Part of Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 10:05 am on 25 March 2022.

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Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 10:05, 25 March 2022

My Lords, we welcome the Bill and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on continuing the good work of the honourable Member for Workington. I particularly welcome the fact that the Bill includes academies, which is an important aspect of increasing its chances of reaching the maximum number of children to begin their preparations for a career and the world of work. For so long we have been told that academies are often literally a law unto themselves, and the terms of their funding agreements mean that in many aspects of their provision they cannot be told what to do. The Bill demonstrates that in fact they can and that all that is required is a stroke of the Secretary of State’s pen. A precedent has thus been created.

I will not rehearse the powerful arguments advanced by my noble friend Lady Wilcox at Second Reading on the need for effective, regular, independent careers guidance. However, I feel that I have to draw something to the attention of the Minister—if her eyes roll as I start this, frankly, I would not be surprised, because it is about the consistency of government policy again. Yesterday I raised with her the fact that the Levelling Up White Paper talked up mayoral combined authorities at the same time as she was advancing a government position that effectively talked them down in terms of local skills improvement plans. We had the Chancellor talking up the need for an apprenticeship levy review just a month after the Government had voted down a Labour amendment in another place asking for just that. This Bill talks about year 7; it lowers the start of career guidance from year 8 to year 7. Yesterday the Minister said:

“We question the value of provider encounters in year 7, before those students can act on them”.—[Official Report, 24/3/22; col. 1139.]

That is what this Bill does. I may not be alone in being not just perplexed but slightly irritated at the Government’s apparent inability to present consistent policy. It is absolutely right that year 7 should be where it starts, but it was right yesterday in our discussions on the skills improvement Bill as well and I very much regret that that was not accepted.

Finally, the concession on the skills Bill that the Minister made this week in respect of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and his clause, shows that the Government have finally determined that they will make careers guidance more effective and meaningful and they are supporting it further in this Bill. That is why we welcome the Bill and look forward to it becoming law.