Annette Brooke: I am certainly enthusiastic about the principle of local authorities taking on extra responsibilities, but the proof will be in the pudding, as it is quite complex, and there are a few fears about people falling through the gaps. I appreciate what the Minister said in his response, but I want to place on the record my concerns, because it will be important to promote that co-operation beneath the surface, as the Minister suggested. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 40, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 41 and 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Power to require provision of education by institutions within further education sector
Mr. Hayes: I beg to move amendment 216, in clause 43, page 26, line 18, leave out A local education authority and insert The Young Peoples Learning Agency.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: amendment 217, in clause 43, page 26, line 24, leave out subsection (3).
Amendment 218, in clause 43, page 26, line 32, leave out a local education authority in England and insert the Young Peoples Learning Agency.
Amendment 361, in schedule 8, page 180, line 3, leave out responsible local education authority and insert Young Peoples Learning Agency.
Mr. Hayes: Clause 43 transfers the power of the Learning and Skills Council to direct an FE college to provide suitable education for named individuals to local education authorities. Amendments 216 and 218 remove mention of LEAs and replace it with the Young Peoples Learning Agency, to ensure that responsibility for providing for named students remains with the YPLA, the funding body for FE, in an attempt to remove needless bureaucracy. Amendment 217 removes subsection (3), as it relates to students within the geographical area of an LEA, a reference that will not be necessary if the first amendment in the group is accepted.
As it stands, the clause pulls further education colleges further into a complex and confusing web of authorities and funders. LEAs will have the power to direct FE colleges to provide education for a student, who would then be funded by the YPLA. The governing body of an FE institution must comply with that request. Does the Minister not see how much that insidious movement threatens the treasured independence of FE college governing bodies? FE colleges simply do not want to be placed under the authority of local government again. As I said, they look back to the incorporation introduced by a Conservative Governmentat the time, I was a member of a local education authorityas a positive step, which led to a golden age prior to the establishment of the Learning and Skills Council in 2000 by this Government, who are now abolishing what they set up. As my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts), the shadow Secretary of State, argued, beginning to reform what they themselves established is often the mark of a failing Government.
The control and regulation of FEthe micro-management, the target-driven culture in which colleges operateare highly undesirable and make them less able to respond to local needs. It is immensely costly, inhibits their capacity to innovate and underestimates the immense and valuable human capital that exists within colleges, particularly at senior management level. Those are not the views of a Conservative shadow Minister aiming to make a party political point, but of the sector itself, reflected in the report by Sir Andrew Foster that I mentioned earlierI brought a copy into the Committee, so that the Minister can study it himself. Sir Andrew complained of the galaxy of oversight, inspection and regulation faced by FE colleges. He listed organisations with a monitoring, inspection or improvement role in FE colleges and specifically recommendedthe Committee should bear in mind that this was four years agothat
The Government should further rationalise the oversight, inspection and accreditation bodies
associated with further education. Since then moves to self-regulation have been snail-like on the part of Ministers. We hope that, by tabling the amendments, we can turn
Under the amendments, colleges would have to only respond to one body that will appreciate its education provision and student needs far better than the system proposed by the Government. We have heard the Minister cite both the AOC and the 157 Group as apparent supporters of the Bill. However, Graham Moore from the 157 Group, in our witness sessions, said:
It is important for collegessixth-form colleges and general FE collegeswhich recruit over quite a wide area, that we do not revert to the situation pre-incorporation when every local authority had to have every bell and whistle.[Official Report, Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Public Bill Committee, 3 March 2009; c. 26, Q74.]
The point about independence was made even more strongly by Mr. Moore later on. He felt that LEAs were not the right bodies to oversee FE colleges work, and specifically not to direct their student body and learning provision. We agree wholeheartedly with that position, which is why we have tabled the amendment, which will enable us to reach the stage suggested by the Association of Colleges in the evidence session at which they argued
there should be one rather than two national agencies.
Mr. Moore went on to say:
In a sense, the great strength of colleges is their independencetheir ability to look at the situation locally. I welcome in the Bill the commitment to economic and social well-being, which is absolutely what we are all about.[Official Report, Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Public Bill Committee, 3 March 2009; c. 27, Q76.]
However, having welcomed that commitment, he made it clear that it was important that colleges had independence, interfacing and interacting with their community to be as responsive as possible to local needs. We simply look to a day when self-regulated, independent FE colleges are no longer subject to the micro-management and diktats of Ministers. The amendments go some way towards turning that dream into reality within the strict confines of a largely unhelpful Bill.
Jim Knight: I shall be relatively brief. We have heard the intention behind the amendments, which deal with a power that has never been used by the Learning and Skills Council. We think that it is important that those powers remain to direct FE institutions to provide for a named individual, so that there is a motivation for those institutions, if there was a problem, to co-operate. They have never been used, and it is right for them to be transferred to the local authority, rather than the YPLA. If we did not do so, a local authority seeking to meeting the duties set up in clause 40 would find that if it needed to direct an institution to accept a learner, it would have to go through the bureaucratic burdenI know that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the burdens, because he goes on about them a lotof getting the YPLA to issue an instruction, rather than them doing it themselves. It is an important tool in local authorities toolbox, enabling them to deliver their obligations to rise the participation age.
It is not, however, about giving local authorities more control over colleges. The colleges will remain as autonomous as they are nowthey will have their own governing body and business practices, with reduced
Mr. Hayes: We need to make progress. The Minister has been entirely unhelpful in the way in which he has dealt with the amendments[Interruption.]and as unimpressive as he has been unhelpful, notwithstanding the fact that he has made so little impression on me and on the Committee. I hope that he will, at some stage, illustrate to the Committee why the system that will pertain, should the Bill be passed, is less onerous on colleges. How will it take us closer to the vision that Sir Andrew Foster identified on FE colleges? Will there be fewer bodies with which FE colleges have to deal, or more? With those thoughts, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 43 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Duties in relation to the core and additional entitlements
Annette Brooke: I beg to move amendment 254, in clause 44, page 27, line 14, leave out that an authority decide.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 255, in clause 44, page 27, line 38, at end insert
(9) Provision is not to be considered as giving rise to disproportionate expenditure only because that provision is more expensive than comparable provision..
Annette Brooke: The two amendments go together. They would remove the subjective element in the decision about whether provision would involve disproportionate expenditure and replace it with an objective test that the authority would have to satisfy on the basis of national guidance. Rather fortuitously, amendment 254 uses wording that we have discussed this morning and that is already in the Bill, so it is difficult to imagine that the Minister will disagree with it.
Under clause 44, proposed new sections 17B, 17C and 17D of the Education Act 1996 are effectively re-enactments of sections 3A, 3B and 3C of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, with very little difference in the wording. Proposed new section 17A of the 1996 Act is the section under which local education authorities will acquire the duties and responsibilities of the Learning and Skills Council, and that in turn is based on section 3D of the 2000 Act.
The amendment would remove the subjective element in the decision about whether provision will involve disproportionate expenditure and replace it with an
Although I am very much in favour of local decision making, it is important to have some comparability throughout the country. In fact, the deletion that I propose would clarify that the test is objective. That is the only way to ensure that the provision is consistent with proposed new subsection 17A(6) of the 1996 Act, which would oblige authorities to follow the Secretary of States guidance. I hope that the Minister will consider the amendments favourably, bearing in mind that, following the previous discussion this morning, there is a certain logic to them.
Jim Knight: Amendment 254 would remove not the requirement to take account of disproportionate expenditure but local authorities powers to decide whether disproportionate expenditure would be incurred by delivery of the entitlementalthough it is not clear whom the hon. Lady believes should make the decision instead. Local authorities are the bodies responsible for delivering the entitlement and, as such, should be responsible for making the corresponding decisions associated with its delivery. Furthermore, disproportionate expenditure will vary greatly between areas, and, therefore, local authorities are best placed to make that judgement.
We welcome the spirit of amendment 255, which would ensure that the diploma entitlement was delivered and that young people were offered not just the least expensive provision. That is our intention, too. However, the amendment is unnecessary as the diploma is a unique path that is not comparable to any other provision. Furthermore, the Secretary of State will publish statutory guidance on the delivery of the entitlements as we near the date on which they will take effect. The aim of the entitlements is to transform opportunity and achievement for young people, so that all young people are prepared by their education to succeed in life. The Bill introduces a number of measures to achieve that.
Local authorities are already making good progress to deliver the entitlements. By September, 95 per cent. of local authorities, 72 per cent. of schools and 88 per cent. of colleges will be involved in delivering them, and, as I said, local authorities will have to have regard to the Secretary of States statutory guidance when exercising their functions under the clause. The guidance will include further clarification on disproportionate expenditure. On the basis of my assurance that we will give authorities guidance, I hope that the hon. Lady will withdraw her amendment.
Annette Brooke: Perhaps I can clarify one matter. The point about the amendment removing that an authority decide was to replace the phrase with something that gave the local authority a clear basis on which to make its decision. The Minister has responded to say that, effectively, the criteria will be set up in statutory guidance. With that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
( ) The references in subsections (1) and (2) to persons in a local education authoritys area who are over compulsory school age but under 19 do not include persons who are subject to a detention order..
This amendment makes it clear that new section 17A does not apply to persons subject to a detention order. A local education authoritys duties towards these persons are set out in clause 47.
I think that the amendment is relatively clear.
Amendment 267 agreed to.
Clause 44, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Provision of boarding accommodation: persons subject to learning difficulty assessment
Amendment made: 268, in clause 45, page 29, leave out lines 6 to 8.(Jim Knight.)
This amendment is consequent on amendment 282.
Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Gibb: The Association of National Specialist Colleges is concerned about the use of the word may in subsection (1) of proposed new section 514A, which the clause inserts into the Education Act 1996. The association says:
In order to safeguard learning opportunities and funding for the relatively small group of vulnerable learners with complex learning difficulties and/or disabilities who require specialist provision, in line with what is currently available, we believe that the Bill should not dilute former legislation about residential specialist college provision.
It notes that the law previously required the LSC to secure boarding accommodation ifI quote from the Learning and Skills Act 2000
it cannot secure the provision of facilities for education or training which are sufficient in quantity and adequate in quality.
It goes on to say that
we do not believe that the current wording of the Bill is strong enough to safeguard and ensure this right for learners. We believe that this Bill must ensure that Local Authorities and the YPLA must secure residential specialist college provision where local schools and colleges cannot adequately or effectively meet a students learning and support needs.
I would be grateful if the Minister addresses those very real concerns.
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