HC Deb 06 May 1975 vol 891 cc1197-9
7. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will give details of the numbers of young people under the age of 18 years obtaining day release from employment for further education for the latest dates available, with the percentage of those in employment, together with similar figures for recent years giving in each case the percentages of young men and boys, women and girls.

Mr. Prentice

The numbers aged under 18 in England and Wales who received day or block release from employment in November were: 171,022 boys and 48,010 girls in 1971; 162,834 boys and 45,974 girls in 1972; and 152,949 boys and 38,733 girls in 1973, the latest available year. In each of the three years these numbers represent approximately 35 per cent. of the employed boys in the age group and 10 per cent. of the employed girls.

Mr. Roberts

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we still have a long way to go in this matter? Will he again look earnestly at the point I have made before on the matter of announcing at a reasonably early date the right to compulsory day release, particularly in view of the effect of the education cuts on this sector?

Mr. Prentice

I agree that the figures are most unsatisfactory for boys and disgracefully low for girls, and I have had a number of consultations with interested bodies about the matter. I am at the moment considering a number of papers presented to me at my request, including a most valuable paper from the education committee of the TUC.

It is not practical to think in terms of jumping quickly to a situation of universal compulsory day release because of the economic constraints, but we are considering whether there are ways of making a modest start on a pilot basis. This matter is being actively considered in the Department at the moment.

Mr. Marten

As the latest set of figures was for 1973, is the Minister doing anything to speed up the collection of figures throughout his Ministry, which has always been, to my mind, one or two years behind what it should be?

Mr. Prentice

I do not think that we are all that far behind. We shall shortly have figures for the end of 1974. I shall look at the point, but we have to collect statistics from all over the country and we want to get the answer right.

Mr. John Garrett

The percentage of girls securing day release facilities is so low as to warrant investigation by the Equal Opportunities Commission as soon as that body is set up. Will my right hon. Friend agree to make a reference of the case to the commission as soon as the Sex Discrimination Bill becomes law?

Mr. Prentice

I shall not commit myself on the latter suggestion except, at this point, to note it. I agree that the figures are very low. The basic problem is that those who get day release at the moment do so for specific craft apprenticeship or similar systems of organised training. We have not seen the progress we would wish to see towards the more general release of boys and girls for general education purposes.

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