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I will address the deficiency in my previous statement that understandably concerned the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. We remain absolutely committed to reducing the funding gap further, with the clear caveat that this must happen as resources allow. However, we remain committed to reducing the funding gap, and not just sustaining it. We will also make two fresh commitments today. First, the YPLA will set out progress in reducing the funding gap in its annual report. Secondly, further research will be carried out and a report will be placed in the House Library once the 2011-12 year has been completed.
I turn to Amendment 67 and the issue of free college meals. The cross-government review of financial support for 16 to 18 year-olds that we announced in the New Opportunities White Paper earlier this year provides us with an opportunity to consider, in the context of raising the participation age, how we can ensure that the support provided for post-16 learners is fair, and that their learning choices are not skewed by the support that is available to them. The review, which is due to report in spring next year, will take account of findings from research that we are undertaking into the barriers that young learners face to staying on in learning. One aspect that the research is looking at is whether the cost of lunch acts as a barrier to participation. We share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that this cost should not influence their decisions. We will shortly issue a public call for evidence to capture the views of stakeholders and young people in order to inform the review. As part of that, we will seek views on the current anomaly that exists in respect of free lunches.
A further point of concern was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, concerning the proposed role for regional development agencies in setting skills strategies. I assure her of the central role that local authorities will have in the system. It may be helpful if I set out briefly how the new system will work. Regional development agencies will develop a skills strategy as part of the single regional strategy. This will be approved by a local authority leaders' board, ensuring that local and regional skills needs are embedded in wider economic development strategies at regional level. They will also take account of the demands of local employers-that is an area that concerns the noble Baroness-of skills needs, and of the demand from young people in their area.
The new system is designed around integration and partnership. It collects the needs of the region into one place to provide a single, simple statement of need for all relevant authorities to follow. All partners in the region, including local authorities, will need to be fully involved in the process, and it is in everyone's interests that full involvement takes place.
I turn to Clause 65, which concerned the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I congratulate him on his forensic skills. We accept that subsection (4) is not as clear as we would wish. It is intended to prohibit colleges or other providers from charging 16 to 19 year-olds for
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Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his very positive response and thank him for it. The three issues that concerned me included two issues of equity, one of which was the disparity over school meals. I am glad that he has given an assurance that, within the framework of the review that is taking place, there will be specific consideration of the meals issue. I hope the Government will go beyond wondering whether the issue is a barrier to participation in colleges. It seems to me that, in so far as they are continuing to provide free school meals for young people in schools, it is logical for that same provision to be made within the college sector. If, however, they decide that, within the general framework of support for young people, free meals are no longer provided once they are 16 and that there are other means of supporting them, then that should apply across the board. It is important that there should be equivalence of support rather than that those young people who move on to colleges should face such a barrier.
In relation to the funding gap, I have some slightly different figures provided for me by the Association of Colleges, which also came from KPMG. KPMG seems to be doing a double act between the ministry and the Association of Colleges on this one, satisfying each of their clients with different sets of figures. Again, I am glad to get on the record a clear commitment from the Government that they are trying to reduce that funding gap, as far as resources allow, that the YPLA will set out in an annual report what progress has been made, and that a report will be placed in the Library of this House and, I take it, the other place. I am well satisfied with the Government's answer on those two issues of equity.
In relation to Amendment 80 and the process of what colleges and schools do if they find the local authorities are not moving as fast as they would like them to, it still seems a rather complicated process. Nevertheless, it is one that provides for reconciliation and, as a 14-day limit has been put on the receipt of complaints, with a bit of luck, by the end of July when the colleges need to settle their budgets, some kind of agreement will have been reached. Therefore, I am happy to leave that.
In relation to my Amendment 75, I am still sad that the Government are not prepared to put the functions in the Bill. I know how reluctant parliamentary counsel is to move in this direction and the assurance that they will be writ large in the remit letter is good to have. We shall see how far this goes. Again, I am pleased to have the assurance that, within the functioning of RDAs, local authorities will play some part. My worry is that the tone of the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, sent to Jim Braithwaite-it was inclined to say that the RDA would develop the skills strategy and it would be binding on the SFA-was a little
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Although I know the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, does not think much of the amendments put forward by the Government, which were largely based on amendments I put forward in Committee, I am very grateful to the Government for heeding them. They make the YPLA a slightly more independent body than it might otherwise be, which I do not think the opposition Benches are pleased about. If it is to exist, we on these Benches feel that it should have a degree of independence but that it should work in partnership with local authorities with a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach. I thank the Government for what they have given us and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(a) for the purposes of sections 15ZA, 15A, 15B, 507B and 562G, or
(b) for the purposes of section 18A (except for the purpose of determining, for the purposes of that section, whether a child has special educational needs)."
(a) the full range of the YPLA's functions, and
(b) any functions that may be conferred or imposed on the YPLA under Academy arrangements.
"(4) In exercising its powers under subsection (1) in relation to persons who are within section 15ZA(1)(a) or (b) of the Education Act 1996, the YPLA must have regard to things done by local education authorities in the performance of their duties under section 15ZA(1) of that Act.
(5) In exercising its powers under this section in relation to persons subject to youth detention, the YPLA must have regard to things done by local education authorities in the performance of their duties under section 18A(1) of the Education Act 1996."
(a) local education authorities in England, and
(b) such other persons as it thinks appropriate."
(a) the function of entering into an agreement under section 482(1) of the Education Act 1996, or
(b) functions of making, confirming or approving subordinate legislation.
92: Clause 86, page 57, line 19, leave out from "requirements" to end of line 22 and insert "of persons who are aged 19 or over, other than persons aged under 25 who are subject to learning difficulty assessment,
(aa) education suitable to the requirements of persons who are subject to adult detention, and"
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, noble Lords will recall that in Committee I gave an assurance to my noble friend Lord Layard that we would seek an alternative word to "scheme" to describe the duties set out in Clause 91. We have concluded that "apprenticeship offer" is a more appropriate term which does not have the negative connotations ascribed to "scheme", referred to by my noble friend. I commend the change to the House. Government Amendment 99 would effect that change and most of the remaining amendments in the group provide for the renaming. The first amendment in the group replaces the word "entitlement", which was an amendment incorrectly accepted in Committee, for the word "offer".
On government Amendments 106 and 120, your Lordships will recall that I also gave a commitment in Committee to bring forward proposals that would make the apprenticeship scheme more accessible to people with learning difficulties. We have been working with the Special Educational Consortium, SKILL, RNIB, Mencap and other key interest groups to ensure that we have proposals which address the concerns raised by them and by noble Lords across the House. On the basis of these discussions, we have decided to adopt the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, to allow people with a learning difficulty or disability to submit a portfolio of evidence which demonstrates their preparedness to undertake an apprenticeship, as an alternative to the requirements in Clause 95(1) and (2). Amendment 120 would enable us to set regulations that deliver this option to young people without in any way lowering the bar in terms of the competencies required to undertake an apprenticeship.
Government Amendment 106 also gives us the flexibility through regulations to extend the apprenticeship scheme by describing groups of persons who may elect for the scheme over the age of 19 and up to the age of 25. This is intended to allow young people with disabilities, who may take longer to reach the point at which they are ready to undertake an apprenticeship, to benefit from the scheme. We are absolutely committed to working with the Special Educational Consortium, SKILL, RNIB, Mencap and other partners, to develop sets of regulations and to ensure that we get the regulations right in terms of the criteria and accessibility.
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