Stranded schools need careers guidance support

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With careers advice "patchy and inconsistent" across the country, a major report is calling for the National Careers Service to be expanded to support schools in meeting the challenging careers guidance duty.

The lack of direct links between the National Careers Service (NCS) and schools has become a “major barrier” to providing young people with high-quality careers guidance.

A report from the National Careers Council says that now is the time to expand the NCS remit to schools and colleges to help tackle the fragmentation of careers advice services brought about by government cuts.

The report, An Aspirational Nation, highlights that while we have 1.09 million young people who are NEET (not in education, employment or training), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) reports that more than half of businesses are not confident they can find enough recruits.

The duty to deliver independent and impartial careers advice to students in years 9 to 11 was passed to schools last year after the government axed funding for the network of Connexions centres. This duty, which came without any additional funding, is set to expand to include year 8 pupils from September.

However, the report says that while many schools have responded to the challenge, “current schools policies and practices are patchy and inconsistent”.

The NCS was set-up in April  2012 and now has more than 2,500 qualified career development professionals who offer services including face-to-face advice, but only to adults.

Young people can access the telephone and website services, but the NCS has no government remit to target or promote these services to schools. The report points out that take-up of services among young people is low and is falling.

Between April 2012 and March this year, the NCS had 33,560 phone calls and 26,792 web chats with young people. It also received 1,647 texts and 5,384 emails. This compares to the around 4.5 million young people aged 13 to 18.

The report states: “There is a view which is widespread across the education sector that many schools have struggled in the immediate period of transition to assume full responsibilities for careers provision. A major barrier to providing high-quality careers guidance to young people has been the absence of direct links between the NCS and schools.

“Now is the time, and a great opportunity to expand (the NCS’s) role to schools and colleges to overcome fragmentation and to provide coherence, consistency and leadership.”

The report quotes a discussion paper written by careers education expert David Andrews in March, which highlights the extent to which schools have been left on their own to meet the extensive careers duties. He wrote: “Schools do not even have access to a directory of career guidance providers: they have been left (to) search this new and unfamiliar market themselves.

“In these conditions, it is not surprising that the quality and level of independent and impartial careers guidance varies from one school to another.”

In January, the Education Select Committee also called for “urgent action” to stop the deterioration of careers advice, including an expansion of the NCS remit in order to build capacity in schools.

The National Careers Council report says it is vital that schools make face-to-face guidance available to all pupils from year 8 onwards and develop strong links with employers. 

It states: “The NCS must help schools to access impartial face-to-face professional careers guidance including for those young people facing the greatest risks within their school-to-work transitions.”

It adds that the NCS must do more to raise awareness among young people and parents of its online, telephone and face-to-face careers provision, and calls for the online services to be developed to include specific sections for young people, parents and teachers.

It also says that the NCS should have a role in supporting CPD: “The NCS should lead the efficient provision of key national resources, such as labour market information, to schools and colleges, and provide professional development and other support to school and college staff.”

Ofsted has recently announced it will place a greater emphasis on careers during inspections, and the report says this will be key to helping spread best practice. The NCS also has a role in disseminating this information, it adds.

The report also calls for employers to encourage their staff to volunteer in schools to help give students careers insights and to raise aspirations.

Dr Deirdre Hughes, chair of the National Careers Council, said: “We urge the government to consider our recommendations and act on them. If this is done, together we can create a movement to bring about a much-needed culture change in careers provision.”

Sir Roger Carr, president of the CBI, added: “It’s clear that business, the education system and government must raise their game. Integrating the new National Careers Service into schools and colleges will make sure that students can make a much smoother transition from education to work.”

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said: “This report sets out an ambitious new path for how careers guidance needs to progress. I look forward to working with the National Careers Council to consider the detail of its recommendations.”

CAPTION: Learning links: Employers are being urged to help schools deliver careers guidance and raise aspirations


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