Ofsted, the schools inspectorate in England, published a report today about the provision of careers advice in schools.
Many of us have been waiting a long time for this report. I first mentioned it in this paper published in January of this year about a mini-research project on careers advice provision.
So are we excited or disappointed by what it says?
Firstly, a bit of background about how we got to where we are now.
About a year ago the House of Commons Education Select Committee requested evidence for a new inquiry into careers advice in schools, after some concerns had been raised with the Coalition Government’s policy in this area. The written submissions duly arrived (including mine) and were followed by witness sessions with key players. The Committee published its thorough report in January and I blogged about it. At the time I picked out a recommendation that all schools should publish an annual careers plan to show how well they are providing careers advice, in a world with flexible school budgets.
Not much them happened until May when the Committee’s report was debated in Parliament. I attended that session in Westminster Hall. What struck me most were the speeches by Graham Stuart MP (Conservative Chair of the Committee), Simon Hughes MP (senior Liberal Democrat) and Tristram Hunt MP (Labour Shadow Minister, then just appointed). All pointed to the need for greater investment in the provision of, particularly face-to-face, careers advice in schools. The responding Minister was receptive, though vague on any specifics in answer to this.
The next staging post was the publication of the National Careers Council’s Annual Report which I also blogged about. In that post I made a connection with Localised Strategic Education Partnerships (LSEPs), which I have been pushing for over a year now as a mechanism for greater engagement between schools and colleges and key local stakeholders, including employers. I also pointed out that the timing of the Ofsted report, originally expected by the end of summer term, would now miss the important spending review discussions going on within Government Departments.
Back to the report itself.
Well it does seem to be fairly hard-hitting in its assessment of the poor state of careers advice provision in the majority of the 60 schools examined, of which 52 had previously been rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted. Clearly the Government should take some of the blame for this and try to make amends (but see my comment above about resourcing).
I liked the fact that Ofsted consulted with 1700 parents and carers who offered the following concerns, quoted directly from the report:
“Only 40% thought that the school had helped their child make informed decisions about their post-16 options; 30% had negative views about this aspect of careers guidance.
The parents/carers thought that one-to-one interviews and work experience were the most useful careers guidance activities.
Just over half of the 135 parents with a child who had special educational needs and/or was disabled felt their child was getting good careers guidance from the school.”
The last response links to work I have been doing with the STEM Disability Transition Group about which I blogged recently on NatureJobs. One result from our small survey of school and college students, clearly showed the importance of engaging with parents on the provision of the best possible advice and guidance for their disabled children.
lt is even more important to tackle these issues given the barriers to social mobility in England. This requires a partnership between evidence-providers (such as Ofsted, researchers and knowledge brokers), school-based practitioners, who act in many cases on behalf of parents and carers, and those policy makers who want to provide genuine solutions to real problems.