We have been sent a copy of the letter below which has been written by a Careers Adviser to Michael Gove explaining the need for a statutory careers service in schools.
Why we need a statutory Careers Service to schools: An open letter to Michael Gove Lord Morris of Handsworth (Labour) said “Other aspects of this Bill cause me deep concern. Under the Education Act 1973, all young people up to the age of 19-whether they are in school, college or employment-have a right to receive impartial careers advice and guidance from appropriately qualified practitioners provided by local authorities. Under this Bill, it is the Government's intention to create an all-age national careers service for people over the age of 18. However, it is not possible to judge whether it will be appropriate to the needs of today until we have further information about what form the proposed service will take. All research shows that adults and young people place a high value on the face-to-face careers guidance interview. Will the new service provide only for a call centre helpline and a website, as many people fear, or will those seeking advice receive proper support for a face-to-face interview with a trained careers adviser giving impartial advice on the basis now provided by the Connexions service, which will be closed next March? Sadly, the national all-age careers service will not be available to young people under the age of 18, and we must ask why.
Lords debate careers clauses at the second reading of the Education Bill
Dear Mr Gove,
I know that you will almost certainly not read this letter because you have already made your mind up about the need for a statutory Career Service to schools, however I thought that I would share with you some recent experiences of giving guidance in school which I think perfectly illustrate what we will be losing when your Education Bill is passed into law. These are all real examples of the kind of work that my colleagues and I do everyday in schools up and down England. (Of course I could include Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but no one is questioning the need for careers advisers in these countries.)
The names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the young people.
Let me start by telling you about Josh. He is 15 years old and currently in year 10. He is studying the Engineering Diploma alongside his core GCSEs. He is likely to pass the Diploma and achieve C grades at GCSE. He desperately wants to be an Aircraft Engineer. Because of political changes it seems unlikely that the Diploma will be offered post 16 so Josh will have to do A levels if he wants to stay at school. He is unlikely to be able to cope with Maths and Physics A levels so he will have to study some other subjects which will make it harder for him to do Engineering. He could go to college to do Engineering but he did not like the atmosphere at the local college and it takes a train journey followed by a bus journey to get there. School would be happy for Josh to stay on and do some A levels even though this is not really the best option for him.
I suggested two alternatives: Josh could contact local flying schools and airline companies based at the local airport to see if they have apprenticeships, or he could apply to the local Aviation Academy for a course in Airport Operations, not engineering but it can lead into various engineering opportunities in aviation. The reason I know this is because I have recently visited the Aviation Academy.
Josh might have discovered this information for himself by searching the Internet. He could not have found it out from our area prospectus website because it is not there. School would not have advised him to apply to college because no one at school has that kind of knowledge so they would almost certainly have advised him to do A levels.
Here is another example. Joe has just finished his GCSEs but is not expecting to achieve any C grades. He missed a lot of year 11 because he hates school and struggles with written work. I see dozens of boys like Joe. He would like to be joiner so he applied to Building College for an apprenticeship but he failed the test. His mum is seriously worried about what Joe can do next. I referred Joe to do Foundation Learning at a training centre in town. I happen to know that they offer woodwork courses there because I have visited it. That information is accessible on the area prospectus website but Joe is semi-literate and it is very unlikely he would have been able to find that out. It is also unlikely that he would have been able to complete the application form himself without some help. School might have helped Joe to apply although no one at school has much knowledge of Foundation Learning options and no one has the time visit these places, also Joe and school just did not get on, he was so rarely at school, so it seems likely that he would have been left to drift.
My last example is Lucy. Lucy has just finished year 11. Her parents had split up and she moved to live with her dad a few months ago. This means that she is now living about 10 miles from school in a different local authority and has to get a bus and train to school each day. Not surprisingly her attendance has been patchy. Lucy is expecting to get D grades at GCSE. She would love to work with animals and was intending to apply to college. I helped Lucy look for a suitable college place; because she lives so far away the local college was not the best option so the local area prospectus website was no help. I knew Lucy would need pushing to apply to college because she has issues with confidence and motivation. I rang her up this week to check that she has applied to college and found out that she has still not posted off her application form. She wants to go to college but she is scared. I know that I will have to ring her again and if she still has not applied I will inform someone from her local Connexions Office so that she can be followed up. She is a potential NEET. What could school do for Lucy now? Not much in my opinion. They will probably write her off as a failure and raise a cheer that she is no longer living locally so is unlikely to return.
I had contact with all of these young people this week. I did not have to search through my records to find examples of why I should keep my job. I could have found better, more needy clients than these but this is a flavour of what it is like to do this work every day. I could have mentioned the 17-year-old girl I saw last week who is living in a hostel and has just been kicked out of the 6th form for poor attendance. I arranged for her to apply for a supportive training course. I could have told you about the girl who wants to do dog grooming and was going to pay hundreds of pounds to do a private course until I put her in touch with a college which offers apprenticeships and will help her to find an employer who will pay her. It is my job to know about these things. Teachers do not have the time to visit colleges and training providers. Teachers know about 6th form courses and universities because that is what they have experience of. Schools need someone like me to fill the gap.
I understand that you have stated that you did not get any useful careers advice when you were at school so this has coloured your attitude to careers guidance as a profession. I do not know where to start in explaining why you are wrong about this. Most clever, high achieving people will have had a similar experience to you. It is not the clever and the high achievers that need us. I spoke to a mother this week; she had done a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) in the 1980s. She was appalled to learn that Connexions is being abolished. “Who will help them get into training?” she wanted to know? I had to tell her it would be school. She was not impressed. It is another culture, if not another country, Mr Gove, a million miles from Robert Gordon College, I would imagine. (Of course the working class children of Aberdeen will be assured of getting access to careers guidance as a gift of devolution.)
So thank you for bearing with me if you have read this far. I hope that I have dislodged that splinter from your heart. I know it is about funding and saving the economy but this is the economy. It is future economy!
[details removed; careers adviser]