New rules which mean schools will be forced to tell their pupils about FE and apprenticeships “don’t go far enough”, the Association of Colleges (AoC) has warned.

The Department for Education (DfE) published new statutory guidance on careers advice this month, which for the first time explicitly requires schools to promote vocational courses — using the word “must” to indicate it is a legal requirement.

It comes after the provision of independent advice and guidance (IAG) became the responsibility of schools in 2012, but was widely criticised for not being explicit enough about FE.

But while some sector organisations have welcomed the report, AoC director of policy Joy Mercer (pictured) said that although it took “a few tentative steps in the right direction”, it didn’t “go far enough”.

She said: “Providing high quality, impartial advice and guidance is no easy task. While we appreciate schools are receiving no extra funding to support this statutory obligation, while competing in an increasingly competitive market to enrol young people, we wanted to see the legal duties more clearly defined.

Joy Mercer

“We believe more work needs to be done, especially regarding the steps that will be taken to ensure that schools comply.”

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “The new document is a significant step forward although there is much of the guidance that is left to the judgement of the schools. We agree with that principle providing the outputs of the school are monitored and the schools operate in a transparent and open environment.

“In particular we welcome the fact that schools are now expected to welcome employers and training providers on to their premises to allow pupils to hear about options such as apprenticeships and traineeships and of course any other work- based options.”

And 157 Group chief executive Lynne Sedgmore said: “We wholeheartedly agree with the assertion that pupils in schools will be inspired by the presence of employers and other role models in this work, and this guidance offers schools some helpful ideas about how best to achieve this.

“Recent research from City & Guilds showed that an overwhelming majority of school pupils were clamouring for more contact with the world of employment. I know that schools will want to work ever more closely with their local FE colleges who have a proven track record in employer relations.”

Announcing the guidance in the House of Commons, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said it would “drive links between schools and colleges and employers” to “inspire and mentor”.

He added: “There will be no excuse for schools and colleges not opening their doors to employers and no excuse for employers not to engage with schools and colleges.”

A good practice brief on careers advice has also been published by the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and the 157 Group.

The document calls for a culture change led by senior leaders in schools and colleges, and “widespread agreement on the principles of effective careers education”. It also calls for extensive collaboration that always puts the interests of the young person first.