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Baroness David moved Amendment No. 144:

("( ) a body providing services in pursuance of arrangements made or directions given under sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Employment and Training Act 1973,").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment would seek to place Careers Service contractors delivering the Secretary of State's duty (under the 1973 Act, as amended) as bodies with whom the Secretary of State should consult under subsection (2) of Clause 103 rather than in subsection (1), as we attempted in Committee.

Subsection (1) specifies key statutory bodies. Amended subsection (2) will specify voluntary bodies and the provider of the Secretary of State's duty in respect of the Careers Service. The Secretary of State's duty is to provide a careers service to,

    "assist persons undergoing relevant education to decide what employments ... will be suitable for and available to them",

and to do so by "offering advice and guidance" to these young people. The Secretary of State's duties and powers under Sections 8 to 10 of the 1973 Act also relate to providing services to assist persons,

    "to decide what training or education ... [will] fit them for those employments".

Learning and skills are essential for individuals to progress from education and training into productive employment. The Secretary of State's vision is of an inclusive learning society, which also is marked out by thriving businesses, and hence a thriving economy. Critically, it is the Careers Service contractor--in fulfilling the Secretary of State's duty--who brings

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impartial information into schools and colleges to assist individuals to make choices informed by the needs of the labour market.

In planning Connexions services, it will be essential that the distinctive impartiality and labour market intelligence from the statutory Careers Service contractor is enabled to influence service provision. Unless this is the case, businesses will not be served by the new arrangements, nor will the economy--and the very inclusion that the Government rightly seek will be seriously impaired.

It is evident that Ministers seem intent upon the current "Careers Service contract" being subsumed in the Connexions contract. There is not the same clarity over how the funding of other elements of the Connexions strategy will be contractually captured and assured. Perhaps DfEE Ministers have failed to extract agreement from the DETR for certain elements of local authority funding to be routed to Connexions partnerships. If this is the case, it needs to be challenged.

Either Connexions partnerships bring together "partners with funding" who are required to work together or all of the funding for Connexions should come through a single contact. There is no evidence to justify a proposal to bring to an end existing Careers Service contracts.

Surely it would be better to continue to contract directly for the fulfilment of the Secretary of State's Careers Service duty, and to require those Careers Service contractors to work with local authorities and other Connexions partners. Local authorities and other partners would be "directed" by the Secretary of State to bring resources to the partnership table. Connexions partnerships would then be more "equal" and Connexions partnership proposals would be informed by the distinctive perspectives of the partners--including, by right, the distinctive Careers Service perspective. This is what the amendment to Clause 103 would secure. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, my name is also attached to this amendment and I should like to speak briefly to it. The amendment concerns consultation. Clause 103 provides for consultation, first, with a number of statutory bodies and, secondly, with non-statutory bodies. Those specifically mentioned are voluntary bodies providing services to young people.

It is extraordinary that the providers of careers advice, who will be subsumed within the Connexions service, are not listed among these consultees. As we know, in the past 10 years the Careers Service has been privatised. It is now supplied, largely, by private providers and private companies who are contracted to local authorities, schools and various other bodies to provide careers advice. Insofar as they are playing a crucial part within the new Connexions service, they surely need to be included as those who will be consulted about how the service will be set up.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the effect of this amendment would be to add Careers Service providers to the

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express list of those who must be consulted about Connexions service provision for a particular area. Noble Lords may recall that we debated a similar amendment in Committee. I said then that there were a number of bodies that could be listed on the face of the Bill as organisations that should be consulted about Connexions provision. However, Clause 103 has been drafted so that it provides for the full range of relevant bodies to be involved in the new service while maintaining simplicity and flexibility.

I can also reiterate the assurance that in planning Connexions provision in an area we will certainly expect those delivering a careers service to be key consultees. They will, after all, be key delivery partners. That includes Careers Service companies, schools, colleges, training providers and those responsible for adult information, advice and guidance. As it is said in the Connexions policy document, there will be close links between the Connexions service and the LSC at both local and national levels. At national level the head of the national Connexions service unit will be invited to attend meetings of the LSC and their young people's learning committee. At local level the Connexions partnership will be invited to attend meetings of the local learning and skills council as observers.

The local Connexions service will advise the LSC on gaps in provision and provide feedback on quality and on trends and reasons for non-participation in learning. The local LSC will provide labour market information, including skills shortages, to the local Connexions service. They will work together to improve information, advice and guidance about post-16 opportunities for young people and to ensure coherence across the pre-16 and post-16 divide.

Having heard what I have said, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness David: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I take it that he is not accepting my amendment. But, on the other hand, he has said that the Careers Service will be key consultees and he has given some other comfort. I shall have to be satisfied with that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 106 [Inspection]:

[Amendment No. 145 not moved.]

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No.146:

    After Clause 111, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) The Education Act 1997 shall be amended as follows.
(2) For section 46 substitute--
"Extension or modification of provisions of ss. 43 to 45.
46.--(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations extend the scope of operation of section 43 and section 44 requiring--
(a) the governing bodies of institutions within the further education sector, and

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(b) the principals or other heads of such institutions, and
(c) the schools listed in section 43(2)(a) to (d),
to secure that a programme of careers education is provided for any specified description of persons attending such institutions up to the age of 20.
(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for extending the scope of operation of section 43, 44 or 45 to primary schools or to any specified description of such schools, to secure that a programme of careers education is provided for any specified description of persons attending such institutions.".").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to propose Amendment No. 146 which stands in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Tope and the noble Baroness, Lady David. This amendment is similar to one that I moved at Committee stage which sought to extend careers education and guidance to the post-16 age group for whom, at present, there is no mandatory duty to provide such services.

In his reply at Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said:

    "We do not think that compulsion is either necessary or appropriate. It is better, in our view, that schools and colleges continue to develop their careers education programmes with the support of the new Connexions service".--[Official Report, 17/2/2000; col. 1402.]

In fact, Section 46 of the Education Act 1997 does provide the Secretary of State with the power to extend the requirement of careers education to primary schools, which is another issue covered by the amendment.

The probing amendment that we brought forward on the previous occasion gave the Secretary of State the opportunity to indicate that he might use this power. He is clearly unwilling to do so. Yet there are increasing numbers of young people participating in education post-16. For these young people going into the workplace, careers education and guidance can make a very real difference to their achievement and successful progression.

The changes to the post-16 curriculum mean that choices at 16 are no longer the single most important determinative of a career path. The decision at 16 remains critical, but that is the case also at 17. There are new and different choices to be made, with a changing approach to advanced studies and the growth of vocational qualifications. While loudly applauding these changes--the growth in the number of young people continuing in learning--there remain very serious problems to tackle, both in achievement and in successful progression from this area. Sometimes drop-out rates as high as 20 or 30 per cent are not uncommon in further education. It is worrying that that is creeping into higher education.

Vocational maturity does not go hand in hand with academic ability. Poor choices by far too many post-16 students result in misery for them and their families, a waste of public money and the failure to capitalise on the talents of young people as they progress into the labour market. The Bill does not go far enough in seeking to address these matters. That is why we have proposed this amendment.

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We are somewhat surprised that Ministers have not learned the lesson from the previous administration. In 1992 to 1993, as the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Bill was progressing through Parliament, it was Labour MPs and Peers who argued that the Careers Service should be given the statutory right of entry to schools and that schools should be required by law to have a careers education programme and policy. The Conservative government said that this was not necessary, that the Careers Service and schools would work together in partnership and that compulsion was undesirable. What happened? By 1997 it was clear that in some schools, albeit a minority, some young people were not receiving access to the impartial help necessary for them to choose between all the options and routes post-16. Some careers advisers were being denied access to certain students. Colleges were expressing concern that post-16 school offerings were being biased by teachers and that the work-based route was not always being opened to students.

Ministers then changed the legislation: Sections 43 to 46 of the 1997 Act placed a duty on schools to provide access to careers advisers. It seems to me that we are now in danger of repeating history. I fear that that danger will be exacerbated if personal advisers and learning mentors replace rather than work in support of impartial careers advisers. Evidence shows that school-based advisers, unless their work is supplemented by impartial external careers advisers, do not always enable young people to choose between all the options and routes. This is why we feel it necessary that there should be this expansion post-16 into the college and further education section of the Careers Service and why we are putting forward this amendment. I beg to move.

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