Careers guidance for young people: The impact of the new duty on schools - Education Committee Contents

2  Transfer of the statutory duty

Rationale for the transfer of the duty

22.  The DfE explained its rationale for the transfer of the duty in the context of the failure of the Connexions service to deliver high quality careers guidance for all young people.[13] The effectiveness of Connexions was generally held to have suffered as a result of its broad remit, which led to resources being focused more on its targeted youth support role than on universal careers guidance. An Ofsted thematic survey in 2010 identified inconsistencies in provision, and a survey of young people in the same year found around half felt that the careers provision was not meeting their needs.[14] The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions also reported in 2009 on the low level of satisfaction with the Connexions service's careers work.

23.  While we heard from witnesses that Connexions had provided a quality careers guidance service in parts of the country, there were no calls for its return. The young people we met had mixed views on its effectiveness in providing careers guidance, with the most enthusiastic proponents being those who had accessed the youth support service. Councillor David Simmonds, representing the Local Government Association, cited research carried out with young people:

Some said Connexions was absolutely brilliant; it put them back on the right track, gave them a chance of a job and training that they needed. Others said it was a complete waste of time and they think getting rid of it was the best decision ever made.[15]

24.  The rationale for transferring the responsibility to schools—and the evidence that it will work in the best interests of young people—is less clear. The Minister framed the transfer of responsibility as part of the overall policy direction of increasing schools' autonomy and accountability. He told us that the Government are "giving, as in many other areas, the responsibility to schools, but then, crucially, holding them to account to deliver on it".[16] We note, however, that in neither the written evidence nor the Minister's oral evidence to the Committee was a case made that schools are best placed to provide independent and impartial guidance for young people.

25.  We looked elsewhere for evidence on the effectiveness of the school-based model for the provision of careers guidance. There is a considerable research base around the practice of careers education and guidance in schools. A recent literature review[17] found that careers work in schools could have positive outcomes on the retention of students in the school system[18], on enhancing the academic achievement of students[19], on supporting smooth transitions to learning[20] and work[21] and on career and life success. However, research suggests that the integration of a variety of careers interventions with each other and with the wider school curriculum leads to more effective outcomes.[22] Careers work is most effective when it starts early and is delivered by a mix of professional guidance practitioners, teachers and other key stakeholders, and when delivery is supported by appropriate tools and technologies.[23] Finally, the OECD has highlighted the limitations of a purely school-based model, which include a lack of impartiality; weak links with the labour market; and inconsistency.[24]

26.  Witnesses to our inquiry expressed significant doubt about the school-based model as adopted in England. Professor Tony Watts, for example, described the Government's policy as "not delegation to schools; it is abdication".[25] He went on to comment that "no high-performing country is abdicating in the way that we are. No country leaves it to schools to do what they wish—none of them."[26] In written evidence, he explained:

The Coalition Government's policies on school autonomy are based significantly on claims based on international evidence that this is a feature of high-performing countries in terms of school performance. But while this may be so for pupil attainment, a review of the relevant international evidence indicated clearly it was not the case in relation to support for students' career decision-making: indeed, all the evidence was to the contrary.[27]

27.  There are two countries—the Netherlands and New Zealand—which have transferred the responsibility for careers guidance for young people to schools. In both these cases, Professor Watts told us, "the outcome was a significant reduction in the extent of career guidance provision, and also in its quality (including its impartiality)."[28] The Minister added to these examples that of Ireland which he claimed had recently made a similar move.[29]


28.  In the case of both the Netherlands and New Zealand the relevant funding for careers guidance was transferred to schools along with the responsibility for ensuring its provision. In England, it is estimated that the careers guidance element of the Connexions service received funding of £196m in 2010/11;[30] none of this has been passed on to schools. Fiona Hilton, of Trafford Council, estimated that schools were being asked to make an investment of £25,000 each "for something they had for free last year".[31] Many witnesses were doubtful that schools would be able or willing to allocate such resources to careers guidance. We were told by Robert Campbell, the Principal of Impington College in Cambridgeshire, that while schools were aware of the responsibility, for many the provision of independent careers guidance was low on a list of priorities, particularly where there were other funding issues.[32]

29.  Steve Stewart, Chairman of Careers England, reported on a survey of their members which indicated that only one in six schools had the same level of investment in careers activities as they did a year ago. The survey was unable to find a single school that had increased the level of investment.[33] Representatives from local government agreed that the amount of advice and guidance available to young people today was considerably less than it had been two years ago.[34] There was also agreement among the representatives of schools that the absence of funding was already leading to a fall in the quality of careers guidance for young people.[35]

30.  The Minister rejected the proposition that the careers guidance provision was being left unfunded. He argued that "When you say there is no money, actually that is not true, because the schools have freedom over how to spend their budget [...] They can choose how much money to spend on it within their school budgets".[36]

Our conclusion on the transfer of responsibility

31.  The Government's decision to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools is regrettable. International evidence suggests such a model does not deliver the best provision for young people. The weaknesses of the school-based model have been compounded by the failure to transfer to schools any budget with which to provide the service. This has led, predictably, to a drop in the overall level of provision.

32.  Nonetheless, we recognise that the new responsibility is now in place and further change would lead to greater uncertainty and upheaval, with a detrimental impact on young people. Whilst funding remains a concern, schools need to make careers guidance a priority within their budgets and we do not, in the current financial climate, recommend that additional funding be provided directly to schools. We believe that, instead, urgent steps must be taken by the Government to ensure that the current settlement meets the needs of young people. More precisely, we believe that the situation could be rescued by a combination of improved accountability and an enhancement of the role of the National Careers Service, including additional funding for that. We return to these recommendations later in the report.

Extension of the statutory duty

33.  We invited evidence on the appropriate age for the provision of careers guidance. Witnesses were overwhelmingly in favour of the duty being extended up to 16-18 year-olds and down to at least Year 8 (12-13 year-olds). Indeed, many witnesses—including employers, young people, and local authority representatives—supported the extension of the duty to Year 7,[37] with some more limited support for even earlier in primary school. The fact that the school system now requires some young people to make decisions in Year 8—for entrance to UTCs and Studio Schools for example—means that it is not only desirable but necessary for advice and guidance to be offered earlier.[38]

34.  Concurrently with our inquiry, the DfE held a consultation on the extension of the duty to Year 8 and to 16-18 year-olds. The Minister announced at his appearance before us that, following the consultation, the Government had decided to extend the statutory duty in both directions from September 2013.[39]

35.  We welcome the Government's decision to extend the duty to young people in Year 8 and to 16 to 18 year-olds in school or college.

13   Ev 80 Back

14   Ibid. Back

15   Q 45 Back

16   Q 214 Back

17   Hooley, T., Marriott, J. & Sampson, J.P. (2011). Fostering College and Career Readiness: How Career Development Activities in Schools Impact on Graduation Rates and Students' Life Success. Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby. Back

18   Howard, K.A.S. & Solberg (2006) School-based social justice: The achieving success identity pathways program. Professional School Counseling, 9(4), pp. 278-287; Plank, S., DeLuca, S. & Estacion, A. (2005) Dropping out of High School and the Place of Career and Technical Education: A Survival Analysis of Surviving High School. St. Paul, MN: National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, University of Minnesota. Back

19   Evans, J. & Burck, H. (1992) The effects of career education interventions on academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling & Development, 71(1), pp. 63-68; Gysbers, N.C. & Lapan, R.T. (2001) The implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive school guidance programs in the United States: Progress and Prospects. International Journal for Vocational Guidance, 1(1), pp. 197-208.; Brigman, G.A. & Campbell, C. (2003) Helping students improve academic achievement and school success behavior. Professional School Counseling, 7(2), pp. 91-98. Back

20   See for example Smith, D., Lilley, R., Marris, L. & Krechowiecka, I. (2005). A Systematic Review of Research (1988-2004) into the Impact of Career Education and Guidance During Key Stage 4 on Young People's Transitions into Post-16 Opportunities. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education; Nicoletti, C. & Berthoud, R. (2010). The Role of Information, Advice and Guidance in Young People's Education and Employment Choices (DfE Research Report 019). London: DfE. Back

21   Baker, S. & Taylor, J. (1998) Effects of career development interventions: A meta-analysis. The Career Development Quarterly, 46(4), pp. 376-385.; Lapan, R.T., Aoyagi, M. & Kayson, M. (2007) Helping rural adolescents make successful postsecondary transitions: A longitudinal study. Professional School Counselling, 10(3), pp. 266-272. Back

22   Hooley, T., Marriott, J., Watts, A.G. and Coiffait, L. (2012). Careers 2020: Options for Future Careers Work in English Schools. London: Pearson. Back

23   Hooley, T., Marriott, J. & Sampson, J.P. (2011). Fostering College and Career Readiness: How Career Development Activities in Schools Impact on Graduation Rates and Students' Life Success. Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby. Back

24   OECD (2004) Career Guidance and Public Policy: Bridging the Gap. Back

25   Q 177 Back

26   Q 177 Back

27   Ev 107 Back

28   Ev 107.  Back

29   Q 213 Back

30   Ev 107 Back

31   Q 53 Back

32   Q 125 Back

33   Q 175 Back

34   Q 54-55 Back

35   Q 119, Q 125, Q141 Back

36   Q 220 Back

37   Q 12, Q 29, Q 42, Q 43 Back

38   Q 158 Back

39   Q 239, Q 155-6 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 23 January 2013