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Schools "failing" to provide good quality careers advice, Ofsted warns

More than three quarters of secondary schools in England are failing to give their students good quality careers advice, with little time being devoted to promoting vocational training and apprenticeships, according to a critical Ofsted report published today.

The inspectorate said the careers information given to students was often too narrow and out of date, and staff delivering it lacked training.

Ofsted warned that schools were also not working well enough with employers to give students meaningful work experience. Instead, the A-level route to universities remains the ‘gold standard’ for young people, their parents and teachers, it said.

Just last week a survey by the National Union of Students suggested careers advisers were failing to promote apprenticeships to young people, despite them being a central plank of the government’s jobs policy.

From September last year, schools in England have been legally responsible for giving independent and impartial careers guidance to all students in Years 9 to 11.

But Ofsted said this duty was simply not working well enough. It now wants to government to provide clear and explicit guidance to schools on what constitutes a comprehensive careers guidance strategy , how to secure independent, external careers guidance, and how to monitor the its impact.

Education and business leaders have urged the government to act quickly to give schools the support they need.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was “extremely disappointed” that the government had “persistently ignored” warnings about the issue.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of ASCL, 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. School leaders know how important careers guidance is but have, in many parts of the country, struggled to meet this requirement.”

Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills policy at the CBI, 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.”

Adult education body Niace said schools should not be blamed but instead better supported by employers, colleges and others to help deliver “realistic and inspiring” careers advice.

The government said the the National Careers Service would be improved, and skills minister Matthew Hancock said he wanted more employers involved in providing high-quality careers advice to schools and colleges.

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