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Careers guidance in a spin

The spin that the government has put on what it has done to improve careers guidance for young people in its response to the Education Select Committee’s follow-up inquiry on careers guidance is truly breath-taking (3rd July). Here is a flavour of it:

“The government is determined to remain focused on driving through these changes and we will not rest until every young person has the chance to fulfil their potential.” (para 8)

Forget the resolve and high ideals, what it clearly means is that the government is not going to change its policy whatever the ESC recommends!

You will recall that in January 2013 the ESC published a report on Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools. The government’s response back then was unsatisfactory and fundamentally nothing has changed.

The government continues to denigrate the work of career development practitioners. In another shocking example of spin, the submission states:

“Interestingly, Ofsted’s review found that some of the ineffective interviews they observed were led by qualified careers professionals.” (para 43)

In fact, inspectors did find that too many interviews were used for information-giving; but what they did not acknowledge is that this could be a direct consequence of the government abolishing the requirement for careers education in the curriculum. While there is more to careers education than information-giving, it is clearly more cost effective to give basic information in group sessions rather than in one-to-one interviews.

Instead of cherry-picking a negative statement about careers advisers, the government could have picked this sentence from the same Ofsted report which said:

“Individual interviews with careers guidance advisers and links with employers also helped them [young people] to develop ideas for careers; these, in turn, often motivated them to achieve.”

So Ofsted knows that some careers advisers (and not just some employers) can be inspirational too!

The real weakness in the government’s thinking on careers guidance is that they haven’t a clue about how to achieve sustainable provision and consistently high standards of careers guidance. An unintentionally hilarious example of their flawed thinking comes in paragraph 38 when they talk about teachers and careers guidance:

“Teachers have a very demanding and important job. We cannot expect them, when they already have a full-time job teaching pupils, to be able to deliver careers advice on their own. We are looking to employers, who understand their existing and emerging career opportunities, to get involved in helping schools deliver insights on careers and the world of work.”

The idea that a volunteer army of employers will provide a national careers guidance system is ludicrous. Employers too have very demanding and important jobs and most will not be able to afford the time away from their businesses to deliver careers advice in schools.

It is clear from the government’s submission that what it does not want to talk about is how the removal of all the central funding for careers and work-related learning has destroyed the national infrastructure and placed an impossible financial burden on schools to make up the deficit. We even learn in the submission that the DfE is no longer going to contribute to the cost of the National Careers Service young people’s helpline. However, you’ll be pleased to know that the government has found the money to write 100 pages of content for young people on the NCS website (para 31). Unfortunately, the content and the presentation are utterly uninspiring. It shows just how tricky this inspiration stuff can be!



On 3rd July, the Department for Education submitted its written evidence to the Careers guidance follow-up inquiry. You can access the submission here

The Committee is planning to hold a single evidence session in the autumn with the Secretary of State for Education. Before then, individuals, groups and organisations wishing to submit evidence to the Education Select Committee have until 19th September to send in their response. Access the details on how to respond here

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