HC Deb 08 April 1975 vol 889 cc1000-2
11. Mr. Bryan Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, in view of his acceptance of the need to undertake curriculum development before the extension of day release for young workers, if he will propose establishing an appropriate body to undertake this function and make financial arrangements therefor.

Mr. Prentice

As I stated in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) on 4th March—[Vol. 887, c. 358.]—I have no plans at present to change the existing arrangements for further education curriculum development, but this matter is being further studied by my Department as part of a wider review of the needs of 16-to-19year-olds.

Mr. Davies

My right hon. Friend will understand that I find that reply disappointing, in view of the declared policy aim of trying to increase the level of educational resources for those who are particularly disadvantaged. Does not my right hon. Friend realise that although we spend a great deal of money on curriculum development in schools in which children stay on beyond the age of 16, for the 16-to-19-year-olds who leave school there is little in the way of curriculum development?

Mr. Prentice

My hon. Friend should not underestimate the amount of curriculum development work that goes on under the auspices of the Technical Education Council, the Business Education Council, and several of the regional technical examination boards, in technical colleges of education and elsewhere. There may be a gap here, particularly in relation to the 16-to-19-year-olds who are not being directed into further education or released from their jobs for further education, in respect of those whom we wish to receive further education. I referred to that problem in my reply and said that we were studying it.

Mr. Wigley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great need among the 16-to-19-year-old group, in areas that are not highly developed industrially, for much greater facilities to be made available, particularly for the development of skills for industry? There is also a vacuum which needs to be filled in relation to young people—before they become eligible for jobs—who need provision to be made for their education after they leave school?

Mr. Prentice

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. One of our great difficulties is that the majority of day release or block release which occurs now is linked specifically to industrial training courses which qualify for grants under the Industrial Training Act. That is unfair between groups of boys and girls and uneven between different parts of the country. Our problem is to find a method of extending further education opportunities to wider groups of boys and girls. This matter is under intense study, and I am consulting a large number of organisations with expertise in this area.

Mr. Carter-Jones

When my right hon. Friend considers the problems of the 16-to 19-year-olds in further education colleges, will he also consider the discretionary grants, which are so abysmally low that young persons cannot continue their studies? The fees charged and the cost of travelling for the purpose of industrial visits are so exorbitant that young people have to discontinue their studies. Will my right hon. Friend please consider that matter?

Mr. Prentice

We have been looking closely at the whole question of student grants. We have made some modest improvements in monetary grants to HND students and to certain others. Progress is limited, for financial reasons, but I am well aware of the problem to which my hon. Friend refers.