We have genuinely had an exceedingly good debate, and I would particularly like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham on introducing the new clauses. When we first saw the new clauses in the Department, one of my officials, totally unprompted, said, “This person clearly knows what they are talking about.” Through their contributions today, both she and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough have adequately and emphatically demonstrated that.
The Government are sympathetic to the intention behind these new clauses. Indeed, key elements of the proposals are already being developed as part of Government policies through, for example, the “Every Child Matters” and “Youth Matters” strategies. We are also considering them as part of our own proposals on raising the participation age. Given the circumstances and the changes that we are considering, however, now is not the right time to create additional legislation for young people aged 16 to 18.
Having said that, let me address each of the proposals in turn. New clause 3 seeks to place the Secretary of State under a statutory duty to arrange for an assessment resulting in a personal profile for all students in their last year of compulsory schooling. Progress files—a similar concept—were recommended by the Dearing report in 1996, and indeed they are now modelled as part of best practice across the system. Most schools already have such measures in place in ways that reflect the individual circumstances of both the young people concerned and the school. I think that that is better than the one-size-fits-all approach to legislation.
On school leavers, head teachers are already required under the pupil information regulations to prepare a report briefly setting out details of progress and achievements during the final year in curriculum subjects and activities. Again, I think that that answer responds to the concerns that have been expressed.
New clause 4 goes to the heart of the debate. It stresses the importance of giving information, advice and guidance, but I do not believe that further changes in legislation are necessary at this stage. At the moment, any young person in the 13-to-19 age range can already access an individual professional for advice and guidance through the Connexions service. That is not a static situation, and it is evolving. The Connexions service holds detailed assessment information about the needs of young people, and Connexions personal advisers are trained professionals who are responsible for providing information, advice and guidance to the young people concerned.
Connexions and schools agree arrangements for making services available to young people; in many cases, that involves Connexions having a direct presence in the school. However, I would be the first to admit that we need to do more. That is why this summer we are planning to publish a set of standards for young people’s information, advice and guidance.