To help young people prepare for the workplace and gain an understanding of the full spectrum of options available to them, high quality careers education and guidance in schools is critical. The Department for Education’s guidance “Careers guidance and access for education and training providers, July 2021” which applies to all maintained schools, academies, free schools and colleges, clarifies the expectations, and the steps that school leaders and governing bodies should take to support their students.
Independent careers guidance should be provided to all students who are aged 12 to 18 years old, and to students who are aged up to 25 years old with an education, health and care plan in place.
There are certain requirements that the careers guidance must meet. The careers guidance must be:
- presented in an impartial manner, ensuring that no bias or favouritism is shown towards a particular institution, education or work option
- inclusive of the range of education or training options, including apprenticeships and technical education routes
- in the best interests of the students to whom it is given.
The role of the governing body
The role of the governing body in providing careers guidance is one of support. The governing body is required to ensure that clear advice and guidance is provided in order that a strong careers plan can be put in place. In addition to these broader requirements, it is expected that one member of the governing body should take a strategic interest in careers education and encourage employer engagement.
Providing a well-rounded spectrum
Schools also have a responsibility to correct a historical imbalance in careers information. This imbalance has meant that, in years 9 and 10, far fewer students have been provided with information in respect of technical choices in comparison to academic routes.
Under the ‘Baker clause’ which was introduced in 2018, schools must open their doors to other education and training providers. The governing body is expected to ensure that there are clear arrangements in place to allow a range of education and training providers to access all students in years 8 to 13, in order that they can be given information in respect of approved technical education qualifications and apprenticeships. These providers should include:
• Further education colleges
• Studio schools
• University technical colleges
• Institutes of technology
• providers of apprenticeships and technical options, including independent training providers.
It is important that all students in the relevant year group can attend provider visits, and therefore provider visits should be open to all students during normal school hours. Restricting access to a provider visit is not an acceptable sanction for poor student behaviour.
Schools should ensure that they publish a policy statement setting out the arrangements in place in respect of allowing a range of education and training providers to access all students. The policy statement should clearly set out:
- procedural requirements in relation to requests for access, such as the school’s main contact
- grounds for granting and refusing requests for access such as details of timetabled careers lessons, assemblies or careers events which providers may attend (including the safeguarding policy)
- details of premises or facilities which will be made available in support of a provider visit.
The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is currently before Parliament and expected to receive Royal Assent in the early part of 2022. The Bill aims to provide for a statutory underpinning for local skills improvement plans, with duties on providers to have regard to the plans. The Department for Education guidance “Careers guidance and access for education and training providers” will probably be updated before the Bill receives Royal Assent to give schools time to prepare for the changes.