College? Not an option, say teachers giving advice

9th November 2012 at 00:00
More than half feel pressured to keep students at school post-16

Concern is growing that students are missing out on information about their study options in the FE sector, after new research revealed that more than half of teachers feel compelled to persuade pupils to stay on at their school after GCSEs.

The report, published today by the Association of Colleges (AoC), found that 57 per cent of teachers felt obliged to encourage pupils to stay on at their school post-16, with 26 per cent blaming this on overt pressure from school leaders. Sixteen per cent of the 500 teachers polled said they feared that an exodus of students to rival providers could jeopardise their jobs.

The findings follow a survey carried out by the Pearson Think Tank, reported in TES last week ("Two-thirds of teachers fear for careers advice quality"), which revealed that the majority of teachers and lecturers have serious reservations about the quality of schools' careers advice.

This week's report from the AoC raises fears that thousands of pupils could be missing out on information about apprenticeships and other vocational options. While schools are now legally required to provide careers advice, no extra funding has been allocated. Colleges are concerned that students will increasingly be forced to turn to their teachers and parents for guidance.

If the results of the AoC's research are anything to go by, the consequences could be damaging. Almost half (44 per cent) of teachers admitted giving a pupil bad or uninformed advice in the past, while four in five (82 per cent) said they did not feel as though they had the appropriate knowledge to dispense careers advice.

Parents seem to be just as lacking in ability to give careers advice. One in five said they felt out of their depth, while a similar proportion (19 per cent) said they had given their children the same advice they had received from their own parents. A third (32 per cent) said they only felt comfortable talking about jobs with which they were familiar.

"Overall, parents and teachers exert more influence on a young person's education choices than a school careers adviser," said Joy Mercer, the AoC's director of policy. "This study shows that teachers, in particular, recognise they are struggling with this challenge.

"Careers advice is a professional discipline that requires training and development and we know that many school budgets cannot stretch far enough to fund this resource. In an increasingly difficult jobs market, the results of this study are worrying.

"It is vital that young people receive suitable guidance so they can make informed decisions about their future. That includes getting impartial advice on their post-16 education options, and the routes they can take into employment, including apprenticeships."

The survey also found that 93 per cent of teachers and 94 per cent of parents thought that pupils should have more access to employers and businesses during their time at school. This view was backed by Valerie Todd, a commissioner at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. "Among most UK employers, particularly smaller ones, an employee's experience is valued above all other criteria when it comes to recruiting," she said. "However, there are declining numbers of young people who get experience of work while in education."

She added that companies should be more proactive in offering work experience placements and visiting schools to give talks.

Out of their depth?

44% of teachers admit to having given a pupil bad or uninformed advice.

82% of teachers don't feel they have the appropriate knowledge to advise pupils on careers.

57% of teachers feel obliged to urge pupils to stay on at school.

20% of parents feel out of their depth advising their children on careers.

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