Why my twitter exchange with Toby Young proves that the Statutory Guidance is already dead in the water

The recent Education Select Committee sessions on Careers for Young People were overrun with FE College Heads and Careers Professionals bemoaning the lack of impartial information, advice and guidance offered to young people before they make huge decisions about transitions into the next stage of their learning. They, very energetically in some cases, put forward the case that the new Statutory Duty on schools to provide Careers IAG was a toothless document ignored by the majority in favour of years of tradition.

Yesterday Toby Young tweeted a TES link for a job advert at his West London Free School

The link:

http://www.tes.co.uk/job/director-of-studies-100046/

It included the section:

The West London Free School is an all-ability secondary school that asks every child to learn Latin and do at least eight academic GCSEs or IGCSEs. That expects every pupil to transfer to the Sixth Form and go on to a good university.

The sentence in bold caught my eye. Remember the statutory guidance says:

Careers guidance must be presented in an impartial manner and promote the best interests of the pupils to whom it is given. Careers guidance must also include information on all options available in respect of 16-18 education or training, including apprenticeships and other work-based education and training options.

and that

Academies and Free Schools will be subject to the same requirements
through their Funding Agreements.

To me, there is a clear clash of approach to the IAG on offer to students between those two documents. So I checked the WLFS website. On the “Overview” section is currently

Persuade every pupil to stay on in the Sixth Form and do a sufficiently demanding course of Sixth Form study to progress to a good university

So there we have it. No hiding or even attempt to do things in hushed tones. At the WLFS the expectation is that all students will transition to their own Sixth Form. Now, of course, this is nothing new. For years, secondary schools have held the power of quiet expectation that their students who met the entry requirements would progress into their own Sixth Forms. And it was this long held tradition that the FE College leaders were so disparaging about in their appearance in front of Graham Stuart and his committee.

So I tweeted Mr Young and you can see the conversation here:

his reply

shows that he clearly took my query to be another case of criticising perceived elitism that I’m sure he’s probably sick to the back teeth of responding to (or maybe not actually) when, in the spirit of the guidance, my focus was to see if the learners at the WLFS have the ability to act on impartial IAG.

His reply

shows who has the power in the decision making.

As I have already said, this is nothing new and, I’m sure, that many learners will have a fantastically successful time at the WLFS Sixth Form and progress onto hugely desirable opportunities because of the work of the school. But some, yes some, may be just as or even more successful at another Sixth Form or FE College or even (wash your eyes from the horror!) in an apprenticeship at either Intermediate or Advanced Level thus failing the ideal of a “good University” as a destination from the WLFS.

What makes this different to me is that here we have a vocal supporter of the benefits of a free (or at least less restricted) marketplace being introduced into the world of state education failing to adhere to the guidelines that are designed to ensure a more competitive marketplace in state education. That, when it actually comes to it, the allure of bums on seats will always trump competition and protectionism will override mere ‘Statutory Duties’ that are designed to place the informed learner at the heart of the decision making and that policies designed to promote ‘freedoms’ show very similar traits to the old structures.

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