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Baroness Blatch: I entirely accept the explanation given by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that the appropriate period is under discussion. My understanding was that the Government were minded to take a particular view. That had caused some concern. So I am grateful for that. Of course I accept that that will take some time. The amendment will have to wait.

I was talking recently to the head of a school with a sixth form who had responded to the consultation paper about these arrangements. He admitted that there was a good deal of welcome for the proposals. It was interesting to learn the basis on which he said that that welcome came. He said that he was fairly unhappy about the way the sixth form was being funded at the moment through the LEA, and the fact that core funding for schools was being cut all the time. He saw this proposal as a lifeline. It gave him high expectations. He thought the school's funding would be more secure and better guaranteed if it came from national funds specifically for sixth forms, instead of coming from the LEA through the block grant. I have to say that, if that is a commonly held belief--which I understand it to be--it is naive in the extreme. I have seen and heard nothing to convince me that there is going to be a more generous stream of money coming down through the system.

The noble Baroness suggested that Amendment No. 70 would reduce the role of the LEA to a mere post box. I have to say that that is pretty well what they are going to be. This is money that, although originally allocated to LEAs through the block grant, is going to be taken by the Government and given to the national council. It will then be given to the local schools councils. It will then be given to the respective LEA. Finally, it will be given to the schools. One cannot say that the schools will be funded to the same value, depending on what baseline is actually chosen, and then expect an LEA to use its discretion not to fund to

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that value. One can say that the LEAs will be given sufficient money to sustain that level of value, but what the LEAs do is a matter for them. Nor can we say that the schools are to be given some guarantee.

At this moment I would argue that the children, the parents, the staff and the governors of the school are concerned about the outcome of these policies, and not, I suggest, the mechanism for getting the money to them. The Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that schools can be assured that they will receive this money. The only guarantee the Government will not give--and I understand that--is an absolute guarantee for unknown numbers of pupils who will appear in the system in the future. The reassurances that have been given in the past fit ill if the money coming down this route can be dissipated on the way.

The Minister has given me enough to enable me to withdraw the amendment because I know that the discussions continue. But I shall return to it before the end of the passage of this Bill. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 70 not moved.]

11.15 p.m.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 71:


    Page 5, line 17, at end insert--


("( ) Prior to imposing conditions made under subsection (2) above, the Council shall consult providers or their representative organisations, whichever is the most appropriate for the circumstances concerned.
( ) In imposing conditions made under subsection (2) above, the Council shall have regard to any guidance from the Secretary of State.").

The noble Lord said: The LSC will in the future be providing the funding for school sixth forms and understandably it is given power to develop schemes for assessing their performance. It will presumably then base its funding decisions on the results of those assessments. I have no problem with that, though I have anxieties as to how it will work in practice.

The purpose of Amendment No. 71 is to ask that, before the LSC imposes the conditions which it will be empowered to make under subsection (2), it should first consult with the,


    "providers or their representative organisations, whichever is the most appropriate for the circumstances concerned",

and,


    "In imposing [such] conditions ... have regard to any guidance from the Secretary of State".

I am sure that that will be the case in any event, but I seek assurances from the Minister on both those points and perhaps those assurance will best be given on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: Amendment No. 71 proposes that the LSC must consult providers or their representative bodies before it imposes any conditions on the way grant for school sixth form provision may be used, as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, explained.

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Given that LEAs secure but do not directly provide school sixth form provision, the amendment would in effect require the LSC to consult some 1,800 individual schools with sixth forms or their LEAs or their representatives before being able to make grant to LEAs for their school sixth forms. That would add another layer of bureaucracy to the system when we are trying to simplify the way post-16 learning is organised and funded. We expect the LSC to work closely with providers and their representatives, including schools and LEAs, and to take account of their views in determining their funding and conditions of funding. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord about the Government's intentions.

But that should be a flexible and dynamic process. It should not be weighed down by a lot of administration and, as a consequence, delay. We do not believe that statutory obligations to consult on the detail of the conditions of individual grants are helpful or necessary. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

Lord Tope: I am not suggesting that they should necessarily consult on each grant, but certainly they should consult before conditions are imposed.

I will not rise to the bait that the Minister suggests to me; that is, that I am imposing extra bureaucracy. Indeed, in the light of the comments I made at the beginning of this afternoon I resist that suggestion strongly. I know from personal experience that some discussion before a specific condition as envisaged under Clause 7(2) is imposed, can considerably cut down time and thereby reduce rather than increase subsequent bureaucracy.

Of course I shall not press the amendment at this time. But I am disappointed that the Minister did not recognise the legitimate concern that exists in schools and school sixth forms in having conditions imposed upon them which may not be appropriate or fully considered or understood. Nobody is looking for consultation processes. They are seeking not to have conditions imposed upon them without reference and without discussions.

I hope the Minister will consider this matter a little further. Whether it is necessary to have something on the face of the Bill can perhaps be discussed, but the point is well made. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Links between education and training and employment]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 72:


    Page 5, line 18, after ("of") insert ("appropriate").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall also speak to Amendment No. 74. I return to a theme which we discussed earlier; namely, that where provision is secured it should be appropriate. That refers to Clause 8 which states:


    "The Council may secure the provision of facilities for the gaining of work experience by young persons receiving education".

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I say "appropriate" for the same reasons: that it is more satisfactory for the individual; more fruitful in outcome; and the person is more likely to benefit and become a positive, contributory member of society. Therefore, it makes sense. We know that simply securing the provision of facilities can sometimes be inappropriate. It is worth putting on the face of the Bill that it should be appropriate.

Amendment No. 74 is important. Again we are talking about flexibility for people with learning disabilities. Clause 8(2) states,


    "The Council may secure the provision of facilities designed to form links between (on the one hand) employers and (on the other) persons falling within subsection (3)".

That is a very important provision in terms of people with disabilities and learning difficulties. Making the link between education, training and the employer can be extremely troublesome for some people. They need a great deal of help. Again, we have a dead cut-off point at the age of 19. All the arguments have already been deployed. Persons with learning difficulties should have more flexibility. Therefore, there should be some accommodation up to the age of 25. I would like there to be no distinction at all. When we had the fairly drawn-out debate about the distinction between "proper" and "reasonable", I understood from the Minister that that argument has now passed by. For this group of people some flexibility to the age of 25 is important. I hope that the Minister will be accommodating in her response.

Lord Rix: I support Amendments Nos. 74 and 91. As the experience of Mencap's Pathway employment service demonstrates, some young people need on-the-job coaching before they can make the best of work experience opportunities or they may need training in how to apply for a placement or how to obtain one. It may be something as fundamental as requiring support to decide the kind of work they wish to try. Even with the best intentions, this is a complex area which should command considerable commitment from government, which I hope will be forthcoming. If people feel that they are short of experience in this particular department, Mencap will be more than happy to give them any information in this regard which has been garnered from the experience of a quarter of a century in placing people with learning disabilities in open employment.


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