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

5  Schools and the National Careers Service

Current provision of services to young people

64.  The National Careers Service (NCS) was launched in April 2012. The NCS website provides information for all ages, but its provision of advice and guidance is not universal, with only adults having access to face-to-face support through the service. The DfE justifies this position on the basis that young people will have such support through their school. [87]

65.  The lack of face-to-face support for young people through the NCS was much criticised during our inquiry. One witness referred to it as a "wasted national resource".[88] Questions were also raised about the restrictions on the provision by the NCS of any service to schools other than the website and telephone helpline for individual pupils.[89] Its providers are not even permitted to market themselves to schools as the NCS,[90] although as the Minister explained, schools are free to commission the NCS contractors independently.[91]

66.  Perhaps as a result of this, the NCS lacks a strong profile among young people. Judith Denyer, from Prospects, told us that, in her view, young people do not see the NCS as a service for them. She said "I have not had one request from a young person asking how to get on to the National Careers Service […] it is just not on people's radar. It is deemed as a service for adults and not young people".[92] The very limited funding for marketing the service undoubtedly also contributes to the lack of awareness of the NCS among young people. Steve Stewart, Chairman of Careers England, explained:

The reality is that we are trying everything we possibly can in terms of free media to try to get the message across […] it is one of the best-kept secrets. The service has huge potential; it is doing great things. However, unless you are in the trade or you come across it, you would not know about it.[93]

67.  The importance of the part played by local labour market information within good quality advice and guidance was impressed upon us during our inquiry. While the NCS has the local framework to build up accurate labour-market information, there are no mechanisms for this information to be passed onto schools.[94] Careers England describes the denial of full access to NCS's services by young people as "a national policy failure".[95]

Opportunities for the better use of NCS resources

68.  The possibility of expanding the role of the NCS was welcomed by many witnesses. As Robert Campbell, Principal of Impington College, told us, "if there were a national service that enabled you to provide access and would regulate, mediate and provide that access to independent and impartial information, I would welcome that".[96] There are various ways in which this could be done. Professor Watts outlined two models in particular: first, a model where the NCS becomes involved in service delivery—that is delivering independent and impartial face-to-face guidance in schools; and, second, a model where the NCS is involved in capacity-building.[97]

69.  There was support from other witnesses for both proposals. Some, such as Mary Vine-Morris of London Councils, considered that expanding the NCS's remit to include service delivery (such as providing independent and impartial face-to-face careers guidance to young people in schools)would be a good solution to the problem of providing universal independent and impartial guidance. Ms Morris considered that since the infrastructure was already in place for adults, it would simply take the resources to extend it.[98]

70.  Dr Deirdre Hughes, Chair of the National Careers Council, expressed interest in Professor Watts' second model, arguing that the NCS has "huge potential in terms of helping build capacity in schools and local communities around having stronger labour-market intelligence".[99] Careers England outlined in more detail what a capacity-building role for NCS would involve, including consultancy support to schools; an independent assessment of quality of guidance; and, brokerage between employers and local schools.[100] We note that Professor Watts linked the idea of the NCS having a role in capacity-building for schools to the recommendation of school plans for careers guidance: he thought that the NCS's role could be "about supporting the school in developing its own plans and resources and providing that crucial link with the labour market".[101]

71.  It seems sensible to us that the NCS's undoubted expertise should be used for the benefit of young people in schools. Of the two models suggested to us—service delivery or capacity-building and brokerage—both would require additional funding from the Government. The first option would meet the need for independent and impartial advice. It would also, to a certain extent, represent a move back to the Careers Service model that existed prior to Connexions and would be more expensive. The second option would harness both the NCS's expertise in careers guidance and its understanding of local employment and learning opportunities. It would involve the NCS producing a regular information stream on the labour and learning market, brokering employer/education activities and supporting schools in the development of their own careers programmes. Such a capacity-building and brokerage model would be flexible; it could be shaped to individual schools' needs and requirements; and it would be less costly than the first model.

72.  We recommended in our Fourth Report of session 2010-12, Participation by 16-19 year olds in education and training, that an "all age careers service should be funded by the Department for Education for face to face career guidance for young people."[102] Our view on this has not changed. However, given the statutory duty has only recently been passed to schools, we believe that the best way of delivering the Government's vision and providing the service that young people need is through the capacity-building and brokerage model.

73.  We have not carried out our own research into the cost of extending the remit of the NCS. Careers England estimated that creating a capacity-building and brokerage role would be around £120million per annum.[103] While this is clearly a significant sum, we believe that it should be weighed against the likely cost for the nation of young people making the wrong choices as a result of a deficiency in the careers guidance service. The estimates should, of course, be checked thoroughly.

74.  We recommend that the remit of the National Careers Service is expanded to enable it to perform a capacity-building and brokerage role for schools. As part of its capacity-building role, the National Careers Service should work with individual schools in designing their annual careers plan of provision for careers guidance as well as provide schools with local labour market information. Clearly, this would have funding implications and so we further recommend that the Department of Education instructs the Skills Funding Agency to cost the options of the National Careers Service remit being expanded in this way.

87   Ev 80  Back

88   Ev 88 Back

89   Ev w2, Ev w146, Ev w168 Back

90   Q 207 Back

91   Q 269 Back

92   Q 63-64 Back

93   Q 189 Back

94   Q 207 Back

95   Ev 88 Back

96   Q 152 Back

97   Q207 (Prof Watts) Back

98   Q 65 Back

99   Q 206 Back

100   Ev 104 Back

101   Q 207 Back

102   Fourth Report from the Education Committee, Session 2010-12, Participation by 16-19 year olds in education and training, HC 850-I, para 156 Back

103   Ev 104 Back

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Prepared 23 January 2013