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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Sarah Thatcher, Richard Ward, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Written evidence to be reported to the House
Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): Good morning, Mr Walker and, through you, to the rest of the Committee. As we were finishing on Thursday evening, the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb), was telling us how, in contrast to me, he has received such good, personalised and relevant careers advice. Given that he is acknowledged throughout the House and elsewhere as having imagination, creativity and style—his words, not mine, although I am sure we would all agree—he rightly became a chartered accountant. However, despite his enormous creativity and imagination—and, given the suit that he has on today, his obvious style—he has failed to instil in me any degree of reassurance.
The Minister has a worrying belief that face-to-face advice might not be appropriate for all students, leading to the real possibility that young people’s needs might be neglected or dismissed to the point of impersonal and often irrelevant information being provided elsewhere. Despite the rhetoric from trusted professionals, the Minister failed to convince me that the Government are providing the logistical and practical support to allow careers professionals to do their jobs. The destination measure on schools is most welcome and I pay tribute to him for highlighting it; I was putting that in place as part of the information, advice and guidance strategy 18 months ago. Once it is operational, I hope it will be
‘(7) Before the commencement of this section, the Secretary of State must report to Parliament on arrangements for the funding of careers guidance between the end of ring-fenced Connexions funding and the establishment of the All Age Careers Service.’. —(Mr Wright.)
‘(1A) Within a period of three years beginning with the commencement of this section, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report about its impact on the quality of careers advice in schools.’.
‘(10) Before the Secretary of State exercises the power to commence this section under section 78 he must lay before Parliament a report which sets out agreed arrangements with representatives of school teachers, local authorities and employers on the delivery of careers guidance education.’.
Mr Wright: Clause 27 changes dramatically the landscape of careers guidance in schools in England. Under the previous clause when we were discussing amendments, I touched on what I thought was a leap in the dark and what a gamble the Minister is taking with his proposal for the careers service. It is not just me who fears that. The NASUWT stated:
“Schools will be required to secure independent careers guidance, but severing the link with the local authority and the removal of the requirement on schools to allow access to and facilities for education and support services, means that the nature of the
“We understand Government will still expect schools to provide careers education for their pupils, but we also know the pressure schools are under to target their resources on core curriculum subjects. We are concerned that without this requirement being retained, many schools will marginalise careers education, and this will be particularly detrimental for pupils with limited access to parental or peer networks and who may not be enabled to review their career options with a career guidance professional through their school.”
“we have concerns as to whether there will be sufficient independent careers advisers available. In addition, we would be interested to know how Government will monitor the effectiveness of the new duty.”
We echo those sentiments, and we ask the Minister to inform the Committee how the Government will address them. Will he set out how the success or failure of the new duty will be judged? How will Parliament be given the opportunity to hold the Secretary of State to account for his policies and how they are working in England?
On Thursday, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West intervened to ask the Minister how the new regime will be monitored and measured and, frankly, he failed adequately to answer her reasonable question. The group of amendments is designed to help him, and to ensure that the Bill locks in the Secretary of State to reviewing, evaluating and making available information to Parliament, so that Parliament can be satisfied that he is accountable for the quality of careers guidance and skills.
Taking into account those concerns and given the uncertainty surrounding the future of services such as Connexions, I seek the Minister’s assurance that the clause will not have a negative impact on the career choices of young people. What steps is he taking to ensure that the problems highlighted by the NASUWT, the Institute of Career Guidance and the Association of Colleges do not arise?
As was touched on during our deliberations on amendment 119 under clause 26, there are concerns about the Department for Education’s intimation that the requirement could be deemed to be satisfied by schools securing access for pupils to national telephone and online careers advice resources. Does the Minister agree that young people should be entitled to speak to a professional face to face to discuss such an important part of their education, training or development? There are concerns that, without the facility, social mobility will be impeded, access to careers services will be by postcode lottery and schools in more disadvantaged areas, with limited resources, will not be able to fund significant face-to-face services or to pass costs on to parents, as might be the case in more affluent areas. Emphasis on the importance of the term “independent” must not override the requirement for schools to secure acceptable professional quality standards.
For those reasons, I ask the Minister to give his assurance that, before the clause comes into force, he will consult stakeholders and compile and make available to the House a report addressing the concerns I have outlined. In particular, the report should address three
Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I want only to add briefly to what my hon. Friend has said. The issue is enormously important, because young people do not have a good view of what opportunities there are for them. We know from recent work that children, particularly those from less well-off backgrounds, have limited experience of people working in a wide range of areas, so getting it right matters. It matters for not only those young people but for us as a society. We know that in a time of better economic circumstances we had skills shortages, and we know that those times are going to come again soon. If we do not get young people with the right skills into the right jobs and give them opportunities, not only they but our whole society will suffer, so I want to support what my hon. Friend said.
Mr Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): If the change to careers advice provision in schools is effective and achieves the outcomes the Government want, it will be one of the most significant elements of the Bill. Important questions have been raised about ensuring quality and ensuring that the provision directed by heads within an institution is genuinely impartial and provided in the interests of the young person, and not through the prism of the institution’s interests, which all too often has been the case. The Browne review said:
Half currently think that it is inadequate, so the case for change regarding the need to improve careers advice has absolutely been made. What we always need to do in this place, of course, is to make sure that the provision put in place by the Government will actually improve matters. The report went on to say that careers professionals
We must have assurances on quality and breadth, so I want to press the Minister to talk a little more on how he will ensure that quality. Will we consider the licensing of providers? As part of their training and ethos, will they have a real understanding of the breadth of opportunities open to people? The shadow Minister was right to mention Ofsted. May I press the Minister to write to the chief inspector and ask her to ensure that Ofsted takes a close interest in the quality of provision provided by schools? It can do so not only through its individual school inspections but through the surveys it carries out. If we get this right, it will be a tremendous feather in the Government’s cap, having improved a situation that is not right. If it goes wrong and after a great fanfare, it turns out that schools, in the name of impartiality, manage to suit their own interests rather more than their pupils’, and in a few years’ time young
The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): Good morning, Mr Walker. It is good to be back scrutinising the Bill and returning to the issue of careers advice and guidance, which is so important if we are to enable people to achieve the best that they can. The Committee will be familiar with the survey that was carried out and published today, which reports that state school pupils are more than four times as likely to be given bad careers advice as private school students. Indeed, the survey has highlighted how the current system is failing children by giving them inadequate advice, which means that they cannot fulfil their ambitions. It found that 27% of former state sector pupils were given bad careers advice, against 6% who were educated privately.
I could go on but I suspect you would not permit me to do so, Mr Walker. However, I want to make the point that the case for change is fundamentally important. There absolutely is variability in the quality of the advice currently offered, and for two reasons. First, Connexions was simply asked to do too much. Expecting it to give advice on many different issues as well as on careers was asking an excessive amount, and the Committee has acknowledged that the current Connexions service is far from perfect. For the record, I do not say that it does not do good work; however, its current construction does not work best in respect of careers. Secondly, the current responsibilities of schools—again, we ask so much of our teachers—mean that in some places, best advice is not offered. If the research is to be believed, the problem tends to be exaggerated for state school pupils compared with privately educated pupils.
I articulated much last week which it is not necessary to amplify today, beyond saying that part of my aim is to ensure that careers advice is a driver of improved social mobility, so that we provide people who do not receive best advice from other sources, such as familial and social networks, with the kind of advice that allows them to turn their ambitions into fulfilled reality. I understand the concern across the Committee about the process through which that takes place. I do not think we differ on the aim; indeed, Opposition Members have acknowledged that Connexions needed to change. I have no doubt that it would have done so whoever had been in government; there was growing consensus on the need to move to a different kind of careers settlement.
Amendments 123, 124 and 144 are designed to establish exactly how we will test the new arrangements. That is a perfectly reasonable request to make of the system we are putting in place. We had a good discussion last week about the importance of careers and, as I said, I do not want to amplify it beyond what I have said so far. However, it is important to understand the detail of what we are trying to achieve.
With the responsibility that we are placing on schools to secure impartial, independent careers guidance, it is right that there should come a reasonable degree of freedom to choose how that is secured, because the
I am sure that in fulfilling their professional duties, schools will consider how working with employers, local authorities—as mentioned in the detail of this discussion—and others could assist them. That is not new to schools; they already have much experience in forming such collaborative partnerships with other agencies to achieve stated objectives, covering a whole range of education and training provision.
I am keen to ensure that other organisations contribute to making the new arrangements effective. In Committee last week, I explained that I intend to call a summit of those with an interest in careers guidance, to ensure that each can have their say and play their part in the smooth transition from the existing arrangements to the new one. I do not pretend that the transition will not be a challenge—of course it will. Our fundamental shift in the provision of careers advice and guidance will be a significant challenge, for careers professionals and for schools. None the less, the challenge is worth taking on, given the imperfect arrangements that persist at the moment and our ambitions for advice and guidance to play their part in driving social justice.
To deal with the specific points made by the hon. Member for Hartlepool, that summit should be part of an ongoing conversation between Government and a full range of organisations interested in delivering the best possible careers guidance for young people. Indeed, yesterday, I was pleased to meet—perhaps in anticipation of our discussion today—the Careers Profession Task Force, which is chaired by the wonderful Dame Ruth Silver who has done so much good work in the area. That group of professionals, covering a wide range of interested parties from the sector and beyond, is committed to working closely with Government, not only to define professional standards, which will make the provision of careers advice meet the highest quality requirements, but to plan the transition process.
I would not go so far as to say that we are making a concession—that would be going too far; but we acknowledge the Committee’s and the hon. Gentleman’s absolutely proper concern. I shall be happy, therefore, to produce an action plan following the summits that we shall hold. That plan will contain staging posts that can be measured as we reach the destination of a fully fledged service next year. We said that our first step will be in place this autumn and that the service will be fully operational from next spring. Working with the taskforce that is built around the summits that we have already introduced, I am happy to cement that timetable with those staging posts and to work with the sector to deliver outcomes that will mark progress along that journey.
Mr Wright: The Minister has been conciliatory in his comments. I want to probe him on a point that was touched on during discussion of clause 26. What happens to the year group that is going through the careers process now? He said that the all-age careers service will be up and running fully by spring, but what about students who are thinking about career options at present? How will the Minister ensure that they do not fall through the cracks?
Mr Hayes: The hon. Gentleman will remember that last week I made other commitments. The first was to write to all local authorities, which I shall do this week, reminding them of their continuing statutory responsibilities concerning participation. I appreciate the points that were made when we last debated these matters; there is some variability in how local authorities are responding to that continuing statutory need.
Furthermore, I committed to communicate with schools about their statutory responsibilities. I understand that the hon. Gentleman may be fearful that there will be a hiatus, because the new duty will not take effect until after the beginning of the school year. We must make it clear to schools that they must prepare for the coming school year in anticipation of the statutory duty. It would be an irresponsible school that did not make provision for the beginning of the year in anticipation of what they intended to introduce once the new duty came into force. That the Bill’s provisions will not be in effect in August or September is simply a result of the legislative timetable, but they will be in place mid-way through the academic year. In the communication that I issue, I shall tell schools that they should anticipate those changes.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point, but we can deal with the problem. I acknowledge that doing so depends on the professionalism of heads, governors and teachers. However, I have a strong faith in those people—this theme has emerged throughout our consideration of the Bill; I have been a champion of educators for as long as I have been interested in education, which is since I was very small.
Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): Who will retain statutory responsibility for providing advice, guidance and support until the Bill is enacted? Does such responsibility remain with Connexions? Where does it sit?
Mr Hayes: That is a good question. Local authorities’ statutory responsibilities changed as a result of legislation introduced, as hon. Members will remember, by the previous Government. The arrangements for Connexions were altered; indeed, we were on the Bill Committee that dealt with that matter. An assumption that Connexions would change was already built into legislation. I shall come to how the matter concerns schools, but we need to make it absolutely clear to local authorities that they will retain that statutory duty. We cannot prescribe exactly how they effect that duty, but we can remind them that they have it. It has emerged over the past few weeks and months that different local authorities, having interpreted their duty, are putting different arrangements in place to meet it. I have highlighted Northampton, which seems to be an exemplar of good practice in that respect.
I know that it is not normally done in Committee, but it is absolutely right that Ministers should be responsive. I have discussed this point a little with the hon. Lady offline; there is a need to pick out examples of best practice and to find a mechanism. Moving to the destination can perhaps be done through the summit and the staging posts that I have described. There is a good argument for identifying examples of best practice and looking at how we can ensure that they are understood and that people learn from them. I will do that as a result of her overtures.
Mr Wright: I am very interested in what the Minister is saying. Clause 30 repeals the duty of the governing body to co-operate with the local authority. How is the relationship that he has described between careers information, advice and guidance reconciled with other provisions in the Bill?
Mr Hayes: The answer is in my previous remarks. I would expect schools to work with all agencies where there are overlapping responsibilities. On the statutory duty the hon. Gentleman described, one cannot move from having a statutory duty to having nothing. Good schools have long experience of interfacing with different agencies on the provision of the right kind of services for their students. Of course we would expect good practice to involve that kind of collaborative work. I will not, however, set down in legislation exactly what form it should take and exactly how it would be effective. That would be outside the spirit that inspires this legislation, which is to give schools more freedom to make those decisions, on the ground, closest to the point where they have effect, and in the interests of the school’s students. We trust governors, head teachers and teachers to make those judgments. I accept, however, that there needs to be a clear set of parameters in which they make them, which is what the legislation tries to effect. I want to move on a little. We can perhaps explore that issue further through interventions from Opposition Members.
Mr Stuart: On more than one occasion in this Committee, I have mentioned instances of schools barring further education colleges from coming in. Not only do the schools sometimes bar them from coming on to their premises for open evenings, but as soon as an FE college makes inquiries of a school, because a pupil is looking to join the college, the school deliberately tries to lead the young person back to their institution. It could be that schools do that because they believe it is better for the young person, but there are some serious conflicts of interest, so the Minister needs to do more than just tell us how much he trusts heads and governors. He needs to explain how this legislation will make schools that do not always put the interests of the pupil first do so in the future.
Mr Hayes: My hon. Friend knows of my enthusiasm for further education colleges, born of my enthusiasm for vocational and practical learning. If he looks at the explanatory notes to the Bill, or the Bill itself, he will see that there is a requirement for schools to offer balanced advice on their duty to secure the independent guidance that we all seek. One of the problems with the current arrangements is that it has been suggested, and proven by a number of pieces of work and surveys, that the advice that many students currently receive is slanted towards an academic pathway. A survey famously produced by YouGov for Edge found that teachers knew less about apprenticeships than any other qualification apart from the Welsh baccalaureate. I have nothing against the Welsh baccalaureate—that needs to be a matter of record. It is surprising, however, that the paucity of knowledge on apprenticeships should have formed the basis of the advice that so many young people are given.
My argument in response to my hon. Friend’s point is twofold. First, the balance of advice is that there is a need for change so that all the options available to
Mr Wright: Will the Minister address the point that I raised initially and was then developed much more eloquently by the Chair of the Select Committee, regarding the licensing of careers professionals and the inspection regime and Ofsted? How does he expect those to fit into his new vision of careers guidance?
Mr Hayes: One of the things being developed by the careers task force that I mentioned is—I think it is fair to say this—the most coherent ever arrangements on professional standards. That will lead to a set of arrangements where there is greater clarity than there ever has been about the professional standards that apply to the careers profession and the nature of training and accreditation. What I look to in the all-age service is an arrangement where, in order to be part of that service, careers advisers need to meet those professional standards. I am quite unabashed in saying that. I am highly sympathetic to the principles of licence to practise, as is well known, and I would see the careers profession as a model for where we might develop that kind of good practice.
The work is already under way. The advice that I have received from Dame Ruth and her team is that much progress is being made. There is a great deal of enthusiasm in the profession about that, because it sees our public policy initiative as a catalyst within the industry for, as I have described it, an unprecedented degree of coherence on professional standards, training and accreditation. I am therefore confident that the profession is up for it, in the popular parlance.
The hon. Gentleman will know that we are trying to reduce the burden on Ofsted and make more straightforward what is inspected in schools. My hon. Friend the Schools Minister has articulated that case a number of times, both here and elsewhere, and I do not want to in any way inhibit that desire. Nevertheless, I would expect some consideration of these matters, because if the Ofsted inspector felt that there was a weakness in this area—perhaps something was highlighted to them by teachers, learners, parents or others—clearly, as this would be a statutory duty and meeting that duty would be part of what being a good school was about, I would
Yes, you are right—sorry, Mr Walker, you are of course always right, but the hon. Member for Hartlepool and the Chairman of the Select Committee are right as well—that, in looking at or judging a school, schools’ statutory responsibilities are meat and drink to what Ofsted do, in particular if there are reports that those responsibilities are not being met.
Amendment 144 requires the Secretary of State to report on the impact of our changes on the quality of careers advice in schools. I believe—in making his argument, he also acknowledged this—that the best indicator of good quality careers advice and guidance is outcomes, destinations. The test of the new arrangements will be whether they make a difference to where people subsequently go to learn and the kind of employment that they gain as a result of that progressive learning. Destinations are, in the end, by far the best way of judging the quality of the advice and guidance offered.
Mr Wright: The Minister has touched on a vital part of the Bill. With reference to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West last week, about monitoring and evaluating, what does success look like? How will the Minister know whether the provisions in the Bill have been a success? What will those outcomes and outputs look like?
Mr Hayes: The outcomes will be about whether we change some of the problems I have highlighted. We could have a long debate about this, Mr Walker, but you would not permit it. the problems I have highlighted are well made by Alan Milburn in his report on social mobility, as well as in a number of other studies commissioned by the previous Government and in some we have begun to look at as a new Government. It is about whether people get the right kind of guidance about progressive learning and jobs.
The survey that I mentioned, which is based on research reported in the evening papers last night and, I gather, some of the daily papers today, points to the fact that many people are not getting the right kind of advice and guidance, as measured by what they say about the advice they received, by where they subsequently head in respect of learning—my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness mentioned the relationship between schools and further education—by how many people from underrepresented groups in higher education get the opportunity to fulfil their potential and by the kind of jobs they end up doing. Those are all bits of
Let me put it plainly: too few people from working class families get the kind of chances that he, I and other Committee members had. Too few people get good advice on apprenticeships—we know that as well—and too few people are able to fulfil their potential. Part of that—not all of it—is about prior attainment and all kinds of other things, but part is about the advice and guidance they get. Those are the kind of destination measures, but to go further would take us down a path that is extremely long and fascinating and yet, under the strict terms that you would apply to our discussion, Mr Walker, possibly tangential to the debate on the amendments.
Mr Hayes: The survey that I described was drawn to my attention yesterday by an adviser to the Leader of the Opposition. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not receive the same e-mail. In the Evening Standard last night, we were told about a poll conducted by Future First, which the hon. Gentleman will be familiar with. The survey was highlighted in the London papers last night, and has been picked up by the national papers today.
The real issue is that we do not need just a single survey; we know from any amount of research that there is a profound problem about people achieving their potential if they do not receive the right kind of advice and guidance, and if they do not achieve the right kind of results early on in their educational career. That is something that we are determined to address, because we know that it impacts on social mobility, and there is a fundamental relationship between social mobility and social justice.
I would go further and say that in a free society, with the consequent inequalities that are a necessary part of that freedom, it is ethically unacceptable not to have a degree of social mobility that means people can rise through that society on the basis of their talents and assiduity. For my money, if we reached that point, such rigidity would be not only unacceptable, but immoral. That is why I have been such an enthusiastic advocate of social justice during my political career.
The hon. Member for Hartlepool knows that, in our schools White Paper, we proposed a destinations measure for schools that will record the education and training that young people progress to after the age of 16. That is a real test of the effectiveness of schools in preparing young people to move on to positive destinations, and that is the most effective way of judging schools.
I have already mentioned Dame Ruth Silver and her work as chairman of the Careers Profession Task Force. That taskforce has recommended—this will be helpful to the hon. Gentleman—that a thematic review of careers should be carried out to identify excellent provision and
As a result of the remarks made by the Chair of the Select Committee and shadow Ministers, I will consider asking Ofsted to carry out a further thematic review on the basis of this morning’s discussion. That would allow us to make a direct comparison between the effect of the new arrangements and the problems that I have highlighted with the existing ones. It would also add to our knowledge of what schools are doing to secure careers guidance, provide examples of good practice from which other schools can learn and allow us further to improve as we progress with such a substantial public policy change.
I have said that I am prepared to consider such a thematic review by Ofsted, and that my hon. Friend the Minister and I will speak to Ofsted about such matters. I have agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness that there has to be collaboration between institutions, and that will be part of my communication with local authorities about schools. I have also agreed to identify examples of good practice and, using the summits that we have agreed, look at ways to export that practice across the system. There is little more that a listening, responsive and generous Minister could do to deal with those proper concerns.
Intelligent effort will mark what we do in respect of careers advice and guidance and, as a result, we will deliver better quality than we have ever seen before. On that basis, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
Mr Wright: I thank the Minister for a lovely evening last night. He had dinner with several college principals and me in the Teesside area. We discussed a range of matters regarding apprenticeships. Given his duties as a Minister and his responsibilities in respect of the Bill, I am grateful to him for taking the time out of his day and spending a lot of time with college principals.
The clause is incredibly important. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley for supporting the amendments. Good careers advice can lift ambition and aspiration. Conversely, poor or inadequate careers advice can hinder someone’s progress. It is important as that. Advice is inherently linked with social mobility. Despite differences, there is still far too much correlation between disadvantaged students and the quality of advice that they receive, which in turn will have an impact on their ambition, education and career attainment.
I am not wholly convinced by the Minister’s argument. As I have said, the proposal is a leap in the dark. He has not worked out the plan of how he will produce such careers guidance. He has not been incredibly clear about what success will really look like, although some of what he said about the role of Ofsted and collaboration with schools, local authorities and the summit has gone
‘and good quality work experience’.
‘(1A) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the responsible authority for a school that provides secondary education must provide careers education, distinct from careers guidance, to all pupils.’.
‘and the likely post 18 pathways,’.
‘for all their pupils, including those who are disabled or have special educational needs.’.
‘(d) includes information on both academic and vocational options.’.
‘(d) is provided by persons appropriately qualified to provide comprehensive and impartial careers guidance.’.
Mr Wright: We are about to discuss a large number of significant amendments designed to enhance the quality of the careers guidance and work experience to which a young person will be exposed. Amendment 131 would expand the obligations placed on the responsible authority. It would require the responsible authority to secure not only independent careers guidance for pupils during the relevant phase of education but, importantly, good quality work experience during the same period.
The Minister will acknowledge that we are not starting completely from scratch. Work-related learning has been statutory for 14 to 16-year-olds since 2004. In 2009, 300,000 employers offered work experience placements to more than 500,000 young people, which is an astonishing number. Each student undertaking the new diploma must complete 10 days’ work experience to secure the qualification. However, it must be said that our IAG strategy in 2009 identified the fact that far too many
Members will have experiences from their constituencies of young people who, instead of looking round an engineering firm for potential work experience because that is the career pathway they want to pursue, have been given two weeks in the local school library. Such experience is not sufficient, relevant nor personalised. That is why, in our 2009 IAG strategy, we were putting in place further work to enhance and widen the offer of work experience to young people, making sure that there was more collaboration between schools and businesses. We strongly encourage the Government to do the same, which is why we have tabled amendment 131.
Work experience gives a young person something that cannot be taught in the classroom. It cannot be learned from a computer or a text book, and it cannot be discussed with a careers adviser, however well informed and experienced that professional might be. However, I have seen on my own patch that young people often come across hurdles when trying to gain work experience for themselves.
I know that the Minister has children, and it is the most natural thing in the world that he wants to see them get on in life. He might, therefore, use his contacts and networks to ensure appropriate, relevant and personalised work experience for his young sons. There is nothing corrupt or sinister about that; he would simply be having a word in someone’s ear to ensure that his children get the work experience that he wants them to have. Not all young people have such opportunities, especially those in disadvantaged areas. The measure is more likely to affect a school in a disadvantaged area that might not have the same contacts as a school in a more affluent one.
I should like to see work experience in a variety of formats, such as short work placements, work-based projects, work shadowing schemes or even vacation placements. I ask the Minister seriously to consider this important amendment, which would facilitate a more rounded and comprehensive level of careers guidance. Pupils would be provided with practical and invaluable experience, which, in the long term, would not only assist them in making informed career choices, but would add to their skills and experiences, making them much more work ready than they would otherwise be.
Amendment 136 would make it clear that schools should provide careers education rather than mere careers guidance. Those two phrases are often regarded as interchangeable, but that is incorrect. The word “guidance” reminds me of my earlier point—that wet Wednesday afternoon, somebody the pupil does not know and does not strike up a rapport with, and a wasted, inefficient and unsatisfactory experience for all concerned.
Does the Minister accept the principles of good quality, impartial careers education? Such education has six elements: helping young people to progress; empowering young people to plan and manage their own futures; responding to the needs of each learner; providing comprehensive information and advice; raising aspiration; and actively promoting equality of opportunity and challenging stereotypes. Will the Minister ensure that he promotes careers education rather than guidance? The amendment would help him to do so, and I hope, therefore, that he will accept it.
Amendments 134 and 135 would ensure that disabled pupils are advised about the same mainstream education and training options that are available to non-disabled pupils. The Alliance for Inclusive Education told us that many careers guidance advisers offer only segregated educational and training opportunities to disabled young people. That is not acceptable, especially since the Government and the Minister are committed to choice.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s “Staying On” report highlighted how careers advisers tailor their advice to what people with a particular impairment should do, rather than basing it on an individual’s aspirations. It concludes that,
“careers advice, the choice of subjects to study at school and for an apprenticeship, and work experience placements are all subject to stereotyping that tends to have an impact more significantly on distinct groups, including girls, the disabled, the working class and some ethnic minorities. The result is that young people’s options and aspirations are limited at an early age.”
The report also notes that disabled young people are not receiving information about opportunities in work-based learning and apprenticeships, and that the information they are given about further education options is often negative. What does the Minister intend to do to ensure that careers guidance offers all mainstream options to disabled children and people with special educational needs?
“responsible authorities must secure that careers guidance provided under subsection (1)…is presented in an impartial manner…includes information on options available in respect of 16 to 18 education or training, including apprenticeships”.
The provision should go further to include guidance on likely post-18 pathways. It is difficult to see why such information should not be provided to young people who are trying to make important decisions at this stage of their educational journey, whether it is academic or vocational. I do not think it would add anything to the cost of the provision of the service. If anything, given the importance that Ministers rightly attach to destination data, it would be an efficient and effective tool to help minimise the risk of error. It surely follows that a young person should have a comprehensive understanding of what is involved in a career path before deciding whether to take that path. A full understanding of, for example, qualification requirements, cost, time scales and level of difficulty, perhaps including statistics on success rates in getting employment post-qualification, should be made available to young people to enable them to make an informed decision on career choice.
In The Times yesterday an article about universities and law courses advised young people not to study law at A-level, because it would be irrelevant to the law degree that they would take. If someone is interested in law, that sort of advice is vital. It also makes no sense to be obliged to advise someone about the requirements for securing a place on an AS or NVQ level course without considering their pathway post-completion of those courses.
As the Minister is aware, career decisions taken at 18 are becoming increasingly complex, due to increased competition for higher education places, difficulties in securing employment at 18, with a very difficult job market for young people at the moment, and a greater range of opportunities for apprenticeships and other
Will the Minister consider this amendment, which would enable young people to have guaranteed access to a fully comprehensive advice and career guidance service? I think his point about the all-age career service will go some way to helping to achieve that, but I hope he will look favourably at the amendment to ensure that young people can proceed to further or higher education and then on to work after the age of 18 with a full understanding of what is involved in their chosen career path.
At first reading that sounds fine. Some parts of the Bill at first reading sound absurd; we need to stare at them and think about them a lot before they start to make sense, but this sort of thing is the precise opposite. The phrase used is “presented in an impartial manner”, not “is impartial”, as one would think it should be. That is peculiar drafting. It does not make sense, and the phrase should either be deleted or changed to “is impartial”. It is a small point, but as we are going clause by clause, line by line, we ought to try and get it right. I should be interested to hear either a florid defence of that particular wording or a dignified and carefully choreographed retreat from it.
My other amendments are probing and could in some ways be seen as superfluous because of the mention of various training pathways—specifically apprenticeships. The point of the amendments is to make sure that careers advice includes options in both academic and vocational routes and to say that explicitly in the Bill. We have talked about the need to ensure access to high quality careers advice, but we have walked around the issue, although the Minister referred earlier to a news item from yesterday, about the weakness of careers advice, particularly in state schools and in poor areas. The reality is that it is easier to provide careers guidance and advice to those following a predominantly academic route. I imagine that there is satisfaction in independent schools, where a vast majority of students go on to A-levels and university.
My 17-year old daughter is doing A-levels at the moment and I hope she will go to university. As a parent, it is extremely complex trying to work out which courses she might do and at which institutions she might do them. Thinking through the living arrangements, the quality of the individual courses and the brand of the university is quite complex for parents, but one can get through it. When we look at those who do not follow that route, things are infinitely more complicated.
Mr Wright: I absolutely agree with the Chair of the Education Committee. Given the experience of his 17-year-old and his wish to see her go on to university, does he accept that one of the omissions in the Bill as it is currently drafted is that there does not seem to be any role for parents in securing good, impartial information, advice and guidance? Does he think there should be more in the Bill with regard to parents?
Mr Stuart: I confess that I have not given that a great deal of thought. Schools normally work closely with parents when it comes to such matters. That has been my experience; it may not always be the case. Perhaps it is something on which the hon. Gentleman should have tabled an amendment. It is certainly an important point.
We know that the role of parents is critical to our children’s future, and we are aware that those who are most vulnerable in our society, who are not following an academic route, have to navigate a much more complex ground. The qualifications they may need and their relevance are harder to determine. If someone is not sure where to go next, and if they do not have, as we have already discussed, family networks to advise them, or if there is not an expectation that the young person will be happy to follow a parental lead, the need for effective and high quality guidance is great, which is why the Minister is right to set out the direction of travel that he has. What we are trying to work out is whether we are going to head in that direction. Wishing for it and actually doing it are two separate things. The key point is that it is infinitely more complex. That needs to be said. We need greater support for those who are likely to be following non-academic routes.
Further education and skills-based learning provide a critical and important resource for young people. As I have touched on before, colleges who provide those must not be prevented from communicating careers advice directly to young people, as seems to be the case in some instances. Dr Alison Wolf’s review of vocational education makes it clear that courses of study must do more to ensure that there are successful pathways leading on to employment or higher education, rather than ending up in a cul-de-sac. Higher quality careers advice will be one element in ensuring that people go on appropriate courses that link on to progression in education or, indeed, employment.
“we should tell citizens the truth. That means providing people with accurate and useful information, so that they can make decisions accordingly. Good information becomes more critical the more important the decisions.”
“For young people, which vocational course, qualification or institution they choose really can be life-determining. 14-19 education is funded and provided for their sakes, not for the sake of the institutions who provide it. This may be a truism; but it is one which policy too often seems to ignore.”
I am probing the Minister to see what he can do to assure us that all young people will be given the kind of careers guidance that we all want to see. We want to ensure that it does actually happen and that vocational as well as academic routes are fully explained to young people.
Julie Hilling: I, like the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness, am going to concentrate mainly on the amendment in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow. I hope that I am pushing at an open door with amendment 146, because I have had previous conversations with the Minister, who has agreed
Under the current system, we already have robust national quality standards—the matrix standards for information, advice and guidance on learning and work. How do we ensure that all the people who will deliver careers guidance in schools in the future will meet current standards? If nothing in the Bill says that people should be properly qualified to deliver advice and guidance, how can we ensure that the people delivering it will have the requisite skills, knowledge and information? I therefore hope that the Minister will accept the amendment; as I said, he has previously agreed that there needs to be well-qualified people in schools. Also, under the current system there are different routes to gain those qualifications in information, advice and guidance—the matrix standards. How will they be developed in the future? Will there still be the different part-time and full-time routes to do them? Who will deliver the education for careers advisers?
Mr Stuart: We have already heard in Committee that the provision of the service by schools may involve direction to a website and that the continuation of careers advice, which the Minister commented on, is currently recognised as not being good enough. I am therefore extremely sympathetic to the hon. Lady’s amendment, exactly as it is worded. If the Government do not immediately accept the phrase
I move on to careers education, which is absolutely fundamental. The hon. Gentleman talked about people following academic routes in school, but I believe that the root of the problem lies much more in aspiration. I live for the day when young people living on my estate of Hag Fold will wake up and say, “I want to be a brain surgeon”, or even, “I want to be a teacher, a social worker or train driver.” One of the problems is that people are guided by those whom they know. Until I worked for a rail union, I never knew that there were so many well-paid jobs associated with the rail industry—that is one of the world’s hidden secrets. There are many hidden professions throughout society that, unless one has family or friends with such careers, one is unlikely to know about.
Mr Stuart: Last week, a director of a major train company commented that it was struggling to recruit maintenance technicians for its trains. We have so many people unemployed, yet that company is desperately trying to get people to work. Again, careers guidance has failed to point people in that direction.
Julie Hilling: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. If we all recall our own careers advice and guidance, what did we get? Why did we end up in our current or previous profession? I attended school some
The other element is work experience. Connexions was able to fund young people so that they could experience different types of work, particularly those who were not achieving in school—the NEETs and those at risk of becoming NEET. Again, if we do not enable young people to go to different workplaces and see what is possible, we will trap them in the careers that their families and friends are involved in. Work experience is extremely important for all young people, but particularly for those who do not have a wider range of information available in their family.
Finally, I turn to disabled young people. Last week, I spoke about Thomas, who was supported by Connexions. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool that it is very important that disabled young people be given the same opportunities and information as non-disabled young people. It is not only about continuing with special education. Young people should be enabled to fulfil their potential, wherever it lies. If they need additional support to be in mainstream education, so be it. That additional support should be given; they should not be put on to a scrapheap.
“please support no cuts or worse to this service, Phil who works there and Connexions have provided an invaluable service for my daughter Kelly who has severe learning difficulties over the years. I just cannot understand Mr Cameron and his government, I did think they wouldn’t dare cut and punish the most vulnerable in our society but nothing and nobody seems to be safe from his disgusting actions please help.”
It behoves us to look at how we can best support young people, whatever their ability; but in particular we must support young people with disabilities to ensure they can lead the most fulfilling life possible.
Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op): As always, Mr Walker, it is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship. I rise to support amendment 146, partly because of my own experience of careers guidance. It was given by teachers and other people who were not qualified—and thus I was encouraged to be a dentist or an engineer. I am sure that the Committee feels that this is a loss to the medical and engineering professions in many different ways.
The amendment should be unnecessary, given the alternative. That raises the question as to why we tabled it. If careers advice is not to be given by people who are “appropriately qualified”, who will give it? That is a clear concern of us all. What will happen to the current careers service—to the professionals who provide a much better service than any of us were entitled to in years gone by?
The amendment would send a clear message to schools about the service we want and the kind of people we want to provide it, and the quality of the advice we
Mr Hayes: The nine amendments in this group cover a wide range of matters, and I will try to address them all without speaking endlessly. I have more notes than a Phil Spector record. I hope that there will be piercing clarity from the wall of sound that emanates from me from this moment on.
The first point raised by the hon. Member for Hartlepool concerned work experience. Work experience is an important part of what is needed to prepare any young person for their working life. According to the 2010 CBI education and skills survey, 64% of employers have links with secondary schools. Despite the fact that work experience is not statutory, we estimate that some 95% of key stage 4 pupils participate in it. I do not know about other members of the Committee, but I have had numerous young people on work experience since becoming a Member of Parliament. Exposing young people to some of the excitement of the life of a democratic representative is a very important part of what we can do as Members of this House. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that work experience can be an important form of engagement that leads people to frame their own views about what they might do. Indeed, any work experience with a Member of Parliament is likely to convince them that this job is arduous, and that other options exist for them.
On that basis, I want to emphasise to the hon. Member for Hartlepool that we will continue to highlight the importance of work experience. It is for schools to make critical judgments about how they engage with employers, nevertheless I appreciate that employers make highly valuable contributions to schools and students, and we must continue to encourage that.
The Education and Employers Taskforce is developing a number of projects to ensure that every school and college has an effective partnership with employers, providing young people with the inspiration, motivation, knowledge, skills and opportunities they need to help them to achieve their potential and to fit them for the world of work. As a result of the proposed amendment on the matter, I will emphasise to the task force how important Ministers feel that work experience is and I will reflect the comments in Committee.
Mr Wright: May we use my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow as an example? I am anxious to avoid a tick-box mentality whereby everyone in a particular school has access to a week or two of work experience, regardless of the relevance to the person’s ambition.
Mr Hayes: That responsibility has to lie with the school and its relationship with the employer. Good schools already place a significant emphasis on the tastes and aptitudes of the students engaged in work experience and on them choosing where they go on their work experience. In the end, the responsibility has to lie with the schools.
Having said that, I would not go so far as to say that any work experience is better than none, but I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Walthamstow would not want to leave the Committee with the impression that she had gained nothing from her experience in the dentist’s surgery. Perhaps her fear of dentists was lessened, for one thing—or heightened.
Stella Creasy: I just wish to clarify: I ended up doing work experience with children in a primary school, which has given me intimate experience in dealing with parliamentary procedures and the behaviour of a range of people. However, the teachers at our school had a quota for the number of women that they wanted to get into underrepresented careers, which is why dentistry and engineering were recommended to someone who was not doing a particularly heavy amount of science courses. That is why good work experience and well qualified people are so important—that is the point we are making.
Mr Hayes: Yes, I have often thought that the greatest wisdom comes from the mouths of babes. Later, we all become so fuelled with doubt and guilt that we qualify some of the purity of the insights coming from very young children—I certainly find that with my own children.
Moving rapidly on to amendment 136, I understand the concerns behind it. I am mindful that the careers profession has invested a lot of time and energy into achieving statutory recognition for careers education. I want to emphasise, deservedly, something I mentioned earlier: the Careers Professional Alliance, which represents six professional associations, has made good progress in bringing this diverse sector together, which is significant if we want a highly professional, high-quality sector addressing the needs of young people and adults.
The careers profession is committed to creating one professional body which will set standards, maintain a professional register leading to a licence to practice, and provide a range of professional services. That will give the careers profession one umbrella body which is independent and self-supporting. That has come about as a direct result of the Government’s policy on developing an all-age service. I am delighted with the progress and I congratulate all those involved in bringing it about. We have yet to reach the destination, but we are making significant steps along the road.
To pick up on the passing remark made by the hon. Member for Hartlepool regarding the previous amendment, the plan that we will put in place as a result of our discussions will not only build on that work, but set staging posts towards the destination that we want to reach by next year. I will also ask the Careers Profession Alliance to set key milestones on behalf of the profession regarding professional standards with officials from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education.
I will reassure the hon. Gentleman also by saying that as the Bill makes its way through Parliament, we expect to set out in clearer terms the evidence that we have gathered on the statutory recognition, in order to ensure that students can take full advantage of the careers guidance that schools are able to access. The broad range of activities encompassed within the terms of careers education are important in contextualising the careers guidance on offer to pupils and support the development of decision making and careers management skills. That point has been made to me by the profession, academics and others, and I understand it. What schools do in those terms matters just as much as what independent careers advisers offer, and to see careers advice in isolation from the supporting education provided by teachers would be a mistake. We will make it clear as we set up the new service that schools have a continuing responsibility to ensure that the context is provided, in the way that I have described, for the advice that young people are given.
Interestingly, the lack of clarity about the difference between advice and guidance is to some degree a feature of the current arrangements. The distinction between careers advice and careers education has become blurred, and the Bill will helpfully make the distinction crystal clear. What matters is that young people get the support they need to make informed decisions about their future, that we empower teachers to do what they think is right and that we free them from unnecessary bureaucracy and, in this case, prescription. We will continue along the road of raising the standard of careers advice, considering the context of what happens in schools.
That leads me to amendment 146, which attempts to introduce a further element of prescription by requiring all independent careers guidance to be delivered by qualified careers advisers. Let me be clear about that, because I have already committed myself to the principle of a licence to practice in respect of the all-age service. While we are not being prescriptive, I would of course expect that the advice secured as part of the statutory duty under the Bill to be of appropriate quality. Neither the hon. Member for Bolton West nor the hon. Member for Hartlepool said this, but a school that felt that it could do that in a way that was regarded by learners, parents or others as being wholly inadequate would be harshly judged. It would ill befit a school that wanted to deliver the best for its pupils to try to secure inappropriate, inadequate or unprofessional careers advice and guidance, particularly when advice would be available from careers professionals with the renewed professional standards that I have described.
While we are not being prescriptive about the matter, there will be a strong emphasis on schools getting the right kind of advice from the right kind of people and provided in the right kind of way. I say to the Committee and the hon. Member for Bolton West that our belief in
Mr Hayes: Judged by learners, by parents, by the governors, the wider community—how schools are always judged. The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that we will have destination data and an all-age service will be in place. We will have new emphasis on careers advice under the Bill. Does he really believe that schools will have a hiding place if they fail to carry out what is expected of them or, indeed, that they will try to concoct a cheapskate way of doing this? I do not see that. I do not believe that of schools, and I certainly do not believe it of heads and teachers. The Committee knows that I have an elevated view of educators and it will take a lot to shake me from that view, given that it is framed and informed by the inspirational experience of seeing the transformation they make to young lives.
Mr Stuart: I struggle to see how ensuring that people who provide such a service within schools are appropriately qualified is some terribly over-prescriptive evil, particularly as we know that on a sustained basis young people have not been receiving the quality advice that they should. We are not changing heads. We are discussing a Bill. For those involved in Bills, it might seem that it will change the world, but for those outside, unless some special duty or bite is put on them, it will not change much at all. My hon. Friend agrees with licensing for those in the all-age careers service, so surely some pressure to ensure that those providing the service within schools have some form of appropriate qualification or capability is not unreasonable.
Mr Hayes: Under current arrangements, Connexions advisers are expected to have achieved certain registered standards, but those who provide careers advice and guidance in schools beyond their core teaching qualifications do not have to have additional qualifications to those issued by the Institute of Career Guidance or elsewhere. The existing arrangements do not insist on additional professional training or accreditation. Indeed, in the previous Government’s view that was good enough. I do not believe that it is good enough, which is why I am putting in place the all-age careers service, which will place strong emphasis on professional standards that are being developed, as I have described. While we are not being prescriptive, we are putting strong emphasis on the all-age service’s high standards and the need for schools to secure high quality, independent professional careers advice and to show how they have done so. That goes a considerable way down the road described. It goes much further than the status quo, and it will deliver precisely what hon. Members want to be achieved.
Julie Hilling: The Minister seemed to confuse the two different roles: that of careers teachers and the careers education in schools and that of the careers guidance person who, according to the Bill, will not be employed by the school and will be external. The hon. Gentleman’s
Mr Hayes: Let me just be absolutely clear. At present, when giving careers advice and guidance, teachers do not have to have additional careers qualifications above and beyond their core teaching qualifications. I am arguing that, in the new all-age service, professional standards will form part of that service, standards that have been developed by the sector at the moment. However, I will go further—we will certainly encourage schools to use qualified advisers. I strongly endorse the view that a school that wants to have the best possible outcomes for its pupils would look first to the all-age service or other qualified advisers.
It would be a very odd school that acquired a service to meet the statutory duty from someone with no history, qualifications or accreditations in careers advice and guidance. How would that school be judged? Would its governors allow that to happen and would its head teacher want it? Would its parents stomach it and its learners agree to it? Of course, they would not. What sort of world are we imagining? That is a flight of fancy, rather than a serious criticism of the proposals.
Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): The Minister should get into schools and see what happens now, which is that the careers role is given to a teacher because they have some spare time in the curriculum, and not necessarily because they have any experience. If we want something that is better in the future, we have to change how we do things, because otherwise we will have exactly the same results.
Mr Hayes: That is precisely what I am saying. The current arrangements—I do not want to be unnecessarily partisan, but they were presided over by the previous regime for donkey’s years—have led to circumstances in which many young people did not receive the right kind of advice and guidance. That is precisely why we are changing the statutory arrangements in the Bill, so ensuring that schools secure impartial, independent careers advice.
The advice provided by an external adviser—it will supplement the work done by teachers; I take the hon. Lady’s point that it needs to be contextualised around the rest of the work done by the school in supporting the ambitions of its students—will transform the landscape she described into one with a coherent set of professional standards and an all-age service supported by the Government to provide the high-quality advice that she seeks.
Stella Creasy: At the risk of being partisan I should point out that we are holding the Minister to account for the Bill that his Government are proposing now. He has used the term “ensuring” a qualified service, and yet he seems to be refusing to accept an amendment that would do exactly what he says that he wants. I cannot understand why he wishes to have a loophole to allow schools not to use qualified individuals. Why does he not feel the need to ensure that he gets on the ground exactly what he says in Committee that he wants, and which we would all support?
Mr Hayes: Because the whole point of the Bill is to change the balance of responsibility from the centre to schools. It recognises the immense human capital that exists in our schools, and which was underutilised by the micro-managed, target-driven and bureaucratic regime that preceded ours. That is not to say that that regime was not without many virtues; clearly, it had many virtues. However, on trusting schools to do what they think is right for their students, it was inadequate. That is why the Bill makes the assumption—the right assumption—that we should place faith in schools and change the balance of responsibility.
In trusting schools to make those professional judgments about how they best address their statutory duty based on the needs of their pupils, we will draw to their attention best practice, as I described earlier; we will use the advice available to us through the careers sector to deliver the best professional standards; and we will market the new service effectively. We already have a well received web-based product, because many young people do not look first to a face-to-face contact with an adviser, but to online or telephone sources of advice.
It is worth mentioning that existing online products are very well received by young people. Some 90% of users of the current internet-based service were pleased with the service they received. Telephone users were even more satisfied—99% said that the service was providing them with good advice and guidance—so we are building on a model that has strengths. The previous Government created the Next Step adult careers service—at least, they laid the foundations. I suppose we created it, because we rolled it out last summer, but the Next Step service will also provide a useful foundation for what we plan to do next, so there is existing good practice on which we are building. I do not think that we need to be more prescriptive than that.
I understand the concerns behind amendments 97 and 98, which seek to ensure information on academic and vocational options. I have already made it clear that that is very close to my heart. It is vitally important that young people have a thorough appreciation of all the academic and vocational options that are available to them and understand the various merits of each route.
This country has been guilty in the past of a lamentable failure to provide young people with a proper technical and practical education of a kind that other nations can boast. For too long, we have lived with the myth that the only form of prowess that counted came through academic accomplishment. It is not a view that I share. It is not a myth that I am prepared to perpetuate. Through the acquisition of practical competencies, people can gain not only a sense of worth and purpose, but also a good chance of progressing in further learning and gaining and keeping a job.
As Alison Wolf identified in her recent report for the Government, we need to create a vocational pathway as rigorous, robust, accessible, progressive and seductive as the academic pathway that many of us chose to take. My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness is right to say that the kind of advice and guidance that people get is critically important. It is why we emphasise in the Bill that that advice should be independent and balanced in putting vocational as well as academic options to young people.
Proposed new section 42A(4) requires careers guidance for every young person to include information on all post-16 options. It also addresses the point about further education colleges and schools and the relationship between the two. It states “including apprenticeships”. This is sufficient to ensure that pupils receive information about all academic and vocational options and are made aware of the fullest possible range of routes open to them. In respect of amendment 97, I can reassure members of the Committee that the definition of “16-18 education or training” options in subsection (4)(b) has been used in previous careers legislation and is accepted to include all academic and vocational routes. My hon. Friend knows that I am as passionate as he is about ensuring that people get balanced information.
To restrict the careers guidance requirement to mainstream options, as suggested by amendment 134, would introduce an element of discretion for schools in deciding which options their pupils should be informed about. I can only see this leading to a patchwork of options being made available to young people, as schools would interpret the meaning of “mainstream” options quite differently. The difficulty with using “mainstream” in that more permissive way is that it would perhaps lead to more inconsistency rather than more clarity and consistency.
At the heart of this new duty also lies a recognition that teachers are not always best placed to offer careers advice, particularly on vocational options of which they have no prior experience. With all that is expected of schools, it would be too much to ask them to keep up to date with the latest information.
Amendment 96 would remove the requirement for independent careers guidance to be presented in an impartial manner. Information, advice and guidance should offer an insight into the benefits of different learning options, but also tackle openly the differences between them. Throughout this process, care must be taken to keep the best interests of the young person in mind at all times and not undermine a route that may be appropriate for them.
We know that the impartiality of careers guidance has been called into question. Hon. Members will know that the Ofsted report, “Moving through the system—information, advice and guidance”, which was published last year, noted:
“The information, advice and guidance given were not always sufficiently impartial about the options available to young people at the age of 16, for example where secondary schools had their own sixth forms.”
That is why we want to emphasise in the Bill the impartiality of advice that is given about the available options. I understand that hon. Members may feel that the word “impartial” is unnecessary if careers guidance is already described elsewhere as independent. However, impartiality counts as well as independence, and they are different things.
Meg Munn: As I understood it, the point made by the Chair of the Select Committee was that the concern is the wording rather than the impartiality. An impartial manner might not necessarily imply impartiality. Is the Minister confident that the rest of Bill requires impartiality and not simply an impartial manner?
I assure hon. Members that in respect of amendment 135, the requirement to provide information on all post-16 options to pupils extends to those with special educational needs. I understand the point that the hon. Member for Hartlepool has made. It is critical that we place appropriate emphasis on the needs of people with particular and sometimes challenging needs. I met people from Skill, which, as the hon. Gentleman will know from his ministerial experience, is an organisation that represents the interests of the people that he has described. I am determined that in our words, and in the guidance that we give, we emphasise the importance of ensuring that those with SEN and other disabilities, needs and challenges are taken into full account in advice about learning and career options. Too often, learning options and employment opportunities for people with special needs of one kind or another are stereotyped. We must challenge such stereotypes in precisely the way that the hon. Gentleman has identified.
The Government attach great importance to the measure. As I have said, local authorities will retain their duty to provide targeted support to young people and young adults with learning difficulties up to the age of 25. Such support will include a responsibility for carrying out learning difficulty assessments and should, of course, include a degree of careers guidance.
On amendment 128, in choosing post-16 options, young people must have an understanding of where such options might lead at 18. Last week I mentioned Lord Browne’s report on higher education, in which he said that many prospective students do not receive adequate advice or information to help them choose the right course of study. That is a concern to the Government and that is why schools working in partnership with expert, independent careers advisers will be at the heart of the new arrangements. The CPA is establishing common professional standards, and I firmly believe that professionally trained careers advisers are the best placed people to provide detailed guidance on the learning routes that are available to young people.
Proposed new section 42A(4)(b) is clear about information on all post-16 options. Those sources of information will contain different levels of advice on the post-18 pathways, so careers advisers should have the discretion to supplement that basic information with more in-depth guidance in discussion with the young person concerned. The clause does not limit careers guidance to post-16 education and training. Proposed new section 42A (7) defines career as
so we would expect young people to receive guidance on post-18 pathways. Indeed, many elements of the advice that young people are given when they make earlier decisions will have a direct impact on their progress post-18, so there is a necessary synergy between the advice that is given about different options before and after the age of 16.
In conclusion, we need to be clear that guidance is independent and impartial. We also need to be clear about the standards we will put into place to ensure that
Mr Wright: The Minister’s body language indicates that he knows that he has lost the debate on this. My hon. Friends and the Chair of the Education Committee had him on the ropes, certainly with regards to amendment 146. I pay tribute to what my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West has done on that.
I will start by trying to be positive. The words that the Minister said on amendment 131 and work experience were positive. The rhetoric and warm words that he used in respect of amendment 135 were also positive and a welcome step. On amendment 136, it was useful and helpful to hear him say that evidence will be used as a means of shaping policy. Given the example of the Department for Education since May—on the education maintenance allowance, Building Schools for the Future and school sports partnerships—there has been a lack of evidence-based policy. It is nice that there has been a departure from that approach here.
It remains the case that there is a worrying trend from the Treasury suggesting that, because young people use social networks, face-to-face provision is not necessary and that online provision is sufficient. Online provision is important and no one is disputing that, but some of the phrases that the Minister used were worrying.
On amendment 128, I understand the Minister’s point that the clause is not age restrictive as it stands. I think the amendment goes with the grain of Government policy. The Minister for Universities and Science is trying to ensure—and I understand where he is coming from, although that is not a phrase I usually use—that students and potential undergraduates are consumers. If they are spending in the region of £27,000 on tuition fees, they want to ensure that they get value for money, a first class education and that the pathways after the degree will lead them to a fulfilling and, hopefully, economically rewarding career. If he accepted amendment 128, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning would be working with the grain of the Minister for Universities and Science. It may be that at the age of 14, an individual may want to do a particular course and want to go down that route. It should be pointed out to that individual at that time that employment rates for that course are, for example, 10%. The adviser could say, “Unemployment is high, is it worth thinking about another choice?” The amendment puts it more explicitly than the Minister has suggested so far.
I will not press a number of my amendments, although I give notice to the Minister that I want to test the opinion of the Committee on amendment 128. I urge my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow and for Bolton West to ensure that amendment 146 is pressed to a vote.
Mr Stuart: Following the Minister’s remarks, I am happy not to press my amendments. The debate on amendment 146 has given the Government an opportunity to think some more on this. As we have laid out, this
Julie Hilling: Much as I believe that the Minister is passionate about and genuine in his desire to improve careers education and guidance for young people, I do not share his confidence that that guidance will be provided to the standard that we all believe it should be unless we ensure that it is provided by professionals. As the Chair of the Education Committee also believes that it should be provided by a careers professional, I hope that he will join us when I ask the Committee to divide on the amendment.
Perhaps we ought to have introduced a qualification for careers teachers. The Minister seemed to say that we needed such people to be properly qualified and trained. Unfortunately, we did not introduce such a qualification, but we did expect the external person coming in to give careers guidance to be properly qualified. The Bill provides that such a person cannot be employed by the school, but it is far more important that the person has the requisite skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications to deliver the guidance those young people so need.
To hope that schools will automatically look at the all-age service is too great a risk, in particular at times of financial austerity, when schools are already having to pay for things now that they never used to have to pay for, and which were provided previously by local authorities or other agencies for free. I will, therefore, be pressing the relevant amendment to a Division.
‘(d) an Academy.’.
‘(c) in the case of an Academy, the proprietor.’.
Mr Wright: I will be brief on the amendments, which insert additional proposed new paragraphs into clause 27, ensuring that the duty of responsible authorities of a school in England to provide careers guidance also applies to academies and the proprietors of academies.
The Minister probably accepts that good-quality careers support and guidance is essential to all young people. Such advice provides the information and support needed for them to fulfil their potential, to achieve their ambition
The Opposition’s concern is that, without the imposition of the obligation on institutions with academy status, they might not provide the service to the young people registered. Regardless of the level and quality of information provided at the academy, young people might fail to reach their potential due to a lack of accurate, comprehensive and impartial careers guidance. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will consider the amendments, with a view to ensuring that we have a level and consistent playing field in educational institutions.
Mr Gibb: I understand the concerns behind the hon. Gentleman’s amendments, which relate to the application of the duty to secure independent careers guidance to academies. I assure the Committee that all new academies, through their funding agreements, will be subject to a requirement to secure access to independent careers guidance for their pupils.
We have always been clear that, while maintained schools are governed by legislation, one of the defining features of academies is that they are regulated contractually. A broad regulatory framework allows academies to be flexible and innovative in their approach to raising standards. Where maintained schools have important requirements, which we want to replicate for academies, such as the duty to secure independent careers advice, we will include that in future academy funding agreements. We believe in the importance of choice and diversity in schools, and in using funding agreements to ensure that academies meet important requirements, which is a well established mechanism, also used by the Government supported by the hon. Member for Hartlepool.
We will encourage existing academies to move to a new model funding agreement containing that requirement. More important than such a requirement, however, is practice on the ground. We have taken steps to strengthen the evidence base to show the benefits of good careers guidance and to improve the quality and status of the careers profession, both of which should help to deliver better careers guidance for pupils in all schools. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman and that he will withdraw his amendment.
Mr Stuart: It is a pleasure to speak on this group of amendments; I notice that my amendment is the lead amendment. Amendment 75 seeks simply to add academies to list of schools. Thanks to the ordering that you chose to follow, Mr Walker, the Minister has already had the opportunity to explain that he is looking to include them in the funding agreement rather than in the Bill.
Kevin Brennan: I wonder what the hon. Gentleman feels about existing academies. This is a residual problem that occurs throughout the Bill: the Government introduce measures that they think are important for all schools to follow, but because they will do that only through the funding mechanism for new academies, they are unable to do anything about existing academies.
Mr Stuart: There are opportunities to talk to those schools, and I imagine that funding agreements may be amended, perhaps with mutual agreement. It is hard to believe that existing academies are so dead set against the provision of decent careers advice that they will resist such negotiations. The inheritance creates some anomalies, but part of the whole idea of academies as set up by the hon. Gentleman’s Administration was to give them greater independence so that we are less tempted to prescribe every last thing that they should do.
My feeling was as a point of principle. Where we have an issue that lies outside the basic provision of education within a school and where the institutional interest of a school is set against the individual interest of a pupil, we may choose to legislate and lay down in the law the requirements on academies, and that would not necessarily be in breach of the general view that we should tell it what we want from it but not necessarily how to do it. The Minister has made it clear in this strangely ordered debate that he will rely on funding mechanisms, and I would hope and expect, in answering the shadow Minister’s point, that within a short time, all schools, including existing academies, will have the responsibility accepted in their funding agreements.
Mr Wright: In respect of existing academies, there may be a risk that the proprietor and the head teacher will think that it imposes unnecessary bureaucracy and a burden on his or her work load to arrange and negotiate a new funding agreement, which may include, among other things, revised guidance and criteria on careers advice. What nudge factors will the Minister deploy to ensure that it is in the interest of the proprietor and the head teacher of an academy to go for a revised funding agreement, given the work, negotiation and time that that would take?
Mr Gibb: I shall respond first to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness; as someone once said, the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Both he and the hon. Member for Hartlepool make an important point about open academies. We will communicate to them the changes that will be made by the Bill and reiterate the importance of policies such as the need to have independent careers advice and guidance. Of course, academies will be subject to the destinations measure that was referred to by my hon. Friend the Minister, which will provide information to parents on the effectiveness of academies in preparing their students to move on to positive destinations. We will encourage academies to move to the new model funding agreement, which will bring with it a number of advantages. Existing academies may find them advantageous, and if they move on to a new funding agreement, they will have the provisions. I think that answers the questions of both my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Hartlepool about how we expect the duty to be applied to existing academies.
‘(4A) The responsible authorities must ensure that all providers of independent careers guidance have access on request to information on the educational progress of pupils in order to assist them in the guidance they provide.’.
I shall be brief. This amendment seeks to ensure that independent providers of careers guidance must have access to information held by schools on the educational progress of pupils to assist them in providing guidance to that student. Under clause 27 as it currently stands, there may be an issue for schools as to how much information may be shared with independent service providers who provide careers advice to young people. To provide an effective and comprehensive level of support and guidance to a young person in terms of their future prospects, realistic capabilities and options, it seems common sense that service providers are given some level of academic information. This would include information such as projected results for that young person, attendance records, punctuality and perhaps even details on extracurricular activity, in certain circumstances. All this would assist in offering more accurate and detailed advice to a young person.
We accept that there should be limitations on information sharing. Information held by schools on matters such as personal or health issues should not be provided. If the young person chooses to volunteer this information, that would be a matter for that individual and perhaps his or her parents. Clear guidance would need to be set out before implementation to ensure that only relevant information would be made available.
The amendment specifies that the information be made available to a service provider on request and therefore would not simply give that service provider infinite unrequested data. The service provider would need to make a request to the school concerned; as a result of that request a decision would be made about whether the information would be released. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment, which is probing in its nature. It also addresses an important point about providing requisite data in order to provide comprehensive and personalised advice for young people.
We believe that a school is best placed to know the needs of their pupils. Because this duty is on the school and it is the school that has the information, there is no need therefore in primary legislation to require any form of data sharing in order to fulfil this duty. On that basis, I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his amendment.
Mr Wright: Is the Minister able to anticipate a scenario, which was touched on earlier in Committee, where there might be a question mark over the independence of careers advice? The Chair of the Education Committee has well highlighted that further education providers do not have access to schools. In circumstances of impartial, independent advice being provided via the conduit of independent service providers, will it be possible for the head teacher to restrict access to data, because he or she might think that pupils were going to an alternative FE college as opposed to a school sixth-form college. How will the Minister stop the risk of that occurring?
Mr Gibb: The head teacher is obliged to maintain the confidentiality of those data within the school, except where explicit provisions in statute require the sharing of data—for example, data held at local authority level—that might help the Department provide destinations measures. There is a case for data-sharing in those circumstances. Ultimately, the school record and the details of the progress of a pupil at a school are confidential to that school.
The clause has a requirement that the school provides impartial advice. The examples that have been given relate to existing statutory provisions, in which there is no similar requirement about providing impartial advice. We will require schools to provide access to independent advice in the interests of the child. If the school needs to provide those data to do that, the school will of course do so. The scenario painted by the hon. Gentleman is one that the clause is designed to address. It is best addressed by the clause, rather than by having external advisers who are somehow able, by statute, to obtain the school records of any pupil whom they would like to take part in a course at their institution.
‘(d) is provided by persons appropriately qualified to provide comprehensive and impartial careers guidance.’. —(Julie Hilling.)
Mr Wright: The amendments—in a crowded field—are very interesting. They are intended to probe the Government’s thinking on the age, and particularly the age range, at which careers advice is provided.
I will deal relatively quickly with amendment 130, which seeks to extend the age at which a young person can seek careers advice to 18. That would be consistent with the raising of the participation age to 18 by 2015, and would provide a young person with appropriate careers advice up to and including 18. I welcome submission E 86 on the matter from the Department for Education, which the Committee received last week at 4.34 pm. It confirmed that the Department intends to consult on the issue and, subject to the outcome of that consultation, lay regulations to ensure that all young people will have access to careers guidance up to the age of 18. That is something I wanted, and which I announced in the publication of the information, advice and guidance strategy “Quality, Choice and Aspiration” 18 months ago.
It is disappointing that little progress has been made since that announcement, but I welcome what was provided by the Department last week. Will the Minister set out a definitive time scale on the consultation and explain when he expects to lay regulations? Can he also say in what circumstances an extension to 18 would not be a good and positive step? It would be useful to know such details.
I come now to amendment 129. As drafted, the clause requires that the careers service should be provided when a pupil reaches the age of 14. There is a strong argument that that age is too high and, to engage young people effectively, suitable, appropriate and personalised careers advice information is needed much earlier. That could be at secondary school, but there is equally a relevant case for appropriate suitable careers advice at primary school—something that I pushed for under the IAG strategy in 2009.
Such a service would provide young people with context and a degree of experience that would inform their subject choices and options at the age of 14 onwards rather than a big bang approach, in which options come simultaneously with careers advice and they do not have sufficient time to reflect on what is appropriate for them. We have chosen the age of 12. It could be earlier than that, but I should like to know the Minister’s thinking about an appropriate age for young people to receive careers advice, perhaps in primary school, but certainly below the age of 14.
Meg Munn: I want to use the amendment to probe the Minister’s thinking on how the service in schools will fit with the all-age careers service. That is important, given the issues of age that we are debating. My hon. Friends have already expressed worry about what is happening to careers guidance. Can the Minister give us more information about the commissioning of the all-age careers service? Furthermore, given the announcement yesterday about the new bursary scheme for 16 to 18-year-olds, can he give us more details about it? Some news agencies were speculating that money was being taken out of the all-age careers service funding to bolster the replacement to EMAs.
Mr Stuart: Like other members of the Committee, I should be interested to hear the Minister’s thinking on such matters. Alison Wolf said explicitly in her report that it was appropriate for young people aged 14 to be going into FE colleges. Tens of thousands of young people are already doing so. Only a small number are full time, so the age of 14 sounds a little late if people will be making decisions that could have such an impact later in their lives.
Julie Hilling: I draw the Committee’s attention to evidence sent to us by Paul Jackson, the chief executive of EngineeringUK. That piece of evidence, along with several other copies of evidence, encouraged the Committee to consider reducing the age below that of 14 years. On the subject of careers advice, he said:
“At the moment there is a huge deficit in this area. Engineering is such a massive discipline involving careers that span nanotechnology on one side to big infrastructure build on the other. All too often career choices are made too late in the day at school to enable many school age children to enter the profession. Also, particularly with girls, we find that they can be really excited by engineering as a subject in their early school years, but are often put off by the image of the profession when they come to make crucial subject choices.
Careers advice could and should play a very significant part in changing the mindset of school age children about how to select their GCSE topics. There is no doubt that independent careers advice at 14-16 is often too late in terms of our discipline, and we would urge the government to free up the pipeline of entrants into the industry by committing to earlier careers advice.”
The Committee should pay attention to that. We know that the future of our country and prosperity is linked to how we grow manufacturing and build on our engineering skills, particularly high-tech engineering. If professionals say that it is too late to give people careers advice at age 14, and that we will miss out on a raft of young people who would be excellent engineers and help the country’s prosperity to grow, we should listen to those professionals.
Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I have spoken to the Minister at some length about this matter, but I wanted yet again to point out some of the peculiarities of the middle school system as it relates to the clause. I disagree with putting the age of advice at 12, and I am in favour of raising it to 13. At 13, young people in Somerset are in year 8, which is the last year of a four-year period at middle school. By then they are well known by teachers and head teachers, and it seems extremely appropriate for young people to be given good, independent advice by someone who has known them for a long time. The difficulty with making that decision a year later is that sometimes a pupil has moved into senior school, and that is the time when they are least known.
Tessa Munt: I do not believe that is the case. There are different systems in different places. In Leicestershire, middle schools cover a different period that goes from age 10 to 14. In Somerset they go from age nine to 13. I would change amendment 130 to read “19” in some cases, rather than “18”.
Kevin Brennan: Rather than ages, perhaps the hon. Lady could explain her point in relation to academic year groups. Is she saying that year 8 is the appropriate year, which is when middle school ends in her area?
Kevin Brennan: The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley was making is that if someone was born in August and was in year 8, they would still be 12 at the end of the academic year in July.
Tessa Munt: The majority of those children are 13. The period in question comes at the end of four years of being known by a particular school. One of the advantages of doing such things in the middle school system is that those students and their teachers and head teachers have no interest in using the financial incentive that comes at a later stage, when the money follows the student and provides an incentive for the head teacher to keep that young person as a result of making subject choices that may affect their future career, or may stop them going on to college. As far as I am concerned, all subject choices are career choices. Such choices should be made at 13, and that should continue on to 19.
Mr Gibb: I will speak to amendments 129 and 130, which concern the age range of young people who should receive access to independent careers guidance. I agree with the hon. Member for Hartlepool that careers guidance should not simply cease once a young person reaches the age of 16, and neither should access to guidance cease at the age of 18. As we have discussed, we are establishing arrangements for the provision of careers guidance to ensure that young people and adults have access to expert impartial guidance throughout
The previous Administration, in the information, advice and guidance strategy that they published in 2009, set out their intention to consult on extending the careers education duty to cover young people up to the age of 18 attending schools and institutions in the further education sector. We are amending existing delegated powers to allow us to take a similar course of action in respect of this new duty. We intend to consult on the issue and, subject to the outcome of that consultation, introduce regulations to ensure that all young people attending schools and further education institutions have access to high-quality careers guidance up to the age of 18 in future. In answer to the specific question of when, the consultation process will begin in the summer.
On the question of the earliest age at which pupils should be subject to independent careers guidance, I accept that a cogent argument can be made in support of commencing the duty at the beginning of the secondary phase of education. I will come to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wells about middle schools in a moment. After all, careers guidance should not be a one-off stand-alone experience for a young person. It is an ongoing process by which young people are supported to make the decisions that are right for them and are helped to gain the skills to make effective decisions.
I firmly believe that the provision of personalised guidance to individuals is unlikely to be of huge benefit before the age of 13, because the first major decision point relates to post-16 options. Independent, impartial guidance in the year leading up to those decisions is far more likely to have a positive impact on a young person. A 2010 Department for Education study demonstrated that the effect of careers guidance on young people’s attitudes to schools and intentions to remain in education is strongest at that age group.
The focus in the early years of secondary education is rightly on making a successful transition from primary school and gaining a good grounding in the national curriculum subjects, all of which will help a young person to get more out of their careers guidance at 13. That does not mean that pupils will not benefit from some careers guidance before the age of 14, or even 13. In providing schools with greater freedoms and flexibilities, we trust professionals to make decisions about how best to use their resources to meet the needs of their pupils. Schools must have the freedom to decide how they want to introduce their pupils to the world of work as part of their time at school.
Mr Stuart: For the children most likely to be disaffected and most likely to end up in youth unemployment, the signs of disaffection are likely to have emerged by the age of 12 and 13. Although we may look across the
Mr Gibb: I do not disagree with my hon. Friend, but I disagree with the wording of the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Hartlepool. I sympathise with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wells about middle schools. I have taken on board her points about the importance of young people receiving appropriate guidance before they make choices about their options, which may in some circumstances happen earlier than year 9. She has made a forceful argument, both here and outside the Committee, although I would like to know how widespread an issue it really is. The hon. Member for Hartlepool rightly pointed out that we have made a commitment to consult on extending the age range for the duty to 18, which was in the note about exercising the regulatory powers under the clause. I am happy for the consultation to go one stage further than I have set out in the note.
Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): Having examined the clause again, I am interested in something that may habitually be interpreted in a certain way. Looking at schools with mixed age groups, which I know is far less likely in secondary than in primary in rural schools, is there an issue with older pupils who are mixed in with younger ones, who will therefore not get that education until later on?
“For the purposes of this section the relevant phase of a pupil’s education is the period…beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 14”.
I want to address the question of whether the age of 14, as specified in the clause, should be reduced to 12. I think that that would be extreme, because that would mean that pupils will start at the age of 11. Far better, and more interesting, is the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Wells, which applies when the majority of pupils in the class attain the age of 13. That means that there will be pupils who are 12 starting that academic year, but they will reach 13 during the year, which is in year 8. I am happy to say to my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall that we will extend the consultation to look at extending it not just beyond 16, but down to year 8. However, I want to see how wide a demand there is for such an extension to the legislation, which we will do through secondary legislation.
Mr Wright: With respect to amendment 130, as I said in my opening remarks, I welcome what the Minister has provided on E 86. He mentioned that the consultation will take place in the summer. May I ask, a little facetiously, but not too much, which year’s summer will it be, and when does summer end? Will it be in October? May I probe him a little more on what he means by summer?
The Minister did not take amendment 129 in the spirit in which it was intended. As I said, it was a means to probe Government thinking on a wider debate about whether adequate, relevant and suitable careers advice could be provided for younger people, perhaps in primary schools. As I said, at the age of eight, I wanted to be an astronaut, and I was not suggesting that I sit down with a careers adviser. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] There is still time. I wrote to “Jim’ll Fix It” about this and did not get
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