Talking to ‘providers’ is not enough to ensure high quality careers education

Janet Downs's picture

It’s essential for young people to be able to talk to ‘providers of technical education and apprenticeships’ in school if they are to be fully informed of choices available to them, says schools minister Lord Agnew in a press release.

Such access is mandated in the Baker Clause: schools must allow providers to have ‘access to every student in years 8-13 to discuss non-academic routes’*.   

But talking to providers is but a small part of careers education and guidance.  Encounters with employers and employees is one of the eight Gatsby benchmarks for good career guidance.  The other seven are equally important.

Meeting employers and employees is, in any case, more than allowing providers of technical education and apprenticeships to have access to pupils.   The former includes work experience, industry days, taster days and projects developed with assistance from local employers.  Provider encounters can be little more than one-off addresses to an entire year group – tick-box exercises to satisfy the Baker clause.

The Gatsby benchmarks list the qualities expected from high-quality careers education.   This type of work was commonplace in schools during the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative of the 80s and 90s.  Small clusters of secondary schools worked together with career professionals to develop careers education. These clusters were in turn part of a regional framework offering TVEI-related in-service training (TRIST).

But that was before former education secretary Michael Gove said employers were better equipped to deliver careers education; before he described professional, independent career advisers as ‘self-interested’ folk spouting ‘garbage’; before he said schools didn’t need to provide work experience and before the school system in England became fragmented.  Multi-academy trusts don't encourage such co-operation outside trust walls.

High quality careers education and guidance (CEG) is more than allowing providers access to pupils.  Such access can be meaningful if well-planned and timed appropriately.  But even then, it is not as meaningful as meeting employers and employees in a range of contexts.  

FOOTNOTE: In his book Coalition, David Laws wrote that Gove has several pet hates including careers advice and sex education.  One can only speculate what caused these aversions.


*ASCL Briefing paper

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