The Governments approach to careers guidance in schools is pretty straightforward. Schools now have a statutory duty to give their pupils access to independent careers advice and guidance. But the type of guidance is a decision left up to individual schools. And they have to pay for it from their schools budget-ie there is no ring fenced funding.
Types of advice range from access to a web portal, to a telephone chat or face to face advice . A recent survey by Careers England found that the type and quality of advice now on offer varies significantly between schools. Careers advice has been reduced in more than eight out of 10 schools in England in the past year, the research suggests.Face to face advice, the type regarded as most appropriate for the most disadvantaged pupils, is in short supply. It is of course the most expensive option.Some schools are almost cavalier in their disregard for their new statutory duty, possibly aware that Ofsted will not inspect the quality of the careers advice and guidance on offer in their school.
Professor Tony Watts ,one of our foremost experts on information advice and guidance, summarises the governments new approach as not about delegation but abdication. Watts told the Education Select Committee this month that it is strange that a government so keen to measure our education system against the very best in the world, ignores international evidence in this particular area. Evidence from high performing countries is that not one country leaves it just up to schools to provide careers advice to pupils without regulation .In Finland, for example, each school has to produce and publish a plan for careers guidance. Each school also has professional careers counsellors,indeed careers education is a mandatory part of the curriculum, and there are very clear guidelines for schools on careers guidance.
Experts, giving evidence to the Select Committee, claim that there are a big economic benefits to ensuring that we give our pupils access to good, independent, professional careers advice and guidance . But we also have a moral obligation to do so.
What is most perplexing about this is that a government that has a genuine commitment to improving social mobility attaches such a low priority to ensuring that our most disadvantaged children have guaranteed access to professional face to face advice at an early stage. They need this support to enable them to make informed and appropriate choices to maximise their potential. Without it, it is hard to envisage social mobility improving any time soon.
Note-Independent research (9 November) for the Association of Colleges found:
- 44% of school teachers admit to giving a pupil bad or uninformed advice in the past
- 82% of school teachers don’t feel they have the appropriate knowledge to advise pupils on careers, and 82% are calling for better guidance on advising pupils about their options post-16