This is why a ‘digital Baker clause’ is needed

27 Jun 2021, 6:00

Students will expect to access all the information about their future options in one place online, writes Katie Bell

This week, the education select committee recommended that schools be limited to a ‘requires improvement’ grade if they do not allow training providers to speak to learners.

It’s an effort to ensure they are in line with the Baker clause, which exists to enable colleges and training providers to go into schools to tell them about vocational and technical courses and apprenticeships. 

At UCAS we know that young people are increasingly interested in these routes. The number of higher and degree apprenticeship starts (those at level 4 or above) has risen from 39,300 in 2018-19 to 51,400 in 2020-21, according to government data. They now make up more than three in ten starts across all apprenticeships. 

We also know these numbers will climb, as the boom over the past decade in children entering primary and secondary education is about to hit post-16 education.   

The number of 18-year-olds in the UK is set to increase consistently over the next ten years, and by 2025 we forecast there will be one million applicants globally applying for higher education in the UK.  

As the 18-year-old population grows, so will the competition for these opportunities. It is only right that these students are able to assess their options in a way that ensures they make the right decision for themselves.  

Last month we published Where Next? Improving the Journey to Becoming an Apprentice, the latest in our “Where Next?” series examining the student journey. It showed that of those looking to apply to higher education in 2022, half are interested in receiving information about apprenticeships.  

The most common apprenticeship areas of interest are engineering, computer sciences and architecture, building and planning. They are also more likely to be from geographical areas with the least participation in higher education. 

The report also highlighted the challenges faced by students when exploring these opportunities. For undergraduate routes, students are able to go to a central digital location, view engaging content and compare various opportunities like-for-like.  

However, the experience for students exploring apprenticeships is not comparable. Only around a quarter (26 per cent) of those interested in apprenticeships told us they found it very or somewhat easy to find information about apprenticeships, compared to almost three-quarters (73 per cent) looking at university options.  

But the challenges in understanding these opportunities start even earlier. Of a self-reported sample, only around one-third of students reported receiving their legal entitlement to information from apprenticeship providers or FE colleges, despite the Baker clause.  

As Ofsted were warned again this week, our report indicates that students are not receiving information about the full range of options available to them. 

We also see evidence that students don’t understand the potential value of apprenticeships. Students report that they viewed a university degree as most prestigious and more likely to lead to a good job.  

Again, this underlines the importance of students being able to understand and assess their options fully, and the value they provide. 

So we now have a clear ambition to act as a “digital Baker clause”. We want to provide comprehensive information, advice and content tools to help students make informed and aspirational post-secondary choices. 

Students will expect to be able to access information about these in a single location

That’s why we’ve launched the UCAS Hub.

We know teachers and advisers are working hard to inform students about their options (we work with over 4,000 directly every single day) and we know how complex this maze can be.  

And those pathways are continuously changing. Through the Skills for Jobs white paper, and subsequent Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, the government plans to bolster higher technical qualifications at levels 4 and 5.  

Students will expect to be able to access information about these in a single location.  

Apprenticeships listed on the “career finder” tool of the UCAS site have already been viewed over 1.2 million times in the past 12 months.  

We want our service to be as strong for would-be apprentices as it is for prospective undergraduates, bringing true parity to the student journey.

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