By David Walrond, Principal of Truro and Penwith College
David Walrond, Principal, Truro and Penwith College
The findings of AoC’s membership survey of careers advice and guidance are no surprise: most young people lack what should be their absolute entitlement – clear, reliable advice about the most appropriate provision for them post-16. Key elements of our education and advice systems don’t operate in the interests of individual students or the economy.
The survey confirms remarkable ignorance about the wider range of post-16 options, notably in vocational learning, skills training, and apprenticeships. Its findings are entirely consistent with recent reports from the Education Select Committee, Ofsted and the CBI.
Press coverage sometimes focuses on parts of the problem, rather than the whole. Institutional conflict and poor behaviour are spicy in media terms, and some of the antics which keep students so ill-informed about their options would be farcical, if only the consequences weren’t so serious for the life-chances for young people and the economy to which they contribute.
Failure to guarantee adequate careers advice, and particularly to promote skills and vocational training, has huge consequences. The OECD Report, Education at A Glance 2013, confirms the direct relationships between a country’s levels of post-16 participation and achievement, the quality of careers and progression advice, and its economic prosperity and social cohesion.
The revised statutory guidance, just published, takes a few tentative steps in the right direction, but tends to describe and suggest rather than establishing clear obligations. More needs to be done to confirm those obligations, and what steps will be taken to ensure that schools and colleges really do meet them.
But there are seeds of hope in current developments.
There are commitments to improving social mobility fromall political parties, and consensus that this will mean guaranteeing access to the best and most appropriate training and education. The failure of impartial, independent guidance hits those from disadvantaged backgrounds hardest. You won’t begin to deliver social mobility until you get it right.
There’s growing understanding of the risk of market failure. Post-16 education and training is a complex market now, with new providers and products. A market needs regulation with fair and equal access to work in the interests of consumers rather than providers. It needs clear, complete information to make consumers aware of what’s on offer and allow comparison between providers.
There’s an increasing willingness to learn from economic competitors, and this isa trend to be welcomed by FE. It’s happened with regard to education and training in too piecemeal a way. The powerful OECD evidence, which confirms that levels and types of post-16 participation and achievement are crucial to economic success, highlights equally the underpinning role of “good study and career guidance services, so that young people can make sound, informed career decisions”.
Good, independent careers guidance is essential for all young people. Without it, they fail – and so do we.