The Act provides the first complete legislative overhaul of Apprenticeships legislation for nearly 200 years – putting the new Apprenticeship Offer for suitably qualified young people on a statutory basis from 2013 and ensures a good quality apprenticeship for apprentices and employers alike.
It is a key step towards meeting Ministers’ ambitions that one in five young people will undertake an apprenticeship by 2020, building on the huge increase in numbers starting an apprenticeship in the last 10 years, rising from just 65,000 in 1997 to a quarter of a million this year, with overall Government investment topping £1bn annually.
It introduces the landmark time to train initiative, which will give employees the legal right to request time to train throughout their working lives. The introduction of the right will be phased and will be made available to employees in large businesses from April 2010 before being extended to all employees from April 2011.
It puts in place a stronger, more accountable and effective infrastructure to oversee further education and training and it also includes new measures which will build on the huge improvement in school standards over the last decade.
These include establishing Ofqual as the independent, statutory regulator of qualifications and assessment, reporting to Parliament and the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency to develop and advise Ministers on the curriculum and related qualifications.
Ofqual has operated in an interim form since April 2008 and has taken on the regulatory functions of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).
Skills minister Kevin Brennan, said:
“Now, more than ever, we need learning and training opportunities in place that empower people to gain the skills and training they need to get on. This Act will help the country’s recovery from the current economic climate and will assist people in strengthening their skills and employability.
“The new legislation will also introduce new flexibilities to help individuals access training, and ensure that the standard of training available remains high.
“The new Skills Funding Agency will help drive forward these new measures and ensure a quick response to the demand for skilled workers. It’s really important that we remain committed to investing in people and their skills.”
Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said:
“This Act is a vital step in equipping the country to meet the economic and social needs now and in the long-term. We want to make sure we don't make the same mistakes as in the past by failing to build a motivated, highly skilled workforce to take us through the current challenging economic times and build a secure, prosperous future.
“There have been undeniable huge improvements in school standards over the last decade – but we make no apologies for continuing to strengthen and building confidence in the system.
“An education system must have the confidence of the public. This Act will rightly be seen as landmark with the establishment of Ofqual as the first ever independent regulator of qualifications and assessment. It means we can have a properly informed and mature debate over exam standards – instead of puerile arguments, where critics deliberately handpick individual questions, from individual exams, to make sweeping generalisations about the whole education system.
“The Act also delivers a clear package of measures to build on teachers and pupils’ achievements - giving schools the powers to further drive up standard and makes sure that teachers and support staff get the recognition and support they need.
“And we will not rest there. Our white paper in June set out the next steps in our reform programme – giving pupils and parents legal guarantees of what they can expect from schools; clear reforms to maintain high-quality teaching standards; and making sure the lowest performing schools get the support they need.
”The safety and welfare of children and young people is absolutely paramount – and the Act puts in place crucial steps to make sure every local authority has a Children’s Trust Board with responsibility for improving the well being of children in their area. This will allow us to strengthen local arrangements to support children as they are growing up and their parents.”
The other key measures of the Act are:
- local authorities will take on responsibility for securing education and training for all 16 to 19 year olds, to create a single, joined up offer for all children and young people from 0 to 19, while the new Skills Funding Agency will oversee a new demand-led approach to education and training provision for adults, better tailored to the needs of businesses and learners themselves.
- creating a new independent parents complaints service to strengthen the arrangements for reaching resolution in disputes between schools and parents which cannot be resolved at local level. It will provide effective redress where the school has been at fault in providing a service or handling a complaint, or support schools in their decisions where they are correctly reached;
- extending the powers schools and colleges currently have to search for weapons to cover alcohol, drugs and stolen items;
- schools being required to record and report significant incidents where staff have used force to control or restrain a pupil, which they are able to do where the pupil is endangering themselves or others to prevent injury, damage to property or serious breaches of school discipline;
- Behaviour and Attendance Improvement Partnerships Behaviour and Attendance Improvement Partnerships being made statutory for all secondary schools, including academies though their funding agreement. Currently, schools partnerships are voluntary - though 98% of secondary schools are currently already members of partnerships;
- local authorities will be ordered to replace low performing Pupil Referral Units PRUs with a specified alternative, and to hold a competition for replacement PRUs, bringing the intervention regime for PRUs into line with that for mainstream schools;
- strengthening compliance with School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) to keep up the pressure on reducing teacher workloads. Local authorities will be given power to issue compliance notices to schools which do not comply with the provisions of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document – which will allow or require local authorities to intervene if schools do not comply. The Secretary of State will also be given powers to direct LAs to issue compliance notices to schools;
- enabling Ofsted to publish a new health check statement for schools which will reward successful schools by paving the way for a move from a three year to a five or six year inspection cycle, and enable attention to be focused on schools more in need of support;
- creating a Support Staff Negotiating Body to negotiate on, and agree, a framework for all schools in England to use when determining school support staff pay and conditions - as the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document does for teachers;
- placing responsibility for securing education for young people in juvenile custody with local authorities to align more closely the education that young offenders receive while in custody with that available in the mainstream;
- strengthening Children’s Trusts by putting Children’s Trust Boards on a statutory footing and extending the duty to co-operate to promote children’s well-being to include all maintained schools, Academies, SFCs, FE colleges and Jobcentre Plus. Ministers will tomorrow launch a consultation on guidance for Children’s Trusts to support the new legislation.