HL Deb 15 February 2000 vol 609 cc1137-50

7.9 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Countess of Mar) in the Chair.]

Clauses 46 to 49 agreed to.

Schedule 6 [The Adult Learning Inspectorate]:

Lord Rix moved Amendment No. 181:

Page 66, line 34, at end insert ("for specific classes of inspection").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment—which has all-party support—is to discover something of the Government's plans for the arrangement of inspections under the new adult learning inspectorate. I am probing generally for an assurance that the new inspectorate will appoint specialist inspectors who have expertise in particular fields and, more specifically, that that expertise will be developed in assessing quality standards in courses for people with learning difficulties, which of course will include people with learning disabilities.

While one would expect something of a common training for staff working for a new inspectorate, I, and indeed the Disability Consortium, believe there is a strong case for developing specialisms in assessing courses for students with learning difficulties. It is crucial that inspectors understand the problems and barriers that disabled students have had to overcome in coming to the educational training and provision and of the responsibility placed upon providers, both by the new learning and skills councils and by the Disability Discrimination Act, to ensure that reasonable adjustments are made to ensure equal participation.

It is also important that the nature of adult learning is seen as different from the processes of learning experienced by children, particularly in relation to adults with learning difficulties. Many adult students have a wealth of informal and incidental life experiences to build upon and they are often filling gaps in their knowledge and skills. Their learning needs and aspirations rarely follow an easy and smooth path. Inspectors evaluating provision made for disabled adults must recognise this and be sensitive to the nature of learning in adulthood and for the need for ever more creative and sophisticated approaches to meeting such diverse experiences and expectations.

A related question is whether lay inspectors will have a role once the new adult learning inspectorate opens its doors. There is some evidence that lay inspectors with direct personal experience of disability have added value to the process of inspection. This has worked best in instances where lay inspectors have been fully prepared and have been involved in drawing up the agreed inspection framework with regard to disability issues. It would be a shame if, in our efforts to improve the inspection process, schemes of this kind are diminished.

Noble Lords may be aware that I made similar points in relation to the new inspectorate being introduced under the Care Standards Bill. In that debate, the Minister was able to respond positively and recognise the importance of retaining and developing specialist inspectors. I hope that the Minister will be minded to do the same today. I beg to move.

Lord Addington

I rise briefly to support the amendment and to say that a certain degree of specialist knowledge of the particular problems in this area is essential if the job is to be done properly. The noble Lord has already pointed out that in certain types of cases a little specialist knowledge is needed. More knowledge will need to be acquired as the inspection process develops. Introducing categories for certain types of knowledge to match certain types of inspection will be essential or the process will not work well.

Baroness David

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, has made the case for this amendment extremely cleverly and fully and I do not need to add to what he has said. However, it seems to me to be obvious that it is essential to use inspectors who have specialist knowledge of those with learning difficulties. I hope very much that the Minister will be able to give the Committee a positive response.

Baroness Blatch

I too, have added my name to this amendment and I am pleased to support it. When examining the new framework for inspection, a difficulty may arise over the manner in which the two cultures for inspection are brought together. Ofsted works within one framework and the ALI will operate under a different system; these two groups will approach inspection from very different bases. It is not only a question of accommodating the two cultures and then dovetailing them into a common framework, but also a question of ensuring that they are particularly sensitive not only to those with special needs within the school system, but also to those with learning difficulties in the adult learning environment. Nothing I have yet seen in the Bill gives me any comfort that the system will work as sensitively as it should.

Will the noble Baroness clarify for the Committee how these two separate inspection systems, with different cultural backgrounds and practical approaches towards inspection, will work with one common purpose; namely, to be sufficiently sensitive to be able to deal with those with learning difficulties both pre-16 and post-16?

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

Unfortunately there was not enough room to enable me to add my name to the amendment. However, I should like to associate myself with it and support all that has been said in this debate. I echo the plea of my noble friend that the particular knowledge of inspectors currently involved in examining specialist residential colleges is not lost but is put to good use.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

I regret that there was no room on the Marshalled List for the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, to add her name to this amendment. However, the noble Baroness knows that we always associate her name with amendments of this kind.

I have listened carefully to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and others in this short debate and I believe that I can provide the Committee and all those who have contributed with the assurances that are being sought.

Paragraph 4 of Schedule 6 provides a power for the adult learning inspectorate to, appoint such employees, including inspectors, as it thinks fit". The amendment would add to this to ensure that specialist inspectors are appointed. No doubt noble Lords want to ensure that the adult learning inspectorate has all the expertise necessary to assess standards in courses for students with disabilities and learning difficulties.

I agree entirely with the principle that the inspection teams must have the collective experience and expertise to allow effective scrutiny of all aspects of provision covered by the inspection agenda. It is obvious that this principle could not possibly be fulfilled if no expertise is available within the provision of inspection for those with learning difficulties. Our commitment to good provision for such students, indeed our commitment to inclusive education, could be compromised if the adult learning inspectorate did not have the specialists that are needed in this vital area.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred to the common inspection framework and spoke of the different cultures within the ALI and Ofsted. Of course, the ALI is completely new and so in a sense does not have a culture, although I readily accept that the FEFC and training inspectorates have had somewhat different approaches. However, all three inspectorates have been working extremely closely to devise a common framework. I am confident that this will work well. The common inspection framework will set out the necessary principles about inspectorate expertise. To that end, I have received clear assurances from the three current chief inspectors—those of Ofsted, the Training Standards Council and the FEFC—that their teams will have all the necessary specialist skills and that this will be set out clearly in the framework.

Provisions relating to the framework are set out in Clauses 66 and 67 and it will be a statutory document, which will be subject to a preliminary consultation in the spring and a more formal one after Royal Assent. I hope that that is helpful and that it will allow Members of the Committee to comment. It will enshrine these and other principles. Therefore, there is no need for them to be explicit on the face of the Bill.

In summary, we intend that there should be no gaps in the inspection agenda, particularly in provision for people with learning difficulties and disabilities. Therefore, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and other Members of the Committee who put their name to this amendment for bringing forward these points because that has allowed me to clarify the policy. I hope that, in the light of what I have said, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask a question, again, relating to the two cultures. One is a self-evaluative approach; the other is very much an observational approach. How will that be dealt with? Will Ofsted be required to become more self-evaluative or will ALI inspectors who are on the common team become more observational? That seems to me to be most important, especially when dealing not just with those without learning difficulties who are in pre and post-16 education but also when dealing with those with learning difficulties who operate in a situation very different from that of adult learning and in the workplace, which is covered by the Bill.

Baroness Blackstone

Here we want to see the best of both worlds brought together. I believe that there is a case for both an observational approach and for some self-evaluation. Self-evaluation obviously is a good motivator for people. At the same time, I entirely accept that some external scrutiny and observation is required. I believe that the two inspectorates will work together. One—Ofsted—obviously will rely rather more on the approach that it has used in sixth forms in the new role that it will play in relation to full-time 16 to 19 year-olds in sixth-form colleges. At the same time, the rather different, work-based environment on which the adult learning inspectorate will focus may need a slightly different approach. Perhaps may reassure the noble Baroness that the three chief inspectorates are working together to develop this common framework. As I said, there will be an opportunity for further consultation on that issue.

Lord Rix

I warmly welcome the Minister's assurance in the matter of the three inspectorates. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is assured that there will be a specialist approach to Ofsted inspectors, too, in this regard. The assurance from the Dispatch Box is one which certainly I can accept, and I hope that other Members of the Committee can do likewise. Therefore, I have the greatest pleasure in begging leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clause 50 [The Inspectorate's remit]:

[Amendment No. 182 not moved.]

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 183:

Page 20, line 17, leave out ("for persons") and insert ("provided in the further education sector which is suitable to the requirements of those").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 183, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 184, 185, 194 and 195. The purpose of this set of amendments is to rationalise and simplify the inspection system proposed for post-16 education. As set out in the Bill, the system seems to be extraordinarily complex. As my noble friend Lord Tope said at Second Reading: Why on earth do we have the anomaly of two inspection agencies falling over each other to inspect the provision? Why do we need complex rules about 'joint inspection' and a 'common inspection framework'? The obvious and radical answer is to have a single inspection agency for all post-16 education and training which will see its work in the context of lifelong learning".— [Official Report], 17/1/00; col. 939.]

Essentially, these amendments provide the framework for such an agency. They extend the remit of the adult learning inspectorate to cover post-16 education and training in the further education sector and limit the remit of the Chief Inspector of Schools in England to the schools sector. The Minister responded at Second Reading by saying: No single inspectorate could encompass the enormous scale and variety of post-16 education".—[Official Report, 17/1/00; col. 946.] Yet, the same might be said of the role of the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, whose remit, I believe, is now extended to cover playgroups and babyminders. In this age when, increasingly, inspection means hiring a team of inspectors with the relevant skills and competencies, I cannot see that that is an obstacle. In both bureaucratic and cost terms, it seems unnecessary to have two teams of inspectors invading one institution simultaneously.

As it is, the proposals before us will mean that in nearly all circumstances there will be joint inspections. Ofsted, seemingly, will be responsible for inspecting the education side of provision and ALI will be responsible for the training side of provision. From these Benches, we fail to understand why the Government have pursued this route and we look forward to hearing the Minister's response. Genuinely, we do not understand the logic behind it. Implicitly, is there a feeling that where learning and skills council money goes, the adult learning inspectorate must go, too? Thus, sixth forms, whose learning and skills money is being routed through the LEAs nevertheless must be inspected by the adult learning inspectorate as well as by Ofsted and, likewise, Ofsted must have entry into the further education sector. I gather, for example, that of the 250 responses in the consultation, only one—from the Further Education Funding Council—supported the idea of joint inspections. Was that because the Further Education Funding Council was worried about the issue of accountability? I should be glad if the Minister could elucidate that issue for us.

I believe that we are not alone in worrying that the Ofsted methodology is not appropriate for the mix of experience and learning that takes place in many further education colleges. The CB I expresses doubts as to whether such a methodology can cope adequately with the different circumstances of different institutions and, in particular, the workplace. The British Chambers of Commerce, headed by Chris Humphries, who chairs the Government's National Skills Task Force, goes further and calls the proposal to give Ofsted responsibility for inspecting provision in further education colleges "an inappropriate decision". The evidence continues: The idea that it is either feasible or valuable to inspect young learners' experience separately from that of the majority of adult learners in the same FE college or training provider programme and classroom is unsound and costly".

The factors which shaped the approach, methods and style of Ofsted are not the same as those which have shaped the existing Further Education Funding Council Inspectorate or the Training Standards Council Inspectorate. For example, adult learners bring a much greater diversity of experience of work, civic and domestic responsibility for their learning than do children. Many are most likely to participate in learning on a part-time basis or intermittently for short periods. They are much more likely to be constrained as to where and when they can study. They often contribute to the cost of learning from their own disposable income. Many participate voluntarily, with the exception of some in workplace training. That can mean high levels of motivation, but also a greater likelihood that they will cease to participate if they are unconvinced of the learning's relevance or of value for money. They may be unclear about their learning needs and about whether particular courses of action will help them to meet their desired goals. Usually they have wider-ranging and more complex motivations for studying than do the young. They may have unhappy or negative experiences from the schooling system.

All those are good reasons why Ofsted should not look into the further education sector. Yet, the whole tenor of Clauses 66 to 68 makes the Chief Inspector of Schools in England the senior partner in the proposed joint inspections. The adult learning inspector's junior role immediately places work-based learning and vocational learning in colleges at a disadvantage. In our earlier debates on the Bill, the Government and the Minister said that they did not want to separate education from training. This provision does just that. It puts academic education on a pedestal and vocational education and learning at its feet.

When we debated the earlier clauses of the Bill, the Minister claimed that the Government wanted to overcome that binary divide between academic and vocational education and training and to treat education and training holistically. But the sort of thinking set out in the Bill underlies the divide between the adult learning inspectorate and the role of the Chief Inspector of Schools.

The FE21 group of colleges put it rather well in its evidence when it said: We believe that the implication of Ofsted taking the lead in the inspection process is that providers, especially colleges, will be compelled into following the existing 16–19 model by the achievement oriented ethos of this inspection regime. This will be to the detriment of encouraging non-traditional learners into education because it does not appreciate the differences between the strategies for adult and young learners".

It adds that in any case, the majority of learners in colleges are over the age of 19.

We support the Government in their emphasis on providing high quality education and training for our young people and for the continuing education needs of our nation. We acknowledge the role that inspection plays in maintaining and raising the quality of such provision. But these proposals, as they stand, are a mess. The further education sector has developed a range of quality control mechanisms. They are already subject to inspections from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, from the Audit Commission and from the further education and funding inspectors who would, we assume, form the core of the adult learning inspectorate.

But now, in addition to that, it is proposed to add Ofsted to the further education sector and to make it the senior partner, even though it has no experience of that field. Surely it is better to do as we suggest: to make a clean break between schools and the further education sector; leave Ofsted where it is, in the schools sector; and give ALI the prime responsibility for inspection in further education. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

It falls to me to resort to colloquial language to describe this part of the Bill. It really is a dog's breakfast. There is no other description for it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has been more elegant but equal her criticism of the provisions in the Bill. Although the Association of Teachers and Lecturers welcomes some of the measures in the Bill, it is really welcoming the cultural approach which I described earlier of the FEFC inspections; namely, a process of self-evaluation. I believe that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers hopes that the ALI will subsume that approach to inspections and that the ALI will be given the responsibility for sixth-form inspections. There are so many options which one could go for if one is dismissing the proposals set out in the Bill.

The provisions are extremely complex. They will cause great confusion. A school will be visited by Ofsted for the purposes of inspecting a school for 11 to 18 year-olds but it will be inspecting only the 11 to 16 age group part of the school. There will be a separate and distinct approach to inspecting the sixth forms in that school. Then arrangements will be made for inspecting 16 year-olds in the workplace. Different arrangements will apply to 16 to 19 year-olds in further education. The Bill proposes that the adult learning inspectorate will work together with Ofsted, with Ofsted in the lead. As I say, Ofsted has a very clear observational role.

In her response to the previous amendment the noble Baroness attempted to explain how the joint system would work. She said that all the bodies would work happily together; that it would be extremely effective; that there would be no confusion whatever; and that it would all be very meaningful. But the noble Baroness did not say whether the observational approach of Ofsted will have to change and whether the ALI will either subsume the evaluative approach or whether the ALI, which will be subservient to Ofsted in joint inspections, will absorb the observational role. I believe it was hinted that there would be a bit of each. Ofsted does not take that approach at the moment so it would have to change quite dramatically the way it approaches an inspection.

What does that mean for a school catering for 11 to 18 year-olds? The same inspectorate will inspect the school in the way in which it has traditionally inspected it until now, but then it will inspect the sixth form on a very different basis. It is a kind of mix and match of the two cultures. That simply is not good enough.

I have not studied sufficiently carefully the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who is trying to bring some clarity to the way in which the inspections will take place. There is an argument for all education and training which takes place either in further education and/or at the workplace to be inspected by one inspectorate and in one way using one methodology. School-based inspections should be carried out as they have been hitherto.

Certainly, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers would be making the case that there is an argument for adopting the approach which the FEFC has operated and which it assumes and believes that the ALI will adopt. If it would prefer an evaluative approach, that is a different argument. That argument needs to be put to government so that a judgment is made on it. I suspect that some research has been done which indicates which process of inspection is the most effective. Would schools benefit from a self-evaluative approach? I do not know. But the argument is not that we should have this mish-mash of inspections, with 16 year-olds, depending on where they are being educated, being inspected differently. Rather it is that there should be a change of culture in school inspections. It would be worth hearing a case for that. If there is a good case for it, what would be the Government's plans to change it?

This is a complete mess. When I talk to people in the adult education world and in the 16-plus world in the school sector, they say that they would like some clarity. They, too, would like to see less confusion than there is set out in the Bill. As I said, some bodies, like the ATL, welcome an evaluative approach but that is not what is provided in this Bill because the Bill provides a mix of the two.

It is incumbent on the Government, and certainly on the Minister, when she replies, to try to bring some clarity to this issue. That would mean changing the Bill as it stands. However, the Government seem to be reluctant to change any dot or comma in the Bill, so I am not hopeful that that will be the case. I believe that we are adopting a seriously messy approach to the inspection of 16-plus education. The rationale of the Bill is to bring coherence to 16-plus education. That will not be achieved by this method of inspection.

Lord Dearing

I did not intend to speak to this amendment but I do so having listened to the arguments of the noble Baroness. The present structure of the inspections as set out in Clause 68 is not really a partnership or joint inspection. It is an inspection under the direction of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools to a plan determined by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools producing a report offered by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools and following a composition of an inspectorate determined by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.

That particular approach puts the ALI in a totally subordinate position. Therefore, it is most unlikely to attract the quality of inspector required to be effective and will be at risk of losing that distinctive contribution which is needed for a community of learners which is adult rather than young, part-time rather than full-time, and possibly needing greater encouragement to engage in education and upskilling. After all, we are trying to create an adult learning society. If the Government are set on this particular approach, the result may be damaging to the Government's aspirations.

Therefore, while I am minded to support the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, in his amendment, I express great concern at the approach adopted both in the combination of the present clauses, and including, in particular, Clause 68.

7.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

We appear to be moving away from the amendments under discussion. I do not want to enter into debates which will come later. As I have said before, it is important in Committee that we do not have a Second Reading debate about a particular aspect of the Bill, such as inspection, but that we focus on the amendments tabled.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said that our proposals are a mess and that they would be incoherent. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness that we have a rather incoherent system at present. The Government intend to create a much more coherent system than that established by her government.

I turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I am grateful to her for indicating that she will not be moving Amendments Nos. 182 and 187 which would give ALI a remit for inspecting school sixth forms. I am glad that she and her colleagues have realised that that would not make a great deal of sense.

The amendments spoken to by the noble Baroness would fundamentally change the character of the Bill. Amendment No. 183 would exclude the inspection of colleges outside the FE sector, including specialist provision for students with learning difficulties and disabilities which we have just discussed and about which her noble friend Lord Addington expressed concerns. The noble Baroness may want, on reflection, to acknowledge that that was not her intention.

Amendment No. 184 extends the remit of the adult learning inspectorate so that it has sole responsibility for post-16 inspection other than sixth forms. As a consequence I understand that Ofsted's role in post-16 inspection would be restricted to only school sixth forms. I believe that is what the noble Baroness has in mind.

Perhaps I may address the fundamental points of principle which the noble Baroness called the logic behind our approach. I hope that that will help, too, in answering some of the points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, will forgive me if I do not pick up on his interjection. I believe that that is much more relevant to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Haskel which we shall reach later.

I turn to our own proposals which, despite the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, are coherent. Our provisions will build on the best of the three existing inspection systems. I cannot understand why the noble Baroness finds that unacceptable.

I pay tribute not just to Ofsted, which is well known for its work in raising standards in education, but also to the important work of the FEFC Inspectorate and the Training and Skills Council Inspectorate. They have done sterling work across the spectrum of post-16 provision, which we should acknowledge. We want to build on and draw on that sterling work in the new structures we are creating. Our proposals will combine the best traditions of the three existing inspectorates and produce a system far better than that we have at present.

It is wrong to suggest that the two new inspectorates will be falling over each other. They will not; they will be working together. No single inspectorate could encompass the range and variety that has to be inspected in the whole of the post-16 provision of learning for both academic qualifications and, indeed, vocational skills.

At Second Reading, and in the debate on the earlier amendment tonight, I explained that we shall have a common inspection framework. I believe that this will be a new, valuable and visionary document compatible with the quality improvement strategy at the centre of the work of the LSC. The collaboration of the two inspectorates—ALI and Ofsted—both using the common framework, will add considerable value. The new regime will also have rigour so that the inspectorates can take a penetrating look at standards across all streams of learning. Members of the Committee will appreciate that on standards generally there is considerable room for improvement.

It may be helpful at this point if I say a little more about the common inspection framework. It will include a series of common principles for inspection, set out by the chief inspectors. I expect to see, for example, that inspection will give priority to judgments about teaching and that it will place emphasis on the standards achieved. It will also address continuous self-improvement and internal quality assurance.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I believe that internal quality assurance is a matter which FE colleges, sixth-form colleges, work-based training and school sixth forms should be able to embrace. There will also be principles relating to practical issues; for example, that joint inspection teams must reflect the expertise needed to inspect the range of provision, and that the balance of provision in the institution must be reflected within the inspection team. I refer, for example, to the proportion of inspectors from each inspectorate.

There will also be a series of quality statements or judgments explaining what inspectors will be looking for in particular areas. The inspectorates also anticipate producing a handbook of practical arrangements to go alongside the statutory framework.

Perhaps I may say to the Liberal Democrat Benches that the restriction of Ofsted's role in post-16 inspection would be a considerable mistake. The experience and rigour of Ofsted, building on its expertise in school sixth forms, is surely relevant to sixth-form colleges. The benefit of that rigour would be lost. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, supports the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and wants Ofsted to be removed from this work or whether she takes a somewhat different view. The noble Baroness shakes her head so I assume that she takes a different view from that put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

Ofsted has brought together its considerable experience in number of influential reports on effective sixth forms, modular A-levels and GNVQs. We have to remember that some 40 per cent of all students studying for A-levels and GNVQs are in the FE sector. So, there is a great deal of advantage to be gained from Ofsted being able to inspect across the two sectors in these important areas.

For all those reasons, I should be reluctant to accept the amendments tabled in this group which restrict Ofsted's role in post-16 work. As I have said, drafting on the common framework is being done by the inspectorates. At this stage, the Government have no formal role. That must be right and in keeping with the tradition of the independence of the inspectorates. However, I hope that the consultation in spring will coincide with a related consultation on the quality strategy of the LSC. I accept that that document, and the common inspection framework, will need to be compatible and, coherent.

As regards the two consultations on the framework, in the spring we hope to have the one to which I have alluded. There will also be the statutory three-month consultation under the procedures set out in Clause 67. That can take place only when the Bill is enacted. I believe that that will give ample opportunity for those with an interest in this area to comment upon it. It will mean that the framework will also quickly become a familiar document—all providers will know what it contains and what to expect when they are inspected.

The amendments that have been spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, are substantial. However, in my view, the arguments against them are more substantial. I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness decides what to do about the amendment, perhaps I may return to a few points. I begin with the criticism that, somehow or other, we were making Second Reading speeches. It was almost impossible to discuss these amendments without mentioning the inspection framework, because such amendments would disturb that framework. Therefore, I make no apologies in that respect. I certainly was not making a Second Reading speech. Nevertheless, it is important for us to understand precisely what the consequences of acceptance of these amendments would be.

The Minister referred to a very "incoherent" system that the Government have apparently inherited. Can the noble Baroness say, quite specifically, in what way Ofsted has failed, given the fact that it has been responsible thus far for inspecting sixth-form education as part of the inspection of schools as a whole? Can she also say in what way the FEFC is incapable—or, indeed, its successor, the ALI would be incapable—of inspecting the quality of the teaching and the learning, as well as the training and its effect on adult learning environments? I simply do not know.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raised an important point; namely, that it is not possible to extend the remit of any one inspectorate body to inspect right across post-16 education simply because you cannot extend Ofsted's remit any further. The very valid point was made that Ofsted now has almost cradle to grave responsibilities in any event. Indeed, that starts from nursery education, baby minding and carers and will now also include all 16-plus education under the extension already encompassed within the Bill. Answers to such questions are important to the debate.

Baroness Blackstone

I am not sure whether the noble Baroness is opposed to Ofsted having a wider role. It is the Government's intention that it should and that it should begin with nursery education and playgroups, extending right through to the provision of further education. I believe that that will create a more integrated and better system of inspection.

In implying that the present system is not terribly coherent, I was not in any way criticising Ofsted, the FEFC or the Training Standards Inspectorate. I am saying that the structure is poorly integrated. In effect, you have one group of inspectors inspecting A-level provision in schools and a totally different group of inspectors inspecting A-level provision in FE colleges. That is the what the Government are addressing: we want a single group of inspectors taking the lead in inspecting 16 to 19 provision and a single group of inspectors taking the lead in inspecting the specialist aspects of work-based training and adult education. They will use their respective expertise but work together in a team.

Perhaps I may also mention something that I meant to pick up earlier. I believe that the noble Baroness suggested that schools would have separate inspections; in other words, that there would be a separate inspection of the sixth form from that applying to 11 to 16 provision. That will not be the case. Schools will have a single inspection right across the whole range of what they provide. For example, if we are talking about a school that provides for 11 to 18 year-olds, the inspection of the sixth form will take place at the same time as the inspection of the 11 to 16 aspect of its work. I hope that I have clarified that point.

Baroness Blatch

If that is the case and inspections will take place exactly as they do at present, the particular nature of such inspection will not change. Therefore, as I understand it from what the Minister has just said, a 16 year-old doing A-levels in school will be inspected in exactly the same way as hitherto. However, someone taking an A-level in an adult learning situation will be inspected differently by the successor to the FEFC inspectorate. You cannot have it both ways: you cannot argue coherence and uniformity on the one hand and then, on the other, argue that nothing will change in an 11 to 18 school.

Baroness Blackstone

I did not say that "nothing will change". The noble Baroness needs to listen to what I say. I said that such a school would not have a separate inspection. It would not be inspected one year as regards the sixth form and then be inspected at a totally different time regarding the 11 to 16 provision. Under the new common framework there may be some changes to the way in which Ofsted carries out its inspections. It will need to take into account the slightly different approach that has been used in the further education sector. That will be all to the benefit of everyone. As I said earlier, we shall benefit from the approaches used by the different inspectors in creating this new system. On the basis of what I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her extended reply to the various points that have been raised. However, I am sure she will recognise that I am not convinced by what she said. It seems to me that the Minister fails to understand the point that we on this side of the Committee have been trying to get across; namely, the simplicity of having one set of inspections, led by one group, for a particular type of education provision.

There is a very different ethos in the further education and adult education sector from that in schools. Yes, the Minister is quite right. By not moving Amendment No. 182 (and thereby removing Amendment No. 187 from this group) we have withdrawn the earlier suggestion that the adult learning inspectorate should have the right to go into sixth forms. I do not believe that that was a coherent idea. We now have a coherent set of inspections in the schools—indeed, Ofsted now rules from the cradle through to the end of schooling. But the way in which Ofsted looks at such things is very different from the way in which the further education world looks at them.

As regards A-levels, I take the Minister's point that we want a coherence in terms of the standards that are applied. However, I return to the argument that I put before the Minister. The way in which inspections are carried out these days is to bring into one's team people with competence in different areas. In the adult learning inspectorate it is extremely likely that we shall have the same people inspecting A-level provision as we shall have inspecting school A-level provision. Quite frankly, it would make much more sense to have a coherent framework run by the adult learning inspectorate covering the whole of the further education sector, with Ofsted being restricted to the school sector. That is what we propose.

I shall withdraw my amendment for the moment. However, I think it very likely that we shall return to the issue on Report. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 184 and 185 not moved.]

Lord Bach

I beg to move that the House be now resumed. In moving this Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.45 p.m.

ed accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.