State schools will be forced to give vocational routes as much weight as academic options when providing careers advice to pupils, in order to tackle the “outdated snobbery” against technical education and apprenticeships.
A new law would see apprenticeship providers and staff from colleges visiting schools as part of careers advice from the early secondary stage, to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them through apprenticeships and other forms of training.
What form this legislation will take is unclear, although TES has previously revealed that the Department for Education is planning a White Paper for later this year.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan said: "As part of our commitment to extend opportunity to all young people, we want to level the playing field – making sure they are aware of all the options open to them and are able to make the right choice for them. For many young people going to university will be the right choice, and we are committed to continuing to expand access to higher education, but for other young people the technical education provided by apprenticeships will suit them better.
"That’s why I’m determined to tackle the minority of schools that perpetuate an outdated snobbery towards apprenticeships by requiring those schools to give young people the chance to hear about the fantastic opportunities apprenticeships and technical education offer."
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said school students needed access to "high-quality, impartial careers information about all post-16 education and training options, including apprenticeships and technical and professional education".
"We have long been calling for an improvement to the system and welcome the changes outlined. Colleges recognise the critical nature of good careers education and will be very keen to continue to work together with their local schools. This announcement will make that a reality," he added.
FE and sixth-form colleges have complained for some time that their options are often not promoted by secondary teachers, especially since the mushrooming of the number of school sixth forms.
The government is committed to the creation of 3 million apprenticeships by the end of this parliament. Only last week providers warned that this was proving challenging.
The legislation would mean state schools, including academies, will be required by law to collaborate with colleges, university technical colleges and other training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all options – including degree-level apprenticeships.