A NEW ALL AGE CAREERS SERVICE?
Look at the small print before rejoicing
The Government intends to create an “all age careers service”. However, as Careers England has pointed out, in the wake of the Education Bills Commons passage (it is now with the Lords ) the process towards achieving the new duty on schools to provide careers advice and guidance and the establishment of the new Careers Service appears deeply flawed. Why? Firstly, as things stand, it is uncertain whether the all age careers service will be a strong strategic public provider of specialist careers support in all localities, or merely a set of contracted operators. Indeed, there are serious concerns that it may only be able to support, on a direct face to face basis, a very limited number of adults. Secondly, the new all age careers service will have no right of access to any school, unless it is invited by the respective school. So, one has to ask, how will a pupil in a school where the careers service is not invited, access it? What seems likely is that the much trumpeted independent professional careers advice available to all pupils 13-16 (why not 16-18, one wonders?) will in practice be limited to little more than website provision.
What we have here is a profound disconnect between the initial rhetoric and the now anticipated outcome. The all age careers service as now envisaged will not, in fact, be resourced to provide face to face careers advice to any young people in education; it will only be enabled to do so if schools decide to buy in its services. With schools budgets under severe pressure and schools setting their own priorities some pupils may, if they are lucky, get access to good professional advice, but others clearly wont. So, a post code lottery will develop. The quality and accessibility of the advice given to our young people will depend on where they live, and more specifically on what school they attend. So much for a ‘national’ careers service! Its branding is misleading in other ways too. The Government intends to raise the age for participation in learning to 18 by 2015, yet concurrently limits our young people’s entitlement to careers guidance to age 16. Given the importance attached to decisions made by young people from 16-18 this flies in the face of common sense. With youth unemployment at record levels and the number of those not in education, employment or training on the rise, it is surely folly on a biblical scale to deny our youth sound professional support and advice, as they seek to embark on their professional lives with so much stacked against them A recent report from the Princes Trust reminded us just how lacking in confidence and self-belief are our poorest children and if you combine this with their low aspirations and no, or little, access to face to face advice and guidance ,you have a recipe surely for social dysfunction. The social and economic costs of such folly will reveal themselves over time. Unless, that is, there is a rethink from the Government during the Lords stages of the Education Bill.
NOTE: Andy Burnham, the Shadow Education Secretary, in a Debate on Vocational Education on 12 May, welcomed the vision of an all-age careers service, but asked where the long-promised transition plan to deliver such a service was . He asked how the Secretary of State will secure the quality of service that Professor Wolf demanded in her paper on Vocational education.. Burnham sought to amend the Education Bill to give young people a guarantee of face-to-face guidance in our schools. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, quoted Professor Alison Wolf as endorsing ‘a more modern measure enabling skilled careers advisers and “proper, online, updated information” to provide students with the right answers.’ It is still not clear how the ‘skilled’ careers adviser will feature in this new landscape. Goves response appears to give weight to on line information rather than face to face advice. Minister John Hayes had said in the Commons on 11 May that “I find it inconceivable, or at least unlikely, that best practice will not include face-to-face provision”, which has not much helped ease worries about the end of widespread face to face advice.