The skills and apprenticeships minster has warned there is “clearly something wrong” with schools where “not enough” good careers advice is delivered as he launched the government’s ‘comprehensive careers strategy’.
But Robert Halfon dismissed that funding was the sole issue, claiming instead it was due to the way a “school chooses to spend” their money.
Halfon made the comments during a speech today at Westminster Academy, where he laid out plans to make careers guidance a “significant part” in the government’s industrial strategy set out in its green paper last week.
He said the government will now create a “comprehensive careers strategy” – initially promised by the last government in 2015 – but said “the facts are” that students “are not getting enough good careers advice on skills and apprenticeships” from schools and they need to “do more”.
“Wherever I go I meet apprentices and when I’m in a room with say 30 of them I will ask all of them every time ‘did you get careers advice about doing an apprenticeship?’ And the majority of the time they didn’t. Clearly there is something wrong,” Halfon said.
Halfon claimed that the majority of schools were too focussed on getting pupils to university, whereas every further education college he had visited deliver “state of the art” careers guidance.
He questioned the variability between organsiations, stating: “I do not believe it is just a question of funding, but how a school chooses to spend its funding.
“Schools that deliver high quality careers advice do not do so because they have a greater share of the pot, but because they see it as a vitally important future part for their pupils.”
But his comments were quickly slapped down by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner who tweeted: “It’s as if they’ve [the Conservatives] have forgotten they’ve cut all the services in local government that helped.”
Since the Education Act in 2011, funding for independent careers advice and guidance delivered by local authorities has been severely stripped, while Connexions services were forced to close across the country.
Labour’s diploma qualifications – which combined work-based training with academic learning – were also discontinued by the government, and vocational qualifications were taken out of school league tables in 2012 further discouraging take-up.
The government did however introduce a statutory duty on schools in 2014 to advise pupils on all post-16 routes, including vocational careers such as apprenticeships and not just university.
Mr Halfon announced last week that the government’s comprehensive strategy will look to review incentives for schools to offer better careers advice and will consider whether Ofsted ought to be more rigorous in its look at careers guidance.
Today he added that “school-mediated employer” advice will also be considered in the strategy.
“School-mediated employer engagement reduces the incidences of pupils who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) by up to 86 per cent and result in earnings of 16.4 per cent more than peers who do not take part in such activity,” he said.
Plans for a comprehensive careers strategy were first unveiled in 2015, and it was expected to be released in early 2016.
However, the government admitted in its green paper on its new industrial strategy last week that a review of careers advice was still ongoing, and that the strategy would now be published later in 2017.
The Department for Education has pledged to spend £90 million on careers in this parliament, most of which has gone to the Careers and Enterprise Company to fund its network of enterprise advisers, mentoring scheme and grant scheme.