You're only as good as your guidance

11th April 2014 at 01:00
Calls to strip schools of Ofsted status if careers advice is biased

Schools and colleges in England failing to give students impartial careers guidance should lose their "good" or "outstanding" rating from Ofsted, the Association of Colleges has said.

A new survey published by the AoC this week found that some schools had prevented further education colleges from contacting their students because they wanted them to stay in their own sixth forms.

Respondents claimed that schools had stopped college liaison officers from speaking to their students, and had refused to distribute college prospectuses or to display information in their careers units.

Some 93 per cent of respondents told the AoC that schools with sixth forms tried to retain students for themselves; 74 per cent felt that careers guidance had worsened because schools wanted to hold on to the more academic students to benefit their performance tables, regardless of what was in the young people's best interests.

Joy Mercer, AoC director of policy, said the inspectorate should be used as a "driver" to change behaviour. "Institutions should not gain an overall grade of good or better from Ofsted if their careers advice and guidance is not good or better," she said. "This would impact colleges as much as schools."

Since 2012, schools in England have had a legal duty to provide independent careers advice and guidance to students but they receive no extra funding to deliver it.

David Walrond, principal of Truro and Penwith College, who gave evidence to a Commons Select Committee on careers advice, told TES: "11-18 schools have a vested interest in keeping their learners. Their funding is declining and the pace of change is difficult for them to deal with. You can understand the financial incentive to keep their learners but, on a regional and national level, it's indefensible. It's damaging to the economy."

AoC is campaigning to improve careers guidance, calling for more access, accountability and investment.

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