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Schools: Careers Advisers — Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:44 pm on 22nd May 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Hughes of Stretford Baroness Hughes of Stretford Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 2:44 pm, 22nd May 2012

To ask Her Majesty's Government why their guidance to schools on implementing the new duty to provide careers advice has not required schools to employ qualified advisers and provide face-to-face advice for pupils who need it.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, the recent publication of statutory guidance on careers marks an important step, as schools prepare for the introduction of the new duty to secure independent careers guidance from September. Schools will be expected to work in partnership with expert careers guidance providers as appropriate to ensure that pupils receive impartial advice. The statutory guidance is clear; face-to-face careers guidance can help pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to make informed choices and successful transitions.

Photo of Baroness Hughes of Stretford Baroness Hughes of Stretford Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I thank the Minister for his Answer. The Government have commendably continued the work of the previous Labour Government to establish a national careers service for adults, and the Business Secretary has specified the qualifications that advisers must have and that face-to-face advice must be provided to target groups of adults. Why, then, has the Education Secretary allowed schools complete discretion-because that is what the guidance does; there is nothing required of schools-in the quality of service provided to young people? Has not therefore the Secretary of State for Education really failed in his duty to young people by not setting even a minimum standard of service that every school must meet?

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, we had these debates at length during the passage of the Education Act. As the noble Baroness will know, it is the Government's view, and our starting point-and it is what we are trying to do across the piece-to trust schools and heads and people running schools to make the best judgments in the interests of their children. That is something that we are seeking to do across the board. It is not the case that the guidance does not provide any framework at all in terms of what schools should take into account. It is clear, for instance, that they should secure access to independent face-to-face careers advice when they judge that it is appropriate, particularly for children who are disadvantaged and with special educational needs. I agree with her about the importance of careers guidance and advice, and there are a range of ways in which we are seeking to do that and to increase employer involvement in schools, whether through studio schools and UTCs or through getting 100,000 employers to come into schools to explain how children can prepare themselves for the world of work.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I believe that there has been some discussion of examples of best practice in careers guidance being published to supplement the guidance that has already been issued. Is that likely to be the case? Such best guidance would, I believe, bring out the necessity of face-to-face guidance when it is appropriate.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, it is the case in terms of producing statutory guidance. The department's view, which I think is the right view, is that statutory guidance should always as short, focused and clear as possible. But it is the case, as my noble friend mentions, that there could be benefits in having some practical information and additional support to schools to help them to understand what their duties are. It is the case that my honourable friend John Hayes, who is the responsible Minister, would be very happy to have that discussion with my noble friend Lady Sharp and to see how that practical information could best be provided.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister will know that there are many industries and careers in which girls are under-represented. Within the Government's plans, do they have specific arrangements for seeing that girls are enlightened about some of the better paid and more needed careers within the communities that they live in?

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The general point to which the noble Baroness refers would be well illustrated in the kind of work that we want to do with university technical colleges, trying to make sure that girls, for example, have the opportunity to study and get those technical qualifications that will lead to well paid jobs. In terms specifically of the guidance, consistent with my earlier answer, our overall approach is to say that we would trust schools to take the best judgment as to what is in the interests of their pupils, whether that is boys or girls. But I agree with her that careers guidance is important for children of both sexes.

Photo of Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville Conservative

My Lords, I realise that most of your Lordships' House will have received qualified careers advice for, otherwise, they would not be here. However, can my noble friend tell me what qualifications are needed in order to give qualified advice?

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, if I had received good careers advice, I would not be here. In terms of what qualifications we look for in good careers advisers, the accredited providers of careers advice will have to meet a quality standard set by the national careers service. However, generally, we can all benefit from advice from a whole range of people. We have all had it in different ways, which is why we are where we are.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Liberal Democrat

My Lords, does the Minister really think that one short interview will be sufficient? Should there not be ongoing mentoring and guidance? Some children develop late; others change their minds-as we all have at one time or another. However, they should be ongoing, well-resourced and thorough.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, my basic view is that it is horses for courses. Different children need different things. There will be some who will need intensive support of the sort to which my noble friend refers. There will be others who know exactly what they want to do and will need less.

Photo of Baroness Knight of Collingtree Baroness Knight of Collingtree Conservative

My Lords, will my noble friend continue to bear in mind that, however good the careers advice may be, if the student cannot get an apprenticeship it is often very difficult to follow such advice that they may have received? The link is very important.

Photo of Lord Hill of Oareford Lord Hill of Oareford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. That is why we have rapidly been increasing the number of apprenticeships for under-18s and over-18s. The best support that one can give to children to prepare for a career is a decent education. That is why our focus is on what goes on in schools before they are 16 because careers advice, however good it is, cannot compensate if there is a basic deficiency in the education that has been provided.

Photo of Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Lord Sutherland of Houndwood Crossbench

My Lords, in agreeing with the Minister's last remark-

Noble Lords:

Time.