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Clause 1

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 31st January 2008.

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Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 3:00 pm, 31st January 2008

The hon. Member for Yeovil said that the amendments were probing amendments. I am grateful for that clarification, so I shall not dwell unduly on what their effect would be in practice. If they were accepted, some young people could be declared exempt from the new duty to participate and denied the opportunities that it offers because the local authority had given them a waiver certificate. That is different from a reasonable excuse exempting them from inappropriate enforcement action, because the waiver certificate would exempt them from the opportunity. We think that all young people should be subject to the duty, because it puts corresponding duties on local authorities to support them. The use of a waiver certificate by the local authority would allow it to get out of providing the support that it would otherwise have to provide because of the duty. I hope that I have explained the particularities of a waiver certificate.

It is also clear from evidence given to us last week by our local government colleagues that they do not consider it appropriate to exempt people from the duty to participate. John Freeman, of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, was very clear in his support for compulsion. We need to ensure that we have in place an appropriate learning route for every young person, whatever their circumstances, which is what we are doing through the changes being made to the 14-to-19 curriculum and the other things that I described earlier.

The hon. Member for Yeovil is right to refer to clause 4 and the breadth of the definition of appropriate full-time provision for which it provides. The Bill draws a broad distinction between full-time provision and the requirement for accredited part-time learning on those in full-time employment. However, I shall talk further about that breadth when we debate clause 4.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, I have an open mind when looking at the range of support to be offered. I want to consider the evidence given by witnesses from Barnardo’s, during the first evidence session, through to Fairbridge at the end, from whom we heard about all sorts of good practice. We have also heard from other organisations such as Rainer, which did not give evidence. They all have something to offer, which is why I disagree with him when he describes it as a sledgehammer Bill. It is capable of being much more forensic.