Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill Debate

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Department: Department for Education

Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill

Peter Bone Excerpts
Mark Jenkinson Portrait Mark Jenkinson (Workington) (Con)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

When my name was first pulled out of the private Members’ Bill ballot, I was presented with a wonderful surprise and a rare opportunity—a chance to take forward real and meaningful change on a matter that is very close to my heart: helping young people to realise their potential. This Bill affords us a genuine opportunity to put words into action by changing the law to extend careers provision in schools.

At present, the statutory duty to provide careers guidance falls on maintained schools, special schools and pupil referral units, but not academies, although many academies do indeed have a contractual obligation to secure independent careers guidance through their own funding agreements. This landmark piece of legislation will seek to address this anomaly by placing the same requirement on all types of state-funded secondary schools, helping to create a much more level playing field. It is also paramount that the advice available to our young people should be consistent, of the highest quality and accessible across the board. The standard of guidance should be based not on a postcode lottery, but on a set of clear principles with the best interests of the children at its heart.

As a father of four, I am acutely aware of the many challenges that children face in school and how difficult it can be to decide on a suitable career path. Choosing a career can be an incredibly daunting experience; I am 39 and I still do not know what I want to be when I grow up. Without the proper guidance, it is easy for young people to find themselves on the wrong path and facing in the wrong direction.

We need early ongoing discussion that involves the young person in a process of continual reorientation, making them aware that they are masters of their own destiny and allowing them to make informed choices at every stage of their journey. This will allow for intervention and advice to prevent them from going too far down a blind alley or a career cul-de-sac, and discovering too late—or certainly not as early as they would ideally like—that they are not where they would like to be. That is why it is so important that we give our young people the best careers advice we can at the very earliest opportunity.

The choices we make at school during this critical early phase help define who we are, what we go on to achieve and ultimately who we become. This legislation is also particularly important and timely given the disruption caused by covid-19. We know that many young people are understandably anxious and uncertain about their education and employment prospects in these unprecedented times. Their ideas about their next steps may well be changing as they respond and adapt to the considerable challenges ahead. We have a saying that the north wind made the Vikings—in other words, adversity can be beneficial if we use it as an opportunity to make us stronger, but even the Vikings would not have got far on their nautical adventures without suitable navigation tools or the right skills. That is why it is so important that young people receive the right advice at the right time to make the right choices for them.

In my constituency of Workington, there are pockets of deprivation and unemployment. As someone who grew up in the heart of northern working-class communities, I am aware of the stark disadvantages faced by so many young people. They have so much to contribute, but often they are written off far too soon. Recognising the existence of a problem is the first step in solving it, and we must close this attainment gap and ensure that no child is left behind. If we are serious about levelling up, giving all children access to careers advice is one of the most important weapons in our arsenal.

Young people need support to understand their options and to act on them. Careers guidance helps them make sense of the labour market and navigate successfully into education, training or employment. Providing this enhanced careers education and guidance makes economic sense, too, because it will contribute to a high-skills, high-productivity recovery. It will support all young people in developing the skills and attributes they need to succeed in the workplace, and in some cases will nurture the community leaders of the future.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Can I be clear that the Bill extends the statutory duty to academies to provide careers advice? I am shocked that they are not doing that already. Does he have the number of academies that are not providing careers advice?

Mark Jenkinson Portrait Mark Jenkinson
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I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention as he makes an important point. Many academies, by virtue of the funding agreements put in place over the past eight or nine years, are under a duty to provide this guidance. Many of the others will be doing so. Off the top of my head, I think about 1,300 out of 2,800 do not have it in their funding agreement. The Bill puts them all on the same statutory footing, giving Ofsted the tools it needs to manage consistent careers advice across the board.

The Bill extends careers advice down from year 8 to year 7 to ensure that our children are given the information they need to make the best possible choices. Speaking to the point that my hon. Friend just made, it will bring academies in line with local authority-controlled schools. It will help ensure that everyone has the same opportunity, regardless of their postcode, but it will also give Ofsted the tools it needs to ensure that our children, from across the country, are benefiting from first-rate careers advice throughout their school career.

The Bill will put into statute the Government’s commitments in the “Skills for jobs” White Paper for the UK’s post-pandemic recovery. It will build on the important work already being done nationally under this Government to develop a coherent and well-established careers system. The Careers and Enterprise Company, for example, is increasing young people’s exposure to the world of work.