Gap in advice for the majority of pupils says ICG


We have witnessed a series of reports, the most recent one from the Skills Commission last week, that have been critical of the quality of Careers advice in schools. Very recently the  Institute of Career Guidance (ICG), the  professional association for all those working in careers information advice and guidance, joined the critics  in highlighting the deficiencies   of careers education and guidance in schools. The ICG President Deirdre Hughes said “We have a generation coming through university who have not had the experience of high-quality careers education,” This means that young people are not developing the necessary knowledge of the labour market nor the skills to equip them for it.

“The situation for careers education in schools is best described as being patchy and inconsistent. We feel as an Institute that scant attention has actually been given to the whole area of careers education, information advice and guidance for young people, for parents and indeed for adults across the UK.”   Resources in England in recent years have been focused on young people who are not in employment, education or training, but, says the Institute, this has left a huge gap in careers information, advice and guidance for the majority of pupils. It is not a one-sided situation however.  Deirdre Hughes continued: “I’d like to commend school headteachers and senior managers who have invested time and energy in providing high quality careers education programmes.  “We are delighted to see the spotlight now being focused on this issue.”

Prior to 2001, Careers Services provided advice and guidance on careers and related issues.  From April 2001 Connexions was introduced in a staged way and the Department provided funding to Connexions Partnerships for the delivery of Connexions services for young people.  From April 2008 local authorities have received funding for Connexions services, which advise young people on a range of issues including careers, as part of their Area Based Grant. The provision of careers advice in schools is based on a partnership between the school and the Connexions service and other specialist services commissioned by the local authority. The Government will shortly consult on draft Directions and statutory guidance for local authorities in the delivery of such services.

In 2009-10 £467m was made available for Connexions, the same level of funding as  2007/8.

The Connexions service is focused mainly on providing a range of advice and support services, including careers advice, to those threatened with exclusion-the so called NEET category of young people and is resourced accordingly. Critics suggest that its advice is too narrowly focused, given its priorities, and all young people need good quality professional  independent advice, so  there should be an all age professional Careers  Information Advice and Guidance Service-a view shared by the Tories.

Katharine Horler, Connexions Berkshire, Chief Executive, which provides a range of advice to teenagers, told the BBC that people were wrong to judge careers advice on whether they ended up doing the job their advisor suggested. She explained: “That’s not what careers advice is about.” Careers advice is about developing decision making skills, developing resilience to help you manage the ups and downs that come with a career. “Good careers advice is actually about helping people develop those skills for the whole of their careers and for the rest of their lives.”

Alan Milburn recently criticized the Connexions Service careers advice in his report on Social Mobility, though Connexions professionals, in their defence, point to surveys suggesting relatively high levels of satisfaction with the service from the young people who actually use it.

But few contest, including the Government, that much of the advice given in schools is patchy and too often given by individuals without proper professional qualifications. Some even dispute whether or not it is impartial advice, given that schools have a financial  interest in keeping pupils on their rolls. The Government published its strategy to improve information, advice and guidance (Quality, Choice and Aspiration) in October 2009. Alongside the strategy it published statutory guidance for schools, setting out “clear expectations for the provision of high quality impartial information about learning options”.  Last month, the Department for Children, Schools and Families announced the creation of a careers profession taskforce. The government concedes that the quality of information, advice and guidance varied across the country and it would review the system delivered by local authorities in 2011.

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