HC Deb 30 March 1976 vol 908 cc1090-1
11. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement in the light of the changed date for school leavers leaving school in the summer term; and what steps are being taken to extend the use of college of further education facilities during June, July and August.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

The Department has today issued to local education authorities and schools a circular on school leaving dates. Copies have been placed in the Library. The circular explains the provisions of the new Act and offers guidance about school leaving dates arrangements generally in England and Wales. The use of college facilities is a matter for the local education authorities.

Mr. Bennett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but is he happy with the prospects this summer? Is he aware that a considerable number of further education colleges will be under-used, that a considerable number of school leavers will be unemployed, and that a large number of teachers will also be unemployed?

Mr. Fowler

I am very unhappy about the present prospects for school leavers. I must be clear about that. I must reiterate that the provision of courses in further education colleges is a matter for local education authorities.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does my hon. Friend agree that this Question raises the whole problem of the relationship between schools and colleges? Will he accept from me that there is now a great feeling in this area of education that it is time we had a date for compulsory day release? That would make a considerable contribution towards helping the 16–19 age group and some contribution to improving the industrial situation.

Mr. Fowler

With respect, the Quesnot does not raise the broader issue of the relationship between schools and the further education sector. I accept my hon. Friend's intention in arguing that there should ultimately be compulsory day release. Clearly that is a prospect that we cannot contemplate in the immediate future, given our economic circumstances.

Dr. Hampson

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that having waited a year for the so-called initiative on behalf of the 16–19-year-olds, his Department has produced something extraordinarily feeble? Does he agree that it would have been much better to ensure that the final year at school was more work-related, and that 16-year-olds, instead of being imprisoned in classrooms, would have a chance to get out into work-related courses?

Mr. Fowler

I have noted repeatedly over the past few months the hon. Gentleman's desire to get 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds into work, come Hell or high water. We do not share that view.