Careers advice ‘getting worse,’ warns government education committee

The quality and quantity of young people’s career advice is not good enough and is getting worse, a government review has found.

A “deterioration” in guidance since the service became the responsibility of schools in September was identified by the Education Select Committee, whose report on careers guidance was released today.

The committee chair, Graham Stuart MP, questioned the advice of schools who, he said, “put their own interests ahead of that of their pupils, restrict access to other education providers and make the filling of their sixth form places more of a priority than their statutory duty to provide independent and impartial advice and guidance for pupils.”

We have concerns about the consistency, quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance now being offered to young people”

The review, announced in June, looked at how careers guidance was affected by the Education Act 2011.

The Act saw provision of the service shift from the duty of local authorities, delivered by Connexions, to schools.

“We have concerns about the consistency, quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance now being offered to young people,” said the committee report, which referred to the transfer of responsibility for careers guidance to schools as “regrettable”.

“We heard evidence that there is already a worrying deterioration in the overall level of provision for young people.

“Urgent steps need to be taken by the government to ensure that young people’s needs are met.

“Too many schools lack the skills, incentives or capacity to fulfil the duty put upon them without a number of changes being made.

“Young people deserve better than the service they are likely to receive under the current arrangements.”

The committee heard from a number of education sector big-hitters, including FE Minister Matthew Hancock and Dr Deirdre Hughes, chair of the National Careers Council, who said there was a potential loss of £28bn to the UK economy if young people were not given the right career guidance.

Mr Stuart MP said: “We found that the quality and quantity of guidance for young people is deteriorating just when it is most needed.

“We want face-to-face guidance to be available to all young people as an integral part of a good quality careers service. They deserve and should receive far better support than current arrangements generally allow.”

He also called for the National Careers Service (NCS), which he described as “a great innovation for adults,” to be extended to support schools.

“The NCS must also be adequately funded to deliver this critical service for young people. Schools can’t simply be left to get on with it,” added Mr Stuart, who called for schools to produce annual careers plans to “ensure they can be held accountable for what they do”.

See the next edition of FE Week for reaction to the education committee’s findings.