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Careers guidance and inspiration in schools: Statutory guidance for governing bodies, school leaders and school staff

 draft_lensBriefing Note prepared by Dr Deirdre Hughes, Director, DMH & Associates Ltd.[1]

26th March 2015


 The Government has produced an updated version of ‘Statutory Guidance’ (SG) on careers guidance and inspiration in schools.

This update is an 18 page version with 71 paragraphs.

A brief reading of this document makes clear that the statutory duty to ensure that all pupils are provided with ‘independent careers guidance’ should be met by involving a wide range of differing providers in a programme of activities related to the school. Compared to last year, the term ‘careers guidance’ is used more fully in this updated version. The role of professional careers advisers is given some attention. The new careers and enterprise company’s role is outlined (paras. 33-36). However, there does appear to be some confusion about the role of the National Careers Service online provision, local Prime Contractors (para. 38) and reference to “a single portal” (para. 45). It is interesting to note para. 47 –sounds very much like a shift back towards a Connexions approach i.e. “While most young people can benefit from face-to-face guidance, it is likely to be particularly useful for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those who are at risk of disengaging or those who have special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities” (pp12-13). On quality assurance, there is a visible reference to the Quality in Careers Standard and the Career Development Institute (CDI) – progress made compared to last year; however, the references are framed in terms of ‘should’ rather than ‘must’.

Statutory Duty – the ‘must’s’

Para. 12.         In-house support for pupils must be combined with advice and guidance from independent and external sources to meet the school’s legal requirements.

Para. 16. The statutory duty requires governing bodies to ensure that all registered pupils at the school are provided with independent careers guidance from year 8 (12-13 year olds) to year 13 (17-18 year olds).

Para. 17.         The governing body must ensure that the independent[2] careers guidance provided:

  • Is presented in an impartial manner[3]
  • Includes information on the range of education or training options, including apprenticeships and other vocational pathways
  • Is guidance that the person giving it considers will promote the best interests of the pupils to whom it is given.

Para.39.          Schools must secure independent guidance that includes information on the full range of education and training options, including training options, apprenticeships and vocational pathways. This should help inform a pupil’s decision about their 16-19 study programme and beyond. Guidance should encompass good appropriate local further education, apprenticeships and vocational education opportunities and pupils should individually make their own choice about what is the best next step for them. In good time before decision points, schools should ebsure that pupils are informed about the options available to them………

Para. 49.         Schools must ensure that young people are clear about the duty and what it means for them. In particular they must be clear that young people are not required to stay in school; that they can choose how to participate which might be through:

  • Full time study in a school, college or training provider;
  • An apprenticeship, traineeship or supported internship;
  • Full time work or volunteering (20 hours or more) combined with part time accredited study.

Para. 53.         All schools (including academies and other state-funded educational institutions) must provide relevant information about all pupils to local authority support services.[4] This includes:

(i) basic information such as the pupil’s name, address and date of birth.

ii) other information that the local authority needs in order to support the young person to participate in education or training and to track their progress. This may include for example: young people’s contact details, information to help identify those at risk of becoming not in education, employment or training (NEET) post-16, young people’s post-16 and post-18 plans and the offers they receive of places in post-16 or higher education. However, schools must ensure that they do not provide this additional information if a pupil aged 16 or over, or the parent of a pupil aged under 16, has instructed them not to share information of this kind with the local authority. The school’s privacy notice is the normal means of offering young people and their parents the opportunity to ask for personal information not to be shared.

Para 54.          Schools must also notify local authorities whenever a 16 or 17 year old leaves an education or training programme before completion15. This notification must be made at the earliest possible opportunity to enable the local authority to support the young person to find an alternative place.

Para. 64.         Where a student has an EHC plan or a ‘Statement’ all reviews of the Plan or Statement from year 9 at the latest, and onwards, must include a focus on preparing for adulthood, including employment, independent living and participation in society. All schools should consider how to link employers with young people from year 9 onwards, as a critical part of helping young people with SEN raise their aspirations and develop their own career plans.

Para. 65.         Schools should make use of the local offer published by the local authority which must set out details of SEN provisions in their area – including the full range of post-16 options. Schools must co-operate with local authorities, who have an important role to play, in particular through the provision of SEN support services and EHC plans. Statutory guidance on the SEN duties is provided in the new 0-25 Special Educational Needs Code of Practice.

Lots of ‘should’s’ in the SG………….

Some broad themes extracted from the SG below:


Careers Guidance

Para 7.            High quality, independent careers guidance is also crucial in helping pupils emerge from school more fully rounded and ready for the world of work

Para 8.            Careers guidance in schools has long been criticised as being inadequate and patchy.

Para.9. The duty on schools, to secure independent careers guidance for all year 8-13 pupils, is intended to expand advice and guidance for young people so they are inspired and motivated to fulfil their potential.

Para.10. Schools should have a strategy for the careers guidance they provide to young people.

Para.13. Ofsted has been giving careers guidance a higher priority in school inspections since September 2013, taking into account how well the school delivers advice and guidance to all pupils in judging its leadership and management.

Para.18. The governing body’s advice should be informed by the requirements and the key principles for good careers guidance set out in this document – see key points in particular (p. 6)

Para.19. Good careers guidance is distinctive to the needs of individual pupils so the schools overall strategy should be shaped accordingly.

Para. 25. Modern careers guidance is as much about inspiration and aspiration as it is about advice.

Para. 46. Pupils can gain confidence and motivation from the opportunity to explore career ideas through individual face to face discussions with a range of people:

  • Role models and inspiring individuals from the careers to which they aspire
  • Alumni who ca pass on their experience from vocational courses, apprenticeships and degrees…….
  • Mentors or coaches who can provide a more nurturing influence, helping young people to build their confidence and resilience
  • Careers advisers who can help pupils to locate ambitious education and career options, by identifying opportunities and assessing pupils’ abilities, interests and achievements.

Para. 47 Schools should secure access to face-to-face careers guidance where it is the most suitable support for young people to make successful transitions. While most young people can benefit from face-to-face guidance, it is likely to be particularly useful for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those who are at risk of disengaging or those who have special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities (pp12-13)

The National Careers Service

 Para. 37.         The National Careers Service offers information and professional advice about education, training and work to adults and young people aged 13 years and over. Pupils and their parents can access support via a website, helpline and web chat (, or National Contact Centre 0800 100 900). A mobile website and app are also available. To support customers with pay-as-you-go mobiles and no access to a landline, there is a facility to book a free call back through the website.

Para. 38. Schools can choose to commission additional support from contractors engaged in delivering the National Careers Service. The National Careers Service has expanded its offer to schools and colleges. The National Careers Service brokers relationships with and between schools, colleges, local communities and employers, working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and local Jobcentre Plus where appropriate, to help young people benefit from inspiring first-hand experience of the world of work and opportunities available in the local and national labour market. Schools can contact the National Careers Service through the National Contact Centre, which will provide information and support on engaging with employers. Local area based contractors will also be able to work with schools on local arrangements. Contact details for these will be available through the National Contact Centre and on the website, along with other resources.

 Para. 45. In addition to the National Careers Service website, which includes job market information and job profiles, there is a further range of digital resources that can help pupils self-assess their skills and research career options. For example, can help to inspire and inform young people about the career and training pathways available to them. Created with input from teachers, young people and employers, it promotes inspiration, exploration and discovery of the world of work, and allows teachers and schools to connect with local and national employers. Teachers and students can access expert careers advice, knowledge and information from one single digital platform.

 Careers and enterprise company

Para 33. In 2014 the Secretary of State for Education announced the creation of a new careers and enterprise company for schools, to transform careers and enterprise provision for young people and inspire them about the opportunities offered by the world of work.

Para 34. The core purpose of the company will be to broker relationships between employers on the one hand, and schools and colleges on the other, in order to ensure that young people aged 12-18 get the inspiration and guidance they need for success in working life. It will hold a distinctive voice and position as the leading, umbrella body with an overview of activity on careers, inspiration, enterprise and employability work – driving better quality and coverage.

Para 35. The company will:

  • Provide advice to schools and colleges, helping them choose effective careers organisations to partner with, through a local network of advisors;
  • Assist in breaking down perceived barriers between schools and colleges and employers – private, public and third sector – and increasing the level of employer input in careers provision;
  • Map the extent of engagement between schools and employers across the country and stimulate more activity in areas where evidence suggests it is needed;
  • Develop a system which motivates young people to take part in activities to build their employability, through the development of the Enterprise Passport recommended by Lord Young. The passport is a digital record of all extra-curricular and enterprise-related activities that students take part in;
  • Provide feedback to Government on how well young people are being prepared for work;
  • Administer a £5 million investment fund to support innovation and stimulate good practice;
  • Support a network of advisors to broker strong local links – the company will assist schools to choose the best careers and enterprise organisations to partner with.

Para. 36.         It will work closely with the National Careers Service, which will continue to support adults and young people and help the company to bring employers, schools and colleges together.

Evaluation and monitoring of advice and guidance

Para. 67. In developing careers provision for pupils, there are currently three aspects of quality assurance that schools should take into consideration:

  • The quality of the school careers programme. The Government recommends that all schools should work towards a quality award for careers education, information, advice and guidance as an effective means of carrying out a self-review and evaluation of the school’s programme. The national validation, the Quality in Careers Standard, will assist schools to determine an appropriate quality award to pursue. There are currently twelve quality awards that are recognised as meeting the Quality in Careers Standard.
  • The quality of independent careers providers. The recognised national quality standard for information, advice and guidance (IAG) services is the matrix Standard. To achieve the Standard, organisations will need to demonstrate that they provide a high quality and impartial service. Schools can access an online register of organisations accredited to the matrix Standard.
  • The quality of careers professionals working with the school. The Career Development Institute has developed a set of professional standards for careers advisers, a register of advisers holding postgraduate qualifications and guidelines on how advisers can develop their own skills and gain higher qualifications. The main qualifications for careers professionals are the Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG) (which replaced the earlier Diploma in Careers Guidance) and the Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development. Schools can view a register of careers professionals or search for a career development professional who can deliver a particular service or activity.

Para. 68          Schools should monitor and evaluate the activity taking place……… Note: Useful documents to help schools evaluate their careers provision and draw up an effective careers strategy include ‘A Guide to Best Practice and Commissioning Careers Guidance Services’ by the Career Development Institute and ‘Careers engagement: a good practice brief for leaders of schools and colleges’ by ASCL, ATL, NFER and 157 Group.

The role of Ofsted

Para 69. Ofsted inspectors will take account of the quality of independent careers guidance and of student’s destinations in making their judgement on the leadership and management of the schools, and if applicable, a separate judgement on the sixth form.

Destination Measures

Para. 70.         Schools should assess their success in supporting their pupils to take up education or training which offers good long term prospects. One way of doing this is through use of destination measures data.

Para. 71.         Local authorities also track young people’ progress after they leave school in order to identify those who are not in education or training. This can be used to give an early picture of young people’s post-16 destinations. Schools are encouraged to work with their local authority to ensure that the information they collect is as complete as possible, and to ask their Local Authority to share information on young people’s progress with them.

The updated guidance will be effective from September 2015.


The careers system in England remains complex and confusing for schools, including young people, head teachers, teachers, parents/carers and governors. This is a further attempt by Government to communicate new developments in a fragmented landscape. Only time will tell if increased competition and the potential for further duplication of effort remains. There are some positives in this paper, but also mixed messages for schools. Let’s hope the Government’s ring-fenced investment for careers work to reach more young people becomes a reality sooner rather than later.

Careers provision is a public as well as a private good. It is time to pin down a clear and coherent ‘careers offer’ for all young people. If we want to keep more young people switched on to learning; encourage them not to close down opportunities too early; broaden horizons and challenge inaccurate assumptions; and create relevant experiences and exposure to the world of work, including techniques for career adaptability and resilience, then more needs to be done. The historical evolution of a careers service and profession constantly up-rooted by successive governments now requires apolitical cross-party agreement to stabilise education and career systems. Finding a way to reduce fractures in the system rather than create new ones is paramount.

[1] The author is solely responsible for the views expressed.

[2] Independent is defined as external to the school. External sources of careers guidance and inspiration could include employer visits, mentoring, website, telephone and helpline access. Taken together, these external sources could include information on the range of education and training options, including apprenticeships.

[3] Impartial is defined as showing no bias or favouritism towards a particular education or work option.

[4] Section 72 of the Education and Skills Act 2008.


Evaluation, Research & Development

DMH & Associates Ltd offers high quality services drawing on the international, national and local evidence base for careers work. We work in partnership with a wide range of organisations to find innovative and practical ways of developing effective careers policies, research and practice.
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