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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 632-iii
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Career Guidance for Young People
Wednesday 28 November 2012
Matthew Hancock MP
Evidence heard in Public Questions 211-296
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Taken before the Education Committee
on Wednesday 28 November 2012
Mr Graham Stuart (Chair)
Examination of Witness
Witness: Matthew Hancock MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education, gave evidence.
Q211 Chair: Good morning, Minister, and welcome to the Committee and your first appearance before us, which, we assume, will be the first of many.
Matthew Hancock: We will see after this performance today.
Q212 Chair: Let me warm up with a nice, easy first question, which is: do you know anywhere else in the world which invests more in its adult careers guidance and support than it does for its young people?
Matthew Hancock: It is difficult to say whether that is true in the UK or not, because, as you know, the duty is on schools and the responsibility rests on schools to secure independent and impartial careers advice. This is a new approach and a new way of doing it.
Q213 Chair: Is there anywhere else in the world which has given the duty to schools and which has not passed any money to schools with which to fulfil it?
Matthew Hancock: In Ireland, in their 2012 education Act, section 22, they have taken the same sort of approach. Maybe it is worth stepping back and thinking about the bigpicture approach that we are taking. Over a number of years, the Connexions service, which preceded the system that we have at the moment, was up and running. It was changed several times because it was not working effectively. The Ofsted report in 2010 into careers advice was damning and found that over half did not think that there was adequate advice.
Q214 Chair: Did it, when it was damning in 2010, say the best thing to do would be to close the Connexions service and transfer none of the money to the people to whom the duty was transferred, namely schools?
Matthew Hancock: Actually, there was broad support for removing the careers part of the Connexions service, if you think about it, and it was cross-party. Alan Milburn said that "we have barely heard a good word about the careers work of the current Connexions service". Most of the budget was not actually used for careers work. The Connexions service was widely regarded as having failed, and that is partly because it was an inputs-based, top-down approach to providing careers advice.
Careers advice is vitally important, and the whole of our education reforms are about trying to support people to transcend the circumstances of their birth, to get on in life, to get up, to get the best possible start, but it is not necessarily the case that a top-down, input-based system that is highly prescriptive is the best way of delivering that. In fact, all of the evidence shows that, around the education system, that has failed. Instead, we are giving, as in many other areas, the responsibility to schools, but then, crucially, holding them to account to deliver on it. The responsibility is there in law and, in fact, we are extending it both upwards and downwards through the age range.
The duty is on head teachers to secure careers advice. I think the accountability piece is critical as well. It is accountability both through destinations data, which we have introduced for the first time this summer-it is the first year, so, necessarily, it does not go as far as we would like; we are hoping that it will include more data when it is published next year-and then Ofsted too, which will take into account careers advice and engagement with employers as part of its findings. Through Ofsted and through external accountability-league tables and destination data-schools are held to account for a duty that they have in law, and that system is better targeted at getting the people who know the students best to secure the appropriate careers advice, and that is where we are.
Q215 Chair: Commenting on the recent survey which showed that 83.5% of schools had reduced provision of careers guidance since September 2012, the Chairman of Careers England said, "Schools have been let down by the Department for Education, poorly prepared for the transition to the new role. And to expect more and better careers guidance for students, when schools have not a penny more for the new duty is not delegation of the duty to schools-it is abdication of the duty by the Department for Education". That is the Chairman of Careers England. That would suggest there is an issue here.
Matthew Hancock: I would question that, not least because I question the figures. That was a survey of the professional careers advisers who were members of Careers England, and the idea that the only people to give careers advice are careers professionals is wrong. Of course, careers professionals have a role to play, and, indeed, the guidance, as I am sure you will know, includes the requirement, where it is the most appropriate form, for face-to-face support by a professional careers adviser. However, the idea that you only get careers advice from a professional careers adviser is wrong. All of us in this room and everybody gets careers advice from all over the place. What we need to do is make sure that the information is available, that guidance is there by a professional careers adviser when it is more appropriate, but also that we do far more to inspire students, to inspire kids, to get people who are doing real jobs into schools, to get local employers involved, both public sector and private sector. If you want to be a nurse, let’s get people from the NHS into schools. We are doing a huge amount of work to get companies and businesses into schools, to get careers advice from a whole broad range of people who can be inspiring and can be brilliant. For instance, let me give you a specific example of why I do not accept the 83% figure: that does not include the survey of Speakers for Schools, which is one of the fastest growing areas-it is part of careers advice-to get inspiring and brilliant people into schools across the whole country in a way that, frankly, has only happened in the top few per cent. of schools in the country. So, that was not included.
Q216 Chair: Minister, I am a Speaker for Schools. Whether it was inspirational or not, I do not know, but what it did not constitute was focused guidance as such to help people choose their careers. They may or not have enjoyed my talk, they may or may not have taken something out of it, but what it was not was careers guidance. I was quoting the Chairman of Careers England, and it is an issue, is it not? There was a tussle between the two Departments that you stand astride, but whereas Business has seen careers advice and guidance as a priority, it would appear that DfE has not, because it is has given the duty to schools. If we are relying on the destinations data, which I think this Committee welcomes as a direction of travel, but which are, as you say, incomplete; and if we are relying on Ofsted, which has a focus primarily on other areas and only visits outstanding schools once every six years or so; it is hard to see that that is an accountability regime that is necessarily going to drive schools to provide adequate professional careers advice and guidance. The evidence we have received, overwhelmingly, from many sources, is that that is not being provided. You cannot, surely, be happy with that situation, and to dismiss so easily the Chairman of Careers England is ill advised, Minister.
Matthew Hancock: I am not at all happy with the situation where there are not enough inspiring people from all walks of life going into schools to be in front of and talk to pupils about what they can do with their lives. I am not happy with that situation. I am not happy with the situation where there are schools which do not have interactions with local employers and local businesses. I am not happy with a situation where there is not enough advice on what you can get out of your life. Would I prefer that all this had been started earlier? Of course I would. Would I prefer that, instead of a system that was widely recognised to have failed in the Connexions service, a duty and responsibility had been placed on those who are closest to the pupils? If that had been put in place earlier, that would have been terrific, but the duty came into force in September this year, so we are now two months into it. As has been said, it would be better to judge the impact of the duty and how it is being delivered after a few months rather than after just two.
Crucially, however, I do not think you can dismiss Ofsted’s accountability framework-it is in the revised framework for Ofsted-and the destination data. Especially with my skills hat on, information about the percentage of pupils leaving and going into apprenticeships, for instance, is being published alongside the percentage going into HE, which is really positive.
Q217 Chair: What evidence did the DfE have on which it based its decision to hand the responsibility to schools? Where in the world has this happened and where is it seen as a particular success?
Matthew Hancock: I mentioned the Irish example, but, critically, the argument for it is that a top-down system had not worked.
Q218 Chair: You have made that argument, Minister. I just want to know: the model that we have now introduced, on what practice, where in the world is it based?
Matthew Hancock: I have said that a similar sort of thing is happening in Ireland. No doubt that is well worth looking at.
Q219 Craig Whittaker: Minister, I just wanted to challenge you on your comments about inspiration. Do you not think you are taking a huge risk with these young people? You and I, privately, have spoken about the disconnect between SMEs and schools. We know from this inquiry that teachers lack a real understanding of the jobs that are out in the marketplace. Particularly, I want to challenge you that, even if the aspiration was to get that involvement with business, get teachers out and get people into schools, you have done it with no money. How on earth can we give them the responsibility without any additional money to go out and at least get the training themselves or, indeed, forge those links with business?
Matthew Hancock: Of course, life would be easier if there was a lot of money to spend, and we all know the reasons why there is not.
Q220 Craig Whittaker: I am not talking about a lot of money; I am talking about the money that was in the system before.
Matthew Hancock: There have had to be cuts across the board because of the economic inheritance. However, when you say there is no money, actually that is not true, because the schools have freedom over how to spend their budget. Schools are being held to account not only for their exam results but also for the destination of their pupils, and they have a legal duty to secure independent and impartial advice. They can choose how much money to spend on it within their school budgets. That is part of running a school and running a budget, and the flexibilities over that budget make that possible. It is not true to say that they do not have money to put behind this. They have the school’s budget, which they need to spend as they see appropriate.
Q221 Alex Cunningham: I was surprised at some of your opening remarks, Minister. We have heard from several witnesses that international evidence suggests that school autonomy does not lead to high-quality careers guidance, and from others that the quality of service is very varied across the country. Is the failure to provide adequate careers advice the price we need to pay for greater school autonomy?
Matthew Hancock: Absolutely not, no. The fact that the duty is in place from this year is evidence that that is not the case. Schools have to operate within tight budgets. We have protected the DSG, but, of course, times are tight and they have to secure independent and impartial advice. It is their legal duty to do that and we will be watching very carefully.
Q222 Alex Cunningham: Yes, but we are now being told that careers provision is being reduced in 80% of schools, and Ofsted have repeated what many of our witnesses have said, which is that the quality of provision varies from place to place. The schools are not delivering what you require of them, so what are you going to do about it?
Matthew Hancock: First, Ofsted have shown that, of course, delivery varies from place to place. Unfortunately, delivery has been poor for far too long in far too many places, so I will be taking very seriously the duty to secure impartial and independent advice, and we will be following it very closely. For instance, Ofsted will be reporting in the summer of next year on this specific area.
Q223 Alex Cunningham: Do you see an enhanced role for Ofsted, then, in order to try to tighten this up and correct what has not happened?
Matthew Hancock: In the new inspection framework, the provision of careers advice and the impact of getting enterprise into schools is a crucial area. On top of that, they are bringing in a new, thematic review by summer next year, so, yes, Ofsted have a very important role in this. If you are going to bring in a system which is about giving the duty to schools and then holding them to account-I can see the scepticism in the eyes of some people on the Committee-I would say that the job of implementation is the job we have to do.
Q224 Alex Cunningham: So is Ofsted going to give a score for the school’s delivery of the careers service? Will there be a specific element in their inspection that says, "You have to achieve this in order to get the tick in the box"?
Matthew Hancock: In the new inspection framework, it makes clear that they will take this into account.
Q225 Alex Cunningham: No, that is not what I asked, Minister. I asked: will there be a specific thing on careers advice that schools will have to prove that they are delivering in order to pass their inspection?
Matthew Hancock: They will have to show that they are delivering on the legal duty that they have, as set out in statute, with the guidance that we have set out about how to do that. The guidance, for instance, says, first, that where appropriate face-to-face careers guidance must be delivered, and secondly, that schools have to provide this in a way that is independent and impartial.
Q226 Alex Cunningham: So a school will not pass its Ofsted inspection if it is not providing the level of careers advice and guidance that you think is necessary.
Matthew Hancock: Ofsted will take that into account, and I think that is very important.
Alex Cunningham: Just into account-okay.
Q227 Pat Glass: Minister, Ofsted have said very clearly that they do not intend to inspect on a statutory duty, so how is that going to happen?
Matthew Hancock: In the new inspection framework from Ofsted, they are taking into account the-
Q228 Pat Glass: But the Chief Inspector has said very clearly he will not be inspecting on this statutory duty.
Matthew Hancock: He will be inspecting according to his new inspection framework, which includes this provision.
Q229 Pat Glass: Do you need to have a word with him about this? He is very clear that he is not going to.
Matthew Hancock: I am very clear that he will be following his new inspection framework, which includes this. I am sure that he is clear about that.
Q230 Alex Cunningham: Craig talked about funding, and we know that schools have not had the money passed over to them that was available through the Connexions service or the local authorities. Do you plan to invest more money in the careers service, a service which is clearly failing? Have you got a figure in mind? There has been some suggestion that maybe so much per pupil should be allocated to schools for this service, because it needs resources.
Matthew Hancock: There is some evidence that schools are putting in tens of thousands of pounds per school.
Q231 Alex Cunningham: Some evidence is not good enough, Minister. They need real resources, surely.
Matthew Hancock: I wish that we could increase the schools budget by more than we are, of course I do, but we are operating in a very difficult financial climate, for reasons that we all know, so the budget is tight. It is about the most effective use of resources, and I think we would all agree that the careers element of the Connexions service was not a very effective use of resources.
Q232 Alex Cunningham: But the schools do not have even have that money, do they? You have not passed that money on to them.
Matthew Hancock: The schools have freedom over their budgets, so that, instead of having to tick a box for each element of the ring fence, they have freedom and flexibility over how they deliver their budget, and they have a duty that they have to deliver to.
Q233 Alex Cunningham: But no additional money to deliver careers advice and guidance, as existed under Connexions.
Matthew Hancock: It is very clear that they have a legal duty and they have flexibility over their budget. Were we to have a windfall in Education, and if we did not have a budget deficit of the size that we do and we did not have all of that context, then of course it would be terrific to be able to put more money into lots of different areas of Government policy, but that is a fact of life in these times in dealing with the problems that we inherited. That is just real life.
Q234 Chair: This is a new architecture and a new regime. The evidence that we have heard is that, in some schools, notwithstanding destinations data and notwithstanding Ofsted, there appears to be very little activity-if not no activity-in providing independent careers advice and guidance. The key question, Minister, is: accepting that we are in early days and accepting the financial situation, if that were to continue-if the thematic review from Ofted suggests it continues-is this something that you are going to monitor and be prepared to act on, notwithstanding the constraints which we all understand are across budgets? It would be foolish, would it not, if it turned out that this regime and the lack of the transfer of resources meant that children, despite all the billions we are pouring into their education, were simply not taking the right options because we did not provide that vital element?
Matthew Hancock: I have been very clear that under the new structure, with the duty that only came in in September, we have to be vigilant. We have the Ofsted thematic review coming out in the summer. I will be taking very seriously any evidence that you have-and I saw some of it in some of your earlier hearings-of where schools are not acting to deliver on their duty. They have a legal duty in place, which I am sure they take very seriously, and I certainly take very seriously. Insisting that they deliver on that legal duty is very important.
Q235 Ian Mearns: Schools have a duty under law to have a daily act of collective worship, but most of them do not do it.
Matthew Hancock: My responsibility for careers advice means that I will be extremely vigilant and take very seriously any evidence that schools are not acting to deliver on their duty.
Q236 Chair: Just to further that point, the choices that young people make, which are influenced by this-this is the whole point of having this service-not only cost them but also cost the nation. If people go on to courses or go on to colleges and they pursue things that turn out to be wrong for them, that is not only bad for them but also financially disastrous. Do you agree it would be a great shame if we were to be wasting money on the wrong courses, taking people down the wrong path, simply because we did not provide effective enough signposting to get them on to the right path, which would be good for them, good for the economy and good for the country?
Matthew Hancock: I could not agree with you more. The very first thing I said was that careers guidance is vital. It is vital in order to help everybody to perform at their best in our country, which is critical if we are going to succeed both as a nation and as an economy, but also for every single individual to achieve their best. That is hugely important. The question that we are discussing is how you do that in an era when money is not freely available.
There are a couple of innovations that, no doubt, you have looked at. I do not think that a website alone is enough, and it is very clear in the guidance that pointing to a website is not enough. However, the National Careers Service website is very good, but even more exciting is the new Plotr website. It is a new way of spelling ‘plotter’. If you go on that website-it is not yet fully launched but it has some things up on it-you can go on to a map and look for opportunities in any area. There are apprenticeships on it and jobs for young people, and you can click through into them and get a feel for what that job is. It has been developed and funded by industry. It is true that that was at the request of the Prime Minister. It is a brilliant website. Government websites have to be very impartial, so they cannot take advantage of some of the new styles and technologies. Plotr is brilliant. Go on the website and have a look. I am not saying the website is enough but I am saying that we can be innovative in this area, and it is all about inspiring pupils to get the most out of them.
Q237 Alex Cunningham: Judith Denyer told us that she had never had an enquiry from a young person for information about the National Careers Service, perhaps because it is not on their radar. We are told it has a low portfolio, it lacks in promotion-even the Chief Executive said that; that is another major factor. Others tell us, including the service itself, that it could have a role working locally with schools, perhaps even delivering face-to-face support. Do you see the NCS as the saviour of the careers service?
Matthew Hancock: I certainly see the NCS as a very important part of the architecture. In its first five months-April to August-it had 26,000 interactions, whether phone calls or web chats, with people under the age of 18.
Q238 Alex Cunningham: A big number but a very small percentage, Minister.
Matthew Hancock: That is in the first five months, including over the summer holidays, and I certainly hope that that increases. Secondly, NCS is now getting established across the country physically; for instance, co-locating in Jobcentres. It is in lots of FE colleges, so that is vitally important. Another role that it can play, however, is making sure that, when local businesses want to go into schools and colleges, the logistics of that can be sorted out. For instance, another example of an organisation that is doing brilliant work in this area is STEMNET, where 40,000 STEM ambassadors are going into schools and colleges to show the great opportunities that you can have from a career in science, technology, engineering and maths. There are collaborations that are growing across the country. I was in Stevenage, where MBDA, the missile company, had a seminar with local schools, the local college and local employers to get them all into the same place in terms of getting companies interested.
This sort of bottom-up activity is hugely valuable and, compared to a top-down Government approach, is really inspiring. There is a reason in the research why this is important, and that is that the research shows that one of the reasons that social mobility is blocked-and Alan Milburn, again, is very passionate on this-is that the networks that young people often rely on to get jobs tend to be the networks of their parents. That means that children of parents in well-paid jobs tend to have networks in those sorts of jobs, and children of parents who are either unemployed or in low-paid jobs tend to be in those sorts of jobs. Breaking those networks up so that they can be accessed by people who do not have access to them is extremely important, and a careers adviser, however brilliant, cannot do that, because they are giving advice to many different students. However, getting companies and employers into schools can help open that up, and it is a really important step.
Q239 Neil Carmichael: When do you think children should be experiencing careers advice? What is the optimum age when it should start?
Matthew Hancock: I see careers advice as coming from a whole multitude of sources, so, in an informal sense, careers advice starts very early. I go to primary schools, as I am sure you do, and have six and seven-year-olds talking about what they want to do. My son constantly tells me he wants to be a fireman. Children think about this sort of stuff in a totally informal way from a very early age but, in a more formal sense, we are extending downwards, to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds, the duty to secure independent and impartial advice, and I think that is a good age to start.
Q240 Neil Carmichael: Certainly, because the evidence we have taken suggests that that is a good starting time. We have heard from pupils and students that they would like to have a clearer idea of where they need to go starting to be formed around about that time. Because, of course, if we are looking at, say, engineering and manufacturing, which depend on, say, STEM subjects being promoted, choices have to be made around about that time to effectively shape the choices that pupils are going to be making for the sorts of careers they are going to have.
Matthew Hancock: Yes, I agree. I think it is really important, for the choice of what subjects to take at GCSE, to understand the links between what you might want to do and what subjects you should take. It is also important to motivate, because a lot of the questions around improving performance-especially in English and maths-are about motivation: why do I have to study hard in this subject? What is the point? Why am I doing these calculations this way? The end goal can be a very practical motivator, so I agree.
Q241 Neil Carmichael: The thing about the exam system and the league tables that we have had in the past is that they have encouraged schools to get as many A*s to Cs as possible and so on-we all know the problem-rather than focus on what is necessarily beneficial for the pupil. The consequence, of course, is that we end up wondering where the engineers are, and it is a little bit too late once we have discovered we do not have any in the pipeline. Are you confident that the structures you have in place at school level are strong enough to be as prescriptive and directive as necessary to funnel young people into those areas?
Matthew Hancock: Yes. When we have the duty extended downward. I think that we will, but I do not think that nearly enough of this happens. The structures are there but we must do much more.
Q242 Neil Carmichael: What do you have in mind?
Matthew Hancock: First, ensuring delivery on the duty. Implementation of the duty is vital along with, as we have talked about, making sure that schools follow their statutory duty, but also encouraging employers to get involved and-I have just spoken about STEMNET-making more of those sorts of ambassadors. I have been working very hard with the Royal Academy of Engineering to ensure that there are engineering qualifications at Key Stage 4 that fit the accountability tables, and that they are rigorous, stretching and motivating. A lot of the evidence shows that the motivation that can come from a course like an engineering qualification can then make pupils do better in maths and English, because they know what they are doing it for.
Q243 Neil Carmichael: The issue is, as you have already said, why pupils want to do maths, why they want to get better and what kind of career direction they see for themselves at the key time when they are making their choices.
Matthew Hancock: Exactly.
Q244 Neil Carmichael: What I am driving at is what mechanisms you think we should have in schools to make that happen.
Matthew Hancock: We should have delivery on the statutory duty, and accountability for it through better destination data and through Ofsted. I would, however, just pick up on one other thing that was implied in your question. The single most powerful determinant of a pupil’s success is their exam results and their exam performance, and we must not lose sight of that. Within exam results, the single best determinant of success is exam results in English and maths. If we are looking at the big picture, to enhance social mobility and make sure everybody reaches their potential-these sound like warm words, but they are absolutely vital behind the education reforms across the piece-we have to make sure that we deliver on improving standards in English, maths and qualifications at Key Stage 4 and 5.
Q245 Neil Carmichael: EBacc should certainly help us do that, because that forces the issue very much on the agenda. One other way of measuring success of schools, though, is destinations after school. Do you agree with that?
Matthew Hancock: I do. I am very passionate about the destinations data that have been published this summer for the first time, and I want to see them extended.
Q246 Neil Carmichael: Presumably extended to colleges as well.
Matthew Hancock: To colleges and, in fact, last week, I announced that we would have a comparable data publication across colleges and schools.
Chair: We will be focusing on accountability a little later.
Q247 Neil Carmichael: Good. We have two documents for schools, the statutory guidance and the practical guide, which is great, but would the message not be strengthened by combining those two into one super-document for schools?
Matthew Hancock: I am not sure. If there is a broad consensus around that, then I am not against it. In terms of delivering the advice on how the duty is implemented, I am completely open to that. They are two documents but they should be read in parallel.
Q248 Neil Carmichael: You have stressed, quite rightly, that business needs to get into schools, and that schools need to be thinking about how to develop those links. What kind of mechanisms do you think schools should be using to start developing those links? You said earlier, "If you want to be a nurse, get the nurses in". Fair enough, but the first point is whether pupils already know they want to be a nurse or do they suddenly see a nurse and think, "That is what I want to be"? It is a chicken-and-egg situation, is it not, to a large extent?
Matthew Hancock: Yes. I intended it the way that you imagine might work better, which is getting lots of people from different walks of life in front of pupils whilst they are making these sorts of decisions, because then they can look at the different careers and see whether that is what they want to do. Mechanisms to support that could be through a role for LEPs, as was suggested by Michael Heseltine-we already have STEMNET in that area-or through the National Careers Service playing a role in the logistics of organising it. As you say, often schools would not know which employers to approach and, even if employers want to be supportive and help, the logistics of making it happen can be difficult. So I would to see more work in that area, but I would like to see it in a way that works at a local level.
Q249 Ian Mearns: That is very laudable, Minister, but I am not convinced that we are yet at all sure about how the practicalities of that will work on the ground. In my own locality-Gateshead, north-east of England-the biggest private sector employer is well known locally: AkzoNobel, which produces paint. They have about 980 employees on site in Gateshead. After them, the vast majority of other employers are SMEs, and there are hundreds and hundreds of SMEs up there, but what the SMES, by and large, do not have is the capacity to get out into schools to do an awful lot of this donkey work. Because there is an absence of very large employers who have that capacity, it cannot fall on companies like AkzoNobel to do the job on behalf of everybody. So the practicalities of doing this on the ground are going to be quite difficult to deliver in many locations.
Matthew Hancock: Of course, not every company is going to be able to or want to do it, but we have to make it as easy as possible, so that those who want to give up their time but not get into the nuts and bolts of organising it can do it as easily as possible. There is some best practice around. Both Leeds and Liverpool, as part of their City Deals, are working on doing exactly this and helping to bring enterprise into school. There is also a great scheme in Wandsworth, which is all about getting enterprise into school. I mentioned a couple that I visited as well. In Peterborough, there is a link-up between local businesses, the college and the Jobcentre Plus, called Jobsmart, which is about providing careers advice in a way that is relevant to local employers as well. There is best practice and we need to spread it.
Q250 Alex Cunningham: They are great examples, Minister, and we would like to see that replicated across the country. I come back to this idea about what the role of the NCS is. Can you describe what the NCS looks like on the ground locally, in Gateshead or in Stockton-on-Tees, actually working with schools in order to make this happen? What does it look like and are there going to be the resources-and I am sorry to harp on about resources-for them to be able to create those opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in schools?
Matthew Hancock: The NCS has just under £90 million in funding and its role is to provide face-to-face advice to adults, but also schools are there to secure face-to-face advice, where that is appropriate, to children. It is physically based in almost every jobcentre in the country now.
Q251 Alex Cunningham: What is it going to do, Minister?
Matthew Hancock: It is going to give advice on a face-to-face basis. It also has a web service, as in not only a website but web conversations, web chats.
Q252 Alex Cunningham: But we are not going to have local people on the ground as part of the NCS working with employers and working with schools in order to realise your vision.
Matthew Hancock: There are NCS people on the ground throughout the country.
Q253 Chair: Can you explain one thing, because I do not really understand you? Schools can commission advice and guidance from whoever they wish. They can commission it from anyone in the country at all. They do not have to be qualified and they do not have to meet the matrix standard. They can commission from absolutely anybody, except the National Careers Service. Can you explain that?
Matthew Hancock: Clearly, the matrix standard is the standard of those who have qualifications in this area. I want to see schools commission from a multitude of people.
Q254 Chair: Except the National Careers Service. That is as bizarre as it looks, is it not? The only people you cannot commission from are the National Careers Service.
Matthew Hancock: There are very complicated rules around that.
Q255 Alex Cunningham: Will you change those rules, Minister?
Matthew Hancock: I think that is beyond even my gift.
Q256 Chair: Will you consider doing so?
Matthew Hancock: What schools can do is commission NCS prime contractors. The NCS is delivered through prime contractors, branded NCS, so schools can commission through the contractors. In a local area, is a school likely to want to commission the national NCS? That is unlikely but it may want to commission the prime contractor who is delivering NCS on the ground.
Q257 Ian Mearns: I am sorry to interrupt, but, Minister, I think schools will be as bemused as anybody else out there about who they can trust in terms of delivering the service. Because there is a multiplicity of potential contractors and there are an awful lot of organisations which used to be involved in delivering careers work prior to the invention of Connexions, schools will be looking for independent and impartial advice and guidance themselves on who they can get to provide a good level and quality of service for their young people.
Matthew Hancock: We are very clear. We have provided guidance on the provision of advice and guidance, so the guidance is there on how to secure the guidance.
Q258 Neil Carmichael: You are talking about kitemarks and so on in the guidance, but they seem to be optional and certainly not obligatory, so why not?
Matthew Hancock: Precisely for the reason we were talking about before: we want a whole multitude of people to be able to interact with pupils to show them what they can get out of their lives. It is precisely because we do not want to be restrictive; we want to be very open about it. This is about being driven by the outcomes, not by the inputs. I said that at the start, but I want to stress it.
Q259 Neil Carmichael: The mythbuster in the practical guide says that schools can employ in-house advisers but that needs to be supplemented by external sources. External sources, apparently, are website and telephone helplines. Are they necessarily independent?
Matthew Hancock: The NCS website certainly is independent, and the phone line and the web chat.
Q260 Neil Carmichael: The statutory guidance says that schools are required to establish and maintain links with post-16 education. What happens if they do not?
Matthew Hancock: Then they are in breach of the duty to provide independent and impartial advice.
Q261 Neil Carmichael: You simply say that, and that is it, is it?
Matthew Hancock: We have talked about the need to make sure that they follow that independent and impartial advice.
Q262 Neil Carmichael: If they do not, what happens?
Matthew Hancock: We will take it very seriously. We are looking towards the Ofsted review in the summer, which will be a good moment to consider how the schools are delivering on their duty.
Q263 Craig Whittaker: Minister, I am a bit confused. In fact, I am incredibly confused. If I am confused, I am sure that schools must be confused. You said, "We want to make it as easy as possible for businesses and enterprises to get involved in schools". You have said, "We recognise best practice and we need to spread it". You have said, "We want a whole multitude of people to get involved".
Matthew Hancock: Yes.
Craig Whittaker: Why, then, is it that the majority-in fact, it was a unanimous verdict-of evidence that we have taken on this Committee during this inquiry is that there is no coherence at all in the career guidance services offered to young people? How do you respond to that?
Matthew Hancock: I do not know what you are looking for. Are you looking for-
Q264 Craig Whittaker: All the things that you mentioned have been going on for years in this country. STEM, for example, has been happening; it has not just happened in the last few months. Businesses going into schools has been happening. There is, however, no coherence on the ground. It is a postcode lottery. In fact, some people have said it goes beyond that: there is just no coherence at all from one school to the next. You keep saying "we"-who is "we"? I know you have said very clearly that you have Ofsted and all those things, but how are you, as the person for responsibility for careers guidance in this country, going to ensure that children get the careers guidance they need?
Matthew Hancock: In schools, by giving the school a duty to secure independent and impartial advice, and then holding them to account for it.
Q265 Craig Whittaker: But it is not happening. That is the problem. There is no coherence on the ground to say that what you are telling us is physically happening at the coal face.
Matthew Hancock: I entirely agree with you that this area has not been good enough for a long time. I dispute the idea-and I think most people are agreed on this-that a top-down Connexions-type service is the answer, because, when that was in operation, the problem was there, if not greater, and the 2010 Ofsted report into this was damning. So the question is how we deliver it in the future. I do think that it will look different in different areas, according to local labour markets, for instance. In some areas where there are mostly small and medium-sized enterprises, you will get a very different picture from those where most employment is public sector, for instance, because different parts of the country are different.
Q266 Craig Whittaker: You keep saying "we", but the people who are delivering this, or are meant to be delivering this, on the ground feel very strongly that there is no coherence in the policy, and it will not happen and it is not happening.
Matthew Hancock: The key coherence in the policy is that there is a duty on schools to provide independent and impartial advice. That is coherent. It is very clear.
Q267 Craig Whittaker: What action are you physically going to take in a year’s time-we admit it has only been up and running for a few months-against schools that are not delivering coherent guidance to young people?
Matthew Hancock: We will take that very seriously. I am very happy to come back and talk about that whenever you ask me to, of course, but particularly in the light of the Ofsted thematic review in the summer. I think now would be too early to say specifically, but what I do say is that I would take it very seriously indeed.
Q268 Alex Cunningham: Can you see a school being stripped of that responsibility and it being passed to someone else because they failed to deliver?
Matthew Hancock: The best thing to do is to make it clear that we expect the duty to be delivered on, to then review its operation at the end of the school year, and then to consider what next when the time is appropriate.
Q269 Craig Whittaker: I just want to take you back to the National Careers Service, because you said it was complex why schools could not commission their services directly for face-to-face guidance, for example. Why is it complex?
Matthew Hancock: What matters is that schools can commission from the prime contractors. NCS is delivered on the ground through contracting arrangements, so NCS contracts companies and other organisations to deliver the careers advice, and the schools can contract the prime contractors from the NCS, as opposed to the national overarching body, which itself contracts in order to deliver. Do you see what I mean?
Q270 Craig Whittaker: Because the National Careers Service does not physically do the work themselves, that is the reason why-is that what you are saying? What is so complex about that?
Matthew Hancock: You might ask that a school contracts the NCS to contract on its behalf in order to get the provision. I think it is better that, if the schools are going to contract an NCS contractor, they directly contract the contractor.
Q271 Craig Whittaker: If it is true, as you say, that "most, if not all, young people would benefit from individual, face-to-face careers guidance to enable them to make informed decisions about future options based on a consideration of the wealth of information available from a range of sources and media", why has the Department not ensured that this is delivered by making it compulsory for all young people to have?
Matthew Hancock: Because we have said in the guidance that it is clear that it should happen where it is appropriate. To make it compulsory would be to extend that to where it is appropriate and where it is not appropriate.
Q272 Craig Whittaker: Are you saying, then, that face-to-face is not appropriate for some young people?
Matthew Hancock: I am saying that face-to-face with a professional careers adviser is not always and in every circumstance necessary. That is the implication.
Q273 Ian Mearns: Minister, would you accept that there is a danger that some schools may not be able to provide the impartial and independent advice and guidance that most of us would want to see, when one of the main drivers in the system from the perspective of the schools is to keep up the pupil numbers, particularly going into sixth form? I have said this in this Committee a number of times: when the careers service was established, with contracting going on, in the late 1980s, Malcolm Wicks, our late colleague, described what had been taking place in some schools as akin to pensions mis-selling. In other words, youngsters were being advised that the sixth form was the best place for them, because the sixth-form place generated a lot of money for the school. Are you not concerned that that may recur?
Matthew Hancock: I hope that the destination data make it very clear that the accountability of schools is for the achievement of their pupils as well as the exam results, so I hope that, if that occurs, the destination data mitigate against it.
Q274 Ian Mearns: I would urge you to look at historical evidence, because, quite clearly, there is historical evidence that that was fairly wide-scale in previous careers manifestations, and I have a big concern that that could recur.
The BIS Committee said in their recent report on apprenticeships that while acknowledging that the Education Act 2011 legislates for the inclusion of apprenticeships in careers guidance, awareness and resources about apprenticeships in schools and colleges remained lacking. The Committee recommended that the DfE "does more to assist schools in the promotion of vocational training in the curriculum (for example, by providing literature, training to teachers and information for careers advisers about apprenticeships)". Do you agree that there is such a gap, and what are you planning to do to address that concern if there is a gap?
Matthew Hancock: Yes. We have the National Apprenticeship Service, which is run out of the Skills Funding Agency and whose job is to provide that sort of information and advice and to encourage the uptake of apprenticeships. The evidence on the impact of apprenticeships on somebody’s life chances is very striking and very positive. In some cases, the value added in terms of earnings over a lifetime can be higher than the value added of the average person going to university. Apprenticeships are a big part of the answer to our skills gap. They are very positive. All the evidence shows they are very positive for employers, for the individuals and in terms of plugging the nation’s skills gap.
Q275 Chair: What incentive is there? We have heard that there is a stark contrast between schools with a sixth form and schools without a sixth form. If it has a sixth form, it has absolutely no incentive whatever to promote apprenticeships to its pupils, so what can you do about that?
Matthew Hancock: First, I would be very interested to read your evidence on it. The second thing is that the goal of destinations data is to improve this, because it is not quite true to say that the school has no incentive to promote an apprenticeship. Even if a school looks to these financial incentives, rather than to the best interests of every child, there are many children leaving at 16 who are not going to go on into a sixth form. They may be looking to an FE college or to work without training this year-although, with the raising of the participation age, that is no longer going to be an option-or they may be looking to an apprenticeship. In that case, for students who are not going to go into the sixth form, the school does not have a structural reason for a biased case.
Q276 Chair: Put another away, for someone who could continue and is likely to get the results to allow them to continue into the sixth form, what incentive is there for the school to make them aware of the full range of options? I would suggest that there is none.
Matthew Hancock: There is the destination data, and that is why I am so passionate about them. It is one of the reasons.
Q277 Alex Cunningham: I was interested in you saying that you would like to look at the evidence. Yesterday, the Richard report came out, and there is a quote from what he said: "During this review, I heard too often that too many schools are doing little to inform their pupils that apprenticeships are a viable alternative to university and, in some cases, are actively deterring capable pupils from pursuing this route". Will you go back and look at that report and then form some opinions and actions in order to ensure that the young person is put first and the school is not?
Matthew Hancock: Absolutely. I have read the report, as you would imagine, and I think it is excellent. I was asking to see your evidence as well. Destination data are the accountability mechanism that we have in force here, but I am keen to keep looking at this.
Q278 Ian Mearns: On the issue of the National Apprenticeship Service-you have pre-empted my next question to a certain extent-do you think that there should be a statutory duty on schools to allow the National Apprenticeship Service into schools, and a duty on the National Apprenticeship Service itself to get into schools?
Matthew Hancock: We could certainly look at that. The National Apprenticeship Service is a really effective organisation. Its impact on numbers and take-up has been very positive.
Q279 Ian Mearns: We have heard-the Chairman has regularly referred to this fact, for instance, in schools that he has visited-that the teaching staff and senior management staff quite often have not even been anywhere near the local FE college. If there is not that synergy going on between local institutions, how are we going to secure the idea that the schools have to allow an organisation like the National Apprenticeship Service access to its pupils?
Matthew Hancock: I am very happy to look at that. I would say that most schools have a good relationship with an FE college and often deliver their vocational training through FE colleges for 14-to-16 and Key Stage 5 students. The other thing is that we have relaxed the rules to allow industry practitioners in to teach vocational courses. That is a really important step because it means that, by diversifying the backgrounds of teachers in this space, you just get more people who perhaps have been apprentices themselves and who certainly have worked in industry more recently, so that is a step that I hope will be helpful in that area.
Q280 Ian Mearns: I am currently working with the Industry and Parliament Trust and, at a number of companies I have visited, I have been impressed by the number of middle and even senior managers in companies who started off via the apprenticeship route and have progressed through the companies themselves, so I could not overestimate how important that particular route is. Do you think, therefore, that there is something that we need to do in terms of making sure that schools are much more switched-on and proactive about promoting a vocational route for some of their pupils, rather than the traditional academic route?
Matthew Hancock: Yes. I see that as partly about implementing the duty, which we have talked a lot about. I see it also as making sure that the vocational route is seen and regarded as high-quality and high-calibre. There has long been a drive for Britain to be better at celebrating vocational success and occupational qualifications in particular. We look across the world and see in some of the economies that are doing really well-Germany, for instance-that vocational, and specifically occupational, training is held in much higher regard. I am very clear that that is possible, but the way to do it has to be through improving the quality of vocational qualifications, and the rigour and the standards in them.
Last week, we announced that we are going to, at Key Stage 5, go down the same path that we have gone down already at Key Stage 4 in narrowing the number of vocational qualifications that will count in league tables, so that only the highest-quality and most stretching ones are there. The route to improving the calibre of vocational qualifications, which I think many people want to do-and I certainly want to do-is to make sure that vocational qualifications are more stretching, more rigorous and a higher quality, and then they will be regarded as such.
Q281 Pat Glass: Can we return to the accountability issues around all of this? I think that is what is causing us the greatest concern. We have heard a lot of evidence from schools and from colleges that there are some schools that will not allow even the prospectus from the local college to be distributed, or employers into the schools. If you come across situations like that, what will you do about it?
Matthew Hancock: The first thing is that I would expect Ofsted to take it seriously, but if schools are not following the statutory duty-and we have talked about that-I would take that very seriously.
Q282 Chair: Would they fulfil it? If they have Geoff the geography teacher taking a bit of a lead on this and doing a bit of training, and they direct to websites, is that a tick in the box? They have shown them where the websites are, they are pointing out the excellent Harry Plotr sites and all the rest of it to go to. Is that fulfilling the duty?
Matthew Hancock: It is very clear that just pointing students to the website is not enough, and the new Ofsted framework from September 2012 says that, when evaluating the achievement of pupils, inspectors consider how well pupils are prepared for the next stage of their education, training or employment. We were talking about Ofsted before, and that is one of the pieces of accountability, with external league-table accountability as the second piece.
Q283 Pat Glass: I am having a little bit of difficulty squaring this circle. Ofsted has said very clearly they will not inspect against a statutory duty in individual schools. I understand that they are looking at a thematic review to whether this is working across the piece, but are you saying very clearly that Ofsted has a role in inspecting the duty in individual schools?
Matthew Hancock: All I can do is quote Ofsted to you to explain where we are coming from on this. The new Ofsted framework, which was published in September, says that, when evaluating the achievement of pupils, they will consider how well pupils are prepared for the next stage.
Q284 Pat Glass: But there are lots of ways in which you consider whether pupils are prepared for the next stage.
Matthew Hancock: Yes, but what matters in all of this is not the process or the input. What matters is the outcome for children. We have to be very clear that the focus is on improving the life chances of children rather than on any particular part of the process. Ofsted are very clear that they will look-exactly as you say-at how well pupils are prepared for the next stage, including employment, if that includes employment. Looking at that preparation and the outcome for the pupils will, of course, have a bearing on what is done to deliver on it. It comes down to the whole approach, instead of a top-down, inputs-based approach, which was not working.
Q285 Pat Glass: Do you understand what our concerns are, when Ofsted are telling us that they will not inspect the duty in individual schools? That is why we are concerned.
Matthew Hancock: Yes, but my concern is about whether children get the best start in life, and Ofsted are very clear that they will consider how well pupils are prepared for the next stage. Frankly, my concern is to make sure that children are well prepared for the next stage, and there are lots of ways of doing that and lots of ways we have been talking about today. I am not, however, going to defend one delivery system of how to get pupils there, not least because the attempt to do that in the past has failed and we need to be much better at it.
Q286 Chair: Do you know how long Ofsted spend in schools? It is not terribly long, and they are going to consider it. Will every Ofsted report on a school have a paragraph that covers this, or not? If it does not even mention it, then there is no way for parents or anyone else to be able to judge whether or not the school is doing it, because Ofsted might have considered it but they are not providing an evaluation of it.
Matthew Hancock: That is a question for Sir Michael.
Q287 Pat Glass: Can I ask you about destination measures?
Matthew Hancock: Yes.
Pat Glass: People like me have been calling for destination measures for a long time. My view is that destination measures should be five years. Are we talking six months, not five years?
Matthew Hancock: Yes, I agree that destination measures should be much longerterm. Of course, it takes a few years for pupils to reach their destination, so you have to start measuring it and the picture will build up as you start to do so. In the first instance, the first destination is important-those are the data you have-and then, as I have said, I would like to see it expanded.
Q288 Pat Glass: So schools will be judged on what happens to their children in five years’ time, how many are in employment, how many are in higher education, how many are in prison and how many are homeless.
Matthew Hancock: I certainly want to see it expanded. It was before I was in post, but they rightly wanted to get something out, even though it was only one year’s data. I think it is better to publish what we have while we collect the longer-term data.
Q289 Pat Glass: Is there an intention that employment destinations will be measured as part of this?
Matthew Hancock: We are working on how that can be achieved.
Q290 Pat Glass: One of the pieces of evidence that we got very strongly and that everyone agreed on was that part of the statutory duty should be that schools are under a duty to produce a plan to show very clearly how they are going to deliver this statutory duty and how they are going to resource it. Is that something that you would find helpful or that you would consider?
Matthew Hancock: I will certainly consider that in the updating of the guidance on the duty. After all, we are changing the duty, as you know, to extend it through the age range to sixth-formers and to 12 and 13-year-olds.
Q291 Siobhain McDonagh: I just want to know about targeted support. Are you concerned about the provision that is made for targeted groups, and who benefits from the provision and who misses out? It seems that those with special educational needs are included but those who are likely to be NEET are not necessarily included. Is there a need for a further definition of who should benefit?
Matthew Hancock: This is a really important area, and the link-up between schools and local authorities on early targeting and data-sharing on which pupils are likely to become NEET, and then on putting in place early steps to deal with it, is absolutely crucial. The research shows that it is possible, quite early on, to predict, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, who is most at risk of becoming NEET, whether before or after the age of 16. The legal duty to reduce NEETs falls on local authorities, in the same way that the legal duty to increase the participation age falls on local authorities. It is their responsibility to work with schools in their area, whether they are academies or not, to identify who is likely to go into that category and to deal with it. I think that is really important.
Q292 Siobhain McDonagh: What are you doing to address the concern about the lack of consultation with local authorities in awarding the Youth Contract? Do you accept that there is a risk of duplication of services or the provision of services without reference to local needs?
Matthew Hancock: We need to do more in this area, so I do not think we should be critical of any particular effort to improve this. In fact, the best practice is where local authorities are involved, and it is very clear that, in some areas, that works really well.
Q293 Siobhain McDonagh: Is there any reason why local authorities were not included in the consultation on the letting of the Youth Contract?
Matthew Hancock: Because we wanted to make sure that this happened in a way that worked and was appropriate to the local circumstances and, in nearly all cases, that did involve discussions with the local authority, I think.
Q294 Siobhain McDonagh: The LGA and other local government bodies are suggesting that that was not the case.
Matthew Hancock: I am talking to the LGA about this area, and there is a huge amount that we need to do, not least in anticipation of raising the participation age over the next three years.
Q295 Ian Mearns: We were looking at age. I understand that we are looking at Year 8 as being a way to start, but we have heard evidence from some people about some early work even younger, possibly at the end of primary school. Have you any particular thoughts about that?
Matthew Hancock: I certainly would not rule it out. Earlier, I was talking about my four-year-old son who wants to be a fireman.
Ian Mearns: Have you told him about the pension?
Matthew Hancock: I am looking forward to him getting some careers advice. Informally, it happens at all ages. It happens in some primary schools in wider discussions, but I think, at that age, we would not want to be too prescriptive.
Q296 Ian Mearns: In terms of firming your thinking up, because you are the Minister, are you going to look for any evidence about that from around the world on what other people are doing?
Matthew Hancock: I am always happy to look at evidence from around the world, but we do not have any plans at the moment.
Chair: Thank you very much, Minister.
Matthew Hancock: A great pleasure.