OFSTED REPORTS ON LOCAL ADVICE AND GUIDANCE
Too much variation in quality of advice but Connexions providing good support
An Ofsted report, Moving through the system, out this week, looked at the quality of local advice and guidance for young people. It found considerable variation in the quality of advice and guidance and, in particular, a failure to meet the needs of some of the most potentially vulnerable young people. In all the authorities visited, inspectors found examples of carers, residential staff, teachers and tutors who were providing advice and guidance to young people but who had too little knowledge and understanding of the full range of options to do this effectively. However the report also found that the Connexions service provided good support in the institutions visited. In the local authorities visited, young people who had learning difficulties and/or disabilities were disproportionately represented among those not in education, employment or training and this was true even in the authorities where the picture generally was better than the national average. Between July 2008 and March 2009, inspectors inspected a wide range of provision in 10 local authorities. In eight of the 10 authorities, inspectors evaluated the new arrangements for information, advice and guidance services and visited individual projects that supported young people who were not in education, employment or training. The visits were made before the strategy and related statutory guidance for impartial careers education were published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) in October 2009. Most of the young people from the pupil referral units and the special schools visited for the survey progressed into some kind of further education, employment or training, and the local authorities which had a virtual headteacher or an officer with specific responsibility for looked after children generally provided more effective support than those which did not. These findings suggest strongly that combining good support for all young people in their individual institutions, matched closely to their needs and with an active and strategic focus at local authority level on provision for particular groups, can make a positive difference to outcomes. However, the findings also point to the need to do more.
Ofsted found that in the areas visited, the new arrangements for commissioning information, advice and guidance, introduced April 2008 had improved communication between managers of children’s services and key providers of information, advice and guidance services.
There was little evidence, however, that the new arrangements had made more resources, such as personal advisers, available for these services. The advisers were also facing the additional pressures of keeping up to date with a wide range of new developments and information. Despite some successes in the transfer of such responsibilities, weaknesses persisted. The findings highlight the importance of providing information, advice and guidance that are matched well to the specific needs of individuals; the need to monitor the progress of individuals and groups; and the need to collect and analyse data on the destinations of young people. Too many of the local authorities did not use the data they held well enough to track the progress of young people and they were therefore not able to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the strategies that they had put in place.
A clear message coming out of this report is that too many individuals giving advice are not qualified to do so and this issue has been raised on a number of occasions before. The good news for Connexions professionals is that Ofsted was impressed by what it saw in the authorities visited.