Education & Family

Careers advice failing in schools, says Ofsted

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.

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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