HC Deb 17 March 1987 vol 112 cc800-1
3. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to create an integrated national academic qualifications and courses system for those over the age of 16 years.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Angela Rumbold)

The structure of qualifications post-16 is a responsibility shared by the Secondary Examinations Council and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications. The Government look to these bodies to work closely together to develop greater coherence in qualifications.

Mr. Dubs

Does the Minister agree that the best way forward for those over the age of 16 is to have, first, an integrated qualification which covers both academic and vocational aspects, and, secondly, that that should be done in the context of tertiary colleges? Will she give her sympathetic approval to any plans put forward to establish tertiary education by the many education authorities that are now considering it? I should point out to her that in Wandsworth there is overwhelming support for that idea.

Mrs. Rumbold

The Government are anxious to ensure that the two bodies that I have spoken about, the Secondary Examinations Council and the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, should work together to ensure that post-16 qualifications can be meshed together at some time in the future. The organisation of schools post-16 is a matter for determination by the local education authorities, and we leave it to their good sense and discretion how best secondary education post-16 can be provided.

Mr. McLoughlin

Does my hon. Friend accept that with some education authorities one does not get good sense and that they try to destroy proven schools with excellent records in their sixth forms? Can she assure us that before any such plans are passed the Department will consider them carefully so that we do not destroy good proven sixth forms for the sake of some Socialist dogma?

Mrs. Rumbold

I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, when considering reorganisation proposals from local authorities, looks carefully at the merits of each case and is in no sense committed to destroying schools of proven worth.

Mr. Sheerman

Have the Government not missed a great opportunity by imposing such narrow terms of reference on the A-level review? Was this not a real opportunity to integrate vocational and academic qualifications post-16? Is not the fact of the matter that with the city technology colleges and this sort of review the Government want to keep a divide between the sheep and the goats at 16, and have an effective 16-plus?

Mrs. Rumbold

No. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has entirely missed the point. The National Council for Vocational Qualifications is a recent body, which is busy looking at the different vocational qualifications on offer at present. It is working closely with the Secondary Examinations Council. Ultimately, one hopes for a certain amount of mutual agreement about the types of qualifications for entry into higher education and the post-16 framework.