Legislation for a wide-ranging shake-up of careers education is being planned by the Department for Education and Employment.
Under the proposals, schools would have to provide a programme of careers education and guidance for all pupils in their final three years. Schools and further education colleges would also have to allow reasonable access by the careers service to students, and provide comprehensive information on education, training, and employment opportunities.
And in a move aimed to curb the "dirty tricks" used in the competition for 17 and 18-year-olds between schools and colleges, careers services are being brought in to provide impartial advice. An amendment to the current regulations would remove responsibility for passing information to Year 11 pupils about college opportunities from schools to careers officers.
The DFEE hopes the new arrangements will operate from September 1998, although this depends on whether legislation can be passed before a general election, or whether it would be a priority with a new government. The intention to improve careers advice was announced in last year's White Paper on Competitiveness.
Tony Watts, of the National Institute for Careers Education and Guidance, said he welcomed the proposals. "Most schools already do these things, but there have been problems gaining access in some parts of the country," he said.
Concerns about the usefulness of careers advice and education provided in secondary schools were highlighted by a critical report earlier this year by the Office for Standards in Education.
School Curriculum and Assessment Authority officials have been working on a careers curriculum, Skills for Choice, which is due for final consideration by SCAA at the end of October.