FE provider membership bodies are calling on Ofsted to take a greater look at the information, advice and guidance given out at schools.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) believes the education regulator should grade the advice handed out to school students, while Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has urged Ofsted to make it a top framework priority. Since the announcement of changes to the careers system, fears have been raised that students in schools will be “signposted” to an online resource, such as the government’s own National Careers Service (NCS) website, which launches next month.

However, the government has confirmed that from September, schools in England will be required by law to access independent careers advice from an external provider, in addition to any service a school itself provides.

Young people who want face-to-face advice from an outside specialist careers service will be entitled to receive this form of support to help them make an informed choice.

Joy Mercer, director of policy at the Association of Colleges (AoC), was encouraged by comments of Ofsted Chief Inspector Michael Wilshaw, who told the Education Select Committee in February that inspectors would comment on the effectiveness of careers guidance in their reports.

She said: “Young people’s access to appropriate information, advice and guidance is essential for economic improvement and reducing youth unemployment.

“However, as well as commentary, we would like to see this provision graded – because it is only then that schools will give the emphasis to all the opportunities available for young people.

“Without grading, parents may find a comment in the inspection report difficult to locate.”

She added: “It is important to note that this is not a school versus college issue.

“This is about young people being able to make the right choices at the right time based on the best information.

“This would go a long way to help the economy, reduce unemployment, and allow young people to find the career paths that are best suited to them.”

AELP believes that the new obligations will help to raise awareness of apprenticeships among young people at a time when the government is looking to increase the take-up of the programme under the Youth Contract.

Graham Hoyle, AELP’s chief executive, said: “The government’s announcement is excellent news for young people who need advice in the current economic climate that will make a real difference to their prospects rather than just ‘park’ them in the system.

“Schools will need to be made aware of their statutory obligations and as MPs and peers from all parties have repeatedly made clear in Parliamentary debates on the matter, they will need to comply.

“In our view, this requires inspectors from Ofsted to check on school visits that necessary arrangements are in place for students to access impartial advice from an external service. We hope that Ofsted will regard this as a priority under its new framework.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said they will continue to look at effectiveness of the advice and guidance given at school.

However, the spokesperson also said Ofsted “does not regulate how schools provide guidance to pupils” and that the accountability for meeting the school’s statutory responsibilities lies with the governing body of the school.

“Ofsted believes high quality independent information, advice and guidance in schools is crucial and evaluates the quality of it when conducting their inspections.

“It does provide information and advice for schools and policy makers in the form of survey reports,” said the spokesperson.

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