Sports Participation in Schools

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 9th September 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Tabled by
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to Team GB’s success at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, what steps they plan to take (1) to raise sports participation levels in schools, and (2) to provide additional funding to support this.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton.

Queen’s Speech

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Wednesday 12th May 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare my interest as the vice-chair of an FE college, which has some bearing on this debate. I join in both the general congratulation to our maiden speakers today and our thanks to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth for his thoughtful and constructive contributions in our House over a long period.

The efforts of key workers in schools, supermarkets, the health service, care settings and all other areas of our society have been nothing short of heroic over the past year or so. We are now beginning to emerge from the Covid pandemic thanks to the personal sacrifices of the British public and the NHS’s fantastic handling of the vaccine rollout. This Queen’s Speech was the Government’s opportunity to show that they value this hard work and sacrifice and that they can deliver much-needed reforms for the public.

The Government have repeatedly committed to levelling up our country, but it is difficult to see much evidence of that in the forthcoming legislative programme. I support levelling up and a fairer distribution of opportunity. For me, levelling up is about fairness in the workplace; opportunities for all in education; a fairer distribution of income; equal access to health, public services, better housing and cultural activity; and the proper care and protection of our elderly. Levelling up will fail to be anything more than a slogan unless the Government are willing to confront the hard truth about deep-rooted structural inequalities that sap the health, prosperity and life chances from our most deprived communities.

Since 2010, further education and skills have borne the brunt of the Government’s harmful economic choices, with funding cut, access to learning restricted and maintenance support for younger learners abolished. This has resulted in fewer young people studying in FE and fewer workers able to retrain and upskill. We therefore welcome the Government’s change of heart and new commitment to helping people to retrain in the skills Bill. However, they must come up with a plan to create good-quality jobs that allow people to earn good money if the training programme is to have the desired effect.

For too long, this Government have relied on boosting job creation with unregulated part-time and low-paying jobs. These jobs often involve zero-hours contracts and exploitative working practices, such as fire and rehire. The Government have repeatedly promised the biggest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation, yet we have no plan to deal with the scourge of insecure work and unscrupulous practices. With one in eight workers trapped in poverty and many hard hit by the pandemic, many will be in disbelief that there was no mention of a long-awaited employment Bill to protect them. Downing Street insists that legislation to protect workers’ rights will be introduced

“when the time is right”,

citing the pandemic as the reason for a delay. This logic is perverse, given that the pandemic has brutally exposed the terrible working conditions and insecurity that many of our key workers in retail, care and delivery face—demonstrating why the time is right now and why legislation is urgently needed to protect them.

The dither and delay in addressing employment rights is all the more exasperating given that the Government have found space in their legislation to protect free speech on campuses, despite little evidence of a problem, at a time when staff and students are coping with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the same with the imposition of ID cards for elections. I conclude that the Government’s focus on manufacturing an argument over free speech on campus is an attempt to distract us all from their failure to support students and universities through this pandemic and beyond. Students are seriously worried about getting the skills and experience they need for the workplace. Despite Labour’s calls, Ministers did little to support the graduates of 2020, who entered a shattered jobs market. They must do more to secure the futures of the class of 2021.

Levelling up is a great theme—but it needs real policies, with meat behind it.

Skills for Jobs White Paper

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I welcome this White Paper—it is not often that I say that—and I am glad that the Government have finally recognised the importance of further and technical education, especially after a decade of cuts to the FE budget. This is particularly welcome within the current context of Covid-19, with the ONS announcing today that unemployment has risen to 5%. Many people will need to retrain to re-enter the workforce, and the Government have to act fast to address the uncertainty in our economy.

With that in mind, what sectors will be included in the lifetime skills guarantee, and how will this change depending on the needs of the economy? What support will be available to those who are already qualified to level 3 but need to train for jobs in a new industry, or those who are not qualified to level 2?

In the year when the UK is hosting COP 26, I was saddened to see that climate change is not mentioned once in the White Paper. How does it align with the UK’s net-zero target?

We also got within this package of announcements the “interim conclusion” to the Augar review, which promises four new consultations on reforms to higher education, the lifelong loan entitlement, modularisation and the TEF. When will these conclude?

The legacy of 10 years of cuts will not end with this paper, and the Association of Colleges has even said that, despite recent uplifts, funding remains inadequate. I echo that. When will the education sector be given the long-term funding settlement that it needs?

I reflect that, if Covid has taught us one thing, it is that the care sector needs more training and support. FE is well placed to upskill this sector, and I had hoped that we might have seen some specifics on how this might be achieved. That was an opportunity missed.

I also implore the Minister not to forget about universities, with many facing job cuts. Can she confirm that new support for higher education will be provided in the upcoming Budget? Given the uncertainties of the last year, this sector requires stability and commitment, so why have the Government decided to cut support for London’s world-class institutions, and why have they not given more thought to integrating support for upskilling using the university sector and getting better integration between and across the sectors?

Parity of esteem between HE and FE is long overdue, so this White Paper goes in the right direction but not far enough. Finally, when will FE stop—[Inaudible]—of our education sector and be given the long-term funding settlement that it deserves?

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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We lost the last part of those remarks, but I will call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Storey.

Covid-19: Social Mobility

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, it is encouraging to see, even without being asked by the Government, the flurry of businesses returning their business rates relief. We all have to tackle this pandemic together and the effect on different employers has been disparate. I can assure the noble Lord that, on apprenticeships, we have offered employers £2,000 for anybody under the age of 25 they take on, and £1,500 for anybody over the age of 25. We are doing what we can to support them, as well as the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, which offers six-month jobs for those between 16 and 24 on universal credit to give them an entry into the workplace.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, women in low-paid insecure work have borne the triple threat of job losses, falling income and the explosion of unpaid care needs during the Covid pandemic. What work is being done by the Government now to address the structural barriers that women—working-class women in particular—face, including to combat low pay and secure further gains on shared childcare and caring responsibilities more generally?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I also have the privilege of being the Minister for Women, and we are looking at the entitlement to flexible working. I am also pleased that we are focused on ensuring that the economic recovery is for women as well. We have been encouraged by how the digital skills boot camps have not only met targets for women’s participation but exceeded them. I am pleased to say that, in April 2021, the national living wage will be going up 2.2% to £8.91, so we are looking to help women in particular gain the advantages of the economy recovering.

Higher Education (Fee Limits and Student Support) (England) (Coronavirus) (Revocation) Regulations 2020

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 29th October 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, we on the Labour Benches welcome the revocation of the original statutory instrument. We were initially supportive of the principle of the cap, as we could see scope for emerging aggressive recruitment by a small number of institutions. The decision to use a flawed algorithm to determine A-level results led to a great deal of distress and upheaval for schools, students and universities, which we thought was entirely predictable from early on. The belated but entirely sensible decision to use teacher assessments naturally led to an increase in the number of students seeking a place at university this year. That meant that the numbers cap proposed by the original regulations became unworkable and unfair.

It is to the universities’ credit that they were able to respond quickly and flexibly to the disruption surrounding the admissions process and were able to honour their offers. They should be congratulated for the way in which they responded, given that they were simultaneously coping with the farce of the A-levels algorithm and putting in place measures to ensure that campuses were Covid-secure. We record our thanks to the universities that have done a lot in that regard.

We have to hope that chaos does not become an endemic feature of the Government’s crisis management. For example, I am advised that guidance is habitually late from the DfE. Universities complain that the guidance they were promised for 11 October about managing the Christmas end-of-term departure of students has yet to appear. Perhaps when the Minister replies, she can advise the Committee on when that might be published. Can she also confirm that the Government have a special Christmas sub-committee, which, apparently, is reviewing all these issues?

I hope that lessons have been learned; it is right that the Government have listened to teachers, the Labour Party, schools, students and others and pushed back the timing of exams in this academic year to give pupils more time to catch up on the learning that they have lost. Frankly, the decision need not have waited weeks to be delivered, after it was called to be made—principally by the Labour Party but by others, the unions in particular. Although it is a necessary intervention, there are concerns that it will not be sufficient to prevent a repeat of the situation that led to the need to revoke the original order.

All the expert advice suggests that the virus will not disappear by next summer, so I have a few questions for the Minister. The HE sector, parents, students and schools are keen to learn how stability will be guaranteed next year. Nobody benefits from the chaos we had this summer, so will the Government be reintroducing a temporary numbers cap? Can we have early decisions on this issue? Have the Government undertaken an analysis of the impact of the removal of the cap on university finances, and on the current distribution of student numbers across the United Kingdom? What other measures have the Government considered to prevent aggressive recruitment practices in the following academic year? Will Ministers look at the impact of variations in overseas student numbers? Can we be reassured that there will be extensive dialogue with the devolved nations before any changes to the caps are considered? Given the additional number of students now attending university, how will the Minister monitor the student drop-out rate in real time while those students are still at university? Finally, have Ministers given any further thought to the mental health needs of students coping with the stress that they are enduring, cooped up in halls of residence, at a time when they do not have the necessary finances and resources to aid themselves?

Those are a lot of questions. While we are happy to support the order, the Government have a lot to answer for in the way in which they are conducting themselves towards universities, students, parents and the governing bodies.

National Curriculum

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Wednesday 21st October 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, music is indeed on the national curriculum and is compulsory in maintained schools for children between the ages of five and 14, and they should be offered one subject at GCSE beyond that. However, £500 million has been invested in hubs and other schemes to ensure that young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, have access to music.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, is the Minister as shocked as I was that research from Teach First shows that a child can still get through their entire GCSEs without studying a single book by a black author? What is she going to do to change that? Will she consider encouraging a scheme whereby schools get pupils more engaged in selecting books by black authors and topics that reflect black British history?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, as I have outlined, it is open to teachers, whether they are teaching the national curriculum in maintained schools or in academies, to include literature from a variety of authors. There are suggestions in the national curriculum that they choose authors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Social Mobility

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 15th October 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend for his tenacity and perseverance with university technical colleges, and thoroughly enjoyed the recent round table that I hosted on UTCs. We are indeed seeing more children from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university: 23.1% went into higher education, the highest proportion since records began. We also know that 59.1% of black students are now entering higher education, so, along with the efforts of UTCs, I pay tribute to the efforts of schools, which are paying dividends.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Social Mobility Commission report looks only at boys, and apparently the model cannot be adjusted for part-time work. What work is being done in government to look at the impact of gender inequalities on social mobility, including issues such as part-time work, increased caring responsibilities and low pay? That way, we can properly judge the policy changes needed to address inequality and social mobility issues for boys and girls, particularly post Covid.

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge (Con)
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As noble Lords will be aware, I also hold the privilege of being the Minister for Women. Unfortunately, the link data that the LEO relies on does not contain women’s data at the moment, but we are aware of the increased caring responsibilities that women are taking on, particularly during the pandemic. Subject to consultation, there will be an employment Bill that will make flexible working the default option, unless there is good reason otherwise. There is also a proposal for a £1 billion childcare fund, so we are aware of the importance of that issue for women in the workplace.

Apprenticeships (Alternative English Completion Conditions and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Monday 12th October 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, Labour very much welcomes these measures, but I must ask why it has taken the Government some six months since the start of the crisis to introduce them. We agree with the Minister that apprentices who are 75% of the way through their programme should be allowed to complete it, but for those who have already experienced redundancy or seen their employment end in the past six months, the support comes far too late. The Minister must surely accept that they do not deserve to miss out on the support that has been given.

I live in a part of the world where the hospitality industry is a major employer and quality apprenticeships are at a premium. Given all the problems the hospitality sector is being hit with, what sectoral support will be made available for apprentices in this industry, and for others in a similar position who have already been made redundant and now face an uphill struggle to find an alternative employer to finish an apprenticeship in sectors where new opportunities are scarce?

Local FE colleges tell me that apprenticeship starts are down by 50% on this time last year. They anticipate a tidal wave of redundancies among apprenticeships at the end of the current furlough scheme. Providers will need to know what support those apprentices will get if they are less than 75% through an apprenticeship. How will they be supported to find another job in sectors facing a dramatic contraction? This is particularly acute where areas come and go from special measures and where Covid containment ratchets up and down.

Which services will provide the advice and guidance and how many apprentices are they equipped to deal with? Will the Minister give us more detail on the signposting service, which, as I understand it, will act as a sort of triage system, directing redundant apprentices to local and national services? What will the service look like on the ground and how will the Minister ensure that provision is available right across the country? Can we have any confidence that the services involved in providing support will have sufficient resources to undertake this important role? Can we be certain that they can handle the number of former apprentices who will need their assistance?

In the past few months we have seen many announcements from the Government. For example, in July, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced 30,000 new traineeships, but almost three months on the tender for procuring these has not even been issued. Last week, sadly, the Chancellor ignored calls to introduce a national retraining strategy.

However, if the Government will not listen to Labour on this, perhaps the Minister will listen to businesses. We support the creation of a national skills task force to redeploy skilled workers and provide retraining and upskilling opportunities for both young and older workers. Will the Minister consider this proposal, which businesses back? It includes skills-matching, which we know Ministers generally favour and which could support redundant apprentices and workers alike.

I am sure that the Minister will be aware, and have received a copy, of the letter on the formation of a skills task force. Its signatories include the chief executives and general secretaries of many different bodies including, among others, Make UK, the TUC, Cogent, UK Steel, the British Plastics Federation, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the Food and Drink Federation. It is difficult to imagine an issue that could bring together such a wide-ranging and diverse group of bodies, but they are united in their call for the Government to act decisively and quickly in setting up a task force to address the urgent skills crisis that we undoubtedly face. We support the call for a cross-party, pan-industry task force. We commit to working with the Government, unions and employer organisations to ensure that such a task force can assist the Government in making decisions more holistically and strategically. Will the Minister take that suggestion on board and set up a task force, as those industry bodies have proposed?

I have a number of specific questions for the Minister and I would appreciate a response to them, if not today then perhaps through the benefit of a letter. How many apprentices does the DfE expect to be made redundant as a result of the pandemic? How many have been made redundant so far this year? Will the Government reach their target of 3 million apprentices by the end of this year—a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, helpfully drew our attention? Can the Minister confirm that apprentices who are made redundant before the 75% threshold is reached can get on to the Kickstart programme? It is worth observing that the DfE says that it has

“launched a support service to make sure that apprentices who have lost their jobs can get the help they need to access financial, legal, health and wellbeing support, as well as careers advice.”

I wonder whether the Minister can advise how many have used this support service so far during the pandemic.

Labour will support the statutory instrument today, but these measures alone will not be sufficient. I urge the Minister to be bolder and act now to help redundant apprentices and those in a state of limbo, so that they can use their much-needed skills to rebuild our economy—something that, I am sure, the good Minister and all noble Lords will want to achieve.

Covid-19: Social Mobility

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, apprenticeships are indeed a valuable opportunity for many young people. The ASK programme—apprenticeship support and knowledge—equips teachers to make sure that young people are aware of these opportunities. The funding I have outlined is in addition to the £1,000 already given to employers to take on apprentices who are aged 16 to 18 or are under 25 with an EHC plan. During the crisis, their training has been made flexible so that it can be done remotely, and we have encouraged employers to furlough apprentices when they can.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I draw attention to my declaration in the register of interests. The Minister will know that the most recent Social Mobility Commission audit found that the Government had not done enough to help disadvantaged 16 to 19 year-olds with a student premium or to help the poorest into post-school training. Will Ministers now reverse cuts to further education colleges and act to increase participation in adult education? What steps will they take to ensure that, post Covid, low-income, working-class households will get fairer access to higher education?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, as part of the skills recovery package, the Chancellor announced £100 million to support young people who want a high-value level 2 or 3 qualification where there might not be employment opportunities. FE capital is part of the “build, build, build” response to the recovery. A White Paper in the autumn will outline this Government’s priority to have an FE sector that is no longer the Cinderella of the higher education sector.

Covid-19: Educational Gaps

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 4th June 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, it is anticipated that the calculated grades that students receive in the summer will enable the majority of them to progress to the next stage as they had hoped. The noble Baroness is correct that the Ofqual consultation proposal reflects the Government’s intention that, for those students who do not believe the calculated grade reflects their attainment, all subjects should be on offer for examinations to be taken in the autumn.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, the Education Policy Institute has called for a catch-up plan to prevent a significant widening of the attainment gap between poor children and the rest of the pupil population. Does the Minister support a one-year doubling of pupil premiums for poorer pupils entering years 1, 7 and 11 and a doubling of the disadvantage funding made available for students set to enter year 13? If not, why not?

Baroness Berridge Portrait Baroness Berridge
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My Lords, the Government give £2.4 billion a year at the moment in the pupil premium. As the noble Lord will be aware, there was the announcement of an additional £14.4 billion to schools over the next three years, which will begin to feed its way into the system. He is correct: we are aware of the need for catch-up and for targeted support, including over the summer, but there is no intention at the moment for schools to be open throughout the summer.