Clause 29

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 14th June 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Shadow Secretary of State for Education 2:30 pm, 14th June 2007

I want to make a few broadly supportive remarks. I thank the hon. Member for City of Durham for tabling these useful new clauses. She is absolutely right about the patchy nature of careers advice in this country; in some places, for some young people, it is good, but for many others it is either difficult to access or not of high enough quality, and it often lacks adequate ambition to push young people forward. In my constituency, sadly, the options are often tailored to the expectations of a particular type of young person and do not reflect all the things that they might be able to achieve.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough spoke well about the importance of extending access, particularly for young people with special educational needs beyond the age of 16. During the course of the Bill, many charitable organisations have raised with me the fact that it is often difficult for such young people, especially those with physical or learning disabilities, to access provision.

There are three issues that I would prefer to be separated—mentoring, careers advice and volunteering. The details of the three issues are slightly conflated. Mentoring is something that should extend to all young people at all stages of education, and it should probably take place within the school or college setting. Careers advice, however, is different. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough has used the word “independent” several times, and careers advice should be independent. That is crucial, especially if one is trying to raise expectations and give tailored advice to the young person. We need to get away from the type of prejudices that, sadly, can occur within a school, where people, over a long period of time, have come to know the performance or behaviour of a young person. I would like to see careers advice taken away from that setting. In a sense, therefore, I would like to separate careers advice and mentoring. Mentoring is about pastoral care. Careers advice will obviously include a pastoral element, and a student may wish to discuss the advice that they receive from a careers adviser with their mentor, but careers advice has to happen independently.

Furthermore, 16 is far too late for careers advice to start. I know that both hon. Members who spoke on this subject, the hon. Members for City of Durham and for Sheffield, Hillsborough, said that, but it needs to start at 11. Hon. Members will have heard me witter on about the Tomlinson report at great length at every opportunity. Certainly, my vision is a flexible approach for 14 to 19-year-olds, so that young people can move between vocational and academic courses at all stages between 14 and 19. However, if we are to have that type of system, there must be access to good, independent careers advice from the earliest stage and right the way through the system, because the system will not work without it.

With regard to the ideas about volunteering, I am very sympathetic to the points that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough has suggested. Personally, I would not want to see this matter dealt with in legislation, unless the legislation were a good less detailed than this Bill and only enabling legislation. Volunteering is the type of issue that can be dealt with perfectly well by encouraging local authorities to set up their own schemes and encouraging schools to collaborate. Volunteering does not tend to work  terribly well with one school, and it is often necessary to have more opportunities that schools can explore by collaborating with each other. That is certainly an issue that local authorities could take a lead on.