HC Deb 10 March 1981 vol 1000 cc743-4
7. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if, in his consultations on the report on education for 16 to 19-year-olds, he will pay special regard to the need to make provision for this age group to meet the needs of industrial training for the 1990s.

Mr. Macfarlane

My right hon. and learned Friend and I are anxious that the education service should provide the vocational education required by the nation in the years ahead. The education service already makes a vital contribution and it is our intention to play a full part in further development.

Mr. Wainwright

When will the Government act on the report? Is he aware that any cuts in education deal harshly with youths aged between 16 and 19 years? Does he accept that Britain has fewer youths entering further education than any other country in Western Europe? When will the Government do something about it?

Mr. Macfarlane

First, the Government did not ask for formal comments on the 16–19 review, which I chaired for 22 months. I welcome the discussion which it has aroused among local education authorities. The review group acknowledged that it is vital that the views of those concerned are heard freely and clearly. Many local authorities have been engaged in this assessment over the past few years. Some aspects of it are now coming to fruition. No doubt other authorities will scale up their activity over the next few years. I have acknowledged that our record, when compared with that of other Western industrialised countries, leaves much to be desired. I hope that local education authorities will acknowledge the importance of post-16 training, as did our manifesto commitment. The Conservative Party said that a Conservative Government would review the relationship between schools, further education and training. That was a distinct manifesto commitment.

Sir David Price

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that in practice there is a close enough working relationship between the Manpower Services Commission and the individual local education authorities to ensure that the post-16 training given to our young people will equip them with real jobs in the next century?

Mr. Macfarlane

The Government and the Manpower Services Commission, the Department of Employment and the Department of Education and Science, are considering possible new initiatives on vocational preparation for young people. A more flexible attitude to apprenticeships and adult retraining is included. I hope that the special programmes board will include a greater representation of those responsible for the education service.

Mr. Whitehead

As we understand that the MSC will propose a 10-year course which will lead to an additional year of full-time educational training, what is the response of the Department to those proposals, particularly in view of the differential rewards now achieved by people on MSC courses as against those in full-time education?

Mr. Macfarlane

I am sorry to tell the hon. Gentleman that I am not prepared to anticipate anything at the moment. The matter will have to be assessed over the next few months.

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