REPORT ON IMPROVING ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION FOCUSES ON DEFICIENCIES IN CAREERS ADVICE AND GUIDANCE IN SCHOOLS
A new report the ‘National Strategy for Access and Student Success; Interim report to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Office for Fair Access identifies, interalia , a major area of concern in relation to easing access to higher education for the most disadvantaged pupils- namely ‘the changes that came into effect in September 2012 to careers education and guidance.’ In short, schools were given statutory responsibility for providing access for their pupils to good quality independent careers guidance.
The report states ‘The Education Act 2011 ends the statutory requirements for local authorities to deliver a universal careers service to young people. Schools have instead been placed under a statutory duty to secure careers advice but have not been given any additional funding to do so. The requirement to provide careers education has also been removed.’ The report then identifies evidence reflecting these concerns. It states ‘A report by the Work Foundation argues that ‘without careers education, careers guidance is reduced to an abrupt and isolated intervention’. They urge that ‘careers education should be embedded in the curriculum as early as primary schools and expanded on with age’
The report continues ‘ In its evidence to the Education Select Committee in October 2012, the Institute of Careers Guidance said of the guidance offered to young people:
a. There is no overall coherence of career guidance provision whatsoever for young people up to 18.
b. For young people in schools, provision is a postcode lottery subject to budgets and head-teachers’ commitment to independent, impartial career guidance.
c. The service in schools is at best restricted in terms of student coverage and limited to the 30 weeks of term-time provision. In the past, students and parents have always appreciated the opportunity to access independent career guidance during school holidays. Now, at these times, it is not possible to access independent career guidance without payment.
d. E-mail correspondence between the Association of South East Colleges and the Skills Funding Agency has highlighted that the National Careers Service website excludes a range of courses offered by colleges of further education that are not funded by the Skills Funding Agency.
e. Young people between 16 and 18 who are in employment but wish to change direction or develop their career prospects do not have access to any independent face-to-face careers guidance service without payment
Furthermore, in its report of 2011, the International Centre for Guidance Studies argued that the situation for schools was challenging as they adapt to the loss of Aimhigher, Business Education Partnerships and the erosion of the Connexions service.
The centre argues that ‘the removal of the statutory duty to provide careers education could result in a focus on “activities” rather than on a developmental curriculum’
Crucially, this National Strategy for Access and Student Success report says in Para 145 pg 51 :
‘ In light of such concerns, we anticipate that the final report may recommend that a greater governmental focus on issues of advice and guidance within schools and colleges will be important in terms of maximising the return on investment in widening participation to HE. The strategy will also explore how HE can most effectively engage in supporting good information, advice and guidance (IAG) concerning HE in schools and colleges in the new environment.’
Experts agree that face to face careers guidance from an independent, qualified professional is, more often than not, the best form of careers advice and this is particularly the case for the most disadvantaged pupils. A number of reports, including those mentioned above, stress the importance of easy access to high quality advice. This will help ensure that pupils are better equipped to make informed choices regarding the pathways into further and higher education , training and work as well as improving access to higher education for the most disadvantaged pupils and in advancing the governments social mobility agenda.While government guidance encourages face to face advice, where appropriate, it is left to schools to decide the type and scope of advice they will offer to their pupils.Given that there is no ring fenced funding for this advice , experts believe that schools, under budgetary pressure ,will opt for cheaper, lower quality forms of advice ie telephone advice and access to advice through a web portal. The new National Careers Service is focused mainly on the needs of adults.
From September 2012, the Education Act 2011 placed schools under a duty to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils in years 9-11. The Careers Guidance in Schools Regulations 2013 will extend the age range to which the duty applies. From September 2013, the duty will be extended to include all registered pupils in year 8 (12-13 year olds) and years 12 and 13 (16-18 year olds).
A CIPD survey this month finds that parents and pupils are not getting sufficient or appropriate advice in schools on Apprenticeship options, which affects their take up and credibility.The survey – Employee Outlook: Focus on Apprenticeships – looked at responses from more than 400 employees with children under the age of 18. It found two-thirds of parents believed apprenticeships were a good career option, yet, only 15 per cent of them thought school teachers gave their children enough information about them as an alternative to a university education.