Milburns report – but what about information, advice and guidance?
A hole in the Social Mobility Pipeline?
Tessa Stone of the Bridge Group in a Guardian article this week, looking at Alan Milburns report on Social Mobility, was ‘surprised to see that careers information, advice and guidance (IAG) in supporting access to the professions was not given greater prominence. This is increasingly one of the largest holes in the social mobility pipeline.’ She warns of ‘potentially disastrous consequences if this lack of support is not dealt with quickly and effectively by the government’. She continues ‘ It is crucial that young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with no family history of higher education, have access to first class IAG about their options and how to navigate the minefield that is higher education and career progression.’ The burden of responsibility has now been placed on schools to provide careers IAG and statutory guidance has been issued to this effect. The trouble is that no ring fenced funds have been made available to schools to deliver this service. Stone reminds us that Alan Milburn originally recommended that £200m be transferred to schools from the previous Connexions budget (Connexions included Careers advice targeted at those at risk of exclusion) to allow schools to tender for careers services a provider of their choice. However, this money has not found its way to schools. She writes ‘ Without a ring-fenced budget, and without much clearer guidance to schools on what good careers IAG provision looks like and how to provide it, the system will fail those who need it most’ She is right, of course, and the government has been warned about this right from the start and chosen to ignore it. Hard pressed schools juggling their budgets will tend to choose the cheapest options-to meet their statutory duty-access to a web portal or telephone advice. Face to face advice, which is the most appropriate for disadvantaged pupils, is also the most expensive. How many schools will opt for face to face advice in the current climate? And how exactly will social mobility improve if disadvantaged pupils do not get early access to good independent professional advice on the qualifications they need and the routes into training, further and higher education and the job market including the professions? This blind spot looks likely to undermine the whole social mobility agenda.
Milburn chose instead, in his big interview in the Times, to generate a headline , focusing the medias attention on the charity status of independent schools, an old hobby horse of his, therefore wasting an opportunity to focus on the key policy levers that might help ease social mobility.In choosing to flog a dead horse he has used up valuable political capital.
Simon Hughes MP, who is advising the government on improving ‘Access’ said, before the statutory guidance was published, “schools will also receive guidance which will require that all those most in need must have face to face careers guidance.” But the published guidance gives no such guarantee.
The latest government statistics show the number of 16-to 18-year-olds not in employment, education or training (Neet) increased from 159,000 in the first quarter of 2011 to 183,000 in the same period this year. This means the proportion of Neet 16-to 18-year-olds now stands at 9.8 per cent, up from 8.3 per cent from last year.