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.


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