§ 2.47 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD BELSTEAD)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The need for this Bill arises from the action of Her Majesty's Government in raising the school leaving age from 15 to 16—a change which was brought into effect last year. The provisions of the Bill are intended, in one small sector of education, to restore a situation which existed before the age was raised.
First the House might welcome an explanation of the term "work experience". This term is used in a general sense to describe a range of activities undertaken by pupils as part of the process of learning about the adult world within the context of general education. The distinguishing feature of a number of existing schemes is the introduction of the pupil to the conditions and circumstances of adult work. To achieve this, first-hand experience must be provided which is both more sustained and of greater depth than that which can be obtained, for example, through half-day or whole day visits by school parties for conducted tours of factories or other undertakings. This is not to depreciate the value of short visits as part of a child's education; they certainly have a place and a continuing function. But they are not designed for the same purpose, and they do not present the same considerations as schemes in which a pupil or group of pupils is brought into close contact with the work of an organisation and where the boy or girl may—and, if full benefit is to be gained from the scheme, should—take some part in the work.
It is here that the problem arises which this Bill seeks to resolve. As the law stands, participation to this degree in these schemes constitutes employment for the purpose of the Statutes prohibiting or regulating the employment of children, and in this context a child is a person who has not attained the upper limit of compulsory school age. Participation in work experience is, therefore, restricted to pupils who are above school leaving age, because the relevant enactments impose 362 prohibitions on the employment of persons who are below the school leaving age. This prohibition may mean a complete prohibition; as, for example, in factories and industrial undertakings, or in mines and quarries, where the employment of children is totally forbidden by legislation which extends back to the Employment of Women, Children and Young Persons Act 1920, which also applies to Scotland. Other enactments impose partial restrictions; the most relevant of these is the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and the 1937 Scottish Act, which forbid the employment of children during school hours or for more than two hours outside school hours of any school day in any form of employment.
In fact, most of the schemes for work experience which have been in operation have been designed for pupils of 15-plus and for those who are just 16. These are the pupils who, until the school-leaving age was raised last year, had decided that they would stay on at school voluntarily. The experience of the schools and of the employers who have taken part in these work experience schemes, is that they are of very great value indeed in the education of pupils and that they have particular relevance for pupils of the age which I have mentioned, for they are able to appreciate what is involved and can link the experience acquired in an office or a factory with the supporting part of the educational programme given in the schools.
The difficulty is that the raising of the school-leaving age to 16 last year postpones by one year the date on which any individual pupil ceases to be of compulsory school age and therefore ceases to be a "child" for the purposes of the Statutes relating to the employment of children. This would mean that the very group of pupils for whom most of the work experience schemes have been devised would be excluded from these schemes until they reached the new compulsory school-leaving age. Accordingly, my right honourable friend undertook consultations during 1971 to discover the views of the various interests concerned on the proposition that the law could be changed to enable pupils of 15-plus to continue schemes after the raising of the school-leaving age, in the same way and subject to the same controls and the same 363 safeguards as they had been able to do before. The response was almost unanimous. That of the representatives of the local authorities, the employers and teachers was one not merely of agreement but of enthusiasm. Only the Educational Institute of Scotland had reservations, as also did the Trades Union Congresses for England and for Scotland.
We have in this country a long history of legislation designed to protect the young by prohibiting the use of child labour and by imposing restrictions on the employment of children and young persons. These laws have been passed in the interests of the young people, to prevent them from undertaking tasks which would harm them because of their physical or mental immaturity, or by interfering with their education, and many of these restrictions have been linked with the statutory school-leaving age, but, in this case, it is the overwhelming opinion of the educational interests that these courses are valuable for pupils as they approach school-leaving age "as part of education". May I draw the attention of your Lordships to the words "as part of …education" in line 11 on page 1 of the Bill, which mean that work experience will not be something which a pupil can just go off and have, but will usually entail both preparatory and follow-up study at school in connection with the work which a pupil will temporarily experience.
I should not like to give the House the impression that work experience schemes generally, or almost always, relate to industry, although I think all local education authorities who have had such schemes relating to industry are deeply grateful to both sides for the facilities which have been provided. I have heard of one small country town where girls went to help the dentist's receptionist; of another scheme in the local council offices where they went to learn about committee procedure and the work involved in any local authority, seeing officers representing different professions; of another scheme in a public library, discovering, among other things, how much time and patience one needs in dealing with people.
And I have heard of a scheme on the other side, based on an engineering firm, 364 where there was both engineering and clerical work. It was supervised and instruction was given by selected and skilled workers and foremen, under the supervision of the personnel and training officer. Safety was emphasised at all times the pupils were there, and they were all given a copy of the accident prevention code for young workers in the engineering industry. It seemed to me, when I read about that example, that it had been a success. One of the pupils wrote afterwards:Although the hours were longer than at school, the actual work we did was easier and we had a very good lunch.So, after taking account of the views, so far as she possibly could, my right honourable friend concluded that, given proper conditions and safeguards, this sort of practical experience was of such value, particularly to pupils of this age, that the law should he changed to allow those schools and education authorities who wished to do so to continue to provide it.
The provisions of the Bill are straightforward. Subsection (1) of Clause 1 removes the application of the enactments relating to the employment of children, subject to certain conditions: namely, first, that the employment is within the pupil's last year of compulsory schooling; secondly, that it is part of arrangements made or approved by the local education authority as part of an educational programme; and, thirdly, that it conforms with additional requirements set out in subsection (2). The requirements of subsection (2) impose the same safeguards relating to health, safety and welfare as previously applied to pupils of this age in such schemes, and these safeguards are fairly comprehensive. Work experience, as provided for under subsection (1), will not be permitted if legislation specifically forbids employment for persons of specified ages. Because of the particularly hazardous nature of employment on ships, additional restrictions are imposed in that respect; and no work experience arrangements will be made which would entail work which was illegal for young persons.
There is one category of pupils who, under this Bill, can be included in work experience for the first time. Since 1945, handicapped pupils at special schools have been of compulsory school age 365 until sixteen-plus, not until fifteen-plus. They have therefore never been able to take part in these schemes until they were the age of sixteen. It seemed not unreasonable to bring these pupils into line with others, now that the school-leaving age is common to all groups. It may be that no schemes will be devised for handicapped pupils, but this Bill will enable authorities to make schemes for them if they decide that it is right and in the interests of these pupils as part of their education. Finally, it is the intention of the Government, if this Bill is passed, to issue guidance to schools and education authorities about the organisation of work experience schemes, about the safeguards which should be applied and about the need for careful consultation with those who will be asked to co-operate in carrying them out. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª. —(Lord Belstead.)
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for introducing the Bill in such a clear way and for explaining its purpose. It is a far cry from the days that I remember my husband describing, in the mining valleys of Wales, when children were allowed to leave school at 12 as a result of getting what was known as the labour certificate. It was ironic that the brighter children were the only ones who could obtain that certificate, so they were the ones who were lost to the more academic schooling. Happily, we have moved away from that situation and of course we all welcome wholeheartedly the raising of the school-leaving age. In this context, it is useful to look at the regional differences, which I am sure the Minister has done as I have recently read some of his speeches, which I found extremely interesting. It is important to remind ourselves that in the South-East 39 per cent. of the children stayed on when the school-leaving age was 15, whereas in the North only 27 per cent. stayed on. Whatever we are talking about in connection with the raising of the school-leaving age, we must look all the time at the support that may be necessary in certain areas in order to get the best out of it. I appreciate that work experience is extremely useful, but as an ex-teacher I would say that there is no true substitute for a learning 366 situation. The extra year at school should give this.
In my humble opinion, vocational training should come after children leave school. Nevertheless, we recognise that the pattern of work experience has already been extended throughout the whole of our secondary system on an ad hoc basis. I was glad to hear the Minister make reference to some of the safeguards, because I think it is important that this work experience should be tightly controlled. It would be all too easy for a child to say that he is going to work or to work experience, and in fact to be having a day off. As we know, the dropout rate or the truancy rate (although it is not described as such any more) is rather too high when pupils move from one class to another. How much time will be taken up by the work experience? I am not sure whether the Minister told us that. I think this is important when we realise that, unhappily, these children are now committed to take external public examinations. Of course, many schools are already carrying out work experience on an ad hoc basis.
The other point I feel it is important to recognise is that there should be an opportunity for work experience in several situations. This may prevent the changes that some children seem to make when they leave school. Recently, I had a boy before me in court who had had nine jobs in a year; and, unfortunately, his case is by no means uncommon. It seems that some career guidance and some work experience would have been extraordinarily valuable in that case. The counselling and the careers guidance and advice is good in some schools, but not so good in others, and, bearing in mind how closely linked it must be, I am sure it will be necessary to keep a close watch on this.
I noticed that the Minister said the T.U.C. had some reservations. I would suggest to him that, unless he carries the T.U.C. with him, the work experience may not in fact be as successful as we would hope. The Minister also mentioned the safeguards. I wonder if he could tell me how employers get round the question of insurance in this connection. Would it not be possible to have a code of practice for these young people? Because they will be exposed to all the normal 367 hazards that any other worker is exposed to in a situation of real work, and not just visiting a factory. I wondered if the gentleman who had the good lunch had in fact been working, or whether he had been on one of those tours of factories that we are often given and at the end of which you even get some beer. I am still hoping to be invited to a mink coat factory. My Lords, the mere raising of the school-leaving age will not achieve what we all hope and expect unless it has a great back-up. It must have a great back-up of facilities and quality of teachers, and it has got to have buildings; moreover, a much harder look must be taken at the further education facilities. Some of these children who would have left school at 15 with no qualifications will now leave school at 16 with some qualifications, and one hopes they will wish to pursue these in the world of further education.
I was particularly glad that the Minister made reference to the fact that this would not merely be in engineering works and factories, because it is really rather disturbing to see in the figure for the day release schemes that among the pupils aged from 15 to 17 girls fared very badly. Nineteen per cent. of the boys had day release schemes—and, while we know that this is lied up with employers, I think there is some relation between these figures—whereas only 6 per cent. of the girls had day release. This seems to me to suggest that we have to watch very carefully that the work experience of the girls is going to be offered not only in factories and shops but also, as the Minister has said, in clerical work and indeed in the professional and the ancillary services. My Lords, I am delighted to know that the children are going to have the opportunity of another year in school. To me, as I have said, education is something which, in this society of ours, we still have not truly valued, and I hope that work experience will remain a valuable part of this extra year.
§ 3.5 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I rise to give this Bill a rather less cautious welcome than I think the noble Baroness has given it. Along with very many other people, the education- 368 ists in the Liberal Party have been feeling more and more the necessity for now integrating education as much as possible into the community. This is not just a spatial concept, a concept of organisation: it is of course important in terms of time, too—to try to lessen the break between home and school and between school and work. It is, I think, a failing of every Western educational system that there is too much a thing called education which is institutionalised and too separate from the life of the community. I think that this Bill will take a modest step towards helping to break down this institutionalisation and this dividing into compartments. It is of course only an enabling Bill; but it is, I think, an important one, and one which will be appreciated by a great many people who have already taken steps to incorporate work experience in their plans for the raising of the school-leaving age. It is, unfortunately, rather sad that not enough people have made good plans, and that as a whole our educational system is, as I think, threshing about somewhat in a void with the raising of the school-leaving age and not enough having been done. But a number of people have done quite a lot, and a number of people are really starting to think what we should do about this educational age group of 15 to 18.
I thought that the Labour Party Green Paper on education had a great deal of important and sensible things to say on this subject, but there was one particular emphasis which I did not like. They suggested that youths in the age group 16 to 18 should be considered definitely as in education. While we need to encourage as much as possible, and indeed make compulsory, some day release and some block release, I think that the psychology should be the other way round. I think the psychology should be more towards making education a part of life and a part of employment than extending the period when people feel that they are in the educational system, because people of that age feel that they need to be a bit freer of the whole school set-up by the time they get to that age. In fact, because society has progressed a long way since the days that the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, was talking about, we may be getting back to a stage where it may be right to say that the brighter children are the ones who should be allowed to leave 369 school and then have education made available to them over long periods at different times, but be given choices, and that the people we want to keep in school are the ones who have not yet attained the educational achievements to enable them to cope with school and community. Good work has been done with all this educational experiment and work experience by a large number of people. I have been particularly impressed by the literature I have read produced by the Trident Trust, of which my noble friend Lord Byers is the chairman and Lancelot Fleming, who was for so long an ornament and an addition to your Lordships' House, a member. The work that the Trust has been doing in Hampshire and the West Riding seems to have been most rewarding indeed, and much appreciated by both employers and pupils.
Now like the Baroness, Lady Phillips, I have one or two reservations which I should like to put. Obviously, we must avoid the charge that we are producing cheap labour, but I do not think that that is too difficult a hazard to avoid. We must be careful, I think, that it does not just become one of the shibboleths, "Yes, but we must have work experience", and to see that it is properly done. Every exercise in this sphere must be well thought out; and here I should like to quote a few words from Dame Muriel Stewart, who, as most of your Lordships know, was chairman of the Schools Council, an ex-President of the National Union of Teachers and also, I am glad to say, a member of my Liberal Party Education Panel. She says:This kind of experience is what young people need, instead of the visits of the past in large groups to factories where only two or three pupils would be interested in the work that they would be seeing and intend to enter. Such visits were inevitably superficial and limited to a morning or afternoon. Experience for a week or weeks in factory, mill or office is what these pupils need. Only in this way can they find out what it is like to work a full day, to work with other people, to observe rules and to carry out tasks for which they carry responsibility.I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, when she says that this experience must be tied up with an increasing efficiency and expansion of the whole of the careers advisory structure. One of the good things about the Bill is that it will almost certainly enforce a certain expansion and improvement in 370 that service. I think we must be very careful that it does not become something available for the least satisfactory pupils, for those who are not very good in the classroom. It is very important that we avoid the attitude: "We can't think of what to do with them; take them out and put them in factories". On the raising of the school leaving age this is a problem which will face particular pupils.
As we have already seen with the Trident Scheme and other schemes, many firms and employers are very good at giving opportunities. I wonder whether it may not be possible, or even necessary, to produce some kind of tax incentive for firms who really co-operate in this way. The long-term benefits, I am sure, will be worth while but the short-term benefits may not always be very obvious to them. I have one question. Like that of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, it is about the insurance problem. I am sure that the problem is covered. I ask merely because I notice that the Hampshire County Council Act 1972, which was the Act passed to allow the Trident experiment in Hampshire, and is really the precursor of this Bill, had a special section dealing with insurance. I wonder why it is not necessary to have that in this Bill. With those one or two reservations and one question, on behalf of my colleagues I give a very warm welcome to the Bill.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I want from these Benches to add a word of congratulation to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, on introducing this Bill, and to say how much I support it. So far, those who have taken part in the debate have talked in terms of education and release for education and experiments in industry in what I might call the town-type of work. Naturally, that is very important since so many in our population live entirely by industrial work. But I should like to make a plea for those areas where agricultural work is of great importance. It is most necessary that the urban children should have an opportunity, if they wish, to learn something about the countryside and agriculture because it is an industry of great interest. It is also one which has a considerable labour shortage. I am not suggesting that any child should be used, so to speak, as an agricultural worker, 371 but simply that children should be introduced to what is a most fascinating type of work. So many people in the Department are geared to industry and urban conditions, but there should be someone in the Department and in the local education authority areas who is looking out for something to attract young people to the countryside.
The Northumberland Education Committee has established what is almost a country school, where children are sent for a week to gain experience of the countryside. That is not work experience; it is learning about the countryside. Those children are of ordinary school age, not the 16-year-olds about whom we are now thinking, but the school has been a tremendous success. Children have come from urban areas to the country, which is real country. My own education authority started two countryside schools where children can come for a week or a fortnight at a time and learn about the countryside. I hope that when it comes to the school leaving age range of experience we shall not concentrate entirely on urban conditions but also look at the countryside.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, like my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood, I feel that we should not allow the Front Bench speakers to get away with the whole of the debate and that is the only reason I rise to speak. Many children of 15 to 16 look forward very much to starting work; not only for materialistic reasons, in order to earn money, but because some of them feel that they have had enough of school education perhaps six or nine months before the time comes for them to leave school. Sometimes when children start jobs they do so most enthusiastically. But after a few months, for want of encouragement, they become disillusioned with their job. It is not easy for youngsters to know what a job means before they do it and it would be a pity if they had to try a number of jobs before they found one which interested them. So it seems to me that this Bill is on the right lines.
Sometimes, of course, children do not have a great deal of choice about what kind of job they will take to start with. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and with the noble Lord, Lord 372 Beaumont of Whitley, about the need for this to be very carefully controlled. During the work experience I think that much will depend on the attitude of fellow workers. Generally, these young people will be very much welcomed by their fellow-workers, but I think there is a slight risk in the other direction: that they may be anxious to give the youngsters a good time and make sure that they enjoy the experience and perhaps thereby fail to give a perfectly fair picture of what the job means.
Of course, parents do not always give a very lucid account to their children of what their own job means, any more than some children give a lucid account to their parents of what goes on in school. I remember one parent who was displeased with what his child told him went on at school. So he wrote to the teacher, and the teacher wrote back saying: "If you will not believe everything that your boy says about what goes on in his class, I will not believe everything about what I am told goes on at home." So I felt that much will depend on the attitude of their fellow workers. I am sure that there will be good will. But it will be important that the fellow workers do their best to explain what the job amounts to and that it should be carried out in an atmosphere of reality and seriousness and not be just something to be included in the syllabus because it seems to be a good thing. I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly, with the one proviso that the provisions be watched and controlled very carefully in order to ensure so far as possible that the youngsters get the value out of them that I am sure they will if those precautions are taken.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I want to say in a couple of minutes how warm a welcome I give in a broad and general sense to this Bill. It may need some slight amendment in Committee. I want also to underline the point made by my noble friend Lady Phillips that in similar schemes in the past the girls do not appear to have had quite as fair a deal as the boys. I have always been interested in girls. At the age of 74 I think I probably still am, but it seems to me that there are quite a number of occupations of which girls in their last 373 year at school might be glad of some experience. We all know that girls of 15 or so think of themselves as budding Florence Nightingales and after leaving school some plunge into hospital work. Some of them are disappointed, others become dedicated to a life-time of that kind of work. It might be useful if, as part of this scheme, they were allowed to see what hospitals are like and what kind of duties would be required of them if they took up such hospital work. It is not only hospital work but office work. I think it would be a good idea to give girls equal opportunities with boys in this particular part of their teenage education.
On the whole I think it is a very good thing indeed that boys and girls, soon about to leave school, should be given some broad idea of what the world is like outside the school and the playground. At present they have little knowledge of what goes on outside in industry and commerce and it is a tendency—which is disastrous in some cases—for children to plunge into the first job that appears to be available. Giving them the opportunity to see what happens in various branches of industry and commerce would enable them to take a much better-informed view of the occupation into which they ultimately enter. My first job was in a solicitor's office. If I had stayed there I might have been a very respected and highly-esteemed member of society, but I left it quickly. I am sure that far too many children at the present time plunge into one job, leave it quickly, leave that and then go into another job. This Bill will give them an opportunity to take a really studied view of the life that lies before them.
Nothing has been said about whether these children will receive any payment when they go into an office or a factory. I presume that they will not; but it might be of interest to parents outside this House if this aspect of the matter were made clear. I want to underline what has already been said about the dangers of physical injury to these children, especially those who go to work in a factory or engineering job and the like. It may be that we shall have to think of some Amendment in Committee stage to ensure, first, that the Factory Acts regulations are very strictly observed so far as they are concerned and, 374 secondly, that adequate provision is made for compensation if they sustain an injury.
It has been said already by my noble friend Lady Phillips that this scheme might lead to a tendency for teachers to neglect the later stages of the schoolroom education of those children who are not brilliantly academic and that there may be a tendency to say, "Johnnie is not very bright. Let us send him to a factory." That may have some sense in it, but at the same time it means that this kind of child is going to lose the advantage of some intensive instruction which he might normally receive in his classroom in his last year at school.
My Lords, the only other point is that there could in some cases be trouble with the trade unions. I sincerely hope that the education committee, or whatever other authority is responsible for administering this scheme, will gather round it an advisory committee of trade union officers for the particular locality concerned, in order that any difficulties may be smoothed out before they arise.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, I am grateful to those noble Lords who have given a broad welcome to this Bill, which is small but important. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, for reminding the House of the differences between the various regions of the country in the figures of those staying on voluntarily at school. How right the noble Baroness was to make that point! It was precisely for that reason that her Government envisaged and this Government carried out the raising of the school-leaving age. This brings both sides of the House together in trying to iron out regional differences.
The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, brought out various points on the Bill and I thought that I could best reply in this way. Every work-experience project, I feel, must be a co-operative venture between the schools, the employers and those working for the employers. The channels of communication will vary according to the size and nature of the school and the firm, but certain individuals must be identified as the normal contacts. In the formative stages, I think schools would be well advised to bring into consultation, as appropriate, school 375 governors, local authorities, the inspectorate for the Children and Young Persons Act and the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act; Her Majesty's inspectors of factories, Her Majesty's inspectors of schools, representatives of those working in the particular organisation concerned and the local education authority careers officers. Before the actual visit is made, parents ought to be informed about the proposed arrangements. Some authorities have decided to obtain the written consent of parents for the participation of individual pupils. This was extremely wise.
When the noble Baroness said that she felt that there could be a loophole here for more truancy, well, this is supposed to be, as the Bill says, a part of education; and this means that it is up to the schools and the educational interests to go and visit the factories when they are welcome to do so, to make sure that the pupils are there.
There will be no payment involved in schemes of this kind. Work-experience schemes are regarded as part of the general curriculum of the school, with the intention of showing pupils the relevance to adult life of their studies at school. The work-participation parts of the schemes must be seen and planned as part of a course, with these general aims. They are not supposed to be vocationally biased. There are advantages—and both the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, have brought up this point—in letting pupils see work in occupation that they may not go into themselves. Nor are these schemes designed to be part of a vocational guidance scheme.
The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, and the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, referred none the less to the prospects of pupils afterwards; in other words, to pupils' careers. I would suggest that experience gained in work experience inevitably will add to a pupil's knowledge about possible future jobs and will help a boy or girl in discussion with the careers teachers and officers to make a better informed decision about what he or she wants to do. To this extent, the schemes offer a bonus to the careers education and guidance programme, and both teachers responsible for careers education in the schools and the local education authority 376 careers officer should know of the schemes which are operating.
The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, asked about insurance. The Hampshire Act for the Trident scheme which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, talked about, contained provisions for insurance for special reasons because it was a local Act. This is an enabling Bill and does not affect arrangements for insurance which the local education authorities and the employers have made in the past. It is a subject on which I am sure the local education authorities might wish to have guidance from my right honourable friend. In the light of what your Lordships have said this afternoon we shall consider what guidance ought to be given if this Bill is enacted.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, for the general welcome that he gave to the Bill. I was interested, as were many others in the House, in what the noble Lord said on the more general terms concerning the continuing educational prospects of all young people, whether they are academically very bright or not so bright, after reaching the school leaving age. That may be a theme which the noble Lord may wish to develop in the future if we have a more general debate on education. The noble Lord specifically mentioned the Trident Trust. I should like to thank him also for mentioning this, because my right honourable friend's Department welcomes the arrangements for this project, which includes the participation of the local education authority—in this case, Hampshire—and the business of local interests: and, indeed, the Trades Union Congress have seen their way to serving on the advisory committee of this scheme, which of course owes its initiative to some farsighted people. In this connection, I hope that perhaps your Lordships who have held in the past, and still hold, important positions in the Trades Union Congress may draw the attention of the T.U.C. to remarks which have been made in the House to-day; and perhaps, in the light of what has been said this afternoon, the T.U.C. will feel able now to give a welcome to the proposals which are being put forward in the Bill by the Government.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, referred to agricultural work. All 377 I would say on that is that I agree with the noble Baroness that farming is fascinating, particularly for young people; but year by year it becomes more and more mechanised, and this means, I think, that the opportunities for farm work experience schemes become less easy to come by. But of course, if they can only be arranged, I agree with the noble Baroness that they become all the more worth while.
From what I have heard during the debate, I think it is common ground that the objective of raising the school-leaving age is not just to tack one extra year on the end of a secondary school course, but to try to provide every pupil with a full five years' secondary education. We know that work experience has been of value to boys and girls of 15-plus for reasons which I submitted in moving the Second Reading. Therefore, to remove from the secondary curriculum any opportunities of a foretaste of the world at work, just at the moment when everyone is seeking to make the secondary course as full and fruitful as possible for pupils who are both examination and non-examination candidates—picking up a remark of the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips—would seem to me to be very wrong. That is why the intention of this Bill is to allow work experience schemes to continue to be offered for those who are 15. But it is because no stone must be left unturned to see that the schemes are efficiently planned that the same control and the same safeguards will continue to apply. It is in that context that I hope your Lordships will now agree to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ LORD LEATHERLAND
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down at the end of that very satisfying speech, what about the girls who were mentioned by my noble friend Lady Phillips and myself?
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.