Response to careers guidance ‘disappoints’

The Association of Colleges is “disappointed” by the government’s response to the education select committee’s report on careers advice in schools.

The report, published last Monday, concluded that the quality of advice had deteriorated since schools took over provision from local authorities and Connexions last September, a move it called “regrettable”.

In its response, the government argued that the changes needed more time to “bed in and evolve” as the committee’s inquiry was conducted after the new system had only been in place for one term.

The association’s director of education policy, Joy Mercer, said: “We can understand why the government’s response . . .  is one of ‘wait and see’ at this early stage . . . but are disappointed that it did not take some of its practical advice to make careers guidance truly available to all young people.”

She pointed to the committee’s suggestion that all schools should publish and review their careers plan each year, a move the government rejected as it “would re-introduce bureaucracy of the kind we have tried so hard to remove”.

Since taking over the responsibility for careers advice, many schools have been accused of restricting advice on other FE providers and filling their own sixth forms.

Ms Mercer said: “The government needs to find new ways of encouraging co-operation between all the providers, schools and colleges, and the labour market, to ensure that the best interests of young people and adults are the primary aim.”

The government response said it was concerned to ensure schools acted impartially and had highlighted the need for schools to work with other providers in the careers statutory guidance.

“This is so important to our economy that there need to be clear incentives,” said Ms Mercer. The UK has a major youth unemployment problem and our concern is that Government is not acknowledging that careers advice is unsatisfactory, and isn’t recognising the mismatch in what parents and school teachers believe employers want from young recruits.”

An Ofsted review of careers guidance is due to be reported in the summer. The government said it would consider the committee report alongside Ofsted’s findings and those of the National Careers Council, “rather than rushing into any immediate changes at a time when schools are still evolving their careers programmes to best meet their new responsibilities”.

Ms Mercer said the association also awaited the Ofsted review, but renewed its January call for the inspectorate to examine careers advice during its routine inspections of schools.

Having consulted Ofsted, the committee found the current inspection framework was “not a credible accountability check on the provision of careers guidance by individual schools”.

The government response said careers guidance was an important area for Ofsted, and added: “Ofsted will draw on the findings of the thematic survey and will consider if any changes are required to its inspection frameworks.”