The Wolf Review on Vocational Education pulls no punches
We must ‘ tell the truth’ to young people
Review reiterates the importance of Information Advice and Guidance
The Wolf Review, published today, which has been broadly welcomed, highlights the importance of good information and guidance for young people-who should it says be told the truth (implying, rather obviously, that, until now, our youth have not been told the truth) :‘ Good information becomes more critical the more important the decisions. For young people, which vocational course, qualification or institution they choose really can be life- determining.’
Wolf continues ‘In recent years, both academic and vocational education in England have been bedevilled by well-meaning attempts to pretend that everything is worth the same as everything else. Students and families all know this is nonsense. But they are not all equally well placed know the likely consequences of particular choices, or which courses and institutions are of high quality. Making that information available to everybody is the government’s responsibility. Too often, it, and its agencies, have failed at this task. At issue here is not simply good general careers guidance and advice to individuals, to which everyone signs up happily. It is also, and fundamentally, about how government oversees and reports on performance.’
In another important passage Wolf says ‘ It is also critically important to ensure that students and their families have as much information as possible with which to assess the quality of provision when choosing specialist courses. This is one aspect of a more general and widely recognised need for good Information, Advice and Guidance, something which is being addressed in a number of ways across all levels of the education system. In the context of this review, I would wish simply to reiterate its importance, as did a very high proportion of submissions, and offer one additional suggestion. A great deal of attention has been focused recently on the need for ‘destination data’, showing where students go when leaving an institution or graduating from a course. Such data are obviously very useful (though also very difficult to collect, other than for students progressing directly to university or another educational institution.) It would also be directly relevant and useful to all potential applicants, to know the entry qualifications and grades of students starting a particular course. This is difficult for transfers or entry into specialist options at age 14, but easy for all post-16 courses, where institutions will have the data in their administrative systems. So, for example, students and their families would be able to see at once whether or not any local A level science students were accepted on the basis of a BTEC or OCR level 2 science qualification; and how many entrants to a selective level 3 craft course (eg electrical, optics) had come from schools rather than college-based level 2.’
This report is one of many that highlight the importance of sound information and professional careers advice to young people to help them choose the best options for them at crucial points in their lives. However, this comes at a time when independent information and professional guidance is in ever decreasing supply, due to a lack of funding and on-going local cuts and when the number of young people not in education, employment or training is at record levels.
Only this week the National Connexions Network (NCN) warned that cuts to Connexions risk doing “irreparable” damage to careers advice services for young people and threaten to increase youth unemployment.
The Education Bill ,currently in the Commons in Committee , includes a new duty on schools to provide professional careers guidance to pupils, but is otherwise vague on detail and says nothing about the promised all age careers service (although Ministers believe that they already have the necessary powers to establish the AACS) . But there is, as yet, no word on how this might work , how it will be funded or how it will be quality assured, which is worrying Heads and governors, as well as Careers advice professionals, who will be expected to deliver the service.