It’s time for impartial advice for learners

The Education Select Committee looked at the issue of careers guidance and produced a report that questioned the impartiality of schools now tasked with providing the service. Graham Hoyle OBE puts forward his suggestions to remedy the problem.

Lord Baker of the Baker-Dearing Trust has proposed that at age 14, pupils should make a choice to go down one of four educational pathways for the next four years of their lives.

Even if his ideas are too radical for a government to follow, the fact is that the educational landscape is already increasingly complex at 14 with the arrival of Lord Baker’s own UTCs, free schools and studio schools.

It is not surprising therefore that the Education Select Committee argues that schoolchildren should start receiving advice on their options, including careers guidance, earlier than in Year 11, the GCSE exams year.

The committee has produced a powerful report with its conclusions strengthened by the views of young people themselves who took part in the inquiry.

These views have rather disappointingly been relegated to the report’s annexes and I would urge anyone to read these first before they start to read the main text.

The young people’s comments echo what our members hear from their apprentices and trainees on the frontline every day.

The young people talk about the value of work-related learning which the coalition government has decided is no longer a statutory obligation for schools and we are in strong agreement with the committee that the obligation should be restored through the statutory guidance.

The report rightly highlights the dangers of the lack of access to impartial advice for pupils, particularly with regard to guidance about apprenticeships and other vocational options.

The MPs are especially concerned about schools with sixth forms, which have a vested interest in encouraging as many as possible of their students to stay on to do A-levels when some of those students would benefit much more from pursuing alternative options.

The Raising the Participation Age initiative, accompanied by the proposed new traineeships, will offer a range of choices at 16 that should hopefully reduce the number of young people not in education, employment, or training (NEETs) and cut the number of course drop-outs where the UK has traditionally fared badly, particularly in respect of 17-year-olds.

But it will only be effective if young people are receiving sound advice on their choices and as the committee MPs say, this should include impartial and face-to-face guidance.

One teacher from every secondary school should become the apprenticeship champion for their school”

We propsed to DfE several years ago that its training provider members should be allowed to go into schools on teacher training Inset days and give a presentation to teachers on apprenticeships.

The presentation would cover a generic description of the apprenticeship system and benefits and be delivered where possible by a combination of apprentices who have previously attended that school, their current employers and the organising training provider.

It would also signpost the school, and its pupils, to the full range of apprenticeship opportunities in the area.

We also believe that at least one teacher from every secondary school should undertake work experience with an apprenticeship provider and become the apprenticeship champion for their school.

As early advocates of the strengthening of Ofsted’s role in checking on the quality of the advice being offered in schools, we are greatly concerned by the committee’s identification of a disconnect between Ofsted’s understanding of its new responsibilities and the minister’s view on what inspectors should be doing.

The recommendation that schools should be required to publish an annual careers plan which shows evidence of impartial advice being made available would appear to be a good way of starting to tackle the issue.

We support a widening of the National Careers Service’s remit to cover young people as well as adults, which would put it on the same footing as services in Scotland and Wales.

We also back the committee’s recommendation that the National Apprenticeship Service should be given access to all schools without waiting to be invited.

Graham Hoyle OBE, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers

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