HC Deb 22 March 1983 vol 39 cc709-10
5. Mr. James Lamond

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will arrange for an allowance to be paid to those young people who remain in full-time education after 16 years of age.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William Shelton)

I have nothing to add to the reply my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to a questiion by the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) on 22 February 1983.

Mr. Lamond

Is the Minister aware of the concern being expressed by local education committees in towns such as Oldham that the economic pressure on 17 and 18-year-olds will be intensified by the introduction of the youth training scheme? It will cost parents, who may be unemployed, £25 per week to keep a child at school.

Mr. Shelton

Perhaps I can reassure the hon. Gentleman by saying that the staying-on rate in full-time education for those over 16 years is higher than it has been since the raising of the school leaving age. It is extraordinary that it should be the Labour party's official policy to pay perhaps £500 million in dead weight to youngsters who are already staying on.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is the Minister aware that the democratically elected London borough of Newham has decided to pay the £25 per week to students who stay on at school? May I take it that the hon. Gentleman, or his Department, will ensure that at least part, if not all, of that will be paid for out of the Exchequer's funds, because it will keep those young people off the streets and save a great amount of the money spent to make good the effects of vandalism and so on? Is it not worth giving a little towards that, thus probably saving on the large amounts given to the police to deal with crime and vandalism?

Mr. Shelton

I remind the hon. Gentleman that local education authorities can already give education allowances or discretionary grants. More than £20 million was given in that way last year. I have seen the press notice in the local press. We have no details yet, but I saw in the press notice that £500,000 is being reserved for that purpose. No doubt the ratepayers will realise that the money is being paid to youngsters, most of whom would stay on anyway.

6. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take steps to encourage more 16-year-olds to stay in full-time education.

Mr. William Shelton

My right hon. Friend is already doing so by providing in our expenditure plans for additional expenditure by LEAs on 16 to 19 education, encouraging the introduction of a new pre-vocational qualification at 17-plus, and in other ways.

Mrs. Short

Is the Minister aware that when I put the point to the Secretary of State yesterday he did not want to believe me when I quoted to him the figures given to me in a written answer by his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on 9 March? Is he aware that the figures show that in the United Kingdom only 2.4 per cent. of the population are attending post-compulsory education compared with very much higher percentages in Japan, West Germany, France, Italy and even in Ireland? If one considers universities—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) must ask a question, because other questions on the Order Paper must be reached.

Mrs. Short

I am asking a question, Mr. Speaker. Is the Minister aware of all the facts that his Department has given to me? What is the Minister doing—I can see that the Secretary of State is prompting him—and what: is the Department doing—all four Ministers are present on the Front Bench—to ensure that we do not waste the skill and talents of so many young people today?

Mr. Shelton

If the hon. Lady reads the footnotes, she will stop misinterpreting the figures. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will write to her. I repeat that more youngsters are staying on in full-time education post-16 than under any previous Government since the raising of the school leaving age.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Despite what the Minister has just said, is he aware that some 16-year-olds who should stay on at school to take A-levels are reluctant to do so because they do not wish to be a financial burden on their parents? Will he ask Her Majesty's inspectors, after consultation with the principals of colleges and schools, to investigate this problem?

Mr. Shelton

I accept that there is a problem, but it is somewhat alleviated by the raising of child benefit allowance, which goes to parents of youngsters in full-time education, and also by the discretion of local authorities to pay awards and allowances to those in financial hardship.

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