All 1 Lindsay Hoyle contributions to the Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Act 2022

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Fri 14th Jan 2022
Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage3rd reading & Report stage

Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill Debate

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Department: Department for Education

Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con)
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I beg to move amendment

1, page 1, after subsection (4) insert—

“(4A) In subsection (4)(c), omit “the person giving it considers”.”

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 2, page 1, leave out subsection (5).

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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Let me put the amendment in context, for colleagues who have not looked at the text of section 42A of the Education Act 1997. Under section 42A(4)(c), the Act states:

“The responsible authorities must secure that careers guidance provided under subsection (1)…is guidance that the person giving it considers will promote the best interests of the pupils to whom it is given.”

In other words, the test is a subjective one on the part of the provider, rather than an objective test. My amendment would remove the words

“the person giving it considers

thereby making it an objective test for the responsible authorities when securing the careers guidance required by the Act.

The context of the amendment is very much about quality. I was delighted that in the debate that took place in Westminster Hall on Tuesday there was much emphasis on quality in careers guidance, and a lot of reference to what the Gatsby rules set out. Let me briefly tell the House about some of the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey), who introduced that debate. She said how important it is that children know what they want to do when they leave school, but that they will not be able to do that if they are not told about all the career opportunities available to them, the qualifications they will need, and the different educational paths they can take.

For example, when my daughter was at school she aspired to become a member of the veterinary profession, and I am proud to say that that is what she is. However, it was difficult because her teachers said, “Well, I’m not sure you’re going to be suitable for science A-levels”, and obviously without them she would never have been able to get the qualifications to go to veterinary school and attain the qualification that she has. The good advice she got from a teacher at the school meant that she could embark on science A-levels. That is a personal example from my own experience of the importance of quality. I do not doubt that some people at the school would have taken the view that the best thing was for her not to do science A-levels, but on any objective assessment it was the right decision. I therefore agree absolutely with my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton.

My right hon. Friend went to say:

“The latest report from the Centre for Social Justice says that there is a growing need for tailored, innovative and inspiring career guidance with links to role models and employers.”—[Official Report, 11 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 211WH.]

I think everybody agrees that that is so, but it is a concern that there is no single place where a young person can get comprehensive Government-backed careers information. The Centre for Social Justice also found that schools are not consistently delivering good quality careers advice. About one in five schools does not meet any of the eight Gatsby benchmarks, a series of internationally respected benchmarks that help the Government to quality assure careers advice in schools. That is very serious.

Everybody seems to agree that the Gatsby benchmarks should be the standard, yet we know that only one in five schools meet any of them. The question I want to pose, in moving the amendment, is this: what are the Government doing to ensure that we get not just careers guidance, but good quality careers guidance? I remind the House of the eight Gatsby benchmarks of good careers guidance: a stable careers programme; learning from career and labour market information; addressing the needs of each pupil; linking curriculum learning to careers; encounters with employers and employees; experiences of work places; encounters with further and higher education; and personal guidance. The fact that so many schools do not even comply with any of them should raise significant alarm bells. That is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton, in concluding her remarks in the Westminster Hall debate, said:

“How do the Government plan to ensure that careers guidance is of a high quality for all pupils, irrespective of where they come from?”—[Official Report, 11 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 212WH.]

That is the issue.

I am delighted to see the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart), who was not able to attend the Westminster Hall debate, on the Front Bench. In welcoming him to the debate, may I say how much I appreciate his decision to give Ferndown Upper School in my constituency a significant capital grant for its T-levels programme, which was announced just before Christmas? That is much appreciated. Ferndown Upper School has made enormous progress over recent years under excellent leadership and has expanded its numbers accordingly. If we were able to see an equivalent increase in the quality of careers guidance in schools across the country, we would all be absolutely delighted.

Let me turn to the response to the Westminster Hall debate from the Minister for Higher and Further Education. She said:

“The foundation of making that a reality is careers guidance in our secondary schools.”

She went on to say:

“That is why we are strengthening the legal framework so that every secondary pupil is guaranteed access to high-quality, independent careers guidance. Careers guidance, in itself, is not the panacea; the quality is absolutely crucial.”—[Official Report, 11 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 224WH.]

How will we ensure that we have that quality, which we are told will increasingly be assessed by Ofsted, if it is going to be constrained? If Ofsted goes to a school and says, “Your provision is not of sufficiently good quality”, the school will be able to say, “Under the guidance—under the existing legislation—we think, or the person giving the advice thinks, that that is the right advice to be given for this child,” and there is no objective test. If the provider thinks that what it has done is correct, there is no possible way of criticising that or exercising any sanctions against it. That is why removing these words is of absolute importance if the Government want to deliver much better quality careers guidance in our schools. That is a small but important point, and I hope that we will get a constructive response from the Minister. If there is resistance to accepting the amendment in this place, perhaps it can be considered in the other place. However, we need to have more than just words about the importance of good quality; we need to ensure that the legislation facilitates it.

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Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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Let us start by congratulating the hon. Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) on reaching this stage with his Bill. I fully anticipate that he will ultimately achieve his aim of aligning academy provision with current state-maintained provision in the sphere of careers guidance, and I am pleased to give Labour’s backing for this small but important Bill. Careers guidance is an important component of any serious social mobility strategy. For many people, and certainly for people in my family and other young people I have spoken to in Chesterfield, careers guidance and work experience are often the first time that young people really get a chance to put their head up and start looking into the future.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Is the hon. Gentleman making a Third Reading speech or speaking to the amendments?

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Perkins
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Am I going to get two different opportunities?

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Perkins
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Okay, so I will just speak to the amendments. That will speed us up nicely. None the less, I thought it was important to give some background to that point. Let me turn to the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope). I suspect it would not be a sitting Friday if we did not hear the view from Christchurch. I have often wondered whether a sitting Friday when we did not hear what the residents of Christchurch thought would be followed by a Saturday at all. Today, we have heard their views on careers guidance.

The hon. Gentleman made a number of significant points, and I have good news for him. We in the Labour party share his fear about quality, breadth and objectivity when it comes to understanding whether provision is of a high standard. I think his proposed amendment is not necessarily the way to address that, but several of the Labour amendments to the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill are. Quality and breadth of provision are important so that young people have the opportunity to consider a broad range of alternatives, and some careers guidance may be of a high standard but lack breadth. Our amendments to the Skills Bill—they have been supported by Lord Baker and others, and I hope they will return from the other place—will give the hon. Member for Workington the opportunity to get the assurances he seeks about quality and breadth. I look forward to speaking to the Bill further.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. If Members wish to speak, it would be helpful if they stood when the Member who is speaking sits down. I am just trying to put some names down.

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
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Thank you for calling me so early in this debate, Mr Speaker. It is a pleasure to speak in it, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) on bringing this Bill before the House.

I want to give a little bit of perspective from my own background. In my maiden speech, I referred to my family background as moving from workhouse to Westminster. My great grandmother was born in a workhouse in the east end of London. She was a foundling and she met my great grandfather in the Foundling Hospital, so they had very modest beginnings. The emphasis in the Foundling Hospital was not on a choice of careers but on set career paths. All the boys who were put into the Foundling Hospital were trained to become Army bandsmen, and all the girls were trained to become maternity nurses—midwives. They did not have a choice in that.

My great grandparents went on to have great careers, in the Army and as a midwife. They met each other in the hospital, and it absolutely changed their lives. They had rewarding careers and their own family, and—workhouse to Westminster—I managed to get here, for some reason. I think that shows the fundamental need for a career and a job to make our lives what we want them to be. That opportunity, which is fundamental to levelling up and everything that we stand for—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I want to be helpful, but Members should be speaking to amendments to the Bill and not making Third Reading speeches. I think, unfortunately, you are making one of those, which I would love to hear later rather than now. If you can speak to the amendments and what we are dealing with, that would be helpful to the Chair.

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your guidance. On the amendment, I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Workington said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope). I think that the Bill, as it stands, answers the questions that it seeks to address, so I support it as it is presented today. But I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch—I like to relate things to personal experience, and I think his daughter’s experience is very telling. It shows us about the cart and the horse. If someone has a vision for the future, they need to know the pathway to get there, so it is important that they have advice at an early stage. I absolutely take what he says, but I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington has answered that question.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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I will not speak at great length about the amendments, only to say that every time my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) speaks, I always think that I went to the right university, because like him I am a graduate of Queen’s College, St Andrews, now Dundee University. I was interested in the way that he rationalised the idea of moving to an objective test. He will know that that relies on the man on the Clapham omnibus being the benchmark as the unified standard of quality, shall we say. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) eloquently made the point that that could end up baking in that quality.

I can speak only to my own experience. I was dead set throughout most of my A-levels on being a doctor. I have no scientific aptitude, but I convinced myself that that was what I was going to do—

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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I do apologise, Mr Speaker. We are doing so well today. I have suddenly got louder—that is good.

It took a tutor who recognised that that might not have been my best skillset to point me in the right direction, and I am very glad that she did when she did. It led to a fulfilling career, with one slight blip when I was elected in 2019. I will not support the amendment if it is pressed to a vote, but I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend’s intentions.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. You are all going to have to stand if you want to speak, because I am having to guess here. If people do not want to speak, can they let their Whip know and at least then I know what I am working to?

Simon Baynes Portrait Simon Baynes (Clwyd South) (Con)
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I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) on bringing his Bill to this stage, and my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) on his amendments. I have some sympathy with what the latter said about his first amendment. My own daughter is at university at the moment and she has found the mentoring skills offered by industrialists to be extremely helpful. I agree with the spirit of the amendment but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington said, the Bill is well established and structured, and is sufficient as it stands.

On the second amendment, I have made recent visits in my constituency to Ysgol y Grango in Rhos and Ysgol Rhiwabon, and I have seen how keen students are there to discuss their future career prospects. The more that we can satisfy that thirst for knowledge, the better, especially by bringing professionals into schools to provide their experience.

I respect very much the spirit of the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, but I feel that the Bill is sufficient as currently constituted, as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington said.

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Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) for long championing all things education and for standing up for children. I have seen him, not just in respect of this Bill but on many other occasions, be a lone voice for children and for opportunities in education.

I appreciate the issues raised by the amendments. I agree that we need further scrutiny in that respect and to look into how we can help to give tailored support to everyone in need. In particular, clause 1, which extends the careers duty to all pupils to secure education in all types of state-funded provision—particularly alternative provision—is excellent, but the amendment talks about giving advice to all from one set point and I have an issue with that. We could look at further ways to dig down into a bespoke way of targeting, perhaps through a funding settlement agreement that provides a funding incentive for those providers that are able to get students into an apprenticeship successfully. The school could get an economic settlement for that in the same way as applies when students are able to get into university at sixth-form level.

From my previous work, I have found that alternative provision is often overlooked—it is often the way in which schools shunt off students who are more challenging and they are not then given the support that they need. When I worked in disadvantaged areas and with schools with low skills, my concern was that children were being taken out of the main school, put into alternative provision and then left at 16 with no qualifications, no help, no skills and no guidance. I appreciate the fact that the Bill and the amendments are trying to target that inequality.

The nuanced issues raised by the amendments are great but I would go even further. Clause 1(3), which extends the duty to secure careers guidance to academies and alternative provision, is welcome, but I would like to see a way of incentivising schools to pursue apprenticeships and to stress that they should. Many schools do not pursue apprenticeships because it takes a lot of time to liaise with the businesses and with the educational provider. Schools need an extra financial settlement or incentive to do it correctly, so we should look at how to move that forward. I know we are not allowed to discuss that in a debate on a private Member’s Bill, but I wanted to put that out there as we are discussing the amendment.

This is a nuanced issue. If things are done correctly, the Bill could help the levelling-up agenda throughout the UK. This is where children are falling through the cracks. They are being put through their paces until they are 16 and then left. They are not being diagnosed with learning difficulties and they are not being given careers advice, which would help the most disadvantaged access the career choices that they need.

I love that the amendments and the Bill are looking at how we target young people—people younger than 16 to 18. Young people from a disadvantaged background who have no family member in a job or career need to be told which A-levels to study. They need to be told that they need a triple science if they want to do something science related. If a young person does not come from that background, they have no idea that that is something they should be doing. This is a way to give that information to every child from every background. The immigrant child might be the only member of the family who speaks English as their first language. They are trying to navigate the British system and this kind of careers advice can give them the levelling-up advantage that they need.

I welcome the Bill and think that we can look further at these amendments to find a way to make the Bill as sharp and crisp as we possibly can.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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If there are no other speakers, I will call the Minister.

Alex Burghart Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Alex Burghart)
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You are very kind, Mr Speaker, and it is lovely to be here with you this Friday morning.

What a very interesting debate we have had on the amendments of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope), even if some of our colleagues have been so anxious to get onto Third Reading. I can understand why, but we do have a couple of very important amendments to discuss.

I must declare a small amount of interest: I grew up very close to my hon. Friend’s constituency. Many is the time that I have cycled past Ferndown Upper. I am delighted to hear that it is joining us on the T-level journey, which will help transform the lives of so many young people who want to have excellent vocational training as well as qualifications that have been designed with employers. They want to get that really serious long-term experience on the job while they are still at school or in college, knowing that they are getting the skills that the economy needs. I am absolutely delighted that Ferndown is part of that journey.

I often think of my hon. Friend when I am reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is one of my favourite early medieval texts. As you will know well, Mr Speaker, after King Alfred the Great died, his nephew, a nobleman, tried to seize the throne. He did so by starting at Tweoxneam, which is the archaic name for Christchurch. Whenever I think of that noble rebel of old, my mind sometimes flits to my noble friend from Christchurch today.

The thrust of my hon. Friend’s amendments is extremely important, because it focuses on quality, and the quality of our careers advice and careers service that we intend to provide young people is paramount. This was something that was central to a debate on Tuesday in Westminster Hall, which, sadly, I was unable to attend. Those present got the Minister of State instead of the mere Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, so they benefited from my absence.

The work that we are doing in the Department for Education centres on this very important issue of quality, and there are a number of changes that we have introduced, and are introducing, on that score. One key thing the Secretary of State has done is commission Sir John Holman to undertake a review of careers advice in the round, not just for young people, but for adults and those furthest from the workplace. I met Sir John yesterday. His work is coming along extremely well. We are looking forward to getting the formal findings of his report in the summer. We are also seeing accelerated progress in schools and colleges of the enterprise adviser—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think the Minister is almost in danger of doing his Third Reading speech. This is about the amendments—whether we do or do not support them and where we are going with them. I think Members would like to hear this speech in the Third Reading debate rather than now.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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Absolutely, Mr Speaker. The thrust of my hon. Friend’s amendments is about quality in the careers service, which is very much where I was trying to go in my remarks. I will speed ahead to the specifics, and perhaps we will come back to the general points on Third Reading.

Given the challenges that young people have faced throughout the pandemic, there has never been a more important time to help them plan for the future with confidence. That is why, as I say, we are focusing on quality. That said, the two amendments that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has tabled, however well intentioned, are unnecessary.

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Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
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I very much welcome the hon. Member’s Bill and the speech that he is giving. Careers advice has come on a long way in the last 50 years. I am sure that we all remember the scene in “Kes” where my constituent, the former lord mayor of Leeds, Bernard Atha, played the careers teacher who gave Billy and all the boys and girls in the school exactly the same careers advice. Although that was a drama, it reflected what happened in the sort of communities that we represent.

The quality of careers guidance depends on the person giving it. We have NVQs at levels 4, 5, 6 and even 7 in higher education for careers guidance, so it is a profession in and of itself. It is not just an add-on or to be left to online quizzes, but that is what has happened to my child at school, so there is still a long way to go. We need to professionalise careers guidance and see it as something in and of itself, not just an add-on.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think the hon. Member knows that an intervention is not meant to be a speech. You can speak—I will put you on the list—there is no problem there.

Mark Jenkinson Portrait Mark Jenkinson
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Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that important point. I will talk later about funded bursaries and the training that is available for careers leaders, and will explain how the Minister’s Department is putting careers leader training at the forefront of careers advice. We cannot abandon our children to the whims of fortune without a map, a compass or a torch to light the way.

The Bill is particularly timely given the disruption and disorientation caused by covid-19. It is hardly surprising that young people are worried about their education and employment prospects in these unprecedented times. Uncertainty and change inevitably fuel anxiety, and covid-19 has forced many young people to reconsider their options and look again at their career paths.

As I said in my earlier speech, unexpected change and challenges are not necessarily bad. They can open new doors, and encourage us to be adaptable in our goals and innovative in our approaches. Difficult experiences can help us to see new opportunities that we may not have considered before, bringing out latent talents and teaching us new skills. However, the support structures and safety nets must be in place to help young people. It is incumbent upon us—indeed, it is our duty—to help our children to negotiate these obstacles and to encourage them when they lose their way, or, even worse, lose faith in themselves.

In my constituency, as in others across England, there are pockets of deprivation, unemployment and sometimes, I have to say, hopelessness. I am acutely aware of the stark disadvantages faced by so many young people. They have so much to contribute, but so often they are written off too soon. If we are serious about “levelling up”—if it is to be more than just a slogan or a soundbite—giving all children access to good-quality careers advice is one of the most important weapons in our fight against poverty and despair. We must leave no child behind.

Providing this enhanced careers education and guidance makes economic sense too, as it will contribute to a high-skills and high-productivity recovery. The Bill will help all young people to develop the skills and attributes that will enable them to succeed in the workplace, and in some cases it will nurture the community leaders of the future.