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Careers guidance in schools, colleges and universities (England)

Published Tuesday, January 9, 2018

This House of Commons Library briefing paper looks at the requirements on schools, colleges and universities in England to provide careers guidance, the quality of the advice provided, and also the organisations working to provide careers advice.

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This briefing applies to England only.

State-funded schools

Since September 2013, local authority maintained schools have been under a duty to provide impartial careers guidance to pupils from years 8 to 13 (ages 12-18).

The Department for Education has published statutory guidance (most recently updated in January 2018) for maintained schools on their duty to provide careers guidance.

Many academies and free schools are subject to the duties relating to careers guidance through their funding agreements, including those which opened from September 2012 onwards and those which have moved to an updated funding agreement. Academies without the requirement are encouraged to follow the guidance as a statement of good practice.  There is also separate non-statutory ‘good practice’ DfE guidance on this issue.

Further education colleges

All further education (FE) colleges and sixth form colleges have been required to secure access to independent careers guidance from September 2013.  This requirement is part of FE college and sixth form college funding agreements.

The Department for Education has published guidance for FE and sixth form colleges to draw on in fulfilling this duty. 

DfE Careers Strategy

The Department for Education’s Careers strategy was published in December 2017.  It set out a series of measures to be implemented during 2018-20 to improve careers guidance in England, including new benchmarks for careers education, an investment fund for disadvantaged pupils, and a named Careers Leader in every school and college.

Recent legislative proposals and changes

In January 2016, the then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced that the Government would legislate “at the earliest opportunity” to require schools to ensure non-academic routes received “equal airtime” with academic routes in schools career advice.  Schools would be required by law to collaborate with colleges, university technical colleges and other training providers to ensure this was done.

An amendment was tabled to the Technical and Further Education Bill in the House of Lords in February 2017 by Lord Baker, to require schools to admit providers of technical education and apprenticeships to contact pupils to promote their courses.  The amendment was accepted by the Minister and passed into law shortly prior to the 2017 General Election.  The provisions came into force on 2 January 2018.

Higher education

There are no statutory requirements around the provision of careers advice in higher education institutions (HEIs).  Regardless of this careers advice and guidance is an important student service offered by all higher education institutions (HEIs).  HEIs are autonomous bodies and all HEIs have their own careers service staffed by professionals who are trained in this area.

Quality of careers advice

In December 2014, the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, made a statement to the House stating that “it is widely acknowledged that careers provision in schools has long been inadequate…Some schools and colleges are doing great things to ensure that their students access the necessary support, but too often provision is patchy.”

In January 2013 the Commons Education Select Committee published a report which stated that it had “concerns about the consistency, quality, independence and impartiality of careers guidance now being offered to young people.”  The Committee undertook a follow-up report, announced in July 2014, as “it was clear to [the Committee] that careers advice in schools was not improving.”

The Commons Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy published a report into careers education in July 2016, which made recommendations including a specific careers guidance judgment from Ofsted, for all Government-funded careers programmes to be brought into the CEC’s remit, and for careers guidance at all levels to be the responsibility of one Minister and one Department.

The Government published its response to the Sub-Committee report in November 2016, and rejected the recommendations relating to Ofsted and the CEC, although careers guidance has now been brought within the remit of one Minister at the Department for Education.  The Sub-Committee’s Co-Chairs said the Government were “burying their heads in the sand” about the quality of careers provision.

The Careers and Enterprise Company published a State of the Nation report in October 2017, which sought to evaluate current careers education in England, as well as to provide some advice on how schools could improve their careers programmes.  It found that few of the benchmarks being adopted under the Careers Strategy were currently being achieved in schools (currently only an average 1.8 out of 8), although schools were partially achieving far more (on average 6.4 benchmarks).

Other publications, from Ofsted and the British Chambers of Commerce, have been critical of the quality of much of the careers advice provided to young people.

National Careers Service

The National Careers Service (NCS), launched in April 2012, provides people over 13 years old with information, advice and guidance on learning, training and work opportunities. The service offers confidential and impartial advice, supported by qualified careers advisers.  NCS services may be provided face-to-face, via telephone or online.

The NCS aims to:

  • help people with careers decisions and planning
  • support people in reviewing their skills and abilities and develop new goals
  • motivate people to implement their plan of action
  • enable people to make the best use of high quality career related tools.

In December 2014, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published its third National Careers Service Satisfaction and Progression Surveys Annual Report.  This includes the following overview of customer satisfaction with the service:

Customers continue to rate the service very highly. Overall 94% of face-to-face and telephone customers agreed that the service was good; and 85% were satisfied overall, with 41% very satisfied.

An economic evaluation of the NCS, commissioned by the Department for Education, was published in March 2017.

The evaluation “could not identify a positive impact of the National Careers Service on employment or benefit dependency outcomes,” but did “identify a relatively strong positive effect in relation to education and training.”

Careers and Enterprise Company

Nicky Morgan’s statement in December 2014 included the announcement of the new Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC). 

The CEC is designed to broker partnerships between schools, further education colleges and employers in order to give pupils aged 12 to 18 better access to advice and inspiration in finding a career.

The CEC has announced it is building a network of volunteer Enterprise Advisers, drawn from employers, to work directly with the leadership of individual schools and colleges.  Clusters of schools and colleges and Enterprise Advisers will be supported by a full time Enterprise Coordinator.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7236

Authors: Robert Long; Susan Hubble

Topics: Employment, Further education, Higher education, Schools

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