Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Education Committee

Related inquiry: Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance

Date Published: 29 June 2023

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The landscape of CEIAG provision

The system of careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG) has seen much change in recent years. Since responsibility for CEIAG was transferred to schools and colleges in 2012, the landscape has developed significantly, in particular with the introduction of the Gatsby benchmarks and the 2017 Careers Strategy. We appear to have reached a point where the right framework is broadly in place, but there is a lack of an overarching strategy with stated outcomes. Schools and colleges are making progress towards meeting the Gatsby benchmarks, but are only meeting just over half of them on average. The Department should put in place an updated Careers Strategy which includes clear, measurable outcomes, and ensure that Ofsted is upholding a strong focus on CEIAG provision and the Gatsby benchmarks when inspecting schools.

The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) is providing useful support to schools and colleges and we heard positive feedback on the impact of Careers Hubs and Careers Leaders. However, Careers Leaders do not always have the time and capacity to effectively fulfil their role, with almost half having less than a day a week allocated to the role. The Department should suggest an appropriate proportion of time that Careers Leaders should be given to fulfil their role and ensure that the CEC is collecting and publishing data on this. The lack of a high-quality, accessible website offering careers information and advice is also a key gap in the system of support available to young people. The National Careers Service (NCS) website is theoretically available to young people from the age of 13, but in practice is not targeted at or being used by them. Fewer than 10% of 18–19-year-olds had used it in 2018 and, among a panel of young people who we spoke to as part of this inquiry, none had ever heard of or used it. The Department should either ensure that the NCS website has content appropriate and accessible to young people under 18 or create an alternative website for this group.

We heard that there is a lack of coordination and alignment between the organisations providing careers support and services, which has resulted in duplication and confusion. We looked at the issue of whether the organisations should be merged into a single body, drawing on the recommendations made by Professor Sir John Holman in his work as Independent Strategic Adviser on Careers Guidance to the Department. While we do not think that creating a single, all-age body for CEIAG is the right step at this stage, we recommend that the Department should bring the existing delivery bodies under a single strategic umbrella function, sharing a common strategic framework and coordinating local services.

The transfer of responsibility for CEIAG to schools and colleges has meant that funding for this has had to come out of their existing budgets, alongside the support offered by the CEC. This is causing significant disparities in provision between different schools and colleges, and one witness told us that schools are only spending on average £2 per pupil on careers. The Department’s expenditure on CEIAG provision through the CEC also falls far short of what is needed: it is currently spending around £5,000 per school, in contrast to the estimated £38,000 to £76,000 needed to fully deliver the Gatsby benchmarks. The Department should put in place a programme of one-off developmental funding to support schools to improve their CEIAG provision and include support for careers in the package available to schools in education investment areas. It should also pilot a programme of funding careers advisers directly through the CEC, rather than requiring schools and colleges to buy in support themselves.

Primary schools

Starting careers provision at an early age is essential in supporting children to learn about the world of work and develop high aspirations for their futures. We heard of some strong examples of schools doing this well, and programmes such as Primary Futures are playing a useful role in supporting schools to develop their provision. The Department’s recently announced pilot programme for primary schools is a positive step forward, but support should move away from small-scale pilot approaches and towards a universal approach to ensure that children across the country can benefit. The absence of any equivalent to the Gatsby benchmarks for primary level is also a concern; this is a gap that must be filled as soon as possible.

Careers in the curriculum

Embedding links to careers within the curriculum is an important way of exposing young people to a range of jobs and demonstrating the relevance of the subjects they study. There have been some notable improvements in this area in recent years, with 70% of schools and colleges fully achieving this benchmark in 2021/22, compared with 38% in 2018. Our panel of young people also reported examples of this being done to a high standard. However, this is not being done well across the board and is happening at a much higher rate in colleges than in schools.

There is a clear need to upskill teachers in careers provision to ensure that they feel confident in making links to relevant jobs in their subjects. 88% of teachers feel that their training did not prepare them to deliver careers information and guidance to students, and many teachers may not have experience of the world of work outside of teaching. The curriculum itself also does not contain explicit links to relevant careers, and this has not been included in the Department’s recent work to develop model curricula. The Department must ensure that careers is incorporated into teacher training and provide teachers with opportunities to experience workplaces outside of teaching.

Employer links with schools

We are particularly concerned about gaps in access to high-quality work experience, especially for pupils living outside major cities and the south-east of England. Pupils are frequently being left to arrange work placements themselves with little or no support from the school: only 30% of year 13 pupils and 10% of those in key stage four report having taken part in work experience arranged through their school. Young people in small towns and rural areas have limited access to opportunities for work experience: virtual placements can play a key role in closing this gap, but should not be seen as the only option for these young people. Equally, it is critically important that efforts to expand work experience do not result in a “tick-box” approach to organising placements: work experience must be of high quality and tailored to pupils’ needs and aspirations. The Department should develop a toolkit setting out what constitutes meaningful work experience and develop a national platform for work experience opportunities which includes virtual opportunities.

We heard that the administrative requirements around organising work experience placements can form a barrier to schools being able to offer them, particularly safeguarding requirements, and that there are “myths” around the administration that is needed. While it is essential to ensure that young people are kept safe while undertaking work experience, it must be made clear to schools and employers what they are and are not required to do. The Department should also consider whether any administrative requirements can be removed or lightened without compromising the safety and wellbeing of pupils.

A common theme in this inquiry was the bias towards academic over vocational and technical routes in careers advice and guidance. The introduction of the Baker Clause, which requires schools to give access to providers of vocational courses and apprenticeships, seems to have had some positive effects, but we heard many concerns about low levels of compliance and the lack of an accountability mechanism to enforce it. The new provider access legislation, which came into force in January this year, should go some way towards addressing these issues. The Department must ensure that compliance is being properly monitored through a robust mechanism and that appropriate action is taken if schools fail to comply. We note that some progress appears to have been made in terms of Ofsted not awarding “outstanding” grades to schools not complying with the Baker Clause. This should now be extended to the new provider access legislation and applied consistently across all schools, and Ofsted must ensure that it is giving appropriate weight to vocational routes when looking at destinations data.

Supporting specific groups of pupils

We were concerned to hear that groups of pupils with the greatest need for high-quality CEIAG provision are often the least likely to receive it, including disadvantaged pupils, those from minority ethnic backgrounds, those known to the care system, and young carers. Pupils eligible for free school meals are more likely to have received no information, advice or guidance, and schools in deprived areas are less likely to have access to specialist careers advisers. Disadvantaged pupils are less likely to have access to the contacts, information and opportunities available to their peers, and may as a result have lower aspirations for their futures. We also heard that pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds can face similar challenges in accessing CEIAG provision, along with pupils in care and those who are young carers, who face particular barriers to moving into employment. The Department and the CEC’s approach to this issue is focused on a variety of small-scale programmes in local areas—while this is a sensible way of testing approaches, this risks creating a postcode lottery of support in the long term. The Department must evaluate the impact of these programmes and set out a timeline for them to be rolled out nationally.

Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) face additional barriers to entering the workplace and are particularly in need of tailored careers advice and guidance to support them to achieve their goals. However, too often they are not receiving the support they need. We heard concerns about the lack of specialist careers advisers, low expertise among special educational needs co-ordinators, and a lack of flexible and accessible work placements. We welcome the Department’s pilot to extend Supported Internships to pupils without an EHCP as announced in the Spring Budget and recommend that this should be rolled out to cover all areas of the country.

The transfer of responsibility for CEIAG to schools and colleges has created a clear gap in support for pupils not in mainstream education, most notably those who are home educated. With an estimated 86,200 children now being home educated, there is an urgent need to put in place a system of careers support for these young people so that they are not locked out of access to CEIAG provision. We also note that the Department has yet to deliver on its commitment to introduce a register of pupils not in school, along with a proposed duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families; these must be implemented as soon as possible.