HL Deb 17 February 2000 vol 609 cc1344-99

3.25 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.


Clause 98 [Inadequate sixth-forms]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 209: Page 43, line 34, leave out ("(inadequate sixth-forms)'') and insert ("(sixth-form centres)").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 210.

The amendments that I have tabled will almost inevitably necessitate further consequential amendments, but I prefer to leave it to the Government, with the help of parliamentary counsel, to resolve how that may be best accommodated. I have tabled the amendments because many outside the Committee and certainly a number of Members of the Committee believe that the Bill as set out constitutes a threat to the future of sixth forms.

The Bill will change the way in which school sixth forms are funded, but it will also give the local skills council significant new powers over them, which is where a great deal of uncertainty begins. At present, funding for school sixth forms is distributed via LEAs' individual formulae for their secondary schools. Under the new system, the local skills council will make grants to local education authorities for sixth-form provision, which they in turn will distribute to schools as part of their local schools' budget. The question arises as to the formula that the local skills council will use in distributing funds to the local education authorities. Of course, there may be winners and losers, not least because different LEAs currently have different funding priorities, directing either more or less money to school sixth-form provision than is suggested by their standard spending assessment.

The National Association of Head Teachers of course supports the changes in funding mechanisms, but on the important proviso that they will deliver enhanced resources for sixth forms to support them in delivering the wider post-2000 curriculum for 16 to 19 year-olds. The detail of how the funding system will work is of crucial importance to the sixth forms themselves. It needs to be teased out from the Government as soon as possible. The local skills council is also being given the power to develop schemes for the assessment of the performance of those providing post-16 education and training and, crucially, it will be able to base its funding decisions on those assessments. It may also attach conditions to grants. Therefore, the Bill seems to allow the LSC to determine how much money individual sixth forms may receive; indeed, whether they will receive any money at all.

There are also questions about whether a local learning and skills council could look at sixth forms in its area, make value for money judgments and determine what is taught and where, such as rationalising the teaching of minority subjects at the expense of parental and pupil choice. Both situations would be unacceptable. The National Association of Head Teachers has expressed its concern on this point.

This form of intervention is unwelcome. Not only will the LSC have wide-ranging powers to intervene, but both LEAs and the Secretary of State will retain their respective powers of intervention as well. School sixth forms will have to be mindful of yet another line manager, in addition to remaining focused on what they should be concerned about—that is, standards in the classroom.

One of the greatest threats to school sixth forms rests in Schedule 7, where the local skills council's powers to propose the closure of inadequate sixth forms are spelt out. A sixth form is considered inadequate if it is failing or likely to fail to give an acceptable standard of education or if it has a significant weakness in one or more areas. In a rural primary school, only a small number of students may be taking a subject. Is that determined to be a weakness? Do we know quite what will constitute a weakness?

Unlike under the School Standards and Framework Act in relation to schools, no procedures are set out to tackle problems and help turn the sixth forms around. Instead, if two inspection reports identify the sixth form as being inadequate, proposals for closure can go forward. It is important to note that not only may the inspections be carried out by persons other than Ofsted inspectors, but there is also no minimum period between inspections. That would give sixth forms no guaranteed timeframe within which to turn problems around. It goes even further. The Bill allows the first report to be counted retrospectively.

With the local skills council having such wide-ranging powers over 16 to 19 provision, it is important that sixth forms have representation on the national and local councils and are consulted properly on any changes to provision, particularly as they account for at least one-sixth of the £6 billion—or £5 billion, depending on which Minister one listens to—which is to be the LSC budget. The Bill raises so many issues that will need careful examination. Those include the powers for local education authorities to create new 16 to 19 maintained schools, which again will have an impact. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, introduced an amendment on the previous day in Committee about the creation of new schools impacting on existing provision in an area.

Despite attempts to assure those who are concerned about sixth forms, they face an uncertain future under the Bill. Their demise would be a great loss to many pupils. It would much reduce their choice of the type of educational establishment they wish to attend. These uncertainties are greatest in the rural areas of this country. In such areas it would be quite easy to exercise a subjective judgment that there was a weakness simply because in a rural secondary school one gets considerable fluctuations from year to another. Indeed, many schools are very innovative in how they work co-operatively together or with their local FE colleges to overcome some of the difficulties. In A-level classes in many rural schools both first and second year sixth-form studies will be taught. Such schools will resort to all kinds of innovations. But the power is there to make a subjective judgment that that constitutes a weakness and thereby could trigger the closure proposals. The Minister shakes her head, but it is important not just to give verbal assurances but to put something on the face of the Bill to give some assurance to those schools that that kind of judgment not only will not be made but cannot be made. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

As Amendment No. 110 is also being spoken to, I must point out to the Committee that if that amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 210A to 210E inclusive.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Lucas

Before we add to the weight attributed to the results of Ofsted inspections, we should take a short pause to consider whether the judgments of Ofsted are of sufficient quality and reliability to allow that to be a sensible course to take. I admire and approve of many of the things Ofsted has done. I think that it was one of our fine creations when in office. But one of the things I least admire about Ofsted is that it has not submitted itself to any form of research or evaluation. There has been no research into the validity of its inspection system; there has been no comparison of pre-announced and surprise visits; there have been no studies of how long inspectors need to spend in schools to achieve a reliable judgment; and no comparisons of results. In fact, there was one tiny study, using inadequate research criteria, of whether different inspectors inspecting the same school and the same lessons come to the same conclusion or whether there is too much variation between the conclusions that different inspectors reach about individual teachers. There has been no comparison between the results of inspection and independent evidence of how well a school is doing, such as value added data.

It is not right for an organisation such as Ofsted to stand out against a proper evaluation of how good its judgments are, particularly when they are to be put to the use which we are considering in this part of the Bill. It should be a research oriented, research-based and respectful-of-research organisation. It is not. I hope that the Government will set their mind to changing that approach.

We also need to consider the difference in style between Ofsted and the FEFC. The FEFC has run what might be called a professional audit style of inspection. It has worked with the organisations it has inspected. In the judgments it has made it has carried with it not only the organisation but the individual teachers through feed-back from individual inspectors and from the teams of inspectors working in a school. Ofsted has maintained throughout a purity of stance which has made it difficult to live with in a school. It has refused to provide or even contemplate providing advice to a school on what it should do or to work with the school, let alone individual teachers, in order to provide feed-back on inspectors' views on individual lessons, on the school or on how the school might work to improve itself.

I understand the purity with which the Chief Inspector of Schools approaches this matter. But when one is coming down to a delicate decision about whether a school should have a sixth form or whether it is inadequate in relation to the local demands of its customers, one needs a much more participatory style of inspection in order to arrive at an answer which will be seen as valid by the people who at the end of the day will be subject to the results of that inspection. There is a great deal to be done by Ofsted in moving towards the old FEFC model of inspection if As verdicts are to be accepted as well-based, well-founded and in tune with what is required by the local people. Beyond anything else, if we are to have Ofsted involved in this kind of decision, it must operate in a much more transparent and open mode than it has heretofore. It must be possible for people to understand what its judgments have been and why its judgments have been and to criticise intelligently the judgments it has arrived at.

At the moment, Ofsted is a closed organisation. It is sometimes hard to understand how it has reached its judgments. That must change. Until those things have been changed, we should be cautious about expanding its powers in the way envisaged in this part of the Bill.

Baroness Warnock

I should like to say a few words in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. Not enough thought has gone into the concept of inadequacy in a sixth form. Provision, particularly in rural schools, may be exceedingly good but not cover all possible ranges that are now open to people of 16-plus. It should be made known on the face of the Bill what the criteria for inadequacy are to be: whether they are a matter of poor provision, bad teaching, and all the things that point to proof of inadequacy, or whether the question of breadth of provision will also be taken into account in judging whether a school is inadequate. Given the huge range of options which are properly spelled out in the Bill as being open, with luck, to people of 16 onwards, there is a very limited number of institutions that can feasibly provide all of those options. Questions of transport between different schools and colleges of further education will become enormously important. The business of timetabling a student's whole programme seems a schoolmistress's nightmare.

Apart from that, it is totally unclear from the Bill as it stands what criteria will be used. A new Sword of Damocles is hanging over schools. They will not be clear from reading the Bill what it is their duty to provide. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

I should like to consider Amendments Nos. 209 and 210 together. No one, I hope, doubts the Government's commitment to investing in high-quality school education. We have increased funding and ensured that more of is it passed on to schools to spend on improving pupil performance. We have also increased the rigour with which poor standards are tackled in following up inspection reports.

The Bill demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that the learning opportunities available to all students aged 16 to 19 are of similarly high quality. That is why we have in the Bill established a level playing field in inspections, with Ofsted looking across the piece at 16 to 19 provision in schools and colleges and applying similar standards. It would be quite wrong to apply different standards in one sector from the other—to suggest that a student choosing a school rather than a college at age 16, or vice versa, was thereby opting for a sector where the standards applied were different and possibly less rigorous. But that would be the precise effect of the noble Baroness's amendments. They seem to be driven by an attachment to sixth forms which is perhaps a little blind to the need to take action to address poor standards.

Having secured a level playing field in inspection, we need to ensure that it is followed up with equal rigour in both sectors. If any provider of post-16 education fails to provide the standards which students deserve, it must make the necessary improvements without delay, or face the possible consequences. The Bill secures exactly that for further education colleges, in respect of which the LSC and CETW will have significant powers to intervene where necessary. The councils must have parallel powers in respect of inadequate sixth forms.

Schools providing high-quality education for their sixth formers have nothing to fear from the proposals in Schedule 7, under which the LSC and CETW would have powers to propose the closure of inadequate sixth forms. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, that that is defined in Schedule 7—after two successive reports to that effect.

These powers are part of our strategy for ensuring high quality throughout post-16 learning, as was outlined in the White Paper. They are consistent with the principle that intervention should be in inverse proportion to success. Where any provider fails to meet the necessary standards of quality, firm action will be needed. In the first instance, it will be for providers to take that action, so as to secure the necessary improvements within a reasonable time. In the case of schools, that action will involve the governing body and the LEA. But where their response is inadequate, we shall look to the LSC and CETW to propose remedial action.

I must stress that the powers in relation to school sixth forms are a fallback to operate where the local education authority and the school governors have not managed to sort out persistent failure. I am confident that in most cases they will do so, as they currently do under the arrangements that this Government have developed for schools in special measures and introduced for schools with serious weaknesses. Those arrangements are working well: during 1999, the number of schools in special measures fell, as did the average length of time that schools spent before coming out of special measures. We expect similar success in turning round inadequate sixth forms, thus ensuring that all students get a fair deal. Inspection reports will be clearer about inadequacy in sixth forms, and so the school and local authority will have a more focused agenda for action than has been the case up to now. Improvements must be secured quickly.

But we have to recognise the possibility that, in a particular case, for whatever reason, the governing body and LEA may not succeed. The powers to which Clause 98 and Schedule 7 give effect are powers of last resort in those circumstances. In that respect, they are consistent with the Secretary of State's and the National Assembly's existing power to direct the closure of a school in special measures.

No school should allow standards in its sixth form to fall to a level which results in an adverse inspection report. But, if that happens, the school will have the opportunity (with support from the LEA and, if appropriate, the diocesan body) to make the necessary improvements, as will be secured by government amendments that we shall discuss later.

Only where a second consecutive adverse inspection report is made about a sixth form will the LSC's or CETW's powers to propose closure be triggered. We shall ensure that schools and LEAs have a reasonable time to make the necessary improvements before re-inspection. I hope that that is helpful to Members of the Committee who have taken part in this short debate. That will generally be around two years, as it is for schools with serious weaknesses. If schools have failed after that time to do what is needed to provide their students with the standard of education that they need and deserve, the situation cannot be allowed to continue.

The powers which are then triggered are not of summary closure. The power is for the LSC to publish proposals which will be subject to the usual statutory decision-making process by the school organisation committee and the schools adjudicator. Proposals published by the CETW will be subject to the usual procedure for approval by the National Assembly. That means that the LSC and CETW would need to consult widely before deciding to publish proposals; that there would be an opportunity for objections to be made; and that the decision-makers would consider all the relevant arguments and evidence before deciding whether to approve the proposals. The school organisation committee contains all the main partners in the provision of school education, including post-16 education—LEA, diocesan authorities, governing body representatives and, in the future, the LSC.

So I do not accept the noble Baroness's suggestion that school sixth forms must be directly represented on the local LSCs. If the committee fails to agree on a proposal, the final decision is made by the adjudicator, who will be looking to ensure that local needs and wishes are given full weight, alongside quality judgments. The parallel arrangements in Wales provide equal safeguards before the National Assembly could make a decision.

These provisions are not a threat to sixth forms in general, or to small sixth forms in particular. I want to give the noble Baroness that reassurance. She mentioned rural sixth forms and was supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. But there is no wish in any way to be punitive about arrangements such as a doubling-up of teaching to first-year and second-year sixth forms in rural schools. Indeed, the Government would certainly want to encourage that kind of initiative and are saying that that might happen in some other schools in urban areas where groups are very small in minority subjects. So that is the last thing that we should want to do.

The issue is this: if students are achieving the standards of which they are capable, there should be no question of Ofsted deeming a sixth form to be failing or seriously weak for such reasons, or even for value-for-money considerations, which may have been behind the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock.

These judgments can be triggered only where students are achieving significantly below comparable standards elsewhere. In such cases, we should be doing the students no favours by protecting such provision. These arrangements are not in any way about limiting choice between what are equally good alternatives, but are part of a crusade for high quality across the 16 to 19 spectrum, for which I would have hoped and expected enthusiastic support from Members of the Committee all around the Chamber.

Regrettably, not all sixth forms are of high quality. A-level students at about 10 per cent of maintained schools achieve an average points score of less than 10 compared with 19.3 in school sixth forms overall. The students who attend that minority of sixth forms are not getting the opportunity that they deserve at a key moment in their education and, as a result, their ability to move on to further study or employment may well be seriously compromised.

The provisions in the Bill which allow proposals to be brought forward in the case of persistent failure are already surrounded by the safeguards that I have mentioned. They ensure that schools have a real chance to make improvements before any new intervention powers apply, and that proposals which are made by the LSC or CETW are subject to full and open decision-making processes of the kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred. But the need to safeguard the interests of schools must be balanced against the need to safeguard the interests of students by ensuring that all 16 to 19 education is of high quality. Paragraphs 1 to 5 of Schedule 7 are needed to provide the same safeguard for students in sixth forms as those in other types of post-16 provision.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about the formula for the distribution of funds to sixth forms. We are consulting on the technical details. We shall consult schools, LEAs and others on exactly how the funding process will operate. The National Association of Head Teachers is among those to be consulted. Indeed, the association has already been consulted on earlier stages of the whole process and welcomes the suggestion that the LSC should be involved in distributing funds to sixth forms.

It is not the case that the Bill allows the LSC to determine how much money individual sixth forms may receive. That will be a matter for the LEA. The LSC will not fund individual schools directly. We shall provide funds to the LEAs and are working with them to determine over the coming months the most sensible way to distribute funding from the authorities to the sixth forms.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, questioned whether Ofsted was the right organisation to do the job and asked a variety of questions about its performance. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector has direct responsibility under legislation for managing a high quality inspection system and answers to the Select Committees of Parliament for that function. I have confidence in Ofsted. There is wide agreement that so far the process has had a significant impact on standards. Ofsted and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector are committed to continuing improvement in quality, and I am sure that they would be interested in any suggestions by the noble Lord about further research that might be done to evaluate and monitor performance.

I hope that I have managed to respond to all the issues that have been raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and I do not always agree, but I think that she shares with me a passion for maintaining and improving standards in sixth forms. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Baroness. The Minister's answer was disappointing. The noble Baroness began by referring to the increased funding that had gone into schools. That is simply not true. The £3.3 billion this year and the £3 billion-odd in the following two years is subject to unprecedented deductions at national level. Not all of that money finds its way into schools. As a result of the way in which money is allocated by the department, the core funding for schools is simply not getting down to the classrooms. Governing bodies up and down the land, including my own local authority, are bemused as to where this large amount of extra money is in the system. To take just one case, the need to meet this year's teacher pay awards causes great angst among many local education authorities. The schools are very concerned that even if, as the Secretary of State suggests, the money that is deemed to be passported down reaches the schools, the money takes no account of those LEAs which are spending at, above or even below their SSAs. Therefore, schools will be at the receiving end of budgets that leave staffing provision wanting, and that impacts on their ability to sustain sixth form education.

I turn to the point that the noble Baroness made about the need to avoid different standards for different sectors across sixth-form provision. There are different standards between sectors. While no one wants a different standard of education, everyone wants standards of educational quality to be raised. The truth is that the sectors are different one from the other. As for schools, rural schools are very different from urban ones. It will be necessary to look differently at rural schools and to take different views about what does and does not constitute a weakness in terms of numbers. It is also important to make a distinction between judgments that are made purely on the criterion of value for money as opposed to educational quality. For example, can we have an assurance that if value for money is the criterion it will never stand alone or aside from the importance of the quality of education? If whoever makes the judgment is of the view that a sixth form is simply uneconomic, however well it is doing, and that comparable education can be provided at a sixth form centre or FE college, that will be justifiable grounds for closing it. Schedule 7 does not properly define "inadequate" or "weakness". Those matters are left to the subjective judgment of those who decide. What is the interpretation of "inadequate" and/or "weakness"?

The noble Baroness was confident that it would be all right on the night. My amendment is not about that but about having something firm in statute: either to leave the inspection arrangements and the procedures for closing inadequate schools as they are or to give greater force to some of the assurances to which the Minister has referred.

Parents choose sixth forms of their own volition. Their daughters and sons are beyond compulsory school age. Their choice needs to be given some credence in terms of whether they believe the school is performing well. The noble Baroness also said that reasonable time would be given, and the Minister even referred to the possibility of a two-year period. There is nothing in the Bill which says that. If schools are to be given that opportunity, why not spell out the procedure for that and provide a timescale which allows a sixth form to address some of the critical comments in a report?

As for my next point, I anticipate some glimmer of support from Members of the Committee on the Liberal Democrat Benches. We have never supported organisational committees and the power of the adjudicator. They second guess local authorities and do the dirty work for the Secretary of State so that he has clean hands in relation to any decision to close a school and/or sixth form. I was given assurances by the Minister in writing that organisational committees would not be able to remove a sixth form from a school, but there is now a mechanism in the Bill which allows that to happen. We were told that that would not be the case.

The Minister also said that sixth forms should be represented on the organisation committees. That is not necessarily so. There will be heads of schools on the organisation committees; schools will be represented. No provision states that schools for 11 to 16 and 11 to 18 year-olds must be represented. Sixth forms in schools are not there as an entity in themselves. Nothing in the School Standards and Framework Act states that.

Further education is represented. As we all know, the FE element has looked hungrily for a long time at school sixth forms. It is always possible that it comes with a pre-conceived view that if there were no sixth forms in an area it would benefit as a result and would, therefore, have a vested interest in taking a negative view about the future existence of a sixth form.

Will some of the assurances given in good faith by the Minister be forthcoming in amendments to the Bill from the Government to assuage some of the concerns held by those of us concerned about the future of sixth forms as part of the tapestry of post-16 education?

Money will be top sliced at national level, fed through the national skills council, cascaded down through the local schools councils, given to the LEAs, and then to the schools. First, there is real concern about that administratively circuitous route. Secondly, we are legislating for change, and the detail comes later. Once we have legislated, it is a matter of how the system will work rather than whether the schools will take a different view of the system when they know the formula. The schools and the National Association of Head Teachers are in a difficulty. Until they know what will happen, they have given a temporary welcome to the changes with provisos. Those provisos cannot be delivered while the Bill is going through Parliament.

Finally, the Minister referred to funding being a matter for the LEA. That may be so, but it is dependent on the quantum of money that comes down from the Secretary of State through the local councils and then to the LEAs. As I understand the funding document, it will be money for post-16 provision in an LEA area; there will be other calls on that money apart from funding the sixth forms. So if the quantum of money is not sufficient—it may be required for other forms of post-16 education—there will not be enough money for the LEA to do what it determines and would like at local level. There is a practical issue. As always, the aspirational comments are fine. However, in practice the delivery of the service is a very different matter.

4 p.m.

Lord Lucas

Perhaps I may reply briefly to the Minister's comments on my arguments.

The chief inspector has long been aware of the arguments I have put forward and has long ignored them. I believe that a Government who, much to their credit, have introduced more emphasis on evidence-based medicine should do the same for schooling. We have a system for assessing schools which is essentially unchecked and not evaluated. It would not take much to evaluate what Ofsted is doing. We are basing some serious decisions on the future of schools, teachers, and so on, on the judgments of Ofsted. They should be independently and properly evaluated. It is an argument which elsewhere has been accepted by the Government and acted upon. I hope that the Government will take it up as regards education.

Baroness Blackstone

Perhaps I may respond to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. It is open to him to try again with Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. I suggest that he does so. He is, of course, independent and I am sure he would be interested in any suggestions the noble Lord might like to put to him.

Perhaps I may return to some of the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I do not want to rehearse all the arguments about funding for schools. We are now dealing with a specific amendment about the way in which we ensure high quality education in sixth forms. However, I should like to reiterate what I thought I had stated fairly clearly in answer to the noble Baroness's first speech in the debate. What the Government are doing here in no way hits institutions which are small and, by comparison with very large sixth forms, have high unit costs. The judgment we make is entirely about the quality of provision. That is what we expect Ofsted to do. It is not about its cost. I can give the noble Baroness that reassurance.

The noble Baroness referred to the formula and suggested that there may be concerns about the money going down to LEAs from the LSCs. We have had a wide welcome for this change from many of the parties involved. I accept that there are more details, at the very detailed level, to be gone through. I have already said that we are consulting on that. That is common in legislation of this kind.

I do not feel that I can offer to take this issue away. The provision on the face of the Bill is perfectly adequate. I have explained the matter at some length and responded, I think, to all the noble Baroness's questions. Therefore, I hope that she will not press the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I take it that the answer is "no" to bringing forward any more amendments to give force to some of the assurances the Minister gave.

I accept, as I believe I said, that the funding system has been welcomed. But there are provisos, and they relate specifically to the detailed work after the Bill receives Royal Assent. That gives no assurances to those who have these concerns.

I must have one more question answered before deciding what to do with the amendment. The noble Baroness said that there was no question of cost being an issue. Because it is so stated in the Bill, can I take it that cost effectiveness and value for money will not be considerations when making judgments about provision for sixth forms?

Baroness Blackstone

I said that the judgment that a sixth form is inadequate will in every case be made by Ofsted's independent inspectors; and that the judgment will be about quality of provision and not its cost. I am sure that, when looking at quality of provision, the chief inspector will have to take into account whether money is being misspent, whether there is a total failure to make provision in a sensible way and using resources properly. In that sense, of course value for money is part of it. But I want to reiterate that small sixth forms, especially in rural areas, which of course will have somewhat higher costs than larger sixth forms' unit costs, will not be punished because they have higher costs.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful for that answer. I am not talking only about small sixth forms in rural areas. The sixth forms may have small subject areas either because of the number of takers for a subject or because a minority subject is provided by a school. It is the subjectivity of the people making the judgments on cost. Unit costs could be high as a result of teaching a minority subject or small numbers of people taking a subject.

I am not satisfied with the answer. I wish to take the opinion of the Committee

4.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 209) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79; Not-Contents, 114.

Division No. 1
Aldington, L. Dean of Harptree, L.
Astor of Hever, L. Denham, L.
Attlee, E. Elles, B.
Belstead, L, Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Biffen, L. Elton, L.
Blaker, L. Flather, B.
Blatch, B. Fookes, B.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Bridgeman, V. Geddes, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Burnham, L.[Teller] Glentoran, L.
Buscombe, B. Gray of Contin, L.
Butterworth, L. Haslam, L.
Byford, B. Hayhoe, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Henley, L[Teller]
Cockfield, L. Holderness, L.
Colwyn, L. Hooper, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L. Howe, E.
Courtown, E. Hurd of Westwell, L.
Cranborne, V. Hylton, L.
Crickhowell, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B. Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laird, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Lucas, L. Porter of Luddenham, L.
Lyell, L. Rees, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Rogan, L.
McConnell, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Seccombe, B.
Mackay of Drumadoon, L. Selborne, E.
Mancroft, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L. Swinfen, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Trefgarne, L.
Northesk, E. Trumpington, B.
Norton of Louth, L. Warnock, B.
O'Cathain, B. Wharton, B.
Onslow, E. Windlesham, L.
Palmer, L. Young, B.
Addington, L. Irvine of Lairg. L.(Lord
Ahmed, L. Chancellor)
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Janner of Braunstone, L.
Alli, L. Jay of Paddington, B.(Lord
Amos, B. Privy Seal)
Ampthill, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Judd, L.
Ashley of Stoke, L. Laming, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B. Lea of Crondall, L.
Bach, L. Levy, L.
Barker, B. Lovell-Davis, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Blackstone, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Borrie, L. [Teller]
Bradshaw, L. McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Brett, L. MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L. Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Brookman, L. Mallalieu, B.
Bruce of Donington, L. Massey of Darwen, B.
Burlison, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Carter, L.[Teller] Molloy, L.
Christopher, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L. Paul, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Peston, L.
Clement-Jones, L. Pitkeathley, B.
Clinton-Davis, L. Plant of Highfield, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Prys-Davies, L.
David, B. Puttnam, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Desai, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Dholakia, L. Rea, L.
Donoughue, L. Rendell of Babergh, B.
Dormand of Easington, L. Richard, L.
Dubs, L. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Elder, L. Rogers of Riverside, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B. Scotland of Asthal, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L. Serota, B.
Filkin, L. Sewel, L.
Gale, B. Sharp of Guildford, B.
Gavron, L. Shore of Stepney, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L. Simon, V.
Goldsmith, L. Smith of Clifton, L.
Goodhart, L. Stallard, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Stone of Blackheath, L.
Hardy of Wath, L. Strabolgi, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Harrison, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Haskel, L. Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Hayman, B. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Healey, L. Tope, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Tordoff, L.
Howells of St Davids, B. Turner of Camden, B.
Howie of Troon, L. Uddin, B.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Walker of Doncaster, L.
Watson of Richmond, L. Wilkins, B.
Whitaker, B. Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Whitty, L. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.18 p.m.

Clause 98 agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Inadequate Sixth Forms]:

[Amendment No. 210 not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 210A: Page 69, line 33, leave out ("5") and insert ("5B").

The noble Lord said: A number of other amendments are grouped with this amendment. On behalf of my noble friend Lady Blackstone, I shall deal with them in two sets. The first, which amends part I of Schedule 7 and Schedule 8, relates to inspection and reporting arrangements. The second set, consisting of Amendments Nos. 211 and 212, amends Part III of Schedule 7. It relates to the decision-making process on statutory proposals to close an inadequate sixth form or to discontinue an inadequate 16 to 19 institution.

The significant amendments in the inspection and reporting set are Nos. 210F and 210L which will put in place the necessary legal underpinning for the actions to be taken following an adverse inspection report about a school sixth form or LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institution.

These actions come into two categories. First, there are provisions for inspection reports to be made and copies to be sent to those who have an interest, including parents of pupils at the school or institution concerned, and made available to the wider community. Amendment No. 210F provides for the same requirements to apply where there is a report that a school has an adequate sixth form as are already in place for school inspection reports. Amendment No. 210L similarly provides for the same requirements to apply where a report on an LEA-maintained institution states that it has serious weaknesses as are already in place for reports which state that a school requires special measures. These include procedures, where an adverse judgment is made in a contracted-out inspection, for the chief inspector to decide whether an adverse report is indeed appropriate.

Secondly, there are the procedures which governing bodies and LEAs will be required to follow in the light of the adverse report, which will form the basis of their efforts to restore the sixth form or 16 to 19 institution to health. The governing body will draw up and publish an action plan and the LEA will prepare a parallel statement of the action which it will take to support the school.

Amendment No. 249B provides that a report on an LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institution as part of an area inspection can trigger the powers of LEAs to intervene in schools causing concern, and so provides consistency with other types of inspection. The amendment will also secure that, if such an institution previously had an adverse report, a subsequent report as part of an area inspection which states that the school is no longer causing concern will mean that LEA powers to intervene are no longer triggered.

All of these provisions will ensure that procedures for dealing with inadequate 16 to 19 provision in schools and LEA-maintained institutions will follow very closely those which have resulted in a higher success rate in turning round schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses. These procedures are explained in the department's circular No. 6/99. We intend to issue similar guidance about inadequate 16 to 19 provision, which will also cover matters for which no statutory provisions are required; for instance, the monitoring of schools' progress by Ofsted's inspectors.

Of the other amendments in the group, I would mention only Amendment No. 249A, which provides for the LSC/CETW to receive copies of all inspection reports for schools with sixth forms and LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institutions, not only adverse reports. The remaining amendments are technical or consequential.

I turn briefly to the second group of government amendments, Nos. 211 and 212. They correct a technical omission in Schedule 7 in relation to the decision-making process on proposals by the LSC to close a sixth form or discontinue a 16 to 19 institution maintained by a local education authority. The amendments thereby bring Schedule 7 into line with the equivalent provisions in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. That Act provides for proposals for change in school organisation made by LEAs and school governing bodies in England to be considered by local school organisation committees, with referral to the schools adjudicator in certain circumstances.

There are four sets of circumstances in which the school organisation committee must make referrals to the adjudicator under the 1998 Act: first, where the committee has voted on school organisation proposals, but has been unable to reach a decision; secondly, where the committee has not voted on the proposals by the end of the period set out in regulations and the person who published the proposals requests referral.

The third and fourth sets of circumstances apply to the committee's consideration of changes to proposals already approved; for example, to modify the date of implementation or to remove the duty to implement the proposals. These cases are similarly referred to the adjudicator where the committee has not been able to reach a decision or where it has taken no action within a specified time.

The amendments secure that all these circumstances are fully applied to the consideration of proposals made by the LSC under the Bill. Regulations will be made to match those applying to the consideration of LEA and governing body proposals under the 1998 Act. We shall, for example, provide by regulations made under Schedule 4 to the 1998 Act that, in voting on LSC proposals and any subsequent changes, the members within each group on the school organisation committee will collectively have a single vote and that the voting must be unanimous for a decision to be reached.

I am sorry that I have taken so long in explaining the purposes of these government amendments. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

It will come as no surprise that we do not agree with the whole process of organisation committees and adjudicators. It is almost a contradiction. Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that standards are maintained in their schools, yet another body which is divorced from them and on which they have only partial representation will make the recommendations and the decision. That will then go to an all-powerful, single person.

We have already seen the quality of the judgments made by adjudicators who have not performed well. They have cost the taxpayers considerable sums of money when they have acted beyond their remit. I therefore have grave reservations about the proposals, but I should like the Minister to answer one or two questions.

First, what period do the Government have in mind beyond which a decision will automatically be taken from the organisation committee and referred to the adjudicator? Secondly, will the Minister be kind enough to repeat the fourth criterion for reference to an adjudicator?

Lord Bach

As regards the noble Baroness's second question, the third and fourth sets of circumstances apply to the committee's consideration of changes to proposals already approved; for example, to modify the date of implementation or to remove the duty to implement the proposals. These cases are similarly referred to the adjudicator where the committee has not been able to reach a decision or where it has taken no action within a specified time.

In reply to the noble Baroness's first question, the period is likely to be about two months.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may come back on both of those points. I thought that the period of time was the third criterion. I had not realised that it was also the fourth and that the Minister had read them out as being separate.

Given the length of time that previously the Secretary of State has taken to make decisions, we know that they can be complicated and extremely complex when more than one school in an area is being reorganised. Two months is a short time in which to make a decision. The proposition appears to be totally inflexible; it appears to be two months unless the Secretary of State determines otherwise. As regards the third and fourth criteria, if the organisation committee cannot reach a decision it can refer the matter to the adjudicator. Must that also be a unanimous decision?

Lord Bach

I shall be frank with the noble Baroness and say that I cannot answer that question now, but I promise to write to her with an answer. If one is forthcoming, I shall give it to her in order to save the stamp!

I repeat that the fourth set of circumstances is where the committee votes but is not unanimous. However, that is not a complete answer to the noble Baroness's question. So, I shall pay the price of a stamp and write to her with the correct answer.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the noble Lord. It will be most helpful to have a full answer. There appears to be a first, second and third set of criteria, but no fourth. Some clarification and confirmation on the other questions I have put to the noble Lord would be very helpful.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 210B, 210C and 210D: Page 70, line 9, leave out ("in the same way as") and insert ("for all purposes of this Schedule and the School Inspections Act 1996 as if it were"). Page 70, line 10, leave out ("the School Inspections Act 1996") and insert ("that Act"). Page 70, line 17, leave out ("or a report under paragraph 3 of this Schedule").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 210E: Page 70, line 26, at end insert— ("(3) Sub-paragraph (2)(b) above shall not apply where a report is made within six months of the previous report.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 210E, I should like to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 210M. We welcome the Minister's assurance that the proposals put forward for Schedule 7 will not target small sixth forms, in particular those in rural areas. We accept that high standards are necessary and that it is usual for Ofsted to make such inspections.

However, we have reservations about the details of Schedule 7 and have thus tabled a series of amendments. Amendment No. 210E refers to sub-paragraph (2)(b) to ensure that it, shall not apply where a report is made within six months of the previous report". This aims to ensure that, if a second inspection report becomes a trigger for the publication of proposals to close a sixth form, it should not be made within six months of the previous report, thereby giving the school sixth form a reasonable period of time in which to make rapid improvements and turn itself around.

Amendment No. 210M removes the provision to allow an inspection report made before the Act is passed to be counted for the purposes of allowing publication of a proposal to close down a school sixth form or sixth-form centre. The amendment would ensure that the mechanisms of the Bill come into play only once the Bill becomes an Act, and not before. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I rise to support the noble Baroness. We have already touched on the issue of the period between inspections. I believe that there is a strong argument for the period to be longer than six months and I gather from the Minister that it is likely to be so. However, I agree with the noble Baroness that a form of words giving effect to that should be put on the face of the Bill.

I support absolutely the removal of retrospection. It is a bad thing in principle, and I certainly support Amendment No. 210M.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for her support for the necessity to maintain high standards in this area.

First, on Amendment No. 210E, the Government's policy is that where post-16 learning provision is not of the quality expected, the provider will be given a reasonable amount of time to make the necessary improvements. Only where adequate progress is not made by the end of the period would we look to the LSC or the CETW to propose remedial action. In the case of inadequate sixth forms, we intend that the time to be allowed for a school to make the necessary improvements will generally be around two years. However, we want to have the necessary flexibility to deal appropriately with each case. I am sure that the noble Baroness will accept that a little flexibility here is desirable.

At the end of the period, the sixth-form provision will be reinspected and an adverse report from that second inspection would, as noble Lords know, trigger the LSC and the CETW's powers to propose closure. I understand the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness that this power should not be triggered by a reinspection after an unreasonably short interval. Together with the National Assembly, we shall certainly be guarding against that risk when we agree with the respective schools inspectorates the detailed arrangements for reinspecting inadequate sixth forms. I can reassure the noble Baroness that no sixth form will be placed in jeopardy by a premature reinspection; namely, before it has had a real opportunity to make the improvements needed after an adverse inspection report. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Perhaps I may now turn to the second amendment in this grouping, Amendment No. 210M. The inclusion of paragraph 11 in Schedule 7 again reflects our commitment to high quality in post-16 education and the need for any necessary improvements to be made quickly. After all, students have only two years in a sixth form. Those are two extremely important years in terms of their futures. Where a school or LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institution has had an adverse report, action needs to be taken straightaway. That is no less true where an adverse report is made before this Bill is passed and the schedule comes into effect.

If the second inspection report finds that students continue to be short-changed because the necessary improvements have not been made, we would not want the LSC or the CETW to be prevented from proposing remedial action until there had been a third adverse report. Under current inspection arrangements, the school as a whole may be deemed to require special measures because it is failing to provide its pupils with an adequate standard of education. A school supported by an LEA must take action to tackle the problems. If a school sorts out a number of problems but fails to address the inadequacy of the sixth form, a further report under the arrangements now planned may state that that sixth form is still failing. In such circumstances, the provisions now under debate would allow the LSC to take action.

I recognise that the amendment is intended to provide a safeguard for schools. However, we have already written into the provisions a number of safeguards: at least two adverse reports, statutory processes and so forth. Paragraph 11 of Schedule 7 provides a safeguard for students against low standards, which is the other side of the coin. We believe that the need to ensure high quality should take priority in this case. I very much hope that the noble Baroness will share this view and that she will feel able not to move this amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her reply and for putting on the record her assurances in relation to the first amendment in the group.

As regards the second amendment, I am somewhat less happy. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has already said, retrospective legislation is not satisfactory. We shall not press the amendment today, but we may wish to return to this matter on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendments Nos. 210F, 210G, 210H, 210J, 210K and 210L: Page 70, line 37, at end insert— ("5A.—(1) This paragraph applies to a report of an inspection under Part I of the School Inspections Act 1996 which—

  1. (a) states an opinion that a school has an inadequate sixth-form, and
  2. (b) is made by a member of the Inspectorate or states that the Chief Inspector agrees with the opinion mentioned in paragraph (a).
(2) The person making a report to which this paragraph applies shall send a copy (together with a copy of the summary, if there is one)—
  1. (a) to the Secretary of State or, in the case of a school in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales, and
  2. (b) if the person making the report is a member of the Inspectorate, to the appropriate authority for the school.
(3) The following provisions of the School Inspections Act 1996 shall apply (with the necessary modifications) in relation to a report to which this paragraph applies—
  1. (a) section 16(3) (additional copies);
  2. (b) section 16(4) (publication by appropriate authority);
  3. (c) section 17 (action plan by appropriate authority);
  4. (d) where the local education authority receives a copy of a report about a school the governing body of which have a delegated budget, section 18(2) and (3) (measures by local education authority).
(4) In the application of those provisions—
  1. (a) a reference to a report and summary shall be taken as a reference to a report and, if there is one, its summary, and
  2. (b) a reference to a summary alone shall be taken, in a case where there is no summary, as a reference to the report.
5B. Section 13(2) to (7) of the School Inspections Act 1996 (inspections by registered inspectors) shall apply, with the necessary modifications, where the inspector is of the opinion that a school has an inadequate sixth-form as it applies where he is of the opinion that special measures are required to be taken in relation to a school.''). Page 70, line 39, leave out ("10") and insert (10B"). Page 71, line 12, leave out ( "in the same way as") and insert ("for all purposes of this Schedule and the School Inspections Act 1996 as if it were"). Page 71, line 13, leave out ("the School Inspections Act 1996") and insert ("that Act "). Page 71, line 20, leave out ("or a report under paragraph 8 of this Schedule"). Page 71, line 40, at end insert—

("10A.—(1) This paragraph applies to a report of an inspection under Part I the School Inspections Act 1996 which—

  1. (a) states an opinion that a school has significant weaknesses in one or more areas of its activities, and
  2. b) is made by a member of the Inspectorate or states that the Chief Inspector agrees with the opinion mentioned in paragraph (a).
(2) The person making a report to which this paragraph applies shall send a copy (together with a copy of the summary, if there is one)—
  1. (a) to the Secretary of State or, in the case of a school in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales, and
  2. (b) if the person making the report is a member of the Inspectorate, to the appropriate authority for the school.
(3) The following provisions of the School Inspections Act 1996 shall apply (with the necessary modifications) in relation to a report to which this paragraph applies—
  1. (a) section 16(3) (additional copies);
  2. (b) section 16(4) (publication by appropriate authority);
  3. (c) section 17 (action plan by appropriate authority);
  4. (d) where the local education authority receives a copy of a report about a school the governing body of which have a delegated budget, section 18(2) and (3) (measures by local education authority).
(4) In the application of those provisions—
  1. (a) a reference to a report and summary shall be taken as a reference to a report and, if there is one, its summary, and
  2. (b) a reference to a summary alone shall be taken, in a case where there is no summary, as a reference to the report.
10B. Section 13(2) to (7) of the School Inspections Act 1996 (inspections by registered inspectors) shall apply, with the necessary modifications, where the inspector is of the opinion that a school has significant weaknesses in one or more areas of its activities as it applies where he is of the opinion that special measures are required to be taken in relation to a school.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 210M not moved.]

Baroness Sharp of Guilford moved Amendment No. 210N: Page 72, line 16, leave out ("such") and insert ("the governing body and head teacher of the school concerned and such other").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 210N, I should like to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 210P to 210V. Amendment No. 210N is the first of a further set of amendments relating to the details of Schedule 7, in particular to Part II of the schedule relating to proposals for the closure of sixth forms. Amendments Nos. 210N and 210P relate to England and require that the learning and skills council consults with the governing body and headteacher on any proposals to close a sixth form, including passing over a copy of the proposals. Amendments Nos. 210Q and 210R require the same procedures to be followed in relation to Wales.

Amendments Nos. 210S to 210V refer to sixth-form centres in England and Wales respectively. It is inconceivable that any sixth form would be closed down without wide consultation, especially with the headteacher and governors of the school. These amendments are essentially probing amendments to try to ensure that the provision is written on to the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

I want to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on picking up all the points where this raft of amendments has referred to keeping informed the governing body and the head teacher of individual schools. The Government have seen fit to name, yet again, the organisation committee and the LEA which maintain the school. However, the subject of such a proposal would be the individual institution; that is, the school and/or the sixth-form centre. Not only do I agree with the noble Baroness that it is inconceivable that they would not be informed, but I believe that it is important that they should be informed. Therefore, I believe that this provision should go on the face of the Bill and I support it.

Lord Bach

As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said in so briefly and accurately moving her amendments, their aim is to ensure that the governing bodies and head teachers of schools are kept fully informed about proposals made by the English and Welsh councils to close the sixth forms at their schools or, if they are 16 to 19 institutions, to discontinue them. Perhaps I may take the amendments together.

Amendments Nos. 210N, 210Q, 210S and 210U relate to the consultations which the LSC and the CETW are required to undertake before they publish proposals. The two councils are required to consult such persons as they consider appropriate, having regard to any guidance from the Secretary of State in England and the National Assembly for Wales. Exactly the same provisions appear in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 in relation to proposals for school organisation to be published by LEAs or governing bodies.

In England, the Secretary of State has set out in the department's Circular 9/99 his views on which interested parties should be consulted by proposers. The National Assembly for Wales has done likewise in its Circular 9/99. The noble Baroness will not be surprised to hear that the parties listed in those circulars include the school in question, any LEA and other schools, parents and teachers in the area who may be affected by the proposals. We intend that the Secretary of State and the National Assembly will also give guidance on consultations to the LSC and CETW in respect of post-16 proposals and, importantly, that the same interested parties will be specified.

The Government understand the concern of the noble Baroness that the school in question should be consulted. Of course, it is right that it should be. Indeed, if I may use her expression, it is inconceivable that the two councils would not judge it appropriate to consult the school which is the subject of their proposals. In the forthcoming guidance on the councils' proposals published under the Bill, we intend to recognise that, as we have done in the guidance on proposals published under the 1998 Act. Unless and until proper consultations had been conducted, we would not expect the decision-making bodies—the school organisation committee or schools adjudicator in England and, respectively, the National Assembly for Wales—to consider their proposals.

I clarify by adding that we would expect the head teacher to be subsumed within the word "school". Communications with schools under Schedule 7 would be with governing bodies. Head teachers have the right to be members of such bodies if they wish. In the great majority of maintained schools—some 90 per cent—head teachers are also governors.

I deal now with the four remaining amendments. Amendments Nos. 210P, 210R, 210T and 210V would require the LSC and CETW to send copies of the published proposals and information to be prescribed in regulations to the governing body and head teacher of the school concerned, as well as to the school organisation committee and the National Assembly for Wales. This will be factual information which the decision-making bodies will need for their decision-making role. We envisage that the content of the regulations to be made under Schedule 7 will be very similar to the content of regulations governing information that go to the school organisation committee and National Assembly on proposals to close sixth forms published under the 1998 Act. No doubt it will include details of present and forecast pupil numbers, examination performance and details of other 16 to 19 institutions in the area. Much of that information will be in the public domain and, indeed, some may have been directly provided to the councils concerned by the schools themselves.

Perhaps I may make it clear that none of the information is intended to be secret. It will be open to schools which are the subject of proposals to request a copy of the information. Those bodies—that is, the school organisation committee or, in Wales, the National Assembly—would be expected to release the information on request. We believe that that is a far better way to proceed than to place a requirement on the face of the Bill for the two councils to provide information automatically to schools.

We understand the concern of the noble Baroness to protect the interests of the schools concerned. However, we believe that there are other ways to achieve this end and that it is unnecessary to provide for those concerns through amendments to the Bill. In those circumstances and as this is a probing amendment, as the noble Baroness said, I respectfully expect her to withdraw the amendment.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for his full reply to these amendments. I am much heartened by the degree to which he has given assurances that the detailed guidance from the department, which will be incorporated in a circular similar to Circular 9/99, which relates to the School Standards and Framework Bill, will apply in a similar way in this case. These concerns have been raised by the National Association of Head Teachers. Clearly, it is concerned that there have been occasions when it has not been consulted as fully as it would have wished. We have tabled the amendments on behalf of that association. As I said, I thank the Minister for his reply, and I am glad to have it so fully on the record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 210P to 210V not moved.]

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 210W: Page 74. line 44, after ("issued") insert ("or assurances given").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 210W, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 210X and 212A. I believe that I am right in saying that the Minister has already replied to Amendment No. 210W, which relates to the issue of publications. I should like to place on record that this amendment would require a school organisation committee in England to have regard to assurances given by the Secretary of State on the future of school sixth forms.

Lord Bach

Perhaps the noble Baroness will give way. If I have replied to it, I have not meant to. I shall be ready to reply to it in a few minutes' time.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I believed that the Minister had already mentioned Amendment No. 210W. Again, this amendment concerns the issue of consultation. From these Benches, we have never been too happy with school organisation committees, but we accept that they now exist. However, it is extremely important that they take account of the assurances given by the Secretary of State on the future of school sixth forms.

Amendment No. 210X inserts a requirement that a school organisation committee in England consults the governing body and the head teacher of the school concerned or modifies proposals to close a sixth form prior to its implementation. Amendment No. 212A inserts a requirement that the National Assembly for Wales consults the governing body and the head teacher of the school concerned on any modified proposals put forward to close a sixth form. Therefore, these amendments are somewhat similar to those which I have just moved, which relate to ensuring that the governing body and head teacher are kept fully informed of what is happening. I beg to move.

Lord Bach

These are similar amendments and I shall reply as briefly as I can. However, I must deal with Amendment No. 210W. I want to remind the noble Baroness of the limited nature of the proposals which would be made by the LSC. They would be proposals to close an inadequate sixth form or to discontinue an inadequate 16 to 19 institution. As has been said by my noble friend, they would be made by the LSC only after the school had had reasonable time to secure improvements. It is only when a second consecutive adverse inspection report has been made that the council's powers to propose closure would be triggered. The period between the two reports generally would be about two years.

We believe that the fact that we are restricting the circumstances in which proposals can be brought forward by the LSC represents a substantial assurance to any school with inadequate 16 to 19 provision that it will be given a fair and reasonable opportunity to turn round its sixth-form provision.

The Secretary of State will be providing guidance to the school organisation committees and adjudicators on the factors they should take into account in considering proposals published by the LSC. It will be on broadly similar lines to that produced for the 1998 Act. The decision-makers must have regard to this guidance in considering the particular facts and circumstances of each case and all proposals must be considered on their individual merits.

We do not believe that it would be right for the Secretary of State to fetter the decision-making of the school organisation committee or adjudicator by providing blanket assurances that they should take into account in performing their statutory duty. The assurances that we are able to give today reflect the safeguards we have built into the provisions in Schedule 7. In other words, the school organisation committee or adjudicator will be involved in LSC proposals only as a genuine last resort.

The other amendments spoken to by the noble Baroness are Amendments Nos. 210X and 212A. When the school organisation committee or adjudicator in England or the National Assembly in Wales are minded to approve proposals but with modifications, they must consult such persons as may be prescribed. There are equivalent provisions under the 1998 Act. The regulations under that Act require the decision-makers to consult the body that made the proposals together with the LEA if the proposals come from a governing body or the governing body if the proposals are made by the LEA. Where the decision makers wish to make modifications to proposals to close, it must make sense for those most concerned with the proposals to be consulted.

Accordingly, we intend—and I am sure that this will give some satisfaction to the noble Baroness—that the regulations made under Schedule 7 should specify that the councils in England and Wales respectively should be consulted on modifications together with the LEA and the governing body of the school concerned. Usually, modifications to proposals to close or discontinue will be modifications to the implementation date of the proposals. We believe that these are important but are still procedural details that are best left to regulations. That is exactly how it was dealt with it in the 1998 Act.

I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness decides what to do about the amendment, does the noble Lord really think that this is a limited and modest power given to the committees to cause the closure of a sixth form of a school?

Lord Bach

It is clearly not a minor power. The important point is whether it is circumscribed. We believe that it is because of the reasons that I tried to outline in my reply to the noble Baroness's amendments.

Baroness Blatch

Circumscribed or not, it is a power to close the sixth form of a school.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for his full reply to this series of amendments and for his assurances on Amendment No. 210W. I do not think that we were wishing to fetter the power of the school organisation committees in any sense. It is extremely helpful to have on the record the very full explanation that the noble Lord has given. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 210X not moved.]

Lord Bach moved Amendments Nos. 211 and 212: Page 75, line 8, leave out sub-paragraph (5) and insert— ("( ) A committee shall refer proposals to the adjudicator if—

  1. (a) the committee votes on a decision in relation to the proposals,
  2. (b) the decision is required to be unanimous by regulations under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (school organisation committees), and
  3. (c) the result of the vote is not unanimous.
( ) A committee shall also refer proposals to the adjudicator if—
  1. (a) by the end of the prescribed period the committee has not determined what action to take in relation to the proposals, and
  2. (b) the Council requests that the proposals be referred to the adjudicator.").
Page 75, line 39, at end insert— ("( ) A committee shall also refer to the adjudicator a question of a kind referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(a) or (b) if—
  1. (a) the committee votes on the question,
  2. (b) the decision is required to be unanimous by regulations under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (school organisation committees), and
  3. (c) the result of the vote is not unanimous.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 212A not moved.]

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 99 [Provision of services]:

[Amendment No. 213 not moved]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No 214: 43, line 38, leave out ("may") and insert ("must").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 214, I shall speak also to Amendment No 217. I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will speak to Amendment No 214A.

This clause refers to 13 to 19 year-olds and the procurement of services by the Secretary of State for that age group. Given that we are talking predominantly about young people to whom there is an obligation under the law to provide education, it seems to me that the word "may", which gives a degree of flexibility, should be replaced by the word "must". Alternatively, I should agree to the word "shall" and I would not go to the barricades for one or the other, provided that the matter is given serious consideration by the Government. The obligation under Clause 99 that the Secretary of State must or shall, provide or secure the provision of services which he thinks will encourage, enable or assist … effective participation by young persons in education and training", is a relatively modest amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Northbourne

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 214A. I shall not do so quite as succinctly as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has done.

On the first day in Committee I attempted to insert into the duties of the learning and skills council the obligation to support the kind of work we see identified in Clause 99 and the government's Connexions document. The noble Baroness was adamant that those duties—which include a provision for support, motivation and mentoring for all learners, but especially for those who have been alienated or excluded—should not be the responsibility of the learning and skills councils but would be adequately dealt with under Clauses 99 to 108.

We have come to Clause 99. Alas, we find that the Government propose only a permissive clause, one that would permit the Secretary of State to do these much needed things for young people aged 13 to 19. In my view, that is not quite good enough. There is serious concern in the minds of those who provide youth services that the Government's plan to achieve their admirable objectives under the Connexions programme is going to be achieved by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I recognise that democracy forces on governments the need to provide the maximum splash with the minimum cash, the maximum effect for the minimum pain to the Treasury. It seems to me that the Bill as drafted leaves it open to the Secretary of State to do as much or as little as he pleases, or, indeed, as the Treasury pleases, towards the objectives of Clause 99. Secondly, it leaves it open to him to resource what he does either by directing the existing public services to divert resources into this programme from some other activity or by encouraging them to withdraw financial support which at present is going to the voluntary sector unless the voluntary sector does what the Secretary of State wants in terms of the kind of young people who are targeted, and also the services provided.

Those currently providing youth services—that is, a diverse range of opportunities including youth clubs, information centres, outdoor adventure programmes, street-based work and so on—are anxious that they will now be forced to focus only on the socially excluded, mainly in terms of mentoring and the advisory service, and that this will effectively reduce or bring to an end their work with those who are not socially excluded. Yet they too are tomorrow's citizens and they, too, need the kind of personal development that the youth services offer if they are to grow to their full potential and play their part in their community in the future.

I cannot do better than quote from a letter from the chief executive of the National Youth Agency. He states: The Learning and Skills Bill is proposing to weaken further the already frail duties on local authorities to secure sufficient youth services. There is no evidence that the Learning and Skills Council is planning to step into the gap". We know that already. He goes on: With whom will the Connexions personal adviser connect if the diverse infrastructure of youth services—statutory and voluntary—is no longer in place? Individual guidance is a necessity but not sufficient condition for human development. And universal services—the Connexions goal—need serious money". Individual guidance is a necessity but not a sufficient condition for human development. Universal services—the Connexions goal—need serious money.

Either we need the Secretary of State to accept the duty—which the noble Baroness has suggested in her amendment or which I have suggested in my amendment—to provide services to all who need them or, at the very least, we need to know from the noble Baroness how much new money the Government are prepared to put into the Connexions programme; what their priorities are in terms of target groups and services; and what they propose to do about the non-priority groups.

5 p.m.

Lord Tope

My noble friend Lady Sharp and I have our names to Amendment No. 217, which is being debated here. It relates to Clause 99(2) which provides that if the Secretary of State is to make provision, either because the amendments under debate are passed or under the provisions as currently drafted, he "must" rather than "may" make arrangements with local authorities, direct local education authorities and so on.

The Bill as drafted states that he "may" which means also, of course, that he may not We feel that that is not adequate if this is to be done. I have considerable sympathy with the views expressed by both the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and at rather greater length but extremely eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. If the Secretary of State is to make such provision, that must be done through arrangement with local authorities and local education authorities. That is why we have tabled that amendment.

Lord Lucas

As we were sitting through the debate on social exclusion yesterday, my mind was drawn back to the arguments that I made on Schedule 3 and the requirement that it should be provided in statute that the learning and skills council has separate adult and young people's committees.

Here we are again looking at adult education being provided to young people. It was extremely clear from what was said yesterday that the most crucial advances to be made in making sure that adults who find themselves socially excluded can return to the mainstream and that young people do not fall into social exclusion are to do with making available what might ordinarily be called adult education to many young people and what might ordinarily be called young people's education to many adult learners.

That is something which this Government should consider again in the way they have set out in this Bill. They should provide more flexibility to the learning and skills council as to how it sets up its committees. Yes, they should impose on it the obligations to do the work which is required in the first three paragraphs of Schedule 3, but please may we not have the rigidity of structure which is imposed on them by those paragraphs because it surely must inhibit the proper cross-fertilisation of ideas which is necessary to relieve social exclusion in this country.

The Earl of Listowel

I wish to support Amendment No. 214A. When I have coached young people in a hospice in chess, I have seen how much they value the attention and how they delight in learning a new skill which helps them to develop themselves while they are in limbo, waiting for move-on accommodation. This amendment would ensure such opportunities for all. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbourne.

Lord Hylton

I can foresee that there may be serious difficulties if the Secretary of State directs under subsection (2) the provision of some services without acting also under subsection (3) to provide grants or other kinds of financial assistance. That may be particularly serious where a local authority is capped or it has reached the limit of its ability to raise money through council tax.

It seems to me that if the Secretary of State wants some provision made, he must also logically be in a position to make it possible.

Baroness Blackstone

As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said so eloquently earlier in the Committee, provision for learning is about more than making facilities available. It is also about providing support, encouragement and advice, about raising aspirations and expectations, about enabling people, especially young people, to exploit the facilities which are available and to maximise their potential.

The Connexions service is an ambitious, interdepartmental initiative designed to meet exactly those needs which the noble Lord identified. It has received widespread support across the range of public, private, voluntary and community organisations, as I believe the noble Lord is aware. Everyone is agreed about the benefits for young people and for society by collaborating to provide a comprehensive, integrated service for 13 to 19 year-olds to support them in effective learning throughout their teenage years.

The legislation does not attempt, and nor should it, to prescribe in detail how the service will operate because we want it to be developed bottom-up at local level. So Clauses 99 and 100 deliberately give scope for flexibility—I say that to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas— so that the new service can accommodate local needs and circumstances and can evolve over time to meet the changing needs of young people.

The Connexions policy document set out our vision and a framework of how we expect the new service to operate. It is not, and is not intended to be, a detailed prospectus.

We have been and are continuing to consult with a range of local partners about the detail of local delivery and are considering with them which delivery models work best. Clearly, if the service is to meet local needs, we shall not be expecting all delivery partners to fit their Connexions contributions into an inflexible and standardised blueprint. The detailed prospectus, which will be published in the late spring, will reflect that.

We shall also be piloting particular aspects of the service across the country with the first wave starting in April. That will enable us to learn from experience what works well on the ground. We and our partners will continue that evolutionary process as we phase in the service.

I turn now to Amendment No. 214. As I said, the service will build on existing services for young people provided by a wide range of statutory, private sector, voluntary and community bodies. Those include health authorities, local authority social services, youth offending teams, LEAs, the Careers Service, the Youth Service and so on.

A number of the services which will contribute are already the statutory responsibility of the Secretary of State at large. As I said, the Connexions service will build on and extend those services, and I hope that that provides reassurance for the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. It will be developed in a flexible manner in the light of experience.

A duty on the Secretary of State to provide those services would risk cutting across other related duties in respect of young people performed by the LSC, LEAs and other statutory bodies. The whole approach of our policy is to try to enable co-operation. Creating an overlap or, worse, a conflict of statutory duties in that area would only raise the spectre of disputes about responsibilities and muddle. Defining new services through a power is by far the most effective approach, enabling the Secretary of State, through the new service, to support and work alongside other agencies. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that the Secretary of State has every intention of exercising that power.

I turn to Amendment No. 217, which would make two changes. First, it would require rather than empower the Secretary of State to make arrangements with local authorities and other bodies in respect of the new service. As we have made clear in the policy document, we expect that local authorities will play a major role in the Connexions service. However, we do not intend, nor should we, to prescribe in statute the part that particular organisations will play in providing the service. That would be over-centralist and bureaucratic; something on which noble Lords have commented earlier in Committee.

We made clear that we want an outcome-driven service allowing local discretion over delivery. As we know from inspection reports, not all local authorities meet the high standards of the majority and not all afford the same priority to their youth services, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is fully aware.

It must remain open to local partners to test the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector delivery against delivery in other ways and to make local decisions about the provision of the Connexions service in the light of local circumstances.

The second change the amendment would make would be to require rather than empower the Secretary of State to direct local authorities. That duty would be clearly inconsistent with the parallel duty to make arrangements with the same bodies that he is also required to direct. That would also be inflexible and, as a number of local authorities have already noted and informed us, unacceptable to them. Clearly a duty to direct is inappropriate, whereas a power allows the Secretary of State to direct local authorities in those limited circumstances where services are, for some reason, inadequate or arrangements have broken down.

In the light of those explanations, I very much hope that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness will not press their amendments.

Lord Northbourne

Before the noble Baroness sits down, and to save me from delaying the Committee by moving my amendment in order to speak again to it, I wonder whether she would be prepared to undertake to write to me concerning the three questions I raised at the end of my peroration?

Baroness Blackstone


Baroness Blatch

I support the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, on this issue. I certainly agree with him. We were simply saying that if there is an obligation on the Secretary of State it should not be one that he may or may not use but one that he must use. I am sorry that even given the fulsome explanation we have had from the Minister, we are still not reassured that there would be an absolute obligation. That is unfortunate.

I shall not press the amendment. However, I shall use the next amendments to give some views on the new arrangements to be made under the Connexions document. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 214A and 215 not moved.]

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 216: Page 43, line 40, at end insert ("appropriate to their needs").

The noble Baroness said: It is important to note that the Bill does not contain much specific reference to Connexions or to the arrangements that will impact greatly on the younger age group. That is unfortunate because it leaves an informal debate to be had outside. All the groups to whom I have spoken in preparing for the Bill are desperately anxious to know how it will work in practice.

There is a huge welcome for the aspirations and ambitions of the Government and the care which they have shown in making more coherent and effective provision for this age group. However, many questions are left begging about how it will work on the ground. Having read through the document, I still find it difficult to understand how all the networks will operate. How will the service be delivered? What will be the responsibilities for the various bodies at community level? How will the Connexions partnerships and the local management committees work in practice? How will the link with the Benefits Agency work?

A personal adviser is to be appointed to each young person irrespective of their needs. As we understand it, that will apply to all young people in the age group. What will be the specific remit of 20,000 new mentors? What will be their areas of operation? It is important to have definition if we are to avoid confusion.

I refer to the transfer of data on young people. The Data Protection Act applies in this area. Therefore, if the Benefits Agency and the other agencies are working together, information about individuals will pass from one to the other. It would be helpful to know how that will work and what legal protection there will be, both for the individual and for the people providing the information.

There is also anxiety on the part of the voluntary sector. The careers management group recognises the importance of the voluntary sector, as, indeed, we all do. However, it is concerned about quality control and how that will be achieved, especially as regards recruitment and training. There is also the question of the protection and safety of both volunteers and the young people concerned. Is it likely that the careers management group will be represented on the working group which we understand will be charged with developing the detailed specification of the new service? Again, a particular difficulty is that of not knowing the details of the new service at the stage when the legislation is being passed.

As always, resources continue to be an issue. It would be helpful to know what cash is available for the new arrangement. We understand that about £450 million is in the system at present. We also understand that an extra £750 million will be needed to make sense of and give proper force to the arrangements. There will, therefore, be a shortfall of around £300 million. If the Government disagree with that estimate, it would be helpful to know their own estimate of the cost of the provisions when up and running, as well as the set-up costs. Perhaps they could give some indication of the source of the new money which will be needed.

Another concern is that some existing careers companies will survive under the new arrangements, despite having already received a letter from the DfEE saying that they must prepare to wind up or close down. How will their existing areas, which are dotted all over the country, fit in with the new support service areas?

I have mentioned the mentors. How on earth, from a standing start, will 20,000 mentors be recruited, accommodated, serviced, trained and made operational in just three years? Who are these people? What is their source? What kind of people are likely to be recruited? Will they be additional to careers advisers or is the intention to transform careers advisers into mentors? If that is the case, what part of their service will be sacrificed as a result? Who, for example, will be the employer, and to whom will they be accountable? Where will they be accommodated? What will be their modus operandi?

Will all local services for youth be able to draw down cheques on the youth service bank account? I include the hard-pressed social services, who will already be subject to a raft of changes as a result of the shocking report on child abuse in Wales.

I return to the voluntary youth service, whose record of meeting the diverse needs of young people is considerable. The, service is flexible. It targets and focuses its work on young people. It works particularly effectively with young people at risk, vulnerable or excluded for one reason or another. I believe that in many instances the voluntary sector works more effectively than official provision. That is not a criticism of official provision. Very often, young people in these categories have an aversion to officialdom. The voluntary sector effectively bridges that gap.

In addition, the voluntary sector provides a rich tapestry of provision through many organisations. I refer, for example, to the army, navy and air cadets; church youth organisations; brownies; guides; and music, theatre and sports groups. One could list an enormous number of organisations who make a considerable contribution to the country as a whole.

The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services is particularly anxious to know how the practical arrangements will work and what the funding streams will be. Can an assurance be given that the present level of voluntary services to young people will not only be sustained, but that scope for increased capacity will be allowed for, both in terms of funding and as an integral part of the new arrangements? It is still not clear who will be making the decisions given that there is central control housed in the DfEE. It would be helpful to have some light thrown on this detail which is very important as we discuss this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Northbourne

In the context of what the noble Baroness has just said about the need to recruit 20,000 mentors, it may be helpful for the Committee to know that the national total of full-time local authority staff engaged in direct work with young people today is 3,190. Some are involved in administration and there are also a number of part-time workers. For the full-time equivalent within the local authority sector only, there are just under 8,000 staff today and we are looking for 20,000.

In the context of my Amendment No. 216A, the Government have repeatedly referred to the importance of this Bill extending and enhancing the Government's policies for reducing social exclusion, or to put it positively, for promoting social inclusion. It is in the context of Clause 99 that the services will be provided. If that is part of the intention of that clause, the Bill should say so; but if it is not, I should be most grateful if the noble Baroness can explain why.

Baroness David

My name is attached to this amendment. I come back to what it actually says; namely, adding the words "appropriate to their needs". I do not believe that that was mentioned very much by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who gave more or less a clause stand part speech as regards Clause 99.

It is important that young people have advice and guidance appropriate to their needs. How is that to be gained? I come back to the Careers Service. The Secretary of State still has a duty to have such a service. It is wondering what its position is to be in the new regime. How will the duty of the Secretary of State to retain a careers service be carried out under these new arrangements? I have read Connexions, too. I agree that it leaves a great many questions still to be answered. I also understand when the Minister says that it is going to be an evolutionary process. A little more information would set a great many minds at rest, which I hope she can give us when she replies to this amendment.

Connexions indicates that the new service group is to be focused around personal advisers for people at school. They will often be the learning mentors. They will be appointed and managed by the headteachers, but they will operate as part of the Connexions service. Does that mean that there will no longer be access for all young people to a careers adviser who is based outside the school, and who is in contact with the labour market and able to give impartial advice? The learning mentors inside the school, or the personal advisers, are not likely to be in touch with the labour market which is very important when giving advice to young people. How can we ensure that there is impartial advice appropriate to the needs of young people? That is extremely important. We must try to ensure that that will be so.

The Education Act 1997 ensured that schools would be given access to the Careers Service and therefore to the impartial advice that I have mentioned. Can the Minister tells us whether the Careers Service will be going to the schools as much as it has done before? The heads are very anxious about this. I was telephoned by John Dunton, the General Secretary of the Secondary Heads Association. He said that they are extremely anxious to know exactly who is going to provide the sort of impartial advice that they are now getting, and which I have mentioned.

I have sent a copy of a letter to the Minister from the head of Skipton Girls' High School. She emphasises this anxiety. I shall quote a little from it. She says: Neither I nor my colleagues have any difficulty with the philosophy of inclusion for that sector of young people, but we feel that the new agenda needs extra resource, rather than switching the use of the present resource from main-stream education. The latter policy means that the careers advice and help available for main-stream pupils in main-stream schools will be decimated and, in my own institution, where almost all students go into the Sixth Form, and indeed on to Further or Higher education, it will be practically non-existent. We place an extremely high value on the professional and impartial advice given to our students by the Careers Service". She goes on to say: If the whole onus for careers advice and support is in future to fall on to the schools, we lack both the professional expertise and the resource to keep our students fully informed and fully prepared at all stages in their school careers". Therefore, I hope that the Minister can enlighten us a little about all of this.

What will happen to the other services that the Careers Service has provided in the past; for instance, careers library support and careers education to help the careers teachers in the schools? The Careers Service also helps with in-service training. It also manages work experience programmes and placement services. Will these services be sustained under the new arrangements and, if so, how?

Resources are extremely important. Will adequate resources be available to sustain all these services in the light of the considerable resources that will be required by the new Connexions service? It is an extremely important issue.

As regards planning guidance for learning mentors—the personal mentors—the department says, Effective links to the Careers Service are also needed to ensure young people receive sound advice and guidance on post-school options. The learning mentor role should be recognised in partnership agreements between schools and the Careers Service". When replying, I hope that the Minister can tell us a little more about it. I am anxious that these young people should have advice on their future training and education appropriate to their own abilities.

The Earl of Listowel

I speak to Amendment No. 216A. When young people, whom one might describe as "socially excluded", take part for the first time in some exciting and stimulating activity such as dry skiing, sailing or rowing, they feel elated and excited to be doing something they would never have imagined themselves doing. It is something which a privileged person might do and they might not think of being able to do it themselves. I hope that those kinds of activity are exactly what the Government have in mind as the purpose of the Connexions scheme. If that is so, and that kind of inclusion is the aim, why not put it on the face of the Bill?

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I speak to Amendment No. 216 and reinforce the arguments that have already been made. The central issue is resources. We all endorse the Connexions document and the social inclusion agenda set out in Connexions. We recognise the importance of this issue and of getting 160,000 young people who are currently out of education or any form of employment or training, into some form of training leading to employment. We thoroughly endorse that as part of the Government's agenda.

However, a figure of £500 million has been put on that agenda. We assume that each mentor will cost something like £25,000 a year. If there are 20,000 mentors, that will cost £500 million. Where is that money coming from? Does it mean that it is coming from the budgets of the existing youth services, paltry though they are in many cases, and the existing Careers Service? That is what worries us and why we want to have written on the face of the Bill the words "appropriate to their needs" because there are also the needs of other young people other than the socially excluded, who are currently in schools and being serviced by the Careers Service.

Roughly £250 million a year goes to the Careers Service. Is it envisaged that the £500 million, which will be required for the Connexions service, should take all this £250 million from the Careers Service? If so, what about the needs of those who are currently in school or out of school who are being advised by the service? The service is extremely important. What is more, as I understand it, there is a duty on the Secretary of State under the terms of the 1973 Act to provide advice and guidance to help such young people decide on their futures. We need to be quite clear that Clause 99 is about additional powers and that it will not destroy duties that are already there and incumbent on the Secretary of State.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Hylton

I should like to support both Amendment No. 216 and Amendment No. 216A. It has been known for a long time that there is such a thing as a hierarchy of human needs; for example, it is probably rather useless to provide careers advice if the real problem is something like destitution, homelessness or drugs. All those factors have a bearing on social exclusion and inclusion. That is why I should like to see both the needs relating to social exclusion, as well as its promotion, written into the legislation.

Baroness Blackstone

My noble friend Lady David suggested that we have had a clause stand part debate; indeed, we certainly have. A huge number of different questions and issues have been raised, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with the amendments that have been tabled. However, I shall do my best and try to answer the questions that have been posed.

Baroness Blatch

I take great exception to what the Minister has just said. The way in which the service will be delivered locally depends very much on the questions that we have asked; for example, the networking, the funding, who will be responsible and how people will be recruited. We can secure the appropriate provision only if we understand the mechanisms involved. We know that the Connexions document underpins information that is needed to understand this Bill. I make no apologies for raising these matters; nor, I hope, will other Members of the Committee. It is not a Second Reading debate. We are now talking about the detail of such issues.

Baroness Blackstone

I am sorry that the noble Baroness did not wait and allow me to finish what I was about to say. Indeed, that is not helpful. We should be having a reasonable discussion. I was not saying that this was a Second Reading debate; I said that a huge number of questions had been raised which would have been appropriate to a clause stand part debate, in which case I would have been perfectly happy to accept them.

As I said before, if we are going to get through this Committee stage, we must try to avoid getting into details that relate to later amendments. Perhaps I may outline some of them. I see that the noble Baroness is shaking her head, but, quite honestly, she and a number of other speakers in this debate have raised issues that relate to later amendments. I shall not answer them when dealing with this amendment. However, I shall do my best to respond to as many of these questions as possible. I shall then deal with the amendments on the Marshalled List.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raised the question of whether we are talking about additional powers, which would not destroy existing duties. That is indeed what we are talking about; that is exactly what I tried to say when we discussed the matter in relation to the previous grouping. Again, as I said previously, this legislation does not attempt—nor should it—to prescribe in detail how the service will operate. I should point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we do want it to be developed "bottom-up" at local level. These clauses are deliberately quite open-ended so as to give scope for flexibility, thereby enabling the new service to accommodate local needs and circumstances to meet the changing needs of young people, as well as evolving over time. I hope that Members of the Committee who contributed to the debate on these amendments will accept that explanation.

Many of the questions that have been raised are currently the object of discussion with all the partners, the statutory bodies and a whole range of organisations. We shall return to them in the prospectus that will be published late in the spring, as I said when discussing the previous grouping of amendments.

Perhaps I may return to the issue of cost. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who raised this question at the end of his contribution when moving an earlier amendment. We are committed to resourcing the Connexions service properly so that every 13 to 19 year-old, whatever his or her circumstances, has access to the help needed. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, also raised this issue. Perhaps I may tell her that resources for the service will come from the pooling of existing central government resources and from those that are already devoted by local partners to youth support and guidance. Of the resources that we expect existing agencies to contribute, about half will come from the existing Careers Service budget because that service will be absorbed into the new service.

As I said earlier, we have to ensure that the Connexions service is properly funded; otherwise it will not be able to undertake the important tasks that we propose. However, we are currently considering what additional funding will be required as part of the Government's Year 2000 Spending Review. Members of the Committee will understand that I cannot in any way predict what the outcome of the review will be.

We are actively examining the number of personal advisers that will be required. Our current planning assumptions are that the service may need between 15,000 and 20,000, although the number will not necessarily be as high as 20,000. Perhaps I may point out to noble Lords who raised the question that the number will be built up over a period of time. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, questioned how far it would be possible to get from a standing start to 20,000 people. We are not quite at a "standing start", in the sense that there are substantial numbers of people undertaking work that is highly relevant to Connexions, many of whom will be absorbed into the new service. That includes a large number of careers advisers. However, the rate at which the service is phased in will depend partly on the resources available to it and on the time it takes to recruit sufficient numbers of suitable and qualified staff. Again, I cannot give detailed answers at present.

Perhaps I may also point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that every young person will have access to a personal adviser. That access will be available according to his or her need. Not every young person will have an individual personal adviser, but every young person who needs such support will have access to one. Acting as advocates for young people, such advisers will obviously have a very key role to play in ensuring that they get access to the help that they need across a range of areas, including benefits, housing, and so on, as well as education and training.

The noble Baroness raised questions about data protection. Perhaps I may reassure her that we shall apply all the appropriate data protection principles. The noble Baroness also asked about the voluntary sector. This is a good example of a matter that could be dealt with more appropriately under later amendments where it features more directly.

I turn now to the points raised by my noble friend Lady David. As currently constituted, the Careers Service will cease to exist. We expect that the best Careers Service companies will play a major role in the Connexions service, along with other partners. Careers advice and guidance will continue to be an important part of the new service. Therefore, it will be vital for the new partnerships to build on the skills and experience that exist within Careers Service companies. In fact, the staff who work within such companies will form the core of the Connexions service, alongside staff from the youth service and other organisations. I can reassure my noble friend that schools will continue to receive the support and impartial advice that they need on career matters through the new service.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about existing areas and how they will fit in with the new areas. This is a very substantial change and there will be a need for a restructuring. The existing areas will no longer be relevant from the point of view of the Careers Service because we will move towards a Connexions service based on the 47 local learning and skills councils' geographical areas.

Turning to Amendment No. 216A, I think that I understand its purpose. However, I have to question the use of the word "or". This seems to imply that the promotion of social inclusion may be a separate and alternative purpose of the Connexions service for encouraging, enabling and assisting effective participation in learning by young people. As noble Lords who have spoken in the debate will know, the promotion of social inclusion is a central plank of the Government's agenda. We believe—the evidence available strongly bears this out—that the most enduring way of promoting social inclusion is to equip young people with the skills that they need in order that they may engage fully in both economic and social life. Participation in effective learning is central to our social inclusion agenda.

I am sure that the noble Earl accepts that the Connexions service is about more than promoting social inclusion. It is about providing appropriate support for all young people so that they can participate in effective learning and achieve their potential. The promotion of social inclusion is implicit in Clause 99. I believe that the clause, as drafted, properly reflects our purpose for the Connexions service.

Turning to Amendment No. 216, I do not think that it adds anything to what is already implied by the existing wording of Clause 99. This makes clear that the objective of the support services to be provided will be to secure the effective participation of young people in learning. Participation in learning which is not appropriate to an individual's needs could hardly be described as effective.

If there is any doubt in the mind of my noble friend Lady David—I refer to the headteacher's letter—I can assure her that the Connexions service will be a universal service, as I indicated earlier in Committee. The Connexions service personal advisers will ensure that appropriate advice, guidance and support are available to all 13 to 19 year-olds, of all abilities, whatever their needs and circumstances and wherever in England they live. Clearly, this will involve giving particular time and attention to those young people whose needs are the greatest and most complex, and who suffer very often from multiple disadvantage, an issue raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.

The service will be comprehensive. It will integrate and build on the support services for young people currently provided by a range of rather unco-ordinated and different public, private and voluntary organisations. We hope that it will simplify young people's access to support, fill gaps and eliminate duplication. It will also be proactive in assessing young people's needs and in raising their aspirations.

We intend that it will work closely with the LSC, both to improve information, advice and guidance on post-16 learning opportunities and to ensure that those opportunities match young people's aspirations.

The Committee has spent some time on these two amendments. If I have failed to answer any specific questions, I shall be very happy to write to noble Lords and to give them further information.

Baroness David

I think that I heard the Minister say that the Careers Service would go. If she did say that, how will that affect its duties under the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993, which amends the 1973 Act? Will that Act have to be repealed?

Baroness Blackstone

I do not know the answer to that question. Again, I shall be very happy to write to my noble friend and give her that information.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Baroness, Lady David, pre-empted a question that I believe was left begging at the end of the Minister's explanation. It seems that the only way that the new arrangements can be delivered along the lines explained by the noble Baroness will be by the wholesale redefinition of job descriptions. If that is the case, and all the transfer arrangements come into play, people will have to be given the opportunity as to whether or not they wish to retain their existing job description. If they do not have the option of retaining their existing job description, then the choice is a stark one: it is either not to work at all or to be absorbed in the new arrangements under a totally different job description.

5.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

The noble Baroness is quite right, there will be new job descriptions for people working for the Connexions service. I can reassure the many hundreds of thousands of people who currently work for the Careers Service and for those parts of the youth service that will become part of the Connexions service, that those kinds of arrangements will be put in place. I expect that the vast majority of them will be able to obtain jobs. After all, we will need more—not fewer—people to operate the Connexions service once it is fully implemented than are currently employed in the various organisations which will be absorbed into it.

Baroness Blatch

The noble Baroness makes my point. We are talking about needing a very large additional number of people. I was making a technical point. If job descriptions change, other pieces of legislation come into play. People cannot be made to accept a new job description. They have been employed on one job description and one set of terms and conditions; if that changes as a result of the new arrangements under the Connexions service programme, I simply pose the question—as did the noble Baroness, Lady David—which pieces of legislation will be invoked?

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, referred to the numbers of people employed in the present system. As a result of these changes we expect to employ a great many more. It is a very big change. That makes it necessary that we should have some assurance about funding and the resources to be made available. The noble Baroness has said that half the Careers Service would change.

Baroness Blackstone

Perhaps I can help the noble Baroness. I said that something like half the funding provided for the Connexions service will come from existing expenditure on the Careers Service. I did not say that half the Careers Service would change. That is a quite different point.

Baroness Blatch

Unless I missed something, the noble Baroness said that half the funding will disappear. The vast bulk of the funding is used to pay specific Careers -Service personnel for doing specific work, and if the specific job descriptions change then half the Careers Service will change. If the funding is not being used to fund the Careers Service, as it is at the moment, and it is going to be changed—I am not arguing about that—then there is a technical issue to be addressed. Removing half of the funding will remove at least 50 per cent of its capacity to pay for the service it has been providing up until now. Perhaps the noble Baroness can explain.

Baroness Blackstone

We are not removing half of the funding; we are absorbing the entire Careers Service into the Connexions service. I was asked about the financial resources available to the Connexions service. In answering, I said that something like half the total amount that we will be spending on the Connexions service will come from the existing Careers Service budget. I hope that I have made myself clear. I am totally confused by what the noble Baroness said.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I, too, am still somewhat confused. I understand that the Minister is saying that, in effect, the Careers Service becomes the Connexions service. She has given an assurance that the existing duties under the Careers Service will remain as they were. It is quite clear that those whose needs are the greatest—as the Minister put it—come top of the social inclusion agenda.

There are a number of problems here. There is not enough slack in the current Careers Service. I know that the Government propose to take on more people in the Connexions service, but nevertheless, at present neither the Careers Service, let alone the youth service, has slack in it if one wants to continue the current provision of services to schools, which we do. The letter that the noble Baroness, Lady David, read out from the headmistress of Skipton Girls' High School indicates clearly that schools are not good at providing careers advice to pupils and that they need the help of careers advisers who are trained to help them, particularly with guidance. There are many pupils, as it were, not included in the social exclusion agenda who need guidance on their choices in relation to GCSEs, A-levels and going on to university. The Careers Service helps enormously with those choices. Schools cannot manage without those services.

So far as I understand it, the Government now propose to divert those services. Many of those people will need retraining. I agree entirely with that policy, but there is a need for new resources.

Baroness Blackstone

I rise to intervene because an unfortunate misunderstanding is developing in the Committee. I am rather surprised that the noble Baroness is raising the issue again, because I have already made it clear to my noble friend Lady David that there is no sense in which the Government intend to change the provision of important careers advice for pupils and students at school or in FE colleges. That service will continue to be provided, but, unlike m the past, it will now be under the auspices of the Connexions service.

The duty to provide careers services to all people in full or part-time vocational education includes young people and remains a statutory duty on the Secretary of State. All that Clause 99 does is to empower the Secretary of State to provide some additional services which will build on the duty to provide careers advice. That duty remains. As a result, there is in fact no repeal of any duty.

Baroness Blatch

I am even more confused. Perhaps we may analyse what the Minister has said. She said that approximately 50 per cent of the present funding of the Careers Service—

Baroness Blackstone

I shall try once more to explain. I said that the resources on which the new Connexions service will draw will be wide ranging. Some will be new money, which will of course have to be debated with the Treasury in the usual way in the Year 2000 spending review. I cannot anticipate the amount. Some of it will be money currently spent by existing services which are to be absorbed into the Connexions service. I hope that I have made that clear. The Careers Service will comprise a large part of what is absorbed and will therefore make up a substantial part—probably around half— of the funding for the new organisation. The services provided in the shape of guidance and advice to schools will continue.

Baroness Blatch

No further light has been thrown on the matter. The Careers Service currently in existence has extremely tight funding for its remit. Its employees have job descriptions. They know what their aims and objectives are. As we have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady David, schools are quite certain about the service which they receive from the Careers Service. Our understanding is that under the new system it will be absorbed into the new Connexions arrangements and around 50 per cent of the funding will be pooled. If that 50 per cent—not the 100 per cent of the funding, because I understand that the entire Careers Service is to be absorbed into the new system—

Baroness Blackstone

I really am surprised by my failure to communicate. Obviously all my years of experience as a university lecturer are not standing me in good stead. I shall try to spell out yet again what I have said. One hundred per cent of the funding for the Careers Service will go into the new Connexions service, which will amount to about half the funding available to that service. I cannot go any further than that. I have tried to make myself clear. I hope that the matter is clear to other Members of the Committee, even if it is not clear to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

Baroness Blatch

If the Minister reads Hansard, the very first reference to the 50 per cent funding was a rather different explanation from the one given just now. I shall analyse what the Minister is saying now: the Careers Service will be absorbed under the new Connexions arrangements and 100 per cent of its funding will represent 50 per cent of all the funding that will be needed. That will not be enough.

Baroness Blackstone

I have already explained to the noble Baroness that that is only part of the funding that will be available. I have explained that we are seeking further funding from the Treasury in the current spending review and that a number of other services will be contributing to the Connexions service, which means that further funding will be available. The noble Baroness may not believe that that is enough, but there is never enough money for anything. There is not enough money for 1,000 different services, but in the real world there will always be a limit. At some point the noble Baroness will discover what the total available funding will be, but I cannot give her the figure today.

Baroness Blatch

The Minister said that the Careers Service funding will represent 50 per cent of all the funds that will be needed and that the other 50 per cent will come from new money under the new spending review and from other pooled moneys. The Minister already referred to pooled moneys from the DfEE itself. It will be interesting to know which elements of the DfEE money will form part of the funding. However, if the Careers Service is to provide 50 per cent of all the money needed and the other 50 per cent is to come from other sources, we are in a position to make a judgment about how much 100 per cent will be. One only has to take the cost of running the Careers Service at present to work out what the cost of 100 per cent funding will be.

That equation put to one side, there is a point which the Minister has not answered. She admitted that there will be changes in job descriptions. We need to know technically how that will be managed. Will TUPE be invoked? Will transfer arrangements from other pieces of legislation be invoked? Even if people are persuaded and agree voluntarily to an altered job description, changes will nevertheless take place and TUPE will still apply, just as it will in the case of people who are to move from TECs to work with the learning and skills councils, where they will have a completely different job description. The same will apply, and it would be helpful to have some view about that.

The Minister referred to the 20,000 mentors. She did not say where they would come from, but she said that there was no promise or guarantee that the scheme would apply to all young people in the age group irrespective of need. It would be helpful to know who decides whether they need them. In many cases, young people themselves make those decisions. Will they have individual referral rights? If so, how will they go about the process and how will they know who the mentor is? In the Connexions document, the intention is that the mentor would become extremely knowledgeable about the person. He will get to know him and have an in-depth relationship with him, which will develop to the point where any advice and guidance given to the young person will be all the more effective.

It is important to get those answers, but I do not know whether we shall receive all of them. We have had a muddled discussion, but we now know that the current cost of running the Careers Service represents half of the money needed to provide the new arrangements under the Connexions programme. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments No. 216A and 217 not moved.]

Baroness Darcy de Knayth moved Amendment No. 218: Page 44, line 12, after second ("to") insert ("the promotion of equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled people in education, training, and all support services covering transition and to").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment homes in on a somewhat narrower target. It aims to ensure that the youth support services will have regard to promoting equality of opportunity for disabled and non-disabled learners. It is similar to amendments I moved and to which I spoke on the first day of Committee—at cols. 621 to 624 of Hansard—in relation to the LSC, local LSCs and the CETW, when the Minister most encouragingly agreed to come back with amendments to meet the point.

This amendment is similar but it is not quite the same, in that Clause 99 has emerged clearly in the two debates on the previous two groups of amendments as an enabling clause. There is nothing concrete or appropriate on which to hang it. If the youth support service cannot have a duty placed on it, it is important to ensure that the service can provide support for young people with learning difficulties. If they are to make the most of the equal opportunities that will be on offer to them in post-school education, they must have the support of the youth support service.

The Disability Consortium on Post-16 Education and Training—SKILL is a member and I declare that I am president of SKILL—feels that some reassurance would not only be valuable but really is necessary. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Addington

I should like to give my support to the amendment and to the way in which it was moved. It is difficult to find the right form of words, but the point has to be made. If the youth support service is to do its job properly, it must bring in those who have disabilities. Indeed, that should happen almost automatically in any government legislation. I hope that the noble Baroness will secure an assurance that that will happen. If she does not, I hope that the Government will tell us that they are going to do something about it.

Baroness Blatch

I rise briefly to support the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

No one would disagree with the sentiment behind the amendment, which seeks to ensure that the new Connexions service promotes equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled young people. That is an aim, I am sure, we all share. The promotion of equal opportunities among all groups in society is, of course, at the very heart of this Government's philosophy. That is exactly the purpose of the Connexions service, for which Clause 99 lays the foundation. The clause sets out that the aim of the service is to ensure that every young person has the support they need to engage effectively in learning and to achieve their potential, whatever their ability and circumstances, and wherever in England they live.

To achieve that aim, the Connexions service will ensure that all 13 to 19 year-olds have access to a personal adviser who will assess their needs and ensure that they have the support they need. Some young people—for example, those with multiple disadvantage, including learning difficulties—will need more help than others. The personal adviser's caseload must reflect that. In particular, and as we shall discuss later, the Connexions service will support the transition of young people with statements of special educational needs from school to other post-16 learning.

This amendment simply states what is already implicit in Clause 99. Indeed, I can assure the noble Baroness that we intend through the service to go beyond the promotion of equality and take steps to help to make equality between disabled people and non-disabled people a reality. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that we do not need her additional element in the Bill and that, with the assurances I have given, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for their stalwart support, and thank the Minister very much for her reassuring reply. We all want equality for disabled learners along with able-bodied learners. The youth support service will supply that valuable first rung on the ladder to what we hope will be life long and really inclusive learning. I am grateful to the Minister for what she has said. We have it in Hansard. I imagine that a good deal of guidance will go out as well. It would be reassuring if the noble Baroness nodded or told me that it would also be in guidance. The Minister is nodding. I appreciate that very much. I have no hesitation in withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 218A not moved.]

The Earl of Listowel moved Amendment No. 218B: Page 44, line 17, at end insert— ("( ) In carrying out his functions under this section, the Secretary of State may—

  1. (a) provide financial or other assistance to persons providing supported residential accommodation to young persons in education or training;
  2. (b) provide financial or other assistance to persons providing mentoring or support and guidance to young people.").

The noble Earl said: Earlier in the Committee stage the Minister made it clear that supported residential accommodation and support and guidance for disadvantaged young people were intended to be among the things the Secretary of State could provide under Clause 99. But Clause 99 refers only to services. The provision of accommodation might well be challenged in the courts as not being part of the clause. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Northbourne avoids that possible risk. I beg to move.

Lord Hylton

I should like to support Amendment No. 218B. It refers particularly, but perhaps not exclusively, to foyers. I raised this matter at an earlier stage of the Committee's discussions. As the Minister has had clear warning and notice of this question, it would be helpful if she could say how she sees the provision of foyers—both their capital costs and their running costs—fitting into the new scheme of things that will flow from the Bill.

Baroness Blackstone

This amendment relates to the statutory and voluntary youth services. I should like to preface my comments with a few general words which I hope will meet the wishes of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. As I said earlier in the Committee, we fully recognise the valuable contribution made by these services in providing support and informal learning experiences for young people; and, in particular, in providing a gateway for re-engaging some of the most vulnerable young people in society. We are keen that their contribution is both supported and strengthened. We therefore expect that effective local youth services will be key Connexions partners and that much of their existing provision for 13 to 19 year-olds will be integrated with the new service.

The youth service is, of course, provided by a large number of voluntary and statutory organisations and covers a wide range of activities which promote the social and personal development of young people from 11 to 25. Much of this work will continue in tandem with the Connexions service. But I would expect local authority outreach and detached youth workers focusing on the core 13 to 19 age group to become key personal advisers within local multi-agency teams as these are set up by Connexions partners. It is that kind of youth worker in particular who will be integrated fully into the Connexions service whereas much of the other work done by the youth service will work in tandem. That would apply in particular to some of the more recreational side of what the youth services currently undertake

On Amendment No. 218B, I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, proposed a similar amendment to Clause 2 of the Bill earlier in the Committee. At that time he was seeking to clarify which bodies had responsibility for funding different aspects of support for young people. I shall treat the amendment in two parts. The first part would empower the Connexions service to fund or otherwise assist supported residential accommodation for young people engaged in learning. As our Connexions policy document sets out, the function of the Connexions service will be to provide, through a network of trained personal advisers, comprehensive advice, guidance and support for young people. This will include advocacy and referral to specialist services, where necessary. Financial or other direct assistance in the provision of social housing is outside the remit of the Connexions service—that must remain part of housing services or work done by the Benefits Agency and the Department of Social Security— but advice, guidance and advocacy in obtaining accommodation for a young person would fall within it.

The second part of the amendment is slightly perplexing. It apparently seeks to empower the Connexions service to fund or otherwise assist in establishing a network of personal advisers—which is precisely what the clause is about. The Bill already makes sufficient provision. I suspect that the noble Lord wants to explore how far the service will rely on existing services to staff the Connexions personal adviser network and how far it will fund the recruitment and training of new front-line staff.

I am aware of the concerns that the Connexions service could impact on the wider work of the voluntary sector by attracting its key front-line personnel. I should start by reminding the Committee that we fully expect voluntary and non-profit-making bodies, far from being marginalised, to be important Connexions partners in a great many localities. In terms of their wider work, which may fall outside the remit of the Connexions service, perhaps because it is aimed at different age groups, I can assure the noble Earl that we have given careful thought to how we can ensure that we recruit sufficient qualified Connexions staff without having an adverse impact on the related services that will continue to operate in tandem. That is one of the reasons why we have decided to phase in the new service over around three years. We intend to undertake an audit of all the human resource implications of the very wide range of the existing and new advice and support services that will be provided.

We believe that the first part of the amendment would create an expectation which is outside the remit of the Connexions service, and the second would add nothing as the provision is already inherent in the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the noble Earl will not press the amendment.

The Earl of Listowel

I thank the Minister for her full and helpful reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 99 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Blatch

I do not intend to oppose the Question. However, perhaps I may press the Minister on a point that was not answered earlier.

Some of the careers companies have received letters inviting them to prepare to wind up their present services. If that happens, it will create gaps in the system. First, why have they been given such notice? Secondly, where gaps are created, how is it intended to fill them?

Baroness Blackstone

It is right to give the Careers Service longish notice of our intentions. But no careers service will be closed down before new Connexions services are in place.

Baroness Blatch

But only part of the service has been given notice to wind up.

Baroness Blackstone

That is the part that will be absorbed into the Connexions service. The Careers Service also provides adult guidance in some cases. That will continue.

Baroness Blatch

I thank the Minister. I wonder whether she would let me see a copy of the letter that has gone out to those companies.

Baroness Blackstone

I am happy to send the noble Baroness a copy of the letter.

Clause 99 agreed to.

Clause 100 [Consultation and coordination]:

[Amendment No. 219 not moved. ]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 220: Page 44, line 22, at end insert— ("( ) a body providing services in pursuance of arrangements made or directions given under sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Employment and Training Act I973,").

The noble Baroness said: I am leading on this amendment, but it is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I am afraid that it covers part of the same ground that was trodden so thoroughly and painstakingly a few minutes ago. Nevertheless, I shall move it.

As we have said, the Secretary of State retains his duty to provide a Careers Service. Under Section 10 of the 1973 Act he is empowered to make arrangements to secure that service. Clause 100 of the Bill requires the body providing that statutory service on behalf of the Secretary of State to be consulted in planning provision, so that it is manifestly appropriate to local needs. It seems possible under the Connexions strategy that a body will provide the statutory Careers Service which is not the lead contractor for Connexions. Then, it will be essential that the Careers Service subcontractor is consulted as of right about the provision of the services to 13 to 19 year-olds.

The unique contribution of the Careers Service is its impartiality, alongside its knowledge of the needs of young people progressing through education and training. The amendment would put on the face of the Bill the reinforcement of the role of the statutory service, which, as the Minister confirmed, the Secretary of State will retain. That provides the means to ensure that young people's needs are at the heart of the learning and skills processes and structures. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

My name is attached to Amendments Nos. 221 and 224, and my noble friend Lord Wade of Chorlton has his name to Amendment No. 222 to which, with the leave of the Committee, I shall speak on his behalf.

My Amendment No. 221 covers the same ground as that of the noble Baroness, Lady David. I prefer the noble Baroness's amendment to my own, and I therefore support it. My other amendment refers to those who should be consulted. As I think the noble Baroness and the Minister will agree, local learning partnerships are important; they involve the local organisations that will be responsible for networking in the interests of the community. My noble friend Lord Wade makes the important point that employers are also a key group in the community and it seems right that they should be included in the consultation process.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

My name is attached both to Amendment No. 220 and to Amendments Nos. 223 and 225. I rise to speak to the last two amendments, as well as to endorse the remarks of the noble Baronesses, Lady David and Lady Blatch, about Amendment No. 220.

The points that have been made on that issue are important, in so far as those who will be providers of the Careers Service—we now understand that they will not be wholly absorbed into the new Connexions service—have already been providing services within the areas concerned. It is important that they, as well as all the other providers, are consulted when the new service is established.

Amendments Nos. 223 and 225 are concerned with the consultation process. In an earlier debate, we talked at length about the role of local learning partnerships, the way in which they have developed and how valuable they have been in those areas where they are thriving. Where they are in existence, it is important that they, too, should be consulted in the development of the new Connexions service. Similarly, Amendment No. 226 relates to our belief that other providers of education and training should be included in the consultation process.

Amendment No. 226 is linked to this series of amendments. Perhaps I may speak to it at greater length. It relates to a slightly different issue. It proposes a code of practice to be inserted after Clause 100. The reasoning behind the amendment is that, during the Committee stage in the other place of the School Standards and Framework Bill., the Government agreed that there was a need for a code of practice to underpin the relationship between local education authorities and schools, particularly in the light of the new power for local education authorities to intervene in schools to ensure standards. As a result, Section 127 on securing effective relationships between LEAs and schools was included in the School Standards and Framework Act. The proposed new clause is largely derived from Section 127.

Under the system proposed in the Bill there will be three areas which will have to interact: providers, local education authorities and the learning and skills council with its local councils. The learning and skills council and the local learning and skills councils will have strong powers over 16 to 19 provision, particularly in relation to school sixth forms, under Clause 7 of the Bill, allowing unspecified conditions to be attached to grant and, under Schedule 7, on the closure of sixth forms.

There are many questions as to how those sweeping powers will be used. For example, will the learning and skills council or the local learning and skills councils tell a school sixth form under a threat to withhold grant not to offer Spanish because it is already being offered elsewhere in the area and is considered a disproportionate expenditure or poor value for money?

At the moment, how the new bodies will interact with existing local education authority providers is somewhat uncertain. The School Standards and Framework Act introduced a code of practice for effective LEA/school relations in recognition of the powers of LEAs to intervene in schools in the drive to improve standards. The national learning and skills council and local LSCs will have the same standards agenda. Therefore, guidance by the Secretary of State by way of a code of practice as to how the individual partners involved in this relationship should behave is vital to the fostering of good and effective relationships under the proposed system.

Lord Bach

I deal with Amendments Nos. 220 to 226. The purpose of Clause 100 is to ensure that all those involved in the provision of youth support services in a locality contribute to and collaborate in Connexions service provision. Subsection (1) specifies certain key statutory bodies responsible for providing youth support services in an area which must be consulted before making Connexions service provision in that area. Subsection (2) extends this to relevant voluntary bodies and such other "persons" as the Secretary of State thinks it appropriate to consult. We meet our old friend the Interpretation Act 1978. Members of the Committee will be aware from previous exchanges that "persons" is a legal term that includes bodies.

Subsection (4) requires all consultees listed under subsection (1)—the statutory bodies —to support and assist the Connexions service, which includes coordinating their functions with the service. The significance of that in relation to this group of amendments is that all of the bodies under subsection (1) are statutory bodies involved in relevant aspects of youth support service provision. The express provision on the face of the Bill is intended to put beyond doubt that they would be able to enter into a contract with, or otherwise contribute to, the Connexions service. We are also able to impose on those statutory bodies the duty to support, assist and collaborate in the provision of youth support services. That is another reason for listing them expressly

. By contrast, such statutory duty as is found in subsection (4) cannot be imposed upon private, voluntary and the many other local bodies which can and, in many cases, should contribute to the Connexions service. Moreover, we believe that to list them all for the purposes of consultation would make the legislation cumbersome and risk omission of others which in some parts of the country would certainly make a significant contribution. We believe that, as drafted, Clause 100 provides for a wide range of bodies to be involved in the new service, while maintaining simplicity and a degree of flexibility. I assure the Committee that in establishing the service the Government expect to consult those who deliver careers advice and guidance—local learning partnerships, employers, education institutions, training providers, including the people and organisations referred to in the amendments—about Connexions service provision in their areas.

Perhaps I may say a little more about each of the bodies referred to in this series of amendments. I welcome this opportunity to expand on the position of Careers Service companies when the Connexions service is introduced. This matter was touched on by my noble friend in an earlier debate. As we have consistently made clear in Learning to Succeed, Bridging the Gap and the recently published Connexions policy document, careers information advice and guidance will be an important element of the Connexions service. We expect the best Careers Service companies, together with a range of other local partners, to play a major role in the service. The phased introduction of the Connexions service is deliberately intended to allow us to look at different approaches to the involvement of existing Careers Service companies. This will depend in part on the type and number of existing careers services in each Connexions partnership area. For example, where local careers services are constituted as partnerships between local authorities and TECs, the local authority partners which remain after the withdrawal of TECs from April 2001 will need to consider how each company should be developed to fit into the local Connexions service arrangements within their boundary or boundaries, where a Careers Service covers multiple local authority areas

. Private and not-for-profit Careers Service companies will have the opportunity to demonstrate their potential contribution to the local Connexions service either as partners in a public/private partnership or by sub-contracting to deliver particular services. We are working with the Careers Service National Association and others to consider all the implications of the change in structures for Careers Service staff and to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements. But we fully expect that the new Connexions partnerships and local management committees will build on the skills and experience within Careers Service companies. The Connexions service will offer challenging new posts to be filled by people with appropriate competence and skills from the Careers Service and other statutory, community and voluntary organisations.

In schools, we expect that the Connexions personal adviser will be a learning mentor based on the Excellence in Cities model. The learning mentors will be the first point of advice, including advice on learning opportunities relating to young people's career aspirations. They will be on hand to develop a long-term relationship of trust with those young people who need it and thus will supplement the advice given by careers teachers. Where appropriate, they will refer young people on to specialist careers advisers.

I turn to the amendment spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and tabled by her noble friend Lord Wade, which is concerned with employers. I am sure that the noble Baroness agrees that employers are a large and diverse category. It would be difficult to define which employers should be consulted and which it would be perhaps inappropriate to consult. Under subsection (2) a duty is placed on the Secretary of State to consult any other person he thinks appropriate. Therefore, appropriate employers or employers' representative bodies are covered by this provision. The Government expect employers to play an important role in the Connexions service. The service will develop close links with employers, both directly and through the LSC, to ensure their involvement in planning the service, providing community mentors and appropriate work experience opportunities and contributing to labour market and skills planning information for use by personal advisers

. I turn to Amendment No. 223 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. My responses echo the answer given by my noble friend earlier when the Committee debated the relationship between local learning partnerships and the LSC. It seems a long time ago since we did that. Local learning partnerships are non-statutory bodies which are continuing to develop. We do not believe that it is appropriate to stipulate their role. The new service will need to work closely with partnerships of local providers to develop strategies to match provision with the needs of young people and adults at local level. The detailed knowledge assembled by personal advisers of young people's experiences in learning should provide a powerful impetus to encourage improvements by education and training providers in the learning partnerships. Close links with learning partnerships will also be important to ensure coherence with the information, advice and guidance service for adults

. The Government assure the Committee that local learning partnerships will be consulted about Connextions provision; and subsection (2) allows for that. Equally, we would expect the new Connexions service locally to play a key role in local learning partnerships. It will also be open to learning partnership chairs to be members of Connexions partnerships and. to be represented on Connexions local management committees, subject to local decision

. Finally, I turn to the role of learning providers, and to Amendment No. 225. We can assure noble Lords that there is no question that education and training providers would not be consulted about Connexions

. provision, for they are key partners in providing support. We have made it clear that Connexions provision will become an integral part of schools' frameworks for pastoral work. Much the same applies to college and training providers. We are looking at the best way to integrate the various services as we phase in, over a period of time, the introduction of the national service

. We invite noble Lords to consider withdrawing the amendment on the basis that subsection (1) deals with the statutory organisations and subsection (2) allows all the organisations referred to in the various amendments to be consulted

. I turn to Amendment No. 226 which is grouped with the amendments. On a rather separate area of concern in the Bill, Amendment No. 226 proposes that we specify on the face of the Bill that the Secretary of State shall issue the code of practice mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in order to give practical guidance to secure effective relationships between the learning and skills council, CETW, LEAs and providers of education and training

. We want to ensure that the LSC (at both national and local levels) works in a way which is properly consultative of a wide range of bodies and that it promotes sound partnerships. That goes not only for its work on adult and community learning and youth initiatives, but also on employment and work-based training too

. Our intention is that the local planning process for the LSC should be as open and inclusive as possible. The LSCs will seek to engage the wider community in their work through a variety of means, perhaps public meetings, publication of draft and final plans on the Internet, and seeking direct feedback from actual and potential learners on their needs

. We also recognise that the approaches to learning that may attract adult learners will be, as we discussed earlier in Committee, very different from those which are more appropriate to 16 to 19 year-olds. The distinctive needs of both these groups will be reflected, therefore, in the provisions referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—he is not in his place at present—made in Schedule 3 to the Bill which we debated last Thursday for the LSC's adult and young people's learning committees. We fully expect that local LSCs will want to seek the advice of experts about their locality, and they may want to establish their own local committees

. We appreciate that codes of practice can capture complex and sensitive relationships, such as the code referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, but the arrangements outlined have already been endorsed by a wide cross-section of partners and stakeholder organisations. We made it clear in the prospectus that we wanted to see a bottom-up approach to planning and post-16 provision. To set out such arrangements in detail, we fear, could stifle the LSC and would not help enable it and its partners to meet the needs of local employers and learners. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary

I remind Members of the Committee that in Clauses 21 and 22—we have debated them in some detail—the arrangements the council must make for consulting a range of bodies on the preparation of its guidance to each local council and on local council plans are set out in some detail

. Moreover, Clause 25 allows the Secretary of State to give directions to the council about its objectives and how it should best meet them. But—I hope that it is of some satisfaction to the noble Baroness—we shall continue to bear in mind the value of providing guidance to the LSC about how it can promote and support partnership and the roles of different partners as and when appropriate

. On the basis of what I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness David

I thank the Minister for his full reply. There has been some reassurance. However, I should like to read it with great care and consider whether the reply is adequate, as it may be. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 221 to 225 not moved. ]

Clause 100 agreed to

[Amendment No. 226 not moved. ]

Clause 101 agreed to.

Clause 102 [Educational institutions: information and access]:

[Amendment No. 227 not moved.]

Clause 102 agreed to.

Clause 103 [Inspection]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 228: Page 46, leave out line 12 and insert ("the Chief Inspector of Adult Learning")

The noble Baroness said: The amendment relates to a discussion on Tuesday on the roles of the chief inspector of adult education and of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England.

In Clause 103(2) the amendment would substitute "the Chief Inspector of Adult Learning" for "Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England". The Minister has made clear that the prime purpose of the new Connexions Service and youth support service will be to address a different group from the one addressed to date. Its agenda is closer to that of the chief inspector of adult learning than that of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England. The agenda is closer to the role of the further education community than to the schools community. The Minister assured us that the role of the Careers Service in schools will continue. We are pleased that that is so

Nevertheless, given the new agenda in terms of social exclusion, the importance of links between the education providers and the Connexions service and the role of encouraging those young people to move back into education and training, in particular into vocational training, we believe that it would be more appropriate for that person to be the chief inspector of adult learning rather than Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

Let me start with Amendment No. 228. The advantages and disadvantages of placing responsibility for inspecting the new service with Ofsted compared with the adult learning inspectorate, have been carefully considered. The balance of advantage favours Ofsted because Ofsted's remit and expertise are more relevant to the new service than the adult learning inspectorate's. So here I disagree fundamentally with the noble Baroness. The provision inspected by the adult learning inspectorate will focus more on adult provision. The new Connexions service will be a broad provision aiming to address young people's barriers to participation and achievement in learning

. We believe that Ofsted is well positioned to carry out this inspection. It has relevant broad experience, which includes LEA-wide inspections. These are focused on educational standards and school improvement issues but cover a wide range of LEA activity, including effective partnership working and LEA support to pupils in particular categories. Ofsted's experience makes it decisively the better choice for the inspection of the Connexions service

. At this point it may be helpful to say something about how we envisage links with other inspectorates working. The multi-agency nature of the Connexions service means that Ofsted will need to work closely with other inspectorates. We believe this can work well on a non-statutory basis. Ofsted already successfully works through protocols with the Audit Commission and with a number of inspectorates, in particular the Social Service Inspectorate and the Prison Service Inspectorate

. I turn now to Amendment No. 231 A. It would have no practical effect on the inspection of careers information, advice and guidance for adults but, rather bizarrely, would remove the Secretary of State's duty to arrange for inspection of careers information, advice and guidance for young people. Perhaps I should once again confirm that information, advice and guidance provision for adults will be inspected. It may be recalled that in Tuesday's debate I set out the Government's intention that careers provision for adults will be inspected by the independent Accreditation Board established by the Guidance Council.

I set out in response to earlier amendments today that careers provision for young people will be part and parcel of the Connexions service and that we expect providers of careers services for young people to be key partners in this service. I have also set out why we believe that Ofsted should have responsibility for inspecting the Connexions service. Clearly, Ofsted should also have responsibility for inspecting careers service provision for young people. This is what subsection (2) of Clause 108 will give effect to. And this is how the Secretary of State will fulfil the duty in subsection (1) in respect of 19 year-olds and under.

I very much hope that with those assurances the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

The Earl of Listowel

I was too slow to rise to speak to Amendment NO. 230A in the name of my noble friend Lord North bourne before the Minister rose. I hope that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to it now

. Representatives of the Youth Service have asked for clarification. Will the Ofsted inspectors have a duty, or indeed be entitled, to refer in their reports to the adequacy, in their opinion, of the funding of services? Without such a possibility, those who are asked to provide services may be in the position of being asked to make bricks without straw. If the Government want the fullest co-operation from the voluntary as well as the statutory sector, perhaps it would be wise for that assurance to be given.

Baroness Blackstone

It is always open to Ofsted to comment on the adequacy of funding for services.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her reply with regard to my amendment. I did not expect the noble Baroness to agree with me on the issue. We on these Benches continue to feel that it would be right for the chief inspector of adult learning to be the person to inspect the Connexions service. We shall withdraw the amendment but we may wish to return to it on Report

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 229 to 230A not moved. ]

Clause 103 agreed to.

Clause 104 agreed to.

Clause 105 [Information: supply by public bodies]:

[Amendment No. 231 not moved. ]

Clause 105 agreed to.

Clause 106 [Recreation and social and physical training]:

[Amendment No. 231ZA not moved. ]

Clause 106 agreed to.

Clause 107 agreed to.

Clause 108 [Careers Services]:

[Amendments Nos. 231A to 233 not moved. ]

Clause 108 agreed to.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 234: After Clause 108 insert the following new clause—