Oral statement to Parliament

iCeGS Annual Lecture

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Good afternoon everyone. Parliamentary business has to take precedence in a democracy and so sadly I am unable to join you today. But I do…

Good afternoon everyone.

Parliamentary business has to take precedence in a democracy and so sadly I am unable to join you today. But I do want to take this opportunity to underline some crucial points that my able deputy, Susan Pember, will explain more fully later on.

My passionate belief in the value of careers guidance is well-known. I am convinced that, whatever the excellence of the courses on offer and the relevance to employers of the qualifications to which they lead, you cannot have a truly first-class skills system without a first-class advice and guidance service for learners. Careers guidance changes lives.

That why, first of all today, I want to thank you, to thank you for all you’ve done, all you do and for the future too. It’s going to be an exciting journey we travel together, the destination - the best of careers services.

Now, you will have seen the announcements on 13 April about careers guidance policy, reflecting my responsibilities across both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education. So you know that under the Education Bill currently progressing through parliament, schools will have a new statutory duty to secure independent and impartial careers guidance. Whilst we are committed to freeing schools from bureaucracy, achieving the best career, work and life outcomes for all young people means having the right careers advice.

It is absolutely right that careers advice must be at the heart of what schools do. We will put into place measures that allow schools to secure the best possible advice in an independent way. I don’t say that schools havn’t done a good job up until now, many have. But guidance frankly has been patchy and too often advice on vocational options has been neglected. I’ve notified schools already that they need to prepare for this new statutory duty from this September and I can assure you that we will exemplify best practice, we will ask Ofsted to ensure that schools take this duty seriously at a management level and we will take further steps, if necessary, to secure that the right advice is given at the right time.

I believe that head teachers will take this duty very seriously. You know, we believe in trusting heads, governors and teachers to make the right judgments for their schools and there will not be a vanilla flavoured offer, different schools will take different paths that suit their students’ needs, but nevertheless the availability of independent careers advice in our schools is essential if all pupils are going to achieve their best.

I understand that a significant cultural change is required in moving from a model of central Government blanket support to one where the market plays a stronger role.

I know that, in that context, the service that’s provided will be tailored, tuned to the needs of different schools and different pupils.

It is important that schools are held to account for the quality of the services they secure and the impact they have on the progression of their pupils. So, for the first time, we will introduce a measure of how well pupils do when they leave school. These destination measures will be a vital way of assessing the effectiveness of the advice that people have received.

I want organisations which are part of the National Careers Service to provide information, advice and guidance of such quality that schools will commission their services.

Giving Schools responsibility is vital to driving up standards.

But the Service will do two vitally important things:

First, it will provide a visible public platform which champions the quality and professional standards which I think are crucial for the re-establishment of careers guidance as a true, respected profession.

Secondly, it will provide services which the market does not, or cannot currently provide. For young people, both in and out of school, there will be a helpline service and access to online information - we will continue to fund a high quality face to face guidance service in the community for adults. Provision of this guidance is crucial for adults because there is no routine institution that is responsible for their needs in this regard.

But, there is more. The main professional bodies for careers are, for the first time, working as a unified force for professional standards and common principles for guidance, there are now plans to achieve chartered status within three years. This is not a small step, but a giant leap. I wholeheartedly endorse everything they are doing to address the challenge in the most direct way.

The work that is being done by the profession, informed by the recommendations of Dame Ruth Silver which the government accept and driven by the efforts of Ruth Spelman, and others who are taking up this challenge is essential to delivering the best service in the world, which is what I want.

I have spoken before, I hope with passion, about the need to raise the status of careers guidance. I want the careers profession to return to a position of public recognition, prestige and value, where guidance is seen as an essential part of life and experience. It is too important for us to do anything other.

Connexions did good work and I know many of you were involved with Connexions, but its advice in terms of careers was often patchy. I think we ask too much of people to be professional careers advisors and to offer expert guidance on all kinds of other lifestyle issues.

That’s why we need a dedicated service.

And so we will develop a strong brand and identity for the National Careers Service, which will act as a beacon in the market, standing for excellence, widely recognised and valued by its customers.

I believe there is a great cause for optimism. We are on a clear path towards the vision that I set out.