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The amendment is right because it makes sense and removes the bit of Clause 35 that does not make sense. But no matter what these amendments say, we still have a job to do in moving on to the next stage of careers advice, which is, having given the factual information, how we support children in making a decision that is in their best interest. That decision is theirs and theirs alone, and not that of the careers officer. That opens up the whole debate on aspiration, opportunity and work experience, and who will guide and mentor those children and young people. Certainly, I give my wholehearted support to the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Layard.

Baroness Blackstone: I, too, have put my name to this amendment. I do not want to say too much more because most of what needs to be said has already been said. This is one of those rather unusual occasions where there is complete and absolute agreement across the Committee from everyone who has spoken so far.

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As the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, said, 11 Peers from different parts of this House have agreed that Clause 35 simply will not do as it is currently worded. I am very grateful to the Minister and to the two departments involved in this Bill for the voluminous information that they sent me in order to persuade me that this clause does not need changing. But I remain completely unconvinced by all this information, which I have read very carefully.

I strongly agree with what my noble friend Lord Layard and the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, have said. It is not sensible to rely on two earlier pieces of legislation—the 1997 Act and the 2008 Act—when here we have new legislation which is specifically about apprenticeships. It needs to make it clear to those out there who are operating the system that there is a requirement to be completely impartial. I think that that is what the Government want to achieve. I do not think that there is any difference between us in terms of objectives, but the route that they are taking to get to that objective is wrong. It will not work if it is left as it is. I hate to say this, but there is an element of naivety on the part of the Government in imagining that, if this clause is left as it is, everyone who teaches in our secondary schools will be impartial. They do not have to be because they are not required to be.

As my noble friend Lady Morris said, there are vested interests; schools always want to maximise the size of their sixth forms. That is a legitimate objective from their point of view but it is not a legitimate objective from the wider educational world’s point of view, nor from the point of view of the Government, who are trying to introduce another route in that we are going to have compulsion for all young people between 16 and 18 to take part in some education and training.

In the light of what has been said, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will make a concession today, go away and come back with an agreement that the amendment we have put before the Committee today is acceptable; or, if there is something slightly wrong with the wording, come back with a revised version.

Lord De Mauley: We welcome the fact that in this group of Amendments 65, 67, 68, 69 and 70A—of which Amendments 67 and 70A are in the names of my noble friend Lady Verma and myself—as well as in Amendments 66 and 71 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, so many noble Lords seem to agree, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has said, that the Bill should not be left with a rather imprecise provision that those providing careers education in schools should be left with the power to decide which pupils it might be in the best interests of to give advice relating to apprenticeships.

There seems to be a broad level of agreement that there is a deficit of information about apprenticeships in the careers advice currently offered to school students. My honourable friend John Hayes, speaking in another place, described the Bill as a missed opportunity for careers advice and guidance, and this is exactly what Clause 35 represents. As I read it, the Bill does not give any grounds upon which such advice should be given. We agree with others who have spoken that this may

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prejudice the rights of some pupils. We think it wrong that there is a risk that the advice you receive “in your best interests” may depend on how ambitious your school is or on how much emphasis it places on the importance of vocational careers. All of these amendments seem to recognise this and search for a way to ensure that pupils are given the maximum amount of advice which will then allow them to make an informed choice—several noble Lords have mentioned this—rather than leaving them dependent on whether their careers adviser has faith in apprenticeships or, indeed, faith in the pupil being suited to the scheme.

The noble Baroness, Lady Garden, rightly quoted from the report by your Lordships’ Select Committee on Economic Affairs entitled, Apprenticeship: a key route to skill. In 2008, a study by YouGov found that only 24 per cent of teachers agreed that apprenticeships were a good alternative to A-levels; by comparison, 55 per cent of employers and 52 per cent of young people thought so. The recipients of education and the people from whom they will need jobs once their education is finished seem to have got the idea, yet the educational profession still seems to lag behind. We need to ensure that advice about apprenticeships is given to all and that it is set in the context of a programme of training leading to a professional occupation.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I support these amendments. I should like to add my name to them to make it 13, or whatever it is, because I did not add my name, sadly, at the time. Along with everyone else, I was appalled by the story of the noble Lord, Lord Layard, but I fear that almost certainly it was a true example.

What concerns me is how to ensure that these young people get a wide enough range of information to make an informed decision. For most of this morning in the Select Committee on Communications we were taking evidence on film and television training, apprenticeships and skills and so on, and one of the things that came out clearly was how few girls are attracted to apprenticeships. Yet when we visited Pinewood, we found marvellous opportunities. Not only is it signed up to the apprenticeship schemes that are being planned on the building trades side but also there are much better opportunities for the film-makers and studios to become involved in them. That needs still to be fully worked through, because I do not think that the particular studio skills and the technical side, as well as how the acting and filming are done, would be particularly attractive to girls.

I therefore hope that the Minister will take seriously all the amendments. I am concerned that there should be opportunities to gain a little work experience—perhaps an internship. A teacher who can begin to see potential that a young person has not realised could begin to make the difference by suggesting a period in a practical setting. I hope that the amendments will be accepted.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet: I shall speak to Amendment 68 in my name. The Government continually refer in their statutory guidance to impartial careers education as the solution to the current lack of impartiality in schools and the information that they receive. Many noble Lords have already spoken about this today, but the strength of argument needs to be reinforced.

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Under the Education and Skills Act 2008, schools are required to provide impartial advice which promotes the best interests of pupils and to do so with regard to the guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The guidance is now out for consultation, as we heard at Second Reading. In the proposed statutory guidance there are eight principles of impartial careers guidance: being comprehensive; challenging stereotypes; helping young people to progress; being responsive to the needs of the learner; being integrated into all parts of the school curriculum; empowering the young person; raising aspirations; and encouraging young people to use external, independent sources. Apprenticeships are mentioned under the principles, “comprehensive”, “use of external sources”, including national apprenticeship vacancies and matching services, and “raising aspirations”. Young people should understand the benefits of FE, including apprenticeships, and all the other areas that my noble friends have spoken about today.

I was pleased to read the Government’s careers education fact sheet and did not feel, unlike my noble friend, that it was intended to change my mind. In fact, I gave it the credence that I thought it deserved by taking each part and looking at what the Government were saying. The fact that the Government acknowledge that it has created a lot of interest underpins the concerns that many people and organisations feel and shows that it was right to raise them. The Bill does not make things clear and people are not comfortable—that is probably an understatement given some of the contributions prior to my speaking.

The Government say that they cannot make legislation stronger because that would mean promoting apprenticeships over other options. I do not accept that. Indeed, the new apprenticeships subsection in Section 43 of the Education Act, added by this Bill, makes apprenticeship information look weaker. The Act previously stated that a school must give information that is in the best interests of the student, not of the school or of anyone else. It will now say also that, in thinking about the students’ best interests, a school must consider whether they need to know about apprenticeships. That is so subjective, so unhelpful and so unequal in every way. The provision disappoints me and we should represent the weakness of it in our discussion this evening. However, it means that schools will have to think twice about what “best interests” means. I prefer the clear and more emphatic earlier version. The Education Act is really clear about what is in the best interests of students and that must be the driving element.

A worry I have is about how we ensure that the person making the decision about what is in the pupil’s best interests is qualified to do so. Can we be confident about their judgment in all these areas? I accept that the fact sheet is right to say that they must be credible with students, who want advice from teachers who know them well and may know exactly what the best choice is for them. But without the regulation being more explicit in terms of factual information, will these teachers really engage with the alternatives to the academic route, especially as they are unlikely to have experienced that themselves? Not many teachers have also been apprentices.

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My speech goes on to repeat much of what has already been said. I shall therefore wind up by saying that I am sure the intention in the Bill is very different from the way in which it reads. Many people have said that. I wish that I could speak as eloquently as my noble friend Lady Morris, who said that it is not really about the information but about what schools do with it. It is about how they are supported to use it. Somehow we have to get that into the spirit of the Bill, if nothing else.

7.30 pm

Lord Elton: I hope that your Lordships do not go away with the impression that the frequently bandied number 11 is the total of Peers who feel that this clause should be amended. It is certainly 12 and it may be a great deal more. I welcome the idea of putting the requirement for good careers advice in the Bill. I ask that in so doing all references to careers advice be deleted from other legislation so that all legislation about careers advice can be found in one place. That would not be difficult because such references do not appear in many other places in legislation. That would make life easier, generally speaking.

I strongly support the thinking behind these amendments, in particular those tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to Clauses 66 and 71. However, I have a reservation. I am not at all sure that we have thought enough about the person giving the advice. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has pointed out that among academics a high percentage wish to retain the cream of the material in their hands for preferment through their own institution, harvesting glory for it. I suspect that from time to time the noble Baroness has herself veered a little in that direction.

Secondly, the way in which pupils receive the information is very important, as is their estimation of the person giving it. Being a teacher is a very risky job, because a percentage of the pupils of most teachers do not think very much of them—often for not very adequate reasons and sometimes for very adequate reasons indeed. So there is a risk there. Furthermore, the careers adviser, as in the amendment tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp and Lady Garden, is embedded in the school and has to be a teacher. Teachers have to be timetabled, but what these teachers will have to do will be in competition with their academic subject when the timetable is drawn up for the following academic year. If they are to do the job adequately, they must not only have time to talk to children and read the incoming flood of information about their subjects, but must have time to be in touch with their subject. That means getting outside the school altogether. I wonder whether we have taken sufficient account of the way in which outside school seems to children inside school bigger, more attractive and more grown up, and whether the professional person coming in from outside the school will have a degree of authority with the children that will enhance their value to the school.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: I wanted to clarify that in our amendment we do not specify that the authorised person has to be a teacher in the school.

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Both amendments that we have tabled suggest employing at least one such authorised person. That might ease the problems that the noble Lord has just outlined.

Lord Elton: I am much obliged. There is of course also the effect of being employed by a school, which will have some bearing. I have not come to a conclusion on this, but I hope that your Lordships will think carefully about this aspect—the weight that the children will give to the person giving the advice, the knowledge that the person has about the world outside, into which, through differing channels, they will eventually go, and their skill in divining what the young people whom they are talking to think that they are saying and how it affects them. It is a highly complex and exceedingly important job. In the distant days when I was in school, this was not given anything like the importance that it should have been given and I fear that that may still be the case today.

Viscount Eccles: It might be wise to remember that, when we are talking about cultural change, there is a limit to the ability of statutory intervention to achieve it.

Lord Lucas: I sympathise with my noble friend Lord Elton. Looking back 40 years, I think that I was a victim of the sort of prejudices that he described and that we have been discussing. My school was not at all supportive when I was offered an apprenticeship by the National Coal Board. Quite why the National Coal Board did it, I cannot understand; perhaps it believed that the right place for all Etonians was 800 feet underground. But it was a considerable missed opportunity; I might have turned out a very different person if I had been properly advised.

I hope that we will take the opinions expressed by your Lordships seriously. It is clear that it should not be at someone’s whim whether apprenticeships are mentioned in discussions. We are aiming high with apprenticeships; we want people of excellent ability to take them. Practical ability is not confined to those people who find academic studies difficult; there are some very great practical people who get on well in academic studies. Many schools today, particularly given the way in which exams have gone, are becoming less and less practical and pupils are not exposed to that aspect as they ought to be in school, although they would be much happier and probably much more effective people later in life if they were offered the opportunity to take a practical route rather than a purely academic one. We should not confine this to the prejudices of teachers who are largely brought up in the academic route. You see that all through the education system—teachers always want to be more academic rather than more practical. It is often the brighter children who attract their attention rather than those who are ordinary and whose talents perhaps lie elsewhere. We must insist on that breadth.

I hope that the Government will, in addition to encouraging schools to do the right thing, spend a great deal of money on the internet. Kids of this age spend their lives on the net and get a lot of information from it. Making sure that what is out there is real, informative and interactive and that it allows the sharing of views between those who are currently

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doing apprenticeships and those who are thinking of doing them would not be a cheap business, but it would mean that there was an information flow entirely independent of anything that the adults to whom the children were connected were saying. It would need to be supported by their school, but having something really good on the internet would be a great enhancer of the sort of decisions that we are hoping to make.

The Earl of Listowel: I am grateful for this stimulating debate. It leads me to ask one question that may have been asked already; I apologise if it has been. It was raised by the Skills Commission and relates to the fact that so few school teachers and Connexions advisers have been out to witness apprenticeships in action. How is that being remedied? What rough percentage of school staff have gone out and witnessed what happens in apprenticeships? Perhaps the Minister would like to write to me rather than give me a response now. What aim do the Government have to improve that? What resources will be dedicated to ensuring that school staff and Connexions advisers get out to witness apprenticeship programmes at work?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I want to be very clear about my intention. I have listened very carefully to all that noble Lords have said in this debate and am cognisant of the pain in disappointing my noble friends, particularly my noble friend Lady Wall when she talked about Clause 35. I very much take on board the concerns raised by noble Lords and, as they suggest, I will take this away and give it some careful consideration. I cannot emphasise too much that the concerns raised this evening are completely opposite to what we are trying to achieve. We really must do an awful lot better than we have done already.

I will take a few minutes to explain the Government’s thinking behind the work that we have done and will specifically speak to Amendments 65, 67, 68 69 and 70A. Their intention is to ensure that schools provide information about apprenticeships and apprenticeship sectors to all pupils, alongside other post-16 options. I reassure noble Lords that existing legislation in the Education Act 1997 and the Education and Skills Act 2008, to which many noble Lords have referred, already does that. But these are new expectations being placed on schools, so their benefit will take time to come through. I understand noble Lords’ frustration about that. However, the expectation is that schools will provide every pupil with information about every post-16 option, and that must include apprenticeships.

I really do understand why that might not be clear from just reading the Bill, so I will explain how we got to this point, how this clause fits with existing duties around careers education and how it follows on naturally from the steps that we all took when we agreed the 2008 Act to ensure that the pupil’s interests come first.

Section 43 of the Education Act 1997 obliged all schools to provide a programme of careers education to all pupils in years seven to 11, access to guidance and a range of up-to-date materials on careers options. But, as many noble Lords have pointed out, there was nothing to make sure that they got access to advice about all routes. There was also evidence—as noble

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Lords have stressed—to suggest that some schools were putting their interests above those of their pupils and promoting their own learning provision.

The provisions in the Education and Skills Act 2008 were a direct response to that. I am glad that noble Lords still feel positive about the steps that we took in that Act. In Section 43(2)(b) of that Act, which will be very familiar to noble Lords, we imposed a duty to ensure that all information is provided impartially and that advice is given that promotes the best interests of the pupils. In fact, we even made amendments which expressly forbid schools from promoting their own interests. That was an additional step.

We also took powers in the Education and Skills Act 2008 to issue statutory guidance—to which my noble friend Lady Wall referred—on careers education, which is currently out for formal, public consultation and will be published this autumn. I will ensure that noble Lords who have not yet seen that will be able to see it by putting a copy in the Library. It sets out the core information that all young people should receive on post-16 learning options. It contains extensive information on apprenticeships, including the benefits of taking an apprenticeship, wage returns, apprenticeship sectors, progression to higher education from apprenticeship and employment opportunities available locally. This is important guidance and we hope that it will ensure that all young people get the information and advice that they need to inform their decision-making.

However, this is not just about the provision of information, as others have said. It is also about making sure that teachers and careers advisers are properly trained and supported to do a good job for those whom they serve. Nothing that we are doing in this Bill alters the underlying legislative position. All that we are aiming to do is to ensure that, when a school is talking to a pupil and giving them tailored advice about which option might be in their best interest, the school must have properly considered an apprenticeship as an option. That is our intention, but it is obviously not what is reading through and reaching the many more than 11 noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. The advice still has to be impartial and schools still cannot promote their own interests—that is specifically prohibited under Section 43(2)(b) of the Education and Skills Act 2008. Every pupil will also be given information about what an apprenticeship is and what it can offer. We are not changing that.

Why are we doing this? As the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families pointed out in another place, too many schools over previous years have undervalued apprenticeships. This Bill—alongside the 2008 legislation—should send a clear message to schools that an apprenticeship is a good route for many and cannot just be discounted when schools are considering which route might be best for pupils. Of course legislation is only part of the solution; I have heard that message and agree totally. That is why this will be underpinned by a range of other measures to secure the improvements that we seek in information and advice on all post-16 learning pathways, including apprenticeships.

I do not want to go on, but I re-emphasise the importance of this debate, to which I have listened very carefully. I will write to noble Lords about the

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other measures involved in training teachers, developing initial teacher training, developing careers co-ordinators and developing the teaching workforce more specifically and I will set out clearly for noble Lords what the guidance expects to be delivered in schools.

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