Memorandum submitted by Association for Careers Guidance (E&S 14)

 

Joint submission prepared by the Association for Careers Education and Guidance, Careers England, The Inspiring Futures Foundation, the Institute of Career Guidance and the National Association of Connexions Partners.

 

1. Introduction

 

1.1 This submission is made on behalf of five major organisations involved in career education and guidance in England. They are:

 

Association for Careers Education and Guidance: Formerly the National Association of Careers and Guidance Teachers (NACGT) and founded in 1969, the Association has 2000 members throughout England and Wales working in a variety of roles in careers education and guidance including teachers, ,education managers, consultants, personal advisers, HLTAs and other support staff

 

Careers England: Formed in 2004, Careers England is the trade association for employers in the career guidance business, which exists to promote achievement and economic well-being for all. It aims to be "regarded as the informed employer voice of the career guidance industry in England". Member organisations are all involved in delivering publicly-funded all-age information, advice and guidance (IAG) and associated services including Connexions, nextstep and other commercial activities in careers related fields.

The Inspiring Futures Foundation: Originally formed in 1942 and with its roots in the provision of a range of career guidance and skills development services to students and schools in the independent sector, Inspiring Futures aims to increase the careers guidance support of all young people across the UK, with a focus on those considering higher education as a path to a career..

 

Institute of Career Guidance: Founded in 1923 the ICG has 4000 members working throughout the UK in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors. Members work as career advisers, personal advisers, managers, researchers, trainers etc. The Institute is regulated by a strong Code of Ethics and is the awarding body for the Qualification in Career Guidance.

 

National Association of Connexions Partners: NACP is a membership organisation founded in 2003 to represent Connexions Partnerships. The NACP was founded to improve the quality and national consistency of the Connexions service by sharing good practice, promoting the involvement of young people in planning, delivery, governance and evaluation of services, representing the views of Partnerships to Government and national bodies, and working with DCSF and regional Government Offices to promote high performance.

 

 

1.2 We wish to be as supportive as possible of the main proposals in the Bill, and have highlighted issues which we believe (from our perspective as experienced practitioners and employers in the sector) need to be strengthened so that every young person benefits, as will employers and subsequently the economic and social health of the nation.

 

 

2. Clause 41 - Attendance notice: description of education and training

2.1 The clause states that the 'education or training must be suitable for the person'. To achieve universal participation in learning to age 19, Government needs to ensure the supply of suitable provision, appropriate to the needs and abilities of the individual. The greatest test will be for those young people who would traditionally consider leaving education and training earlier; these are young people who currently are NEET, those at risk of becoming NEET (as they move between opportunities due to their lack of satisfaction with the education or training offer), those who are in jobs without training, or those who for other reasons are not available to the learning and labour market.

 

2.2 Evidence from Connexions shows that those young people who fail to sustain a learning opportunity post-16 are more often those who are seeking, or are in, sub-level-2 provision including, in particular, young people with learning difficulties or disabilities.

 

2.3 The greatest challenge will be to ensure the supply of employer-led provision. The vast majority of the young people described above are seeking employment or a work-based route to employment. Bespoke provision for young people should guarantee this; an over-supply of programme-led provision is not going to satisfy the demand. Future work-based learning and apprenticeship provision must be employer-led or ensure at least that young people acquire the on-site experience, training and assessment for their chosen occupational area. Apprenticeships which are programme-led and which do not provide this often leave young people, on completion of their training, with adequate accreditation in the form of NVQs, but lacking the essential on-site assessment, experience and training required by employers.

 

2.4 Clause 41 (5) rightly stipulates that 'the education or training must be suitable for the person'; however, the Bill does not make clear how suitability of education or training is to be defined or determined, and who is charged with this responsibility.

 

2.5 We believe that this should be someone who acts in a support role for young people: a careers adviser. It is critical that a careers adviser, as defined in Section 44 para.11(a) of the 1997 Education Act, is seen as being an independent advocate: skilled in guidance techniques and knowledgeable about the range of learning or occupational opportunities and career pathways for young people.

 

 

3. Clause 54 - Support services: provision by local education authorities

Clause 54 (1)

3.2 On the face of the Bill there needs to be clarity that "participation" alone is not sufficient. All young people must be assured of education and training provision which is suitable to meet their need not simply to participate, but to progress within the 14-19 phase, and then to progress further in the transition from statutory learning at 18+.

3.3 All young people must mean young people of all abilities, and their entitlements must be equal wherever they live, so that a post-code lottery of provision of support services is avoided.

3.4 The duty placed under sections 8-10 of the 1973 Employment & Training Act as amended in 1993 must be restated in the "directions", and assurances must be secured on this during the passage of the Bill.

3.5 The same applies to the duties set out under section 44 of the 1997 Education Act which taken together with the 1973 Act should assure young people of access to independent and impartial specialist careers advisers. There are, however, serious concerns about how these duties are currently being fulfilled and intended to be fulfilled in the future. During the passage of the Bill we need to seek assurances that this remains the intention of Ministers and will be reinforced in the "directions" the Secretary of State will be issuing. Only through access to such specialists can young people be assured of informed and independent guidance which is based outside the learning provider, and informed by the needs of the labour market.

3.6 Effective participation requires assistance with choices. Such advice and guidance must be about choices not merely of which learning option to follow, but why - that is, with a clear view of progression beyond 18+ into employment (either directly or via further training or higher education). The key is that choices about the relationship between learning and work - i.e. about career - should drive participation in learning.

 

Clause 54 (3)

3.7 The key to this clause is that no matter how services are provided, they must comply in every locality with nationally specified core aspects of delivery and with national quality standards.

3.8 The underpinning legislation is the 1973 Act and the 1997 Act (see points 3.4 and 3.5 above).

3.9 It is essential that during the passage of the Bill clarification is secured that the DUTIES under these two Acts will be REQUIRED to be fulfilled by all local authorities (irrespective of how their duty to provide is discharged) and will be the subject of specific (not thematic) inspection by Ofsted

 

4. Clause 55 - Directions

Clause 55(1-2)

4.1 This clause needs to be strengthened. It currently provides a power ("may") to the Secretary of State. It needs to be a DUTY ("shall"). It is urged that at the appropriate time in the passage of the Bill, an amendment to this effect be tabled.

4.2 The reason for this is that it is unacceptable to leave this to 'chance'; the Secretary of State should ensure that, in every locality, quality is assured to national specification and standards.

4.3 The duty must include a clear requirement to set national quality standards which will be robustly applied, updated and assessed in every locality so that young people, their parents/carers and employers are assured that in every LA area those providing these services (including those under the 1973 and 1977 Acts referred to above under clause 54 points 3.4 and 3.5; see also point 4.6 below) are regularly assessed against national quality standards.

4.4 Where any provider in an LA area (including local authorities themselves if they deliver directly rather than commission services) fails to meet the quality standards, it should be precluded from receiving public funds for such contracts/services in that area.

4.5 The Bill proposes to raise the age of statutory learning for all young people. Only those organisations meeting robust national quality standards should be viewed as being capable of providing support services to assist young people in these crucial life-changing decisions.

4.6 Under Section 46(4) of the 1997 Education Act the Secretary of State has the power to specify the "definition" of a "careers adviser" - as part of fulfilling his statutory duty under section 10 of the 1973 Employment & Training Act as amended in 1993 - and thus the qualifications and competence required. During the passage of the Bill it is important to receive explicit assurances that specialist "careers advisers" providing informed and independent career advice and guidance (from an approved provider which is external to and thus truly independent of the learning provider) will be required by the Secretary of State to be integral to the teams of support services provided in EVERY local authority area.

 

5. Clause 65 - Assessments relating to learning difficulties

 

5.1 The guidance currently being drafted by DCSF incorporates a change from the existing arrangements which will ensure that young people believed by the Local Authority to have a learning difficulty (both with and without a statement), and who choose to pursue learning in a post-16 environment during Year 10 and Year 11, receive an assessment of their learning needs at this earlier stage. Along with this change there will need to be a duty on Local Authorities to have regard to the assessments, since they will be responsible for funding the provision that such young people aged 13-16 will receive.

5.2 Any specification for the new arrangements should make clear the Statutory Duty which falls to Local Authorities.

5.3 Attention must be given to separating the duties of the Local Authority to provide an independent assessment of the young person's needs and to provide appropriate learning provision, once these duties devolve to Local Authorities from the LSC. There is an inherent conflict of interest where an assessment may indicate a level of need which the LA may consider too expensive.

 

5.4 Staff carrying out the assessment should be competent to carry out the task. They will require a detailed knowledge of local and national opportunities for learning, in addition to the skills appropriate to working with this client group, their families and support networks.

 

5.5 Emphasis should be placed on the need to ensure that post-16 providers are aware of assessments and take account of their content in planning and developing learning programmes for young people with learning difficulties.

 

5.6 Adequate monitoring arrangements are needed to ensure that this vulnerable group of young people receive support in the form of an effective and accurate assessment and that their needs are taken into account if the subsequent learning programme.

 

5.7 In some Local Authority areas it is apparently intended to merge the Transition Plan with the S140 assessment. In such cases, clarity is needed about which individuals or agencies carry continuing responsibility post-16 for the implementation and review of the learning programme and the progress of the young person.

 

6. Clause 66 - Careers education: information and advice

 

 

6.1 Section 43 of the 1997 Act requires all publicly-funded schools to provide programmes of 'careers education'. In 1997 this applied to 14-16 year olds (Years 9-11), but Section 46 empowers the Secretary of State to extend the requirement below 14 and above 16. More recently, this duty has been extended to cover Years 7-11. But it has not yet been extended to cover post-16 (Years 12-13) in England, though under devolved powers the Welsh Assembly has extended the duty to cover post-16: this surely should now be the case in England too. With the raising of the age of leaving statutory learning from 16 to 18, it is imperative that on-going 'careers education' is a right for all young people within continued learning up to 18.

6.2 The correct judgement was made in 1997 that all schools had to be required to support young people with careers education up to the age of statutory leaving to help prepare them for the life-changing choices they had to make at 16+. Those decisions have now increased in complexity. Young people will increasingly be choosing options and pathways from 14 which may include undertaking learning not just at a single institution but with a number of providers (not least in respect of the new Diplomas). Choices to participate in post-16 learning will be both learning and future-work choices; young people must be supported to prepare for the crucial next phase of choices in transition from statutory learning. They will certainly learn and develop during the post-16 phase, and must be assured of further careers education programme support, as well as assured access to external careers advisers fulfilling the Secretary of State's statutory duty to provide a 'careers service' (see point 6.4 below).

6.3 No proposals in the current Bill are made with regard to Section 44 of the 1997 Act. This Section requires schools and further education colleges to co-operate with external careers advisers. It assures careers advisers of access to pupils/students and vice-versa. During the passage of the Bill it is imperative to seek assurances that in each LA's arrangements for support services there MUST be specialist careers advisers with the knowledge, competence and capacity to fulfil this role. Otherwise, decisions about choices of learning in all 14-19 settings will be at risk of being ill-informed in respect of the labour market, and partiality is certain to occur in some/many instances. Only external careers advisers who are independent of the learning provider can be truly impartial.

6.4 Section 45 of the 1997 Act relates to careers information on the full range of learning opportunities. It applies to the full 14-19 range of opportunities. It places duties upon all publicly-funded schools (other than primary) and FE colleges.

6.5 There are a number of key principles to be emphasised in respect of the proposal to raise the statutory age of leaving learning to 18, which should be addressed through assured access for all 14-19 young people (including those in publicly-funded work-based learning who currently are outside the scope of Sections 43-45) to

quality-assured careers education programmes, delivered by teachers and tutors with appropriate and specialist training

comprehensive and impartial opportunity information (including opportunities for progression post-18)

independent careers advice and guidance provided by appropriately trained and competent career guidance specialists working within each LA area's support service team.

6.6 During the passage of the Bill it will be important to seek either to move amendments to Sections 43-45 of the 1997 Act to secure access for all young people, including those in publicly-funded work-based learning, to these services, or an assurance that the Secretary of State will use his powers under Section 46 of the 1997 Act to make such extensions and modifications.

6.7 These key principles are proposed because if the age of leaving statutory learning to 18 is to be the success it needs to be - for young people, their families, employers, and thus the economy of the country - every young person must be assured of these quality support services and programmes: it must not be left to chance. Ministers and future governments must be required to act through strengthened duties rather than powers; parliament would then be required to vote sufficient resources to fulfil these crucial duties. Learning and work choices affect not only individuals but their role in society, and their contribution to the economic and social health of the nation.

February 2008