Clause 9

Part of Children, Schools and Families Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:00 pm ar 2 Chwefror 2010.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners) 4:00, 2 Chwefror 2010

The clause is extremely important. It will ensure that full-time education is available in alternative provision not only, as the law states at present, for those excluded from school, but for those who might not be at school for medical or other reasons. As such, it is one of those clauses that sometimes pass a Committee by, despite their significance, and the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole is right to draw the measure to our attention.

We want to ensure that the provision is enacted as soon as possible. As the hon. Lady said, the compulsory school age of up to 16 is obviously easily defined under law. As for post-16 education, raising the participation age will not happen until 2013 for 17-year-olds, and not until 2015 for 18-year-olds, and her concerns are about the provision of full-time education for those people in the interim. Through guidance laid out alongside the Bill, we intend to explain what is expected to happen. The raising of the participation age is good legislation, and we must ensure that what everyone regards as a good way forward does not create a difficulty, albeit even in the short term. We intend to address that through guidance.

The hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole seeks to amend clause 9(2)(a) so that local authorities would be under a duty to arrange education for all children of participation age who, for reasons of illness, exclusion or otherwise, may not for any period receive  suitable education. I assure her that the amendment is not necessary. In accordance with the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, local authorities will have a duty to ensure that enough suitable education or training is available for all 16 to 19-year-olds in their area. We intend those provisions to come into force on 1 April this year. It is our intention that local authorities and education providers will take steps to ensure that special arrangements are in place to support a young person’s continued participation in learning. When the powers for funding a commission transfer to local authorities in line with the ASCL Act, those local authority functions will be further strengthened.

Amendment 168 would create a new duty for local authorities to arrange suitable education for 16 to 19-year-olds who are

“pursuing such examination courses as may be specified in an order...who by reason of illness, may not for any period receive suitable education unless such arrangements are made for them.”.

I assure the hon. Lady that in our view, this amendment is also unnecessary. The Education and Skills Act 2008 created a new legal duty for local authorities which, once in force, will require them to exercise their functions so as to promote effective participation in education or training for all 16 to 18-year-olds, including those who suffer from illness. In addition, local authorities will be required to exercise their new functions in the ASCL Act, to secure the provision of education or training for 16 to 18-year-olds, with a view to enabling those persons to fulfil the duty to participate. As I have said to the hon. Lady, alongside that we intend to put into guidance the need for local authorities to provide education or training opportunities for the young people covered by the clause. The hon. Lady has highlighted a slight gap, which we intend to fill through guidance, and with that assurance, I hope that she will withdraw the amendment.