Morgan pressed on careers education

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Published: Wednesday 7th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Teaching assistants and receptionists are being put in charge of careers advice in schools, MPs have claimed.

Job information and guidance available to young people in England may often not be up to scratch, according to the influential Commons education select committee, suggeting that there needs to be clear standards to ensure teenagers get decent advice.

Schools were handed responsibility for careers guidance by the government in September 2012.

But there have been continuing concerns about the state of careers education, with Ofsted warning in a damning report in 2013 that the vast majority of schools were failing to give pupils decent impartial advice.

During a meeting of the select committee, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was asked about the role of professional careers advisers in schools.

She told MPs that these advisers were part of the “package” of careers support pupils should be getting, alongside other measures such as inspirational speakers, and mentoring.

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, said that the union Unison had published a survey last year showing that 83% of schools no longer employed any professional careers adviser and the role had been “picked up by people including, in many cases, teaching assistants and other support staff who are totally ill-equipped to do that”.

“Are you saying today that as part of the package that every school should in fact have some form of support from professional careers advisers?” he asked.

Mrs Morgan replied: “I’m not going to mandate, no, but I think it’s up to schools who will commission, who will have people in, and I disagree with you to say that people are utterly ill-equipped within schools.”

Committee chairman Graham Stuart said: “A University Technical College, which is particularly focused on vocational matters, we heard, is training their receptionist to be their careers specialist within school, while running reception, fitting it in.

“And that’s because you’re not mandating any standards whatsoever, that’s the standard that’s being delivered.”

He added that if it was accepted that there was a lack of incentive for schools to take the issue seriously, and “then you look at the failure to mandate standards then you end up with a receptionist and a teaching assistant fitting in a little bit here and there and apparently that fulfils the duty”.

Mrs Morgan said that Ofsted held schools to account for the quality of the information and guidance they provided, as did destinations data – which looks at what young people go on to do after leaving compulsory education.

“It’s the schools who will make the decision and it may well be, obviously I’m not aware of that particular example, but the school, the UTC will be able to make a decision about the right people to get in.

“And it maybe someone to co-ordinate bringing other people in to provide advice, guidance and inspiration.”

Ministers announced plans last month to set up a new careers and enterprise company for schools, which would be led by employers but work closely with the education and careers sectors as well as existing organisations such as the National Careers Service.

Its aim would be to help employers, schools, colleges and others to give youngsters decent careers advice.

Earlier in the session, Mrs Morgan said it was right for schools to be commissioning the right types of support for their pupils.

“The school will not have fulfilled their duty if they have invited in one employer in during the year to talk about it,” she said.

“But a range of people, including some professional advisers, including some employers, potentially arranging for some mentoring or work shadowing as well.

“That begins to get to it.”

Published: Wednesday 7th January 2015 by The News Editor

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