Not for the first time, Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, raised some serious concerns about the Careers and Enterprise Company at an event in Westminster this week.
On his long list of gripes, many previously opined, were CEO Claudia Harris earning almost as much as the prime minister and the company spending £200,000 on two conferences for its staff – one of which was held at popular children’s play centre KidZania in London.
“Last year, it spent £200,000 of taxpayers’ money in a time of austerity on two conferences – money which should have gone to the front line,” said Halfon. “And it has spent £900,000 on research, with another projected £200,000 a year to come”
The CEC was set up four years ago by Nicky Morgan, then education secretary. It was part of a bid to improve careers advice for young people.
Halfon, who has become nearly as focused on the organisation as he is on robots, said that he was “deeply concerned”, and although he didn’t doubt there were good people working there, he did question the company’s value for money.
He also highlighted what he argued was a lack of data on outcomes, including on its education and training decisions and employment outcomes for young people.
“In one of its own research reports, it says: ‘Few effects can be seen from mentoring relationships that last for less than six months. There is a widespread consensus that a year-long relationship constitutes a quality mentoring interaction.’ And yet several of the programmes it funds fall far short of this,” Halfon added.
Harris said that careers education had been underperforming for decades in England, so “no one doubts the scale of the task”.
“Our organisation has been in operation for just over three years,” she said. “In that time, Ofsted has found that careers support to young people has improved, noting ‘the current picture is much more encouraging than has been the case in the past; careers guidance within schools is improving’.”