Category Archives: Youth policy



Professor Tony Watts claims the Government has broken promises on Careers Advice


The Government has, this month, published new Statutory Guidance (SG) and Non-Statutory Departmental Advice (NSDA) on ‘careers guidance and inspiration’ in schools.

Careers England, in its latest Policy Commentary- Careers England(CE) Policy Commentary 27, April 2014)-   authored by Professor Tony Watts , a guidance expert, describes the recent up dated Statutory Guidance and the accompanying  Non-Statutory Departmental Advice  Careers Advice  as ‘ a deeply disappointing if predictable  coda to the evolution of the Coalition Government’s policies on career guidance’.

Tony Watts also suggested that the government had broken two promises .

The commentary states ‘The Government started by making a series of inspiring promises, including:

• Establishing a new all-age careers service, to build on the best of Connexions and Next Step.

• Revitalising the professional status of career guidance.

The first of these promises was undermined by the removal of all the Connexions funding and the reduction of the remit of the new National Careers Service to exclude face-to-face guidance for young people. Now, the second promise too has been betrayed. Far from revitalising the professional status of careers guidance, the Government is undermining this by using the term loosely, by marginalising professional careers advisers, and by ignoring the importance of underpinning quality-assured careers programmes.’

Ministers have recently promoted the idea that Careers advice is as much about inspiration as it is about information, looking to employers to go into schools to deliver advice and inspiration.

However, on this Tony Watts says, ‘The ‘inspiration’ agenda, involving employers much more actively, would have been widely welcomed by the whole careers sector had it been added to the implementation of the initial promises. But the SG and NSDA present it as a substitute for, rather than a complement to, professional career guidance and professionally managed careers education programmes in schools. There is no basis in evidence or  reasoned argument to support such a position.’

Statutory Guidance


Non-Statutory Guidance-Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools


All Party Social Mobility group and Centre Forum say Character counts

Manifesto promotes importance of Character and Resilience


Why do some talented children grow up to fulfil their ambitions while others never realise their full potential? How do we create a country in which a person’s life chances are determined by their talent, not the circumstances of their birth? These are some of the difficult questions that the APPG ‘ Character and Resilience Manifesto’ aims to tackle.

The Chair of the APPG ,Baroness Claire Tyler, wrote:

‘There is a growing body of research linking social mobility to social and emotional skills, which range from empathy and the ability to make and maintain relationships to application, mental toughness, delayed gratification and self-control. These research findings all point to the same conclusion: character counts.’ She continued

‘The evidence also makes clear that people are not just born with or without Character and Resilience traits. Rather, a person learns to develop and use these abilities throughout their life. They can be taught and learnt at all stages of life. This means that policymakers and practitioners have a key role to play in encouraging the development of Character and Resilience throughout the population.’

The report says that there is growing evidence linking life chances to things beyond just test scores – that is ‘non-cognitive’ skills. In simple terms, these are attributes such as a belief in one’s ability to succeed, the perseverance to stick with a task and the ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks. In short, ‘Character and Resilience’.

At a summit last year, The APPG on Social Mobility heard evidence on how these so called ‘soft’ skills lead to hard results: where you are on the character scale will have a big impact on what you achieve. This Manifesto is an attempt to take the next step. It contains what we – as a cross party group – believe to be the best policies to enhance Character and Resilience across the life course.

In doing so, it is both a ‘call to arms’ to policy makers and an attempt to begin a wider national conversation on how developing Character and Resilience can help break down the stubborn blight of social immobility and enable people from every walk of life to realise their full potential.

 Character and Resilience manifesto

In the early years, the APPG calls on government to:

1. Introduce an Early Years Premium, extending the Pupil Premium into early years education;

2. Support development of a best practice tool-kit for the early years focussing on interventions that aid development of the crucial non-cognitive base in early child development;

3. Roll out evidence based parenting initiatives nationwide;

4. Encourage the development and implementation of an innovative campaign to convey simple but crucial child development messages to parents; AND

5. Develop a robust school readiness measure at reception that includes Character and Resilience.

In school, the APPG calls on government to:

1. Ask Ofsted to determine how to factor Character and Resilience and ‘extra’-curricular activities more explicitly into the inspection framework;

2. Make participation in ‘extra’-curricular activities a formal  aspect of teachers’ contracts of employment;

3. Create a respected, official ‘School Leaving Certificate’ that reflects a child’s achievement across a broad range of activities rather than just exam outcomes;

4. Incorporate Character and Resilience into initial teacher training and CPD programmes;

5. Support development of a best practice tool-kit for  interventions that aid Character and Resilience for specific  use in conjunction with the Pupil Premium; AND

6. Encourage all private schools to share their professional expertise and facilities that promote Character and Resilience with schools in the state sector, in keeping with  private schools’ charitable status.

In the transition to adulthood and employment, the  APPG calls on government to:

1. Encourage the growth of the National Citizenship Service and ensure that this has the explicit purpose of building

Character and Resilience at its heart;

2. Establish an officially recognised and valued National Volunteering Award Scheme to give adult volunteers formal recognition of their contribution to the lives of young people;

3. Seize the opportunity of the raising education participation age to use Character and Resilience programmes to re-engage the most disengaged 16 and 17 year olds back into learning; AND

4. Make Character and Resilience a key focus of the National  Careers Service.

In this area the APPG also calls on employers to:

5. Actively encourage staff to participate in CSR activities that develop Character and Resilience in young people;

6. Implement internal training programmes that help develop the Character and Resilience capabilities of staff; AND

7. Develop alternative routes into advanced professional positions that reflect the importance of Character and Resilience skills rather than raw academic achievements.

The chairman of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, Alan Milburn, described the report as “valuable”.

“Schools must do more to promote character skills as well as academic attainment,” he said.”It is not a question of either-or; the core business of a school must be to do both.”

The report has been welcomed widely, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg saying it would help to “drive innovative thinking”.

In a speech last week, Education Secretary Michael Gove stressed the importance of extra-curricular activities.

“As top heads and teachers already know, sports clubs, orchestras and choirs, school plays, cadets, debating competitions all help to build character and instil grit, to give children’s talents an opportunity to grow and to allow them to discover new talents they never knew they had,” he said.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the report “tackles one of the most pressing questions currently facing our education system: how do we educate resilient young people that have a sense of moral purpose and character, as well as being passionate, reflective learners?”

Edward Timpson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education said, in the Commons on 10 February,” Schools play an important role in providing character-building activities for their pupils. Sports clubs, orchestras and choirs, school plays, cadet forces and debating competitions all help to build character and give children opportunities to flourish. Schools are best placed to determine the needs of their pupils and how best to meet them”. He added that “We are also removing unnecessary health and safety rules that prevent children from going on expeditions and seeking adventures”

Character and Resilience Manifesto Chris Paterson, Claire Tyler  and Jen Lexmond

The all-party parliamentary group on Social Mobility and Centre Forum -Feb 2014


James O Shaughnessy, formerly deputy director of the think tank Policy Exchange and adviser to David Cameron, has established Floreat Education which aims to open a number of Primary schools  which focus, interalia, on  developing  ‘good character, including virtues such as honesty, resilience and service to others’. Floreat Education has  just been chosen to open a new primary school on the site of the Atheldene Day Centre in Earlsfield.




BCC  joins others in calls for quality careers guidance and  education in schools

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) on 30 January published its Skills and Employment Manifesto, setting out ways to radically transform the systems that educate our young people, with recommendations for training our adult workforce.

The BCC Manifesto seeks to  address ‘skills mismatch’ described by many UK employers.

BCC President, Nora Senior: “Although we believe that successive governments have failed our young people by not properly equipping them for their future careers, it is time to break away from the blame game.”

In short, Employers consistently tell the BCC (and CBI/IOD) that there is a mismatch between what they are looking for in their staff, and the skills, experience and attitude offered by too many prospective candidates. The Prime Minister regularly refers to a global race, yet the BCC believes that in the 21st century, it is the countries with the most skilled workforces – both young and old – that will be the ultimate winners.


The Manifesto calls for:

Ensuring that ‘employability’ skills are at the heart of how schools are assessed and rated

Investing in quality careers education for all young people, including regular, quality contact with a variety of employers

Using Chambers to offer independent advice and support to SMEs to increase investment in apprenticeships and workplace training

Clear, universally understood qualifications for literacy, numeracy, computing and foreign languages

Qualifications to be consistent and clear, to enable employers to understand an individual’s competencies

Tax incentives for the development of foreign language and export skills

All employment policy to become the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)

Universities to work with Chambers of Commerce to promote enterprise among a wider range of students, and to ensure university courses are relevant to future job opportunities

The government to give employers a choice on how they receive government funding for apprenticeships – either directly through the tax system or via their chosen training provider

Commenting, Nora Senior, President of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Skills will decide who wins and who loses in a 21st century economy – yet employers across the UK constantly say they struggle to find prospective employees, particularly those leaving education, who have the right skills to succeed in the workplace.

“Although we believe that successive governments have failed our young people by not properly equipping them for their future careers, it is time to break away from the blame game. Various organisations and sectors continue to blame each other for a lack of ‘work readiness’ among young people, but it is time for everyone to accept some responsibility, and find ways to move forward.

“The world has changed at a rapid pace. If Britain doesn’t keep up, employers who are unable to access the skills they need or those unwilling to invest in training will lose business to other firms at home and abroad, putting us at a disadvantage. Simple measures, such as investing in quality careers education, making employability a key measure for schools, and supporting interaction between pupils and local employers, will deliver more jobs and growth in the long-term.  “Government, schools, colleges and employers must all work together in the coming months and years to ensure that the UK has a workforce that is ‘fit for purpose’. Failure to do so risks consigning generation after generation to a less prosperous future.”

On Careers Guidance the report says:

‘Careers education should start in Key Stage 2 and build to form a statutory element of secondary national curriculums. Every young person should gain work experience of different lengths in different sectors. Chambers of Commerce can facilitate these placements with local and national businesses.’

Publicly funded careers services should be fully extended to cover anyone over the age of 13, including face-to-face advice.

• National Insurance numbers should be used to track the average earnings of each school’s alumni as a proxy for success in the labour market.

• ‘Destination measures’ should be extended to include longer-term outcomes. Although there is value to understanding the destination of students after 12 months, this encourages some schools to find any destination rather than the right one for each individual. Destination measures should be extended to show five-year destinations’.

Another report also published this week from the think tank –IPPR (North)- says that  ‘today’s secondary school pupils are being let down by careers services that are not up to scratch’.   Furthermore it states that ‘Schools should be given more support to meet their statutory duty to provide independent careers advice and guidance’ and that ‘ the careers advice process should be more properly embedded in the curriculum. In particular, the role of careers in education should be clearer and wider.’

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills for the CBI, added to the growing clamour over the inadequacies of schools careers guidance when he said “there must  …be a sea change in the quality of careers advice in schools”


Skills Manifesto British Chamber of Commerce -2014


Driving a generation: Improving the interaction between schools and businesses-  2014 -Bill Davies and Ed Cox of IPPR North.


A report last year for the Sutton Trust, by Boston Consulting, said “Because of the complexity of vocational education in England, students need expert and impartial advice, but very little is available to them. Surveys by Chrysalis for City and Guilds in 2011 and for Careers England in 2012 showed that 28% of vocational students received no advice at all and that two thirds are dependent on teachers and school careers advisers, in whom they have little confidence on this subject’.




The latest Ofsted Report on schools referred to “the long tail of underperformance of white children from low-income backgrounds” (page 24).  Compared to other ethnic groups of similar class backgrounds, this ethnic group remains largely socially immobile (Strand, 2008; Demie & Lewis, 2010; Evans, 2006; Gillborn & Kirton, 2000).

As Michael Wilshaw has recently argued, over the past six years improvements have been seen among deprived children from every other ethnic group, but such progress has been too slow in schools which have significant white working-class populations. It has been widely argued that the central reason for white working-class pupil underachievement remains social deprivation which is largely characterized by:

poor attendance,

low aspirations parents have of their children,

feelings of marginalization,

low-literacy levels and

lack of targeted support to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

The government has made disadvantaged pupils a priority. In November 2010 Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, declared it imperative for the UK to become an “aspiration nation” (BBC News 2010) where schools must become “engines of social mobility providing every child with the knowledge, skills and aspirations they need to fulfil their potential”( The Cabinet Office 2011: 36)Indeed when Michael Gove was  shadow education secretary many of his attacks on the (Labour) governments policies focused on its perceived failure to improve  the performance of the most disadvantaged pupils and to narrow the achievement gap. The government believes that increasing poor children’s attainment can break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, and so  education reforms are focused on both raising attainment for all and closing gaps between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. School results  clearly show pupils from low-income families perform less well than all other pupils at key stage 2 and key stage 4, including  specifically white pupils.

The government’s main policy to address this is the pupil premium.  White working class pupils are not specifically targeted, although some argue they should be, and as a matter of urgency given the consistency of data.

The Pupil Premium, by giving schools extra funding to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, aims to improve social mobility in the longer term. The pupil premium was introduced in April 2011. In addition the structural reforms namely the academies/free schools scheme is supposed to target the most disadvantaged areas, although some say that it is not doing so enough.  Lord Nash in a PQ on 20 January said ‘We have given school leaders greater autonomy to drive improvement in their schools; around half of the 174 free schools are located in the 30% most deprived communities. In addition we are reforming the accountability system so that schools are held to account for both the achievement and progress of all their pupils. The new national curriculum and reform to GCSEs will also make sure that all pupils are taught the essential knowledge that matches expectations in the highest performing jurisdictions.’

Some argue that a significant obstacle to raising white working-class achievement is the failure of the central government to recognise this particular population as having  very specific  and distinctive needs that continue not  to be met by the school system (Demie and Lewis 2010; Gillborn 2009). Lib Dem MP David Ward has said that most ethnic groups had representatives to speak up for their children’s education needs. But there were few pushing the cause of white working class children. The Select Committee is currently taking evidence on this issue, with one panel addressing the extent to which vocational education can help to address White working class underachievement, and a second focused on the ‘bigger picture’ of the problem of underachievement in education by this group, in terms of connections with   the wider social issues.



Demie, F. and K. Lewis (2010). “White working class achievement: an ethnographic study of barriers to learning in schools.” Educational Studies 33(2): 1-20.

Evans, G. (2006). Educational Failure and Working Class White Children in Britain. New York, Palgrave MacMillan.

Gillborn (2009). Education: The Numbers Game and the Construction of White Racial Victimhood.

Department for Education (2010). White paper: The importance of teaching. Norwich, TSO. 91.

Reay (2009). Making Sense of White Working Class Educational Underachievement.

Strand, S. (2008). “Educational aspirations in inner city schools.”Educational Studies 34(4): 249–267.

Hansard- Lords -Lord Nash- 20 January


How extra funding is spent remains key


In 2011/12 the Pupil Premium was set at £488 per pupil, rising to £600 in 2012/13, and £900 in 2013/14.

Between 2011-12 and 2012-13, the pupil premium budget actually doubled in size. As a result, the government could extend the eligibility criteria so that a pupil who has claimed free school meals at any point in the previous six years became eligible

Schools are free to spend the allocated funds as they choose, though they are held accountable for the decisions they make through performance tables which show the performance of disadvantaged pupils compared with their peers, and through the Ofsted inspection framework. In short, schools will be held to account on how they spend the pupil premium, although disaggregating Pupil Premium funding from other funding that a school spends on disadvantaged pupils will be a challenge.

If the Pupil Premium is to succeed in achieving its ambitious goals, the choices that  schools make in allocating the money are of vital importance.’ so said the respected  Education Endowment Foundation. The EEF has helpfully provided a toolkit which acts as a guide on the most effective evidence based interventions.

A recent evaluation of the programme noted that whilst it was too early to measure the  impact of the Pupil Premium on attainment, over half of all schools had introduced new  support for disadvantaged pupils as a direct result of the Pupil Premium., which is encouraging . But it also found that over 90 per cent of schools had focussed on supporting disadvantaged pupils before the Pupil Premium was introduced. And, significantly,over 80 per cent said that the Pupil Premium was not enough to fund the support they offered. Furthermore, many schools are not spending the funding as effectively as evidence suggests they could. For example, over two-fifths of school leaders surveyed said they used the money to fund teaching assistants. The Centre for Social Justice in its report ‘Requires Improvement’ (September 2013) says that this ‘ is deeply concerning  given that teaching assistants are amongst the least effective ways of improving outcomes’. The report adds ‘There are also concerns the Pupil Premium does not represent ‘additional’ funding, and instead that it is being used to plug gaps left by funding cuts rather than specifically to support the learning of disadvantaged pupils. Although the pressure on budgets would have been  worse in the absence of the Pupil Premium, it forms a relatively small proportion of schools’  total income – on average, between 3.8 per cent for primary schools with high levels of FSM  and only one per cent for secondary schools with low levels of FSM’. Ofsted found that only one in ten school leaders said the Pupil Premium had significantly changed the way they worked. Whilst many schools do monitor the impact of support provided, improving accountability is an important next step. Schools must now publish a statement for the previous year confirming their allocation, spend and impact. The new Ofsted inspection framework also focusses on how well gaps are narrowing within the school and in comparison to nationaltrends. Centrally, schools will no longer be rated outstanding unless they close their attainment  gaps – and if they fail to improve, a headteacher from a school that has closed the gap will  be brought in to advise them.

Another headteacher told the CSJ that they spend their allocation on need – even if this benefits children who did not themselves attract the Pupil Premium. At the end of the year the school is then forced to lie about what their allocation is spent on. In a recent survey, most schools  surveyed (91 per cent of pupil referral units, 90 per cent of special schools, 84 per cent of  primary schools and 78 per cent of secondary schools) aimed their support at all disadvantaged  pupils, according to their definition of disadvantage, of which FSM was just one part.

This is a sensitive issue for the government. They have given schools autonomy and schools have to operate within an accountability framework. But if the Pupil Premium is not being used effectively, it will not raise the attainment of FSM pupils. Raising the attainment of FSM pupils and narrowing the achievement gap between them  and  other  pupils is one of the benchmarks against which this governments education policy will be measured.  Remember that when Gove was shadow education secretary this is the area where he targeted most of his attacks on the Labour  government, in the Commons, and through PQS.

Sources: Office for Standards of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, The Pupil Premium: How schools are using the Pupil Premium funding to  raise achievement for disadvantaged pupils, Office for Standards of Education, Children’s Services and Skills, 2012

Carpenter C et al, Evaluation of Pupil Premium: Research Report, London: Department for Education, 2013

Centre for Social Justice Report-Requires Improvement-September 2013


The British Chambers of Commerce wants Careers education on the curriculum

Ofsted should judge employability skills too


The OECD recently warned that youth unemployment was the UK’s biggest challenge.

The President of the British Chamber of Commerce, Nora Senior, blogged in July this year, asking why is it that our young people are being left behind while Britain gets back to work, and who is to blame?

  Businesses she speaks to, up and down the country, want to work with young people, and are happy to train and employ them. She writes that businesses ‘are often disheartened if not downright frustrated, to find school leavers and graduates do not have the minimum skills they need to join the workforce. Poor literacy and numeracy, behaviour and attitudes that don’t meet business expectations – the list goes on.’  Senior suggests that the government should ‘stop fixating on academics alone, and ensure that soft workplace skills are taught in our schools, or young people will continue to be left out in the cold. Getting businesspeople into schools to provide a real world insight into the world of work is the way to get pupils excited’.   Senior goes as far as to suggest that ‘Ofsted should be judging schools on students’ employability skills rather than exam results alone.’  She adds that ‘we must also put a stop to the constant tinkering around the edges by successive governments to a qualifications system that baffles teachers and employers alike. O Levels, GCEs, GCSEs, A-Levels, A2 Levels, SATS, Baccalaureates – is it really any wonder that we are being left adrift?’  Senior is also critical of current careers advice available to young people. She writes ‘In England, the government has removed the duty on schools to provide young people with work experience placements, and has replaced the ‘Connexions’ face-to-face careers advice with information that is only available online. This is because the Education Secretary believes that head teachers know what is best for their pupils. Unfortunately, when it comes to the real world of work, the truism is that head teachers don’t always know best whichever education system they are working to, and some continue to prioritise time and money on boosting performance in exam league tables.’


She adds ‘ Young people cannot match their talents and interests to a future career without understanding the full range of jobs available to them – those where their skills will be most in demand and best rewarded, and the qualifications required to gain those jobs. Careers education should be added to the national curriculum to help advise and educate these young people as they make the choices that will shape their lives – that means talking about the world of work before they make subject choices, not after they have been made.’

Source BCC Blog- 22 July 2013


James Caan gets off to a poor start as the  new social mobility Czar


Many of you are probably aware that in 2010 Alan Milburn was appointed the ‘social mobility czar’. Indeed,  he  produced a rather good , impressively comprehensive report on  social mobility, We also have Simon Hughes MP , who is the ‘access czar’ .Hughes  has  a  lower profile. The two roles, self-evidently,  overlap.  Confusingly now, James Caan, the entrepreneur, who used to be on TV in the  Dragons Den,  was ,this week, also   given the title ‘social mobility czar’ by Nick Clegg.  Quite why the term  ‘Czar ‘is routinely used without any sense of irony, and is common currency,  is lost on me. Were  the Czars known for their commitment to education and social mobility? One doesn’t need to be Simon Schama to know that the Czars  first priority was probably not an unwavering  commitment to increasing the life opportunities of the most disadvantaged .   Does  this  matter? Yes, it probably does. Words and language in politics not only provide  literal meaning ,they  convey a mind-set, an attitude, a  mood, a set of values and context.  So ,the  term Czar has no utility and  should  pass  into history.

James Caan, spent his first media interview arguing that parents shouldn’t give their offspring a helping hand in the workplace. The   highly successful Pakistan-born businessman warned of the dangers of helping out one’s children too readily. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Caan said it was important to “let the child stand on his own two feet” and not assist them finding a job until “the child has tried everything”. He explained: “You are trying to develop your child too; you don’t want them to feel as though they don’t have to make the effort.”

Some might agree. But, and its quite a big ‘ but’, Caan has apparently  helped at least one of his  own daughters to  find employment .Caan’s younger daughter, Hanah, has no fewer than three roles within his business and charitable empire. It also transpired that his elder daughter, Jemma, now works for a recruitment company in which Caan invests,( though that came after four years of post-university work elsewhere). So it looks very much as if Caan  might be  a do as  I say, not do as I do kind of guy, so maybe not the right person to lead on social mobility, fine businessman though he may be. Or am I missing something?  And what do Alan Milburn and Simon Hughes have to say about it all? And whats so  deeply depressing about all this  is  that politicians  still seem to  think this approach makes a difference. What  has  happened to evidence led policy? This is all presentation  and no substance and the presentation  isnt up to much!. Cue, Clegg and others distancing themselves from Caan.


In a statement on his website, Caan insisted he believed parents should “encourage their children to explore their own opportunities and define themselves in their own right”. He added: “The fact is that parents will always have the innate feeling to help their children into jobs. I’m no different.”


Cridland looking for a more holistic approach and a binding theme to reforms

And criticises careers advice in schools


It is true to say that the CBI, which represents  big business to government, is broadly supportive (though not uncritical) of the governments education policies. CBI members,  though, would  not disagree with  the oppositions Tristram Hunt  in his observation  that there is still  a worrying disconnect  between the education system and the job market.

But John Cridland who heads the organisation, has recently articulated other concerns. Firstly, that the Education Secretary has managed to alienate rather too many stakeholders, including ‘moderate’ unions (the on going  fall out over curriculum reforms adds to this impression). Secondly, as he described in a recent Guardian article (29 May) ‘What’s lacking is the thread that ties it (ie reforms) all together, the theme tune that will give more school leaders the confidence to get up and dance.’ Goves team, of course ,would dispute this. Having driven through structural reforms focused on school autonomy  ,against some  concerted opposition,,they are now focused on the curriculum, assessment and the quality of teachers and teaching ,so our schools and system  can  compare with the very  best in the world.  The  overarching theme is to improve the lot ,in particular, of  the most disadvantaged pupils narrowing  the achievement gap between them and their peers. So, there is the theme tune, or narrative, which was pretty clearly spelt out in the coalition agreement . Gove to be fair, whether one agrees with him or not, has been  pretty clear from the outset about his intentions.

As for alienating stakeholders, Gove joins a long line of  Secretary of States, both Conservative and Labour, who have upset both Headteachers and union leaders (remember David Blunkett?)

Cridland  suggests though   that there are three areas in which swift action could be taken to address this.

Firstly, standards and accountability.There’s more to school than just rigour he claims: ‘ The exam treadmill needs to be replaced with fewer but tougher tests in more relevant subjects, freeing time in the curriculum to focus on space for broader education. The accountability system also needs to keep pace with this.’ ‘ In schools, tough exams are essential but are not sufficient in creating a great education system.The government needs to adopt a more holistic view that wins support from heads, business and parents. Ofsted needs to adjust its role to be a guarantor, through reports that mix assessment on exam results with a broader narrative setting out achievement in the round.’

Secondly, the curriculum. 18 will be the main point of achievement for young people once the participation age is raised in two years time. So we need a refreshed, single curriculum from 14 onwards which acknowledges that each young person will learn in a different way and find a different path. Let’s invest in rigorous vocational alternatives and give them a proper standing in the system – gold standard vocational A-levels. And let’s stimulate a culture where individual learning plans are the norm, mapping out each young person’s academic and personal development.

Finally, we need, according to Cridland, ‘ to equip young people in making the transition from school into an increasingly complex labour market.  He writes ‘We know that schools are struggling with the new duty to provide careers advice which in many places is increasingly on life support. Businesses must step up to the mark to help with this but ministers’ attitude suggests that they simply don’t prioritise it. We need urgent action if the forthcoming impact assessment proves the negative picture many anticipate.’

Worryingly for the Gove team ,having focused so much in the first two years on structural reforms, with some success, they now  find that they are running out of time  on other fronts,  including   on curriculum  reforms, where the process appears rushed, and  meaningful consultation signally  lacking.


1″Provision [of careers advice] is absolutely patchy,” Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has said . “We are aware of some very good practice, but lots of schools are really struggling.” Changes to the school-leaving age – due to rise to 17 this year and 18 by 2015 – make good, early careers advice “all the more important”, he added.

2 It is extremely difficult to find evidence in support of the government’s current approach to Careers Education Information and Guidance in schools. Indeed, several reports over the last eighteen months  from, for example, the  Education Select Committee, Alan Milburn, Professor Tony Watts ., HEFC, London Observatory of Skills  and Employment, Careers England, the AOC, ICGES/ Pearson Think Tank ,  NFER , ‘Which’, the Work Foundation, CIPD, and Working Links, paint a  negative, dysfunctional picture of the current state of CEIAG in England’s schools and a lack of confidence in  the direction of travel.

3  CBI First Steps Report 2012:“This report deals with the most important part of the UK’s long-term growth strategy – improving education. As our work sets out, the potential economic gain from getting this right is enormous, yet today we have a system where a large minority of our young people fall behind early and never catch up. This cannot be acceptable”


Step change in the plight of interns


The government is to crack down on employers abusing national minimum wage laws following successful moves to reclaim nearly £200,000 in wages owed to unpaid interns.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is planning to take more aggressive steps after HMRC’s success over the last tax year in helping 167 people who identified themselves as interns, volunteers or work experience workers claw back £192,808 in unpaid wages. BIS says that over the coming year it will launch a social media campaign, publish a student hand-out and encourage people to name bad employers for investigation.

Internship had been a growing route into employment since the mid 2000s as many employers made it an integral part of their recruitment processes.

In a letter to Labour MP Hazel Blears, the employment relations minister, Jo Swinson, said the government would produce the booklet to make graduates aware of their employment rights in time for this summer, when hundreds of thousands of UK students are expected to start hunting for work experience placements, which can last – unpaid – for many months.

A recent survey of more than 150 young PR professionals has revealed that internships are poorly paid, lack diversity and do not even necessarily lead to a role in the end. Just 28 per cent were paid at or above the minimum wage, with almost as many (23 per cent) receiving no payment at all. Ten per cent had been paid expenses plus a small stipend, which was less than the national minimum wage. 15 per cent were paid the national minimum wage. 13 per cent received more than the national minimum wage. If you think the PR industry is unique in this respect, think again. The sector is no different  than others,  and may be better than most.

Under employment law, people who work set hours, do set tasks and contribute value to an organisation are “workers” and  so are entitled to the minimum wage. This means even if your internship was just about being expected to turn up at a certain time and add some numbers in Excel you are likely to be entitled to pay.

So far, every time an intern has taken their employer to court for not being paid the minimum wage they have won.   So employers should beware ( including a few MPs!). It is good that companies employ interns but they should be treated fairly and employers must operate within the law. Many top  companies, perhaps most, expect job applicants to have done three or four internships, before considering them for a  permanent job , and graduates are no exception.

The National Minimum Wage rate per hour depends on your age and whether you’re an apprentice – you must be at least school leaving age to get it.

From 1 October 2013 the Minimum wage will be:

Aged 21 and over   £6.31(£6.19)

Aged 18-20           £5.03 (£4.98)

Aged under 18       £3.72(£3.68)

Apprentice             £2.68 (£2.65)

The Apprentice rate is for apprentices under 19 or those in their first year. If you’re 19 or over and past your first year you get the rate that applies to your age




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.

Note 2

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).

Note 3

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.