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Schools: Careers Guidance

Volume 752: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress has been made in implementing the recommendations of the Ofsted report of September 2013 Going in the Right Direction? Careers Guidance in Schools from September 2012.

My Lords, we want all schools to follow the example of the best and provide inspiring careers advice for young people, based on more real- life contact with the world of work. In response to Ofsted’s report, we are strengthening statutory guidance, particularly with respect to contact with the workplace, and in improving information on apprenticeships and vocational options. We are developing the role of the National Careers Service. Ofsted is ensuring that careers guidance and pupil destinations will be given greater priority in inspections.

I thank my noble friend for his reply. Ofsted reported that in more than three-quarters of the schools visited,

“the new arrangements for careers guidance were not working well”.

What specific guidance have the Government given to schools on what constitutes a comprehensive careers guidance strategy, which was recommendation 1 in Ofsted’s report? How will that ensure that all pupils receive appropriate and impartial guidance to enable them to make educated choices concerning their educational pathway post-16?

My Lords, the revised guidance will make it clear that schools should have a strategy for the advice and guidance they provide to young people. The strategy should be embedded within a clear framework linked to outcomes for pupils rather than an ad hoc set of activities. It should reflect the school’s ethos and meet the needs of all pupils. We will share case studies so that schools can learn from the very best practice. The revised guidance will also set out clearly what schools can do to ensure that pupils have information about all the types of education and training they can pursue, and hear directly from different types of providers, including further education and sixth-form colleges, and employers delivering apprenticeships.

My Lords, there is an ongoing problem of informing young people about apprenticeships. This is a long-running story, found to be inadequate by the Ofsted report, which said that the careers advice being given in schools is not addressing that. The dilemma is that when a teacher on the staff of a school is also the careers officer, their loyalty to the school inclines them to advise children to stay on in the sixth form. What can the Government do to generate a new national careers service energy, so that this particular problem is more swiftly answered?

I take the noble Baroness’s point, although I think that more people staying on in school is hardly our biggest problem in education. Ofsted is very focused on making sure that guidance is given well. In relation to apprenticeships, we fund the National Apprenticeship Service that funds the Education and Employers Taskforce to deliver a programme of apprenticeship knowledge and employability skills to 16 to 18 year-olds. More than 70 advisers from the National Careers Service, the National Apprenticeship Service and Jobcentre Plus were stationed in the Skills Show in November last year, and the National Careers Service and the National Apprenticeship Service ran a jobs bus road show. A wide range of marketing materials and resources about apprenticeships are available on the National Apprenticeship Service website and it has also developed a free mobile app. So this is something we are very focused on.

My Lords, can my noble friend tell the careers advice people that we must make sure that we get the right jobs for the right people? The mismatch at the moment is horrendous, particularly with ICT jobs. It is estimated that by the end of next year there will be something like 400,000 to 700,000 mismatched jobs. The competition in the BRIC and MINT countries is making hay when it comes to these jobs. What are we doing to try to rise to that challenge?

My noble friend is quite right. The UK’s long-term economic future depends on high-level technology skills, and the Government are committed to strengthening the teaching of computing and in particular computer science in schools. That is why the new computing curriculum, which is to be taught from September this year, will be mandatory at all key stages. It has a greater focus on how computers work and on the basics of programming, as well as covering digital literacy and the application of information technology. It encourages pupils to design computer programmes to address real-world problems. The inclusion of computer science in the EBacc will help ensure that more pupils obtain a high-quality GCSE qualification.

My Lords, is the Minister aware of a report that came out of the EU two weeks ago valuing the internet app economy at several billion and stating that it will need one million jobs by 2020? Does he agree that the changing nature of the ICT world and of jobs needed within it is complex and should be reflected in careers guidance?

I agree entirely with the noble Baroness. We cannot be competitive unless we take these points on board and I will take back what she says, particularly about the assimilation into careers guidance.

My Lords, despite the Minister’s claims, Ofsted, the Education Committee, the British Chambers of Commerce and the CBI have criticised the Government’s hands-off approach to careers guidance. The CBI said recently that careers advice is on life support now in many schools in England. Does the Minister accept that it was wrong to give schools sole responsibility for careers advice but no money to deliver it? Will the Government now act to eradicate the postcode lottery in careers guidance and insist, as my noble friend said, on independent, face-to-face advice for all young people?

I know that the noble Baroness and I share aspirations for what we expect for young people, but the answer to her question is a firm no. As noble Lords know, the fact that the country is short of money is not this party’s fault. However, I also think that the assumption that a face-to-face interview with a careers adviser is the gold standard is a very outmoded model. As noble Lords will see when we publish our guidance, I hope shortly, we have a very strong emphasis on employer engagement, which we believe is the secret to good careers advice. I give an example: Westminster Academy, which has built up partnerships with more than 200 employers, has 73% FSM and 75% A* to C, including English and maths. I can think of no better example or argument for employer engagement on the ground, giving pupils a direct line of sight to real-life workplaces rather than just career advisers.

My Lords, my noble friend will know that one of the hardest things in career education is building up those networks, contacts and opportunities for work experience. It is particularly difficult for children from disadvantaged backgrounds—one has only to look at interns in Parliament itself. How do we ensure that children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have those opportunities?

My noble friend is quite right. We have to ensure that work experience and internships are not just available from daddy’s or mummy’s friends. The Social Mobility Foundation has done a great deal of work in this regard, and I know that it is developing a focus on providing work experience and internships for pupils from backgrounds who would not normally be able to access them. Even it struggles sometimes to engage with schools, but that is something that we are very focused on.