My Lords, unfortunately, at the beginning of the apprenticeship enhancement, certain apprenticeships, particularly at level 2, were not of the value that both employers and apprentices needed. Therefore, we moved from frameworks to standards. It is positive, though, that many employers that were not able to promote BAME employees, for instance, used apprenticeships as a way to upskill their workforce and improve their BAME representation.
My Lords, remaining with apprenticeships, is the Minister satisfied that the current legislation, almost a decade old, still ensures value to both the individual and the employer? In particular, is the minimum apprenticeship of 12 months still sufficiently long to provide the basic skills for any employment?
The 12-month minimum period was brought in, as I said to the right reverend Prelate, when we had shorter apprenticeships and had to ensure that, by law, an apprenticeship meant a certain qualification. We have seen an increase in longer-term apprenticeships, such that we amended the regulations so that, if you were made redundant during your apprenticeship but had completed 75%, you could go to the endpoint of the apprenticeship without an employer.
My Lords, in relation to the situation at the moment, we have of course made school places available to those with special educational needs who have an education, health and care plan, and we encourage them to attend school where the risk assessment shows that that would be best for them. In relation to those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Family Fund will provide £37 million over the next year to support disadvantaged families who need extra money, and £10 million has been allocated to cover the pandemic response.
Since the schools closed, children from better-off families have been spending 30% more time on home learning than poorer children, and the learning time gap between better-off and worse-off children is widening markedly. What specific further targeted support for disadvantaged students is the Minister suggesting to the Chancellor be included in his economic stimulus in July?
My Lords, since 2011 it was good to know that the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers had narrowed at every level, but of course we are acutely concerned at the moment about the widening of that gap due to those students perhaps not accessing as much learning, despite the efforts of many teachers who, for instance, even drop printed worksheets at their door to enable them to catch up. I assure the noble Lord that in addition to the potential targeted online support, we have also made available this year a further £9 million for the holiday clubs during the school holidays. Those are important in terms of activities but they also provide meals during the school holidays. He will be aware that during this period we have had a voucher system, and over £100 million-worth of vouchers has been redeemed by families who qualify for free school meals.
My Lords, historically there have been issues to do with the quality of apprenticeships, which is why we have moved from the framework to the standards. They should be 12 months long, there is a minimum of 20% training off the job, and there is an end-of-year assessment. The quality is improving, we are monitoring the standards, and Ofsted is in charge of monitoring the standards of training providers, so we can assure the noble Lord that the quality of apprenticeships is going up.