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Schools: Careers Advice

Volume 798: debated on Wednesday 19 June 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the quality of careers advice in schools.

My Lords, there has been good progress since the Government’s careers strategy was published in 2017. Schools are using the Gatsby benchmarks to improve their careers programmes. Ofsted has noted that the current picture is much more encouraging than has been the case since 2010. More schools are benefiting from our investment. We are funding training for 1,300 careers leaders and establishing 40 careers hubs across the country.

I thank the Minister for that response. Education and providing the widest possible careers advice are key to opening up horizons and increasing social mobility. Network bases and contacts from the world of work—businesses and employers—often come from informal social networks such as families and friends. This is not necessarily so for young people from lower-income families who do not have such links. What can the Government do to ensure that these avenues are available to all?

Activities involving employers such as careers insights, mentoring, work tasters and work experience are crucial to give young people from all backgrounds the skills they need to succeed. The Careers & Enterprise Company was established to work with schools, colleges and employers to link them together and to make sure that every young person has access to inspiring encounters with the world of work, including work experience and other employer-based activities. The career hubs that I mentioned focus on supporting schools and colleges in areas most in need of targeted support.

My Lords, I declare an interest as an apprenticeship ambassador. I welcome what the Minister said, but we are still not where we should be. Is he aware that employers still complain about some schools denying access to pupils to talk about apprenticeships and other career opportunities, despite the Baker amendment and previous legislation? Those schools see populating their sixth forms as their priority. Is he aware of the number of schools still not meeting their obligations in providing full career-path explanations to their pupils?

Yes, I am, and there has been a question in the House previously on that very point—I think from the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. It is a matter that we are looking at seriously. It is important that each school takes careers management seriously, with the focus particularly on head teachers in doing that. It is also important that schools do not operate on their own; they have to work with careers advisers and the hubs to ensure a co-ordinated response and that every pupil receives the right careers advice.

My Lords, the Baker clause came into law last year. It allows apprenticeship providers, university technical colleges and other providers of technical education to go into schools and speak to 14 and 16 year-olds. This is simply not being followed. Providers are being excluded because the schools fear they may lose their pupils to them. Is it not about time that the Government insisted that the law of the land be followed, so that youngsters in our schools can learn of all the alternative careers available to them apart from going to university?

My noble friend is right, and that is why we recently announced an upgrade from 20 to 40 hubs. The whole point is that there is a co-ordinated response, with careers leaders in schools and careers advisers, one to one and in small groups, linked to the enterprise advisers, so that there is a cluster of help for these young people.

My Lords, the Minister may have heard that the Education and Employers Taskforce found that more direct contact between employers and young people from an early age has a direct impact on their ability to make informed choices between the different options and routes available. How can he see that that is embedded in all schools? Should we make money directly available to schools and colleges to make this happen?

The emphasis is on the Careers & Enterprise Company and the careers service to take this forward, which indeed they are doing. We must make sure that employers have the opportunity to go into schools and meet pupils one to one. That is happening: there are some very good statistics, particularly on the back of the pilots we have done up in the north-east, to show that we are making progress.

My Lords, one of the Gatsby benchmarks of quality in careers education states that students should have opportunities for personal, face-to-face guidance interviews with fully qualified careers professionals. What are the Government doing to tackle the known shortage of such skilled professionals and the lack of funding available to schools to employ them? Will they consider offering training bursaries for this purpose, for example?

Effective personal guidance can make a significant contribution to social mobility and the economic health of the nation, so the point the noble Lord has made is very important. The eighth of the Gatsby benchmarks requires all young people to have a careers interview by the age of 16 and the opportunity for a further interview by the age of 18. We are investing £2.5 million to support the development of new, cost-effective models to deliver personal guidance.

My Lords, I wanted to say a few words to let people know that I am still alive. In the House of Lords there are a variety of people, many of whom I know, who have made their way in life. Is it necessary to have a strict regime for education to allow children—my children and your children—to get forward in the future with the best interest of themselves and their families in mind? Am I talking daft or am I talking sense?

My Lords, it is important to have a proper, organised approach to this, and I have no doubt that many noble Lords give more than enough of their time to young people—we see them coming into this building the whole time, and I know that I give careers advice whenever I am called upon. What is important is an organised approach that covers the whole country. That is why the Careers & Enterprise Company was established in the first place.