A string of defeats have been inflicted against the Government by peers demanding changes to a planned overhaul of post-16 training.

Amendments approved by the Lords to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, ranged from ensuring continued benefit support for unemployed adult learners and ensuring effective technical education information in schools.

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

According to the Government, the reforms would offer adults across the country the chance to retrain throughout their lives with a “lifetime skills guarantee”, helping them to gain in-demand skills and open up further job opportunities.

As part of this, the legislation will support a revamp of the student finance system to give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college.

Peers inflicted a series of defeats (John Walton/PA)
Peers inflicted a series of defeats (John Walton/PA)

The measures would also seek to align the system around the needs of employers to meet current and future skills gaps as well as improving the quality of training available by making sure providers are better run and qualifications better regulated.

In the first defeat of the day, peers backed by 180 to 130, majority 50, a move led by Tory former education secretary Lord Baker of Dorking to ensure that information about technical education and apprenticeships was available to secondary school pupils.

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

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

“I think that that is totally inappropriate.

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

Labour former education minister Lord Adonis said: “The objective is that more young people should get the opportunity to engage in technical, vocational and apprenticeship routes which are suitable to them.

“It is very difficult to engage in those routes if you don’t know about them.”

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

But opposing the amendment, Tory education minister Baroness Barran warned requiring schools to provide multiple meetings between pupils and training providers threatened to be a drain on teachers’ resources and pupils’ time.

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

In further defeats, peers backed by 166 votes to 150, majority 16, an amendment aimed at ensuring unemployed adult learners continued to receive universal credit if they undertook approved training that will help them into work.

The Lords also supported a move by 160 votes to 150, majority 10, requiring the publication of an annual report on the impact on re-skilling of funding restrictions on learners, seeking a qualification at a level equivalent to or lower than one they already held.

The chamber went on to approve by 169 votes to 147, majority 22, a provision to ensure teachers of further education students had special educational needs awareness training.

A final defeat followed for the Government as peers supported a move to put the lifetime skills guarantee on a statutory footing.

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

Conservative peers in favour of the proposal argued they wanted to protect in law the policy, which gives adults the opportunity to gain new qualifications as they bid to secure jobs.