Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools - Education Committee Contents


Access to good quality independent and impartial careers guidance is essential for all young people, particularly given factors such as the raising of the participation age, the expanding range of educational choices available and high levels of youth unemployment.

The Education Act 2011 introduced a statutory duty on schools in England to secure access to independent, impartial careers guidance for their pupils in years 9-11. The duty came into force in September 2012 and we decided to hold an inquiry to coincide with this, to see how schools were responding to their new duty.

The Government's decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools is regrettable. We have concerns about the consistency, quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance now being offered to young people. We heard evidence that there is already a worrying deterioration in the overall level of provision for young people. Urgent steps need to be taken by the Government to ensure that young people's needs are met.

We recognise that there must be room for innovation and variation, but we believe that all young people must have access to good quality advice and guidance. We believe that the Government could do more to promote consistency in the offer to young people through central guidance and we recommend that the Government's statutory guidance and practical guide should be combined into a single publication to assist a consistent approach by schools.

We believe that vulnerable young people in particular need careers guidance support and that at present there is too much variation in which groups of young people receive the service. We recommend that the Government promotes the activities of the best performing local authorities so that best practice in identifying and delivering services to targeted young people is shared.

We welcome the Government's decision to extend the duty to young people in year 8 and to 16 to 18 year-olds in school or college, which was announced during the course of our inquiry. The fact that some young people are now required to make decisions about their future in Year 8—for entrance to UTCs and Studio Schools, for example— means that it is necessary for advice and guidance to be offered earlier.

The quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance offered to young people was a central concern. To help ensure quality, we recommend that schools are required to work towards the Quality in Careers Standard, and to procure guidance services only from qualified providers and individuals.

We believe that face-to-face guidance is an integral part of good quality careers guidance and we recommend that a minimum of one personal careers interview with an independent adviser should be available for every young person.

There must be accountability measures to ensure that schools provide a good quality careers guidance service for their pupils. While we welcome Ofsted's thematic review, we are not convinced that this offers sufficient incentive for schools to prioritise the provision of careers guidance. Furthermore, we do not think that either destination measures—as they currently stand—or Ofsted inspections are the answer. We recommend that all schools are required to publish an annual careers plan, which would provide transparency about what could be expected in terms of careers work and would set out the resources allocated to these activities.

We recommend that the National Careers Service's remit be expanded to include a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools. This role would include assisting schools in designing their annual careers plan, the dissemination of local labour market information and the promotion of quality standards.

Independent careers advice and guidance has never been as important for young people as it is today. Too many schools lack the skills, incentives or capacity to fulfil the duty put upon them without a number of changes being made. Young people deserve better than the service they are likely to receive under the current arrangements. Schools cannot simply be left to get on with it.

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Prepared 23 January 2013