Too early to say?
The new duty on schools to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance only began in September 2012 . The government believes that it important that sufficient time is allowed for the duty to bed in before any firm conclusions are drawn about the effectiveness of the new arrangements. Lord Nash recently indicated in the Lords (22 April) that ‘We are evaluating the impact of the new duty in a range of formal and informal ways.’
The Government have also commissioned Ofsted to carry out a thematic review of careers guidance, which will report this summer.
In addition, according to Lord Nash, the government is ‘publishing education destination measures to show the percentage of students progressing to further education or training in a school, further education or sixth form college, apprenticeship, employment or higher education institution. The measures provide us with evidence of how effective schools are in supporting pupils to move successfully into the next phase or their education or into sustainable work, including through the provision of independent careers guidance.’
Ministers and officials meet and correspond regularly with a range of stakeholders on issues relating to the delivery of careers provision in schools, says Lord Nash, which is true, but Ministers are not taking on board what stakeholders and the experts are telling them. No independent report from a reputable source on government reforms to careers advice and guidance in schools has endorsed government policy in this area and international evidence suggests that school based advice is the least effective (see the research from Professor Tony Watts and OECD). There are grave concerns too that only limited access to face to face advice is being offered to pupils which may have a negative effect on the social mobility, access, skills and inclusion agendas. Evidence suggests that the most appropriate form of advice for disadvantaged pupils is face to face advice from an independent fully qualified professional.
The government defends its policy by saying that it trusts in school autonomy. Schools themselves must make these decisions. But schools are not as autonomous as the government would have us believe. The government through its individual funding agreements with academies, for example, prescribes what schools have to do in certain areas . And if schools believe that they are autonomous when it comes to the way they use their extra funding for disadvantaged pupils, through the pupil premium, then they ought to look very carefully at recent speeches from the schools minister, David Laws and Sir Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted.
Lord Nash is confident that the government has detailed enough evidence ‘relating to the effectiveness of school-based careers guidance to inform future improvements in the quality of provision,’ while concurrently telling us that there is not yet enough evidence to gauge whether the new school- based service has bedded in. You dont need to be a rocket scientist to work out that schools, under budgetary pressure, will go for, the most part, for the cheapest option, and that is not face to face advice.
It will be particularly interesting to see what Ofsted has to say in its thematic review. However, there are no plans to make a specific graded judgement on the quality of careers guidance in respect of the school inspection framework and the common inspection framework.
Schools meet the costs of careers guidance from their overall budgets. Information on the amount spent by schools on careers guidance is not collected centrally