HL Deb 02 July 1986 vol 477 cc882-92

3.1 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Lord Young of Graffham)

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a Statement about major Government decisions on vocational education and training announced in the White Paper, Working Together: Education and Training published this afternoon. They are about the National Extension of the technical and vocational education initiative and the reform of vocational qualifications.

TVEI was launched on a pilot basis by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in November 1982. In chosen schools the Government have, through the Manpower Services Commission, made additional funds available to local education authorities to develop new ways of increasing the vocational content of the curriculum and offer pupils of all abilities between the ages of 14 and 18 more work-related learning.

By the end of this year there are likely to be almost 100 education authorities in England, Wales and Scotland taking advantage of the initiative, which will be covering over 600 schools and colleges and helping nearly 50,000 pupils.

As the pilots have developed, so too has appreciation of the way in which TVEI has been able to enrich the curriculum. It has opened up new opportunities for more young people of all abilities to see how school can be made more relevant to adult and working life.

We want to keep up the momentum to extend the benefit to many more pupils. We have decided that the MSC should be asked to administer the extension of TVEI from a pilot to a national scheme beginning in the autumn of 1987.

The Government are making a substantial financial commitment to this improvement in our schools. We are setting aside sums which build up from £ 12 million in 1987–88 to £41 million in 1988–89 and to £84 million in 1989–90. The average annual expenditure over the next 10 years or so will be about £90 million. These amounts will be found from the provision we have planned for young people within the MSC's budget.

Each authority's TVEI proposals must be consistent with our overall policy of improving the school curriculum. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is publishing separately today a statement of the curricular criteria which extension proposals must meet.

The extension of the technical and vocational education initiative to be a national scheme is a major advance. But reforming and developing the curricu-lum in schools is not enough. We need to improve the vocational qualifications system to encourage more people, both young and old, to improve their skills when they have left school. For that reason, we are also announcing a new system of qualifications for skilled work at all levels in England and Wales.

Last year we set up a working group under the chairmanship of Mr. Oscar de Ville to review the pattern of vocational qualifications in England and Wales. The group's report was published in May.

It concluded that the present system was complex and incomplete, and recommended that a new system of qualifications should be set up within a framework to be called the National Vocational Qualification. It urged that a national council for vocational qualifications should also be established to work with the existing bodies to set up that framework. The Government accept these recommendations.

The council will be set up in the autumn of this year and will be asked to have the new system of qualifications in England and Wales and Northern Ireland in place by 1991. I am glad to say that Mr. de Ville has accepted our invitation to act as chairman of the council during its all-important formative period.

We will provide pump-priming funding, but the aim will be that after three years the council will become self-sufficient, from income received from bodies whose qualifications it accredits.

The recommendations of the report have been generally welcomed and we believe that they will lead to a much better system of vocational qualifications, which will be widely understood and respected by individuals and by employers. We hope they will be encouraged to invest more time and money in training.

For young people moving from school to adult working life it is vitally important that we have a good system of vocational education and training. All young people must be given the opportunity to leave full-time education or training with relevant qualifications and build on them throughout their working life. The extension of the technical and vocational education initiative and the setting up of the new framework of national vocational qualifications are major advances towards that objective.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for making the Statement, which we generally welcome. Unemployment is a blight on our society, and that blight will not only continue but will be exacerbated by the lack of opportunities for young people. As he knows, the rate of unemployment among 16-to- 19-year-olds is about 25 per cent. Furthermore, the number of young people in part-time work has increased since 1979 by 250 per cent., and so another 25 per cent. are making do with something less than full-time work; a quarter are unemployed and a quarter are in part-time work. I am sure that he will agree that that is not good enough.

The noble Lord referred to the funds that will be available for TVEI. He said that the money was coming from planned provision for young people. Does that mean that there will be no new money available? If it is coming from planned provision, does that mean that YTS will in any way be adversely affected?

We welcome attempts to integrate education and vocational training as a means to ensure that future generations are well trained and attractive to employers. But is the noble Lord confident that the integration will take place under his new scheme, bearing in mind that the new council will be reporting to the Secretary of State for Employment? Have the Government thought out properly the relationship between education and training? Is he prepared to say a few more words about that at a later stage?

The Minister said that by the end of the year the technical and vocational initiative will have been extended to over 600 schools and colleges. Can he say what that is as a proportion of all schools and colleges and when we can expect the initiative to be available in all schools and colleges? Does he agree that if it is to be available in a few institutions, there is a danger of perpetrating the divide between vocational and academic institutions—a divide recognised and criticised by the review group on vocational qualifications.

We welcome the attempt to improve the quality of the YTS. We all know that it has been subject to much criticism for failing to live up to what is required of it. Can the noble Lord assure the House that the Training Standards Advisory Service will be adequately staffed to fulfil its functions of ensuring quality? I have been led to believe that there are fewer than 20 staff. Will the noble Lord tell us whether that is the case and, if so, whether he considers that number sufficient to provide effective inspection of the training programmes? Will he also tell us what relationship exists between TSAS and the MSC, which is responsible for the YTS? Is it independent of the MSC? If not, how can its independence be protected, as claimed in the White Paper?

The Statement announces a review of the structure of vocational qualifications. That is all to the good, in my view. I was shocked recently to read that according to the 1984 Labour Force Survey, more than 40 per cent. of the workforce has no qualifications. What opportunities have there been for industry to participate in this review? What involvement will it have in the future? Will the noble Lord assure the House that skills such as managerial skills are included within the meaning of the vocational qualifications? That is most important at present because industry is short of managerial skills. The MSC, in conjunction with the British Institute of Management, noted that there was a notable absence of such qualifications in British industry. We must put that right.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we on these Benches wish to thank the Secretary of State for giving us this report this afternoon. We welcome the content of the report. I am glad that there is to be a further extension of the TVEI scheme. I have had the opportunity to see the scheme in operation. In many ways it is a model for the way in which changes of this sort can be brought about. The essential change is the development of much better collaboration among educationists and industrialists in the bringing together of education and training to make for good education and to make it vocationally relevant.

The scheme has been successful because it was initially voluntary. It was not imposed on educationists in any way. That tends to remove anxieties which undoubtedly exist in the education field, which fears that its expertise is being challenged and its territory unduly invaded. The success of that voluntary approach has been demonstrated by the fact that the scheme started in a small way and is now being extended because there is genuine demand for it.

With regard to the developments which have been taking place in TVEI, will the Secretary of State tell us how many girls are taking part in the programme? I know that the Secretary of State recognises that girls and women are grossly underrepresented in the more technical types of employment. This seems to be one of the best ways of attracting young women into jobs. It will be done through the school programme and will therefore be easier for them to assimilate. It will attract them into those jobs that we badly want them to do. I should be grateful if the Minister would tell us something about that.

I am glad that the programme for the rationalisation of qualifications is going ahead. Anybody who has worked in that area well knows that there has been a motley of qualifications. It is extremely difficult for people who are not in the trade, so to speak, to know what qualifications there are or what is the route to acquire those qualifications. It is a long-overdue rationalisation and we very much welcome it. We also welcome the fact that the new council is being set up.

The national qualifications, which are based on courses such as City and Guilds, RSA and so on, are at a level which will not be appropriate for some youngsters going on the YTS. It is vital—and I am sure the Secretary of State will agree—that all youngsters going into the improved YTS with the high standard which I know it is the aim of the MSC to achieve, should feel that there is some recognition of their achievement when they leave at the end of two years. They want something which employers will see as evidence of competence.

They may not be able to reach the level which the new national qualifications will require. When setting national qualifications, there is always a danger of the standard becoming higher and higher. That is fine, but it is not so fine if it leaves behind too high a proportion of people who cannot reach that level. What is being done about the people who will not meet the scheme's requirements?

3.15 p.m.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, for his comments and for his general welcome for our White Paper. This is a moment when I can stand back with some feeling of satisfaction. That is not a good feeling to have in this job in the present circumstances of employment in the world. I look back over the past four years to 15th April 1982 when I first went to the Manpower Services Commission as chairman. At that time, the only scheme for young people was the Youth Opportunities Programme. On 21st June of that year, my right honourable friend Norman Tebbit, who then held my position, announced the YTS. Today we have a two-year YTS and a new successor scheme—the New Worker Scheme—which is a follow-on from the YTS. We have seen unemployment for the under-20s fall from 26 per cent. to 19 per cent. It will fall considerably as the two-year YTS comes into full force.

I can safely say, without any fear of contradiction, that no government in the industrialised world have done as much and acted as quickly as we have in respect of the severe youth unemployment problem. It is not just that. When I went to the MSC there was nothing in the school system which gave any education or training to young people to prepare them for the world of work. There was great desire within the school system to have such education and training. When we went comprehensive, in local education authority after local education authority we somehow lost all the technical schools and most of the secondary modern schools. Education became less and less relevant to the real world. I am afraid that we saw increased truancy and young people less motivated. Far from causing a divide, this proposal will heal the divide that exists today among those who benefit from the school system and those who do not.

The relationship between education and training can be shown in no more fitting way than in the White Paper published today. Its title is Working Together; Education and Training. On the front inside cover, it has the objectives of the Department of Employment, and on the back inside cover it has the objectives of the Department of Education and Science. Rarely with any government have we seen two departments co-operating in overlapping fields to drive forward something which is of benefit to the nation.

I recall that when I first came to the Manpower Services Commission we had no YTS and no TVEI, which was introduced in November 1982. The Prime Minister made the announcement. We managed to get 14 projects going by the following September. Just over four years later, we have TVEI operating in just over 10 per cent. of our schools. We shall see it going to all the schools on a voluntary basis, a basis which I hope local education authorities will rush to take up.

We are offering money and training and the possibility of making education more relevant. We are putting more resources into education. We are doing all those things, and I hope that the education world will welcome them. I suspect that our principal constraint will be the speed at which we can give teachers the skills that they will need to bring the new technologies into the schools.

The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, referred to the YTS. There has been too much criticism of the YTS. A fact of British public life is that we are long on criticism and short on credit. This is one of those instances where I wish that we would look at our achievements and not our failures. We have introduced a national scheme for hundreds of thousands of young people in a short space of time. The vast majority in the programme are up to or above standard. A few, of course, will be below standard, and that number must be reduced. What does not do our young any good is the constant complaint that somehow society owes them a job and that somehow society must pay them more money. What society owes them is the opportunity of training and the opportunity of standing on their own two feet. And society has a duty to look after the less fortunate. It is that balance that we must get right.

Also, in looking back to 1982 one sees that the whole area of vocational qualifications was a minefield. This is not some obtuse, obscure problem. It goes to the heart of the educational divide in this country. It is one of the fundamental reasons why this nation's economic performance has failed signally over the decades of this century. We are almost alone in having an education system and a training system that rarely meet. We are almost alone in having little progression as we go through life from school into vocational qualifications. We cannot allow this to continue any longer.

I appreciate the welcome given by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The noble Baroness, if I may be allowed to say so, has performed sterling work for the Manpower Services Commission. This shows the collaboration that is coming through between education and business. Those who have welcomed the review of vocational qualifications and the institu-tion of a new council include the Institute of Personnel Management, the British Institute of Management, the Institute of Administrative Management, the Institu-tion of Industrial Managers, the Institute of Marketing, the Institute of Purchasing and Supply, the Institute of Sales Marketing and Management and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. There is hardly one body in the field of management and administration that has not welcomed the rationalisation that we are carrying out.

It is important to appreciate what we are doing in setting up this council. The memories of all noble Lords, I am sure, go back to kitemarks. Now we are to have a method whereby one can equate one qualification with another. The national vocational qualification will initially operate in four grades. A fifth grade that will go to professional qualifications is one for which I am qualified as a one-time solicitor. The first grade will start with YTS. Young people at school who go into YTS will be able to earn the first credits and the first qualifications in a system that will take them not only through school and through YTS but also through adult life as they progress. This is where we really must make progress.

Within the White Paper we deal with links not only between national vocational qualifications and YTS but also between national vocational qualifications and secondary examinations. For too long we have had a divide. This is the first step back towards getting a unified field theory, if you like—a way in which we can bring together the vocational and the academic so that all can be one nation.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, I greatly welcome the noble Lord's council for the accreditation or validation of qualifications. That is excellent. What I do not welcome and what I regard as retrograde and taking us back to the 19th century is the injection of a large amount of vocational training into schools for children under 16. They will be doing the same job or series of jobs from 16 to 65. Surely, up to that age we can allow them to browse more widely in literature and the arts as well as science and mathematics and so on. We do not want our schools full of vocational training. That is how we started off in the middle of the 19th century. This is, I believe, retrograde.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, will perhaps remember that education can be vocationally relevant without being vocational. Mathematics, science, literature and languages are all vocationally relevant without being vocational. I hope that the noble Lord will not imagine that all of us welcome that part of his revolution. I should like to repeat, finally, what I told the noble Lord a few weeks ago. The whole edifice that he has erected over the last four years does not add one single job for young people.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, it would be as well, I believe, if all in your Lordships' House, on occasion, open their eyes to the world as it exists outside—the world with which I have to deal, as do those who have to deal with young people as they are. It is fine to have concepts of educating for life. It is fine to have concepts of saying to our young people, "We will give you music, we will give you culture, we will give you literature". It is possible to say to them, "Think of higher things. Whatever you do, do not think of work, industry or commerce". The world in which I live is a world where all too many young people emerge illiterate, non-numerate and demotivated. They have majored in truancy. They come out of primary school bright eyed and bushy tailed and then spend the next few years bored out of their minds because they do not see the relevance of the work they are doing. The simple truth is that one in four of our young people is perhaps naturally academic. Most of our young people in order to learn at all have to see the relevance of what they learn in school. If we look at what has happened to education in the last 25 years, we see that it is pursuing a dead end, alone in the Western world.

Lord Glenamara

Absolute rubbish, my Lords.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, it is a dead end of trying to make education somehow divorced from life. As your Lordships may have noticed, I am wearing a badge. That is out of character for me. I went to a school in Croydon this morning in connection with TVEI, where 15-year-olds, as part of their curriculum, were setting up model businesses. They were taking orders for making badges. These 15-year-olds were learning all aspects of the world of commerce. They were getting a better education than I did. I left school without having the faintest idea of how anything operated outside in the world of business. What we are talking about is broadening the curriculum, enriching education and motivating young people.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that it is excellent news that the TVEI is being extended. I have seen it on the ground. I believe that it is doing what my noble friend the Secretary of State has described. My noble friend tells us that there are 100 local authorities where TVEI is operating. Can he say how many local authorities who want it have not yet got it, as is the case in my own local authority of Tayside? It is held up by the biggest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland. Does he know how many local authorities have no TVEI because of teachers' union problems? Has he any remedies for that?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, welcomed this as a voluntary scheme. It is a voluntary scheme. The overwhelming majority of local education authorities have now embraced TVEI. Some have not. This is sometimes for political reasons. They suspect that there is no spoon long enough for them still to sup with this Government. Others have difficulties with unions. I regret this. They are depriving young people of education that is sorely needed and also of opportunities and resources that are sorely needed. I hope that we shall see a change of attitude, and that now that this has gone national all local authorities will come in and do more towards preparing young people for life.

There is one serious charge that I did not address in responding to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. It related to the number of jobs. If we look at the under-20s, we find that during the last four years, youth unemployment has been dropping. I venture to prophesy that it will continue to drop. One reason why it continues to drop is that young people are better prepared for the life that they will face and that they come out of school motivated.

Lord Ross of Marnock

My Lords, will the noble Lord address himself to the position in Scotland? How has the matter been approached in Scotland? I am one of those who believe that the improvement and extension of vocational education is much to be desired. Indeed, we lost an opportunity a long time ago when the party opposite extended the school year without investigating properly how that school year should be used.

What is proposed will require a lot of co-operation. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, is right. Does the noble Lord have the co-operation of the teachers? The noble Lord should appreciate that we have come through a very sticky time in Scotland as regards education. Apart from the difficulties of strikes, we already have a new examination system which very few people understand. The noble Lord is now adding something else to it in respect of this national vocational qualification. Was I right in thinking that he said it was going to apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not in Scotland? When are we going to get some statement about what is happening in Scotland? We need the improvements, the money, the co-operation, the teachers, the equipment and all these factors that we do not have. Words arc not enough.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, TVEI will apply to Scotland. It goes through with local education authorities on a voluntary basis. Initially the Scottish education authorities felt, their education system being so much better than those south of the Border—and there I would not venture to disagree too much with that—that they did not require TVEI. They subsequently changed their minds. We welcome them in. TVEI is now progressing except in some authorities where there is some difficulty with the unions because without the agreement of the teachers it is impossible to introduce it.

The review of vocational qualifications starts perhaps only marginally with the school system but applies—if I may mention the Scottish institutions—to SCOTBEC and SCOTVEC and all the others. It is the decision of Scotland alone, and not ours, that they should initially stand back and be observers for the first year or two, although I am happy to say that the Principality of Wales, Northern Ireland and England are joining in. I greatly regret that decision. I look forward to the day when we have vocational qualifications which are sufficient to move people from Land's End to John o' Groats, and we do not have to build new walls or to continue to keep old ones going.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, the Secretary of State did not reply to my question as to what extent girls were taking part in TVEI. May I say to the noble Lord Lord Glenamara that in my view and the view of a great many people—I remember it was the view of Sir Fred Clarke of the Institute of Education—so-called educational subjects can be vocational and so-called vocational subjects can be educational. It is a question of how they are taught and whether the youngsters can be excited by what one is teaching them.

Lord Young of Graffham

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for those comments. TVEI is an equal opportunities educator. It is a specific condition of TVEI that it is open to the full ability range on one aspect and to equal sexes on the other. All the TVEI programmes have had equal recruitment as far as possible.

It is difficult to legislate for parents. One of the great problems we find is that it is the parent who condition the kind of courses that their children take. It has been quite difficult to see young girls, in particular, deviate from the traditional courses. Quite often when we look at the reasons why we find that it is parental influence. I suspect that we shall have to produce some kind of TVEI for parents before we solve that problem.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the Minister a further question on this point which he has just raised. While I welcome his statement and I shall look forward to reading the White Paper, I think he would agree that there have been varying degrees of success in the TVEI schemes both across the range of ability and in the involvement of girls. One of the disappointing aspects has been that those girls who have been involved in TVEI schemes have tended towards the traditional activities and subjects.

Can the noble Lord tell us whether there has been any monitoring of the schemes that have now been operating for two or three years? If so, have any lessons been learned? Are there any ways in which it is hoped to overcome the difficulties of involving both boys and girls across the range? If no monitoring has been undertaken, can we be assured that as the scheme is being extended an element of monitoring will be included?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, for her comments. As well as the White Paper, we have a popular version—designed for Ministers, let me hasten to say first—as a way of building a bridge between learning and earning which is here to explain what TVEI is about and also the review of vocational qualifications.

When we first set up TVEI we set up a national steering commission body which looks at and agrees not only the projects which get funded but sets up yearly monitoring. I am happy to put in the Library the report that we have had so far from the monitoring. If the noble Baroness would care to put down a question I am sure that we can deal in more detail with the precise answer.

I would not stand here today and say that TVEI is perfect: it is but in its third year. We have had compulsory education in this country for 110 years and not all of us are totally satisfied with that. However, the state of vocational education and training is transformed compared with where it was half a dozen years ago.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, in answering my noble friend Lady Carnegy, the Minister said that certain local authorities, for anti-this-Government reasons, were not taking up the advantages and that it was to the detriment of the pupils. Since he is responsible for the pupils and not for the local authorities, what is he doing to try to get local opinion in those areas to put the matter right in the interests of the children?

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I have many responsibilities and I am fully aware of them. But my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has responsibility for the school system. The whole purpose, and the way in which we have proceeded on TVEI, is on a voluntary basis. I regret that there are some authorities that would not accept it. I hope that now it has become a national scheme—and that is why I do not want to say too much about it—they will reconsider their position and will embrace it wholeheartedly for the benefit of all their young.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Blease, wishes to rise but we have spent 35 minutes on this matter. If the noble Lord, Lord Blease, asks his question and my noble friend answers it, the House may feel that we can move on to the next business.

Lord Blease

My Lords, I should like to ask two questions. I listened with interest to the Secretary of State's announcement and I particularly welcomed his reference to Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland the aims and objects of this Statement will I think be readily accepted. I believe that there is a foundation built there already of co-operation among teachers, management, industry and trade unions.

The Minister in his Statement said that the two departments were working together harmoniously to bring about the aims and objects of the White Paper. The two departments working together is only the beginning of it. What methods are being employed by the department to promote it at the level of the nuts and bolts of industry, and at the blackboard and books level of education? It has to be promoted, and cannot just spring to life or develop unless it is engineered by the two departments.

The second question is on this important aspect. While the ideals and principles—that this will lay the foundation for the development of young people to take a part in the new developments of competition with skills and adaptability—ought be readily accepted by all, in the long run, unless the jobs materialise, I feel that we are still in a Catch-22 situation where we have the training but not the outlook and inspiration to go on to higher things unless the jobs are there.

Lord Young of Graffham

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I would confess that it is no good having any good scheme unless it be promoted properly. I have given a great deal of attention to the difficulties of promoting it. We are responsible for the careers service. I shall ensure that the popular version of the White Paper is circulated as widely as possible. We shall be finding ways in which we shall go into the school system. We shall be working very closely with the Deparment of Education and Science and the territorial departments as well, to ensure that it is brought out as well as we can. That is of crucial importance, as is this whole programme.

With regard to Northern Ireland, the TVEI does not apply as such but the review of vocational qualifications does. I hope that review will be done. I hope very much that we shall see that work together.

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