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Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 39:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 39, I return to a debate we had at previous stages of the Bill. I am still concerned about the words "appropriate to their needs", which are important.

Much has been said about young people who are not finding their way into the world of work. A great deal of effort is being made by the Government, through their policies for inclusion, to persuade people back into the workplace. I gave examples of people whom I met in the north-east where I was involved as a Minister. Too often I met young people who were constantly being shunted into courses which were not relevant to their needs, which were wholly inappropriate, or which they had already done and were therefore repetitious.

Education and training should not only be appropriate to the needs of an individual, which will be subject to other amendments; it should fit in with the individual's work pattern and the work available in the area. Clause 4 states that the council must encourage individuals to undergo post-16 education and training. I do not want it to be taken as read that that will be appropriate to their needs. We know that in practice that is not always so. I believe there should be an obligation on the providers and on the councils, both national and local, to ensure as far as possible that education and training should be appropriate to the needs of young people. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, mentioned, we debated this issue at some length at Committee stage. The point made at that stage still remains valid. There is much waste of resources involved in inappropriate education and training for those over 16 years of age. Young people often do not know what they want and receive little or no help in making choices. That is why they need information, advice and guidance about the choices available to them and which might best suit them as

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individuals, given their talents and preferences and the local situation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, made clear.

What worries us is that the new Connexion service aimed at making sure that those who at the moment drop out of mainstream education and training are brought back in and helped to make those choices, does not necessarily provide for the 90 per cent who remain in mainstream education, but who still need guidance. At the universities we count the cost of poor decisions in the growing drop-out rate among first year undergraduates. It is a waste of time for these young people, who then have to start again on another course. It is a waste of public resources in terms of the costs of provision and support which are frequently borne by the state.

But there is a less obvious waste. I was talking last week to people from the ABPI. They have recently drawn attention to the unsuitable courses which many of their recruits take in modular degrees, pointing out that proper guidance at the appropriate stage is vital in making choices. Careers teachers in schools are not enough. They can provide information and advice, but they are not necessarily fully conversant with the guidance issues. We have trained professionals to provide guidance at postgraduate level, the so-called NVQ4, to provide precisely that sort of guidance. If we are going to make the best use of the potential of our young people, it is extremely important that the education and training that they receive is guided towards what is appropriate to their needs. I therefore support the amendment.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Baroness will receive reiteration of the assurances that I made in Committee on this point. The clause places a specific duty on the LSC to promote lifelong learning by encouraging people to undertake education and training. As I said last time, it would be unreasonable for the LSC to promote learning which was anything but appropriate to the needs of the individual receiving it.

The education and training to which this clause refers must be, under the terms of Clauses 2 and 3, suitable to the requirements of those who receive it. In Committee the noble Baroness made the excellent point that people, especially young people, need someone to guide them--the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has said the same thing today--about the appropriate kind of education and training to guide them into the workforce. We would agree. The principle of effective support and guidance for young people lies at the heart of our strategy for the Connexion service. I am not going to be drawn into a discussion on that service now, tempting though it may be. I believe that we shall have time for that when debating some of tomorrow's amendments.

Where the Government part company with this amendment is that we do not believe that adding a qualification to the duty on the LSC to encourage individuals to undergo education and training will have any effect in addressing the needs of young people

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for guidance. We see the position very much as the noble Baroness does, but we do not believe that we need to add this provision to the Bill itself.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that is helpful because it reinforces a point that the Government have made. There is a flavour of naivety about the idea that all education and training from now on will be matched absolutely to the individual needs of a young person. But I accept what is intended. The matter is now on the face of the Bill at least twice and probably at Second Reading as well. That is important. I believe that it is something that will be returned to, perhaps, sadly, through tribunals, which is the only recourse that anyone would have to prove disproportionate provision.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, the kind of examples I have in mind are not sufficiently powerful--though they may be a total mismatch for the individual--to take to a court or a tribunal. Who would be in a position to do so anyway? At the end of the day there would always be the defence that the procedure was followed and the course provider or the council responsible for making the provision had deemed it appropriate at the time to the needs of the young person and they were simply wrong. The Minister used encouraging words. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

Clause 6 [Financial resources: conditions]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 40:

    Page 4, line 12, after ("may") insert ("after consulting providers or their representatives and such other persons as it sees fit").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we move now to Clause 6 of the Bill, which gives the Learning and Skills Council quite sweeping powers to impose conditions on any funding which it provides. No one questions the right of a funder to impose reasonable conditions--I hesitate to define the word "reasonable"--or to ensure that they are met. That is quite right, normal and entirely proper. But there is widespread concern among providers over the extent of the powers suggested in this clause. There seems to be considerable erosion of the autonomy of the further education sector. There is particular concern about the specific reference to the imposition of fees and so on.

We know that the Government consider all this to be necessary and appropriate. The purpose of this amendment is to require the funder--the council in this case--before imposing such conditions, to consult with the provider or provider's appropriate representation. I do not believe that that is in any way an extension to bureaucracy; indeed, I would hope that it was normal good practice and could reduce possible bureaucracy caused by the imposition of unreasonable or unworkable conditions.

I hope that this amendment encapsulates what should be normal good practice and what should happen anyway. I urge the Government to accept it because it would go some way towards allaying the

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fears that have been aroused, rightly or wrongly, in the FE sector by the fairly wide-ranging provisions of this clause. I beg to move.

Lord Bach: My Lords, we believe that this amendment would impose constraints on the ability of the Learning and Skills Council to exercise flexible judgment about the financial agreements that it will need to reach with providers. The FEFC has a financial relationship with the relatively homogeneous group of providers, principally colleges of further education and some institutions in the higher education sector. The LSC, through local branches, will have direct financial relationships with several thousand providers, including employers, colleges, LEAs and voluntary organisations. It must have the ability to tailor its arrangements and should be able to do that flexibly. We believe that it would be inappropriate to impose a superstructure of statutory bureaucracy--if the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will forgive me for using that word--around these arrangements.

Having said that, we expect the LSC to consult providers about funding arrangements. In the same way the department is currently undertaking extensive consultation about future funding arrangements, not least because the Secretary of State will need to consider carefully what conditions he may wish to attach to the funds that he will make available to the LSC. It did not take an Act of Parliament for such consultation to take place; it is the accepted thing to do. There is nothing unusual here. With that explanation I hope that the noble Lord will consider withdrawing the amendment.

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