HC Deb 13 March 1979 vol 964 cc253-5
8. Mr. Haselhurst

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether she is satisfied with the current provision of careers education; and what proposals she has for improving it.

Mr. Oakes

My right hon. Friend is not satisfied that provision for careers education is at present satisfactory in all secondary schools. The Department's circular 14/77, on local education authority arrangements for the school curriculum, asked authorities to report on steps taken to improve preparation for working life. Further action will be considered in the light of consultations on the report on authorities' responses, which will be published soon, and the findings of Her Majesty's inspectors' survey of secondary education in England, which will be published later in the year.

Mr. Haselhurst

Does the Department have no view on how careers education might be improved? If there is to be a meaningful improvement in careers education, should not the responsibility be vested in the careers service, with perhaps a careers officer seconded to each school, with sole responsibility for the guidance of secondary school children therein?

Mr. Oakes

The careers service has an important role to play, but it is different from that of careers teachers. The role of my Department is purely to advise, guide and encourage. As long ago as 1973, in survey No. 18"Careers Education in Secondary Schools ", we reported to local authorities on the deficiencies in the provision of careers education. But the local authorities have to determine the amount of careers education that they provide.

Mr. Ward

Will my hon. Friend impress upon local authorities that they have a special duty to the nation to allow careers officers to create close contacts with manufacturing industry? Will he encourage them particularly to give careers officers access at least to a telephone so that they can develop these contacts?

Mr. Oakes

I hope that my hon. Friend means careers teachers. Careers officers are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. The more links that careers teachers have with industry, particularly local industry, the better.

Mr. Stokes

Will the Minister encourage industrialists and others to visit schools and colleges and point out the attraction of careers in industry and commerce, which is vital for the country's future?

Mr. Oakes

We encourage visits to schools by industrialists and trade unions, and there is a strong link between individual schools and firms. The more links there are, the better it will be for the entire community and education.

Mr. Ashton

Is my hon. Friend aware that many children do not go into industry because their fathers have had a long experience of bad conditions and low wages? Will he tell the career advisers to talk more to parents to stop the situation arising in which they advise bright children to choose the safety of the town hall, building society or bank?

Mr. Oakes

I agree that industry must do a lot to improve its image. In the past there has been a tendency on the part of schools to underrate commerce and industry, as distinct from other more glamorous professions. However, there has been a massive increase in the number of people now taking science, applied science and engineering courses.

Mr. Carlisle

Is the Minister satisfied that the links between schools and local industry are adequate? What support are the Government giving to the scheme entitled"Understanding British Industry"which is being promoted at present?

Mr. Oakes

We are giving support to a number of schemes such as"Understanding British Industry ", and in the Education Bill which is now before the House we are making provision for community governors to be on the governing bodies of schools. I should like to see this go much further. I should like to see schemes similar to that operating in Essex, whereby, each term, local industrialists and trade unionists meet the senior staff and the head of the school to discuss these matters.