Moved by Baroness Barran
35: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—“Information about technical education and trainingInformation about technical education and training: access to English schools(1) Section 42B of the Education Act 1997 (information about technical education: access to English schools) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (1), for “is an opportunity” substitute “are opportunities”.(3) After subsection (1) insert—“(1A) In complying with subsection (1), the proprietor must give access to registered pupils on at least one occasion during each of the first, second and third key phase of their education.”(4) After subsection (2) insert—“(2A) The proprietor of a school in England within subsection (2) must—(a) ensure that each registered pupil meets, during each of the first and second key phases of their education, at least one provider to whom access is given (or any other number of such providers that may be specified for the purposes of that key phase by regulations under subsection (8)), and(b) ask providers to whom access is given to provide information that includes the following—(i) information about the provider and the approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships that the provider offers,(ii) information about the careers to which those technical education qualifications or apprenticeships might lead,(iii) a description of what learning or training with the provider is like, and(iv) responses to questions from the pupils about the provider or approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships.(2B) Access given under subsection (1) must be for a reasonable period of time during the standard school day.”(5) In subsection (5)—(a) in paragraph (c), at the end insert “and the times at which the access is to be given;”;(b) after paragraph (c) insert—“(d) an explanation of how the proprietor proposes to comply with the obligations imposed under subsection (2A).”(6) In subsection (8), after “subsection (1)” insert “or (2A)”.(7) After subsection (9) insert—“(9A) For the purposes of this section—(a) the first key phase of a pupil’s education is the period—(i) beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 13, and (ii) ending with
My Lords, Amendment 35 is in my name. I am pleased to bring this amendment to the House. The Government believe strongly that young people and adults, at all stages of their career, need to be equipped to make informed choices. They need to know about the range of qualifications and training available to them so that they can progress to their chosen field. I know that it is rightly a matter of great concern for this House that all young people are introduced to the benefits of technical education and apprenticeships, so that they can make informed decisions about the next step in their education or training.
In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord Baker for his tireless commitment and vision in focusing on this important issue and for his amendment to the Technical and Further Education Act 2017, which led to the commencement of the Baker clause. This means that schools have a statutory duty to provide opportunities for pupils to meet technical education or apprenticeship providers and learn about technical education options.
As part of the original Baker clause, the Government set out clear requirements and expectations in statutory guidance, and offered support through the Careers & Enterprise Company. Despite some examples of excellent practice, the Government are still seeing too many schools failing to comply with the duty. They have seen providers blocked from going into schools or schools limiting provider encounters to selected groups of pupils. In March 2021, the UCAS report Where Next? showed that almost one in three young people said that they did not receive any information about apprenticeships from their school.
The Government originally set out our plans for how to strengthen the Baker clause in our Skills for Jobs White Paper. Thanks to engagement with your Lordships in this House, and especially with my noble friend Lord Baker, the Government now think that this is the right time to bring forward improvements to the legislation. It is time to strengthen the Baker clause so that all young people can learn about the exciting high-quality opportunities that technical education and apprenticeships can offer. This will fulfil our commitment in the White Paper to introduce the new minimum requirement, covering who is to be given access to which pupils and when.
Our amendment builds on the current duty by specifying that schools must put on three encounters with providers of approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships. All pupils must go to the first two encounters, in either year 8 or year 9, and again in either year 10 or year 11. The third encounter, in either year 12 or year 13, will be optional for pupils to attend. We have listened to my noble friend Lord Baker’s wish to specify in more detail the number or type of providers that every pupil must meet during their mandatory encounters.
This amendment will give the Secretary of State the power to set out further details in secondary legislation, if needed. For example, it could require pupils to meet a representative from an FE college or a UTC where there is one within reasonable travelling distance of the school. The school must give each provider a reasonable amount of time to meet pupils and must timetable these visits during normal school hours. They may of course supplement this with provider visits at other times, in addition.
The amendment will also help to safeguard quality by setting parameters for every provider encounter. The school must ask the provider to share information about both the provider and the provision that it offers, to explain what career routes those options could lead to, to provide insights into what it might be like to learn or train with that provider and to answer questions from pupils. We believe that this amendment strikes a careful balance between widening access for providers and managing the requirements on schools. It also offers flexibility to amend details further in response to future policy change.
We must also remember that providers are one important element within the wider careers framework, the Gatsby benchmarks of good careers guidance. We expect schools to provide a wide range of careers activities, including curriculum learning linked to careers, employer encounters, experiences of the workplace and personal guidance, to support pupils to make fully informed choices. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 35A, which is in my name and those of others. Before explaining its purpose, I say to the Minister that the whole House appreciates how difficult it is to take over a Bill three-quarters of the way through. This is a very complicated and difficult Bill that requires a great deal of educational knowledge, and she has measured up to that enormously—it must have taken a lot of midnight oil. I thank her very much.
The purpose of these two amendments is exactly the same: to make the Baker clause workable. I drafted the Baker clause four years ago in order to improve careers guidance because I wanted students to leave school at 18 knowing about apprenticeships and about what FE colleges, independent sixth form colleges, private providers and UTCs do. Quite frankly, heads do not tell their students very much, because, for every student who goes, they lose between £5,000 and £6,000. They even keep in their schools students whom they individually believe would be better in other education training. That is the position.
When John Nash, who was then a Minister, agreed it, I was told that he would tidy up my drafting, and I thanked him for that. I begged the department to make it a legal duty for schools to hold these meetings, because heads will not be keen to—they will try to avoid them. I was told that that would be met by ministerial guidance when the Bill was on the statute book. Ministerial guidance was issued, but it was largely ignored.
When we approached schools and UTCs locally—some of them never replied—we were told that they were too busy to do this and that they could not do it. They also fobbed it off and said, “You can have a meeting in late June or July, after the exams”, when the schools are half empty. They did not even realise that, if you cannot have these meetings before
As I said, when the Bill was enacted, the ministerial advice was totally ignored, so the Baker clause has not been operable for three years. The Government have now provided a way of making it operable. I do not think that this will be as effective as the new clause that I have written for two reasons. First, secondary legislation will delay the actual implementation, probably for weeks or months, quite frankly. They have to go through consultation. As we know, secondary legislation is, in many cases, never debated, but when it is, it cannot be amended. It is really a measure of government by decree rather than debate, and that is inappropriate. My proposed new clause would mean that this would come into effect on the day that the Bill receives its Third Reading in the House of Commons—much earlier than under the Government’s amendment.
The government amendment is quite defective when it says that there should be one meeting in the school. The point is that there will be three phases or times— 13 to 14, 15 to 16, and 18—when providers can go in to approach the children. But they say that there should be “at least one” meeting, which means that, if an FE school gets in first—say, on
The other deficiency in the Government’s amendment is that it does not mention, as my amendment does, the information which providers have to provide. That is in my proposed new subsection (2A)(b) and it includes
“(i) information about the provider and the approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships that the provider offers … (ii) information about the careers to which those technical education qualifications or apprenticeships might lead … (iii) a
So my amendment sets out clearly what the providers have to do when they go in. I am afraid that the government amendment depends on secondary legislation, which, as I have said, cannot be debated or amended in this House, and it would delay the introduction of the Bill. My amendment is a much more effective way of doing it.
When I asked the department to say that UTCs would definitely be included among providers, it said, “Well, we cannot give you that complete guarantee.” That is a great mistake, because UTCs have the best record in respect of students leaving who do not become unemployed. That is what we are very proud of. The average level of student leavers not in education, employment or training, or NEETs, is 9.3%; we are 3%. Last year, four university technical colleges had no NEETs at all: in Hull, Portsmouth, Aston in Birmingham and Sellafield’s UTC on the north-west coast. Students in schools should know that and know that they have very good career prospects by going to university technical colleges.
I have set out why I think my amendment is more effective. It would definitely come in earlier than the Government’s, probably by months, so I commend it to the House. When the time comes, I shall seek to test the opinion of the House.
My Lords, in the choice between the Minister’s amendment and that of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, we are faced with action versus less action. Lloyd George famously said, “When traversing a chasm, it is desirable to do so in one leap.” I cannot think of any good reason why the House would not go for the serious action rather than the lesser action.
We are supposed to be agreed on the objective, which is that more young people should have the opportunity to engage in technical, vocational and apprenticeship routes which are suitable to them. It is very difficult to engage in those routes if you do not know about them. We are talking about schoolchildren who for the most part are not aware of those routes; they are in schools which have an academic curriculum. It is a big problem going back to the Education Act 1944, which, alas, we seem to have been incapable of putting right over the course of 50 years, that we have an unfit-for-purpose education system so far as vocational and technical education is concerned and pathways through to apprenticeships which are still largely non-existent. We are trying to put this right, and there is a broad consensus in the House that it should be put right—the problem is that the Government have produced a mouse instead of a Bill. I am afraid that this Bill is largely a placeholder put in the space marked “technical education, apprenticeships, levelling up”—we know that the Prime Minister thinks that levelling up is part of his core mission, so he has to have something which occupies that space—but it does not have a policy in it that will match the objectives.
The Minister should be prepared simply to accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, since it is technically possible, and it would lead to a big difference in the exposure of school-age children to technical education options. It should happen, and the fact that it is not going to happen, and it appears that we are going to have vote on it in 15 or 20 minutes, is because the Government are half-hearted, inconsistent and largely AWOL on whether we are actually going to move and start transforming provision in our schools and our educational system relative to technical education. I hope that the noble Lord’s amendment is put to the vote and carried, and maybe, on the rebound, when hopefully they are faced with a large majority, the Government will accept it.
Those of us who have had responsibility for these issues know only too well that putting before young people serious information about alternative options is a real problem in our schools. The noble Lord started the city technology colleges, and I took forward the academies programme. I am strongly in favour of schools having strong leadership and governance. You do not get successful institutions in any walk of life unless they are purpose-driven and have strong leadership and governance. The other side of having strong leadership and governance is that, by and large, the headteachers of those institutions are not wildly keen for students to go to other schools and colleges. That is for obvious reasons, as the noble Lord said: because they lose £4,000 or £5,000, and because they probably believe that what their school offers is better than what another school would offer. This is a particular problem in respect of the university technical colleges, because they recruit their students at the age of 14, which is precisely midway through secondary education. The last thing that a headteacher wants—and they will be looking after number one first and foremost—is for their students to have information about options that could lead them to leave the school halfway through.
There is a systemic failure here, which can only really be addressed by having an absolutely enforceable right for alternative providers to come into the school. For the most part—there will always be exceptions; we know that you get particularly enlightened headteachers —human nature is not going to work in an aligned way in respect of alternative providers being able to come in. We also know that that is the case because we tried the halfway house before. An amendment to a previous Bill tabled by the noble Lord did not have the teeth of this one. It did not create an enforceable right to come into a school and was dependent on guidance. He was very charitable about the guidance, saying that it was ignored, but the guidance was so weak that, even if it had been fully observed, it still would not have delivered the policy objective that he sought to achieve.
At this the second time of addressing this issue, we must not flunk it; we must actually see that young people are given the opportunity to go to an institution which, if they have a technical bent, is more suitable to them and which will prepare the way for them to go to an apprenticeship. There are number of ways in which we need to address this chronic issue—and we shall come later to issues relating directly to the apprenticeships system, which is still woefully inadequate in this country. One way to do so is to see that young people of school age, particularly at 14, which is when they start developing a greater awareness of the talents that will enable them to succeed in life, have information about, and are able to choose, institutions which are best suited to developing those talents. We cannot have an education system in a first-rate country like ours unless it is able to deliver that objective. That is what is at stake here. I hope that the House will support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker.
My Lords, we have come a long way from the days when someone considering their further education or career development would be told, “There’s a cupboard. Go and choose your prospectus”. We now have a situation where there is an academic curriculum for the academic students and the other 50% of students are pushed or cajoled into a sixth form which is clearly not suitable for them. We know why: money counts. To answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, we live in a sort of educational free-market economy where schools compete with one another. When the A-level results come out, all the banners go outside the various secondary schools trying to entice pupils to switch to their sixth forms. But I am not interested at the moment in the academic students; I am interested in those other students for whom a further educational or vocational pathway would be far better.
I want to ask the Minister quite directly why we should not support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. It eminently makes sense; why are the Government not supporting it? I have not heard any reason given.
It is shameful that schools behave in this way. You would think that a school would want the best for its pupils. If a young girl or boy is suited to a vocational career, the school should do all in its power to make that happen, but we do not see that happening, which reflects badly on those schools. I have to say, though, that there are many secondary schools that do the opposite and—even before the clause of the noble Lord, Lord Baker—have fairs where different colleges and career representatives come along to show what is on offer. We should not need this clause; it is shameful that we do, but we do. I would be interested to know from the Minister what sanctions we placed on those schools that have not operated the current Baker clause. Is Ofsted, for example, reporting in its inspections when a school has not co-operated with or involved other FE colleges, providers or careers opportunities?
Finally, the Minister quite rightly talks about the Gatsby benchmarks but, again, not all schools have achieved the right level that they should; it is an ongoing process. We very much support this amendment and will do so if it goes to a vote.
My Lords, I will not speak at any length about these two similar amendments, because I agree wholeheartedly with what all three speakers so far have said. Both represent an improvement on the current situation but, as we have heard, Amendment 35A from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, has stronger teeth and would provide for more frequent access—three times during each of the three specified phases, rather than just once. That is much more in line with the requirements of the Gatsby career benchmarks. It would require meetings with a representative range of educational and training providers, including UTCs, rather than just one provider, and it would not rely on any as yet unspecified statutory guidance. For all those reasons, it makes it much more likely that the requirement for pupils to receive these opportunities really takes place. I will certainly support the noble Lord if he puts his Amendment 35A to a vote.
The Minister’s helpful letter to us on Tuesday included a positive section on careers information and guidance, although I continue to regret the absence of a renewed careers strategy to provide an overall context and objectives for the various laudable actions that she set out. She mentions the support given by the Careers & Enterprise Company’s personal guidance fund for activities, including training for careers professionals, and the development of a pipeline of qualified careers professionals for the future. I wonder if she has made any assessment of the numbers of such professionals needing to be trained, what level of qualification they need to be trained to, and whether the funding and other incentives on offer are sufficient to meet those needs—in other words, a sort of workforce development plan for careers professionals. That is one reason why I think it would be helpful to have a strategy that sets out all the elements that are needed to deliver the kind of careers support that we need.
I end by echoing the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey: these amendments are important, and it is equally important that we make sure they are in some way enforced and the requirements are met.
My Lords, we had a fair old ding- dong last time we met on this Bill, with the Government proposing that we should destroy an entire suite of examinations in order to improve access to T-levels. Yet here they are refusing to make minor changes to the sight that children are given of T-levels—which have many other benefits—as an option.
I do not see how the Government are being consistent on this. If they want T-levels to be fully appreciated as an option by young people, they need them to be put in front of those young people, clearly and frequently. That is what my noble friend Lord Baker’s amendment would do, and the Government’s amendment would not. I am thoroughly with those noble Lords who have spoken in saying that my noble friend’s amendment is a better way forward than the Government are yet proposing.
I also encourage the Government to look at a couple of old chestnuts to do with performance tables. If you want head teachers to say to children that they will be better off in an FE college and encourage them to go to it, you ought to give them credit for the results that they achieve there. It ought to be something that appears in the performance tables, credited to the school that has made that decision; otherwise, the incentive is just to hang on to pupils for the money. If schools are risking a blip in the performance tables because the A-level results will be bad and it would have been much better if they had gone to a technical college, there will be a real incentive for schools to encourage children to take that option.
The other aspect is to provide much better data on where children end up after school. At the moment, the information provided on what happens to those who do not go to university is very thin, uninspiring and not the sort of thing that encourages a parent to say, “Oh, that looks interesting; why don’t we look at that?” The provision of data and information is really important in helping parents to help their children make decisions, and the Government are falling a long way short on that. They have the information; it is just a question of deciding that they will publish it or make it available to others who will publish it. I really encourage them to go down that road.
My noble friend the Minister said that she hoped children would be making fully informed choices. I totally agree with her. If we can bring universities up to that standard, I should be delighted as well.
My Lords, I share the sentiments of my noble friend Lord Baker about the way that my noble friend the Minister has taken a grip of this Bill, and I thank her for that. I have to say, therefore, that it is with some trepidation, and with the benefit of my business and bureaucratic experience, that I rise to throw a bit of cold water on the detail of both amendments.
As noble Lords will know from earlier discussions, I am very keen to see vocational careers education, training and, above all, apprenticeships advocated in schools—and, in fact, by employers themselves. We clearly have a problem. However, I worry about the bureaucracy that will be created by this provision; it is a concern with either version. To comply with the provisions, a lot of detailed work would have to be done by teachers, who work so hard; by providers—including UTCs, which I agree should be involved—of post-16 education; and by employers, if they join providers in schools, which is something that I think can often work well. They will have to do a lot of form-filling and more recording, health and safety-style. Then, as has been said, there will be extra guidance, but we do not know exactly what will be in that; it could make it easier or it could make it worse.
I worry that this will deter exactly the people and institutions that you want to get into schools to encourage youngsters to think about their futures and choose the right educational option. Too many people, in my view, now go to university and not enough go into good vocational routes. I have experience in Germany and Switzerland and elsewhere. To pick up on something that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said, in those countries, they often move at 14 or 16, which can be extremely helpful with the vocational route.
My worry is that the beneficiary of these micro-rules will be, yet again, the consultants who will have to help with process and compliance. I am obviously very sympathetic to the objective of these amendments, but I would like some reassurance from the Minister on how we make this system simple and efficient and how we enforce it sensibly—before we go through the Lobbies. As the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was saying, there are costs and resource requirements in doing all these things in schools, and they have to come from somewhere else. So if we are going to make a change of this kind, we need to understand how it will be done and how it will be enforced, and that it will be done in a sensible and effective way, not adding needlessly to the weight of burden on our teachers.
The skills White Paper promised a three-point plan to enforce the Baker clause, back in January 2021. Point 1 of the plan was the introduction of specific minimum requirements, but the Government’s amendment states that pupils should expect only two mandatory visits from providers of technical education and apprenticeships over the course of their secondary education, although individual schools may opt to provide more. I doubt that. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that this is wholly inadequate.
I also share the concern that leaving the details to secondary legislation is unacceptable. Unlike primary legislation, it will not be subject to the same level of scrutiny through Parliament. Moreover, it cannot be amended. I therefore fully support the new Amendment 35A—A for action—from the noble Lord, Lord Baker, that would require schools to organise three mandatory encounters with technical education and training providers over the course of a pupil’s secondary education.
Duties are important to ensure that all schools are required to provide these opportunities and that all students will receive at least three chances during the course of their secondary education. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, has had to revisit his work from four years ago. I worked in schools for over 30 years and I know that, unless instructions are on a statutory footing, advice will be ignored in an already overcrowded curriculum in England. As a former teacher, I understand how important it is for students to receive such advice, on both a statutory and regular basis. We would have preferred a mandate that pupils receive such advice at least once a year. However, we support what has been placed in front of us and will give further support if the noble Lord, Lord Baker, tests the opinion of the House.
My Lords, anybody who has sat in a meeting with heads of education can imagine discussions to work out how not to offer pupils at age 16—I do not have much knowledge of provision below that level—a full and free choice as frequently as possible, because of worries about redecorating classrooms, hiring more teachers or the other income-related things that heads need to think about. While I am sympathetic to this worry, I am even more sympathetic to the absolute need to offer pupils a full and informed choice at as many stages as we can afford. I too intend to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Baker.
My Lords, I once again thank my noble friend for his amendment and his commitment to this issue. Before I respond to the points raised by noble Lords, I would like to express my support and thanks to head teachers, who received a certain amount of criticism in this debate regarding where they place their priorities. After the last couple of years, when they have shown unstinting strength of leadership and courage in the face of incredibly difficult conditions, I would like to put on record that we owe them our thanks, first and foremost.
I will try to answer the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Storey, on why the Government are not supporting this amendment and the role of Ofsted in monitoring the Baker clause. Ofsted has updated its school inspection handbook to strengthen the focus on careers guidance, including by clarifying that inspectors will always report when a school falls short of the requirements of the provider access legislation—the Baker clause—as well as considering how it affects a school’s inspection grade. If I may, I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, regarding his detailed questions about the careers framework.
Turning to the amendment itself, I will clarify for the House my understanding of the difference between our government Amendment 35 and Amendment 35A. On a number of occasions, your Lordships referred to three provider encounters under Amendment 35A; the provisions are for three encounters per phase of education, so a total of nine—I think my maths is right. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, spoke about having at least one encounter a year, but it is more than one a year. Amendment 35A seeks to increase the number of provider encounters to nine per pupil: three during each of the first, second and third key phases of a pupil’s education.
The Government’s amendment has three mandatory offers on the part of the school, two of which are also mandatory for the pupil and would take place in the first two phases of their education, with the third, optional encounter then taking place in the last phase. My noble friend acknowledged that schools are incredibly busy places. We are trying to find a balance which underlines the priority we place on this education without taking up too much curriculum time.
I thank my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe for her remarks regarding bureaucracy, something that everyone, not just the Government, would like to minimise. That is another reason why consulting on the detail of implementation to make it as streamlined as possible is helpful.
On the question of timing, raised by my noble friend Lord Baker, I should clarify that the implementation of our amendment is not dependent on secondary legislation. The principle and number of encounters would be set out in the Bill, as my noble friend knows, while the secondary legislation would just provide further detail on the types and numbers of providers and some other points. Our amendment would come into effect at the same time as the amendment from my noble friend.
As my noble friend set out eloquently, his amendment also seeks to name university technical colleges in the Bill as one of the providers that every pupil must meet where practicable. This would give more weight to one provider over the rest. While we understand and absolutely respect his commitment, we want to act in the interests of all providers and therefore pupils, not just university technical colleges.
We include in our amendment the power for the Secretary of State to set out further details about the number and type of providers in secondary legislation if needed. We can, as part of this, consult school and provider representatives on these matters. We must be careful not to prejudge the outcome of any consultation by giving a guarantee that we will name UTCs in the secondary legislation. Putting this detail in secondary legislation also allows us to retain more flexibility to update the legislation in line with future policy changes.
In conclusion, the Government believe that Amendment 35 supports the interests of schools and all providers and allows flexibility for future changes in secondary legislation. We are absolutely committed to making the Baker clause work better, in a way that works for pupils and providers. I therefore hope that my noble friend—
Before the Minister sits down, could she say a little bit about the enforcement of these provisions? My understanding of her reply to the noble Lord, Lord Storey, is that Ofsted will keep an eye on this. Is that all that happens? If you do not keep detailed records in the educational space, what happens to you? Perhaps this is not an issue as it is not the norm to keep them. I am mystified as to how this would work in practice.
I thank my noble friend for her incredibly kind comments earlier about how quickly I have picked up this brief. I cannot confidently respond further than I did in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Storey. Schools take Ofsted inspections extremely seriously, so I hope the fact that the inspection framework and handbook have changed to accommodate this will give my noble friend some reassurance. I will also write to her and put a copy of the letter in the Library.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can I ask her for a point of clarification? She mentioned that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, required nine meetings. My understanding is that it is
“on at least three occasions during each of the first, second and third key phase”.
I may be misunderstanding this, but I understand a key phase to be a two-year period, so it would be six rather than nine.
I think trying to do mental arithmetic at the Dispatch Box is risky, but, as I read it, it is three times three because of the first, second and third key phases. Maybe we both need to go to numeracy boot camp, but I think three threes are nine —or at least they were when I was at school, which admittedly was a very long time ago. I believe the correct figure is nine, because the amendment specifies the first, second and third phase of education and three encounters in each phase.
I therefore hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.