Two weeks ago towards the end of the Parliamentary activities for this Summer there was a debate taking place in the House of Lords on the various amendments for the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill. It is clearly important for us to be aware of these issues as the only way of ensuring that such elements can get adopted is for the Education Department to adopt them as tragically it proves almost impossible for Parliament to be able to change decisions taken by the Government. Two of the Educational Ministers live here in Sussex, and so Gillian Keegan and Nick Gibb need to be persuaded and along with them, Peter Kyle who is the Labour Educational team member who is also based in Sussex. As it happens this case was also raised by one of our local members of the House of Lords who made a very clear statement. Her name is Baroness Whitaker and she was responding to an ex Minister who is based in Surrey so all of these people are relatively local. At the beginning of one of her comments Baroness Whitaker said
My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group, particularly the detail of Amendment 82 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, because of its focus on the years before further education comes into play. These are the years when choices are determined and motivation aroused. If we want to make a success of further education and produce the skills our economy would so much thrive on, we need to extend the reach of these opportunities to all our children and attract those who might not otherwise have the confidence or aspiration.
So that of course raises the question of what is Amendment 82 so one then needs to read the text from Lord Baker of Dorking. Just like Baroness Whitaker the whole of his statement regarding the amendment is too long for this blog and so the whole text can be found here. However here is a vital elements of what he had to say.
I declare my interest as chairman of the Baker Dearing Educational Trust. In 2017, the Government accepted my amendment to the Technical and Further Education Act to allow providers of alternative education, such as FE colleges, apprenticeship providers, private learning and training course providers, and university technical colleges, to go into secondary schools and explain to students the various alternative education pathways for their education and training. At the time this was looked on as a breakthrough in careers guidance.
When my old department was devising the legislation, I asked it to make it a statutory duty for schools to provide such meetings, but I was told that the Department for Education would depend on giving ministerial guidance to all secondary schools, and the secondary schools would follow. The advice was largely disregarded by schools and, when complaints were made to Ministers about schools refusing access to specific providers, such as university technical colleges, the department did not act on these complaints to insist that the meetings should take place. There has been no help from the department for the last three years.
This amendment would make it a statutory duty for all secondary schools to provide meetings with their students between 1 September and 28 February in each academic year. These dates are essential because school recruitment lists end on 31 March. By then, students will have selected which school/education pathway they wish to attend. The amendment specifically provides for years 8 and 9, year 11, and year 13, which means that 13 and 14 year-olds, 15 and 16 year-olds, and 18 year-olds will be advised of the various alternatives available for their education and training.
So we now need to call on Gillian, Nick and Peter to accept amendment 82!