Clause 21 - List of relevant providers

Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:00 pm ar 7 Rhagfyr 2021.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

What a pleasure it is to reach our sixth and final sitting on this important Bill.

Clause 21 will allow the Government to introduce a list of post-16 education or training providers. To be on the list, providers will need to meet conditions that help to protect learners against the negative impacts of provider failure. It will also help to protect public funds by preventing or mitigating the risks of provider failure. Currently, there is a risk that the short-notice exit of a provider from education and training can significantly disrupt the experience of many young people and adults. This can be because of delays in finding a new provider and insufficient planning on what happens next in these circumstances. This clause focuses the operation of a list on the types of providers that the Department considers are most at risk of an unregulated and disorderly exit from provision—independent training providers.

While we value the role of ITPs in helping to provide a more diverse and innovative learning offer, it is not right that these types of providers should operate with less in-built protection for learners than other types of further education provider. Fundamentally, we want to protect learners and public funds if providers cease to provide education or training. Where other regulatory mechanisms are not in place, we want to ensure that there is a consistent set of requirements placed on providers to protect learners and public funds, even where the provision is funded by local commissioning bodies or through subcontracts from directly funded providers.

Where a provider is not directly funded by the Secretary of State—as can be the case with ITPs—the existing levers for the Secretary of State to protect learner interests are not as strong. Contractual conditions of funding to prevent disorderly exits may also not be consistent. The Bill will allow commonality and consistency across funding streams to mitigate provider failure risks. The clause also allows the Secretary of State to set out other matters in connection with the keeping of the list of post-16 education or training providers.

We intend to consult before deciding on the detail of the way in which the scheme will operate. The Secretary of State is required to do so before making the regulations that establish the list for the first time.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Education)

May I record my thanks, Mrs Miller, for what you said a few moments ago about ensuring that new clauses 1 and 4 may be debated? I appreciate your flexibility.

We do not intend to divide the Committee on this subject, but I re-emphasise the point that I made in the discussion on the amendment. I entirely appreciate what the Minister says about the need to ensure protection for learners, but a small number of providers have a long track record of providing a small amount of provision that is none the less important in certain sectors and geographies. If this becomes a bureaucratic or economic minefield, they will simply withdraw from the sector, which will be the poorer for it. We received representations from the Manchester combined authority, which has a long history of working closely with smaller providers. It has real concerns that a national list will lead to smaller providers being missed out.

We do not intend to divide the Committee but we will continue to scrutinise the Government and ensure that the provisions put in place do not, as we fear they may if they are not carefully handled, exclude important, worthwhile providers from the list.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 21 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.