The 2011 Education Act made a radical change in provision for careers advice for young people. Responsibility had traditionally been with an external advice agency – originally the LA careers service and from 2002 with Connexions. The Act passed this responsibility on to schools with provisos that it should be ‘independent and impartial’ and involve people other than just school staff. During the passage of the Act, Lib Dems in the Lords had fought hard to make it mandatory that each young person should have a one-to-one interview with a properly qualified external careers’ adviser. We did this partly because we knew schools did not have the resources to provide the service but also because academisation and increasing competition for sixth formers meant that many schools were putting pressure on young people to stay on in school to do AS and A levels, rather than telling them about vocational and apprenticeship opportunities available through the local FE college – indeed we knew of examples where schools had refused to allow the local FE college even to distribute a prospectus to pupils.
Michael Gove opposed the proposal, arguing strongly that Coalition policy was to give schools autonomy and independence and it was up to schools to decide what was best for their pupils. At the same time, however, the £200m which in 2010-11 had been allocated by DfE to the Connexions service somehow disappeared and was not reallocated to schools to fund their new responsibilities. As one head teacher put it, “If I have to choose between spending money on extra maths and English coaching for better GCSE grades by which I am assessed or on buying in careers’ advice, it’s a no-brainer.”
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