Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
MP AND LORD
22 OCTOBER 2008
Q160 Mr. Chaytor: What will
that role be?
Jim Knight: A fundamental role
in raising the participation age. Its service has a universal
aspect. For example, Connexions Direct is a national helpline
and website for people to access to see what is available and
to gain information.
Q161 Mr. Chaytor: Is that
not the role of the individual school?
Jim Knight: Certainly some of
our further work will be through the relationship between careers
education advice that people receive in schools that are delivering
their statutory duty and what Connexions will do, but a substantial
bulk of the detailed work of Connexions will be more targeted
on young people who need personalised support because of particular
circumstances. They will be at particular risk, so we would need
to deliver a discrete service to them through Connexions, which,
in turn, would form the commissioning decisions of the local authority.
Chairman: A very quick bite from Paul,
and then we shall wind up.
Jim Knight: A bite?
Chairman: A bite of the action. He is
Q162 Paul Holmes: When I was
head of the sixth form, I did careers advice post-16, and two
careers teachers did careers advice pre-16, but both pre-and post-16
teaching brought in excellent, independent careers experts from
the LEA each week who saw each year 10, 11, 12 and 13 pupil and
gave them outside, impartial advice. After Connexions, the general
picture throughout the country is that that service has been massively
diluted. The careers experts became general advisers on drugs,
health, housing and the rest of it, and the general advisers were
supposed to become careers experts. It has not really worked.
What will you do about that so that we can have impartial, outside
Jim Knight: Fundamentally, we
are passing the responsibility for Connexions back to local authorities.
It seemed the only logical thing to do. If we are giving, as we
are, local authorities a duty to ensure that they are making proper
provision for every young person in their area until the age of
18, it is logical that they should have the responsibility for
Connexions so that they can offer information, advice and guidance.
Q163 Paul Holmes: So why take
it away in the first place, when they were doing pretty well in
Jim Knight: That is back in pre-history.
Q164 Chairman: It may be back
in pre-history, Minister, but why are local authorities no longer
asked to put careers services out to contract? They were in the
past. Some hired private sector companies or not-for-profit companies,
or they did it themselves. Why is that no longer the rule?
Jim Knight: I think that, unless
I am advised otherwise, as we move forward, it will be up to local
authorities to make those decisions for themselves. If they want
to contract out their Connexions service, they can do so, or they
can provide it in house.
Q165 Chairman: Would it not
be healthier if there were a contracting process? Let us be honest.
Some of us do not share Paul Holmes's view of how good the careers
service was under local government in deepest, darkest history.
What is wrong with the contracting-out process?
Jim Knight: There is nothing wrong
with the contracting-out process.
Q166 Chairman: Most them are
not going to do it now, are they?
Jim Knight: In the end, they are
accountable at the ballot box for how well their service is working,
and they will decide how they will drive up quality. We regard
contracting in certain circumstances as a useful way in which
to move forward. For example, we believe in school competitions
as a way of testing whether we have the right answers.
Q167 Chairman: Two very quick
things to finish the sitting. First, I hope that you will look
at the recent report on information, advice and guidance of the
Skills Commission that I co-chair with Ruth Silver. It is important
to revert to one of my opening questions in the last section.
I was concerned about who decides whether a young person will
do an apprenticeship. We found that 65% of decisions are still
made on the advice of family and friends. Yes, careers advice
comes in, but tails behind even the advice that people gain increasingly
about careers on the internet. Lastly, there is a highly complex
bit in the Bill that I could not fathom about giving the public
sector the right to provide apprenticeships. To me and to anyone
who has read it, that is a dense part of the Bill. Does it mean
that there will be real opportunities and a real movement for
public sector hospitals, local government, universities and this
place to run apprenticeships?
Jim Knight: There is a whole section
on this placeon Crown staff and Parliament. We are absolutely
committed to expansion in the public sector. If, when drafting
clauses and the explanatory notes, we need to make things clearer
if they are too dense, we shall obviously look at it and, as ever,
follow your advice.
Chairman: As you know, if the Governor
of the Bank of England is right and we are indeed entering a recession,
a big investment in training might be the best thing that we can
do in this country, but we need it now.
Jim Knight: Thank you very much.
Chairman: Thank you.