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

8  Conclusion

122.  Independent careers advice and guidance has never been as important as it is now. Careers advice has to be seen in the context of the proliferation in post-14 educational settings—UTC's, studio schools, free schools, academies, further education colleges, sixth form colleges, apprenticeships—together with the introduction of higher university tuition fees and an increasingly complex labour market in which SMEs are the major employer. In addition, careers advice has to play its role within a policy context of a rising compulsory participation age and high levels of youth unemployment. Too many schools lack the skills, incentives or capacity to fulfil the duty put on them without a number of changes being made. We do not think that schools can simply be left to get on with it.

123.  We agree with Brian Lightman of the Association of School and College Leaders when he told us:

there is a bewildering range of choices for young people today. It is a confusing world, and to expect a 14-year-old or a 15-year-old to know where to look—to go to the right place and to navigate their way through that without some professional assistance—is just misguided.[182]

124.  The evidence submitted to us suggests that the careers advice and guidance service to young people is deteriorating. Our inquiry has highlighted grave shortcomings in the implementation of the Government's policy of transferring responsibility for careers guidance to schools, not least the inadequacy of the means by which schools can be held accountable for their fulfilment of this duty. These issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency, drawing on the existing resource of the National Careers Service where at all possible and giving schools the direct guidance they need without encroaching on their ability to respond flexibly to their own circumstances and priorities. Young people deserve better than the service they are likely to receive under current arrangements, and schools must be enabled and empowered to, and held accountable for, the provision of the high quality, focused careers guidance required by all their students to help them meet the challenges of today's world of work.

Conclusions and recommendations

In the report conclusions are shown in bold; recommendations are shown in bold italics. In this list, recommendations are shown in italics.

Transfer of the statutory duty

Our conclusion on the transfer of responsibility

1.  The Government's decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools is regrettable. International evidence suggests such a model does not deliver the best provision for young people. The weaknesses of the school-based model have been compounded by the failure to transfer to schools any budget with which to provide the service. This has led, predictably, to a drop in the overall level of provision. (Paragraph 31)

2.  Nonetheless, we recognise that the new responsibility is now in place and further change would lead to greater uncertainty and upheaval, with a detrimental impact on young people. Whilst funding remains a concern, schools need to make careers guidance a priority within their budgets and we do not, in the current financial climate, recommend that additional funding be provided directly to schools. We believe that, instead, urgent steps must be taken by the Government to ensure that the current settlement meets the needs of young people. More precisely, we believe that the situation could be rescued by a combination of improved accountability and an enhancement of the role of the National Careers Service, including additional funding for that. (Paragraph 32)

Extension of the statutory duty

3.  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. (Paragraph 35)

Coherence and consistency

Current provision

4.  The Department for Education should encourage local authorities to promote greater consistency in the provision of careers advice and guidance in their areas so that, while there is room for innovation and variation, all young people have access to good quality, independent and impartial careers guidance, regardless of where they live or which school they attend. (Paragraph 37)

Government guidance

5.  We welcome the publication of the statutory guidance and practical guide for schools. However, the statutory guidance is seriously weakened by its permissive tone and the practical guide can be disregarded by schools, should they so wish. The fact that the guidance for schools is spread across two separate documents further diminishes its impact and authority. (Paragraph 40)

6.  We believe that Government could do more to promote consistency in the offer to young people through central guidance. We note that the Minister was not opposed to the proposition of combining the two documents into one, if there was "broad consensus around that". We consider that this would help to encourage consistency between what was offered in different schools and different areas, and therefore we recommend that the statutory guidance and practical guide be combined in a single document. References to "statutory guidance" in the rest of this report should be taken to mean this unified document. (Paragraph 41)

Approaches to collaboration

7.  We commend the efforts made by some local authorities to support their schools in taking on the new duty, particularly by working with them to form consortia and partnerships to procure independent and impartial careers guidance. We recommend that the Government's statutory guidance is strengthened to emphasise the benefits of this approach. We also recommend that the Government promotes the activities of the best performing local authorities so that best practice can be shared. (Paragraph 46)

8.  We conclude that a collaborative approach to commissioning careers guidance services has many advantages for schools, particularly in promoting consistency and quality and in realising economies of scale. We recommend that the statutory guidance is strengthened better to reflect the benefits of this approach. (Paragraph 49)


The Ofsted framework

9.  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. We also welcome the Minister's assurance that he will take the findings of this survey seriously. Nevertheless, a survey of provision cannot provide sufficient incentives to encourage individual schools to implement a good quality, independent and impartial careers guidance service. (Paragraph 55)

10.  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. (Paragraph 56)

Destination measures

11.  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. (Paragraph 59)

12.  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. (Paragraph 60)

School careers plan

13.  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. (Paragraph 63)

Schools and the National Careers Service

14.  We recommended in our Fourth Report of session 2010-12, Participation by 16-19 year olds in education and training, that an "all age careers service should be funded by the Department for Education for face to face career guidance for young people." Our view on this has not changed. However, given the statutory duty has only recently been passed to schools, we believe that the best way of delivering the Government's vision and providing the service that young people need is through the capacity-building and brokerage model. (Paragraph 72)

15.  We recommend that the remit of the National Careers Service is expanded to enable it to perform a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools. As part of its capacity-building role, the National Careers Service should work with individual schools in designing their annual careers plan of provision for careers guidance as well as provide schools with local labour market information. Clearly, this would have funding implications and so we further recommend that the Department of Education instructs the Skills Funding Agency to cost the options of the National Careers Service remit being expanded in this way. (Paragraph 74)

Quality of careers guidance

Forms of guidance: Face-to-face guidance

16.  Access to face-to-face guidance is an integral part of good quality careers guidance. All young people should have access to such provision from a qualified, independent provider, should they choose to take up the opportunity. We recommend that a minimum of one personal careers interview with an independent adviser who is not a teacher should be available for every young person and that this is made explicit in the statutory guidance. (Paragraph 81)

Online information

17.  Websites are a valuable source of information about careers for young people. They cannot, however, replace face-to-face guidance, nor are they sufficient in themselves to fulfil the requirement on schools to provide independent, impartial guidance. To ensure that schools do not over-rely on directing their students to websites, we recommend that the Department for Education amends the statutory guidance to schools to make it clear that the signposting of independent websites is insufficient to meet their statutory duty. (Paragraph 86)

Independence and impartiality

18.  We recommend that, as part of an overall careers plan, schools are required to publish details of the alternative providers they allow to meet with their pupils, including the name of the provider and the nature of the contact. (Paragraph 90)

19.  We welcome the Government's support for the increased involvement of local employers in careers guidance in schools, which is vital for effective careers provision. We recommend that schools be required to set out in their careers plans their arrangements with local employers and how they intend to enhance them. (Paragraph 93)

Teachers and careers guidance

20.  We acknowledge the important role that teachers play in guiding and advising young people. We also recognise the constraints that they are under when performing the role and that they cannot substitute for fully-qualified, independent and impartial advisers. (Paragraph 99)

21.  We agree with witnesses from business that it would be beneficial for teachers to have a greater understanding of the world of work, particularly that of the local labour market, and we recommend that teachers should undertake regular professional development to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the work place. The local focus and infrastructure of the National Careers Service could be invaluable in enabling this, and we recommend that this is incorporated within the NCS capacity-building role outlined above. (Paragraph 100)

22.  We concur with our colleagues on the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee that awareness of apprenticeships is limited within schools. We recommend that the National Apprenticeship Service's remit be extended to include the promotion of apprenticeships in schools. (Paragraph 101)

23.  We recommend that the Government requires schools to:

  • achieve the Quality in Careers Standard;
  • secure independent careers guidance from a provider with the Matrix standard; and
  • ensure that advice is provided by a level 6 qualified careers advisers.

We further recommend that the National Careers Service's role should be expanded to include a duty to promote to schools the benefits of working to these quality standards. (Paragraph 105)

Careers education and work-related learning

24.  The Government's decision to remove the statutory duty on schools to provide careers education and work-related learning has been heavily criticised by witnesses to our inquiry. We are persuaded of the benefits of both these former provisions and we recommend that the Government's statutory guidance to schools is strengthened to require schools to provide careers education and work-related learning as part of their duty. (Paragraph 109)

Targeted support

25.  We believe that careers guidance services are an integral part of the support package needed by vulnerable young people. We are concerned that there appears to be too much variation in local authorities' interpretation of what constitutes a targeted group. We recommend that the Department of Education promotes the activities of the best performing local authorities so that best practice in identifying and delivering services to targeted young people is shared. (Paragraph 115)

Youth contract

26.  We recommend that the Government ensures that discussions take place between local authorities and the regional Youth Contract providers about the delivery of the Youth Contract on a local level. (Paragraph 121)

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Prepared 23 January 2013