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Katy Jones
Researcher
Katy  Jones

New guidance for schools on careers guidance offers welcome blueprint, but schools will need dedicated funds to deliver

Authors: Katy Jones

11 April 2014

The government’s decision to transfer the responsibility for careers advice and guidance to individual schools following the Education Act in 2011 has resulted in a “worrying deterioration” in both the quality and quantity of careers advice and guidance on offer in schools and colleges. In response to this the government has published new guidelines about how schools should respond to this new duty.

Better guidance for schools in delivering their new duty is something that The Work Foundation has repeatedly called for and we welcome the new guidance. The guidance offers a clear picture of what a good careers advice and guidance offer should look like, and chimes with many of the recommendations we have made as part of our Missing Million programme of research. In particular, the emphasis placed on contact with employers, the need to challenge stereotypical thinking, the emphasis on promoting vocational pathways including apprenticeships are all important aspects of what we believe a good careers advice and guidance offer should look like.

But whilst the guidance is statutory, it makes an important distinction about what schools ‘should’ do and what they ‘must’ do. For example, ‘schools should make sure pupils can find out more about the range of options available by giving other providers who wish to do so the opportunity to inform pupils directly about what they offer’ – but we know that many schools don’t do this, some even employing underhand tactics to keep pupils in their 6th forms rather than consider other options. 

Similarly the notion that ‘schools should secure face-to-face advice and guidance where it is the most suitable support for young people to make successful transitions’ is uninspiring – young people are charged with making incredibly difficult decisions at a young age – and if George Osborne can offer “free, impartial, face to face advice” on retirement options for pensioners, it seems odd that face-to-face support might not be available to help young people make decisions which have serious implications for their whole lives. A House of Lords report released on the same day as the new guidance recommends that the government use EU money to fund face-to-face careers advice, rather than focusing on online support.

The new guidance makes it clear that schools need to do more to ensure that young people are equipped with the information and guidance they need to make informed choices about pathways into work. But whilst the government says the offer ‘needs to be appropriately resourced’, it’s still unclear where this resource is going to come from. No dedicated funds accompanied the transfer of responsibility for careers advice to individual schools, and this will make it difficult for schools to secure the standard of provision that the new guidance describes. A forthcoming expansion in the National Careers Service’s support for schools and colleges is welcome, as is a higher priority afforded to careers guidance by Ofsted. But if schools aren’t properly equipped with the resources they need to deliver, it’s likely that the careers advice on offer across schools will remain highly variable.     

For schools and colleges with the ambition, and, importantly, the resources, to provide young people with the knowledge they need to make informed choices, this document should offer a good blueprint for the way forward. But for every young person to have access to the quality of support they need to have the best chance in navigating what is often a very complex school to work transition, whichever school or college they go to, government must ensure that every school and college is properly resourced. For too long careers advice has been an afterthought. But at a time when youth unemployment is at crisis levels, it’s more important than ever that we get this right.