Thank Mr/Madam Deputy Speaker.
I want to start by congratulating my Honourable Friend, the Member for Workington, on bringing forward this important Bill, which is now before us in its remaining stages.
Giving every child the best start in life is a guiding principle of this Government’s approach to education here in England. Every child needs to have access to equal opportunity and a good education is part of the vital armoury in ensuring this, building the foundations they need - confidence, resilience and commitment - to thrive in adult life.
As we heard from many members in the debate on this subject last Autumn, education is not just about reading, writing, maths – academic training. Schools can help children develop their social relationships, emotional skills, identity and all round well-being. Academic or cognitive development is essential but so too is careers guidance and support in order for a child to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them.
We need an education system that not only focuses on academics or technical training but also guides and supports them in their future career path. Good career guidance is a vital key to social mobility. It is about showing young people, whatever their family or social background, the options open to them, helping them make the right choices for them and set them on the path to a rewarding future.
There is no doubt that careers support and advice is crucial. This Bill will see that this advice is offered independently to all pupils from year 7 onwards, no matter what sort of state school they are – including academies. I completely support this.
The two main parts of the Bill will firstly see an extension of the existing duty to provide independent careers guidance to all pupils in secondary education. Currently, there is no duty for this to begin until pupils are in Year 8. The measures in this Bill will ensure the duty applies from the beginning of Year 7.
Secondly, the statutory duty to provide independent careers guidance would be expanded to cover academy schools and alternative provision academies. Currently, the duty only applies to maintained schools, special schools and pupil referral units.
The Bill before us today, builds on the excellent work the Government has been doing in this area, including the National Careers Service which was launched in 2012 and provides people over the age of 13 with free and impartial information, advice and guidance on learning, training and work opportunities. The services are provided face-to-face, via telephone and online. In 2019 the Education and Skills Funding Agency published the results of fieldwork it carried out which found that 93 per cent of users rated the service highly and 84 per cent were satisfied with the service overall.
The Government also published the Skills for Jobs White Paper in January last year which lays out the strategy from post-16 education and training and careers provision. It also addresses the Government’s renewed strategic approach to careers education, including continued public investment in the expansion of the infrastructure.
Commitments include the roll-out of Careers Hubs and investment in the professional development of Careers Leaders to all schools and colleges across England. In line with these commitments, as the new academic year begins, new Careers Hubs are being established across the country, and many more are expanding:
1,000 more schools and colleges will benefit from this network of support.
2.2 million students, up from 1.45 million at the end of last term, will now be in schools and colleges that access enhanced careers education support from Careers Hubs.
The Department for Education is also supporting a range of measures to ensure that all students choose a career that is right for them, including the ‘Baker Clause’ which ensures that all schools and academies must publish a policy statement setting out opportunities for providers of technical education courses and apprenticeships to visit schools to talk to all pupils – and to make sure the policy is followed.
The ‘Skills for Jobs’ White Paper aims to improve compliance with the Baker Clause through the introduction of a 3-point-plan, by creating minimum legal requirements and taking more action to enforce compliance.
The White Paper coupled with this Bill today could transform the way in which we provide careers advice and guidance to young people across England.
I am delighted that East Sussex College in Hastings was part of the successful Sussex-wide joint application under the Skills Accelerator programme for a joint Local Skills Improvement Plan and Strategic Development Fund pilot.
The Skills for Jobs White Paper set out the Government’s blueprint for reshaping the technical skills system to better support the needs of the local labour market and the wider economy – and the Skills Accelerator is a core part of delivering this.
In conclusion Mr/Madam Deputy Speaker, this Bill today will go a long way in supporting students with the advice and guidance they need to make reasoned and timely decisions to help them into the world of work. I want to thank my Honourable Friend again for bringing forward his Private Members Bill for the remaining stages, and he has my full support in it.