Bishop of Ely calls for opportunity for all to prosper in careers education debate.

On the 6th September 2018 the House of Lords debated ‘the case for high-quality careers education and advice to be available to all students’. The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, spoke in the debate about the need for ‘the fullest possible rolling out’ of the Government’s careers strategy.Ely 2

The Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, I share with the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, whose wisdom I have been delighted to receive this afternoon, the fact of belonging to a family where there was no prior history of higher education. The only careers advice that I received at school as a working-class boy from south London was to read extra Latin in the sixth form—and look what happened.

Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Storey, as a priest of my generation I have never applied for a job; I have always been sent. When I was a young priest, I was invited to take up a university chaplaincy. I went to see the Bishop and waved this at him and he said, “No, you’re going to Sunderland”. I said, “Well, I should consult the family”, and he replied, “If you mean the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, I’ve done that. You’re going to Sunderland”.

So I am all the more grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for calling this important debate and to join in support for the Minister in all that he is seeking to undertake in delivering the strategy for careers education. However, we need to understand that any strategy will survive only if it lands well in every place. It is quite an uphill struggle, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, was saying. The June Public Accounts Committee report suggests that careers education around the country is “insufficient and inconsistent”. It is not only a lack of quality; it means that there is a lack of opportunity in the provision of careers education, which fundamentally flouts the notion of equality and access and social mobility for all young people—for all the students that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, refers to.

The Church of England Vision for Education issues a challenge to the Church and the rest of the educational community to seek the flourishing of every child and young person through and beyond the education system, regardless of their socioeconomic or family circumstances. At the heart of the vision is hope for all young people and the dignity of every young person, with no one to be written off.

However, the State of the Nation 2017 report from the former Social Mobility Commission draws a stark picture of exclusion and disadvantage. The east of England, where I serve, is not the most affected area, but the report highlights the denial of social mobility to young people in isolated rural communities and in coastal towns, which are very much characteristic of my region. There is a shortage of specialist teachers and sparse access to employers. The report is very firm in saying such areas are dire for youth social mobility outcomes.

The provision of goods careers advice, frequent interaction with employers and labour market preparation of students at school and college are vital. Regional universities such as Anglia Ruskin in my diocese and the University of Lincoln, which is not so far away, are working hard at building on all these connections. I understand that Lincoln, in particular, is noted for its contribution to economic regeneration and job creation. No doubt, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, will have more to say about that.

We need the fullest possible rolling out of the careers strategy, given that some of the targets and target dates have already passed. One of those targets has been to ensure that schools give providers of technical education and apprenticeships the opportunity to talk to all pupils. Yet research from the Sutton Trust, published in July, indicates that less than half of young people have had the opportunity even to discuss doing an apprenticeship. It also found that more than 60% of teachers would rarely or never advise high-performing students to opt for an apprenticeship over a traditional university course. It is nigh on impossible for a young person to make an informed decision about their future if the careers advice is incomplete or biased.

Students use their own enterprise to research online and it is not helpful if the only outcomes taken note of are about earnings. This is important because we need to encourage young people to aim at those professions which do not have the biggest pay cheque, such as in health or education and across the third sector.

I hope that we can have a pattern of careers education and advice which is available to all—not limited to one form of employment or reputation of employment, but an opportunity for all to prosper. Hope for all young people and the dignity of all young people should be our watchwords.


Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)[extract]:…Let us look first at our successes in taking action to improve the careers system. In 2012, we gave schools a duty to provide independent careers guidance for all 12 to 18 year-olds, and I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking, who was here earlier but is no longer in his place, who more recently proposed new legislation that requires schools to allow technical education and apprenticeship providers to talk to pupils about what they can offer. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ely mentioned the lack of awareness of apprenticeships. Perhaps I can reassure him a little: there is work to do on this, but the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge for Schools programme went into over 3,000 schools in 2016 to inform and inspire young people.