HC Deb 01 March 1994 vol 238 cc771-2
8. Mr. Richards

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps he is taking to ensure that colleges of further education publish information regularly for parents and employers about their achievements.

Mr. Boswell

Colleges are required to publish extensive information about the achievements and career destinations of students and make this available to local schools for distribution to pupils in year 11. In 1993, we first included college achievements in the comparative performance tables. We expect colleges to develop their own charters which will highlight performance information. Through these arrangements, we are determined to help young people and their parents to make informed decisions about all the options available.

Mr. Richards

Does my hon. Friend agree that the performance tables are vital in helping students and employers to decide which courses best suit their needs? Are not they crucial in helping to increase post-16 education, particularly in my constituency where the excellent Llandrillo college recently won a national training award?

Mr. Boswell

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is entirely right. We believe in giving schools, colleges, parents and pupils an information revolution in which they will be given as much information as possible. That will expand the opportunities and raise the standards for all in the crucial area between the ages of 16 and 19.

Mr. Dafis

Does the Minister have any information on the number of students who are being obliged to leave further education because they cannot afford to carry on with their courses? Is not that because they are unable to obtain discretionary grants, income support or housing benefit? Will the Minister, with his colleagues, consider putting together a satisfactory package of funding for further education students, so that we can have an end to the terrible waste of resources and the failure to train our young people to take up their opportunities?

Mr. Boswell

The hon. Gentleman will know that current provision on discretionary awards varies by local education authority. He will also be aware that, through the Sir John Cass and Gulbenkian Foundation, we are conducting an authoritative study on the matter which we will publish at the end of March. We shall then carefully consider its conclusions.

Mr. Evennett

While I welcome the publication of more information by colleges of further education, will my hon. Friend give a continuing commitment to school sixth forms? Will he confirm that the Government believe in choice and diversity in education post-16 and that school sixth forms do a good job in developing young people's education in addition to colleges of education?

Mr. Boswell

I have no difficulty in agreeing with my hon. Friend. Recently, we published a new framework for the way in which we handle proposals for school sixth forms alongside further education colleges. They are both important, they are not antagonistic and they should be complementary.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

Do the achievements of the colleges of further education include the decision of Bath further education college to sack 60 lecturers? The college has now had to rescind that decision and go to arbitration. Would not the Minister do better to urge further education employers to go to arbitration, rather than supporting the employers in a decision to foment industrial unrest?

Mr. Boswell

I am slightly surprised that the hon. Gentleman suggests that I should involve myself in an industrial dispute. I made it clear, in the context of the holdback letter that we sent to the colleges employers' forum, that we expect some progress on flexibility in contracts. We are not prepared to intervene in the details and I am sure that both parties will be able to resolve the matter amicably and positively between themselves.