Gove accused of retreat on careers advice pledge

27th May 2011 at 01:00
Shadow FE minister fears backtrack on pound;200m service funding

Shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden has criticised the failure of education secretary Michael Gove to confirm how careers advice for 16 to 19-year-olds will be funded.

A parliamentary question about whether the Department for Education would contribute any direct funding for the "all ages" careers service has gone unanswered for weeks, despite a promise that it would be answered shortly.

Mr Marsden said he feared that the Government was backtracking on earlier indications that pound;200 million had been set aside for careers education for teenagers. He said: "My view is the Department for Education has no intention of funding the all-age careers service. If they had, they would have said so."

As a minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, John Hayes announced last month the creation of an "all-ages" careers service. But Mr Marsden said that unless the Department for Education - where Mr Hayes is also a minister responsible for apprenticeships - funds the service, teenagers will only be able to access a phone helpline.

"There will be no funding for face-to-face advice or close encounters of any kind at all as a part of the all-age careers service," he said.

Mr Marsden said a lack of careers guidance could put the Government's investment in apprenticeships at risk. He said: "If they don't get this right, if there isn't face-to-face guidance, then the ability to get not just school leavers but also young adults into apprenticeships or appropriate jobs is going to be significantly reduced."

A DfE spokesman said the parliamentary question from Mr Marsden would be answered "shortly". He said: "We're overhauling careers advice because more than half of young people say the current system doesn't meet their needs."

Schools will be responsible for providing independent careers advice up to the age of 16, and "subject to consultation" it would be extended to 16 to 18-year-olds at schools and colleges, although no specific funding has been announced. Ministers criticised Connexions for focusing too much on a minority of vulnerable young people and not on advice for all.

The spokesman said the early-intervention grant to local authorities would also provide cash that could be used for careers guidance to replace funding for the Connexions service.

But the grant also replaces dozens of other services for children and families, ranging from access to childcare to support for drug and alcohol abuse. It is worth pound;2.2 billion next year, but it replaces services with combined funding of nearly pound;2.5 billion.

"Schools and local authorities are the best judges of what young people in their area need, rather than Government dictating from the centre," the DfE spokesman said.

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