Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Centre for Guidance Studies (CeGS), University of Derby


  1.1  The University of Derby and the Careers Consortium (East Midlands) Ltd. established the Centre for Guidance Studies (CeGS) in April 1998. The Centre aims to bridge the gap between academics, policy-makers, managers and practitioners through UK evidence-based research and development activities. Three key strands underpin the work of CeGS: (i) youth policy; (ii) adult guidance; and (iii) workforce development. The Centre's portfolio of work includes research and evaluation on the economic benefits of guidance, impact studies related to youth and adult information, advice and guidance provision, evidence-based practice, and innovation linked to progression in support of lifelong learning. Throughout the UK, eighty-five organisations from education, training and employer sectors currently subscribe to the work of the Centre. CeGS has strong international links through the European Union and other key partnerships. It is currently involved in discussions to establish an International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy. The Centre is a lead partner in the development of a new and highly innovative National Guidance Research Forum (Website).


  2.1  We are responding to the invitation to submit evidence because of our expertise in research and in-depth knowledge of evidence-based policies and practices in the 14-19 education and skills agenda. The key factors emerging from our research findings indicate that young people are required to make sensible decisions on a wide range of choices that are increasingly being offered to them. As the number of choices for 14-19-year-olds expands (Working Group on 14-19 Reform chaired by Mike Tomlinson) it is acknowledged, by managers and practitioners responsible for planning and delivering youth support services, that too many options can result in disorientation, particularly in the absence of high quality information, advice and guidance. Given the proliferation of 14-19 initiatives, there will be greater need for a joint approach, working with young people to diagnose and assess their learning and work requirements, so that every young person can fully maximise their potential. Continuity in relationships with learning and work providers is central to young people's motivation and commitment to investing in education and training.

  2.2  Well developed support systems, underpinned by impartial information, advice and guidance, are required to ensure that adolescents are empowered to make well-informed decisions given their lack of experience of the options on offer. Many young people from a wide range of socio-economic and cultural groups have indicated that specialist knowledge on labour market opportunities, potential career routes, and access to both "formal" and "informal" learning opportunities is expected.

  2.3  National research conducted on behalf of the Learning & Skills Council (2002) indicated that more than half (54%) of parents questioned did not know what options are available to their children when they leave school, and 70% feared broaching the subject because their attempts to do so lead to arguments.[1]

  2.4  A more flexible 14-19 curriculum brings both wider opportunities and complex challenges for those responsible for delivering high quality services. Clear pathways and progression routes must be made explicit to young people, parents and teachers so that choice and decision-making can be well managed and informed by existing and new opportunity structures. The role of external agencies working closely in partnership with schools and colleges is central to ensuring that "need-based services" operate in a coherent access framework for all young people.

  2.5  The Connexions Service is a new approach to guiding and supporting young people through their teenage years. It offers a wide range of help to all 13-19-year-olds, including information, group work, advice, guidance, personal development and in depth support. Personal Advisers (PAs) have the primary role in helping young people with complex and multiple needs. They are critically dependent on provision from other agencies and due to the main focus on "preventative and recovery" work there is still a major gap in stimulating "progression routes" for all young people. The service is achieving impact in various ways with different groups of young people. It helps to meet their needs in relation to advice and guidance at school, as well as their wider support requirements. The introduction of the service has led to significant investment in the area of youth support, but its impact nationally on the effectiveness of career education and guidance (CEG) is still to be researched, as is the current state of CEG itself.[2] In addition, the role of career guidance specialists working with schools, training providers and employers has been marginalised and requires further attention.

  2.6  Impact also relates to the personal development of young people, often in terms of self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence and through work addressing the risk conditions and life circumstances of young people, taking into account their presenting needs and underlying causes. The balance of resource deployment between the universal and targeted forms of delivery needs closer scrutiny to ensure that 14-19 opportunities are being strengthened for all young people.


  3.1  Howieson and Croxford (1996) indicated that young people rarely rely only on information provided by schools, colleges, and careers advisers to make a choice.[3] Young people making informed choices about post-school options raises serious issues about the partial nature of advice that is being given by some schools with sixth forms, and other post-16 providers. Foskett and Hemsley-Brown (1999) have argued that the complexity of the decision making process made by young people in transition at 16 has been largely under-estimated. The challenge is to discern precisely how to maximise, and measure, the impact of the careers information, advice, and guidance provided, and to establish its role in helping to challenge stereotypical, and otherwise ill-formed views of opportunities and options, to aid informed choice.

  3.2  Research undertaken for the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) showed that those who are less decided about their career intentions can benefit from high quality and focused CEG.[4] It also highlighted that for many young people, "there are clear indications that high quality and appropriate CEG can be influential in supporting completion and achievement." The publication by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) of a "National Framework for Careers Education and Guidance in England" has been broadly welcomed.[5] Although this is a non-statutory framework, it is significant so far as it provides recommended learning outcomes, suggested content for a 11-19 careers education programme, advice on using the Framework in different settings, securing guidance provision and improving quality. The impact of the Framework will need to be judged over time. It will need to be assessed both by the extent to which schools and colleges use it to inform their provision,[6] and how much external inspection evidences its effectiveness.[7] Some in the field are concerned that its non-statutory status will mean it will be ignored by schools/colleges that have not made CEG a priority in the past.

  3.3  Research into education, training and youth support services indicates that it is essential to strengthen the relationship between need, risk and level of support for young people. The overall pattern of impact is largely dependent on the level of resources available and how they are deployed. Closer working relationships between specialist and non-specialist staff working in schools and local communities are required. This must take into account progression routes available upon completion of learning and work experiences. The introduction of Advanced Skills Teachers (AST) to support CEG in each Connexions Partnership area is welcomed however,[8] further strategic planning is required to identify effective policies and practice within an evidence-based framework.

  3.4  There is a strong possibility that many young people may feel swamped with micro-choices which serve to obscure the larger macro-choices related to their future career development plans. There is an assumption that schools will be able to fulfil a multiplicity of roles in helping to successfully guide young people through a myriad of options and progression routes. The centrality of their role and potential for positive impact is not under-estimated; however, advancements in professional training of youth support service workers, including career guidance specialists, show that new and highly innovative approaches designed to reach out to young people are underway.

  3.5  Helplines and websites are increasingly being developed and used by young people to gain access to 24/7 services. The main aim is to ensure maximum efficiency so that the right level of service, reaches the right person, at the right time. There is further scope to explore the potential of Connexions Direct in the delivery of information, advice and guidance services to young people within and outside of school settings.


  4.1  Brooks (1998) indicated in a substantial literature review on post-16 take-up that,[9] "recent research has indicated that good careers education and guidance has given students increased confidence in their decision making abilities, a high level of careers-related skills and an increased sense of satisfaction with post-16 choices." Medway and Penney (1994) were amongst the first to suggest that the student-decision making process could be characterised as a continuous weighing of the costs and benefits of continuing, or abandoning their course, and that decisions to leave largely result from rational decisions in the face of difficulties faced.[10] It is widely recognised that some of the main causes of "drop-out" fall into three main categories—college, work, and personal/family related.

  4.2  A significant number of post-16 sixth forms and colleges are developing their intranets. Programmes of work, learning materials, and lesson plans are increasingly being made accessible, which offers scope to share learning materials, both within and potentially between colleges and other bodies. Such developments, particularly if coupled with increased focus on how best to meet the needs of those with different learning styles, could "fast track" curriculum development (both in areas of under-achievement, and in those where further enhancements are needed to stimulate the "gifted/talented").

  4.3  The Level 2 Initiative in 2001-02, and Level 2/3 Attainment Programme in 2002-03, have represented substantive investments by NLSC in locally developed initiatives by LLSCs to raise recruitment, retention and achievement to help meet challenging national targets. Such programmes have seen the development and/or enhancement of a range of different methods of supporting learners (ie in relation to personal and social issues) as well as learning (ie seeking to maximise individuals' learning, and to optimise their attainment). Research undertaken by the education charity Examaid (2002) with 1,500 full-time students, revealed that many students "were confused about their rights/responsibilities at work, and 80% wanted their school/college to provide more information about these".[11]

  4.4  There is a substantive body of research literature—including work undertaken by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA)—on the issue of how best to develop learners' retention, achievement, and progression, and to close the "achievement gap".[12] A number of the key messages from this research revolve around the pivotal importance of the development of appropriate learner support services—particularly in the context of widening participation, which are necessary to deliver the learner entitlements already specified in good practice guidance by Learning and Skills Council (NLSC) nationally.[13]

  4.5  The concept of "decision-making readiness" requires further exploration within the context of supporting adolescents to manage transitions successfully in post-16 learning and work. Work is already underway to pilot this form of diagnosis and assessment working in partnership Connexions, schools, further education colleges and higher education institutions. This is highly relevant to informing ways in which resources can be used to maximum effect by identifying those young people who (a) can self-help, (b) use brief staff assisted services and/or (c) require intensive support.


  5.1  Findings from an OECD report (2003) indicate that compared to many other countries the UK has a strong knowledge base for its career guidance services.[14] It emphasises the importance of lifelong guidance to inform and support personal, social and economic prosperity. More recently, the role of career guidance specialists working with schools, training providers and employers has been marginalised and now requires further attention.

  5.2  A national review of CEG in light of the implementation of the National Framework for Careers Education by Ofsted is necessary in order to see how the Connexions Service and schools/colleges are working together to help young people make informed choices, and identify best practice.

  5.3  A reinforcement of impartiality and equal opportunities as key principles underpinning 14-19 information, advice and guidance services for all young people should be given priority. The necessary support from Local Education Authorities, head teachers, college principals and other appropriate groups, indicates that all learning providers should sign-up to, and be bound by these principles.

  5.4  A review of the adequacy of information provision about learning and labour market opportunities, including basic skills, is essential in order to consider what products and services should be developed to underpin minimum entitlements for young people.

  5.5  A review of traditional and contemporary approaches to diagnosis and assessment of young people's needs is required. There is a requirement for more flexible and systematic approaches to identifying and responding to learner development needs alongside the expansion of curriculum developments.

  5.6  A more in-depth exploration of the relationship of Connexions Direct in supporting the 14-19 education agenda and the extent to which this should link more closely with labour market and skills sector developments is essential.

  5.7  All post-16 providers should develop cost-effective systems of learner support, built on best practice emerging through evidence-based practice and research. They should seek to build the business case for additional income generated through improved retention, and progression, to be invested into the development and enhancement of necessary systems.

  5.8  Consider carefully the strategy for the future development of information, advice and guidance in the light of current thinking,[15] and see it as an integral part of the learning process, not as a related but separate element.

  5.9  In conclusion, the way forward is to create, develop and market the evidence-base using more rigorous protocols for the creation of reliable, expansive and rigorous evidence-based data.

15 December 2003

1   Research undertaken with a representative national sample of 300 parents of 14-18 year old young people in England by Taylor Nelson Soffres in 2003, on behalf of National LSC (Source: Learning and Skills News-20 August 2002). Back

2   It was noted in a review of CEG undertaken in 2002 for the Department that, "DfES has not commissioned any research into careers education and guidance since 2001, and the last national survey by Ofsted was in 1998" (Barnes A, Donoghue J, Sadler, J Improving Careers Education-An Analysis of recent research and inspection findings. NICEC Journal Autumn 2002). Back

3   Howieson, C. & Croxford, L. (1996) Using the Youth Cohort Study to Analyse the Outcomes of Careers Education and Guidance. HMSO: London. Back

4   SWA Consulting Ltd (2000) Outcomes from Careers Education and Guidance (Phase 11)-A Tracking Study. Chesterfield: SWA. Back

5   Department for Education and Skills (2003) Careers Education and Guidance in England-A National Framework 11-19. DfES: Sheffield. Back

6   The DfES has instituted a Careers Education Support Programme. One of the publications produced in connection with this is a guide to help careers education practitioners review and develop their programmes-"Using the National Framework for Careers Education and Guidance in England"-(available on Back

7   The recently published review by Ofsted of the introduction of Citizenship (National Curriculum Citizenship: planning and implementation 2002-03) is not encouraging in this regard. Implementation was found to be unsatisfactory in over half of schools visited. Citizenship (like CEG) has mainly been set within personal social and health education (PSHE). As regards Citizenship, this arrangement was judged as being largely unsatisfactory. ( Back

8   The Connexions Service National Unit has created 50 Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) posts in careers education-one in each Connexion Partnership area. The intention is to use the posts to support the development of the role of careers education and guidance in preparing young people for the new opportunities proposed in the 14-19 Green Paper. Back

9   Brooks, R. (1998) Staying or Leaving? A literature review of factors affecting the take-up of post-16 options. Reading: National Foundation for Educational Research. Back

10   Medway, J & Penney, R (1994) Factors Affecting Successful Completion: The Isle of Wight College. Unpublished Report, Further Education Unit (Unpublished). Back

11   Information about the research, quoted in The Times Educational Supplement (24 January 2003) can be obtained from Back

12   P Davies (2001) Closing the Achievement Gap: colleges making a difference. LSDA: London. Back

13   Learning and Skills Council (2003) Learners' Entitlements. LSC: Coventry. Back

14   OECD UK Country Note (2003). Centre for Guidance Studies Occasional Paper, University of Derby. Back

15   Hawkins. P, Howard. M & Hughes, D (2003) Succeeding Generations: Inspiring futures for All. CeGS Occasional Paper, University of Derby. Back

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