Professor Watts gives a qualified welcome to the new Guide on independent careers guidance
Professor Tony Watts believes that the newly published Practical Guide for Schools on Securing Independent Careers Guidance represents a positive outcome for the work of the Liberal Democrats, and for the lobbying undertaken by Careers England and other members of the Careers Sector Strategic Alliance. The Guide is directed at head teachers, school staff, governing bodies and local authorities. It relates to the duty, under the Education Act 2011, for schools to ‘secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for their pupils from September 2012’. It seeks to supplement the Statutory Guidance issued in March 2012 by ‘offering additional practical information’ on which schools might wish to draw ‘when interpreting your new responsibilities and deciding on the most appropriate forms of independent careers guidance for your pupils’.
On the crucial issue of face-to-face guidance, (as opposed to by phone or web portal) the Guide states: ‘Increased complexity and competition in education and labour markets means that most, if not all, young people would benefit from individual, face-to-face careers guidance to enable them to make informed decisions about future options based upon consideration of the wealth of information available from a range of sources and media. As highlighted in the statutory guidance, this is particularly crucial for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or with special educational needs. Face-to-face guidance with a qualified careers adviser will enable your pupils to review their circumstances, abilities, interests and aspirations as they make decisions about future education, training and work options.’
This goes some way to meeting the professions concerns based on the statement in the Statutory Guidance, that face-to-face guidance is ‘particularly’ relevant to children from disadvantaged backgrounds or with special educational needs which could easily be read as implying that it is only relevant to just these pupils.
Professor Watts says the following about external support- ‘On the nature of what needs to be commissioned from outside the school, the Guide indicates that schools with an in-house careers adviser can ‘retain’ him or her (again, as previously, blurring the issue of whether schools without one can now appoint one) but that this will need to be supplemented ‘with external sources of careers guidance to meet the new duty’. It extends the list of such sources to include not only ‘an external careers provider’ but also ‘employer visits, mentoring, website and telephone access’ and notes that ‘taken together, the external sources must provide information on the full range of post-16 options and access to face-to-face support where needed’. This, Professor Watts concludes, ‘would seem designed to encourage use of external face-to-face careers providers without requiring it.’ However, although Ministers have said that ‘Where there is clear evidence of a school failing to meet its statutory duties, we will take action’, it is not clear who will monitor the implementation of these duties. Ofsted says that that it will not inspect against them -so who will?
Professor Watts, who has been highly critical of the government’s approach to Careers Advice, Guidance and Education in schools, is much more positive about this Guide. He says in a recent Commentary for Careers England (July): ‘.. within the framework of the Coalition Government’s policies, it (the Guide) constitutes a stronger statement of Government expectations from schools than has been available previously. It should help schools to meet their new responsibilities, vague as these still are, in a more positive and thoughtful way. It merits strong promotion to schools from the Government, from Careers England and its members, and from other careers organisations.’