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Written Question
Apprentices
22 Oct 2021

Questioner: Stephen Timms (LAB - East Ham)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what plans he has to (a) increase flexibility in the apprenticeship system and (b) extend access to workers on temporary contracts.

Answered by Alex Burghart

We are making apprenticeships more flexible so that they better meet the needs of employers in all sectors. We are encouraging greater use of innovative apprenticeship training models, such as the front-loading of off-the-job training, so apprentices can be productive from day one in the workplace. We are also developing accelerated apprenticeships so that apprentices with substantial prior learning from other skills programmes, such as traineeships and T Levels, can complete an apprenticeship more quickly. Additionally, we are making it easier for large employers to transfer levy funds to support new starts in small businesses, or in a certain sector or region. On 13 September 2021, we launched a new online service to allow levy paying employers to advertise funding pledges, enabling a much wider range of businesses to browse and apply for available funds.

We recognise that some sectors with flexible employment patterns and short-term roles, including creative, digital, adult social care, transport, and manufacturing have found it challenging to benefit from the high-quality apprenticeships available. In August, to help these sectors, we launched our new flexi-job apprenticeship offer. We have invited sector bodies, groups of employers, and other interested organisations to register as flexi-job apprenticeship agencies, giving them access to a £7 million fund to support new agencies with their start-up costs. These agencies will enable apprentices to work across multiple short-term projects with different employers and allow them to benefit from the high-quality long-term training that an apprenticeship provides.


Written Question
Help to Grow Scheme
20 Oct 2021

Questioner: Seema Malhotra (LAB - Feltham and Heston)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, how many people (a) have completed or (b) are undertaking the (i) Help to Grow: Management Scheme and (ii) Help to Grow: Digital Scheme.

Answered by Paul Scully

Help to Grow: Management will support up to 30,000 UK small and medium-sized businesses leaders over three years - to develop their strategic skills, create jobs and boost their business performance. As of 19 October, 810 business leaders are currently participating in the programme.

Help to Grow: Digital will launch in Autumn 2021 and aims to support 100,000 small businesses with online advice and a voucher for software costs. The voucher is expected to be available to UK businesses that have more than 5 and fewer than 249 employees and that have been trading for more than 12 months.


Written Question
Digital Technology: Training
18 Oct 2021

Questioner: Julie Elliott (LAB - Sunderland Central)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if she will make an assessment of the implications for her policies of the findings of the recent Harvey Nash Group's Hot Skills & Salary Report, in respect of its findings on (a) what types of digital skills are needed the most by businesses and (b) how the UK compares with other nations on tech skills' gaps; and what plans the Government has to (i) encourage people to take-up digital skills training and (ii) support providers of digital skills training.

Answered by Chris Philp

The high level of demand for cyber security skills identified in the Harvey Nash report is consistent with findings of the annual DCMS-commissioned surveys of the labour market. Some of the skills clusters identified through DCMS research, using Burning Glass data (2019), were: productivity software, software and programming and data science.

The government has introduced various qualifications such as digital T levels in digital production, design and development; digital apprenticeships which provide work based training in technical occupations; and digital bootcamps as a way for people to take up digital skills training. The government is also offering 33 Level 3 digital skills courses from May 2021 to adults aged 19-24. As well as this, HMG is supporting young people to take up digital skills training. For example, people aged between 11-18 can sign up to CyberFirst extracurricular activities to build understanding of digital and technical skills.

Government supports the development of regional digital skills capability through its Local Digital Skills Partnerships. These partnerships are now operating in seven regions and bring together local cross-sector partners to design, develop and coordinate the delivery of digital skills programmes to upskill the current workforce, tackle digital exclusion and raise awareness of the importance of digital skills regionally. An 8th Local Digital Skills Partnership in Hull and East Yorkshire will formally launch in early December 2021.

The government recently published its first National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy, setting out how we can ensure everyone in every region of the UK has the skills, understanding and opportunities to benefit from AI technologies. This will include: continuing to support future skills through Turing Fellowships, Centres for Doctoral Training and Postgraduate Industrial Masters and AI and Data Science Conversion Courses; publishing research into what skills are needed to enable employees to use AI in a business setting; and identify how national skills provision can meet those needs.

The National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), with £84m of government funding, is also aiming to improve the teaching of the computing curriculum in schools. The National AI Strategy will also support the NCCE to ensure programmes for children in AI are accessible.


Written Question
Lifelong Education
30 Sep 2021

Questioner: David Evennett (CON - Bexleyheath and Crayford)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to promote lifelong learning.

Answered by Michelle Donelan

The government is investing £2.5 billion in the National Skills Fund in England.

Since 1 April 2021, the government is supporting adults who do not hold A level equivalent or higher qualifications to access over 400 funded level 3 courses, with Free Courses for Jobs. This offer is a long-term commitment, backed by £95 million from the National Skills Fund in year one.

Complementing this support for adults, Skills Bootcamps offer free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks to give people the opportunity to build up sector specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer. The department is expanding the Skills Bootcamp programme across the country during 2021/22 financial year, with £43 million from the National Skills Fund. There will be digital Skills Bootcamps available in each English region and a wide coverage of technical Skills Bootcamps. We are also delivering Skills Bootcamps in retrofit construction skills to support the green industrial revolution.

From 2025, the department will introduce a Lifelong Loan Entitlement equivalent to 4 years of post-18 education. People will be supported to study throughout their life, with the opportunity to train, retrain and upskill as needed in response to changing skills needs and employment patterns. It will help transform post-18 study, delivering greater parity between further and higher education.

The department is continuing to invest in education and skills training for adults through the Adult Education Budget (AEB), investing £1.34 billion in the 2021/22 financial year. The AEB fully funds or co-funds skills provision for eligible adults aged 19 and above from pre-entry to level 3, to support adults to gain the skills required for work, apprenticeships or further learning.


Written Question
Pre-school Education
29 Sep 2021

Questioner: Liz Twist (LAB - Blaydon)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the role of early years services is in the Government's Levelling Up agenda.

Answered by Will Quince

Levelling up is at the heart of the agenda to build back better after the COVID-19 outbreak and to deliver for every part of the UK. The department takes a dual approach to disadvantage: tackling outcome inequalities nationally while tilting efforts to, and working specifically in, places of greatest need.

In education, ability is evenly spread but opportunity is not. We know that differences in outcomes start early. To really tackle our levelling up challenge, we must look at our support for children and young people at every level, from support for families and childcare, through to university, and to develop skills throughout life.

We are already making progress. On 2 June 2021 we announced an additional £1.4 billion education recovery package, which includes a £153 million investment in evidence-based professional development for early years practitioners, including through new programmes focusing on key areas such as speech and language development.

This is in addition to the £27 million which we are already investing to support children’s early language development in light of the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • £17 million is to deliver the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) in schools that would particularly benefit. Two thirds of primary schools have already signed up for the programme.
  • £10 million will support language development for pre-reception children in the next academic year.

What happens outside of schools and settings is also important. The government is investing over £34 million to champion family hubs. This approach will help to support children of all ages and their families across a broad range of needs in their localities. This investment includes establishing a new national centre for family hubs, run by the Anna Freud Centre for Children and Families; a new transformation fund to open family hubs in around 10 local authorities; an evaluation innovation fund; and work with local authorities to develop data and digital products that will support the practical implementation of family hubs.

The government will publish a landmark Levelling Up White Paper later this year, setting out bold new policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK.


Written Question
Digital Technology: Disadvantaged
28 Sep 2021

Questioner: Holly Lynch (LAB - Halifax)

Question

What steps she is taking to help prevent people from becoming digitally excluded.

Answered by Julia Lopez

The Government has worked closely with providers to put in place social tariffs. These provide low cost landline and broadband services for people on means-tested state benefits. We are encouraging providers who do not currently offer social tariff packages to do so. The telecoms industry has also removed data caps on fixed broadband packages, and provides free or low cost data boosts on mobile services to support vulnerable consumers.

In February DCMS also launched a £2.5 million Digital Lifeline Fund to reduce the digital exclusion of people with learning disabilities.This fund has provided tablets, data and free digital support to over 5,000 people with learning disabilities, enabling them to connect with friends and family, and access services and support groups, promoting overall well being.

The Government has also introduced a digital entitlement for adults with no or low digital skills to undertake specified digital qualifications, up to level 1, free of charge.

Finally, around 2,900 public libraries in England provide accessible locations offering free Wi-Fi, computers, and other technology. Library staff, often supported by volunteers, can provide library users with digital support.


Written Question
Railways: Cultural Heritage
28 Sep 2021

Questioner: Peter Gibson (CON - Darlington)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps her Department is taking to support heritage rail.

Answered by Nigel Huddleston

The UK is a true pioneer in the history of railway development, nurturing and benefitting from the talents of Brunel and Stephenson among others. We are rightly proud of this legacy and must ensure that the next generation is endowed with both the skills and the passion to protect this legacy for the future.

The heritage railway sector is not only a fundamental component of our national heritage, it is an important aspect of our visitor economy with heritage railways attracting around 13 million visitors and bringing an estimated £250 million to the economy annually. It is because of this cultural and economic significance that the Government has supported the heritage rail network over the past year through its unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund, which has awarded approximately £15.7 million to railway related organisations across the country.


Written Question
Government Departments: Correspondence
28 Sep 2021

Questioner: Daisy Cooper (LDEM - St Albans)

Question

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what steps he is taking to ensure that all government agencies pro-actively promote access to paper or printable forms for people who do not have full access to digital versions.

Answered by Michael Ellis

The Government’s Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) is responsible for producing the Service Standard (https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/service-standard) which guides government teams as to how they should design and produce content providing information regarding public services.

Government teams are required to make sure that all information is accessible across all channels, including online, phone, paper and face to face.

Government teams must also make sure that everyone can use their services, including disabled people, people with other legally protected characteristics, people who do not have access to the internet and/or lack the skills and/or confidence to use the internet. CDDO provides clear guidance on how to make non-digital parts of a government service as widely accessible as possible by providing a contact for users and providing forms in alternative formats for example, large print, braille or audio CD.


Written Question
Artificial Intelligence: Zero Hours Contracts
27 Sep 2021

Questioner: Kirsten Oswald (SNP - East Renfrewshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps her Department is taking to assess a potential correlation between company procurement of artificial intelligence platforms and the level of transition to zero-hours contracts.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Government published its National AI Strategy on 22nd September 2021. It can be viewed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy . The Strategy will ensure that the UK continues our global leadership in the research, development, commercialisation and adoption of responsible AI.

The Strategy sets out our ambition to drive prosperity across the UK and ensure everyone can benefit from AI.

In particular, the Strategy recognises that issues such as the equalities impacts of AI will be an important consideration as we continue to develop policy on the governance and regulation of AI. We will involve relevant regulators and equalities groups in this work. It also recognises the need to give more people the skills to work with AI, developing an AI-literate workforce.

The diversity of people working with and developing AI is an important component of the AI Strategy. We are already supporting 2,500 new Masters conversion courses in AI and data science across universities in England. Included in this program are up to 1,000 scholarships, which aims to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups and encourage graduates from diverse backgrounds to consider a future in AI and Data Science.


Written Question
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Artificial Intelligence
27 Sep 2021

Questioner: Kirsten Oswald (SNP - East Renfrewshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, when the Government plans to publish a draft AI Strategy.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Government published its National AI Strategy on 22nd September 2021. It can be viewed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy . The Strategy will ensure that the UK continues our global leadership in the research, development, commercialisation and adoption of responsible AI.

The Strategy sets out our ambition to drive prosperity across the UK and ensure everyone can benefit from AI.

In particular, the Strategy recognises that issues such as the equalities impacts of AI will be an important consideration as we continue to develop policy on the governance and regulation of AI. We will involve relevant regulators and equalities groups in this work. It also recognises the need to give more people the skills to work with AI, developing an AI-literate workforce.

The diversity of people working with and developing AI is an important component of the AI Strategy. We are already supporting 2,500 new Masters conversion courses in AI and data science across universities in England. Included in this program are up to 1,000 scholarships, which aims to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups and encourage graduates from diverse backgrounds to consider a future in AI and Data Science.


Written Question
Artificial Intelligence: Impact Assessments
27 Sep 2021

Questioner: Kirsten Oswald (SNP - East Renfrewshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps her Department plans to take to ensure that the equalities impacts of artificial intelligence will be taken into account in the development of the Government's AI Strategy.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Government published its National AI Strategy on 22nd September 2021. It can be viewed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy . The Strategy will ensure that the UK continues our global leadership in the research, development, commercialisation and adoption of responsible AI.

The Strategy sets out our ambition to drive prosperity across the UK and ensure everyone can benefit from AI.

In particular, the Strategy recognises that issues such as the equalities impacts of AI will be an important consideration as we continue to develop policy on the governance and regulation of AI. We will involve relevant regulators and equalities groups in this work. It also recognises the need to give more people the skills to work with AI, developing an AI-literate workforce.

The diversity of people working with and developing AI is an important component of the AI Strategy. We are already supporting 2,500 new Masters conversion courses in AI and data science across universities in England. Included in this program are up to 1,000 scholarships, which aims to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups and encourage graduates from diverse backgrounds to consider a future in AI and Data Science.


Written Question
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Artificial Intelligence
27 Sep 2021

Questioner: Kirsten Oswald (SNP - East Renfrewshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what definition of equality will be used in the Government's AI Strategy; and what consultation has taken place with equalities groups in the development of that strategy.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Government published its National AI Strategy on 22nd September 2021. It can be viewed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy . The Strategy will ensure that the UK continues our global leadership in the research, development, commercialisation and adoption of responsible AI.

The Strategy sets out our ambition to drive prosperity across the UK and ensure everyone can benefit from AI.

In particular, the Strategy recognises that issues such as the equalities impacts of AI will be an important consideration as we continue to develop policy on the governance and regulation of AI. We will involve relevant regulators and equalities groups in this work. It also recognises the need to give more people the skills to work with AI, developing an AI-literate workforce.

The diversity of people working with and developing AI is an important component of the AI Strategy. We are already supporting 2,500 new Masters conversion courses in AI and data science across universities in England. Included in this program are up to 1,000 scholarships, which aims to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups and encourage graduates from diverse backgrounds to consider a future in AI and Data Science.


Written Question
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Artificial Intelligence
27 Sep 2021

Questioner: Kirsten Oswald (SNP - East Renfrewshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, if her Department will ensure that the impact of artificial intelligence on workers is taken into account as part of the Government's AI Strategy.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Government published its National AI Strategy on 22nd September 2021. It can be viewed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy . The Strategy will ensure that the UK continues our global leadership in the research, development, commercialisation and adoption of responsible AI.

The Strategy sets out our ambition to drive prosperity across the UK and ensure everyone can benefit from AI.

In particular, the Strategy recognises that issues such as the equalities impacts of AI will be an important consideration as we continue to develop policy on the governance and regulation of AI. We will involve relevant regulators and equalities groups in this work. It also recognises the need to give more people the skills to work with AI, developing an AI-literate workforce.

The diversity of people working with and developing AI is an important component of the AI Strategy. We are already supporting 2,500 new Masters conversion courses in AI and data science across universities in England. Included in this program are up to 1,000 scholarships, which aims to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups and encourage graduates from diverse backgrounds to consider a future in AI and Data Science.


Written Question
Artificial Intelligence: Productivity
27 Sep 2021

Questioner: Kirsten Oswald (SNP - East Renfrewshire)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment her Department has made of how productivity gains from artificial intelligence can be shared with workers.

Answered by Chris Philp

The Government published its National AI Strategy on 22nd September 2021. It can be viewed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-ai-strategy . The Strategy will ensure that the UK continues our global leadership in the research, development, commercialisation and adoption of responsible AI.

The Strategy sets out our ambition to drive prosperity across the UK and ensure everyone can benefit from AI.

In particular, the Strategy recognises that issues such as the equalities impacts of AI will be an important consideration as we continue to develop policy on the governance and regulation of AI. We will involve relevant regulators and equalities groups in this work. It also recognises the need to give more people the skills to work with AI, developing an AI-literate workforce.

The diversity of people working with and developing AI is an important component of the AI Strategy. We are already supporting 2,500 new Masters conversion courses in AI and data science across universities in England. Included in this program are up to 1,000 scholarships, which aims to increase the number of people from underrepresented groups and encourage graduates from diverse backgrounds to consider a future in AI and Data Science.


Written Question
Education: Digital Technology
22 Sep 2021

Questioner: Chi Onwurah (LAB - Newcastle upon Tyne Central)

Question

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to (a) promote digital education in secondary schools and (b) embed digital skills across all subject areas within formal education.

Answered by Robin Walker

The department is committed to increasing the digital expertise of young people.

The computing curriculum provides important foundational knowledge such as algorithms, programming, e-safety, digital literacy and computational thinking that will enable them to pursue further study or a wide range of digital careers in cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI), data science, robotics and software engineering. The majority of this is taught from year 8 and 9 onwards and forms part of the GCSE subject content.

The department has invested £84 million to improve the quality of computing teaching, creating a National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE). The NCCE has created 500 hours of free, high quality teacher resources, which include cyber security, digital literacy, and data science at key stage 3. The resources include a unit of learning on AI which is taught to year 8 pupils. In addition, the Isaac Computer Science online platform has been set up to support teachers and pupils through AS and A level. As of the end of August 2021, more than 34,600 teachers have engaged with the NCCE programme.

The department also supports the government’s popular extra-curricular CyberFirst programme, aimed at 11–17 year olds, which stimulates interest in cybersecurity through hackathons, girls’ competitions and residential courses. We also continue to work closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on promoting digital careers in school.

We also recognise the importance of ensuring schools and teachers can make the best use of digital technology. The department has helped more than 6500 schools get set up on a digital platform, ensuring they have access to both training materials and Classroom Practitioner certification schemes available via Microsoft and Google as well as peer to peer support from the EdTech Demonstrators programme.

We are investing £500 million in the implementation of the new T Levels. There are three T Levels under the digital route. The first qualification is available now and the remaining two qualifications will be delivered from September 2021 onwards. All three contain core elements of computer science. Additionally, all T Level programmes will require students to develop core English, maths and digital competencies as part of the qualification thus giving employers the confidence graduates have the level of digital proficiency necessary for employment.

In September 2020, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education launched the new higher technical qualification approvals process, which will focus exclusively in its first year on supporting the delivery of newly approved, high-quality digital qualifications (to be introduced from September 2022).

We are also taking forward an ambitious programme of further education reform through the further education white paper. These reforms will raise the quality and capacity of training in further education and will be designed with employers to make sure that courses meet their skills needs. It is clear that digital skills will be a major area of focus.