HC Deb 03 July 1979 vol 969 cc1088-9
7. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has for expanding day release.

Mr. Macfarlane

This is one of the topics which falls to be considered in the Government's review of the relationship between schools, further education and training.

Mr. Roberts

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that this is an urgent matter? The rate of progress in the expansion of day release is lamentably slow. Will he consider looking, in particular, at the problems which women face in obtaining day release?

Mr. Macfarlane

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's latter point. That will be included in the review we are now considering. The uncertainty about the expansion of day release does not mean that there is indifference to the needs of young people in work for systematic education and training. The Department has discovered that there are other approaches—for instance, off-the-job education and training which can be organised in the place of work. Further education staff can offer their skills outside colleges as well as inside them.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister accept that, whereas day release is useful in educating those at work, another advantage is the release of pupils from schools to experience work? Does he accept that there is considerable room for improvement in the careers advice and in the experience available to pupils in formulating careers decisions? Will the Government give special attention to the development of that service?

Mr. Macfarlane

The Government acknowledge the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. One problem that has contributed to the slow growth in day release has been that neither young people nor their employers have accepted its value and relevance. A major purpose of the experimental programme of unified vocational preparation has been to develop courses that are attractive to young people and their employers. Useful progress has been made since the inception of the programme in 1976. It has a further two years to run until July 1981.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will my hon. Friend tell the House what contact he has made with industry, commerce and the trade union movement about the expansion of day release? Does he agree that if industry and commerce could meet more of the cost of further education it would be beneficial to the Exchequer? Would it not encourage more young people to be positively involved in day release, which would be good for employment generally in the country?

Mr. Macfarlane

I agree that such involvement might be to the ultimate benefit of the Exchequer. However, it is part and parcel of the review that the Government axe currently undertaking to find out how day release can be improved. We hope to report to the House later in the year.