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Education (Participation) Act

Mr Speaker,

I bring forward the Education (Participation) Act on behalf of the millions of children and young people across the country.

Our bill is pretty simple in its intent and design: we want to keep young people in school or a form of training until they are 18 years old.

Some people might ask why... this Government has an answer for them. We need to prepare our children for the world which they will be growing into and ensure that they have the necessary skills and education to go for any job they want to. This is a responsible path to take for our young people.

Throughout the legislation we have also added protections for young people with jobs so they cannot be discriminated against and protections for young people with learning difficulties so that they are included and taken care of with regards to staying in school.

Mr Speaker, no legislation is of any use without any type of enforcement mechanism. Which is why we have introduced participation orders to compel young persons to stay in school until they have a form of training, education or other certificate.

Without ensuring that our young persons are prepared for the tough challenges that face them when they leave school, we have failed in one of our utmost moral duties to our children and young people.

In the broader picture, this piece of legislation represents and continues the Labour Party commitment to good schools, good grades and allowing young people to achieve.

I commend this bill to the House and I ask that it be read a first time and printed.
Michael Marshall | Conservative MP | Surrey Heath | Media Darling | Campaign Guru
Mr Speaker,

I commend the Secretary of State for bringing forward this important legislation. It was a key pledge that we made to the people at the last election and as a result our children will have the skills and competence to compete in the modern workforce - whether through school, college, apprenticeships, or other work-based training.

As Home Secretary I've been clear that we will be continuing Labour's tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime approach. Continued improvements in education, in opportunities for young people for training and employment complement record numbers of police officers and sensible sentencing to reduce crime. Recent research showed, for example, that the introduction of the Education Maintenance Allowance - by boosting participation and opportunities for young people to remain in education - reduced crime especially when in conjunction with other crime fighting initiatives.

That, of course, is just one of the many wider benefits to our society that comes from this change. It will also mean a stronger economy; stronger civil society; and stronger public services supported by the proceeds of higher growth. For all those many reasons I commend my Right Honourable Friend and urge the House - and particularly the recent converts in the Opposition - to support its passage.
Eleanor Nerina | Labour MP for Brent North (2010 - )
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation, and Sustainable Growth (2019 - )
Traits: Campaign organiser / Media darling / Finite resources
Mr Speaker,

I am very, very sceptical of this bill. Firstly, I am sceptical of any new mandate, any new way of criminalising people for a decision they take with their own life plans. One-size-fits-all directives and enforcement methods on 16 and 17 year olds and their families strike me as unduly paternalistic, far too unimaginative, far too inflexible, immune to the individual circumstances a young person might be faced with. I fear criminalising young people like this who decide not to stay on in participation is a big error. Compulsion, orders, fines, whatever sentences and punishments are dealt out - these are not empowering terms. There are serious civil liberty issues at stake here. 

Then we must turn to the issue of the increased resources that will be demanded by this bill. What considerations have the government made of the increased cost - in administering this new requirement, in enforcing compliance, in providing extra educational spaces - that will arise under this bill? What provisions have been made regarding the likely increase in truancy that we will see as a result of this bill? What measures are in place to ensure that this does not stretch existing educational resources, and that those who otherwise would have left participation are receiving tailored and personalised guidance that actually ensures they receive qualifications that are worthwhile and that this loss of choice and opportunity creates tangible long-term benefits for them? 

I also suspect that the government has got this policy the wrong way round. They have failed to provide adequate apprenticeships, failed to sufficiently promote retraining and reskilling throughout adulthood, are on course to fail their own targets on university admissions. The government's record on education opportunities - vocational and academic alike - is subpar. It needs to be better. It can be better. So instead of going so all-in on the stick, why was the carrot not attended to first? Why has the government focused on compelling young people into participation BEFORE they have actually made sure that the participation opportunities are there? Why has the government not focused this energy on making sure every qualification counts, and that there are strong and accessible qualifications for every life plan? 

For example, the Home Secretary, in her remarks, spoke of the benefits of the Education Maintenance Allowance. And yes, that's a good policy. But we need more policies like that, encompassing all forms of educational participation, truly creating meaningful opportunities, or else we risk this becoming a mandate that does more harm than good. That's the thing. For a mandate like this to make sense on any metric, we need to be able to look every young person in the eye and say "there are opportunities for you, ways for your skills to be used, ways for you to pursue your ambitions and goals and harness your talents". And I know by historical and global standards, we are comparatively lucky, but there are still many young people in this country who are being let down by the vocational education system, by the college and sixth form system, by the apprenticeship system. For example, some schools need a lot more investment, a lot more work, a lot more choice in their sixth form provision, and some communities are short on work-based learning and training programmes. We could be forcing people to stick with systems that, bluntly put, don't work for them. And we should focus on fixing those systems before mandating that people be encumbered with them, be forced to participate in a system that, in their area, may not be suited for them. 

Mr Speaker, the Liberal Democrats will be voting against this bill and we urge the government to rethink and return to the drawing board.
Grant Smith
Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West (2005-present)

Media Unknown, Constituency Appeal, Campaign Organiser, Fundraiser Extraordinaire 
Previously: Sir Lachlan Domnhall Coinneach Duncan MacMahon; Graham Adiputera; I think I played some dull Labour bloke at one point
Mr. Speaker,

I am not against this bill in principle, but I have a few questions about how this would work in practice. I am confused as to why the Government have included the clauses about people who already have jobs. Now, I understand that not everybody who has left school at the age of 16 and hasn't continued into further or higher education will be in their chosen career paths, and I understand that not everybody will be in good, decent well-paid jobs - but some may be. Some people may even be working in organizations that, whilst they may be at the lower level of the pay scheme, with hard work, can work their way up the career ladder - some of these organizations may offer their own training and education schemes.

That is why I am confused as to why, without exception, we would demand that all people who are under the age of 18 would have to go back to some form of education, regardless of what form of employment they are in currently. I understand that the Government's answer will be that they want everybody under the age of 18 the opportunity to train and study for a wide-range of jobs and career paths, - indeed this answer has already been provided by the Education Secretary in his opening remarks - however this does not tie in with the proposed bill.

This bill, in its current form, would create a two tier further education system, in which any body between the age of 16 and 18, currently in employment has to have at least 280 hours of guided education per year - this roughly equates to 23 hours a month - between 4 and 5 hours per week. For those currently not in employment, they have to study, or train, in some form for a minimum of 16 hours per week. This is an immediate disparity between those in employment and those not, and it makes no sense at all.

There are two questions here which need to be answered firs. The first being that if some of these people, as I already suggested, may be in decent jobs, or may be in an organization that can offer training or the chances of working towards a promotion, why would we require that they be back in education? The second being that if the belief is that many people who have left education at 16 and not pursued it may not have the necessary qualifications to enter their chosen field of employment, or may be in low paid jobs, and the idea is to get them back into education, how does only offering a minimum of 4-5 hours a week help them?

Their employers would not have to legally grant them any more time off work. Even though this Act states that employers need to be flexible, there is nothing that states that the employer cannot request their staff to do their study or training outside of working hours – whether that be on their days off or on an evening, for example. The minimum working hours mentioned in this Act is 20 hours a week. 20 hours is two 10 hour shifts, or three three 6-7 hour shifts, or four 5 hour shifts. No employee could be expected to give time off for staff in these circumstances. If one only works 3 days out of 7, any reasonable person would expect that person to do their studying or training on the four that they do not work.

If somebody in is in full-time work, it could be impossible for the employer to allow time off for studying and training purposes, depending on the job in question. There is nothing in this Act to state that such time off has to be remunerated – so a worker who works full time, or even part time, forced back into education by this Act, and away from work, could actually see a decrease in their pay.

I've noticed that this Act, in relation to those in employment only states that they must be working at least 20 hours – what of those who work 15? 10? 5? Are we expecting them to manage a minimum 16 hour college or training course, on top of this, as well as have a social life?

I also do not understand the reason why we would require Local Authorities to promote programmes that encourage young people to continue in further education if it is being made compulsory? Why would they need to promote and encourage going to college or sixth form or training if the people in question has to do it anyway?

If the government can answer my concerns on this I would be very grateful.
MP for Hexham 2005 -
Mr Speaker,

This piece of legislation is two-fold. It provides both the right to have a good education until the age of 18 while also placing the responsibility on all parties - parents, students and the government to ensure that it works, is fair and open to everybody. We understand that we cannot go into homes all across the country and force people into school but they have the sole responsibility to get the education and the grades to enable them to work and live in a society and economy which is only increasing in terms of the grades of education required. Let us give each and every child a chance. 

The last ten years have shown us that a Labour Governments commitment to our school funding should be nothing to worry about. We have steadily and willingly increased our funding for our schools and pupils. The price of our future generations educations should not be something we can debate about or try to cut deals - we should just do it because it is the right thing to do. We are proud of our record when it comes to schools and it is only Labour that can deliver when it comes to providing each and every child across this country with a good education and the skills to do any job. Apprenticeships, higher education placements and rankings for literacy and maths. All of these dwindled under a Tory Government but we have shown over the course of these last 10 years is that only a Labour Government can deliver on education and we will continue, as we have done, at making sure our kids have a chance. 

This government will provide both the opportunity and the funding to our children, make no mistake about it. It is only right.

People in work with secure jobs will benefit from increased opportunity to participate in education. 20 hours a week is a happy go between for those with jobs and those who want to participate in a form of education. Every level of government should be promoting our young ones going to school, I am not really sure if the Honourable Gentleman has considered that if we have every level involved... we can get more kids into school and more kids coming out with more grades. 
Michael Marshall | Conservative MP | Surrey Heath | Media Darling | Campaign Guru
Mr. Speaker,

I bet the Education Secretary is regretting using the phrase "pretty simple" to introduce this Bill. When the answer to a set of questions leaves us with more questions than before, it is neither pretty or simple.

I have no idea what this Government's plan is, and I don't think it does either. The Education Secretary said in his opening statement that the government want to "keep young people in school or a form of training until they are 18 years old."

He went on to provide reasons why. He then said that there needs to be an "enforcement mechanism" which will "compel" young people to say in school.

I then questioned about people who currently have a job and now the Education Secretary is saying that we can't go into people's homes and force them into school. He says that he is offering opportunities. And that people in work, under 18, but with secure jobs, have the opportunity to participate in education. 

And yet.... and yet, Mr. Speaker this Bill allows Local Authorities to issue participation orders for those under 18 who are not staying in education.

Is the Government increasing the mandatory age at which people have to remain in education to 18 for all those under 18, or is it only increasing it for those who do not have a job? 
MP for Hexham 2005 -
Mr Speaker,

The Government has made itself pretty clear in the statements it has made before the house. The honourable gentleman for Hexham speaks only in conjecture and perhaps a sense of disillusionment with the education policy his own party has put forward.

We believe in using the mechanisms laid out in the legislation in order to have our children take note of the responsibility that befalls them - to stay in school and get a good education.

Our legislation sets out very clearly the requirement for those with and without jobs. We understand that a young person at 16 with a full time job will not be able to participate in education but our legislation sets out - very clearly - the basis upon which someone in employment must stay in some form of education or training that is if they work a certain amount of hours.
Michael Marshall | Conservative MP | Surrey Heath | Media Darling | Campaign Guru
Mr. Speaker,

The Government are not being straightforward or "pretty clear." They are telling us that they are increasing the participation age for education to 18. They talk of enforcement.  Now they talk about using the mechanisms in the bill to make children "take notes of their responsibilities".

The Education Secretary has now admitted that those aged between 16 and 18 with full time jobs cannot take part in education. However, the legislation that he has introduced has no such exemption. It states that those in work for at least 20 hours has to have a minimum of 280 hours of guided education a year. 

One who works 40 hours per week, works at least 20 hours, therefore under this legislation would be compelled to be educated, even if the Education Secretary thinks that they would not be able to participate.

What the Education Secretary is telling the House is not reflected in the Act he has presented. 

Now that we have got to the bottom of the policy, would he prepared to accept an amendment that exempts those who work full time from the effects of this Bill?
MP for Hexham 2005 -
Mr Speaker,

The Honourable Member is still attempting to find his "gotcha" moment before the House today. The Government believes - as does the Leader of the Opposition - that this bill is a good policy for our children and future generations and I look forward to implementing it.
Michael Marshall | Conservative MP | Surrey Heath | Media Darling | Campaign Guru

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