Apprenticeships promise still empty, say training providers

24th September 2010 at 01:00
Anger over pledge to offer post-16 advice for all pupils

Training providers have accused the Government of failing on its promise to give all schoolchildren information about apprenticeships.

A section in last year's Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act would require schools to give all pupils information about apprenticeships when making their choices for post-16 education.

But ministers have still not issued an "order of commencement", which would give the regulation the go-ahead, nearly a year after the bill became law.

Labour MP John Mann has tabled a parliamentary question to put pressure on ministers to outline a timetable for putting the requirement into practice and ensuring Ofsted inspectors check the information is being provided.

The section was only introduced by the last Government after pressure in the House of Lords, with the bill originally mandating information on apprenticeships only "when it is in the best interests of the pupils to do so".

But the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) argued this approach was "deeply patronising" and ignored a growing number of students with good GCSE and A-level results who were choosing apprenticeships rather than university.

They feared the careers advice system could perpetuate a view that apprenticeships were seen as "second rate" and only suitable for less academically able students.

A spokesman for the ALP said: "When there was a media frenzy in the summer over the A-level results and shortage of university places, ministers were quick to point to apprenticeships as a promising alternative option for young people.

"We are therefore at a loss in understanding why they don't seem equally keen for schools to inform students about apprenticeships, especially when MPs and peers of all parties were so supportive of the measure when it was debated in Parliament.

"The previous government constructed a whole hotchpotch of reasons for resisting the measure until relenting at the last minute. We hope that the new Government will either have more compelling reasons in explaining the delay or it will offer assurance that we will not have to wait for much longer."

FE and skills minister John Hayes has pledged to provide more apprenticeships than ever before, a promise that could be hindered if information and advice on apprenticeships is not available to all.

But the Department for Education said ministers were conducting a wider review of careers advice before implementing any changes, and said legislation already in place should be enough to ensure schools gave their students a fair account of all the options available to them.

A spokesman said: "Schools have a clear legal obligation to ensure pupils receive information about all training options, including apprenticeships. Ministers are looking at careers guidance across the board to ensure that all young people receive high-quality provision, and we will set out more details in due course."

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