Too few schools providing independent advice and guidance

There was an important debate this week in Westminster Hall (25 February) on Careers Advice and Guidance.

There was general agreement that the schools based system is not working, and although there is some evidence of good practice, the system is  too patchy and fragmented. Graham Stuart, Chair of the Select Committee, said “ The problem is that there are insufficient incentives for schools to take the matter seriously. That is why 80% of them do not. It is simple: they do not have to take it seriously. No one loses their job and no one gets fired or publicly humiliated for failing to do it properly, but they do if five good GCSEs are not achieved. We therefore have to change the accountability regime and have a high-stakes environment in which someone very easily gets publicly humiliated or sacked. That is the central problem.” .. and “schools should at least be made to publish their careers plan, so that parents and employers can have a look at it. Ofsted could check in advance.”

Nick Boles, the Minister, said there has never been a golden age of careers guidance and there certainly wasn’t one under the last government .He  said  that  there was  now “ statutory guidance requiring schools to provide independent advice and guidance.” Crucially, adding “ We certainly recognise that too few schools are doing so”

On the new  independent Careers company Boles said “ The point of the careers company, under Christine Hodgson, is to create a structure whereby every school has somebody it can ask to help it through this forest and identify the resources and the providers who will help provide a much better range of experiences and inspiration to young people. It will focus initially on mapping what is out there, because people have to know that before they can start offering guidance. It will then focus on Lord Young’s excellent idea, in his report to the Prime Minister, of appointing an enterprise adviser. That person will be a current or recently retired local executive from the public or private sector, who will be attached to a school and whose role will be to help it identify local businesses and employers that can come in to the school and provide work experience, and  resources relating to programmes relevant for the school. A school will identify that local enterprise adviser with the help of their local economic partnership.”

“It will have a small pot of money of about £5 million—a small part of the £20 million—from which it will be able to back new ideas for new kinds of experience and advice and guidance. That will act more as a sort of seed fund or a venture fund. It will also work more long-term on Lord Young’s other idea, which is for an enterprise passport that would probably be an online record of all of the non-formal educational achievements of a young person—all the volunteering and holiday jobs they have done, all the clubs they have joined and all their other extracurricular achievements at school—so that employers have an objective record of the full range of a young person’s contribution to their community when judging their fitness for school.”

The fact that the government has decided to make available £20m to establish a new company to help broker careers guidance and accepts that too few schools are providing independent advice and guidance,  is an implicit admission that its policies in this area are  simply not working . Boles has been more honest than  most in this respect. The writing was on the wall when Ministers realised they had to strengthen the initial  statutory guidance, and seem to now accept that you cant simply leave it up to schools, without strong accountability measures.

If you fail to ensure that young people have easy access  to high quality advice at crucial times in their lives, you are not going to improve social mobility, nor are you going to ease access for disadvantaged pupils to Higher Education  Institutions,    nor are  you going to fill vital skills gaps, an essential  truth that escapes  too many  Ministers and officials .

Worth reading this debate in full


Also see Teach First Report-March 2015

Teach First says:

‘We support the recommendation of the House of Commons Education Committee (2013) for the statutory duty for all schools to publish a plan for whole school careers and employability education and that this should be part of a school improvement plan. This will allow greater transparency over schools’ career and employability offer. A published plan can strengthen Ofsted’s ability to assess this provision in short inspections.

Careers education in the classroom- The role of teachers in making young people work ready




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