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Clause 1

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 31st January 2008.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 2:15 pm, 31st January 2008

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, both in what he said and to cite the report.

I accept that the Minister is going to split the truancy figures and the figures on unauthorised absences as a result of schools clamping down on children being taken out of school during term time to go on holiday. I share his feelings. I am passionate that parents should not take their children out of school in term time. Education is an expensive service that the state provides. It is hugely important to every child in school. Children should not be taken out of school in term time because a holiday is £200 or £300 cheaper then. My answer is a holiday in Bognor Regis. It has fantastic facilities for young people. There is no need to go to Spain or the Bahamas.

The research commissioned by the Government is clear. Its executive summary states:

“There was little or no direct evidence of the likely impact of introducing a system of compulsory education or training to the age of 18; in many cases change had only recently been introduced, and it was as yet too early to find evidence of impact.”

The Minister scrabbled around, not very convincingly, to find something to justify his case. I am concerned about the causal link in the Government’s claims about wider aspects of well-being. Of course there is a correlation between education and people’s health, well-being and wealth, but is there a causal link? If somebody is forced into education, will their health improve? Page 36 of the Government’s report states:

“Much of the evidence on the links between increased participation and associated health benefits is quite weak and fails to provide a robust relationship between the two”

On behaviour and crime, the report says:

“There is only very limited evidence on the link between not participating in education or training post-16 and the likelihood of criminal behaviour.”

The Government’s case is not well made. Of course we agree with the Government’s objectives, but the Opposition do not agree with the principle of compulsion. Whether that opposition is based on principle, as it is for the hon. Member for Yeovil, or on practicality, as it is for my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire and others—whatever the motivation, I urge the Committee to oppose the principle behind the clause and to support the amendment.