All 1 Alex Burghart 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

Alex Burghart Excerpts
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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Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I much appreciate the Minister’s comments, and his exemplification of the importance of Christchurch—of Tweoxneam—in the history of our country. I am glad that he is so well read in his subjects and knows the locality. I am sure that that had nothing to do with the decision to award this money to Ferndown Upper School, but nevertheless, it is very much appreciated.

I accept what the Minister says about amendment 2—it was very much a probing amendment. However, I invite him to reflect further on amendment 1, because at the moment the Bill says that

“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.”

Surely, the school should be taking the responsibility for ensuring that the careers guidance that is provided promotes the best interests of pupils. The Minister did not really address the points that I was making about the number of schools that are not complying with any of the eight Gatsby guidance principles.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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My hon. Friend is right about the one in five schools, but allow me to turn that figure on its head: from a standing start really quite a short time ago, four in five schools are now complying with large numbers of the Gatsby benchmarks, and are improving. Our Ofsted regime will include adherence to those benchmarks in its handbook, and I remind my hon. Friend that as part of our post-covid work, all schools will be inspected by Ofsted between now and summer 2025. As far as we are concerned, this is a genuine accountability measure.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I appreciate that, but one in five schools is not complying with any of the eight Gatsby principles that I read out, so surely we need to take action sooner than on the timescale to which the Minister refers. That is not a matter for legislation—his Department needs to get a grip on it. If schools are not complying with the basic principles set out in Gatsby, why is that, and why are they not being held to account?

I return to amendment 1. If a school transfers responsibility for careers guidance that is in the best interests of pupils to a provider who gets it wrong, there is no way in which that school can be held to account for having chosen a duff provider. The school will always be able to say in defence, to an Ofsted inspector, for example, that the provider thought that it was working in the best interests of the pupil to whom guidance was being given.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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indicated dissent.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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The Minister shakes his head, but if the Bill retains the phrase

“the person giving it considers”,

surely we are accepting a subjective test rather than an objective one. I will give way again to the Minister.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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I was not seeking to intervene, but I am glad to take the opportunity. Ofsted would obviously hold the school accountable for procuring poor careers advice. I very much appreciate my hon. Friend’s point, but, to be clear, we take accountability for careers advice very seriously and we wish to drive up quality. We believe that it is in the best interests of the pupil to have independent careers guidance in schools where possible, from independent careers advisers who act, and are trained to act, in the best interests of pupils. I hope he will appreciate that we are working towards the aims that he sets out. It is a serious measure to have reference to Gatsby in the Ofsted handbook and a programme to inspect all schools against it, and I hope that no one will make light of that.

Christopher Chope Portrait Sir Christopher Chope
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I much appreciate that full intervention to further clarify the Government’s intentions. In the end, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We will have to see whether we get the improved quality in careers guidance that everyone in the House wants and on which the Government and Opposition are united.

I thank the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) for his comments. I do not always get compliments from the Opposition, but I much appreciate them and take them to heart, as indeed I do the support that I have received from my hon. Friends. They are waiting to deliver their Third Reading speeches, but they nevertheless had a good formula for commenting on the amendments, which was basically, “My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) has got it right and we do not need to comment any further.”

My hon. Friend the Member for Workington has worked hard on the Bill and it is great that he has given us an opportunity to raise these issues and focus on quality. He echoes what the Minister said about the amendments being unnecessary. I will not put the amendments to a vote, so let us hope that they prove to be unnecessary. We will have to see whether the good intentions materialise. For that reason, I once again express my appreciation to all hon. Members who have contributed to this short debate, and to the Minister in particular, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Third Reading

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Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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What a pleasure it has been to take part in this debate. We have had some medieval history from me, some family history from my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) and some personal and socialist history from Opposition Members—or the Opposition Member, I should say.

We all thank my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) for this excellent Bill, which will improve a lot of young people’s lives. That is what we are all here to do. The Government are fully committed to education and to careers education and guidance, which is an essential underpinning of our reforms. It has been clear at every stage that the Bill has cross-party support and co-operation, and I genuinely thank the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) for his party’s support during the Bill’s progress.

We are at an important juncture for skills reform in this country, and I thank my hon. Friends for supporting the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which will soon return to the House on Report. The careers work we are pleased to be doing with my hon. Friend the Member for Workington underpins a lot of that Bill, and it is wonderful to hear my hon. Friends cite great examples from their constituencies for us to dwell on.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Joy Morrissey) made a powerful speech on what happens in alternative provision settings. These young people, on whom so much rests, have too often been forgotten. The most important piece of careers advice I ever heard was on a visit to an alternative provision setting in Wandsworth about 12 years ago. It was a fantastic setting in which the headteacher had created a number of studios for practical vocational education: a car mechanic’s workshop; a hairdressing salon; a cookery school; and a bricklaying studio. The headteacher said to the gentleman who taught bricklaying, “Will you tell our visitor what your last job was? This is what you tell all the pupils.” And the bricklayer said, “I was an armed robber. I earned £10,000 on my last job and now I earn nearly £30,000 a year working here.” That was an extraordinarily valuable and inspiring careers lesson for young people to hear in such a setting.

We want to make sure that young people in all settings, regardless of their background, have access to high-quality careers education, which is what our reforms will do. We want to level up opportunity, and the reforms set out in our skills for jobs White Paper will give a genuine choice between high-quality technical and academic routes. It is vital that everyone has access to careers guidance of the highest standards so that they are well informed on what will happen afterwards.

We cannot overstate the importance of careers advice, and I thank all hon. Members for their contributions at this and previous stages. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Workington again on bringing this Bill to the House.