The cross-party group of MPs described the government's decision to transfer the duty to provide careers advice from local authorities to schools as “regrettable”, and warned that the change has led to a deterioration in the quality of provision.
Their report calls for urgent changes to the way in which careers advice is delivered – so that all young people can access face-to-face advice – and calls on the government to invest more funding in the area.
It also advocates stricter statutory duties on schools, including a requirement to publish annual careers guidance plans and provide a minimum of one personal careers interview with an independent adviser for each pupil.
Committee chair Graham Stuart said young people need a careers advice and guidance system that supports them to make the right choices.
“We want face-to-face guidance to be available to all young people as an integral part of a good quality careers service,” he said. “They deserve and should receive far better support than current arrangements generally allow.”
"The National Careers Service is a great innovation for adults but we want to see its remit extended to include support for schools by providing a capacity-building and brokerage role. The National Careers Service must also be adequately funded to deliver this critical service for young people.
“Schools can’t simply be left to get on with it. Too many schools put their own interests ahead of that of their pupils, restrict access to other education providers and make the filling of their sixth-form places more of a priority than their statutory duty to provide independent and impartial advice and guidance for pupils.
“That’s why the committee recommends that schools be required to produce an annual careers plan to ensure that they can be held accountable for what they do.”
The recommendations were backed by Steve Stewart, chair of Careers England, who said government would miss a “massive opportunity” if it didn’t consider the report “seriously”.
He applauded its “practical” recommendations, particularly that the National Careers Service receive more investment to work more closely with schools in planning, commissioning and delivering advice.
“You’ve got a national careers service there that’s one of the best-kept secrets. It’s doing great work with adults, and therefore, why not use the infrastructure we’ve got to make things happen?” said Stewart.
“It’s a pragmatic solution that helps the government get to where it needs to start getting to.”
Graham Hoyle, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), said the report was strengthened by the fact that the committee gathered the views of young people themselves during the inquiry.
“The young people talk about the value of work-related learning, which the government has decided is no longer a statutory obligation for schools,” he said. “AELP is in strong agreement with the MPs that the obligation should be restored through the statutory guidance.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said any extra funding for careers guidance should be directed to schools, as opposed to the National Careers Service.
“Given the committee’s recognition of the importance of high-quality careers advice for all young people, it is disappointing it has not recommended the provision of any additional funding to provide careers advice,” she said.
“With education budgets coming under increasing strain as a result of the government’s austerity measures, additional finance to meet the challenges identified in the committee’s report should be a priority.”
The legal duty to provide careers advice was transferred to schools in September 2012 under the 2011 Education Act.
The National Careers Service was launched in April 2012 and currently only offers online and telephone advice to young people aged 13 to 19, though adults can access face-to-face advice.