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The tide turns again

Happy New Year! We now have a minister in office who takes careers education and guidance seriously. The tide is beginning to turn in favour of having proper careers provision in our schools again! The government has at last heeded the highly vocal lobby of employers, employers’ organisations, charities, Ofsted and the teachers’ associations (not to mention the career development profession itself) who have described national policy in this area a disgrace.


The Government is preparing a new Education Bill and there’s probably still room for some careers education and guidance clauses in it if necessary. What is more likely is that the guidance that accompanies the statutory careers guidance duty will be strengthened in the spring.


It is timely and welcome, therefore, is that the newly constituted Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, formed by members of the Education Committee and the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, has selected careers advice, information and guidance for its first inquiry ( The committee has invited written submissions by Wednesday 20th January 2016 that address the following points:

  • The quality and impartiality of current provision
  • How careers advice in schools and colleges can help to match skills with labour market needs
  • The role of the new Careers and Enterprise Company and its relationship with other bodies such as the National Careers Service
  • The balance between national and local approaches to careers advice
  • Careers advice and apprenticeships
  • The potential for employers to play a greater role in careers advice

The inquiry will focus in particular on developments since the 2013 Education Committee report Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools (


What is cegnet planning to say in response to the committee’s main themes?

The quality and impartiality of current provision

  • It is clear that the high quality careers provision that exists in some schools is often dependent on the good will and energy of the headteacher backed up by the middle leader for careers. The downside is that it is vulnerable to changes in personnel. In some schools, the commitment to high quality careers provision is systemic, embedded in the culture of the school, well-established and sustainable. We need more schools like this
  • The way schools with sixth forms are funded remains the biggest obstacle to ensuring impartiality during the options process at 16+
  • The government’s decision to downgrade pre-16 work experience schemes and other forms of work-related learning at KS4 has eroded an important element of corporate social responsibility shown by employers. Yet all the evidence is that experience of work is a major component of careers education and guidance which helps to motivate and inspire young people before they sit their GCSEs and other examinations.


How careers advice in schools and colleges can help to match skills with labour market needs

  • The foundations for this are already in place. The Career Development Institute (CDI) framework for careers, employability and enterprise education 7-19 specifically promotes the teaching of career management, employability and enterprise skills. The framework also supports the teaching of career adaptability, resilience and wellbeing. It would be helpful if the Careers and Enterprise Company and the National Careers Service followed the lead of the Quality in Careers Standard and actively promoted this framework in order to encourage more schools to prepare their students for labour market realities.
  • At the next revision of National Curriculum programmes of study, it is very important that subjects should be required to teach about the usefulness of their subject in the labour market. This involves raising awareness of jobs that directly use the subject, opportunities for further study of the subject and information on the general value of the subject (e.g. for certification purposes). They should also focus on opportunities based on subject clusters (e.g. STEM subjects). The government should also find a way of enabling subject associations to develop classroom resources that promote awareness of the skills needed in the existing and emerging labour market.
  • The active engagement of parents and carers as co-partners with schools and colleges in their children’s career development is a seriously neglected area; and an initiative in this area would be most welcome to bring the labour market skills agenda to life
  • Sir Michael Wilshaw, HMCI, has raised awareness of risk-averse schools that continue to prepare young people for established professional careers rather than those that are emerging and which will be essential to the UK’s future prosperity. A campaign targeted at teachers and careers advisers is needed to address this issue.
  • Great care is needed in interpreting how this careers advice role should actually function in schools and colleges in practice. An important aspect of careers advice is helping young people to realise their aspirations. The role of careers advice is to help young people to test the realism of their aspirations, check that they are choosing approved qualifications, inform them about the labour market situation and to help young people to compete for sometimes scarce opportunities. It is not the role of careers advice in a free market economy to direct young people towards sectors of industry that have labour shortages. Some of the biggest shortages are in low skill areas of the economy which are unattractive to many young people. Nearly all sectors are currently reporting that they have labour shortages and in the course of a young person’s working life, labour market conditions will change many times over. Even where jobs are in short supply, every individual should have the chance to compete for it. A responsible careers adviser, however, will make sure that the young person has back-up plans.


The role of the new Careers and Enterprise Company and its relationship with other bodies such as the National Careers Service

  • The committee is right to seek role clarification. Schools and colleges are confused by the current uncoordinated infrastructure. Some of the bodies have overlapping functions and the potential for unplanned mission creep is a concern. We need a long-term strategy rather than a succession of short-term, under-funded initiatives. This will require a level of joint leadership from the three key ministries (DfE, BIS and DWP) that schools and colleges have a right to expect but have not seen in the last five years.
  • The committee, therefore, needs to look at which bodies will take the lead on the delivery of each of the five interrelated components of careers education and guidance (CEG):
  • careers education is the core curriculum component of CEG. The lead body for this should be the DfE. It either needs to restore the statutory requirement for careers education or to make PSHEE statutory and ensure that it has a careers education strand within it. The DfE also needs to incorporate career-related learning in the content of National Curriculum programmes of study when they are next revised. An interim measure would be to commission an organisation to write careers-related resources for subject teachers. The Department should also consider creating a new careers education support programme to replace the programme that was terminated in 2010.
  • careers information and careers (advice and) guidance are both vital components of CEG. The lead body for this should be the National Careers Service which could draw on other appropriate organisations in the field such as the Career Development Institute for support. An extension of the remit of the National Careers Service is required to monitor and review the labour force requirements for professionally-trained careers advisers in schools and colleges and to take measures to stimulate the supply of new entrants to the field
  • experiences of work is the fourth vital component of careers education and guidance. The lead body for this could be the Careers and Enterprise Company working closely with LEPs and the 80+ members of the education business partnership national network, the Education and Employers Taskforce and organisations such as Inspiring the Future.
  • Promoting progress and achievement is the fifth key component of CEG. The lead body for this should be Ofsted which has already strengthened the arrangements for the critical evaluation of careers provision in school and college inspections (September 2015). It would be helpful if Ofsted had representation on the Quality in Careers Consortium Board.

The Committee should consider recommending the creation of a national consultative council of the lead bodies and partner agencies to co-ordinate and develop CEG practice nationally and locally.

The balance between national and local approaches to careers advice

  • The issue of balance is a conundrum that has affected the development of CEG provision over the last 15 years or more. National approaches often fall foul of competing national priorities, e.g. the careers service agenda losing out to Connexions in 2001 and the drive for an all-age careers service losing out to the school autonomy agenda in 2010. The problem with local approaches is that they risk enshrining patchiness in the system. Currently, for example, a high profile initiative such as London Ambitions could lead to higher CEG standards in the capital; but what happens in areas of the country that are left behind? In defence of patchiness, schools need examples of innovative best practice to inspire them. Leadership in this area is vital; and it has been sadly lacking in the last few years. It is possible for central government to establish an enabling framework for national and local (regional) initiatives in this field. Devolving responsibility to schools and colleges without providing clear leadership or well-targeted funding is a recipe for drift.


Careers advice and apprenticeships

  • The inclusion of data on the take-up of apprenticeships in the school destinations measures is helpful but the time lag is too long before the statistics appear. Schools need to be encouraged to keep and analyse their own up-to-date data.
  • Emerging good practice includes schools and colleges that: use alumni as role models; provide in-service training for staff on the development of apprenticeships; and provide information for parents
  • Despite the good work of many organisations in this area (e.g. National Apprenticeships Service, colleges and training providers, Apprenticeships Guide, Apprentices4England), barriers remain. School funding mechanisms is an issue particularly in 11-18 schools. Schools also report a lack of information available locally about employers’ demand for apprentices
  • Many teachers do not have confidence in the apprenticeship system. They also see it as an alternative to advanced further and higher education rather than part of a complementary and interchangeable set of pathways to worthwhile qualifications.


The potential for employers to play a greater role in careers advice

  • Employers make careers come alive in a myriad of ways and many have been doing so with great success ever since Industry Year 1986 and TVEI(E). At the present, there are many examples of outstanding initiatives and resources developed by large employers who take their corporate social responsibility seriously. Sadly, this is not matched by a number of international companies and finance organisations which contribute little. Many SMEs often show considerable altruism in supporting work-related activities in schools at no small cost to their businesses. However, giving careers advice to young people is not a core function of companies. They can provide careers information about opportunities in their own company or sector is and many companies have an excellent track record in providing information and resources for young people. What they cannot be expected to do is to initiate and sustain long-term relationships with individual young people from Year 7 to Year 13 to support their career exploration and development! This is a role for education and career development professionals in partnership with parents and carers.
  • Employers have a relatively narrow perspective on career development which emphasises the role that paid employment plays in an individual’s career. Teachers and careers advisers, however, subscribe to a more holistic view of career development which emphasises that a career is made up of all the paid and unpaid work, learning and life roles an individual undertakes throughout their life. For this reason alone, the committee should look at how schools can be enabled to deliver careers advice rather than the other way round. Employers do have a vital role to play but it is as part of a partnership triangle of schools, parents and employers.


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  • Lynn Addison

    Thanks for the heads up. An important opportunity to give feedback to the Government re the importance of Careers Education and Guidance, both for us as a profession and for the young people of our country

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  • Deirdre Hughes

    I enjoyed reading this but surprised to find no mention of the government-owned matrix quality standard. This puzzles me given the history of the careers profession battling to protect quality standards and the growing reach of matrix within schools, colleges and universities. I should declare I am Chair of the Independent Quality and Governance Board. Sounds as though more needs to be done to ensure this important quality standard is not overlooked in our professional dialogue.

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    • Anthony

      Thanks for the comment, Deirdre. I agree that the matrix Standard is important but I don’t think there is any danger that it will be overlooked by our profession. The responses to the inquiry from the CDI, Careers England and the QiCS consortium all emphasise the three-pronged approach to quality which was developed by the profession in response to the Coalition’s weak policy-making in this area. In the blog, I chose to highlight what the committee needs to consider in order to reverse the continuing slide in the position of careers education in the curriculum which I do think is sometimes overlooked in our professional dialogue!

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