Two thirds of schools still flouting Baker clause a year after introduction

Two-thirds of schools are still flouting the controversial Baker clause a year after it was introduced – leading to calls for Ofsted to police the rule.

A report published today and shared exclusively with FE Week and The Times by the Institute for Public Policy Research has warned the Baker clause has “failed to achieve its aims”.

It found that 70 per cent of the 68 FE providers approached as part of the research continue to find it difficult to access schools, while most of them who were granted access raised concerns they were only allowed to speak to less academic pupils.

Only 31 per cent of the post-16 providers believe the situation around accessing school students and promoting technical education had improved over the last year.

Meanwhile, 63 per cent of 101 secondary schools surveyed had failed to issue a policy statement, as required by the Baker clause since January last year, to show how they ensure education and training providers can access pupils to talk about technical education and apprenticeships.

Lord Baker has accused schools of “deliberately flouting and flagrantly disregarding the law of the land”, but the Association of School and College Leaders has warned the Baker clause is “only one of a large number requirements that schools have to juggle”.

The Baker clause, introduced in January 2018, stipulates schools must ensure a range of FE providers have access to pupils from year 8 to year 13 to provide information on technical education and apprenticeships. 

Skills minister Anne Milton warned in August the government would directly intervene in schools which failed to comply, but the IPPR said no intervention has taken place and providers are concerned about the “lack of any real consequences”.

The think tank randomly selected 10 schools within each region of England for its study. The other schools were from the constituencies of education secretary Damian Hinds and skills minister Anne Milton – where just three of 11 were found to be compliant.

The report said there is a focus on “pupil retention, rather than supporting students and their families to understand the options available” because schools are largely funded on a per-pupil basis.

It recommends Ofsted assesses compliance with the Baker clause as part of a wider judgement on a school’s careers guidance, including speaking to local providers to understand how effectively the school works with them.

Careers guidance would be ranked between ‘inadequate’ and ‘outstanding’, and any school which receives the lowest grade or does not comply with the Baker clause should be prevented from receiving the top grade in the ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ section of the Ofsted report.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said another measure for Ofsted inspections is “the last thing that schools need”.

“We need to work together across the sector and with government over this issue, rather than attempting to produce results by coercion.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said it already assessed careers guidance and the effectiveness of 16-to-19 study programmes.

But Lord Baker backed IPPR’s calls, adding: “The Baker clause was a major step to improve career guidance and by ignoring it schools are denying the right of their students to know more about technical education. This is totally unacceptable.”

Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges, pointed out that allowing FE providers to speak to all students “doesn’t have any cost implications for schools” and will “help them to achieve the Gatsby benchmarks”.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said gender stereotyping and stopping providers talking to pupils of all abilities was a “major concern”.

Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee said it’s time for the government and Ofsted to “get tough and penalise schools which evade their duties under the Baker clause”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said schools who are not supplying pupils with the necessary information will be asked for evidence of compliance with the Baker clause.

He added the DfE will “take appropriate action” against schools who do not supply this evidence.

The IPPR report also recommends the creation of a single online UCAS-inspired resource for more information on local FE pathways, as well as more responsibility on local authorities to engage parents with careers advice, help Ofsted tackle non-compliance and support partnership working across schools and education providers.