Government suffers string of defeats in Lords for overhaul of post-16 roster

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A series of defeats were inflicted on the government by peers demanding changes in a planned overhaul of post-16 training.

The Lords-approved amendments to the Post-16 Skills and Education Bill ranged from ensuring continued support for unemployed adult learners to ensuring effective information about technical education in schools.

It sets the stage for a parliamentary struggle known as ping-pong, where legislation passes between the Commons and the Lords.

According to the government, the reforms would offer adults across the country the opportunity for lifelong retraining with a “lifelong skills guarantee”, helping them acquire the skills they need and open up new employment opportunities. .

In this framework, the legislation will support an overhaul of the student financing system to give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher education and training at university or college.

The peers inflicted a series of losses (John Walton / PA)

The measures would also aim to align the system with the needs of employers to fill current and future skills gaps, as well as to improve the quality of available training by ensuring that providers are better managed and skills better. regulated.

In the first loss of the day, the peers were supported by 180 to 130, majority 50, an initiative led by former conservative education secretary Lord Baker of Dorking to ensure that information on technical education and learning are available to high school students.

It was argued that a legislative change proposed by the government did not go far enough in terms of ensuring meetings with training providers.

Lord Baker said: “They say there should be at least one meeting, that means if a supplier comes in first… they have done their duty of one meeting and they can turn down all the others.

“I think it’s totally inappropriate.

“My amendment says there should be up to three meetings, I don’t think we should disrupt the schools more than that, they wouldn’t be all day, they would last two or three hours each or maybe two. or three providers could speak. “

Former Labor Education Minister Lord Adonis said: “The goal is for more young people to have the opportunity to engage in technical, vocational and apprenticeship pathways that are suitable for them.

“It is very difficult to follow these routes if you do not know them. “

Lord Baker (Nick Ansell / PA)
Lord Baker (Nick Ansell / PA)

But opposing the amendment, Conservative Education Minister Baroness Barran warned that requiring schools to hold multiple meetings between students and training providers could weigh on teacher resources and student time.

She said: “Schools are incredibly busy places and we try to find a balance that emphasizes the priority we place on this education without taking too much time on the curriculum.”

In further defeats, peers backed 166 to 150, majority 16, an amendment to ensure unemployed adult learners continue to receive universal credit if they undertake approved training that will help them find employment.

The Lords also supported a decision by 160 to 150, a majority 10, demanding the publication of an annual report on the retraining impact of funding restrictions on learners seeking a qualification at or below the level that they already had.

The chamber then approved, by 169 votes to 147, a majority 22, a provision to ensure that teachers of higher education students undergo special educational needs awareness training.

A final defeat followed for the government as peers backed a decision to put the Lifetime Skills Guarantee on a statutory basis.

The proposal, tabled by former Conservative minister Lord Clarke of Nottingham, was supported by 126 votes to 116, a majority of 10.

Conservative peers in favor of the proposal argued they wanted to legally protect the policy, which gives adults the opportunity to gain new skills while trying to land a job.