Hughes champions need  for  face to face  Careers guidance 

And demands clarity on transitional arrangements


Simon Hughes was appointed as the Advocate for Access to Education by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in December 2010 and was asked to report on how to promote access to further and higher education.  He said in his report published  last week that all schools in England should channel university scholarships to their poorest pupils.  Linking scholarships directly to schools and colleges would motivate children, he said.  And this would end the situation where some schools sent no pupils to university. He had been among those warning that poorer pupils could be put off from applying to university by the trebling of the cap on tuition fees. From 2012, universities in England will be able to charge up to £9,000 a year for undergraduate courses. In his report called Advocate for Higher Education, Hughes said his most important suggestion was that scholarships should be offered through schools. Under the planned National Scholarship Programme, starting in 2012, students from poorer homes (with an income of less than £25,000 a year) will be eligible for annual awards of about £3,000 – and the current plan is for these to be allocated through universities. Mr Hughes said poor youngsters should be told about the scholarships at 15 and would then apply for the funding – and university – a year or two later.

The report includes thirty recommendations.

Hughes is strongly  critical of  his own  Governments careers policy.

He stresses the importance of professional Careers Advice and expresses real concerns that current government policy does not support the giving of face to face careers advice and that students will suffer because of this.

He writes ‘ At the age of 13 and 14 (in English schools year nine), every student should have  made available to them information on all future pathways through education to  employment, including clear information about which types of careers different  educational  choices can lead to. The information should take the form of a full guide to the types of qualification required to reach the next stage in their education or  career. The guide should not just focus on the professions or higher education; it should detail the opportunities and benefits of further education, higher education, apprenticeships, training and employment after school-leaving age. Most importantly, it should also detail the costs and financing arrangements available for all routes of apprenticeship, training and study. The guide should also contain a list of independent resources available to young people to help them with their decisions.’ He continues ‘ The government should act urgently to guarantee face to face careers advice for all  young people in schools. Government should also guarantee careers information, advice and guidance up to 17 and then 18 in line with the increase in the compulsory schooling age.’

He concludes ‘  The government should urgently publish a plan of how it intends to maintain the  expertise of current careers professionals between the closures of local authority  careers services in 2011 and the beginning of the all age careers service in 2012’

Significantly, in a not so  veiled criticism of his own governments policy, Hughes wrote ‘However, there is a very widespread view among most past and present school students  who I spoke to around the country that young people overwhelmingly value receiving  careers information, advice and guidance from another person – in person. Current  government plans do not guarantee this and so there is in addition very serious and  widespread concern that students will suffer accordingly. There is also considerable concern  in schools and colleges, among young people, teachers and career professionals that the  new system will not provide the comprehensive service needed in time for those needing  professional help with career choices in 2011-12.’

Government proposals in the Education Bill, currently in the Lords, envisage schools being given a clear duty ‘to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for pupils in years 9 to 11’. This includes information on the full range of 16-18 education and training options. (Clauses  26 and 27)

However, no extra money is being earmarked for this service. The type of advice offered ie web based, telephone or face to face is not stipulated, but given that face to face advice is the costlier option, it is likely that most schools will opt for web based advice. Disadvantaged pupils are thought to benefit most from face to face advice.   Currently careers advice is patchy in schools and with Connexions services being dramatically cut, there is limited availability of professional guidance, through these local services, which ,in any case, vary in quality between local authorities. The government intends to consult on extending the duty to students up to the age of 18 in schools and in colleges in due course. Currently there is considerable confusion over transitional arrangements for providing advice to young people reflected in the Governments  hurried decision to hold a Careers Summit last week to discuss transitional arrangements and the challenges faced by those offering guidance and careers advice

The Commons Education Select Committee  in their  report  ‘Participation by 16-19 Year olds  released last  week said:

‘Online career guidance, which allows young people to explore at their own pace and according to their own interests, is valuable; and we heard praise for the online careers services offered by DirectGov. However, this is no substitute for personal advice, given on the basis of an understanding of a young person’s circumstances and ambitions. We recommend that the all age careers service should be funded by the Department for Education for face to face career guidance for young people.’


Note: There is centrally funded face to face guidance for adults through DBIS but no centrally funded guidance for young people through DfE. Careers guidance will be funded from schools  budgets. Few doubt that this will mean schools opting for the  least costly option-advice through a web portal. A Careers adviser in Great Yarmouth told BBC news on 27 July ” “a  web site  can give you information, that’s if you can find the web site,   but it  cant have a conversation with you and  it cant start to unpick  all the other stuff that is going on  in your life that may be impacting on  the decisions that  you make”.

It seems likely that the most disadvantaged pupils will suffer most from the lack of face to face advice.

Report to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister  from the Advocate for Access to Education  ‘The Hughes Report’; July 2011


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