Clause 9

Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 7th February 2008.

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Assignment of numbers of hours of guided learning to external qualifications

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

Will the Minister explain to the Committee the purpose of the clause and why it is that we need the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to assign a number of guided hours to every qualification? Is it to fulfil the functions in clause 8 so that we know whether a particular qualification requires 280 hours of guided learning? Will it, therefore, apply to all existing QCA accredited qualifications, or will it apply just to new qualifications? The clause does not make that clear. It states:

“Any accreditation of a qualification under paragraph (g) of subsection (2) must assign to the qualification a number of notional hours”.

It is not clear to me whether that phrase requires the QCA to go through all several hundred qualifications, in which case could the Minister say how many qualifications are to be assigned those hours and what the cost to the QCA would be? If the exercise is being conducted solely because of clause 8, it is a very large commitment for the QCA to undertake simply to fulfil one part of a Bill. If it is just new qualifications that are to be assigned hours as part of the accreditation process, that begs the question of how clause 8 will be fulfilled. How can people use existing qualifications that do not have notional hours assigned to them? An explanation from the Minister will be very helpful.

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)

It is important that guided learning hours are assigned to all qualifications so that it is easy and clear for young people in full-time employment and their employers to tell whether they are doing enough training to fulfil the duty to participate. The QCA already assigns guided learning hours as part of its accreditation process, but it is not legally required to do so. The clause ensures that guided learning hours will continue to be assigned to qualifications in the future. In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, the QCA already does it in relation to all the qualifications that it accredits. Therefore, we know the number of guided learning hours for existing qualifications. By law, the QCA will have to do it for all new qualifications. I think, therefore, the issues of consistency and of burden are addressed for him.

The definition of sufficient part-time training in clause 8 relies on guided learning hours being assigned to qualifications. Therefore, it is important to put beyond doubt that that will continue to happen. The clause must stand part of the Bill and I, therefore, ask the Committee to agree it.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

Given that the QCA already assigns guided learning hours, why is it necessary to legislate? I do not see why the Minister thinks that the QCA will not continue to assign notional hours as part of the accreditation process.

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)

On one level, I could expect the QCA to continue do so, but, given that it is fundamental to the design of the legislation that it should do so, it seems as well to legislate to ensure that it happens by statute rather than by my encouragement. However, I do that confident in the notion that the QCA has already assigned notional hours as part of the accreditation process for pre-existing qualifications, so there will be no problems with the inheritance of that responsibility. The QCA does it now, and it will be done in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.