Ofsted inspectors have been issued new guidance on judging colleges’ provision of independent careers guidance.

According to the education watchdog, its revised handbook for inspectors visiting FE providers has undergone “minor clarifications” in areas like good practice visits, re-inspection monitoring visits and the reporting process.

And it has also seen the introduction of a section on inspecting colleges’ provision of independent careers advice for learners up to the age of 18.

The need for independent advice came into effect in September, and Ofsted said its inspectors had been aware of the change.

Its spokesperson told FE Week: “The changes are minor stylistic and grammatical clarifications to ensure the meaning is clear and ensure guidance and practice are fully attuned.

“There are minor clarifications around good practice visits, re-inspection monitoring visits, coverage of inspections, the reporting process and the requirement on colleges to secure independent careers guidance for learners up to the age of 18.”

The handbook itself says “inspectors should take into account the extent to which FE and sixth form colleges implement the requirement to secure independent careers guidance to learners up to the age of 18 introduced in September 2013”.

It also says inspectors should judge colleges on “the extent to which timely information, advice and guidance enable individuals to gain greater learning autonomy and decrease dependence on others, the availability and quality of advice and guidance on learning and personal issues and whether staff have the necessary qualifications, experience and skills to give information, advice and guidance”.

It comes amid an ongoing campaign by Association of Colleges (AoC) called Careers Guidance: Guaranteed, which aims to improve schools’ careers guidance.

As part of the campaign, the AoC has also drafted a petition to the Department for Education (DfE) calling for it to match-fund the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on the National Careers Service (NCS).

In 2012/13, the DfE gave £4.7m to the NCS, compared to £85m from BIS, £14m from the Ministry of Justice and £1.5m from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Joy Mercer, AoC director of policy, said: “We don’t oppose Ofsted checking on the careers advice provided by colleges — we know our members have an excellent track record in this regard.

“However, the real problem, as Ofsted acknowledged recently, is in schools not colleges.

“As part of our Careers Guidance: Guaranteed campaign, we’re calling on Ofsted to make careers advice and guidance a deciding factor in the inspection grade a school gets — if their careers advice isn’t good or outstanding then they cannot receive either of these grades for their overall result.

“Helping young people to make their future education choices is too important to leave it to chance.”

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  1. Young people need the independent advice when they are entering year 10 and make their GCSE choices and soon after work experience. There is plenty of evidence that this year many 17 year olds have been told raising the participation age meant staying on in their schools. Many colleges still find it difficult to go to careers events because of schools putting barriers in the way.