Last reviewed 5 April 2018

John Fowler, Independent Commentator and Policy Manager, Local Government Information Unit, looks at careers legislation.

As this column has previously reported, the Government has said it will not introduce any specific education legislation in this Parliament, which is due to go on until spring 2019. Legislation needed to support the UK’s departure from the EU is dominating Government and Parliamentary time.

The former Secretary of State (Justine Greening) told the Commons Education Committee in September 2016 that a new Education Bill would be published “later in the year”, but nothing appeared. The Bill was to implement the legislative proposals in the Government White Paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere. The White Paper highlighted many of the structural problems associated with the rapid introduction of academies and the Government’s proposed solutions.

Although the Department for Education (DfE) does not have a tradition of publishing draft Bills (other Government departments do), perhaps the new Secretary of State (Damien Hinds) will break with tradition and publish a draft Bill ahead of new legislation being introduced in the next Parliamentary session. A draft Bill gives an indication of Government thinking. The need for such might grow. The Observer newspaper on 28 January 2018 became the first national newspaper in an editorial to call for “urgent reform … to the governance and accountability of academies”.

Careers education in schools and careers guidance

Careers education in schools and the provision of independent careers advice and guidance external to schools has had a difficult time over the last 20 years. Careers advice out of school started with the youth employment exchanges a century ago. Over time, in some areas, this function was delegated to local authorities (LAs). The Employment and Training Act 1973 gave responsibility throughout England and Wales to the then local education authorities, only for this to be reversed in 1993 when the function returned to the Secretary of State (for Employment). Careers advice and guidance then became a service contracted to the Secretary of State with a role for local government limited to assisting in the provision of services through partnership arrangements with the new providers. This was turned around from 2000 onwards with the creation of the Connexions service, of which careers guidance became a significant part (along with youth services). This ended with the Coalition Government, which effectively cut the funding and removed LA duties in the Education Act 2011.

Careers education in schools became a statutory part of the curriculum, at least for over 13-year-olds, under the 1997 Education Act. Schools had to provide careers education which was defined as “education designed to prepare persons for taking decisions about their careers and to help them implement such decisions” and a duty to co-operate with career advisors external to the school. Subsequently, the Education Act 2011 removed the need for schools to provide careers education but placed a duty on school to secure independent careers guidance. The latter, according to several Ofsted thematic reports, is generally not happening. In response, the Government has supported the Careers and Enterprise Company which assists with providing networks of employers and schools to provide insights into the world or work … “based on evidence that a young person who has four or more encounters with an employer is 86% less likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, and can earn up to 18% more during their career. At the moment only 40% of schools offer young people this kind of encounter, and unemployment among young people is three times higher than overall unemployment”.

Technical and Further Education Act

The Technical and Further Education Act 2017 extends the remit of the Institute for Apprenticeships to include technical education in further education (FE) and training settings, giving a structure to the new T-levels; makes provision for what happens to an FE college if it becomes insolvent; and enables the Government to collect information from the newly-elected mayors of combined authorities on education and skills provision.

Baker clause

The need for careers guidance in schools was promoted by Lord Baker, the former Education Secretary Ken Baker, in the House of Lords debates on the Bill. His successful amendment is found in s.2 of the Act on access to schools in England by providers of technical education. The duty came into effect on 2 January 2018.

From this date, schools (including academies) “must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils during the relevant phase of education (roughly 13 to 18-year-olds, years 8–13) for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships”. Schools must make a statement setting out the circumstances in which education and training providers will be given access and the statement must be published.

DfE guidance, Technical Education and Apprenticeships: Raising Awareness, is available which includes information on what schools need to do to comply with the new law from 2 January 2018 and a draft policy statement on access by education and training providers which schools may use.

Implementation

However, a Schools Week (26 January 2018) investigation Baker Clause: MATs Failing to Meet New Rules found that “only two of the 10 largest multi-academy trusts in England have fully complied with their new legal duty to allow training organisations the chance to speak to pupils about technical qualifications and apprenticeships”.

Time will tell whether this initiative will give young people the guidance they need about access to technical and vocational training opportunities.