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

4  Accountability

The need for accountability

50.  A consistent theme throughout our inquiries and evidence sessions as a committee, examining many different areas of policy, is the central importance—and potentially distorting effects—of accountability measures. Schools tend to focus on those accountability measures that may trigger intervention: for secondary schools this is the attainment by pupils of five grade A*-C GCSEs. If careers guidance is to be delivered to a good standard, schools must be incentivised through robust accountability measures. We agree with the National Careers Council that there need to be explicit "performance measures that demonstrate both relevance and impact."[65]

51.  With so many competing demands on a school's time and resources, witnesses considered that it would be unusual for school leadership to prioritise spending time and money on careers guidance without there being an incentive to do so.[66] For example, Suffolk County Council told us that over half (55%) of schools in their area had not yet decided what provision they were going to make for their pupils, with some of this number saying that they would "make no provision until they are forced into a stronger position to do so".[67] We were also told of a headteacher, who, when faced with the option of either buying careers guidance or extra tutorial support for maths and English, commented "If I do not hit the floor targets, I get fired. If I do not do careers, I am not sure that I do get fired."[68] Paul Jackson, Chief Executive of Engineering UK, told us that "if Ofsted are not overseeing it and grading it, or if it is not appearing in a league table, then it will not get those hours".[69] The Careers Sector Strategic Alliance noted that where schools are failing to meet the duty, "there are seemingly no grounds for challenge and remedial action".[70]

52.  In oral evidence, the Minister agreed that the accountability of schools and head teachers was critical and he assured us that, if schools were not following the statutory duty, he would "take that very seriously."[71] The DfE's written submission was equally robust that the Government had developed a "clear accountability framework through the introduction of destination measures and a revised Ofsted framework".[72] We examined both of these in some detail to see how far they met the crucial need for school accountability to ensure the provision of careers guidance.


53.  Ofsted is to carry out a thematic review of careers guidance in schools, which is due to report in the summer of 2013. Beyond this, we were struck by the lack of clarity around the role that Ofsted would play through its inspection framework in ensuring that schools provide independent and impartial careers guidance. We heard from several witnesses that the current oversight by Ofsted was not sufficient to hold schools to account.[73] Employers, school leaders and local authority representatives all suggested that it was necessary for Ofsted to be charged with making explicit checks on the extent to which schools meet their duty.[74] By contrast, the Minister assured us that it was already the case that Ofsted would take a school's delivery of careers guidance into account under the new inspection framework. He saw this as a key accountability measure for schools.[75]

54.  We sought clarification from Ofsted who told us:

When considering leadership and management in a school, inspectors take account of a wide range of evidence; this includes evaluating the extent to which 'pupils have gained a well-informed understanding of the options and challenges facing them as they move through the school and on to the next stage of their education and training'. In order to be judged at least good [...] a school should ensure pupils are well prepared for the next stage in their education, training or employment.

However, there are no 'sub-judgements' and no separate grade for careers education and guidance [...] In addition, schools which were judged outstanding overall at their last inspection are now exempt from routine inspection unless risk assessment identifies a concern. Many schools judged good have up to five years between inspections [...][76]

55.  We welcome the undertaking that Ofsted is to conduct a thematic survey of careers guidance provision in schools which will report in the summer of 2013.[77] We also welcome the Minister's assurance that he will take the findings of this survey seriously.[78] Nevertheless, a survey of provision cannot provide sufficient incentives to encourage individual schools to implement a good quality, independent and impartial careers guidance service.

56.  We note the disconnect between the Minister's view of the role of Ofsted in enforcing accountability on schools through its inspection framework, and Ofsted's own view. The limitations which Ofsted set out to us—the fact that its inspections do not make a clear judgement on careers guidance provision in schools, that it does not inspect against statutory compliance in this area and that it does not routinely inspect all schools—means that the Ofsted framework is not a credible accountability check on the provision of careers guidance by individual schools.


57.  In July 2012, the Government published Key Stage 4 and 16-18 destination measures for the first time. The measures report the proportion of a school or college's students that went on to participate in education or training the year after they left KS4 or took A level or equivalent qualifications. The DfE stated that "destination measures provide clear and comparable information on the success of schools and colleges in helping all their students take qualifications that offer them the best opportunity to continue in education or training. They will also encourage schools and colleges to support and prepare their students to take up education or training which offers good long term prospects."[79] The DfE acknowledged that "the destination measures data do not enable a direct link to be made between careers guidance and the destinations of former students" but goes on to argue that "young people who receive high quality independent and impartial careers guidance and transition support are more likely to make the right choice of post-16 education or training".[80]

58.  The Government's measures were generally regarded by witnesses as a useful tool, albeit one with limitations. As Professor Watts explained, the measurement of destinations "is valuable and it is worth doing, but it is a very crude indicator in relation to this [careers guidance]. It measures students who have found a destination. It does not say anything about the quality of that destination in terms of their distinctive aspirations and so forth."[81] Furthermore, the fact that measures are taken only two terms after leaving a school or college means that there is not a long enough timeframe to show the effectiveness or otherwise of careers guidance. The Minister agreed that the timeframe of destination measures should be expanded, recognising that "it takes a few years for pupils to reach their destination."[82] He also confirmed that the DfE is continuing to work on introducing employment destinations as part of the statistical release for 2013.[83]

59.  We conclude that destination measures as they currently stand are not effective for ensuring that schools meet their statutory duty. Measures taken too soon do not provide a complete picture while those taken later remove the direct accountability on schools, as other factors may have influenced an individual's destination. Furthermore, the measures do not show the quality of the careers guidance provision in a school.

60.  There is therefore no immediate prospect for schools to be held to account for their provision of careers guidance by means of destination measures. Nevertheless, we recognise that the measures could be beneficial in other ways. We recommend that the Department for Education continues to pursue the inclusion of employment as well as improved education destination measures to make the data more meaningful. We also welcome the Minister's ambition to expand the timeframe of the destination measures in the future.


61.  Our doubts over the adequacy of Ofsted inspections and destination measures to ensure school accountability for the provision of high quality, effective careers guidance have led us to seek out other potential mechanisms to achieve the same goal. One solution, offered by Professor Tony Watts, was to require schools to publish and seek feedback on an annual careers plan. This statement of provision would allow transparency about what could be expected in terms of career work (including careers education, guidance and information) and would set out the internal and external resources allocated to these activities. A similar model is used effectively in Finland and Ontario, Canada.[84] As Professor Watts explained:

What [schools] put in that plan can be up to them, but it should be transparent and visible to the key constituencies to whom this really matters, which are students, parents, employers and other learning providers. [...] there should be some feedback from all of those groups that is used as part of a systemic review process.[85]

62.  When asked, the Minister was not opposed to the suggestion that schools should have a duty to produce a careers plan showing how they intend to deliver and resource their careers guidance activities. He confirmed that he would consider including the requirement in updating guidance to schools.[86]

63.  We recommend that the Department for Education introduces into the statutory guidance a requirement for schools to publish an annual careers plan, to include information on the support and resources available to its pupils in planning their career development. Schools should be required to review the plan systematically on an annual basis, taking into account the views of students, parents, employers and other learning providers.

65   Ev 67 Back

66   Ev w151, Ev w158 Back

67   Ev w88 Back

68   Q179 Back

69   Q40 Back

70   Ev w49 Back

71   Q281 Back

72   Ev 80  Back

73   Q40, Q73-4, Q192, Q 194, Q199 Back

74   Q28, Q75, Q 168 Back

75   Q 214, Q 216 Back

76   Ev w102 Back

77   Ev w100 Back

78   Q 267 Back

79   Destination Measures General Brief, DfE, July 2012 Back

80   Ibid. Back

81   Q 178 Back

82   Q 287 Back

83   Q 289 Back

84   Ev 107 Back

85   Q 192 Back

86   Q 290 Back

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Prepared 23 January 2013