Revised statutory guidance on careers advice is moving in right direction

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The Department for Education (DfE) has published new statutory guidance for schools on careers provision.

Six in ten manufacturers think better careers advice in schools would increase the number of young people going into manufacturing.

Getting the guidance right on how such provision should be delivered is key.

EEF's previous concerns of the original statutory guidance

  • Careers provision only targeted at Years 9 to 11
  • Insufficient emphasis on employer engagement
  • Lacking focus on careers advice for vocational pathways, such as Apprenticeships

The positives of the new guidance

Extending careers provision to Years 8 and 13

The first positive change is that schools must now provide impartial careers advice for all pupils in Years 8 –13. In the early stages provision by schools only had to be targeted at those in years 9 to 11 – a decision we heavily criticised. Given that young people face more choices about their career prospects than ever – decision to attend studio schools or UTCs at 14, GCSE subject choices, academic or vocational qualifications – and the growing number of changes to the further and higher education system more generally – the need to deliver careers provision are a far earlier age was crucial.

Stronger emphasis on employer engagement

Partnerships between schools and industry are essential. Manufacturers in particular have stressed their concerns that young people, their parents and indeed teachers do not know enough about the industry and that manufacturing is not being promoted as a credible career pathways for young people in schools.

Moreover, some employers have suggested that many education-business links fail due to a lack of preparedness of the school and a lack of clear objectives o what employer engagement should look like. We wanted to see a firm commitment from the DfE to ensure that schools were working with employers to deliver careers guidance and for the guidance to be more assertive as to what should be delivered.

The new statutory guidance states that a school's careers and inspiration guidance strategy should use initiatives that help for links between schools and employers such as Business in the Community and Inspiring the Future as well as including workplace visits.

More promotion of vocational pathways

The new guidance states that schools must secure independent guidance that includes information on the full range of education and training options, including apprenticeships and vocational pathways. It also highlights the various options young people can take, breaking it down by age group - post 14, post-16, and post-18 – clearly defining the various choices young people can make at each stage.

A recent EEF survey found that 80% of manufacturers thought raising awareness of apprenticeships would increase the number of young people going into manufacturing.

The guidance has captured the importance of promoting vocational pathways. However, it is very much dependent on the ability of careers advisor to talk through the options with a young person. Employers should bring in their apprentices when invited into schools to talk about their own experiences of choosing vocational pathways.

Where we need more action

Whilst we have identified some positives, there is still more that needs to be done.

The employer engagement in the new guidance is a positive step. The DfE acknowledges the many benefits that employer engagement can play and identifies different interventions that could work in different school, and with different pupils. However, it fails to acknowledge that there are barriers to employers engaging with schools and indeed vice versa but does not offer any support in how to overcome this.

Whilst positive steps have been taken to address concerns around CRB checks and insurance liability, there remain a number of other challenges such as small companies' ability to engage with schools in the first instance. Whilst brokering services such as Inspiring the Future and Business in the Community may help to overcome this. The concern now is that there are so many organisations that can broker the relationship, or promote STEM in schools; employers have been overwhelmed by the number of organisations that are within this landscape.

Government should provide a one-stop-shop that captures all the initiatives that broker the relationship between schools and employers

A single word can make a huge difference – whilst the statutory guidance says ‘should' it does not say ‘must' Should is often used as a means of suggesting ‘best practice' but engagement with employers shouldn't be ‘best practice' it must be happening in all schools.

Government should change the wording of the statutory guidance so it states that schools must engage with employers

The publication of the new statutory guidance is a reminder that government is failing to address careers guidance in the early years. We want to see ‘careers awareness' or ‘careers inspiration' which must begin in primary school. This would be a light-touch approach to raise young people's ambitions and aspiration. Government should provide Primary Schools with guidance and resources to deliver this and demonstrate how teachers can incorporate this into the curriculum.

Government should introduce careers inspiration into Primary Schools and resource schools to deliver this


Head of Education & Skills Policy

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