The education bill moves through the Lords

After all of the lobbying that has been going on I think that I’d convinced myself that the House of Lords debate on Monday was a serious last chance to influence the government’s policy on careers work in schools. However, as it turned out the amendments that were put came to nothing and the Bill will go through without further amendment. What this means is that schools have picked up new responsibilities around careers with no help or funding. As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog I can’t see how this is anything but a backwards step and a move that will fail all young people, but those without serious financial and family resources most.

The one concession that was made by Lord Hill was that he would issue statutory guidance to schools. Exactly the form that this guidance will take and how seriously schools will take it is yet to be seen. What is clear is that it will be “light-touch” which essentially means short, lacking in detail and free of any strong committment. Lord Hill did say that it will emphasise the importance of securing face-to-face careers guidance “where it is the most suitable support, in particular for disadvantaged children and those who have special needs or are learners with learning difficulties and disabilities”. Which is ironic given that much of the criticism that was levelled at Connexions was that it focused too much on these kinds of disadvantaged young people and neglected the career education of more mainstream young people.

The other thing that the guidance is supposed to do is to sharpen up the various statements that have been made around what schools are supposed to buy and how they will know it is any good. This is welcome, but is rather more complex than this might suggest. Is it about schools buying a qualified practitioner, a quality assured service or actually delivering quality provision to their students. These are actually all different things and the approach that is taken to assuring quality is likely to determine what becomes a proxy for quality. For my money it would be some kind of judgement about the experience that the students are gaining rather than just slimming down the list of people that they are allowed to buy it from. My guess would be that the guidance leaves this vague to avoid having to really tackle this kind of difficult political issue.

The future of careers work in schools is looking dicey. Where do people think the room for manoeuvre is?

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