Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
8 OCTOBER 2008
Q60 Mr. Pelling: I do not
always share the Carswellian approachor aversionto
Government, but it is interesting that in the draft Bill, there
is the obligation on the secondary school head teacher to ensure
that the best advice and, where appropriate, advice about apprenticeships
is given. Is that really necessary? Is it a bit too heavy-handed?
And, what is your observation of the quality of impartial advice
given in schools about training and apprenticeships in particular?
Andy Powell: Far from itit
is the other way. The Bill as I read it says that consideration
should be given to informing people about the different options.
I think it should be a requirement. It is quite straightforward:
all young people and parents should be made clearly aware of the
different routes and options open to them. There should also then
be consideration of how young people and parents get real experience
of work, of talking to employers, of apprentices, and of college
and university leading the way up there. That is very important.
The Skills Commission did a very good report on that, and at the
moment there is a lot of evidence that there is no impartial advice
and guidance. Why would there be? It is in schools' interest,
if they have a sixth form, for anyone who has reasonable GCSEs
to stay in the sixth form. Again, one thinks of one's own life,
and the chances of young people's parents being told that there
is another option are very slim. Having said that, finally, I
would say, let us think about different models. This is not about
having to spend billions on loads of careers advisers; it is about
giving the information, about new technology and about encouraging
and enabling young people, which you can these days, to ask people
who have been through it, and to go to websites, which is starting
to happen. You get little videos of people who have gone to university
and are apprentices and so forth, but there is a need for significant
Simon Bartley: I concur with everything
that Andy has said.
Nick Edwards: Practically, I can
tell you that within secondary schools in the area where I work,
Lewisham, young people, through the career sessions that they
have once a week in years 10 and 11, will at some point be told
about apprenticeships, but when I attend careers and open evenings
for sixth-form applications for 16-year-olds, apprenticeships
do not have a stall or stand there. Only if the college attends
will they get any information, so the young person will be made
aware of an apprenticeship, but when the parent attends the school,
there is not someone therethere is not a stand or information.
The school is telling parents about what it can offer, but not
about what it cannot offer.
Q61 Mr. Pelling: Does that
mean that we should not allow schools to have that primary role
in careers education? Do you think that it should be an impartial
or separate service, perhaps ensconced in a school but nevertheless
free of the slightly slanted advice that you might get in schools?
Nick Edwards: That is a challenge,
thoughis it not?because Connexions is now part of
and delivered by the local authority, which has responsibility
for the schools. Connexions and careers guidance were at one point
independent of local authorities, but now they are not.
Andy Powell: The short answer
is, yes, it should be independent.
Nick Edwards: Yes, but I suggest
that Connexions is not necessarily independent; it is part of
the local authority.
Q62 Mr. Pelling: There is
one difficulty and one reason why the schools might give slanted
advice, other than self-interest. The fundamental question with
apprenticeships, I suppose, is whether they are regarded as being
for those who get lower grades. I wonder how it is possible, through
careers education, to get over that stigma, which is still in
some people's minds.
Nick Edwards: That is a problem,
because that was the case with the old apprenticeship system,
pre-1950s, when young people who did not achieve O-levels, as
they were in those days, went into vocational areas in manufacturing
and went on to apprenticeship schemes. The demands of the new
apprenticeship programmes are substantial. They need gifted and
talented young people who want to work in industry and want to
learn in a practical rather than academic way. Demands are greater,
but the message has not got through that apprenticeships are different.
These are new models.
Andy Powell: I want to mention
two things. First, research and stories: there are plenty of examples
of people who have given up A-levels, gone to apprenticeships
and been successful. It is not better or worse; it is there. It
is about research of understanding what has happened to apprentices,
and about those stories. Secondly, there are areas in the Bill
that need to be encouraged regarding progression. Whilst we should
be quite clear that the primary purpose of apprenticeship is to
learn that trade, skill, career and so forth, none the less, for
those who wish to go on, for example, there should be higher apprenticeships.
They exist but are little known about; one can get a Level 4 through
an apprenticeship. That is important and should be in the Bill.
Similarly, in our opinion, young people should be given a chance
to access an HE course, if they so choose, at some later stage,
because, of course, it is difficult for an apprentice to go straight
into a university degree. It is like an extended project, but
it involves different skills, and they should have the opportunity
to gain those skills if they so choose.
Simon Bartley: Most of the stories
about progression for apprentices end up at university. Actually,
that is a really bad route to be telling stories about, without
telling them about other routes. In UK Skillswith my skills
competitions hat onwe are looking for young people who
are the best welders, the best farriers, the best electricians.
Actually, what we want are the stories of when they go on and
become the best in the country, when they are 35 or 55, at being
an electrical foreman, doing complex works at Wembley Stadium
or for the Olympics. Too oftenas we have with diplomas,
I have to saywe get diverted back on to the track of celebrating
academic rather than vocational education. Some of the vocational
degrees are equally responsible for that. The days when somebody
does an apprenticeship in something that leads on to becoming
a lawyer, doctor or dentist are few and far between. Let us have
them celebrating the fact that they are an electrician or a plumber.
Q63 Chairman: But there are
lots of ways to do that. A chartered engineer does not have to
go to universityyou can just keep progressing.
Simon Bartley: But no one ever
sings about them.
Chairman: They do not, that is right.
David, do you want a quick blast?
Q64 Mr. Chaytor: Perhaps we
can stay on careers. Clause 23 of the Bill will require schools
to make information about apprenticeships available. This is just
completely hopeless, is it not?
Andy Powell: It requires schools
Q65 Mr. Chaytor: To consider
that, yes. This is just a futile gesture, is it not?
Andy Powell: Absolutely. It should
require schools to provide all parents and young people with all
Mr. Chaytor: That is right. This is a
key clause for amendment if we are going to get impartial advice
for all young people, and the key to that is getting it out of
the individual school. I accept that there is Connexions within
the local authority and still some shared interest, but getting
the responsibility for advice away from the individual school
must be crucial, and clause 23 is where that could be done.
Chairman: On that, note, I thank you
for your attendance. Thank you, Simon, for staying later than
the time when we thought you had to get away. We have learned
a lot, and I think we are well on course to being able to make
a contribution to the proposed legislation. If, when you are travelling
home or back to your day jobs, you think of something that we
did not ask you but should have, please e-mail us and be in contact
with us so that we can make this report as good as it can be.