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Conservative Confusion Could Criminalise Young People

November 11, 2008 12:00 AM

Conservative confusion means a generation of 16-18 year olds could be criminalised for not staying in school, the Liberal Democrats said today.

The Government's Education and Skills Bill will make it a criminal offence for young people to refuse to stay on in some sort of education until they are 18.

Conservative confusion on the Bill has meant that they did not support Liberal Democrat attempts to remove the criminal offence and put in a right to study. Instead they said they would not implement the proposals.

The Liberal Democrats have secured a review of how the criminal penalties are working two years after the policy is implemented.

The Liberal Democrats have obtained other significant concessions from the Government on the Bill including:

• Ensuring young people will not be imprisoned for leaving education before turning 18;

• A duty on schools to listen to children of all ages;

• Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education included in the National Curriculum

• A package of support from Local Authorities to remove the barriers to study for 16 to 18s.

Commenting ahead of the final debate on the Bill, Baroness (Joan) Walmsley, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson, said:

"This is not a complicated issue. The Conservatives could have helped defeat the Government by simply joining us in attempting to give the over-16s the choice in how and when they continue their education.

"Instead they tied themselves up in knots and allowed the Government's damaging provisions to sail through.

"The Government claims these powers will not be used against children but, if that's the case, why do they need the powers at all? Our review will prove whether their claims are well-founded.

"It is a relief the Government have conceded that young people should not be imprisoned for not continuing in education or training.

"Ministers should be concentrating on giving young people high quality choices and taking away the barriers to learning rather than giving them a criminal record. Our Learning and Support Packages, to which the Government has now agreed, will help to do that."