Apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon has told Tes he is “very hopeful” the Technical and Further Education Bill will be approved by Parliament before the general election.
Should MPs today agree to prime minister Theresa May’s calls for an election on 8 June, Parliament is expected to be dissolved on 3 May. This would mean that any bills currently going through Parliament at that time would not become an Act of Parliament.
The TFE bill returns to the House of Commons today to discuss amendments to the bill posed by the House of Lords.
'Ping pong' process
The bill allows for the creation of a new insolvency regime for colleges and the expansion of the remit of the Institute for Apprenticeships to give it a greater role in overseeing a new structure for post-16 education in line with the skills plan. If approved, it would also ensure that colleges and local authorities share data, following the devolution of adult skills funding.
An amendment tabled by Lord Baker, and subsequently accepted by the government, would require schools to ensure that a “range of education and training providers” can access pupils aged between 13 and 18 to promote technical education qualifications or apprenticeships.
Should MPs today agree on which amendments should be included or struck out, the bill would then proceed to gain royal assent, paving the way for it to become enshrined in law.
Without consensus on these matters, however, the “ping pong” process - which would see the bill passed between the two houses as they look to reach an agreement - could end up leaving the bill with insufficient time to gain royal assent before the house rises ahead of the election.
Education secretary Justine Greening has tabled two amendments for debate today which would halt two of the Lords’ amendments which caught the most attention – the first would have seen financial support for apprentices extended, while the other would see a duty placed on Ofsted to take into account the careers advice made available to students by colleges.
Tes understands the education secretary took this step, however, before the general election was anounced.
A consensual approach
Speaking to Tes at the official launch of the Institute for Apprenticeships last night, Mr Halfon said: “We’re doing the bill [this] afternoon and we’ll see what happens. But I’m very hopeful.
"There are issues people have with certain parts of it, but for the most part it’s been a very consensual approach. I’d be very hopeful we can get it through in time.”