Clause 11 - Information sharing in relation to technical education qualifications

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 2 December 2021.

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

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The clause supports a critical aspect of the joint working needed to ensure that the whole technical education system works together to deliver the skills that employers need. It does so by ensuring that Ofqual can exchange information with the other bodies that have important roles in this framework. Under existing legislation, the institute can exchange information with other bodies to support its own functions and those of the other body involved. At present, similar powers do not apply to Ofqual. Ofqual’s explicit information-sharing power allows it to share information only with other qualifications regulators in the UK to enable or facilitate the performance of the qualifications functions of that regulator. There is no explicit function allowing it to share information to support the functions of other types of bodies.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

Could the Minister clarify a little more the kinds of information that he anticipates will be relevant under this clause?

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

It is part of that long day you were talking about, Mr Efford. The purpose of the clause is to ensure that whatever information the institute and Ofqual want to share with each other, they can. It is open-ended, and is there to serve their purposes.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

I will make some progress. The clause tackles that limitation by providing Ofqual with information-sharing powers in relation to technical education qualifications that correspond with those that already apply to the institute. Specifically, the clause enables each organisation to share information either to support its own functions, or to help other bodies in their own roles. For example, it would allow Ofqual to share information that it already gathers from awarding body organisations with other bodies, such as the institute, to avoid other bodies needing to duplicate data-gathering exercises. That approach of “collect once, use multiple times” would help reduce administrative load. Hopefully, that answers the question that the hon. Member for Chesterfield asked.

The clause plays an important role in supporting coherent, efficient joint working between Ofqual and other relevant bodies, and will help to secure high quality across the technical education system as a whole.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

There are always concerns when it comes to this Government and information sharing. There have been many examples in which there has been real concern about the approach that the Government have taken to this sort of thing, which is why I was asking about the scope of these powers. We entirely understand sharing information about specific qualifications, but if it gets more granular than that—if it gets more into the area of personal data—there will be real concern. At future stages of the Bill’s passage it would be good to get a more detailed understanding of precisely what information the Government are seeking powers to share. Notwithstanding that, on the basis that these information-sharing powers mirror the current arrangements with regard to the institute, we do not intend to oppose clause stand part.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.