Schools careers help 'biased'

19th September 2003 at 01:00
Entrusting schools exclusively with careers advice and guidance has serious limitations, government advisers said this week.

Leaving careers advice to schools risks teenagers being encouraged to focus on short-term decisions made without attention to any longer-term career goals.

There is also a problem of lack of contact with the labour market, said Careers England, which represents individuals and companies giving advice and guidance.

It said: "There is the risk that in schools which offer post-16 provision, the needs of young people will be subordinated, often subtly and even unconsciously, to the interests of the school in encouraging them to stay there rather than move elsewhere."

It was crucial that all 14 to 16-year-olds had access to impartial guidance, said the organisation, in its first policy paper.

The Association of Colleges has provided evidence that schools are failing to give young people unbiased advice at 16.

"The Government's 14-19 strategy may fail unless it urgently addresses the issue of giving children impartial advice about what subjects they should take and where to study them," says the AoC.

Current policy envisages schools having the responsibility for managing the career planning and target setting with each pupil, with the role of Connexions recognised only in supporting those most at risk of disengaging or under-achieving, says Careers England.

It says steps should be taken to to ensure that access to advice for all students is implemented within the context of Connexions. Guidance should be given by professionally-trained advisers.

Career guidance should be available to all, on a lifelong basis. The importance not just of participation, but of progression in learning and work, needed to be stressed. Primary responsibility for progression in learning lay with the individual.

Professor Bob Fryer, chair of Careers England, said it hoped to work with the Government to support a "careers advice service for all" policy.

"We hope this paper will enable us to start discussions and also provide a useful introductory document that will provoke innovative ideas and debate that will ultimately enhance careers guidance and services throughout England."

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