HC Deb 20 April 1982 vol 22 cc109-11
6. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received from local education authorities as to their responsibilities under the new training initiative; whether he is considering sending them a circular; and if he will make a statement.

8. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about the implications for the further education sector of the proposed new training scheme for 16-year-old school leavers.

Mr. William Shelton

My right hon. Friend has had only a very few representations from individual local education authorities on this subject. In the White Paper "A New Training Initiative" the responsibilities of colleges of further education and their maintaining authorities are set out, and my right hon. Friend will be glad to respond to any specific needs for further guidance.

Mr. Madel

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the new training initiative is to be successful in its early years, local education authorities must have a special responsibility for retraining and redeploying teachers to help in full-time vocational courses and for the use of surplus educational premises for training opportunities?

Mr. Shelton

Yes, that is absolutely right. There is no objection to MSC courses being held in school premises and, indeed, using teachers from the school, but l believe that that would have to be done in conjunction with a further education institution.

Mr. Deakins

How will the Minister ensure that genuinely appropriate courses will be provided in further education, rather than, as is quite likely, merely cosmetic changes to existing provision, to take advantage of the Government funds that are available?

Mr. Shelton

This is an important matter. In the YOP there have been cases where there has been a breakdown in this respect. That must not happen again. The MSC is planning to introduce a group, on which education services will be well represented, to examine the content of the education courses that are funded through the MSC. I am sure that that will be satisfactory.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is the Minister aware that if the new training initiative is to be more than just a cosmetic exercise, there will need to be a great deal of planning, involving local authorities and, in particular, technical colleges? What discussions have taken place with local authorities about the financial implications in this connection?

Mr. Shelton

Discussions have been going on almost non-stop for a considerable time. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that, for example, there has been an interesting experiment in 12 selected LEAs, where the education content has been planned, and we shall know the results next month. I understand that they will be of great help.

Viscount Cranborne

Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the use that his Department might encourage local authorities to make of the last year at school for training children who are not academically inclined?

Mr. Shelton

There is another question on this matter. Nevertheless, it is a matter that is under consideration.

Mr. Foster

Is the Minister aware that the whole education service is appalled at the complacency of his Department about the youth training scheme? Is he aware that the whole 16 to 19 years age group has a chaotic range of courses, examinations, curricula and income support? Does he agree that there is urgent need for a comprehensive education and training scheme with full education maintenance allowances?

Mr. Shelton

The Department is certainly not complacent. We recognise this as a major challenge, which is of major importance to our youngsters. I would add that tidiness is not necessarily an advantage.

Dr. Hampson

Does my hon. Friend agree that there has been a traditional antithesis between so-called education and training, that both sides—industry and education—have viewed one another with mutual suspicion, and that therefore there might be a case for a circular which reaffirms the commitment of education to industry and also shows education how best it can devise courses that are appropriately geared to local industry?

Mr. Shelton

I always listen to my hon. Friend's views with great respect. This Government, like previous Governments, have always accepted that training in general should be the responsibility of industry. However, I agree that in the long run the division between training and education, in education terms, is artificial and will gradually break down.

Mr. Whitehead

As the new training scheme has an element of compulsion, because of the financially punitive elements it contains, will the Minister tell us a little more about the group which is now to scrutinise the project? What remit will it have? Will the new training schemes be approved only if the Department of Education and Science is satisfied with their education elements, and if not, why not? Who are the members of the group?

Mr. Shelton

The sort of compulsion that the hon. Gentleman is talking about is one that very few people would resist. It consists merely of paying people. So it is not compulsion in any terms. In answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I suggest that he tables a question specifically on that matter.