With Ofsted’s careers guidance review due out soon, Karen O’Donoghue explains what she thinks needs to be done so that youngsters are getting pointed in the right direction.

 

The Ofsted Thematic Review on careers guidance in schools is due out soon.

The debate on careers provision for young people, simmering since the introduction and then demise of the Connexions Service, has reached a rolling boil since schools took over responsibility from local authorities last year.

From September the statutory duty is extended to include FE and sixth form colleges, with colleges needing to demonstrate the provision of independent, impartial careers that promotes the best interests of the student.

While there are examples of great practice, these seem isolated and dependant on affordability or priority. Until Ofsted gives us its view, “seem” is the only word we can use with any degree of accuracy, although the education committee has already reported that the quality and quantity of guidance for young people is deteriorating just when it is most needed.

Nevertheless, the “seeming” lack of robust careers guidance and the removal of the statutory duty to provide both careers education and work-related learning has stirred up views like never before.

The Confederation of British Industry and Chamber of Commerce have berated the poor preparation young people receive before leaving school and the National Careers Council Report called for a cultural shift in provision.

The Career Development Institute (CDI), launched this year, represents career development professionals throughout the UK, operating across a spectrum of contexts, including private sector, public services, schools, colleges and higher education.

Our mantra relates to quality and standards in career development provision, wherever it is practiced and we welcomed Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw’s statement that the education watchdog had to look “very, very carefully” at the school inspection framework to focus more on careers guidance.

It is our view that Ofsted needs to show its teeth and report that the statutory guidance does not provide a reliable statement for schools to comply with consistently across England, resulting in an unhelpfully fragmented service that cannot, in all fairness to schools, be properly inspected.

We want to see Ofsted calling for careers education provision in schools being quality assured on an ongoing basis, with schools adopting quality awards that are assured by the Quality in Careers standard — another ready-made opportunity to unify, develop and improve careers provision. Schools are best placed to understand how such a programme might work and without good careers education, careers guidance interventions are inevitably reduced in effectiveness.

Ofsted should be clear that the minimum standard for guidance practitioners, in line with the aspiration for the National Careers Service, is QCF level six. In fact, CDI goes further — it is our view that a qualification is an incomplete demonstration of quality and capability and that deliverers must be part of the UK Register of Careers Development Professionals, a standard that verifies the qualification, provides a statement that the practitioner adheres to a code of ethics and ensures commitment to continued professional development.

Finally, we hope Ofsted comments that “independent” is more than a little access to a website or a single visit to a training provider. There must be access to a blend of provision, including face-to-face guidance for those who need it, to create the opportunities that challenge a young person’s thinking, opens up their horizons and includes all relevant pathways — FE, apprenticeships, traineeships and higher education.

So many reports have called for action this year and the government has rightly awaited this review to inform decision making. The CDI hopes Ofsted’s voice will be the final push to improve the future of England’s young people and UK skills as a whole.

 

Karen O’Donoghue, president, Career Development Institute