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Baroness Blackstone: The noble Baroness has returned to points that she made earlier in relation to previous groups of amendments. I repeat what I have already said. This will be spelt out not by the Government but by the chief inspectors in the consultation documents which will be available to the noble Baroness and many others for comment when the time comes. My noble friend Lord Haskel, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, set out his arguments in a helpful way, and I am grateful to him for providing me with an opportunity to explain these provisions. I am particularly glad to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, at least for our overall approach which is to have a common framework in which two inspectors work together. That is extremely helpful at this point.
I turn to the issues raised by my noble friend Lord Haskel. I begin by clearing up an important preliminary point. There should never be two inspections of an FE college, one by ALI and one by Ofsted. Every college, like every school, will have a single inspection that involves one team, usually comprising some ALI, and some Ofsted, inspectors. There will be a single report. In a few sixth-form colleges with no adults, there will be a sole inspection by Ofsted; and in a few adult colleges with no 16 to 18 year-olds, there will be a sole inspection by ALI.
In supporting the amendment, noble Lords have argued that in the case of joint inspections, the lead inspectorate should be determined according to whether 16 to 18 year-olds or adults are in the majority. I can see the logic of that. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. If we rely on a headcount of students above and below the age of 19, we shall have a completely misleading guide to the work of the two inspectorates. Nearly all 16 year-olds in FE are full-time students. In contrast, nearly all adults are part time, typically taking courses which amount to one-fifth, perhaps one-quarter, or occasionally one-third,
I shall illustrate the problem with some practical examples. In terms of headcount, there are only 87 colleges--one fifth of the sector--with more 16-18 year-olds than adults. Virtually all these are sixth form colleges. Yet noble Lords may be surprised to note that not all sixth form colleges have such a majority. Over 20 in fact have more adults than young people. And many others have nearly as many adults as 16-18 year-olds.
The explanation is that many sixth form colleges have considerable numbers of part-time adult evening class students, perhaps studying for as little as two hours a week. This may be completely worthy and desirable community education, but I should be very surprised if any sixth form college regarded this as its main mission. And in terms of hours of taught provision it will of course be less than the A-level and advanced GNVQ work in the sixth form college. It would be completely wrong, therefore, for the ALI to direct inspections in these circumstances, although I would expect an Ofsted-led team to have good support from the ALI in looking at the quality of the evening class provision to which I have just referred.
These arguments are not confined to sixth form colleges. In many general FE colleges, tertiary colleges and agricultural colleges there will be a similar pattern of large numbers of 16-18 year-olds on full-time courses; and numerically more part-time adults. But the volume--and volume is important here--of 16-18 provision will be greater in at least half of all colleges. Even where the numerical balance seems overwhelmingly in favour of adults, there are caveats. For example, at Bracknell and Wokingham College there are nearly 12,000 adult students, compared with only 1,100 16-18 year-olds. But the number of 16-18 year-olds is still greater than in very many sixth form colleges. It is therefore right that Ofsted will have a very substantial role in the inspection of these colleges. These are practical illustrations of why the amendment would not be acceptable, but I wish also to make a few points of general principle.
First, the Government do not intend to prescribe responsibility by formula, either on the face of the Bill or in subsequent regulations. Let us imagine for a moment a college where the provision is almost equally divided between adults and young people. It would make no difference whether we were using headcounts, full time equivalents or any other formulation. Let us imagine that a few weeks before the inspection, it is discovered that the proportion of adults to young people is 51 per cent to 49 per cent. The ALI therefore prepares to direct the inspection. But at the time of inspection, because of new enrolments, the proportion may have changed to 49 per cent-51 per cent the other way. The ALI no longer has the vires to lead, and the law is brought into disrepute.
A numerical formula, however constructed, simply would not work. And because of the wide variation in character in colleges, alternatives such as giving Ofsted the lead for sixth form colleges and the ALI the lead for general FE colleges would not be workable. A lot of general FE colleges--tertiary colleges in particular--have a major focus on 16-18 provision. Only in the case of minimal overlap of remits--for example, in the adult residential colleges where there would be at most a tiny handful of 16-18 year-olds, should the ALI take the sole lead.
The Government want to avoid formulaic prescription, and to give the two chief inspectors a good deal of operational freedom, so that the complex planning for joint inspections in FE colleges can be done on a case by case basis. The general principle of having inspection teams composed in a way which broadly reflects the volume of provision is a good one, and I intend that this shall be enshrined either in the regulations made under Clause 68 or in the common inspection framework. In this way, using a harmonised approach with multi-disciplinary teams working collectively, joint inspections will be highly effective operations and, I hope, potent levers, which is something that we all want, to raise standards.
Nonetheless, in a joint inspection process there has to be some clarity about who is in the lead. That is why I have some reservations about what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has recommended. I believe that colleges will expect such clarity. If we did not set out clearly in the Bill who should lead, we could properly be accused of ducking the issue. The Government have chosen Ofsted. I do not in any way detract from the experience and skills of the other two inspectorates. However, unlike the ALI, Ofsted is already fully established with a proven track record of improving standards.
I have spoken at some length because this amendment raises important issues. For both practical reasons and those of principle, the Government have set out a clear policy. I recognise that the choice we had to make was a difficult one. However, I believe that it is a clear solution which will be acceptable. Reluctantly, therefore, I cannot accept my noble friend Lord Haskel's amendment and I hope that he will not press it.
Baroness Seccombe: Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask about the position of the 11 to 16 schools where adults sit in the same classrooms as young people under 16 and where there is a high proportion of adult learning in the evenings.
Baroness Blackstone: The adult learning that goes on in the evenings is simply a matter of schools letting their premises to adult and community provision. That kind of letting of premises is not relevant, except in that the adult learning inspectorate should, of course, inspect the adult community provision that happens to be in schools, as in a church hall, as in an FE college or anywhere else. With regard to schools that have a very small number of adults sitting in, normally at the
I believe that it is very important to make clear to the colleges what my noble friend has just said, because it was an FE college that prompted me to put down this amendment. I therefore hope that my noble friend will take whatever steps she can to ensure that the FE colleges understand what the regime will be, how Ofsted will take the lead, yet how Ofsted and the ALI will hopefully be on an equal footing, and how the system of joint inspections will work. That matter was not understood by the people who asked me to table this amendment. I thank my noble friend for the explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
My first purpose is to find out what the Government have in mind for the single inspectorate proposed for Wales. It makes sense to combine the administration of the adult learning inspectorate with the schools inspectorate in Wales, as proposed in this and subsequent clauses, provided, of course, that those who carry out the inspections are qualified in their field for the tasks that they are to perform. It is quite clear that, to inspect the training provided by an employer in the workplace, different inspectors will be needed from those required for sixth forms or the Careers Service. Having said that, I hope there will be a cross-fertilisation of ideas and that the inspectorate as a whole will not become too fragmented or excessively sectionalised.
Perhaps I may return to the detail of the amendments. Subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) are virtually identical, apart from the word "contemplating" in line 39. Those two paragraphs could have been combined without too much difficulty. Are the providers given financial support in paragraph (a) of the same genre as
We could speculate ad nauseam, but it would be easier to listen to the Minister's reply. I should be grateful if she could also tell us what additions are expected in the staffing of the inspectorate to undertake the additional tasks consequent upon the extended remit. Out of kindness, I draw her attention to subsection (2)(b), which does not make much sense to me and I am sure will not make much sense to anyone else either. I beg to move.
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