‘having regard to a person’s age, ability, aptitude and needs (if any) for personalised support and personalised learning opportunities’.
Good morning, Mr. Bercow. What a pleasure it is to be here today for part of the Committee’s proceedings. I start by apologising to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West. I assured him that, given the previous speed of the Committee’s proceedings, there was little chance we would get past clauses 36 or 37 before I arrived at 10 o’clock. I am somewhat concerned to discover that the Committee has made such rapid progress in my absence.
I would be interested in whether the hon. Gentleman thinks that there is a relationship between the speed with which we are progressing and his attendance in the Committee.
I will have to reflect during the course of my speech on the clause on whether there is a direct causal link, or whether hon. Members are trying to catch me offside by being briefer than usual. I will leave that to the Minister to decide.
Using the well tested technique of the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, I will quote from the explanatory notes on the clause, which state:
“Clause 41 provides that the education or training specified in the attendance notice must be a course provided at a school, college or other education establishment or a contract of apprenticeship, and be a way of fulfilling the clause 2 duty. It must be suitable to the person and the local education authority must consult the provider of the education or training.”
Our amendment deals with the matter of suitability and, in particular, with subsection (5), which states:
“The education or training must be suitable for the person.”
The amendment is not only felt to be necessary by us, but was suggested to us by various outside bodies and supported by others. In fact, the National Union of Teachers first suggested to us the particular form of wording to help to ensure that local authorities identify individual needs by providing for an additional suitability test according to need.
The amendment adds to the existing subsection (5) requirements and insists that that assessment of suitability must have regard to the person’s age, ability and aptitude and, critically, their needs in terms of personalised support and learning opportunities. That takes us back to matters raised in a number of debates in the past few weeks and in the oral evidence hearings before we started this part of proceedings.
I am grateful to the Minister, who undertook earlier in proceedings to write a letter setting out the Government’s thinking on the vulnerable groups of young people on whom the Bill will have an impact. We had in mind some of those youngsters when we tabled the amendment. I do not know whether anyone has referred this morning to his letter to me of 13 February, which I think has been copied to other members of the Committee. It helpfully sets down the Government’s initial thoughts on how enforcement will work in respect of those young people who could not easily be in formal education or training.
The letter is oriented toward who might be given an exemption from the strictures of the attendance panel. It is also directly relevant to the personalised support we want to have in place, if this part of the Bill to work fairly for the groups whose needs we are trying to meet. On the second page of the letter, the Minister sets out a long list of the groups of young people whom he accepts—