Almost two-thirds of teachers and lecturers are concerned about the standard of careers advice on offer in schools, a new survey has revealed.
In September, the responsibility for providing careers information to students was transferred from local authorities to individual schools. But while schools now have to offer impartial advice about post-16 options, including FE, research carried out by the Pearson Think Tank suggests that the failure to provide extra funding has led to a drop in the quality of provision.
Out of more than 700 teachers in schools, sixth-form and FE colleges, 63 per cent said they worried "a lot" or "sometimes" about careers guidance, while 31 per cent felt the quality of advice available was not adequate. Teachers blamed this on Connexions funding being slashed and advisers not being in tune with developments in the labour market.
"With record youth unemployment rates and uncertainty about whether schools can provide good quality careers support, it's not surprising that most teachers are worried about the careers advice available to pupils," said Louis Coiffait, head of research at the thinktank. "High-quality education provision and careers advice are prerequisites for a socially mobile society, so failure to get it right now will impact most harshly on some of our most disadvantaged communities for years to come."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the data are backed up by anecdotal reports from his union's members.
"A very large percentage of teachers are saying they are worried about the lack of coordination," he said. "Schools are doing what they can, but there is no national labour information. And information about apprenticeships, which would have been coordinated under the old system, is now more ad hoc.
"Organisations like the National Apprenticeship Service are doing what they can, but there is no proper coordination. It depends on what access an individual careers adviser has to this information, so there is very patchy provision. We have called for face-to-face provision up to the age of 19, but it hasn't happened."
Another report written jointly by the thinktank and the University of Derby's International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) looked at the impact of similar careers reform in other countries.
The report found that in the Netherlands and New Zealand, the transfer of the responsibility and funding for careers guidance to schools resulted in a "decline in both the extent and quality of careers work". With schools in England and Wales not even receiving any extra cash to carry out their expanded remit, the report argues that the "effects are likely to be even more profound here".
Tristram Hooley, head of iCeGS, said that schools have had resources cut and have lost access to vital expertise. "International research predicts that this approach is likely to lead to a decline in the extent and quality of careers advice and could have a negative impact on the economic health of an economy," he said. "Schools need to act now and think about how they can put careers at the heart of their mission and make meaningful links between the curriculum and young people's futures."
The report recommended that the new reforms are closely monitored, and called on schools to embed careers work into the curriculum they offer.
How do you feel about the careers services available to school-age children?
I am not worried about this at all - 6%
I worry about this a lot - 18%
I worry about this sometimes - 45%
Neutralno opinion - 14%
I worry about this very little - 11%
Don't know - 6%
Source: Pearson Think Tank.