Careers guidance for school children is deteriorating in "quality and quantity" at the moment "when it is most needed", according to a review of the issue by MPs.
The report, from the cross-party education select committee, chaired by Tory MP Graham Stuart, notes the decline follows the Department for Education's decision to devolve responsibility for career advice, which had rested with local authorities, to schools in 2011. The committee concluded this decision was "regrettable".
Prospects submitted written evidence; subsequently Operations Director, Judith Denyer, gave oral evidence to the Committee. Judith told the committee "The changes in provision of careers guidance have meant many young people are not getting the support they need. Available careers guidance is now down to the 'luck of the draw', according to the level of resources or the quality of the careers adviser in a particular school. Some schools are just hoping to get by, fulfilling the minimum duty required of them."
The inquiry also led the Education Select Committee to visit Bradford to hear more about the collaborative approach taken by the local authority, working with schools and colleges, in commissioning services which Prospects delivers. Jenny Cryer, Senior Operations Manager, said of the visit, "We were able to demonstrate to the committee the impact of the jointly commissioned services in terms of improved outcomes for Bradford, giving a good account of the partnership approach which Bradford has taken."
The committee's report goes on to say, "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". (Paragraph 31) and "Although the duty to secure independent and impartial careers guidance was transferred to schools from local authorities, the [£196m] funding did not follow. Schools are expected to provide the service from their existing budgets."
The committee also expressed concern that schools' provision in this area was not being checked, stating that outline inspections are not, on their own, "a credible accountability check on the provision of careers guidance by individual schools".
The inquiry said these issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency and concluded that "a collaborative approach to commissioning careers guidance services has many advantages for schools, particularly in promoting consistency and quality and in realising economies of scale. We recommend that the statutory guidance is strengthened, better to reflect the benefits of this approach." (Paragraph 49)
The Government says that its destination measures provide accountability with respect to the quality of careers advice in schools. The Committee disagrees, and states, "destination measures as they currently stand are not effective for ensuring that schools meet their statutory duty. Measures taken too soon do not provide a complete picture, while those taken later remove the direct accountability on schools, as other factors may have influenced an individual's destination. Furthermore, the measures do not show the quality of the careers guidance provision in a school." (Paragraph 59)
The Committee also stresses the importance of face to face guidance and impartiality; "Access to face to face guidance is an integral part of good quality careers guidance. All young people should have access to such provision from a qualified, independent provider, should they choose to take up the opportunity. We recommend that a minimum of one personal careers interview with an independent adviser who is not a teacher should be available for every young person and that this is made explicit in the statutory guidance" (Paragraph 81). While the MPs acknowledge that "Websites are a valuable source of information about careers for young people" they add that websites "cannot, however, replace face to face guidance, nor are they sufficient in themselves to fulfil the requirement on schools to provide independent, impartial guidance. To ensure that schools do not over-rely on directing their students to websites, we recommend that the Department for Education amends the statutory guidance to schools to make it clear that the signposting of independent websites is insufficient to meet their statutory duty" (Paragraph 86)
The Committee also recommended an expansion of the role of the National Careers Service (NCS) with additional funding, to support young people and aid capacity building and brokerage in schools. Prospects is of course a leading provider of the NCS face to face service in Greater London, the Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humber. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmeduc/632/63211.htm