Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Addington: My Lords, I rise to support the noble Baroness in her amendment. We are dealing with a problem caused by success. Surely the problem should be met in this spirit. It is easy to ensure that we

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1515

carry on the good work. Let us put it in new business terms. Let us not waste our investment in these people. Let us ensure that they can go through and receive the appropriate education.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I entirely accept that this is a probing amendment; indeed, I am grateful for the opportunity that it presents to expand on what I said in Committee about the operation of Clause 113. I concentrated then on why we think that it is important to place a duty on the Secretary of State to arrange assessments of young people with statements of special educational needs who move into other forms of education and training at the end of their compulsory schooling.

I can now say more about the much larger proportion of pupils with special educational needs, but without statements, who move on in the same way. The noble Baroness seeks reassurance that proper attention will be paid to them and that they will be covered, where appropriate, by an assessment, while recognising that this will not by any means apply in all cases. I can give that assurance.

We all want to develop an approach which, by responding to their individual circumstances, is fair to all young people with learning difficulties. The Connexions service will need to focus most of its energies on young people who, for a variety of reasons, experience learning and other difficulties. It will know which young people have been identified as having special educational needs, at whichever of the five levels apply in schools. It will know the nature of those needs and will need to take such needs into account in advising the young people concerned about the best way of going on into FE or training. Moreover, its staff will need to be properly trained to carry out this task.

I would certainly expect some pupils without statements to be the subject of Clause 113 assessments on account of their individual circumstances. I would also expect some young people between the ages of 19 and 25 to be the subject of assessments under the extended power for the Secretary of State under Clause 113(3), which I undertook yesterday to bring forward on Third Reading.

It is a little too early to be more specific about numbers or process. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept the position. However, I am clear that we shall need a consistent approach right across the country. In order to secure this, we shall want to issue guidance on how we expect the assessment arrangements actually to operate in practice. We shall also need help in developing that guidance from organisations representing people with learning disabilities. We shall look to the post-16 disability consortium, among other organisations, to provide us with that help and discuss the guidance fully with us.

Perhaps I may say here how much we appreciate the very constructive arrangements that we have had with organisations such as SKILL, with which I know the

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1516

noble Baroness is very closely associated, and Mencap, with which the noble Lord, Lord Rix, who is not now in his place, is closely involved. I hope that I have given the reassurances sought by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, in tabling this amendment. In the light of what I have said, I hope that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth: Yes, my Lords. I am not in the unfortunate position in which the noble Lord, Lord Tope, found himself earlier. I am delighted to be able to thank the Minister for her reply. She has entirely answered my questions. I am very glad that the noble Baroness acknowledges the fact that there will be many students who are not statemented and who will need assessment. I am also grateful for what she said yesterday about the position for 19 to 25 year-olds. I welcome the fact that the noble Baroness said that there will be guidance and that she will consult the consortium. Finally, I thank her very much for her nice remarks about SKILL. I should, perhaps, declare in parenthesis, as it were, that I am president of this organisation. I also thank her on behalf of my noble friend Lord Rix for what she said about Mencap. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 115 [Further education sector: designated institutions]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 149:


    Page 52, line 25, after ("shall") insert (", subject to the preservation of the essential nature of the institution,").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment need not detain us for very long. I raised this issue in Committee. The amendment addresses what are known as "designated institutions"--institutions such as the Ruskin College, the Working Men's College, Morley College and the WEA. In Committee, the Minister talked about the incorporation of governing bodies of voluntary aided sixth form colleges. I should have responded immediately then and said that it was not the reply that I had expected. This is one reason why I have raised the matter again on Report. The Minister now has an opportunity to make a response and, I hope, give us an explanation as to what will happen. I beg to move.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Baroness has come back to the issue on Report. My only regret is that the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, does not appear above that of the noble Baroness on the Marshalled List in respect of this amendment. I could then have made some reparation for the offence that I unwittingly caused him earlier. However, my remarks are aimed at both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord who sit on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench.

The noble Baroness indicated her concerns about the future of the adult colleges under the new arrangements. It is fair to say that we were somewhat at cross-purposes when we discussed this point in Committee. I am pleased that we have had the

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1517

opportunity to address the matter properly now. The position of the adult colleges is in no way weakened under the new arrangements. They remain designated colleges and part of the further education sector. I hope that it will be helpful to the House and to the noble Baroness if I explain briefly a little of the background that is relevant to this issue.

When the further education sector was established, many LEA colleges were incorporated as further education corporations under Section 15 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. However, there is a separate group of colleges that were designated--in layman's terms, made eligible for funding by the FEFC--but which were not incorporated. This took place under Section 28 of that Act. Together, the two groups of FE corporations and designated colleges make up the further education sector.

The designated colleges can be subdivided into two subgroups--former voluntary aided sixth form colleges, with which most of Clause 115 deals, and the adult colleges, with which the noble Baroness is concerned. Under the current arrangements, the FEFC may fund only the governing bodies of institutions in the further and higher education sectors-- the former consisting, as I have already explained, of the incorporated further education colleges and the designated colleges.

However, in contrast to those current arrangements, the learning and skills council will be able to fund any provider relevant to its functions. The present form of words in Section 28 of the 1992 Act is, therefore, redundant because there is no need to designate an institution in order for it to be eligible to receive funds from the LSC. Nevertheless, we must retain the concept of designation so that we are quite clear which institutions form part of the further education sector. In that sense, the change is entirely neutral towards the adult colleges. I hope that it is quite clear that the amendment in Clause 115 to Section 28 of the Further and Higher Education Act is a purely technical point. I am happy to give the noble Baroness an absolute assurance that the amendment to Section 28 of the 1992 Act does not in any way affect the basis of funding for the designated adult colleges.

However, I am sure that the noble Baroness is looking for something more positive; and, indeed, I can offer her that. There is a crucial second change in our new arrangements by which the designated adult colleges can only benefit. The noble Baroness will be aware that the duties of the FEFC in respect of adults extend only to Schedule 2 provision--that is, formal further education, often leading to national qualifications. The majority of the provision made by the adult colleges is of the non-Schedule 2 type; in other words, the FEFC has no obligations to fund this sort of provision and colleges have, to some extent, been relying on grace and favour. That will change. The duties of the LSC include all forms of further education, Schedule 2 and non-Schedule 2.

The Government have announced a very substantial additional investment in further education for adults for the next few years. They have also been

14 Mar 2000 : Column 1518

conducting pilot schemes through the FEFC to expand non-Schedule 2 provision. This is the sort of area where the adult colleges have considerable expertise. There is clearly a challenge to them to build upon their existing work and to grasp the opportunities that will be open to them. That is, of course, a matter for them. But I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that they should in no way be fearful of the future. Rather, it offers the prospect of developing their mission and enhancing the distinctive contribution that they have made over many decades to adult education. I hope that the response and the reassurances that I have given will satisfy the noble Baroness and that she will feel able to withdraw the amendment.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page