A bill to make the provision of careers advice a statutory duty for academies has cleared its first Commons hurdle, increasing its chance of becoming law.
Mark Jenkinson, the Conservative MP for Workington, called for the guidance to be offered to all students from Year 7 until they leave secondary school after sitting GCSEs or A levels.
Mr Jenkinson said academies are currently only required to provide careers advice if they have a contractual obligation to do so through their own funding agreements – whereas other state-funded schools have a duty under the law to offer the service.
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Introducing his Education (Careers Guidance in Schools) Bill, he said it would simplify current legislation, creating a “level playing field” between academies and maintained schools, special schools and pupil referral units.
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His bill later cleared its first Commons hurdle by receiving an unopposed second reading and will undergo further scrutiny at a later date.
It has government support, which increases its chance of becoming law.
Mr Jenkinson told the Commons: “As someone who grew up in the heart of northern working-class communities, I am aware of the stark disadvantages faced by so many young people. They have so much to contribute but often they are written off far too soon.”
He added: “If we are serious about levelling up, giving all children access to careers advice is one of the most important weapons in our arsenal.”
He explained the need for his “landmark bill”, saying: “At present, the statutory duty to provide careers guidance falls on maintained schools, special schools and pupil referral units but not academies, although many academies do indeed have a contractual obligation to secure independent careers guidance through their own funding agreements.”
Mr Jenkinson also told MPs that the bill would provide alternatives to university for students who “may not favour an academic path” from a young age, by making sure they have access to local businesses that offer apprenticeships or training.
Esther McVey, a Conservative MP and former work and pensions secretary, said: “Good careers advice has always been important but never more so than now; with all the disruption in schools, the job market changes, it really is important that we support young people, and data suggests 65 per cent of children currently in primary schools will enter a job that has not been invented yet.
“Jobs, as we know, it is not a job for life, there will be a series of jobs that people are doing and that will speed up, which means you’ll need to learn, relearn, upskill, reskill on a regular basis.”
The MP for Tatton also insisted that the government cannot put more “on the shoulders of teachers”.
She went on: “An updated career strategy, better links to the National Career Services and the Careers and Enterprise Company, is something the government needs to do and signpost better so schools know where they can turn to to get that extra support.
“Not every teacher will know about every profession. They need to bring other people in so that signposting to those voluntary organisations, to charities, to businesses, it is absolutely key.”
Labour shadow education minister Peter Kyle said the bill was “a vital way to expose children to alternative options to work with those surrounding them when growing up”.
He also called on the government to give more funding to education, adding: “The IFS [Institute for Fiscal Studies] recently found that despite Tory promises to level up, spending per pupil funding won’t reach or return to pre-2010 levels by the end of this Parliament.
“When spending is squeezed, it is natural that schools prioritise subjects like English, maths and science, and it is topics like the careers that are so often left behind.”