Careers Strategy prioritises support for vulnerable and disadvantaged children

By Tristan Donovan

| 04 December 2017

All schools will be expected to appoint a "careers leader" and prioritise support for disadvantaged children and those in, or on the edge of care as part of the government's long-awaited Careers Strategy.

If necessary, schools will be expected to prioritise careers support for vulnerable and disadvantaged children. Picture: Malcom Case-Green

The government has said every school and college will be expected to have a designated careers leader in place by September 2018, and has set aside £4m to provide training and support for at least 500 schools in areas of the country that need the most support.

Most of England's 3,400 schools already have a member of staff with a designated role to co-ordinate careers activities within the school, sometimes called the "careers teacher", but the DfE said the title "does not convey the importance of leadership in this role".

"We believe that designating such people as ‘careers leaders' recognises the importance of the role and will help to build the status of careers guidance for their school," the strategy states.

The strategy adds that careers leaders will be expected to, when necessary, "prioritise careers support for disadvantaged young people who have fewer opportunities to get the right advice, guidance and experiences".

"This may include young people such as those eligible for the Pupil Premium, those with special educational needs and disabilities, or those classed as looked-after children and children in need by their local authority," the strategy states.

A further £2m of will go on trialling careers activities in primary schools with the aim of allowing children to meet employers from a young age and understand how the subjects they learn at school connect to their future.

Meanwhile, £5m will be spent setting up 20 careers hubs, led by the Careers and Enterprise Company, in disadvantaged parts of the country to link together schools, colleges, universities and local businesses.

Secondary schools will also be expected to provide pupils with at least one meaningful interaction with businesses every year, with a particular focus on employers from science, technology, engineering and maths - the so called "Stem" industries.

Launching the strategy, skills minister Ann Milton said: "Without access to the best possible careers support, some people will miss out on the opportunities available.

"They will continue to be held back if they don't have the right advice, at the right time to make informed decisions about their future, or may not have access to the broader experiences and role models to help them develop as people.

"It matters to me that we give people from all backgrounds the best possible preparation to move into a job, or training that enables them - whatever their background or wherever they live - to have a fulfilling life."

The strategy also reveals that the government will introduce new statutory guidance in January to make eight benchmarks created by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation the national standard for careers advice in schools and colleges.

The Gatsby benchmarks include a stable careers programme, personal guidance for each student, linking curriculum learning to careers and giving young people multiple opportunities for "meaningful" encounters with employers. The Careers and Enterprise Company will provide schools and colleges with tools to help meet the benchmarks during 2018 and 2019.

"I am very pleased that the Department for Education has put these benchmarks at the heart of its strategy," said Sir John Holman, senior adviser at the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

"For the first time, schools and colleges have a clear description of what they need to get good career guidance for each and every student, whatever their needs.

"With new technical training routes coming from 2020, and with Brexit making it more important than ever to develop home-grown skills, this is an auspicious moment at which to launch this imaginative and pragmatic strategy."

Steve Stewart, executive director at Careers England said that while the proposals are positive, there is not much money attached to the strategy.

"The amount of money for each of these things means it will be about testing ideas rather than accelerated progress, so we're at the beginning of the beginning," he said.

Catherine Sezen, senior policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said: "The association welcomes today's announcement as we have long called for young people to have access to informed and impartial careers advice and education embedded into the curriculum, from a much earlier age.

"Alongside the measures announced today, teachers need to be using the right language to promote different pathways and it is vital that all young people are aware of the exciting range of options that are available to them at the age of 16, whether academic, technical or apprenticeships."

Russell Hobby, chief executive of the education charity Teach First, said: "The changing global economy and technological advances mean the world of work is evolving at a rapid pace. More than ever young people need support to make informed choices about their futures.

"But schools haven't always been able to deliver this support to a consistently high standard. And it is often pupils in low-income communities who miss out most on the help they need. We welcome the government's careers strategy, particularly the commitment to training and supporting careers leaders in schools, and we hope this reaches the schools and pupils most in need."

Other measures in the strategy include Ofsted assessing the quality of careers programmes in colleges during inspections, schools providing young people and parents with details about their careers programmes and improvements to the National Careers Service website. Ofsted already inspects careers services in schools.

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