Ofsteds thematic review of Careers guidance in schools finds its not working well enough

Three quarters of schools are not meeting their statutory duty

Edge Foundation calls for independent face to face guidance


Three quarters of the schools visited for an Ofsted survey were not implementing their duty to provide impartial careers advice effectively. The survey also finds that guidance for schools on careers advice is not explicit, the National Careers Service is not promoted well enough and there is a lack of employer engagement in schools.

The report examines the quality of careers advice since September 2012 when schools were given the legal responsibility to provide this service to students aged 14 – 16. The survey looked at the extent to which young people in this age-range, in the 60 schools that inspectors visited, were receiving impartial careers advice in order to make informed decisions about their future.

Very few of the schools visited knew how to provide a service effectively or had the skills and expertise needed to provide a comprehensive service. Few schools had bought in adequate service from external sources.

The report findings show schools were not working well enough with employers to provide students with direct experience of the world of work in order to help broaden their minds about realistic employment opportunities in their local area.

Vocational training and apprenticeships were rarely promoted effectively, especially in schools with sixth forms. Instead, the A-Level route remained the ‘gold-standard’ for young people, their parents and teachers.

Few schools were promoting the National Careers Service, the body responsible for providing independent and impartial careers advice to young people from the age of 13. Its telephone service and website were also rarely promoted and therefore significantly underused. Nearly all of the students interviewed who were aware of the website, told inspectors that it offered nothing different from other similar sites and the large majority felt it was mostly aimed towards older students and adults.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw said:

‘It is vitally important that young people have access to information on the full range of career pathways available so they can make informed choices about their next steps. Our findings show that too few schools are doing enough to ensure all their students receive comprehensive advice about the breadth of career opportunities available to them.

‘It is worrying that the new arrangements are failing to provide good guidance or to promote vocational training options and apprenticeships. Given the high levels of youth unemployment, even amongst graduates, it is important the Government, schools, local authorities and other agencies all work to improve the quality of careers advice in schools.’ The report makes a number of recommendations to the Government, schools, Local Authorities, The National Careers Service as well as for Ofsted itself.

It recommends:

The Government provide more explicit guidance to schools on careers advice.

The Government monitor students’ progress and achievement when they leave school through accurate collection of ‘destination data’ to give a better understanding of a young person’s journey to employment.

The National Careers Service markets its services more effectively to all young people aged 13-18 and does more to disseminate information on national skills shortages so that young people gain a greater understanding of where there are likely to be greater employment opportunities.

Ofsted also recommends that its own inspectors take greater account of careers guidance and students’ destinations when conducting future school inspections.

It was also revealed today that the CIPD, a professional body for human resources experts, says that its research has shown that more than half of employers believe that young people are not receiving good enough careers advice.

The Charity, Barnardos, which works with disengaged children,  in a report this  August, said that ‘the  government risks replacing face-to-face careers guidance with remote online schemes that young people report they can’t use or don’t even know exist, jeopardising their chances of getting sustainable work.’

The CBI has also issued hard-hitting warnings, saying that careers advice is on “life support” in many schools. Earlier this year the House of Commons education select committee warned of a “worrying deterioration” in careers services. Jan Hodges, Chief Executive of the Edge Foundation, an independent education charity  commenting on the Ofsted  report said : “It’s clear that many schools are failing to deliver impartial careers advice to their students. The best support goes to students aiming for university. They get help to choose courses and fill in UCAS applications.

“There’s much less help for young people considering vocational options such as apprenticeships and full-time courses at further education colleges.

“One reason is that teachers know much less about apprenticeships than other options. In our last YouGov survey, only one in five of all secondary school teachers (22%) rated their knowledge of apprenticeships as good or very good. Worryingly, teachers in the 25-35 age group are even less well-informed – only 10% have a good understanding of apprenticeships. Faced with findings like these, it’s obvious we need to improve careers education for all young people. All young people should be entitled to meet an independent careers adviser face to face. That’s a given. But it’s not enough. From primary school onwards, young people should find out about careers by meeting people from all walks of life, both in school and in the workplace. They should also visit further education colleges, universities and apprenticeship training providers to learn about the choices that lie ahead. They say seeing is believing. That’s why it’s vital for young people to learn about careers first hand as well as from professional advisers.”

Brian Lightman, general secretary, of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Sadly, the findings of this report, which reflect the warnings we and many others have consistently given to government, are no surprise to school and college leaders. The duty to provide careers guidance was placed on schools at a time when most existing infrastructure and funding for such provision had been removed. School leaders know how important careers guidance is but have, in many parts of the country, struggled to meet this requirement.”

In its response, the government says the National Careers Service will be improved to “give young people a greater understanding of the full range of options available to them”. Skills Minister Matthew Hancock highlighted the importance of getting employers involved with schools and colleges. “People with fulfilling careers are the ones who can really show young people what it is like to succeed in the world of work. That is why I want more employers involved in providing high-quality careers advice to the future workforce. We gave schools and colleges the responsibility for securing good careers advice for their pupils because they know them best. Ofsted highlighted excellent careers advice already being provided by schools, but I want all schools to do as the best do – inspiring young people, providing work experience and putting them in touch with employers.”

Going in the right direction? Careers guidance in schools from September 2012-Ofsted

Note 1

Statutory Duty;Section 29 of the Education Act 2011 placed schools under a duty to secure access to independent careers guidance for their pupils in school years 9 to 11.From September 2013 this was extended to years 8-13 and revised statutory guidance has been published to reflect this change-‘Headteachers, school staff and governing bodies must have regard to this statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State in exercising their functions under this section’.

Note 2

Careers support for adults and young people is provided by the National Careers Service, which in 2012-13 was funded by £84.4m from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, £14m from the Ministry of Justice and £4.7m from the Department for Education. The service includes mainly access to web, telephone and e-mail advice.  Schools are encouraged to give face to face advice where it is most appropriate, for example, to the most disadvantaged pupils. But there is no obligation to provide such advice.  Nor is there ring fenced funding available for this service , the most expensive form of careers  advice and guidance.

Note 3;

Organisations that have expressed concerns over the quality of careers advice available to young people over the last two years include: CBI, BCC, EEF,RSA, Edge Foundation, Ofsted, AOC, Dr Barnardos, ASCL,,CIPD, Education Select Committee, BIS Select Committee, Observatory of Skills and Employment, Careers England,   ICGES/ Pearson Think Tank , NFER , ‘Which’, the Work Foundation,   Working Links, NUS.


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