Ofsted should downgrade schools for weak careers advice, say MPs

'Inadequate' school careers guidance is fuelling the UK's skills shortage, according to a new parliamentary report

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Schools shown to have “inadequate” careers guidance could be downgraded by Ofsted, a report by the Commons sub-committee on education, skills and the economy has concluded.

The report, published today, said that sub-standard careers guidance in schools in England is exacerbating the country’s skills shortage, and that the watchdog needs to play a “bigger role” in ensuring careers advice is given to children before they leave school.

MPs on the sub-committee also urged the government to install a minister in charge of careers advice in schools, and to address the “unruly and complex” web of organisations currently offering careers advice to students.

“Careers advice should be a core part of a young person’s schooling but at the moment it is little more than a poorly thought out add-on. Schools should be incentivised to treat careers education, advice, information and guidance as a priority," the report states.

“The committee recommends Ofsted plays a bigger role in ensuring careers guidance is up to scratch by downgrading those who do not deliver high quality provision. A school should not be graded as ‘good’ if its careers provision is inadequate.”

'So many are being failed by the guidance they receive'

Neil Carmichael, who chairs the education committee, said: "At a time when it is vital we equip young people with the right skills for their working lives, it's concerning that so many are being failed by the guidance they receive.

"Careers advice should be a core part of a young person's schooling but at the moment it is little more than a poorly thought out add-on. Schools should be incentivised to treat careers education, advice, information and guidance as a priority.

Iain Wright, chairman of the business committee, said: "The world of business and work is changing rapidly. There is huge choice in the career paths young people could embark upon and rapid change also means that there will be opportunities for jobs and professions in new and emerging industries.

"In this context, young people and their parents need the best possible and clear guidance to inform their choices and decisions. Yet initiative after initiative has rained down from government in recent years with regards to careers guidance, creating a confusing and costly mess when what we really need is a clear picture.”

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is disappointing that the committee has reached for the big stick of Ofsted when there are severe problems in the existing system for providing careers, education, information, advice and guidance which urgently need sorting out first. It is vital that schools and colleges are able to provide expert independent careers advice.”

A right to careers advice

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employers and Learning Providers, said: "A survey of apprentices has just shown that only 15 per cent of them found out about apprenticeships from a teacher or careers advisor, so nothing much has changed for the better since the select committee last reported on this matter three years ago.

‘We are pleased that the MPs support the government’s promised legislation which will mandate schools to work with training providers to raise awareness among pupils about apprenticeships and traineeships.  It is almost five years since schools were required by law to start offering impartial advice and perhaps the adoption of the Committee’s recommendation on non-compliers possibly losing an Ofsted grade is now needed."

In January, education secretary Nicky Morgan announced that state schools would 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, she added.

Last month more than 100 students with special educational needs and difficulties (SEND) demonstrated outside Parliament for better access to careers advice.

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