Schools will be more heavily judged on how they prepare pupils for the world of work after Ofsted warned they were putting the “nation’s future economic prosperity” at risk because of a failure to sufficiently prioritise enterprise education.
Inspectors found that just 10 per cent of schools were getting enterprise education right, and warned that poor coordination between schools and businesses. plus the absence of an ‘overarching government strategy’, were leaving young people unprepared for work.
Ofsted personnel visited 40 schools across England and found just four were demonstrating an “effective approach” to this aspect of the curriculum.
The investigation has prompted a call for better promotion of the Careers and Enterprise Company after Ofsted found businesses were “largely unaware” of it, despite the organisation receiving received most of the government’s £70 million funding for careers education in this parliament.
Ofsted also said its inspectors should ensure their judgments took “greater account of the coherence and rigour with which schools prepare pupils for employment and self-employment”.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the outgoing chief inspector of Ofsted, said it was important that pupils from all backgrounds had access to “an education that prepares them well for the next stage of their lives” and that “the career choices young people make can be informed by the practical experience they gain at school”.
During their investigation, inspectors found the extent to which schools prepared pupils for employment was “largely dependent” on “whether school leaders considered it to be a priority”, and reported that one head described enterprise education as “a luxury we can’t afford”.
Although other schools saw it as “central to the school’s purpose”, many reported financial and curriculum time pressures were preventing them from prioritising enterprise education.
Inspectors also found that even where schools were delivering enterprise education, it was “often unclear” whether it aided pupils’ knowledge and skills.
Less than a quarter of the inspected schools formally assessed learning in this area and even fewer used external validation, the watchdog said.
It also warned that opportunities for work experience were “limited” at key stage 4, and said business involvement in some schools relied too heavily on the personal networks of teachers and parents, “potentially resulting in disadvantaged pupils missing out”.
A lack of coordination across local areas was also reported, creating an environment for schools and businesses that business leaders described by some as “chaotic”.
The Careers and Enterprise Company, set up by Nicky Morgan in 2014 and officially launched last June, in order to bring order to the careers advice environment, defended its record and said it continues to increase its profile among business leaders.
Claudia Harris, the company’s chief executive, told Schools Week that the organisation’s presence in schools had grown significantly since Ofsted’s survey took place, and it now had 1,200 enterprise advisers, including at least 400 chief executives and chairs.
“We welcome the report, and we agree with its fundamental findings,” she said. “The survey was done in March this year. At that point our network was in 5 per cent of schools, whereas we are now in a third of schools.
“We were established just over a year ago and we are already working with a lot of business organisations, and we are continuing to build relationships and build our network.”
Kevin Courtney, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the government should recognise work-related learning as a priority and provide funding to “ensure the best possible outcomes for young people”.
“Time and again the responsibility for facilitating such opportunities falls at the feet of schools without the support and resources required to make it successful across the board,” he said.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We welcome Ofsted’s report that rightly acknowledges the good work the Government-backed Careers & Enterprise Company is doing to transform the careers advice and work experience opportunities on offer to young people. Every child deserves an excellent education and schools have a statutory duty to provide high-quality careers advice as part of that.
“We are investing £90million over this Parliament on careers guidance, which includes funding for The Careers & Enterprise Company. We are also investing millions in the National Careers Service to support more young people – between March 2015 and February 2016 around 11,000 13 to 18 year olds were provided with telephone support through its national contact centre.”