Careers Guidance for Young People

Written evidence submitted by Nick Von Behr, behr outcomes

Executive Summary

The quality of careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) provision, as with the quality of teaching, is an important facet of a successful education system. Lessons can be learned from those schools and subjects which are already ahead of the game, such as within the STEM area, and these should be applied everywhere. This could be focused at a localized level through strategic education partnerships. What matters is whether and how schools follow the guidance and the consequences of this - there needs to be a carrot and stick approach to monitoring, otherwise gains for social mobility from other Government policies may be jeopardized.

Profile of author

Nick von Behr runs an independent consultancy (behr outcomes) that advises on bridging the gaps between facts, outcomes and benefits in education. He was previously employed by the Royal Society, the UK Academy of Sciences, in national education policy, establishing the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME) as its first committee secretary, and subsequently advancing, as a member, the work of the Science Community Representing Education (SCORE).

1. The topic of the Select Committee’s inquiry is highly relevant and timely given the actual and planned changes to education provision in England since the Coalition Government came to power in 2010.

2. Careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) is critical in ensuring that young people make the right choices for their post16 education, achieve realistic outcomes to meet their full potential, and benefit from future employment and professional pathways. The quality of CEIAG provision, as with the quality of teaching, is an important facet of a successful education system. For more on the evidence behind this see: http://www.eep.ac.uk/DNN2/Portals/0/IAG/E%26I(Synthesis)_FINAL(W).pdf .

3. For this reason, Chairs of Governors and Heads of schools which include children in Years 9 to 11 need to be prepared for a renewed approach to CEIAG, right from the beginning of the newly commencing school year, especially now that centrally-funded provision through the old Connexions service has been retrenched.

4. DfE has provided guidance on the new devolved CEIAG provision which has been praised by careers experts (see: h ttp://montrose42.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/careers-guidance-new-guide-is-a-step-in-the-right-direction/#comment-1795 ). However, what really matters is whether and how all state-funded schools follow the guidance - there needs to be both a carrot and stick approach to monitoring outcomes with Parliament having a role.

5. Some subjects have led the way in CEIAG at a national level, for example Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), as the Lords Science Select Committee has noted in its recent report. This resulted from a significant and strategic investment of time and resource by a collaborative partnership of government, employers, academia and the teaching profession.

6. There is now a need to focus at a sub-national, localised level across all subjects. Only then will a sustained impact be made on the ground in all schools and colleges. behr outcomes has produced a proposal for a broad strategic education partnership in the South West London area that would boost post16 education outcomes and ensure real choices for all (see: http://behroutcomes.co.uk/resources/strategic%20education%20partnerships%20Aug%202012.pdf ). Such an approach may well be appropriate in other parts of England.

7. The Coalition Government’s social mobility agenda is a potential vehicle for maintaining pressure from above, especially as the Deputy Prime Minister has a direct interest in its success and there is an obvious connection with the new Pupil Premium.

8. A key question relates to the role of Local Authorities (LAs) and whether they should continue to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable in terms of specialised assistance. A linked question is how Academy and Free School chains plan to respond to the new requirements. Will they give Heads freedom to operate according to the individual needs of their students and out of LA control?

9. The Committee has not specifically asked about the role employers and universities should play in CEIAG. This question needs to be put to Community liaison/outreach leads from a selection of organisations including HEIs.

10. Compulsory work experience has now disappeared pre16, for good reason, but what is needed in its place is a clear policy in each school on how best to engage students with the future world of employment. This could be through high quality taster, mentoring and shadowing programmes provided by well-qualified and -motivated enterpreneurs and employees. Careers Academies and BITC’s Business Class programme are examples of frameworks which should be further evaluated by the Committee.

11. Admission numbers to higher education are under pressure due to tuition fee increases and universities are increasingly obliged to consider candidates from less privileged backgrounds who get lower grades but have the potential to do well. But they also need to encourage these future undergraduates (and their parents/carers) at an early enough stage in their education, to consider going to university. The Future Morph and Maths Careers websites are promoting STEM careers, but there also needs to be investment in other subject areas and in cross-curricular university outreach programmes such as those funded by RCUK’s School-University Partnerships Initiative .

12. This submission has not mentioned specific curricula or qualifications that might contribute to better employability or career prospects for students. Until there is complete clarity about the full impact of assessment and high stakes accountability on the standard of curricula and qualifications in England, and the quality of educational outcomes for students, then there seems no real point in doing this.

October 2012

Prepared 30th October 2012