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Careers Guidance

Volume 536: debated on Monday 21 November 2011

6. If he will bring forward proposals to place schools under a statutory duty to provide high-quality and impartial careers guidance. (81760)

The Education Act 2011 places a duty on schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for pupils in years 9 to 11. This provision will commence from September 2012 and will be underpinned by statutory guidance.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his answer and I very much welcome the Government’s progress on launching the national careers service. Does he agree that it is vital that we use the service effectively to promote vocational training?

My hon. Friend will know that I visited his constituency to look at the excellent work that has been done on vocational training. The purpose of the independent advice and guidance is to ensure that people get advice appropriate to their needs. For too long, we have assumed that the only route to prowess came through academic accomplishment. The Government believe that the work of people’s hands matters too, and that those with practical tastes and talents deserve their place in the sun.

The Minister knows that face-to-face contact and advice on careers is essential. Is it not the case that up and down this country schools are giving up on having a highly trained careers person in them and there is no access to an external schools careers service? Is that not sad for the kids in this country who do not have good, well-connected parents to give them the advice that they crave?

What preceded the position the Government have adopted was the Connexions service. I am not saying that Connexions did no good, but it certainly was not up to scratch. The skills commission inquiry said that it did not ensure that young people had good advice, Ofsted identified inconsistencies in provision and, as you know, Mr Speaker, Alan Milburn specifically called in his report for a national careers service. Of course face-to-face guidance matters, but it is not all that matters.

New apprenticeships have grown by 56% in my constituency over the past year and are vital to our future. Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will ensure that under any future arrangements for careers guidance in schools opportunities for apprenticeships are fully promoted?

Absolutely. My hon. Friend knows that the work the Government have done on apprenticeships has been outstanding and it is due to the support, encouragement and advice of hon. Members like him that that work is cutting through in the constituencies in the way that he describes. It is not just our constituencies: the shadow Secretary of State’s constituency has seen a 69% increase in the number of apprenticeships and I know that he will want to take the first opportunity to rise to the Dispatch Box and congratulate the Government on that.

During the passage of the Education Bill, the Minister spoke movingly of the scope for the careers guidance service to be a driver of social mobility and quoted a survey that found that 27% of state school pupils have received bad careers guidance, set against 6% of private pupils. The model he has developed for careers guidance leaves 16 to 19-year-old school leavers with only a web or helpline service and does not transfer any of the money from careers guidance to schools for face-to-face services: how many private schools is he aware of in which teenagers receive only a web-based or telephone advice service?

I welcome the hon. Lady’s question on this subject, because she, too, will want to know that in her constituency, apprenticeship numbers are also up by 69%. To answer her question directly, it is absolutely right that schools make a judgment about the mix of provision that suits their pupils. She is right, too, that private schools typically buy independent, impartial advice and that is the kind of advice that all children deserve, which is why we are changing the situation.