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

1  Introduction

Background to inquiry

1.  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. This duty came into force in September 2012. Previously the responsibility for careers guidance rested with local authorities and was delivered through the Connexions service. At the same time, schools were released from the statutory duty to provide careers education and work-related learning.

2.  Good quality, independent and impartial guidance is an essential service for all young people, especially given the current levels of youth unemployment, the forthcoming introduction of the Raising of the Participation Age and the increasing range of educational and training choices. We therefore decided to hold an inquiry into careers guidance for young people to see how schools were responding to the new duty.

Terms of reference

3.   We announced our inquiry in June 2012 with the following terms of reference:

  • the purpose, nature, quality and impartiality of careers guidance provided by schools and colleges, including schools with sixth forms and academies, and how well-prepared schools are to fulfil their new duty;
  • the extent of face-to-face guidance offered to young people;
  • at what age careers guidance should be provided to young people;
  • the role of local authorities in careers guidance for young people;
  • the effectiveness of targeted guidance and support offered to specific groups, such as Looked After Children, children eligible for Free School Meals, teenage parents, young offenders, those with special educational needs or disabilities and those at risk of becoming NEET;
  • the link between careers guidance and the choices young people make on leaving school;
  • the overall coherence of the careers guidance offered to young people.

Evidence base for our inquiry

4.  We received 83 submissions from a range of organisations and individuals. This includes evidence from employers, career counsellors and career guidance organisations, local authorities, professional associations, academics in the field, Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE).

5.  We held three formal oral evidence sessions, where we heard from a range of witnesses. These were:

  • representatives from post-16 destinations, industry-sector bodies and employers/employer organisations;
  • representatives of local authorities and organisations involved in providing targeted guidance and support to vulnerable young people;
  • representatives of a range of schools and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL);
  • representatives of careers guidance professionals and the careers sector; and,
  • the responsible Minister (Matthew Hancock MP).

6.  As part of our inquiry we visited Bradford, where we held informal meetings with: the local authority to discuss its support for the new duty on schools in general, and its support for vulnerable groups in particular; groups of students at Bradford College to hear about their experience of careers guidance and what they would like to get out of it; and local employers at the Bradford Chamber of Commerce.

7.  In addition, we held a private seminar with young people involved with the British Youth Council, Centrepoint Parliament, North Tyneside Youth Council, The Prince's Trust, UK Youth and Who Cares? Trust.

8.  Notes of these meetings are summarised in annex 1 and annex 2 to this report.

9.  The Committee has benefited from the involvement of its specialist adviser, Dr Tristram Hooley of the University of Derby, and we are grateful to him for sharing his expertise.[1]

Background information


10.  From September all schools—including Academies and Free Schools—have had a statutory duty under the Education Act 2011 to secure access to independent, impartial careers guidance for pupils in years 9-11. At the same time, schools have been relieved of the duty to provide a programme of careers education and work-related learning.

11.  Although the duty to secure independent and impartial careers guidance was transferred to schools from local authorities, the funding did not follow. Schools are expected to provide the service from their existing budgets.

12.  Local authorities are no longer expected to provide a universal careers service. However, the statutory responsibility requiring local authorities to "encourage, enable and assist the participation of young people in education or training"[2] remains unchanged. The DfE has advised that local authorities will be required to assist the most vulnerable young people and those at risk of disengaging with education or work.[3]

13.  The DfE published statutory guidance for schools on their new duty in March 2012, which schools are expected to have regard to when deciding on the most appropriate form of careers guidance for their pupils. The guidance states that schools are expected to comply with the requirement to secure careers guidance from an external source but are "free to make arrangements for careers guidance that fit the needs and circumstances of their pupils". Schools "will be expected to work, as appropriate, in partnership with external and expert providers."[4] The guidance explains that, under the statutory duty, careers guidance:

must be presented in an impartial manner and promote the best interests of the pupils to whom it is given. Careers guidance must also include information on all options available in respect of 16-18 education or training, including apprenticeships and other work-based education and training options.[5]

14.  The statutory guidance was followed by a practical guide for schools, which was published by the DfE in July 2012. The purpose of this document is to offer additional information that schools may wish to draw on when interpreting their new responsibilities and deciding upon the most appropriate forms of independent careers guidance for their pupils. The practical guide highlights issues such as the importance of face-to-face careers guidance, the need to consider a programme of careers activities and the availability of the National Careers Service (see below).[6]

15.  The Government has asked Ofsted to carry out a thematic review of careers guidance to identify good practice and establish a baseline for future improvements in the quality of provision. This will report in summer 2013. In addition, Ofsted's new inspection arrangements will include an evaluation of a school's effectiveness in preparing pupils and students for the next stages of their education. According to the DfE, "an important component of this will include consideration of the quality of independent careers guidance."[7]


16.  On 5 April 2012 the National Careers Service (NCS) was launched, jointly funded by the DfE and by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Through the NCS young people have access to careers information from the NCS website and advisers via the telephone, email, text and other online support. Young people do not, however, have access to any face-to-face guidance provision by the NCS and its remit does not extend to working with schools.


17.  Professionals in the careers guidance field use a range of different terminology. It can be difficult to agree on exact definitions and there is clearly some overlap. Nonetheless, the following serve as working definitions:

  • Careers education is the delivery of learning as part of the curriculum. Careers education is often closely related to work-experience and other forms of work-related learning.
    • Work-related learning is the provision of opportunities to develop knowledge and understanding of work and to develop skills for employability through direct experiences of work.
    • Careers information is the provision of information and resources about courses, occupations and career paths.
    • Careers advice is more in-depth explanation of information and how to access and use information.
    • Careers guidance or careers counselling is a deeper intervention in which an individual's skills, attributes and interests are explored in relation to their career options.

Why careers guidance matters

18.  The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2004) sets out three main public-policy rationales for the delivery of careers education and guidance[8]: first, that it supports engagement with learning and improves the functioning of the education and training system; secondly, that it contributes to the effective operation of the labour market; and thirdly, that it supports social equity and facilitates both social inclusion and social mobility.

19.  Steve Stewart, Chairman of Careers England, identified two reasons why good quality guidance was important: first, "there is a moral-principle issue that, as a civilised nation, we should give our very best support to young people to help them make the very best decisions in life [...] the second issue is simply the purely economic issue. As a nation we cannot afford to have too many of our young people in the wrong places doing the wrong things and not contributing".[9] The financial cost to the nation was estimated by Dr Deirdre Hughes, Chair of the National Careers Council, as a potential loss of £28 billion to the economy if young people are not guided to the right destinations.[10] Careers England estimated that the potential cost of young people making the wrong course choices after year 11 could be as high as £200million per annum.[11]

20.  The responsible Minister, Matthew Hancock, while not placing a figure on the cost of poor choices by young people, agreed that careers guidance has an important impact on the nation's economy and the individual's well-being. He told us that "it is vital in order to help everybody to perform at their best in our country, which is critical if we are going to succeed both as a nation and as an economy, but also for every single individual to achieve their best."[12]

21.  We have not tested the profession's estimates of the economic cost of poor choices, but we agree that there is undoubtedly a price to pay for young people who make poor decisions for both the individual and the public purse. The current levels of youth unemployment add to the case for the necessity of good quality guidance for young people. The question we address in this report, therefore, is how to ensure that they receive such guidance under the new arrangements.

1   Dr Tristram Hooley declared interests as a member of the Career Development Institute and a member of the Careers Sector Strategic Alliance. He is also a member of the Green Party. Back

2   Education and Skills Act 2008, section 68 Back

3   Statutory Guidance for Headteachers, school staff, governing bodies and local authorities, DfE, 2012 Back

4   Ibid.  Back

5   Ibid. Back

6   Securing Independent Careers Guidance: A Practical Guide for Schools, DfE, 2012 Back

7   Eighth Special Report from the Education Committee, Session 2010-12, Participation by 16-19 year olds in education and training: Government Response to the Committee's Fourth Report, HC 1572  Back

8   Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2004). Career Guidance and Public Policy: Bridging the Gap. Paris: OECD. Back

9   Q 169 Back

10   Q 171 Back

11   Ev 92 Annex A Back

12   Q 236 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 23 January 2013