Earlier this month the Chairs of the Education, Skills and Economy Committee slammed the Government’s failure to address inadequacies in careers guidance as “unacceptable”, demanding that Ministers act to improve provision as a matter of urgency to ensure young people are equipped with the right skills to succeed in the modern economy.
The Committee published a report in July which highlighted that careers guidance is poor in many schools and, with no sign of the long-promised strategy for careers education, the Co-Chairs of the Committee Neil Carmichael and Iain Wright, accused Ministers of “burying their heads in the sand” in a way that “smacks of complacency”.
The concerns raised by the Committee are shared by careers guidance experts too: James Robertson, Managing Director of the popular careers guidance management solution Grofar, says the Government’s lackluster response is damaging the future prospects for many students:
“We work with schools across the country and the sense of frustration we encounter is often palpable: careers leaders want clear, consistent guidelines and communications from the Government to enable them to be absolutely clear about their responsibilities, strategies and options. But there’s often just a vacuum. If schools cannot provide their students with the best possible careers service, then inevitably that will have an impact on their prospects and we see first hand the effect this has, as careers staff struggle to meet student needs with little or no support from Westminster”.
The Government has responded to the Committee in the last week, stating on 15 November: “we are determined to tackle the patchy state of careers provision and raise its importance and profile in schools. Just as every pupil deserves access to a good school place, every young person must have access to high quality careers education, information, advice and guidance”.
Robertson is not impressed, but says all is not lost: “The Government has already conceded that careers guidance is ‘patchy’ and needs tackling. Many schools have now lost patience and rather than waiting for the strategic vacuum to be filled by the Government, they’re implementing advice from organisations such as Gatsby and adopting Grofar to improve their schools provision whilst at the same time, reducing their costs. Students need quality careers education, information, advice and guidance right now, they don’t have the luxury of waiting. The future of today’s students is more uncertain than ever, equipping them with the key skills they need to survive in Britain’s changing climate is now more important than ever.”.
And Robertson’s views are shared at the coal face. Hayley Galpin, Careers Co-ordinator at The Orchard School in Bristol, says: “As a Careers Co-ordinator, I soon found myself swamped with paperwork: stacks of documents and folders made information difficult to manage. I now use Grofar, which means student records and notes are always on hand when students walk into my office. My main objective is to focus my attention better and spend less time on administration. It’s great for the students too: they take ownership over aspects of their careers development with action plans, goals and a great tool to help them with writing personal statements and application forms.
“I can easily identify students with low activity, highlighting those at risk and who may need extra support. Students have direct access to their careers service and can message me for advice at any time.
“I am happy we will always be ‘OFSTED’ ready and can easily demonstrate the service and careers guidance we are providing to our students”.
As the Government seems to be distracted by crisis after crisis, from Brexit to Trump, it seems inevitable that the careers guidance function within the sector is being nudged into finding alternative solutions. But when the solution is so affordable, does the Government need to lose sleep over its inaction? Careers guidance may feel like the poor relation within the education sector but there’s a strong core developing which is helping itself and finding its own way, rather than wait for the long-promised but, so far, non-existent Government strategy.