Education & Family

Careers services deteriorating, MPs warn

Apprentices at work Image copyright PA
Image caption Good careers advice is too important to be neglected, MPs are warning

Careers services for young people in England show a "worrying deterioration", MPs are warning.

Good careers guidance has been highlighted as important to social mobility and to tackling youth unemployment.

But a report from the Education Select Committee warns of problems with "the quality, independence and impartiality" of current careers advice.

"Urgent steps" are needed to improve matters, says the report.

The cross-party report also criticises the government's decision to give schools responsibility for careers advice - saying the move was "regrettable".

MPs reported concerns about the variability of careers guidance offered by individual schools - and quoted claims that this was "not delegation to schools, it is abdication".

But the committee found little enthusiasm for the return of the previous Connexions careers service, which had also faced criticism.

Individual advice

There were also concerns about the lack of individual advice available.

The National Careers Service, launched last year, offers guidance by website and phone, but it does not provide young people with face-to-face advisers.

Brian Lightman, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said head teachers had already raised concerns about the need for individual, face-to-face meetings with careers advisers.

And he said the report "sets out a convincing case for government to revisit the role and remit of the National Careers Service".

Mary Bousted, leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "The reality is that schools aren't run by magicians - if they don't have the time, money or appropriately trained staff, but have a multitude of other pressures because of Ofsted inspections, it is no surprise they are struggling to offer the careers guidance pupils need."

Committee chairman Graham Stuart also cautioned that schools could "put their own interests ahead of their pupils", such as promoting their own sixth forms above other options.

There has been increasing recognition of the importance of careers advice in promoting social mobility.

An absence of good advice has been blamed for low aspirations in university applications and job seeking.

'Deeply worrying'

Mr Stuart said that the evidence brought to his committee suggested that the most vulnerable youngsters were the "most likely to be hurt by these deteriorating careers services".

Nick Chambers, director of the Education and Employers Taskforce, has been campaigning to improve careers guidance and promoting a better engagement between employment and education.

He says the report "shines a bright light on the deeply worrying situation encountered by young people".

"There is a massive information gap between the real demands of employers and what young people know and where their aspirations lie," said Mr Chambers.

"The report is right to suggest that far too many young people are having to make vital and incredibly important decisions about their futures without enough access to good information."

Keith Herrmann, convenor of the Careers Sector Stakeholders Alliance, said he hoped the report would help address "the growing concern that the lack of funding for schools and inadequate guidance from the coalition government risks inconsistent careers provision across England, with school students suffering from a post-code lottery".

In a separate announcement, Labour's education spokesman, Stephen Twigg, is set to call for careers advice and information about work, such as visits to workplaces, to be extended to primary schools.

Mr Stuart, the committee chairman, said that young people faced "ever more complicated choices" in school qualifications, university courses and career paths.

"That's why good careers guidance has never been so important," he said.

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