translated in their behaviour at school, and then that causes a clash with the teachers and the whole thing starts to unravel. Certainly that is the experience of the teachers that I have spoken to. So, on the whole probably not, and it is not quite as simple as it may seem when you read Mark’s book. He did have huge issues at home, did he not?
If something is compulsory, it is far more likely to get funding, and if there is a squeeze on a budget, if it is not compulsory, it may very well get cut. Would you care to comment on that?
Secondly, you referred to the situation where a member of the family might have some sort of control over a young person, although perhaps not very adequate control. Would compulsion not also help the family member, such as a parent who is having difficulties, in encouraging the young person to take part?
Martina Milburn : From the examples of the last few years, I think probably not. School is compulsory, but some young people still do not turn up to school. Our exclusion rates are fairly high, so that would suggest that that probably does not make a difference. I am sorry, I do not remember what your second question was?
Martina Milburn : Well, if it is compulsory for the local authority to fund it, you get it, but not necessarily if it is compulsory for the young person to be doing it, if you see what I mean. It will fund it if you say, “We want young people to do this,” but it does not have to be compulsory for that young person to do it.
Thank you. I am extremely appreciative, because you have both been very helpful and co-operative. Please do not think that I am being discourteous. We are working to a resolution of the Committee, which is binding. Thank you very much for your evidence. We move on to the last witness, who is from the Association of Colleges.
Welcome. Perhaps you would be kind enough to identify yourself.
There are three areas that I want to question you on. The first is the new arrangements for careers advice and guidance. You will know that the Department produced a report in 2005 that said that “the significant flaws in the current arrangements mean that they are not sustainable in today’s education and economic environment or in the face of the challenges of the next few years”. In your view, does the way Connexions works need to be changed?
Sue Dutton: The provisions in the Bill as outlined are the right way forward. I think the House of Lords last year made the right observation when it said that insufficient independent advice is given to all young people who are making significant decisions about post-16 education. The Connexions service has at the moment a differential effect across the country. That is one of the problems with it. It is not necessarily the case that one gets the same advice—the same choice of advice—in all localities. The provisions in the Bill will certainly aid the opportunities of young people to receive that information on an impartial basis.
The Bill does not appear to address the confusion between the respective responsibilities of schools in Connexions partnerships. That confusion is added to by the decision to transfer responsibility to local authorities. We could end up with a duocracy, could we not, of local authorities dealing with one age group for careers advice, and an adult careers service dealing with a different range of people. Would that be tenable?
Sue Dutton: It is important that the emphasis in the legislation should be placed on schools advice. That is where the majority of young people receive their advice from their existing teachers, parents and peer group. Therefore priority should rest with the local authority to improve young people’s access to information in schools. Whether the service needs to be the same for adults is debatable. I do not think that it does. I think that access to adult information and advice can as well be achieved in other localities, and that they are distinguishable.
Moving on to the issue of compulsion, if I may, the AOC says, “The issue of compulsion is controversial, but for the policy to have legitimacy there has to be an incentive for participation.” The Bill imposes a duty on educational institutions to promote good attendance. How do you interpret the duty to promote good attendance? How will colleges work with LEAs to enforce those arrangements? Are colleges geared up—are they equipped—to deal with truancy?
Sue Dutton: That is a good question. Already colleges are tracking student attendance very effectively in terms of the education maintenance allowance requirements. As you are probably aware, every college in the land has to submit very detailed analysis of learners’ attendance, in order that people qualify for the EMA. I see that duty effectively as an extension of that requirement. It is obviously onerous on institutions to have to collect that level of detail, but if compulsion is necessary here, having a system that does not track effectively would make it impossible to monitor and evaluate.
That is dependent to some extent on registration and data collection, is it not? You say in respect of the Connexions caseload database that you are “not satisfied this database is fit for purpose,” and you believe that it will need “significant improvements in advance of 2015 to ensure local authorities are able to enforce their new duty effectively.” Why is the database not fit for purpose? Will local authorities have an effective register of young people in their area, which you will be able to share with them to put into effect your own duty?
Sue Dutton: I do not think that it is adequate as it stands. I do not think it is the right place for that information to be collected. As I indicated, the right place to collect data is the point at which the learner accesses the service. Colleges and other providers are well used to collecting data of that kind. What they will need, however, is the ability to transfer that data to other authorities. In this case, it would be the local authority that collected, collated and collectively analysed the data.
You support participation up to the age of 18 and you say that the policy is already changing expectations of everyone working in education and training. Will you say a bit more about how colleges are responding to the adult skills proposals in the Bill?
Sue Dutton: We do support the proposals in the Bill. In terms of the small number of clauses on adults, there is already, as you are probably aware, a huge shift of priority spending away from what I might call the more traditional ways of resourcing adults in further education and towards the priority areas at level 2. So work force arrangements and priorities are already changing, and the clauses in the Bill confirm that already existing situation.
In terms of the impact on the FE sector as a whole, are your members broadly supportive of the measures in the Bill?
Sue Dutton: The Bill’s impact will obviously be different for different types of institution and will depend on the mission of individual institutions and providers. For those whose typical core business has been widening participation and giving people outside the system unique and different opportunities, this will be their natural territory. In areas where institutions have not necessarily prioritised that group, it will obviously be more of a challenge for the sector, and I concur with the previous speaker about the need for a proper assessment of the work force and resourcing implications and of what will need to be put in place to get increased participation.
I should like to ask Mrs. Dutton about clauses 66 and 68 on advice and then briefly about transport. First, on advice, the Bill introduces the fact that advice to the young person should be impartial or independent, but it also says that they should be between 16 and 18. Do you not think that the critical time is more likely to be the age of 14, particularly given that the diplomas will have been fully rolled out across the country when the Bill comes into effect? The critical decision that people will have to make will be at the end of key stage 3, rather than at the end of key stage 4.
Sue Dutton: Let us put the problem in perspective. The vast majority of school pupils between the ages of 14 and 16 have quite adequate access to information. What the Bill requires is that those schools that do not currently allow that to be accessed by all students will now have to comply with the impartiality clause. In answer to your question about timing, I agree with you that proper advice and guidance should occur as early as possible, so that proper choices can be made. Getting people on the right course is potentially the most important aspect of the Bill, so I believe that the clause is as important as some others in getting us to the point where participation increases. At the moment, drop-out at 17 is a real problem in our system.
I understand that colleges increasingly have 14 and 15-year-olds on their books who tend to have had bad experiences with school. When diplomas are fully rolled out and colleges have a full role to play in their delivery, do you think that it should be made specific in the Bill for independent advice to be offered at ages 13 and 14, so that children might decide to leave school at that point and access colleges services?
Sue Dutton: There may be a case for a small number of young people to have access to college provision, even on a full-time basis, at 14. The bigger issue—the question of choice—is that people should have a full understanding of the options available to them. I would currently suggest that that provision should not be available to everyone.
I turn to clause 68 on transport, which provides that time, as well as distance, should be taken into account. Do you think that that will make a material difference?
Sue Dutton: I do. We have a sometimes ridiculous situation in colleges, with learners sitting next door to one another who have with entirely different access to transport. It is inconceivable to me that you can exercise choice, particularly in a rural area, and not have the means to go to your choice.
What about an affordability test? At the moment, under current legislation, if you are on free school meals or on working tax credit, you get free transport for six miles, or 15 miles if it is a faith-based organisation. Given what you said about rural locations, a college can be a long distance away. My right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) tells me that his nearest college is 50 miles away. Will the clause make a difference to those who need to access training and college?
Sue Dutton: I think that it will. It will make a very big difference to the colleges themselves. As we reported, colleges are spending on average over £200,000 subsidising the choice that learners are exerting to go to their institutions. It has a heavier burden in rural areas than in urban areas where transport is obviously easier.
I have two brief questions. In point 9 of the evidence that you supplied to us, you mention that clause 6 has an obligation for people in work to participate in a course or courses leading to a qualification that is a accredited by the QCA. You say that you have some concerns about young people who have learning disabilities that prevent them from taking external qualifications. Would you say a little more about that concern and the solution?
Sue Dutton: It is quite difficult to get the figures for the number of people who would be affected in the way that you describe. I have spoken to specialist colleges over recent weeks, and they tell me that they believe that about 10, 15 or even as many as 20 per cent. of learners in a locality could come within that category. The obvious corollary is that these young people need to have access to a different type of experience, which is very often around matters of employability—rather than literacy and numeracy—being the priority for these young people. What specialist colleges would hope is that no inconsistency in the legislation would prohibit those colleges and voluntary groups from offering those types of programme.
Thank you. That is very helpful. One final question: I do not know whether you heard our earlier witness, Martina Milburn, but she was expressing concern about the small number of young people with high vulnerabilities—mental health and other problems—who might not be ready to engage with education and training until those problems were sorted out. Under the Bill, some of those youngsters could end up coming into the colleges that you represent under the education and training obligation. Do you have any of the same concerns that she expressed about those individuals and about education and training being right for them, prior to those problems being fixed?
Sue Dutton: Clearly, I do have concerns about them; it would be right to. I would hope that those matters would be taken into account within the guidance that supports the legislation. I see that as essential in interpreting the processes and procedures that would have to be adopted to get to that ultimate sanction. It clearly cannot be right that vulnerable individuals are inappropriately criminalised for things that are basically out of their social and economic control. If you look at examples from other countries where this type of guarantee has been implemented, that has indeed been built into the system.
I want to pursue a couple of supplementaries on the issue of young people with learning difficulties—in particular, on clause 65. Is it not the case at the moment that there is a level of special educational needs or disability that most colleges simply cannot cope with in terms of their support mechanisms?
Sue Dutton: There will come a time in some analysis of individual needs when there could be nowhere within a locality for a particular individual to receive the type of entitlement that is being put forward here. I think that the Bill will galvanise the system to find solutions to that. If you were to characterise what the future might look like, you would have a personalised service that found a solution, which may not be through a college route, and the previous speaker obviously has a specialism that is crucial to it. Similarly, there are voluntary organisations that would offer solutions that would be applicable to those individuals. There will be, and are, occasions when colleges cannot fulfil the personalised service that they would like to.
May I put the point to you, because this is what clause 65 is about, that galvanising might in some circumstances mean the need, as the autism charity TreeHouse has suggested, for the Government to put some form of sanctions on colleges and schools to make sure they provide a baseline support mechanism?
At present, young people can work a maximum of 40 hours. It is proposed in the Bill that, for those post-16 who choose to work, they should do up to 280 hours a year of training towards an appropriate qualification. As your services from FE colleges become more demand-led, to what extent do you think those qualifications could be taught in the evenings and at weekends, so that those who, by mutual agreement with their employer, want to carry on working five days a week could still access that sort of training?
Sue Dutton: It will be essential that colleges of further education offer that flexibility. That will materialise in a number of different ways: different start times throughout the year and different modes of delivery, whether on a block basis or a part-time evening basis. Colleges are quite well used to operating on that basis, particularly in an adult market. This measure would require an extension of that, but do not forget that the opportunities for work-based training would also give additional flexibility.
The previous witness, from the Prince’s Trust, was keen to emphasise that having advanced-level apprenticeships solely would be a mistake and that there should be different routes for different types of young people. Presumably, your members are pleased with an approach to training and employment in which advanced apprenticeships, level 2 apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, programme-led apprenticeships and employers work in partnership with training providers and FE providers.
Sue Dutton: It might be a good idea if I call on an example at this point. Last week, I visited Thurrock and Basildon college, which is working in partnership with South East Essex college. They are in a consortium of 15 providers that include colleges, private providers and the voluntary sector. They have essentially three levels of apprenticeship offer: pre-apprenticeship, whereby they offer essentially level 1 and 2 numeracy and literacy skills and employability skills, moving through to apprenticeship at level 2 and then advanced apprenticeship. The volume of learners who are going through that programme now equate to more than 2,000 in one year. That is the fifth largest provider of work-based learning in the country, led by two further education colleges.
In answer to your question, I would say that that type of relationship between local employers, the community and different types of provider seems to get us to the solution that we are looking for, certainly on apprenticeships. I am absolutely clear that the same type of working, when applied across other routes, such as 14 to 19, is better achieved through partnership.
It is slightly concerning that the Association of School and College Leaders and the University and College Lecturers Union have both made comments suggesting that there are concerns about whether FE can soak up reluctant students without damaging the learning experience in colleges. The Association of School and College Leaders has stated that keeping the last 10 per cent. of recalcitrant young people in education and training will not come cheap. However, you seem to be giving a very upbeat assessment, saying that the costs of raising the participation age are less than might be expected and that that will provide a better future for everybody. Would you like to comment on that?
Sue Dutton: I think that you are having a witness session with the Association of School and College Leaders. Just to be clear, that association is a school-based representative body with some sixth-form college principals membership as well. Our point on the resource required is that the number of 16 to 18-year-olds in this cohort at the time of the Bill’s implementation will obviously reduce. Therefore, there could be a shift in resources from where they currently stand, to these new arrangements.
Sue Dutton: I would not put it as clearly as that. We recognise that there will have to be some transformations in the way that colleges currently operate, given the new arrangements. I do not underestimate the distance that will have to be travelled for full participation to become a reality. I have hinted at some of the things that will have to change—the curriculum offer, the work force issues, the comparable pay issues between those in existing schools and colleges of further education. The reason why I have not yet highlighted those issues is that nobody has yet asked me that question. However, I agree with the analysis made by the previous speaker, who suggested that a shift in resources will have to happen for this to become a reality.
How do you view the capacity and resource level of colleges in coping with the increased participation of special needs students? As you mentioned earlier, some of these people just need to acquire employment skills, but there will be a much greater range of requirements among special needs students. Could you reflect upon the implications of travelling time? Students who attend special schools often need specialised transport if they have mobility problems. A circuitous route is often taken from home to school, because more than one child is collected. That will naturally apply to colleges as well.
Sue Dutton: I have already hinted at the fact that a disproportionate increase in the number of individuals with particular specialist educational needs coming into colleges and other providers will inevitably challenge the sector in the ways that you have described. Our specialist college members do not underestimate that challenge—it is a real one. There will have to be due consideration in the planning of the implementation of this, and it will need to be looked at in greater detail.
May I ask about transport again? You say in paragraph 11 of your brief that the provision of affordable transport is vital to assist young people in accessing the right course. You then go on to say that the Bill is disappointing, because it does not strengthen the obligation of local authorities to ensure that affordable transport is available. Paragraph 6.10 of the regulatory impact assessment prepared by the Government states: “We do not expect this change”—the change about taking time into account in transportation—“to place any additional cost burdens on local authorities”. What is your view on that? Does it mean that this is going to be difficult to implement in practice?
Sue Dutton: I go back to the learner experience, as that seems to me where this is most important. It cannot be right that individuals who need to access particular types of specialism—vocational specialisation, for example—are disadvantaged because they have chosen that particular route. As we know, there will not necessarily be choice within the immediate locality of a learner’s home. The same would apply to specialist education provision; it is not necessarily the case that something will be conveniently around the corner.
The association would make the point—this is certainly the experience of the majority of colleges—that if you want people to exert choice and the option that they choose is different from somebody else’s, because of their particular background and needs, the cost of transport should not prohibit them from taking up that choice. In reality, total coverage of the options will not be available to every young person in their immediate locality—that is, within walking distance of their home.
Sue Dutton: Our anticipation is that the majority of opportunities that exist through the apprenticeship programme will be at the employers’ place of work. Inevitably, there will be areas in the country where it is not possible to secure sufficient employer involvement—or, indeed, employer specialisation—to let that be a reality. Let us be absolutely clear: we have a problem with the number of employers, particularly small and medium-sized employers, who are coming forward to support apprenticeship programmes. My understanding is that new arrangements will be put in place to encourage more employers to support apprenticeships.
I have two points. You will know that the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education reports a collapse in adult and community learning, which has had profound consequences for colleges and communities. Also, Lord Leitch recommends that we will need to upskill and reskill the existing work force, including many mature learners. The new emphasis on younger people will presumably skew colleges’ attention and resources away from those two areas.
Sue Dutton: Two things are happening simultaneously, as you rightly point out. One is the reduction in access to adult learning, which has occurred because of the new priorities that have been established on qualification levels—first, level 2 and now level 3 provision. Over the past two years, colleges have fundamentally shifted the delivery of adult learning to those priority areas. That has seen a reduction in previous arrangements of around 700.000 learners over the past year, to new priorities on Train to Gain and equivalent courses. So you are right that there has been a fundamental shift in the prioritisation of those points. What was the second point you were asking about?
My second point was that Lord Leitch argues that we need to upskill and reskill the existing work force, which clearly involves a lot of mature learners. Will the new concentration on young people, which the Bill brings, not skew colleges’ attention and resources away from mature learners, and not just in the non-accredited adult community field?
Sue Dutton: If you take into account the reduction in the number of 16 to 18-year-olds who will be in the cohort by the time that this is enacted, I think that the proportion of young people will be the same. For most colleges, around 66 per cent. of funding is routed through young people. I think that the point that you are making is about the reskilling of the work force at levels 3 and 4. Indeed, that is not now a Government priority, and we are moving towards a position in which individuals will pay for their own learning, or that learning will be paid for by the employer.
You are right about the relentless concentration on level 2 and accredited learning, but I think you underestimate the challenge in respect of those new young people. You said yourself that they will be a different group of young people and many young people with challenging circumstances and special needs are being brought into the system. Numerically there may be equivalence, because of the fall in the cohort, but the need to concentrate your attention and resources will, I put it to you, inevitably skew to those new groups of young people.
Sue Dutton: My argument would not be quite the same as yours. I think that colleges already concentrate on the harder-to-reach and the widening participation of young people. They are also the largest provider of A-level provision. I was alluding earlier to the fact that I do not necessarily accept the proposition that all the people at present sitting outside education, training or employment are difficult and recalcitrant individuals. I put it to you that many of them have not chosen to be in education or training, because the right options have not been available to them, and many do not have the confidence as learners to enter education and training. Rather than being the disruptive element of society, which is how they might typically be characterised, they are found by colleges to be under-confident individuals who often do not have social networks to support them. The Bill will galvanise the system to ensure that everyone is working to their benefit.
On that adult learning point, you presumably welcome the entitlement of adults to basic skills training for the first time, recognising that, on some estimates, 15 million people require literacy and numeracy training.
Sue Dutton: It would be hard to argue against that proposition. I would make the broader point, however, that not all adults will enter learning on the basis of numeracy and language acquisition. They will want to enter the learning market in other ways. I believe that it would be wise to re-evaluate the definition of acceptable qualifications.
As for your members’ ability to meet the relevant needs, presumably the capital investment in FE colleges is welcome and has helped to make more work-based training possible.
Sue, I thank you warmly for your evidence today and for the written evidence that you and your organisation have submitted.
Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Michael Foster.]