Memorandum submitted by The National Association of Connexions Partners (E&S 09)
Part 1 : Duty to Participate in Education and Training
The National Association of Connexions Partners ( NACP ) shares the Government's high aspirations for the participation and achievement of all young people. However, if this is to be achieved and the need for enforcement minimised, urgent attention will be needed to the supply of provision, particularly with regard to new and additional work-based learning opportunities.
Interest amongst young people generally in the work-based route is greater than the current supply of opportunities with associated training. Future provision needs to be structured to accommodate a range of prior achievement and to facilitate progression to level 2 for some young people e.g. many of those participating in E2E and young people with learning difficulties. All of this is in addition to the identified need for more apprenticeships which we feel strongly should be employer-led, rather than programme-led. There is also a need for flexibility in provision to accommodate some groups of young people e.g. young parents and young carers.
For a significant number of young people, supplying a wider range of opportunities will not be sufficient in itself. Some of them will face significant barriers to taking up provision and will need integrated support to surmount them. Links to the full range of support which underpins the 5 ECM outcomes and the Youth Matters and Aiming Higher strategies need to be made. This integration of policy and practice will enable those young people to achieve the Bill's intention of enfranchising all young people.
Part 2 : Support for Participation in Education or Training
There is a number of positive elements in the Bill : the requirement for careers education to be impartial, the power to inspect, enhanced assessment and the requirement for educational institutions to furnish service providers with essential information about pupils and students and about those not complying with the duty to participate, with access to pupils and students and with facilities on their premises.
There is, however, a fragmented feel to a reading of the Bill as a whole, particularly when trying to pull together a full picture of local authorities' responsibilities. The linkages between their responsibility to secure the provision of services, their duties to promote, support and enforce participation, their role with regard to careers education and to cooperation regarding 14-19 education and training are not strongly made. Nor is there any cross-reference to other existing and closely related statutory responsibilities which are transferring to them around the same time e.g. under the Employment and Training Act of 1973 , as amended by the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act of 1993.
Assuming it is not the function of a Bill to set out this degree of detail, then there is a need for separate and comprehensive guidance, including a statement of the responsibilities of local authorities in this area of work, not least because, by design, they have not been accountable for the provision of information, advice and guidance ( IAG ) for 10 years or more and an increasing number of Government policy developments are dependent on all young people having access to high quality, impartial IAG. This bigger picture should be underpinned by more explicit expectations with regard to the local implementation of the new, national standards for IAG and of partners' respective contributions. It is the view of NACP that Direction to local authorities through the Bill should include clear responsibilities for monitoring and ensuring compliance with the standards. It should also spell out the importance of continuity of IAG support, including job brokerage and placing, in the interests both of young people and of the economy and the Skills agenda.
To this end, we would like to propose some simple ways in which the Bill might be improved :-
· In line with the requirement to remain in learning, the Bill should make it clear that all young people up to the age of 19 retain the right of access to careers services and to careers education;
· In the section on Careers Education, under " Guidance as to discharge of duties " ( top of page 38 ) it would be helpful reinforcement of local authorities' responsibilities for standards in paragraph 55 ( 2 ) ( c ) to include a similar reference for educational institutions to comply with any direction from the Secretary of State concerning standards;
· We are concerned about the apparent lack of accountability in paragraph 66 ( 2B ), which seems at odds with the overall emphasis on impartiality. Those giving advice are not best placed to assure its impartiality. Apart from an adjustment to the text of the Bill, standards have a part to play here as well: they can offer an assurance of quality to young people and their parents/carers, not least with regard to impartiality, which is not apparent in the Bill as presented.
Enhanced scope for assessment is positive in the interests of young people with learning difficulties, but we feel that the Department needs to consider carefully the resource implications of the updated guidance on this issue, which has been drafted recently and also how it will ensure that provision actually meets the needs identified in assessments for the individuals concerned and, where necessary, takes account of any transport needs. This is particularly complicated where local authorities have responsibility for both assessment and provision.
Finally, we would like to raise the issue of professional training and development. Whilst clearly not part of the Bill, the resulting legislation, together with the other issues we have raised will only be satisfactorily enacted if those with responsibility for delivery have the skills, knowledge and resources they need to cover the range of issues and opportunities facing young people in transition. There is work to be done both to ensure a sufficient supply of qualified guidance practitioners in the future and to raise the levels of competence of those working in educational institutions.