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Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 139:


The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raised the question in Committee as to whether the provisions which now form paragraph 15 of Schedule 7 amount to retrospective legislation. While we do not accept that the paragraph is technically retrospective, we have looked at it again in the light of the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness and other Members of the Committee.

While we are clear that we shall do nothing to suggest any lessening of our commitment to quality in post-16 education, we are equally clear that schools should have every reasonable opportunity to address problems and to raise the quality of their sixth-form provision to meet the required standard, and we recognise that this should be the case before the schedule comes into force, as after.

Therefore, we propose to remove the provision. The noble Baroness may be further reassured to know that the judgment that a sixth-form is inadequate will not be made in the reports of school inspections carried out before April 2001, which is when we expect to bring into effect the powers in Schedule 7.

I hope that this amendment meets the concerns of noble Lords. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I rise to thank the Minister. I am delighted that he listened to what we said in Committee. It was wise to move in that

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direction because there was much concern among the colleges and providers of sixth-form education. I am delighted that the Government have made those changes.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 102 [Provision of services]:

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Gardner of Parkes): My Lords, I must tell the House that, if Amendment No. 140 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 141.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 140:


    Page 45, line 5, leave out ("The Secretary of State may") and insert ("Having regard to his duties under sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 and sections 43, 44 and 45 of the Education Act 1997, the Secretary of State may also").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment relates to the Careers Service in its new guise, the Connexions service. In the debate in Committee, the Minister made it clear that the Careers Service as it currently exists will be subsumed within the new Connexions service. As the Minister also made clear, the new service is to be an ambitious, interdepartmental initiative aimed at providing a comprehensive, integrated service for 13 to 19 year-olds. It will build on the existing services for young people, including the Youth Service and the Careers Service, and also pull in other partners such as the LEAs, the health authorities, the Probation Service and the social services. It will build on and extend current services which are presently the statutory responsibility of the Secretary of State.

As regards the Careers Service, the Minister made it clear that Clause 102 is about additional powers. It does not destroy old duties. As yet, it is uncertain how the new Connexions service will work, but the Minister said that she wanted it to be evolutionary and to grow from bottom up. The Government are committed to resourcing the new Connexions service properly so that every 13 to 19 year-old, whatever his or her circumstances, has access to the help needed. The estimated cost is £500 million at a minimum. The Minister said that half of that would come from the current budget for the Careers Service, some of it from the current Youth Service and some, she hoped, from new money from the comprehensive spending review now being undertaken.

The prime aim of the new Connexions service is to help bring back the 160,000 drop-outs in the 16 to 19 year-old group who leave school with few or no qualifications and fail to find employment or to continue in any education or training. We on these Benches applaud that initiative. The aim is ultimately to provide a mentor for every 10 of those drop-outs. If that is achieved, eventually 16,000 people will be working as mentors.

What then of the Careers Service? It currently employs 7,000 people and the Youth Service about 3,000 people. Even if all those working in both services were employed in the new mentoring posts there would not be enough. Many of them are neither qualified by

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their current training nor wish to move to being mentors to those who currently drop out of education. The Minister assures us that that is fine because the current Careers Service will continue. The duty of the Secretary of State is to ensure that every child between 13 and 16 receives careers information advice and any necessary guidance. The Minister clearly stated:


    "every young person will have access to a personal adviser. That access will be available according to his or her need. Not every young person will have a personal adviser, but every young person who needs such support will have access to one".--[Official Report, 17/2/00; col. 1380.]

In reply to further queries, the Minister categorically stated at col. 1384:


    "there is no sense in which the Government intend to change the provision of important careers advice for pupils and students at school or in FE colleges. That service will continue ... under the auspices of the Connexions service ... All that Clause 99 [now Clause 102] does is to empower the Secretary of State to provide some additional services".

The "some additional services" is 16,000 personal mentors. The problem is that the sums do not add up. How can it fund the new mentoring service, which will cost close to £500 million, without new money now? If the Careers Service is to continue to do what it has been doing in providing careers advice, information and guidance to 90 per cent of those who remain within the school and college framework, there is little if anything to divert from its £250 million budget? The same applies to the Youth Service, which likewise has no slack in its funding. On the contrary, during the past few years most local authorities have cut the Youth Service to the absolute bone.

Yet the provision of these mainstream services to those who are not socially excluded is vitally important. Yesterday, we spoke of the waste involved in young people making bad choices and studying the wrong subject in their first year at university. But young people need guidance, even if they are not university material, in terms of careers. They need to be informed of the options that are open to them because the choices are so wide. They need guidance in making choices between the different offerings. Even if they are taking GCSEs, NVQs and A-levels, they need advice as to whether to stay on at school or to take work-based training. There are many choices.

The world has changed so radically that neither parents nor teachers are in a position to provide the necessary guidance. If anything, we need to improve the quality of careers guidance provided to mainstream students in further education colleges. That is the reason for tabling the amendment.

What the Minister said in Committee does not add up. She cannot have her cake and eat it. She cannot have her new Connexions service, with which we have much sympathy, and continue to provide the same quantity and quality of careers advice, information and guidance. Therefore, the amendment puts on the face of the Bill the duties of the Minister under, first, the Employment and Training Act 1973 and, secondly, under the Education Act 1997. That is why we have phrased the amendment in such a way.

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We on these Benches applaud the new Connexions initiative to bring in the socially excluded. It is right to give them high priority. However, the scheme cannot be funded from existing resources, nor by switching existing services. The purpose of the amendment is to make it quite clear that the initiative is in addition to existing duties already incumbent on the Secretary of State, and not an alternative. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Baroness David: My Lords, I have attached my name to the amendment and I want to speak to it and support what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said so ably. I thank the Minister for the letter that she wrote to me. It was helpful, but there are still anxieties and questions to be asked.

I repeat what the noble Baroness said: there is strong support for the intentions underlying the new Connexions service, but there is still concern about its impact on the careers education and guidance available to all young people between the ages of 13 and 19.

We do not see how the duty of the Secretary of State in Sections 8 to 10 of the 1973 Act is to be met. Government statements repeatedly refer to the fact that it is designed as a universal service. Most of the information available so far about the design of the service is addressed to the needs of young people who have dropped out of education, training or employment, or are at risk of so doing. That is evident in the two key features of the service: the emphasis on bringing together the variety of agencies which currently deal with the needs of young people at risk and the focus on the new profession of personal adviser who will provide continuity of help in relation to the full range of these problems.

The Government estimate that they will require between 15,000 and 20,000 personal advisers. Where are they to come from? There are currently just over 7,000 careers advisers in the whole of England, Scotland and Wales. How many will become personal advisers? How many will remain as careers advisers? All personal advisers will be offering careers awareness and guidance. My noble friend Lord Bach said that on 15th February. Given that most of them will have no previous experience of the work, how are they to develop the necessary competencies within the time available?

There are approximately 3½ million to 4 million young people between the ages of 13 and 19. The ratio of personal adviser to young person is likely to be about 1:200. Since some young people are to receive intense support, the support provided to others is likely to be limited. How are personal advisers to deliver the wide range of services expected of them?

There is particular confusion about the arrangements for schools. Here, the first point of advice is to be the learning mentor. The notion of learning mentors is based on the Excellence in Cities programme, where their role in practice is confined to working intensely with pupils at risk of dropping out.

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Has any evaluation been carried out of this work? Is it now the intention that all pupils will have learning mentors? How will they relate to careers programmes and to pastoral care structures within the schools?

The Minister has assured me that schools will continue to receive the impartial advice they need on careers matters through the Connexions service. If so, will the impartiality of their advice in relation to choice at 16 be assured, given that the learning mentors, and I think the personal advisers, will be appointed and managed by head teachers, who perhaps have an interest in 11 to 18 schools in students staying on with them; or will it continue to be offered by careers advisers based outside schools, as in the present Careers Service? If so, will there be enough?

The Careers Service provides up-to-date knowledge of the labour market, as well as impartial advice. It also offers careers library support, in-service training for teachers, work experience programmes, placement activities and other services. Is this to continue as the framework within which the Secretary of State carries out his duty under the 1973 Act to provide a careers service to students in schools and colleges? Can the Secretary of State provide assurance that the quality and extent of these services for all young people will be sustained?

In view of the growing complexity of options and pathways post-16 (and I congratulate the Government on these options), will the service include in-depth guidance for all who need it, including those who are achieving well in school but are unclear about their future plans? They may be bright and have five O-levels or more but not have the maturity and knowledge to reach sensible decisions without outside guidance. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, made that point.

About finance, the budget for the new service is to comprise the existing Careers Service budget (some £236 million), an approximately similar amount from other sources and whatever additional funding is released following the year 2000 spending review. Given the multiple nature of the service, why is the only budget to be subsumed that of the Careers Service? Why is not the strategy to be adopted for the Careers Service that being adopted for the youth service, for the mainstream work to remain outside Connexions and to continue in tandem with the new service?

The current rearrangements offer a major opportunity for encouraging individuals to know where to access good quality guidance throughout life. There is a risk that instead there will be separate "brands" for Connexions and for information, advice and guidance for adults. How are Ministers proposing to ensure a seamless transition from one service to another, as suggested in the Connexions document, chapter 6.13?

There are fears that in the interval before the new learning and skills council is established existing services are being eroded. Most of the existing funding sources--notably TEC discretionary funds--and some European social funds are drying up. The risk is

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that by the time any new initiative comes on stream, services and their staff will have been disbanded. This will mean that much money and effort have to be expended on start-up activities. Transitional funding is urgently needed. Can the Minister comment on that?

There is strong evidence that many adults, including those who have not previously participated in learning, need access to in-depth guidance. I was interested in this context to read the Secretary of State's speech on 15th February on higher education. I quote:


    "Universities and colleges must also be sure that the careers [service] they offer their students is relevant, up-to-date and effective. Graduates need good information on prospective careers, as well as knowledge and skills, to prosper in the labour market.


    I make this point strongly because I believe that we need significant improvement in careers guidance in higher education, linked both to effective experience of the world of work and to guidance on choices for learning and progression, so that students make informed choices and build steadily towards learning outcomes that equip them with a broad base of skills and knowledge. Provision of careers guidance is currently patchy, and we need significant improvement. This will also assist in cutting the drop-out rate in the UK--albeit one that is very low by international standards".

That, I think, is quite important in the light of the advice that we seek for the Careers Service to give to all those in schools and, indeed, throughout further education, too. So I hope that what the Secretary of State says there he will carry out and be sure to carry out in the schools and colleges.

A final comment: it would seem from a consultation document that the department is circulating that the needs of 47 per cent of students under 16 and 63 per cent post-16 will be straightforward. Information will be through access to paper-based materials, user-friendly IT-based systems or through the opportunity for advice--for example, through drop-in centres--but will not include the guarantee of access to an NVQ level 4 specialist careers adviser. The service which was intended to be universal will not be. Eleven per cent will be those at risk who have truanted, and so on, certainly needing advice but not from a specialist careers adviser. So 41 per cent of the more gifted students will have the benefit of a qualified careers person--not quite what we have been led to believe.

It seems odd that this may become the policy for this country when the DfEE is currently out to tender for careers education and guidance for overseas European schools. There are 10; one in England. I quote from the detailed specification:


    "All British pupils in the secondary years equivalent to Year 11 in [the] UK 'must be offered an individual interview with a careers adviser. If the pupil seeks another interview, or is referred again by the school, he/she may be seen more than once'.


    All British pupils in the secondary years equivalent to Years 12 & 13 in [the] UK (ie. 17 & 18 year olds) 'who wish to be seen must be offered an individual interview, of between 20 to 45 minutes, with a careers adviser'.


    'Careers advisers' must possess the Diploma in Careers Guidance or NVQ [level] IV in Guidance".

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I do think it is odd that this should be being made clear for the European schools but it is not clear to us yet that it is going to be the position in this country. I hope that the Minister can give us some reassurance when she replies.


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