Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, Amendment No. 113 would place the inspection of information, advice and guidance services for adults within the remit of the adult learning inspectorate. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, spoke to a similar amendment in Committee. As I said then, we intend that the inspection of this provision should be carried out by the Guidance Accreditation Board which was set up last year by the Guidance Council with support from my department. I should like to emphasise that the Guidance Accreditation Board is independent of the Guidance Council and that, under the inspection and quality assurance regime, we intend that they will have

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1451

fundamentally different roles. There can be no question of their roles becoming confused. Perhaps I may expand on that.

The Guidance Council will be responsible for maintaining and updating the quality standards and for providing advice and support to practitioners on how to interpret them. Organisations which are delivering information, advice and guidance for adults as part of local learning partnerships will be required to comply with the Guidance Council's quality standards by April 2002. The accreditation board, by contrast, will be responsible for inspecting provision; for assessing whether providers meet the quality standards; and, where necessary, for withdrawing their accreditation.

There are four reasons why it is most appropriate to secure the inspection and quality assurance of information, advice and guidance for adults through the route I have described rather than through the ALI. First, information, advice and guidance is a specialist activity. It is a quite different process from teaching and learning, and many of the bodies which deliver it on a local level are not learning providers. They have no role in providing learning. Instead, they are highly specialised organisations with particular expertise in this field. That is why we have chosen the distinctive approach to the inspection of this activity that I have spelled out.

Secondly, the arrangement with the Guidance Council and the Guidance Accreditation Board that I have described is already up and running, contrary to what the noble Baroness implied in her introduction. It has been in development for some years. We and the council consulted extensively about the quality standards and the accreditation regime that will be at its heart. They command wide support among practitioners. Placing responsibility for inspecting information, advice and guidance provision with the ALI would disrupt and delay the benefits of a quality regime for adult information, advice and guidance, when a more appropriate system has recently been put in place. That would not be in the interests of the clients of the service who benefit from its use.

Thirdly, the delivery of information, advice and guidance for adults is extremely diffuse. It is not just a question of provision made by careers services or by FE institutions for their own students, important though that is. Under our policy, information, advice and guidance is being delivered by a wide range of organisations, including community and voluntary bodies and libraries as well as employers. The plans we have been discussing with the Guidance Council are based on the assumption that up to 1,500 provider organisations will need to be accredited between now and the end of 2001-02. Many of these are not learning providers at all. The sheer numbers involved and their diversity make an accreditation regime of the kind that is already in operation essential. Placing responsibility for the inspection of this provision with the ALI would significantly increase the number of organisations with which the ALI would have to deal, for little obvious gain.

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1452

Finally, the arrangements through the Guidance Council are not just about the accreditation of provisions that will be funded by the LSC or even about publicly-funded provision more widely. Much provision in the adult guidance field is in the private sector and will continue to be paid for by employers and individuals. It will be open to such private sector organisations to seek accreditation from the Guidance Accreditation Board, too. Not only will accreditation give an assurance about the quality of private sector provision, it will also help to reduce the cost to the taxpayers of these arrangements, as such providers will pay a fee to the accreditation board. The Guidance Council's business plan for these arrangements envisages that, depending on the level of fee income achieved, they will be self-financing over the medium term.

I turn to Amendment No. 145. It would further extend the ALI's remit to include inspection of the new Connexions service. An amendment similar to this was debated in Committee. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, suggested then that the Connexions agenda is closer to that of the chief inspector of adult learning than that of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. I must beg to differ. The provision to be inspected by the ALI will be totally different from that of the Connexions service. Although the ALI will inspect all post-16 work-based training, the lion's share of the ALI's remit, as its name suggests, will be learning provision for adults. The Connexions service will be for 13 to 19 year-olds.

The noble Baroness suggested that the ALI was the better-suited inspectorate because the Connexions service would be addressing social exclusion, including through encouraging young people to take up vocational learning. First, I do not believe that we or others should be putting out a message that disaffected young people are not expected to re-engage with more academic learning, where that may, in fact, be more appropriate in some cases. We should ensure that that opportunity is kept open to them.

More importantly, I want to take this opportunity to remind noble Lords that the Connexions service will provide a wide range of services for all young people, including those who are already achieving. Indeed, in the majority of cases, its role will be less about tackling social exclusion issues than about providing timely support for young people's learning and career choices. It will be concerned with the provision of information, advice and guidance about learning, together with a whole range of other support services for young people, rather than with the provision of actual education and training.

We believe that Ofsted is well positioned to carry out inspection of the Connexions service because it has the relevant broad experience with the age group concerned. Ofsted inspects LEA youth services and education work with young offenders. As part of its school inspection responsibilities, Ofsted inspects careers and drugs education in schools and is familiar with behavioural and attendance issues. As I indicated in Committee, Ofsted's remit also includes LEA inspections. These are focused on educational

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1453

standards and school improvement issues, but they also cover a wide range of other LEA activity, including effective partnership working and LEA support to pupils with particular needs.

We are convinced that Ofsted's experience makes it the better choice for the inspection of the Connexions service. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply, which was not totally unexpected. I continue to question whether she is right in putting so much emphasis on the role of the Guidance Council. We received briefing from the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE), which stated:

    "As a member of the Guidance Council since its inception, NIACE welcomes the confidence which the Government has in the organisation, its quality standards and its Accreditation Board. We are not, however, convinced that this arrangement [will work]".

It goes on to state that, as it stands, the Guidance Council does not have the capacity to take on the inspection nor does it have a track record in such territory. I was interested that the Minister noted that during the next few years 1,500 guidance organisations will need to be accredited. Given the role of accreditation, the additional role of inspection will be a considerable burden on the organisation.

As regards my second amendment, again, the reply was not unexpected. Our perception that the chief inspector of adult learning should be the chief inspector is linked to the fact that we should like to see a clear distinction between the two roles of Ofsted and the ALI and that all non-school-based education and learning should be under the remit of the ALI. In that case, it would have made much sense for the ALI also to have been the main inspector of the Connexions service. I wonder what place the Guidance Council might have. Given its role, it might be more appropriate for it to consider the advice and guidance issued in relation to the Connexions service. I am not fully satisfied with the responses, but, for the moment, I beg leave to with draw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 114:

    Page 20, line 41, at end insert--

("( ) Regulations made under subsection (1)(e) may include within the Inspectorate's remit training of or for teachers, lecturers, trainers or other persons engaged in the provision of education or training which otherwise falls within the Inspectorate's remit.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 115 not moved.]

Clause 52 [Functions of the Inspectorate and Chief Inspector]:

[Amendment No. 116 not moved.]

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1454

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page