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Clause 1

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 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) 3:15 pm, 31st January 2008

It might be, but Barnardo’s and, quite possibly, the Prince’s Trust quoted examples in which short, intensive engagement over a few months can really turn things around, get someone engaged, and ready and wanting to learn. The hon. Gentleman should not run away with the notion that I am conceding that people could go 18 months in support not related to education and training. The aim will always be for them to engage in the acquisition of useful skills and learning so that they can achieve better in life.

We must ensure that all young people have access to the right support to address their individual needs. Targeted youth support can play a very important role here, as well as the Connexions service. Flexibility, safeguards and local discretion must be built into the enforcement system so that no young person enters enforcement inappropriately. I could detain Committee for some time talking about how we intend to support re-engagement as well as prevention while the young person is still in learning. For example, local authorities have a duty under clause 10 to promote participation and a duty under clause 69 to promote their own co-operation with relevant partners; and under clause 11, education institutions have a duty to promote good attendance. There is a whole series of clauses about prevention and re-engagement.

There is also a series of clauses dealing with situations in which young people drop out of post-16 education and training. Under clause 54, all young people will have access to a Connexions personal advisor. Under clause 14, learning providers will have a duty to alert the Connexions advisor that a young person has dropped out. Under clause 54, the Connexions service will identify barriers to young people’s participation and will work with them to overcome them. That is defined as being part of the function of Connexions and could mean providing support and/or identifying appropriate provision.

I could detain the Committee talking about other clauses, as well. There are measures on safeguards both before and during any enforcement process. It is worth stressing that under clause 39, local authorities

“may issue an attendance notice”.

That is not a duty. Local authorities will use their knowledge of young people’s circumstances to judge whether it would be beneficial to do so, and they will do so only after they have provided support for the relevant young person and identified an appropriate learning option but the young person refuses to participate. In some ways, the clause, and the use of the words “may issue”, deliver what the amendment seeks to do, but more efficiently.

There are also measures on appeals and the way in which the attendance panel works, which we will debate later. I could talk about the support that we want to provide and develop over the next five years for people who are without or estranged from their parents, as well as for young offenders and young people with special educational needs, learning difficulties or mental health problems. There will also be support for teenage parents, young people in care or who are carers, and young people who are self-employed or employed in a family business. There is a long list; I have all sorts of wisdom here with which I could enlighten the Committee.

Support is an important part of the story and is an important reason why we need to have the duties I have described and to change the culture of participation up to the age of 18. We, the Government, are forcing ourselves to build capacity locally that gives a full range of support for the full range of circumstances in which young people live. There is a positive message attached to the Bill: it cannot be acceptable for any young person to be deemed too hard to engage and for us to give up on them. To some extent, that is the implication of some of the comments that the hon. Member for Yeovil made earlier. I know that that is not what he thinks, but some of his comments could be interpreted in that way. We must raise our expectations for such young people and their expectations of themselves. On that basis, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.