Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill - Second Reading

– in the House of Lords at 10:24 am on 4 March 2022.

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Lord Lucas:

Moved by Lord Lucas

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. In doing so, I pay tribute to my honourable friend Mark Jenkinson, the MP for Workington, who had the sagacity to choose a Bill that the Government will support—not an easy thing, as various noble Lords have demonstrated—and which will make an important and solid improvement for all our children.

It is a very simple but effective Bill. Clause 1 amends the scope of Section 42A of the Education Act 1997, which puts a statutory duty on schools to secure independent careers guidance. The Bill extends careers provision to all pupils in state secondary education, bringing year 7 pupils into scope for the first time. It also extends the duty to all academy schools and alternative provision academies. Clause 2 revokes 2013 regulations that extended the careers guidance obligations to pupils aged 13 to 18. These are no longer needed as this Bill extends to all secondary-age pupils.

In practice, these clauses mean that all pupils in all types of state-funded secondary schools in England will be legally entitled to independent careers guidance throughout their secondary education. They show a determination to achieve guidance for every single child in every single state secondary school in every single local authority, without exception. The Bill will also establish consistency by applying the statutory careers duty to all types of state school, bringing approximately 2,700 academy schools and 130 alternative provision academies into scope.

By extending the lower age limit to year 7, the Bill also brings the careers duty into line with the Government’s careers framework for schools, the Gatsby benchmarks, which apply to years 7 to 13. This will enable the Government to meet a commitment they made in the Skills for Jobs White Paper and will reach over 600,000 year 7 pupils each year. It will also mean that we can give year 7 pupils early exposure to a range of local employers so that they gain experience of the workplace, ask questions and develop networks. They will begin to learn about the local labour market, which is important because skills needs around the country are very different.

Equally important—as my noble friend will no doubt expect me to say, given my performance on the skills Bill—is exposure to careers not available locally. That is important for both students and communities. As regards students, somewhere in Eastbourne, a town founded on hospitality, care and education, is a future nuclear engineer, and somewhere in Workington, a town founded on nuclear engineering, is a Michelin-starred chef. Those young people must not be denied the breadth of possibility which should be open to them. There are institutions in this country, such as Education and Employers and Founders4Schools, which exist to open those doors for pupils, and I really hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to commit to continued support for bringing a breadth of opportunity to young people, wherever they grow up.

It is also really important for communities. I was part of a committee of this House that looked at seaside towns, and it was clear that these towns had become narrow in the range of opportunities they offered, and that the self-belief in their ability to change had declined. Opening the eyes of children is an important part of that. Getting children to have a breadth of career aspirations then makes them available to new industries coming in, and having a breadth of industry and activity in a town makes it much more resilient to shocks such as Covid or whatever else may come our way.

Early careers guidance can support important decisions that need to be made from the age of 14—whether it is choosing between GCSE subjects or making the decision to change schools to attend a university technical college. We must ensure that our young people are well informed in their opinions.

If the Bill is passed, I count on the Government to make it easier for schools to understand the changes to the law and what action they need to take, and to encourage or require Ofsted to focus clearly and consistently on how every school is meeting its statutory duty by providing independent careers guidance to every pupil throughout their secondary education. I very much hope that this additional requirement on schools will be matched when it comes to deciding what their funding will be next year.

If I may add a request of my own to this estimable Bill, it is that the Government stay the course and build on what has been achieved over the last 10 years, thinking particularly of the Careers & Enterprise Company and the careers hubs they have created. It is terribly easy for a Government to think that they might do better than that and to start again from the beginning. In this sort of area, that is a really difficult and dangerous thing to do. It takes ages to build up relationships with schools and with businesses—the network of understanding, prestige and respect that makes this sort of thing work well.

The Careers & Enterprise Company has done an excellent job, though it does need help at this time. Changes elsewhere, particularly with local enterprise partnerships, mean we have to look again at how careers support in schools interfaces with employers nationally and locally. I know that the Government are doing some things in the skills Bill, but they need to connect better with what they have already achieved in the Institute for Apprenticeships in terms of relationships with employers and what the levelling-up department will doubtless be doing. We need something integrated—something that employers will respect and to which they will commit really good people, so that the information and expertise coming into the Government accurately reflect what the people at the top of business want, not just a box-ticking exercise from big companies.

It is always difficult to do these things—I understand why the Government like to rein in these creatures that they do not properly control and to make sure they are working with government and not against it. But it is much better if we can work—and build—on the achievements of the past, rather than throw them out. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Morris of Yardley Baroness Morris of Yardley Labour 10:32, 4 March 2022

My Lords, I very much welcome this Bill, which is a very good use of a Private Member’s Bill, and I congratulate Mark Jenkinson on introducing it and for the work he did in the House of Commons. I also thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on how he introduced it. I want to broadly support it—there is absolutely nothing there with which I disagree—but it gives us the opportunity to discuss a few issues and that is what I want to do.

First, I probably ought to declare an interest. In my work with the Birmingham Education Partnership, we have a contract with the Careers & Enterprise Company. I wish that to be noted.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, may be interested to know that in Birmingham, it is the school-led Birmingham Education Partnership that has the contract with the CEC, not the LEP. When he is looking at future ways of delivering, he may wish to reflect on that and I would be very happy to discuss it with him—and, indeed, the Minister—if that was appropriate.

I want to talk about two areas. First, part of the legislation includes academies—big congratulations to Mark Jenkinson on achieving that. I cannot remember how many times I have tried to include academies in other legislation. I was always told that it was not needed because it was part of the funding agreement. I see this not only as important in the light of the careers education Bill, but—as far as I can remember—it is the first time the Government have made the move and said yes, academies can be affected and influenced by the legislation as well. I have never quite understood why, if you are a child who goes to an academy, you should be denied something that Parliament thinks is good to teach children. This is a really good move and I welcome it.

The main point I wish to make concerns the substance of what might happen now that we have got careers education and guidance going into year 7, which is undoubtedly a good thing. This House has a good record of discussing careers education. We have discussed it in its own right and as part of legislation many times. I worry about the same thing every time we discuss it and that is what I want to address: we are at risk of seeing careers education as merely providing information and widening the horizons of young people. This is absolutely vital. You cannot decide to be something if you do not know it exists. The more you see it, the more you talk about it and the more you talk to people who do that job, the more likely you are to be motivated to try to achieve it. That is where our discussions tend to stop. With respect, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, mentioned it and I do not disagree at all, but my own experience as a teacher and a person teaches me that it is not all that needs to happen if we are to achieve what we want to achieve.

Really, there are three parts and we ignore the last two. First, the children need the information. Secondly, they then need to make a decision that it might be for them—and that is so difficult. I look at my own life and there are lots of times when I have had the information, but I have not been able to work out the decision in a way that has been the right way forward. I taught children like that; it was not that they lacked the information, but they lacked the skills to align it to their strengths and weaknesses and then make the decision. The third part is that even if you make the decision that that is what you want to do, taking that first step to do it is really tough. How many times have we wanted to do something, known it is the right thing, but not known how or not been confident enough to take that first step along the road to achieving it? I think of children who do not have a lot of support at home and come from areas of significant deprivation: of course they need their horizons broadening. But it is at those next two steps where they often fall back. They have not got the skills, or they are not helped to make an effective decision, and when they do make the decision, they need someone by their side to give them the confidence to start the journey to try to achieve their dreams.

I am not for a minute saying that is not in the Bill, but I worry that when we talk about this aspect of education, we concentrate a lot on giving children the opportunity to see more people in jobs they may want to do and then leave them floundering because we do not help them with the skills to make the decision and the confidence to move forward.

On the whole, however, I again congratulate Mark Jenkinson and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and I very much hope that this will become a part of our national curriculum.

Photo of Lord Shipley Lord Shipley Liberal Democrat 10:37, 4 March 2022

My Lords, I agree entirely with everything the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, has said, particularly about one-to-one support for young people at the right time in the careers guidance they get. I welcome the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and I wish it swift progress.

I had the privilege of chairing the Select Committee on Youth Unemployment last year, which reported in November and to which the government response is due very shortly. We received substantial evidence on the need to extend and deepen careers guidance in schools to broaden young people’s horizons, reduce gender stereotypes and boost social mobility. The Bill fulfils a small part of what we recommended by extending the duty to provide independent careers guidance in schools to include year 7 pupils and to extend it to all academies. In those respects, it represents an important step forward.

We reported that there was a lack of knowledge of occupations among young people, plus a lack of knowledge of employment requirements and opportunities—of apprenticeships, traineeships and progression routes. The Baker clause that gives a range of providers access to speak to pupils about technical routes and apprenticeships has been patchily complied with by schools, although there are signs that this may be improving. It is vital that it does.

The committee—and we will have the opportunity to debate its report on the Floor of the House soon I hope—concluded that careers guidance should be extended to primary schools. That is because children begin to think about their futures when they are as young as five or six. By the age of seven, life-defining decisions are being formed in their minds; by the age of 10, many have already made career-limiting decisions; and by 14, those decisions tend to be very firm. Children’s perceptions of what they could do are often based on where they live, who they know and what jobs those people do, the employment of their parents and friends, and their own education. We concluded that their education needs to become much more important as a factor.

At this stage, I draw attention to the North East Ambition career benchmarks primary pilot, involving 70 primary schools across the region, which has now reported on its second year. It was established by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and is supported by the EY Foundation. There are eight benchmarks, adapted from the Gatsby benchmarks to a primary setting, incorporating curriculum learning linked to careers, visits and visitors, encounters with FE and HE, and personal guidance. The pilot has been successfully embedded. It has built capacity, is being extended to more primary schools and has shown how it can be replicated at scale right across the country, particularly in disadvantaged areas. It should be part of the Government’s levelling-up plans. If you level up people, you can level up places.

The Bill’s sponsor in the House of Commons, Mark Jenkinson MP, said on launching the Bill:

“Good careers advice is important to all children … But it’s really important that from as early an age as possible, we seek to set out the options.”

I agree. We have this Bill, but we need to go further. We need a framework for effective careers learning at primary level, teachers recruited and trained to lead in schools and a specific careers leader in every secondary school, as well as training for all middle and senior leaders in those schools. Careers education and guidance must not come too late to help a young person form proper judgments. They should not, for example, be obliged to choose their specialist subjects before they consider their hopes for employment. Young people should leave school in a position to succeed. That is what levelling up is about.

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative 10:42, 4 March 2022

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my honourable friend Mark Jenkinson and my noble friend Lord Lucas on introducing this Bill. I also congratulate the Minister and the Government for their welcome support for it. I fully support the aim to provide independent careers guidance and ensure that it is available throughout the state-funded secondary school system in this country, including in academies. It seems difficult, if not impossible, to justify the exclusion so far of some secondary pupils from statutory independent careers guidance, which pupils in other institutions are automatically entitled to. Clearly, this is part of the levelling-up agenda and will help to ensure wider opportunities for all our school children.

Clause 1 ensures that careers education must start as soon as possible after secondary education begins. That means that it will become, for all Year 7s, a marker that they have reached a new stage of life, rather than waiting until Year 8. It also includes a duty to provide information about education opportunities available after age 16, such as technical training, apprenticeships or on-the-job training, to guide students into other non-school or non-university paths. This is so important for those who may not be suited to an academic university course and will help to guide children who may not otherwise consider them into practical courses for the start of a future working life so they do not feel pressured to apply only to university, which may not suit them.

Finally, as my noble friend Lord Lucas said, as part of careers education in 21st-century Britain, we must ensure that we include access to information about not just the local employment opportunities but national opportunities for careers that would be available to pupils. Crucially, we also need to include a recognition that our children should not necessarily expect, in 21st-century Britain, a career to last for the rest of their life. We need to make clear that it is okay to change your mind, too; if you think about something you definitely want to do in Year 7, you may change your mind later. Throughout life, there will be a need to move to different types of work, retrain and reskill. I hope that our careers education will help students recognise that, as they progress through life, their career can mould to fit them and the needs of the local, national or even global jobs market.

Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative 10:45, 4 March 2022

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this Second Reading debate. In doing so, I declare my interest as chancellor of BPP University and as a trustee of the Burberry Foundation, which does much work on careers levelling up in Yorkshire and internationally. I add to the congratulations for my noble friend Lord Lucas and my honourable friend Mark Jenkinson in another place. While congratulating noble friends, it is right and proper to mention my noble friend Lord Baker. He gave us Baker days and, lastly, the Baker clause. With UTCs and his understanding of technical education, he has done as much as anybody to ensure that the nation is in a better place for our young people to come through, work and have fulfilling careers in new technologies, with everything that is required to make a success of the fourth industrial revolution. In many ways, when it comes to technical education, he is the don.

This Bill does exactly what it says; it is simple and clear, and I support it. It helps with levelling the playing field and, through that, levelling up. But I ask my noble friend Lord Lucas and the Minister: are we doing enough to support young disabled people with careers advice? Do careers advisers have the same aspirations and ambitions for disabled young people as for non-disabled young people? I ask the Minister particularly whether careers advisers are fully aware of the support available to help disabled people succeed through higher education and employment, including the disabled students’ allowance and the Access to Work programme. As a slight trailer, I am bringing out a report on the disabled students’ allowance next week. One of the recommendations is around exactly that and the careers advice that young people can expect and hope to rely on.

Can it be right that the progression rate for young people moving from schools into higher education for non-disabled young people is 47%, while for disabled students with SEN support it is just 20% and for those who have an education, health and care plan it is just 8%? For higher tariff providers—Oxbridge and the Russell group—the non-disabled progression rate is 12%, while for students with SEN support it is 3% and for those with an EHCP it is just 1%. This is quite simply a question of talent. How can we, as a nation, afford to waste such talent purely because it is born into young disabled people? Would my noble friend agree that we currently face an unacceptable situation in this country in that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not?

I say to all young people, particularly young disabled people: whatever your ambition, aspiration or career thoughts, believe in them. You can achieve. Use the careers service and careers advisers to help—it is entirely possible. It has to be the case that we address those numbers so that there truly is equality for everybody across this country. This Bill goes some way towards addressing the unacceptable reality that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not and I wish it a safe, speedy passage on to the statute book.

Photo of Lord Aberdare Lord Aberdare Crossbench 10:49, 4 March 2022

My Lords, I welcome this Bill and wish the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, success in piloting it through this House. I am delighted to hear that it has support from the Government. I am grateful for the briefings I have received from the Careers & Enterprise Company, the Careers Development Institute and Teach First, all of which have played such an important part in completing the careers education jigsaw that has been taking encouraging shape in recent years.

As befits a Private Member’s Bill, this is a relatively modest piece of the jigsaw. I entirely support its aim of extending the duty to provide careers guidance to all students in state-funded secondary education. Apart from that, I have little to add about the Bill, as far as it goes, though I slightly regret that it does not go a bit further. I will mention three missing pieces of the jigsaw, which I hope the Minister will comment on in her response.

First, I echo the argument from the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, that careers guidance should be extended even further to include primary education. So many of children’s aspirations and attitudes are formed at primary school age and it can only be beneficial for them to gain awareness of the world of opportunities available to them, beyond what they know from friends and family or see in films and television or on social media. As the noble Lord said, this could be key to increasing social mobility. Some 90% of primary teachers surveyed in 2019 believed that career-related learning, supported by employers, can challenge stereotypes about what subjects and jobs boys and girls are interested in. I ask the Minister what thinking there is in government about a possible framework for careers learning in primary schools—possibly based on the Birmingham example that the noble Lord mentioned—and how it might be funded.

Secondly, I worry about the pipeline of highly qualified careers professionals. How confident is the Minister that there will be enough such professionals to meet the needs for independent, high-quality careers information, advice and guidance, including personal guidance, not least after the expansion that this Bill would bring about? A recent CDI survey of careers professionals found that over a quarter of respondents were likely to leave the profession within two years, with poor pay and benefits being the biggest driver and cited by 40%. Action may be needed to promote the profession itself as a career opportunity, offering rewards more commensurate with its importance.

Thirdly, more work is needed to embed careers education throughout the school curriculum, across all subjects. The CEC has a programme with Pinewood Studios and the Academies Enterprise Trust developing resources and lesson plans to demonstrate to students from years 7 to 10 how the maths that they study relates to actual jobs in television, film, production and management. More such programmes are needed, including training and support for subject teachers themselves, with careers awareness built into every stage of their professional development, as promised in the Skills for Jobs White Paper. What can the Minister tell us about plans in this area?

Many other pieces of the skills education jigsaw still need to be put into place and I regret the lack of a refreshed careers strategy outlining the overall picture. The strategy launched in 2017 provided much of the recent momentum and, without such a strategy, there is a danger of numerous individual initiatives, worthy in themselves, not forming a coherent whole. To cite one example: we have a much-improved careers system and a focus on apprenticeships, yet hardly any of the apprentices I meet heard about their apprenticeship from their schools.

I wish this Bill well and look forward to hearing from the Minister how she and her colleagues plan to fill remaining gaps in the jigsaw so that the welcome progress made in careers education over recent years is maintained. Nothing could be more important, both for the nation and for our young people.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking Lord Baker of Dorking Conservative 10:53, 4 March 2022

My Lords, I begin by congratulating Mark Jenkinson, the Member of Parliament for Workington, for introducing this Bill. I know him well because in his constituency there is a university technical college on the north-west coast near Sellafield, which is now the most successful school in Cumbria. It is probably the most successful school in the north of England, as 70% of last year’s school leavers became apprentices and the rest went on to university or got a local job. The college has been outstanding. He knows how important it is for children to be given an alternative to the very narrow academic education, with the eight academic subjects that they now have in schools. Children have to be aware that there is another world out there with a lot of opportunities.

I am afraid that this debate could not happen in Russia because we have not come here as a servile body to lavish praise on the Government and to say how wonderfully they have done on career guidance over the last 10 years. The record has been dismal and bleak. Why do I say that? It is not a casual, careless argument. In 2010, when the Conservatives became responsible for education, there were more than 100,000 apprentices aged under 19. In 2020, it had fallen to just over 50,000. That is failure, not success.

I draw the attention of the Minister to the excellent report from the Select Committee on Youth Unemployment, chaired excellently by the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. Figure 21 in the report shows the number of apprenticeships over the last 10 years; it shows that, as I have just said, there were 100,000 apprenticeships falling to lower than 50,000.

We were also very concerned in our report about how to improve the information going to disadvantaged children. Children who live in the leafy suburbs with grammars schools do not require that sort of guidance but children who live in disadvantaged areas and are now restricted by this very narrow academic curriculum need advice, guidance and help.

We were very disturbed to find that in many disadvantaged areas there were very high levels of youth unemployment. The general level of youth unemployment among NEETs is about 9%. We analysed youth unemployment in various boroughs in the West Midlands. I refer the Minister to figure 22 in the report—not immediately, but later. The general level of youth unemployment is 9%, but we found that in Sandwell, it was 20%, in Wolverhampton it was 19%, and in Stoke and Birmingham it was 18%. In those areas, knowledge of alternative study and changes in career prospects are just not getting through, quite frankly.

I now come to the Baker clause. I do not talk about a Baker clause on the grounds of vanity or reputation. When you are 87, vanity and reputation are really all in the past. I introduced the Baker clause only in order to get a good message over to youngsters in schools of the alternatives available to them apart from eight narrow academic subjects. I persuaded the Government three years ago. Unfortunately, they decided to do the drafting themselves and did not make it workable.

I suggested that they ought to make a duty on schools to have a meeting to explain—first to the 12 and 13 year-olds, then to the 14 and 16 year-olds and then to the 16 and 18 year-olds—all the alternative provision that is available from, for example, apprenticeship providers, FE colleges, independent sixth-form colleges that have very practical A-levels and not the academic ones, and university technical colleges.

They said that the Minister would issue advice and the schools would follow. The Minister issued advice and nothing happened at all. When we approached the schools they said that they were sorry, they could not arrange the meeting, they were too busy or could only have a meeting one Friday afternoon in July and things like that. It has been completely inoperable for the last three years. The Government have done nothing about it until now. They said they were going to consult on it. You do not need to consult on a really simple subject like that. You just have to make up your mind and act.

When UTCs applied to schools to go in and talk to their students, we were fobbed off. We were told not to appear. When we complained to the Government, again they did nothing. They did not approach the schools; they did not reproach the schools and tell them anything—they did nothing. They said they would go out to consultation. You do not need consultation on a simple subject like this.

Now, we will have the debate on the Baker clause when the amendment comes back in the next fortnight or so to this House. Again, I suggest to the Government that they have got it wrong. What they are saying now is that all the schools have to do is to produce one meeting. I am conscious of the time, but time is not a problem; people are not speaking and no one has spoken for five minutes so far, so the Whip may relax.

The current clause says that only one meeting should take place in each of the three years. On the evidence, I want three meetings, but it is being said that everyone would have to have nine meetings. That is completely wrong—it is false news. I want three meetings, with 12 to 13 year-olds, 14 to 16 year-olds and 16 to 18 year-olds. We will debate that later.

I will briefly quote some things from our report. We listened and talked to lots of unemployed people in the north-west, Nottingham and London. A young person said,

“when I was in school in Year 11 apprenticeships were not really spoken about, I didn’t know anything about them. Even now I don’t really hear a lot about them. I only first heard about them at the time I applied for one”.

This is the ignorance that children have when they leave school today. It is very evident in our report.

We also recommend that Ofsted should not give “outstanding” to any school that does not have a proper career advice policy and implementation. These are the sorts of recommendations that I hope the Minister will warmly support when she answers our report, otherwise we will just sink backwards. We must make progress in this area and not depend on the failure of the past.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 11:01, 4 March 2022

My Lords, it is rather daunting to follow the noble Lord, Lord Baker, who has been described today as the don in this field of career education by someone on his own side. I have not disagreed with him much on this subject and I do not think I did at all today. He says he does not care about reputation, at the age of 87; I think we will use his reputation when he reaches 88 and 89 to try to put some pressure on the Government on this.

The Bill is a good but small thing. It takes a step forward and deals with some of the historical anomalies and oddities of academies that we are constantly dealing with. The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, is absolutely right about the attitude, “We cannot do this because it is an academy”—but this is supposed to be a universal education system. We go back and forth on this all the time, and a Bill that at least sets that precedent—regardless of its primary purpose—is taking a step forward. Mark Jenkinson, who is watching us very astutely from just outside the Bar, may have set a precedent he did not look to set.

On making sure that there is more advice on careers guidance, I am struck by one thing: you really cannot start talking about this early enough. The term “careers guidance” might not be right for primary schools—“lifestyle choices” might be better—but I am reminded of what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said about conservative changes: if something is already there, at least people will have a rough idea of what you are saying. We can spend our entire lives reinventing the wheel; if we want to make some small changes, we might get a term that we know and then slightly adapt it. Stereotype-breaking is essential, to make sure that people actually know what is going on.

This is a very odd time; now, we have to get people not just to aspire higher but to think laterally. The level 4 and 5 executive shortage in our country, which was probably done no favours by saying that everybody should go to university to get to level 6, so they then have to de-skill in certain subjects, has been going on for decades and has been made slightly worse. We must think differently. That means we need informed people not only giving information but interpreting it. Those who made that point were right—“Here is a list of facts; read down the list”, but what do the facts mean? What are the options? What steps do I take, and what support is there to enable me to take them?

I had a nagging suspicion that I would end up agreeing with everybody; I discern that I will clearly have to read my noble friend Lord Shipley’s report, and not just the executive summary. I am not sure I should thank him for that.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking Lord Baker of Dorking Conservative

We have made it very simple to read by having lots of illustrations. There are about 30 illustrations, which is very unusual for a Select Committee report, because we thought that now people—particularly with all the government press conferences—look at charts and understand the issues very quickly. It will not be too demanding for the noble Lord to look at the pictures.

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

I walked into that, didn’t I? I thank the noble Lord. I turn to the next report I will have to read, from my friend the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. Special educational needs are an area which will put greater demand on staff. We are talking about 20% to 25% of the population. If you have a problem accessing forms of education because of special educational needs—an effect which I think we can agree applies here—you will need to apply things differently. I remind the House of my interests in this and as a dyslexic who uses such things as voice operation, having gone through how it applies; with every technological advance, you will have to learn how to apply it.

I reiterate to the Government one more time: if they insist that people have to pass English and maths in a written, pen-and-paper test, they will effectively be countering their argument. The recent announcements on access to higher education and other things go counter to their own legislation. If the Government have time, to get some idea while we are going through this about how that guidance will appear would be really helpful—and how we make sure it is coherent and holistic, transferring people to better options and continuing to give them the basis to transfer afterwards. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, who said that people will no longer be in the same job for life. We must try to get that flexibility and knowledge built in.

This Bill is a good step forward. I encourage all noble Lords to get behind it and make sure it gets on to the statute book, but it is only part of the process. It sets the precedent for making sure that all schools, regardless of how they were founded and when and in which piece of ridiculous or great legislation—depending on your point of view or how much it has annoyed you recently—in our universal system have a universal system of supply. It sets a precedent for making sure you know that what happens both in your local environment and down the road, even if it is a long road, is also available, and that you might have to transfer between them. These are all important things. We must make sure that it is coherent throughout.

I hope the Minister can also give a small assurance that we will make sure that, when looking at all forms of providers throughout this legislation, we apply with sanctions, for the reasons raised earlier. It would be interesting to get a little nod towards that.

Can the Minister give us a coherent assurance that we will make sure that we invest in the people who deliver? Without that, this legislation does not really matter. Will there be another series of lists and another tier of teachers who have gone through the A-level system giving advice about what could be done to get to level 4 via a T-level—which, once again, we do not understand yet properly? That will not help. We need people who are properly trained, because training is the important bit. Unless it is of high quality, we may as well give up and go home now.

Photo of Baroness Wilcox of Newport Baroness Wilcox of Newport Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 11:09, 4 March 2022

My Lords, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and others, this promising Bill would extend the existing duty that some schools have to make careers guidance available. It would mean that all secondary school pupils in the state sector got access to independent careers advice.

Labour supported this Bill in the Commons, and I am happy to reaffirm this today. These measures are an important first step in aligning the experience—and, ultimately, the life chances—of state school pupils with their independently educated peers, who we know in general have much greater access to information. Indeed, as a former teacher in the state sector with 34 years’ experience, I can confirm that careers guidance was always a moveable feast. However, in my former school, Hawthorn High School in Pontypridd, we were fortunate to have the skills and knowledge of one of the area’s outstanding careers teachers, as noted by her regular grade 1 Estyn grading—my former colleague Helen Lima. Every student deserves the opportunity to have such support. As my noble friend Lady Morris said, young people lack the skills to make the appropriate decisions—particularly youngsters with greater socio-economic needs.

Careers education must be a crucial building block of the Government’s schools policy—and their levelling up. I am glad to see the levelling-up Minister here to listen. Labour stands ready to help the Government in their aims on this wherever we can. There is a serious gap of rigorous and dynamic careers guidance in our schools. In the Skills for Jobs White Paper, the DfE admits that

“there is no single place you can go to get government-backed, comprehensive careers information.”

We have the opportunity to correct this, and we simply must ensure that the provision put in place is evidence-based and effective.

It is no use, for example, if pupils are encouraged into contracting industries, or not informed about burgeoning ones, especially in our dynamic area of future technologies. Indeed, despite the admirable intent of the Baker clause—and boy, did I like those Baker days from 1988 onwards; they were very useful—a third of students say they have received no information about apprenticeships. So I urge the Minister to consider monitoring and evaluation when implementing these measures. What metrics will the Government use to define success—user satisfaction or employment outcomes? And, importantly, how will we change course if the scheme is failing?

I pay tribute to the honourable Member for Workington, who is sponsoring this Bill. In Committee in the other place, he pointed out that only 45% of secondary schools and colleges are involved in career hubs, the formal partnership between schools, businesses and training providers. This seems like a lost opportunity. I would argue that the Government could go further and faster. Is their aim for the number to be 100%, and by when?

Labour’s strongly held view is that every young person should be able to expect quality work experience —an experience that opens their horizons and is judged not on whether they are safe but on whether it helps them to experience their future world of work. Indeed, I am delighted that the leader of the Opposition in the other place has announced an excellent offer that will be introduced by the next Labour Government. It will include the equivalent of two weeks-worth of compulsory work experience to connect young people with local employers, build the skills for work and ensure that every child and young person has access to quality careers advice in their school by giving every school access to a professional careers adviser once a week: a Helen Lima for every school.

Until that day, however, I conclude by reaffirming our overall support for the Bill and my gratitude to all those supporting it. These are surely common-sense measures and a solid step on the way to helping school pupils into meaningful employment and a bright future.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 11:14, 4 March 2022

My Lords, I join your Lordships in thanking my noble friend Lord Lucas for bringing forward this Bill, and I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate. I am also grateful to my honourable friend the Member for Workington for his work on this important Bill, and I congratulate him on ensuring that it passed through the other place.

High-quality careers guidance prepares young people for what comes next. It connects young people from all backgrounds to education and training opportunities that lead to great jobs—as my noble friend Lady Altmann said, not just one great job but several over a career. Furthermore, careers guidance is an essential underpinning to the Government’s skills reform, and that is why I am happy to lend my support, and that of the Government, to this Bill.

The cross-party support apparent in the other place shows that there is agreement in both Houses that careers guidance in secondary schools is vital and, in particular, on the benefits of inspiring our young people about a range of great careers, raising aspirations and encouraging them to maximise their talent and skills. The Government support the Bill because we want to level up the country, give access to opportunity and allow talent to flourish—as my noble friend Lord Lucas said, whether that be in the locality you grew up or outside it.

As we emerge from this pandemic, good-quality careers advice is essential to build a workforce that is dynamic and flexible. It is critical that young people are provided with guidance on future labour market opportunities and growth sectors, so that they can learn the skills they need to be successful in our fast-paced and ever-evolving jobs market—a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, mentioned.

My noble friend challenged me on whether the Government would stick with the programme, and I am pleased to reassure him that in the Skills for Jobs White Paper, we committed to extending careers hubs, career leader training, digital support and the enterprise adviser networks—the employer volunteers—to all secondary schools and colleges in England. Your Lordships will remember that that recommendation was in the Augar review, and we accepted it. My noble friend explained the Bill very ably. It is a simple but effective Bill, and I will not repeat what it aims to achieve, but I shall attempt to address some of the points raised by your Lordships today.

I know that my noble friend Lord Baker and I do not agree on absolutely every aspect of widening pupil access to alternative providers, but we agree on the principle of it, and we agree that there are still too many schools failing to comply with provider access legislation. Your Lordships will be aware that, through the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, we aim to strengthen the law so that all schools must offer at least three encounters with providers of approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships for pupils in years 8 to 13. For the first time, we will introduce parameters around the content of these encounters to safeguard their quality.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, and my noble friend Lord Holmes raised the important issue of careers provision for those students with special educational needs and disabilities. The Bill extends careers provision to all pupils in state secondary education, including those in mainstream schools with special educational needs provision, and in special schools. The Careers & Enterprise Company works with career leaders to design and deliver career education programmes tailored to the needs of young people with special educational needs and disabilities. All mainstream and special schools have been invited to be involved in the Careers & Enterprise Company’s inclusion community of practice, which operates out of 32 career hubs and currently reaches 628 educational establishments. This national community of best practice sharing was established to enable young people with special educational needs to be much better supported in their careers education, and this will be rolled out to all careers hubs in the next academic year.

I do not want to dwell on the minimum education requirements raised by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, but I remind him that we are consulting on them; this is not a decision.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox and Lady Morris of Yardley, rightly talked about the importance of work experience. The careers statutory guidance makes it clear that schools and colleges should follow the Gatsby benchmarks. They are evidence-based, as the noble Baroness opposite rightly challenged, and offer both personal guidance and experience of work as part of their career strategy for pupils.

The noble Lords, Lord Shipley and Lord Aberdare, mentioned the value of engaging children in primary schools. Of course, they are right that this has the potential to broaden horizons and raise aspirations. The Careers & Enterprise Company has produced a suite of resources to support the delivery of these activities in primary schools, and we support programmes such as Primary Futures that help to broaden students’ aspirations at an earlier stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, asked for a clearer careers strategy. He may be aware that the Government have appointed Professor Sir John Holman as the independent strategic adviser on careers guidance. He is currently advising us on greater local and national alignment between the National Careers Service and the Careers & Enterprise Company. He will also advise on the development of a cohesive and coherent careers system for the long term; we expect to receive his recommendations this summer.

As we have heard from your Lordships, we cannot underestimate how important careers advice is. The Bill will help to make sure that every young person in a state secondary school, whatever their background and wherever they live in the country, can get on in life. I thank your Lordships for their contributions, which the Government are pleased to support; I urge the House to do the same.

Photo of Lord Aberdare Lord Aberdare Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister has made no reference to my concern about whether careers professionals will be available in sufficient number and quality to deliver the ambitious plans that the Government have outlined.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

We are confident. We are working in a number of ways, which I am happy to set out for the noble Lord in writing.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 11:22, 4 March 2022

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly my noble friend the Minister for that reply. I think that, if today were a baking day for my noble friend Lord Baker, he would have an oven full of hot cross buns. As ever, his was an impressive speech and one that we should all listen to. I very much look forward to the debates that we will have when this kill Bill returns to this House. It is really important that something we all agree should happen is framed in such a way that it does happen.

I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, said about how difficult it is for people to realise that something might be for them and then take the first step, and about the efficacy of having someone by their side to help. I really hope that we find the Government determined to move forward on careers hubs and career leaders’ education, including working with education employers; my noble friend the Minister mentioned the work done by Primary Futures and other equivalent organisations to produce people who can be by someone’s side when they are looking at taking that first step.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, focused on extending this to primary. It is important. Children coming into secondary school have a lot of their ideas formed by that stage; a narrowing has taken place. It does not take much. I have been on several Primary Future expeditions. At that age, children are so uncritical. They open up to new ideas so easily. They love sitting down next to a policeman or a nurse, or someone like that, who can talk to them about what they do in a way they have not had exposure to. It really works well as a formula.

As ever, my noble friend Lord Holmes waxed lyrical on disabled people. I must say, I have found it astonishingly difficult to employ disabled people. I have never found a structure, with charities or the Government, that makes it easier for me to communicate with and reach disabled people or understand how to do that better. I hope that we will see some progress on that; we need a structure that industry can relate to and which really supports disabled people. It is not beyond human wit.

Thinking about my noble friend Lady Altmann’s speech, I am reminded of Cisco’s pride that its champion apprentice was a woman who was previously a hairdresser. It had changed its advertising, so that the way it described its jobs appealed to people like that. It is not hard, if you are given help or you have the inspiration, to make changes, but it really helps if you have a structure to work with in doing that.

I am extremely grateful to all who have spoken. I wish the Bill a swift and untroubled passage through this House and very much look forward to its implementation.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.