My noble friend Lady Sharp referred to the Tomlinson report as the opportunity of a lifetime. It was, above all, an attempt to create a unified framework of achievement and qualifications post-14, based on four levels of a diploma or a graduation certificate. And there will also be improved vocational provision. An extended essay or research project would be required, and more testing questions also were to be a feature of that level. Perhaps I should not need to add that. The Government's focus will now be on making it happen. In essence, he was asking whether, if there was some divergence now, it would come back together later.
We need to stop thinking of academic education as being better than vocational—that is what we have been trying to get away from in education for as long as I can remember. I am confident that if we could engage more girls in education, by finding them interesting, engaging courses, then we would have a lower teenage pregnancy rate. My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for bringing to our attention this very important issue. It is a weapon against poverty. Of the 40 allegations made in my initial report, the majority have been confirmed by the section 166 investigation and some of the most serious allegations were found to be widespread and systematic.
The Government's response in the recent White Paper came as rather a disappointment. Some time ago we adopted the concept of lifelong learning. This provides them with biography and sources that enables the student to discover his or her views on the issue. The noble Lord, Lord Pendry, reminded us of our skills shortage. It is important to the future of our country. The noble Baroness, Lady Massey, mentioned the increased flexibility programme, and the noble Lord, Lord Pendry, talked about the integration of the sector skills councils with developing the agendas in vocational areas. I am told that I have to sit down when the Clock shows five minutes to the hour.
We are getting the basics right in other ways. Unless the foundations are deep enough and the various beams strong enough, not only will vicious cracks appear, but the whole structure may not last long. It was a public recognition across the town for young people who had achieved. My Lords, I thank the Minister for his thoughtful response, and all noble Lords for their participation in the debate. I have taught children and young people from pre-school through to university and I know that, by and large, it is predictable from an early age which young people will succeed in education and will have the motivation to go on to post-l6 education.
We need therefore some way of reducing the number of pupils who are able to use those specialist resources … which is what exam systems are for. Vocational education is to be delivered in schools alongside colleges and private training providers, and schools are to he encouraged to develop centres of vocational excellence. That is one of the hardest targets to crack. Commission for the Socio-Economic Development of the Bantu Areas. As you know, English isn't taught in British schools through grammatical analysis unlike French and German in their respective countries. This measure will ensure that those who leave school possess the basic reading and maths skills that they will need to function in the wider world.
We have all agreed on its importance, but we have not adapted the examination system to go with it. Each 'section' of the Bac is a bloc of options. That makes it pretty useless to anyone not aiming to pursue the curriculum to its higher levels. First, I welcome the fact that the Government have now said that the five A to C grade targets will in future have to include English and maths. That could well be in the youth Green Paper, so I ask noble Lords to wait in patience.
All that has been happening while Tomlinson and his colleagues were deliberating and while those who responded in the White Paper were thinking. It is worth doing this if there is some tangible qualification at the end. This only made matters worse. I welcome the fact that pupils aged 16 and above are given financial inducements to continue their education. There seem to be two purposes of education; on the one hand, human flourishing and the fulfilment of human potential and, on the other hand, social prosperity and economic success. I do not think the Government's proposals provide a satisfactory framework at present.
My Lords, like other noble Lords I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, for giving the House a chance to debate the Tomlinson report and for the things she said. In one case, I am not sure who was most excited and proud, the little girl or her mother. I passed the 11-plus examination but my brother, my only sibling, who was a year younger than me, did not. I am reminded of the need to build strong foundations as I experience the restructuring of my house. In conclusion, does the Minister agree that the future of access to post-16 education lies in the building blocks that we set lower down our system and in initiatives such as those I referred to? The analysis of the Tomlinson report is compelling, and its essence is encapsulated in one of its earlier paragraphs: We want to bring back a passion for learning, and enable all learners to achieve as highly as possible and for their achievements to be recognised.
Added together this group makes up at least 41 percent of the school age population - a significant chunk who could be identified to be more 'suited' to vocational rather than academic education. This is no criticism of them - more a reflection of the fact that teaching and testing require different skills. It is highly unlikely that when a government Green Paper is issued in January this theme of the report will feature highly. The noble Baronesses, Lady Massey, Lady Walmsley and Lady Morris, all referred to it. I wish he were alive now to help me apply his nose to the proposals in Tomlinson and the White Paper.