Careers advice failing in schools, says Ofsted


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Careers services in schools in England are not working effectively, according to a hard-hitting report from the education watchdog, Ofsted.

Three quarters of schools visited by Ofsted were not delivering adequate careers advice.

Since 2012 schools have been responsible for careers information.

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said: "It is worrying that the new arrangements are failing to provide good guidance."

In response, the government says it will issue clearer guidance on what is expected from schools.

Graham Stuart, chairman of the education select committee, said the report made "an irresistible case for change".

The report from Ofsted, based on a survey of 60 schools, examines the quality of careers advice since responsibility was given to individual schools last year.

Lack of skills

The watchdog found that "very few" schools had the skills to provide careers guidance.

Schools could also buy in careers advice, but Ofsted says "few schools had bought in adequate service from external sources".

There were concerns about a lack of connection with employers and a tendency to prioritise academic pathways rather than to provide information about vocational training.

Start Quote

The government must act swiftly to make sure schools have the support they need”

End Quote Neil Carberry CBI

Schools were not promoting the National Careers Service, which offers advice through a phone line and website.

The Ofsted report says that the National Careers Service, which is for all ages, needs to improve its marketing to young people.

In its response, the government says the National Careers Service will be improved to "give young people a greater understanding of the full range of options available to them".

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock highlighted the importance of getting employers involved with schools and colleges.

"People with fulfilling careers are the ones who can really show young people what it is like to succeed in the world of work. That is why I want more employers involved in providing high-quality careers advice to the future workforce.

"We gave schools and colleges the responsibility for securing good careers advice for their pupils because they know them best.

"Ofsted highlighted excellent careers advice already being provided by schools, but I want all schools to do as the best do - inspiring young people, providing work experience and putting them in touch with employers."

Youth unemployment

Anne Spackman of Career Academies, which links schools with employers, said that work experience was a vital part of understanding about the jobs market.

"There is no shortage of people coming forward to act as mentors and no shortage of businesses looking to build an employee pipeline," she said.

"But, we have to channel that energy and goodwill into work experience, making it as easy as possible for businesses - however small - to be part of this new drive to help our young into work."

Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said that high levels of youth unemployment made careers advice even more significant.

"It is vitally important that young people have access to information on the full range of career pathways available so they can make informed choices about their next steps.

"Our findings show that too few schools are doing enough to ensure all their students receive comprehensive advice about the breadth of career opportunities available to them."

Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, said: "Sadly, the findings of this report, which reflect the warnings we and many others have consistently given to government, are no surprise to school and college leaders.

"The duty to provide careers guidance was placed on schools at a time when most existing infrastructure and funding for such provision had been removed."

Nick Chambers, director of the Employers and Education Taskforce, welcomed that the government now recognised that careers advice needed "significant improvement".

He said the taskforce's Inspiring the Future project, linking state schools with employers, has now signed up two thirds of secondary schools.

"Many more employers now need to play their part; and the National Careers Service needs urgently to provide more support for schools," said Mr Chambers.

OFSTED highlights the importance of giving young people the chance to hear first-hand from people about their jobs and career paths - and schools agree, with two-thirds of secondaries having already signed up to Inspiring the Future because it provides free access to thousands of employee volunteers. Many more employers now need to play their part; and the National Careers Service needs urgently to provide more support for schools."

President of the Association of Colleges, Michele Sutton, said the report painted a "damning picture of careers guidance in schools and these findings chime with what colleges and young people have been telling us for years".

The group, representing further education colleges, wants Ofsted inspections to make careers services a higher priority, to increase access to jobs information and for the Department for Education to increase funding to £80m, in line with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Concerns about careers were echoed by employers and MPs.

Neil Carberry, the CBI's director for employment and skills policy, said: "We warned earlier this year that careers advice was on life support and this report confirms the scale of the problem. The government must act swiftly to make sure schools have the support they need.

"We agree that business has a key role to play - and employers stand ready to play their part. This must be part of a wider movement led by the government and involving education and career development professionals."

Earlier this year, the education select committee published a report warning of deteriorating careers services. Committee chairman Graham Stuart said the findings of the Ofsted report showed that it was "completely unacceptable" that so many schools were failing to provide effective advice.

"The education reforms the government has undertaken are undermined if there is no decent signposting within education and between education and the world of employment.

"The new National Careers Service should receive funding to help - and challenge - schools to deliver good quality careers advice."

Problems with careers advice has also been linked to a lack of social mobility, with poorer youngsters unaware of the job opportunities that might be available to them.

Labour's Tristram Hunt said this was a "damning indictment" on the government's changes to careers.

"This goes to the heart of their economic incompetence and shows how out of touch they are. With nearly a million young people unemployed, the need for a high quality and impartial careers services is more important than ever.

"Instead Michael Gove has scrapped the right to work experience, set up a 'National' Careers Service that young people have not heard of and got rid of independent careers advice."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    "So Paul, what do you want to be?" The advisor asks.
    "An astronaut." Paul responds.
    "Excellent. Here is your signing book, come back in 2 weeks."

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    I think external careers advice is the key to supporting schools in helping get their pupils ready for the work of work. Here in Gloucestershire, we're lucky enough to have a Youth Employment and Skills strategy -, aimed at increasing employabilty opportunity, awareness and choice, for our 14-24 year olds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    Here's some career advice, become head of personnel at the BBC and you could earn £320,000 per year....I know, it's unbelievable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    jgm2 "
    There shouldn't be more than a couple of dozen art, sociology or psychology or such-like hobby course teachers in the entire country because they're good for nothing."

    Tell that to James Dyson - a graduate of the Royal College of Art. Don't you buy any clothes, furnishings, cars, cards, cutlery, white goods, shoes, illustrated books, computer games etc.? Their designed by artists!

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Teachers know little or nothing of the world of work, since most have gone from school to college or university then back again to school. I sometimes think it might be a good thing to insist that all teachers do at least a year or so in another job; this should certainly apply to any involved in giving careers advice, which all too often is "University (however poor) or nothing".

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.


    You're a chemist now? I recall you claiming to be a lawyer AND an accountant on several previous occassions. Quite the illustrious career you've conjured up to boast about online. LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    continuing from 249

    G. How to survive breathing arctic methane.

    H. Guess where the next weather anomaly will strike.

    I. How to enjoy fracking pollutants in your water.

    J. How to generate electricity rubbing two sticks together.

    K. How to learn not to dream of having a holiday.

    L. Learn how to defend what little you have.

    M. Learn how to dream of not having a better life...

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    If careers advice was anything like in my day it isn't worth listening too. It was generally given by people who knew nothing about any careers other than teaching. The only way to find out if you want to do something is do try it, and not for a day, for a year, to see the annual cycle of work in a particular industry.

  • Comment number 269.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    When I had careers advice some (cough) few years ago I was told I'd probably make a good housewife or I could work in a cafe as a waitress. I did waitress for a while and loved it, I worked for solicitors as pretty much anything they asked for over 11yrs and then I joined the Police. Careers advice is just that and its based on school scores not the fire in the belly of the child they're talking 2

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    256.Mark L

    So teachers don't work? Funny, I thought that teaching was an incredibly difficult job, involving tons of unpaid 'homework' in preparation, meeting all manner of deadlines, marking work etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    1/ Careers advice has been failing schools since my day some 35 years ago so this is nothing new.
    2/ work isnt about choosing what you want to do, if your lucky enough you can, but get real! its about earning money to live well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    I left school 13 years ago at which time we had no 'careers advisers', just teachers! The 'advise' I received was "Sally, I wouldn't bother looking at FE or beyond, you will have 2 children and be on the dole by the time your 18". Careers advise is pointless, I found my own way and am now a chemist! The adviser is still a drama teacher having never been promoted to head of department or otherwise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    "When my dad was at school thats exactly what they said, he stopped wasting his time and went for city and guild qualifications. Now earns £20p/h (double with overtime) in his 60's because there is no one to take over."

    So he ended up in a fairly low paid job then?... should have tried harder in education really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    Take away funding and infrastructure,ramp up pressure on schools and colleges for better exam results,guess what happens or rather doesn't happen to career's advice!?
    I wonder how qualified and experienced throughout industry you need to be,in addition to how much time do you have away from the school or college to grow your relationships with local business,and what salary is offered for this!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    A careers advisor, who admitted that she got the job because she was at college with the interviewer for her job, basically told us to rely on serendipity to get a job. Ie chat to people in bus queues and bring up the subject "oh I am unemployed at the moment". Or get the job through friends and family, etc. If she is right, it doesn't say a lot for all the equal opportunity employers out there

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Enormous ignorance of the Careers Service on this forum. It WAS a service of well qualified staff whose role was to guide pupils and young adults towards the best information sources to help them think AND BE CHALLENGED about career options. Repeated cuts and then outsourced to schools cutting budgets gives you what you now get. (30 years in Careers service in England and Scotland.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    The present government in effect abolished Connexions, the careers advice agency. So now schools are expected to deliver it. With little or no training. So who is at fault for inadequate advice?
    And many many people posting here seem to believe that their "career advice" from decades ago was the norm across the country (how do they know?). A little more thought needed before posting please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Kids are stuffed into one size fits all education despite that growing evidence that this does not work, more effort needs to be put in earlier to ascertain what the kids are good at and like to do. It is an absolute travesty that so many people end up doing jobs they hate for most of their lives. It is also pointless to try to hammer advanced algebra in heads not suitable to understand it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    I think my advice would be to be a careers advisor, because there is not going to be a shortage of people seeking employment any time soon and one of the things seekers have got to do to "prove" they are actively seeking employment is to seek careers advice however futile. Just don't tell clients that there are no suitable jobs for them and help them rewrite their CVs.


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