Education CommitteeWritten evidence: David Andrews OBE

Executive Summary

1. The evidence presented in this submission has been collected through my work, over the past 18 months, supporting schools, local authorities and careers companies to prepare for the new statutory arrangements for careers guidance for young people.

2. The Education Act 2011 introduces the biggest change in careers guidance services for young people in England for four decades, by transferring responsibility away from an external service that has been free of charge to schools direct to schools that now have to pay for the service. However, while schools have been given this new duty, they have been given no additional funding to cover the costs and very little support from the Department for Education (DfE).
3. The 153 local authorities in England are taking a variety of approaches in response to the change in national policy. Some are intending to continue to provide a careers guidance service to their own schools, and in some instances to schools in neighbouring areas, on a traded basis, and some are commissioning services on behalf of their schools. Others are supporting schools by providing a list of approved suppliers, a guide to commissioning or briefings and consultancy support.

4. Some schools are planning not to commission careers guidance from an external source and most of those that are intending to buy services in are making arrangements to provide more of the guidance from internal sources. Providers of careers guidance from which schools are commissioning services include the established careers companies, individual careers advisers, local authorities, education-business partnerships (EBPs), new enterprises and university and college careers services. Levels of buy back are below the level of services that were provided free of charge in the past.

5. The emerging national picture is one of wide variety of approaches, between areas and within individual local authorities. Some young people will continue to have access to good quality support, either through their families or because their schools are committed to making such support available. Others will be able to take advantage of the targeted support from the local authority because they fall into certain priority categories. However, too many young people will not have access to the careers guidance support they need in the current climate.

There is no longer anything in place to ensure a national entitlement for young people to good quality careers guidance. Ofsted will not monitor DfE policy, the Department has not stated any intention to monitor how schools are meeting the new duty, and schools are not required to use only accredited providers of careers guidance services nor to employ only professionally qualified careers advisers.

6. The Government needs to decide between constituting and funding the new National Careers Service as a proper all-age careers guidance service, offering face-to-face guidance for young people as well as for adults, or establishing a robust school-based model with support from the National Careers Service. The potential foundations for either model are already in place: both, however, would require significant shifts from current policy.

8. I have worked as an independent education consultant specialising in careers education and guidance for the past 14 years. Prior to 1998 I worked as a teacher, a head of careers, an advisory teacher and a local authority education adviser and school inspector. I provide consultancy support to schools, local authorities and careers companies and I lead professional development for teachers and careers advisers. Over the last 18 months, since the Education Bill was first published in January 2011, much of my work has been focused on helping schools, local authorities and careers companies to understand the new statutory duty for careers guidance for young people, to examine the implications for practice and to prepare for the new arrangements. In the course of this work I have collected a good deal of intelligence about emerging practice in schools. I have drawn on this recent experience to provide the evidence that follows.

Change in National Policy and Support to Schools

9. The Education Act 2011 has resulted in the biggest change in careers guidance services for young people in England for 39 years. The Employment and Training Act 1973 gave the Secretary of State statutory responsibility for ensuring that all young people had access to careers guidance. For the past four decades that responsibility has been devolved to an external careers guidance service which has worked in partnership with the schools to provide support to pupils and students making their choices in education, training and work. There have been four different models for this external service: local education authority careers services; privatised careers services; Connexions; and, since 2008, local authority managed or commissioned IAG services. But the service has always been free of charge to schools. The Education Act 2011 transfers responsibility from local authorities to schools themselves. From September 2012 all maintained schools have a new duty to secure access to independent and impartial careers guidance for pupils in years 9, 10 and 11.

10. The wording of the relevant section of the Act indicates that the requirement for independence could only be satisfied by using careers advisers not employed by the school. There is, therefore, an expectation that schools will commission careers guidance services for pupils from external sources. However, it is important to note that none of the £200 million that was spent by local authorities on the careers guidance element of Connexions in 2009–10 has been transferred to schools. Schools have a new responsibility to buy in careers guidance services, but have been given no additional funding to pay for this.

Further, schools have received little support to help them take on their new duty. The Department for Education (DfE) has issued Statutory Guidance to schools but the final version that was published in March 2012 is widely considered to be of limited use compared with an earlier draft that was prepared in consultation with careers professionals and practitioners and with schools leaders. A more practical guide, with useful case studies, was later published but only two days before schools closed for the summer holidays, and with a purely advisory status. There have been no national or regional briefings for schools organised by the DfE. The only support to schools to help them prepare for September 2012 has come from those local authorities that have taken on responsibilities for helping their schools make the transition, from the careers companies that are keen to promote their services to schools and from the careers professional associations.

Emerging Models

12. There are 153 local authorities in England. From September 2012 they are no longer required to provide a universal careers service for young people but they continue to have a statutory duty to ensure participation of all 16–18 year olds in education and training and to provide what has been referred to as the “targeted” element of Connexions. It is, however, to some extent open to interpretation by local authorities precisely which pupils will have access to this more targeted support and whether the support will include careers guidance from specialist careers advisers.
13. One local authority, Derbyshire County Council, is continuing to provide a universal careers guidance service funded by the local authority for the full school year 2012–13 while it negotiates a new arrangement with its schools for September 2013. The rest are taking one of a number of different approaches.

14. Some plan to continue to offer a careers guidance service to the schools in their areas, but on a traded basis. This is happening in several, but not all, of the local authorities where the Connexions service had previously been managed directly by the local authority, eg Hertfordshire County Council. A few of these local authorities are also promoting their services to neighbouring areas, eg Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. Not all the schools in these areas are necessarily buying back the careers guidance service from the local authority.

15. Other local authorities are commissioning a careers guidance service for those of their schools that wish to buy into such an arrangement. This is happening in a small minority of the local authorities where the Connexions service had previously been commissioned from a careers company, eg Gloucestershire County Council, Bradford Metropolitan District Council. One local authority, Leeds City Council, is providing schools with a list of approved providers of careers guidance services: organisations and individuals offering such services apply to get on the list and have to achieve specified quality criteria.

16. The remaining local authorities are not intending to provide careers guidance services to schools, though some are offering varying degrees of support to help schools make the transition to the new arrangements. East Sussex County Council, for example, has produced a guide to commissioning careers guidance for its schools, while Essex County Council has employed a team of “participation consultants” to work with its schools.

17. Schools similarly are responding in a variety of ways. Some are intending not to commission any careers guidance services and to provide guidance solely from internal sources. These schools are not complying with the Act but have taken their lead from a DfE communication to schools, published in April 2011, which suggested that schools could employ their own careers adviser so long as they also made available to their pupils the National Careers Service online and telephone helpline services. Some have appointed qualified careers advisers or are making arrangements for a teacher or other member of staff to gain a professional qualification in careers guidance: others, more worryingly, are asking a member of staff not qualified in guidance to take on this work.

18. Even the schools that are buying some careers guidance services for particular groups of pupils are usually planning to provide a larger proportion from internal sources than they have done to date, mainly due to the pressure on the school’s budget and the lack of any additional funding to take on the new duty.

19. The range of organisations and individuals that are selling careers guidance services to schools includes: the established careers companies; individual careers advisers working as sole traders; local authorities (in some areas); education-business partnerships (EBPs) that have recruited careers advisers; new social enterprises; university and college careers services. Early reports indicate that schools are not buying back services at the level equivalent to what was provided free of charge in the past.

The National Picture

20. What is emerging is a very mixed picture, between local authorities and within local authorities. There is a very real sense of fear of two phrases used by critics of the current economic and political climate—’postcode lottery’ and “squeezed middle”—applying to the provision of good quality careers guidance for young people. The notion of a postcode lottery might be better expressed in this context as a “catchment area lottery”, as the careers guidance a young person receives will depend largely on what his or her school chooses to make available and to buy in. The phrase “squeezed middle” could be used to describe the group of pupils who are denied access to careers guidance because they are not fortunate enough to come from families that have access to support or to attend schools that invest in careers guidance, nor are they in a disadvantaged or vulnerable group identified as a priority for the local authority’s targeted support service.

Quality Assurance

21. Although the Education Act 2011 sets a framework for careers guidance for young people there is no longer anything in place to ensure a national entitlement for young people to good quality careers guidance. Ofsted has made it clear that it is not its role to monitor DfE policy and there is no indication that the Department itself intends to monitor the new statutory duty. There are no requirements on schools to use only providers of careers guidance that meet the careers sector national standard, ie matrix, despite all providers of careers guidance to adults through the new National Careers Service having to be matrix-accredited. Schools are not even required to use only professionally qualified careers advisers. Parents seeking careers guidance for themselves can be assured of receiving advice and guidance from accredited providers with qualified staff, but the same guarantees are not in place for their children.

Conclusion and Recommendation

22. The Government has established a National Careers Service for adults but has devolved responsibility for careers guidance for young people to schools, with no funding, little support and weak quality control. At a time of high youth unemployment and an increasingly complex market for higher education, there has never been a time when young people have been in such need of good quality careers guidance. Under the present arrangements some young people will have access to this support, but many will not.

23. The Government should decide between one of two ways forward: either constitute and fund the National Careers Service as a genuinely all-age careers guidance service for England, offering face-to-face guidance for all young people who need it; or establish a robust school-based model for young people’s careers guidance with support from the National Careers Service in the form of easily intelligible labour market information, professional development for careers staff in schools and effective monitoring and inspection. The Government has already potentially put in place the foundations for either model, but both would require significant shifts in current policy.

October 2012

Prepared 22nd January 2013