Securing access to impartial careers guidance: meeting the statutory duty
Following devolution in the late 1990s the three Celtic countries of the UK – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – each established all-age careers services, which still exist today. In England, however, the New Labour government took a different approach from the other home nations. Instead of vertical integration, careers guidance services for young people and for adults were kept separate and the careers service for young people was integrated horizontally with other support services, such as the youth and community service and other agencies, to form the Connexions service. With a broader remit, Connexions had the dual role of providing both a targeted service to those in greatest need of support on a wide range of personal wellbeing issues and a universal careers guidance service accessible to all young people. Initially it operated through 47 Connexions partnerships before responsibility was transferred, in 2008, to local authorities.
Ten years ago this month, in May 2010, a General Election resulted in the Labour administration being replaced by a Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition. One of its early acts was to decommission the Connexions service. Schools no longer had access to the free, external career guidance service that had existed for almost four decades. Instead, from 2012, responsibility for providing careers guidance to young people was transferred to individual schools and colleges, and this remains the policy position to this day.
The statutory duty on schools is “to secure access to independent careers guidance for pupils from Year 8 to Year 13”. The legislation states that the guidance provided must be impartial and goes on to define independent as being provided other than by someone employed at the school. Therefore, the original position was that the provider of the careers guidance service for pupils should still be external to the school. However, the various versions of the DfE’s Statutory Guidance published over the past eight years have taken an increasingly more permissive view, allowing schools to make guidance available through careers advisers employed at the school, provided that they are trained to the appropriate professional standard.
The DfE’s latest position, as set out in the October 2018 version of the Statutory Guidance, endorses the requirement in Gatsby Benchmark 8 (Personal Guidance) that every pupil should have opportunities for guidance interviews with a qualified careers adviser whenever significant study or career choices are being made. The expectation is that every pupil should have at least one such interview by the age of 16 and the opportunity for a further interview by the age of 18. Both the DfE and Gatsby have endorsed the professional standards developed by the CDI, which define ’an appropriately trained and qualified careers adviser’ as someone who holds a careers guidance qualification at a minimum of Level 6 or above.
The approach taken to meeting these requirements is for schools to determine.
The most common models are as follows:
· buying in services from a local authority that has continued to offer careers guidance on a traded basis;
· commissioning services from a careers company, either a company that may have provided services to Connexions partnerships in the past or an organisation that has been established more recently, perhaps as a social enterprise, to respond to the new marketplace for guidance;
· contracting with an individual (sole trader) careers adviser;
· employing a careers adviser at the school.
The former partnership approach to delivering career guidance, in which an external service would negotiate an agreement with a school from a menu of services to be provided, has been replaced by a new ‘client-contractor’ model. The school is the client purchasing services from a provider of its choice. The starting point for the commissioning process is that the school should determine the specification of services needed. The CDI has published a step-by-step practical guide to commissioning careers guidance services: details are given at the end of this article.
The role of the careers leader in relation to meeting the statutory duty is to:
· inform the senior leadership and governors of the requirements on the school;
· advise the senior leadership and governors on the services needed and what approach the school should take to providing careers guidance for pupils;
· manage the relationship with the provider on a day-by-day basis;
· keep the service under review and propose recommendations for any changes to the service in the light of experience.
Lastly, a word of caution. Some schools that have adopted the internal model of employing their own careers adviser have combined the roles of careers leader and careers adviser, either through supporting their careers leader to gain a qualification in careers guidance or by asking the careers adviser to take on the additional role of careers leader. Such an approach can work in practice but it is important that both the individual concerned, and the school’s senior leadership, recognise that these are two different complementary roles, each requiring sufficient time and access to appropriate training and CPD.
Further information and support
· The CDI’s guide to commissioning services can be downloaded from https://www.thecdi.net/write/BP560-Career_Guidance_in_Schools_2018-Web.pdf
· The CDI holds and maintains a professional register of qualified careers advisers https://www.thecdi.net/Professional-Register-
· The CDI has published a Briefing Paper on the role of the careers adviser in personal guidance https://www.thecdi.net/write/CDI_27-Briefing-_Personal_Guidance-_FINAL.pdf
David Andrews is an independent consultant, a former policy adviser to the CDI and co-author of The Careers Leader Handbook. He has recently published a second edition of his book on Careers Education in Schools.