Almost half of teachers believe the quality and quantity of careers advice on offer will deteriorate when the responsibility for providing guidance is passed to schools.
A new survey, carried out by TES and the Education and Employers Taskforce charity, also found that nearly 53 per cent of teachers do not feel confident giving advice about apprenticeships. In contrast, more than two- thirds said they were very or quite confident advising students about university study.
The survey of almost 1,000 teachers and school leaders revealed major uncertainty in schools about the changes to careers information, advice and guidance (IAG). From September, schools will be responsible for providing "independent and impartial" assistance to students, which must include information on the full range of post-16 options, including apprenticeships and other vocational courses.
But 62 per cent of school leaders surveyed said they still had no firm plans for offering IAG to students. There is also some scepticism about whether the new system will actually lead to an improvement in careers advice. While 31 per cent of teachers said it would increase the quality and quantity of provision, 47 per cent argued that this would actually be reduced.
A spokesman for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has called on Ofsted to inspect the quality of schools' provision. "These results are in no way surprising," the spokesman said. "Many teachers do not feel confident talking about vocational options. We are worried that schools won't comply with (the new duty). The obvious tool for checking on this would be for it to be inspected by Ofsted."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Careers advice needs to be backed up with guidance from a qualified professional. There's a real fear out there that, without proper infrastructure focused on serving young people, there will be a great variability in the quality of careers advice."
"There will be some good practice, but there will be areas where schools struggle to fund provision. It will result in some schools coming to the pragmatic decision to go for the cheaper option."
Anthony Mann, head of policy and research at the Education and Employers Taskforce, said the survey revealed concern about the future employment prospects of pupils. "Overwhelmingly, (teachers) want to see young people having greater opportunity to hear first-hand from employers about the range of jobs and careers which may be open to them and best routes into them. This is common practice in the independent sector, where cost-free networks are routinely and easily used."
The survey also found that many schools are planning to cut back on work experience for students. Almost half of school leaders said their school would be changing its arrangements this year. Of these, 11 per cent were scrapping work experience placements altogether, and 28 per cent said that placements would only be available for students aged 16 and above.
About one in five school leaders said they planned to buy in careers advice, with the majority planning to spend between pound;5,000 and pound;10,000.
The launch of a new initiative to open up career opportunities for state school students was also launched this week. Inspiring the Future is a free initiative under which volunteers from all sectors and professions will go into state secondary schools and colleges to talk about their jobs, careers and the education routes they took. Nearly a third of all state secondary schools have already registered.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg welcomed the scheme. "Too many young people get the message that the best jobs are not for them," he said. "(This) will give state school students the chance to see, hear and make a connection with someone in a career or job they might not have thought about."
How is your school planning to alter work experience provision?
Restrict to students aged 16+: 28%
Restrict to the lowest-achieving students: 7%
Stop work experience altogether: 11%
Support work experience placements for pupils who want to do them: 22%
Support work experience placements only for pupils studying particular subjectsqualifications: 15%
Original headline: Careers advice plan gets a vote of little confidence