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Schools not trusted to give sixth form advice

MPs have challenged the ability of schools to advise teenagers on whether to opt for vocational training or sixth form.

The select committee on children, schools and families this week said schools could not be relied on to advise students and parents properly - particularly about apprenticeships, most of which are run in conjunction with colleges.

David Chaytor, Labour MP for Bury North and a member of the committee, said: "We have got to get impartial advice, and getting it out of schools is crucial."

He said the draft apprenticeships bill should be amended to put an independent body in charge of advising students about their next steps after GCSEs.

MPs heard from colleges and education charities that even the Connexions service was no longer truly impartial since it was now run by local authorities, which might be thought to have an interest in sustaining sixth-form enrolments.

Nick Edwards, vice-principal of Lewisham College in south-east London, said: "When people have careers sessions, they are always told about apprenticeships. But when they have open evenings, apprenticeships don't have a stand. A young person may be aware of them, but when a parent comes to school, there's no information."

The draft apprenticeships bill requires schools, which are already required to provide careers advice, to consider whether it would be in pupils' best interests to receive advice about apprenticeships.

But MPs said this clause should be amended to ensure that pupils received independent advice.

Andy Powell, chief executive of the Edge foundation, which promotes vocational options for teenagers, said: "All young people and parents should be informed about all the options, and it should be independent."

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