HC Deb 19 January 1982 vol 16 cc145-6
11. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he proposes to take further initiatives regarding educational opportunities for the 16 to 19 years age group.

Mr. William Shelton

My right hon. Friend attaches great importance to the education of the 16 to 19 age group. A number of further initiatives are planned, including the development of a new pre-vocational qualification for 17-year-olds in both schools and colleges. An announcement will be made about this shortly.

Mr. Haselhurst

In the light of the important initiative on training announced by the Government before Christmas, is it not extremely appropriate and urgent that steps should be taken—as a balance on the educational side—to secure the more wholehearted attendance of young people at school up to the age of 16 and their continued attendance after that age?

Mr. Shelton

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, who I know is interested in these matters. Both the new pre-vocational qualification and the youth training scheme are complementary and in no way conflict.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does not the Minister think it far better for most youngsters to continue their studies from 16 to 19, than to be out of work? As many working class parents cannot afford to allow their children to do that, will the hon. Gentleman introduce a scheme of grants for such children that is far higher than the child allowance scheme? Indeed, that is Labour Party policy.

Mr. Shelton

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is our wish that more youngsters should stay on at school after 16. I am glad to say that, for various reasons, about an additional 10 per cent. are staying on already. I am aware of the problem of grants, but I remind the hon. Gentleman of the discretionary educational maintenance allowances that can be made by local authorities to help those in need.

Mr. Crouch

Following the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Haselhurst), may I ask my right hon. Friend to keep in touch with the Secretary of State for Employment, who these days is spending millions on a form of education for school leavers—training? Does he not feel that his Department should be able to make a greater contribution to the education of those school leavers by means of opportunities in tertiary education?

Mr. Shelton

I reassure my hon. Friend that there is close collaboration between the Department of Employment and the Department of Education and Science. He will recognise that, to put it bluntly, the education service is supplying the education for the YOP and the youth training scheme.

Mr. Foster

Does not the Minister recognise the need to co-ordinate the education and training of 16 to 19-year-olds, be they in school, college, at work or unemployed? Is it not remarkable that the Department of Education and Science, to the dismay of the whole education service, seems to have opted out of the area for which, just a few minutes ago, the Secretary of State said he had great concern—the education and training of the less able pupils?

Mr. Shelton

The distinction between training under the Department of Employment and education under the Department of Education and Science is a matter for the machinery of Government and not for me. However, collaboration is working not too badly at present and I have every confidence that with the youth training scheme on the one hand and the new 17-plus, or certificate of prevocational education, on the other, we shall see these two marching in step and complementing each other.