Education Bill

Memorandum submitted by National Bureau for Students with Disabilities (E 104)

 

About Skill

Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities promotes opportunities to empower young people and adults with any kind of disability to realise their potential in further, continuing and higher education, training and employment throughout the United Kingdom. Skill works by providing information and advice to individuals, promoting good practice and influencing policy in partnership with disabled people, service providers and policy makers.

For more information visit www.skill.org.uk

Overview

1. Clauses 26 and 27 propose major changes to local authorities and schools duties regarding the commissioning and delivery of careers guidance to young people.

2. Skill is concerned that clauses 26 and 27, of the Education Bill will have a negative impact on disabled young people, in particular:

· clause 26 which removes compulsory careers education from the school curriculum;

· clause 26 which removes the duty on local authorities to provide careers guidance or IAG (for example through Connexions) in schools; and

· the lack of adequate information about the way in which careers guidance services may be delivered.

3. It is also unclear how clauses 26 and 27 of the Education Bill take into account the policy direction of the Green Paper on Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND).

4. The government has pledged to support more disabled people into employment. A cost benefit analysis would demonstrate that investment in specialist quality careers guidance planning for disabled people would enable more disabled people reach their potential in education and employment.

5. The link between education, qualifications and work is well evidenced. This is true for all people but for disabled people the correlation is significantly starker. Disabled people with no qualification have very poor prospects of employment (23%) while non disabled people without a qualification have considerably higher employment rates (over 60%). The gap significantly narrows the higher the education attainment. It is therefore vital that disabled young people receive quality careers information advice and guidance so that they achieve their potential in education and employment.

6. It is crucial that disabled young people are included within the ‘summit for young people’, as introduced by the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning in the Education Bill Committee [1] on 24th March. Skill would like to facilitate consultation with disabled young people through our Skill Ambassadors and Youth Working Party.

7. Skill is a member of the Department for Education all-age careers service advisory group and is well placed to ensure the needs of disabled people are taken into account in the transitional arrangements and the set-up of the new service. Skill would like to be included in the ‘summit of interested parties’ also introduced by the Minister in the Education Bill Committee [2] on 24th March.

Part 4 Careers Education and Guidance – Clauses 26 and 27

All-Age Careers Service

8. In November 2010 John Hayes announced there would be an All-Age Careers Service that would draw on the best practice from Connexions and the Next Step adult guidance service (introduced in August 2010). Skill and other organisations welcomed a development that appeared to offer a more seamless service for disabled young people at a critical time in their transition from school to Post-16 provision or Higher Education and from Children’s Services to Adult Social care.

9. Skill now seeks assurance that the all-age careers service will in fact be ‘all age’ and aids smooth transition for disabled learners as they are preparing to leave school and are considering their post-16 options.

10. Clause 27 provides that that schools must provide careers guidance for pupils up to compulsory school age. Currently this means to age 16 and by 2015, as a result of raising the participation age this will rise to age 18. Skill seeks assurance that this is the intention of clause 27.

11. The Green Paper recognises that disabled young people and their parents need ongoing support from an early age that will raise their aspirations and support the implementation of a progression plan to age 25. Many disabled young people may need longer to complete their course of study than their non-disabled peers. This is not because they are less able than their non-disabled peers but because of the systemic barriers disabled young people face within the education system.

12. Careers guidance services and support need to be available for all disabled young people up to the age of 25 whether or not they have a statement of special educational needs (SEN) or in the future a single Education, Health and Care Plan. Currently Connexions Personal Advisers support disabled young peoples’ progression from school to college, university, apprenticeships and employment.

13. In light of the radical cuts being made to Connexions Services Skill fears that skilled, specialist Connexions Personal Advisers with experience of providing information advice and guidance to disabled young people are at risk of being lost before they can be incorporated into the new all-age service.

Quality Assurance

14. Skill would like to see the Education Bill specify that there will be a minimum level of quality assurance for providers and for careers guidance practitioners and seeks assurance that this will include specialist support for disabled people. It is also important to have clear quality benchmarks and assessment criteria for potential contractors.

Removing Careers Education from the Curriculum

15. Clause 26 withdraws compulsory careers education in schools and therefore removes the requirement on schools to provide within the curriculum career development and decision-making skills. Without compulsory careers education individual careers guidance is less effective as young people have not developed the skills to effectively utilise the advice they receive through individual interviews. Withdrawing compulsory careers education may also prove more costly in the long-term as careers advisers would have to cover more in individual interviews.

16. Clause 27 inserts a new requirement for schools to secure independent careers guidance for pupils aged 14 onwards. The Bill provides that the guidance must be impartial and delivered by someone not employed by or engaged with the school. We are concerned that this approach risks external career guidance provision being seen as an isolated and tokenistic rather than part of a structured skills and career planning programme. Skill seeks clarity on the required amount of independent careers guidance that schools have to secure. We also seek assurance that the guidance will be impartial, independent and that quality advice is provided.

17. The proposed flexibility of commissioning arrangements by schools may mean that there is no continuity of services between that delivered through schools and those delivered by local authorities for disabled young people up to age 24. This would run counter to the intentions expressed in the SEND Green Paper.

18. Skill would also like to stress the importance of clearly communicating the new duties to schools, local authorities and careers guidance professionals to ensure that budgets and delivery can be appropriately planned.

Delivery of Careers Guidance

19. Skill does not believe that the Education Bill gives adequate information about the way in which careers guidance services may be delivered, for example through websites, e-mail and phone services and face-to-face guidance. The Next Step adult service currently has all these methods of delivery, with priority for face-to-face guidance for disadvantaged groups, explicitly including disabled people.

20. Young disabled people have informed Skill how important face-to-face careers guidance is to them when considering their education and career opportunities. Skill would, therefore, like the Education Bill to make clear that face-to-face services should be available for disabled young people and their parents. The face-to face services are essential for all young people but particularly for many disabled young people for whom internet and phone contacts present barriers to inclusion.

Ensuring Quality Information Advice and Guidance

21. The SEND Green Paper also proposes major change for careers information advice and guidance. Central to the Paper is the need for co-ordination of the many providers on education, training, social and health care and supported employment. Currently Connexions Personal Advisers fulfil this role and it is not clear in the Education Bill how these co-ordination needs of disabled young people will be met.

22. The Green Paper emphasises that disabled young people and their parents need to know the full range of options open to them on leaving school, including employment, independent living, supported employment and accredited learning. However, the models of careers guidance delivery in the Education Bill may not make provision for this ongoing and intensive support, nor the specialist expertise required to assist disabled young people achieve their potential.

23. Transition planning is an integral part of careers education and guidance and to fulfil the expectations in the Green Paper would need continuity of delivery that the Education Bill does not provide for.

24. The SEND Green Paper proposals may change the terminology of Learning Difficulty Assessment, so the wording in the Education Bill must reflect this.

March 2011


[1] Public Bill Committee ( Sixteenth Sitting . Thursday 24 March 2011 . Column number: 669)

[2] Ibid.

[2]