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Careers guidance and inspiration for FE and sixth-form colleges

All FE and sixth form colleges in England are required as part of their funding agreements to secure access to independent careers guidance for students up to and including the age of 18 and for 19- to 25-year-olds with a Learning Difficulty Assessment in place or with an Education Health and Care Plan in place. (Under Section 45 of the Education Act 1997, college students of all ages must continue to be provided with guidance materials and a wide range of up-to-date reference materials relating to careers education and career opportunities.)


This new document from BIS and DfE (August 2014) offers guidance on which colleges may wish to draw when interpreting the requirement. The DfE has also published statutory guidance and departmental advice for schools on careers guidance and inspiration which can be used by colleges to review their support for 14-16 year old students.


Much of the ground covered by the guidance is already familiar to colleges. It re-states the rationale for providing high quality careers advice and guidance and continues to assert the government’s belief that this is best provided by direct inspiration from employers. Independent careers guidance is defined as careers guidance which:

  • inspires and informs young people about the full range of education, training and employment opportunities available to students
  • is provided in an impartial manner, and
  • promotes the best interests of the student to whom it is given.


BIS and DfE emphasise that their approach is non-prescriptive and the case studies and four pages of resources are clearly intended to be helpful to colleges; but it is doubtful that senior leaders and governors will give it a second glance as they grapple with far more pressing priorities. Without being able to offer colleges any incentives to get their careers advice right, all the government can do is make aspirational statements from the side-lines. These include encouraging colleges through their careers provision to:

  • help make a success of the raising participation age policy
  • work with local authorities on delivering the September Guarantee to 16- and 17-year olds and collecting information on destinations
  • involve governors in facilitating employer engagement and, from October 2014, make use of the new brokerage service offered by the National Careers Service
  • review, evaluate and continually improve their careers guidance provision using feedback from students, parents and employers as well as the government’s destination measures
  • benefit disadvantaged students especially those who get less support from family and social networks by providing face-to-face guidance and helping them to access the college’s network of employers
  • work in partnership with the National Careers Service, including extending this to working with schools, Jobcentres and employers to provide a more integrated local careers guidance infrastructure underpinned by informed labour market intelligence
  • raise the career aspirations of young people with special educational needs or disabilities and work closely with local authorities on fulfilling their new duties in relation to young people with SEN and disabilities


Download the guidance here


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  • Anthony

    Tony Watts has just written a policy commentary for Careers England - probably (sadly) his last! - on the updated guidance for colleges. He strongly criticises the government for pursuing a policy of transferring all responsibility for careers guidance to employers and marginalising the careers guidance profession. He notes that most employers do not want this role.  Surely. their proper role is to add value to strong careers programmes put together by education and guidance professionals working together.
    Read Tony’s commentary at Commentary 28.pdf

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  • Anthony

    Eddie Playfair, Principal of Newham Sixth Form College, has commented too in his blog. “Overall, this is a rather disappointing document which probably won’t do any harm or much good either. Despite its great emphasis on ‘inspiration’, it failed to inspire me”

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