As, I would imagine, most readers of this blog would be aware, Secondary schools in England have a current statutory duty to provide CEIAG on all routes to their pupils. Despite this, Vocational and apprenticeship providers and policy lobbyists are making loud noises about the need for further legislation in this area.
It was around this time last year that a Careers law was first mooted that would ensure that Vocational and Apprenticeship providers would have access to schools to provide guidance to pupils. At the time I blogged to point out that, if schools, Ofsted and the DfE were all performing the roles the Duty placed on them, then no further legislation was necessary and that any further law was an indication of failure of the system of statutory tools to lever change in a fragmented school system. This law founded with the failure of the Government’s wider “Education for all” Bill which hit the rocks of the Brexit vote, a reshuffle and opposition to forced academy status.
The past weeks have seen essentially competing proposed new legislation come into Parliament to cover CEIAG provision in schools. First up, was the “Baker clause” which is named after Lord Baker, who has used his position in the House of Lords to insert a clause into the Government’s technical and further education bill that would ensure that:
The proprietor of a school in England must ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils during the relevant phase of their education
The actual wording of the Bill (page 2, section 2) seems comprehensive. It places a requirement on schools to write and update and publicly available policy statement that sets out the circumstances under which vocational providers will be given access to students and for what reasons such requests could be refused. I would assume, that the writing of this statement and subsequent responding to requests would then be an administrative task for the school careers leader and line manager to manage. The bill is currently passing through the House of Lords before passing back to the Houses of Parliament for any amendments to be confirmed before Royal Assent. Lord Baker has more than a passing interest in this area as the leading proponent of the UTC school model which has experienced huge difficulties in recruitment of students at both 14 and 16 and been branded as failing by Micheal Gove. That brought a forthright response from Baker but he is clear about the need to ensure recruitment (and so subsequent per pupil funding) is much easier for his Headteachers. Baker foresees his clause forcing schools to hold career events (read: fairs) to allow Vocational providers to speak to students at key recruitment times throughout the academic year.
Just a few days later, this was followed by a ten minute rule Bill from the Labour MP Nic Dakin also legislating for access to secondary school pupils from Vocational providers. Dakin said that his Bill would go further than Baker’s as:
My Bill will ensure that school pupils have access to information from the providers of post-16 pathways locally direct to them. It will require schools in England to provide access to their premises and pupils for post-16 education establishments and other providers.
The wording of the actual Bill isn’t clear on how this would be different and, at the time of writing, it has far further to travel through the legislation process until it becomes part of the Education Act 1997 and so law. This Bill does have more support from the wider FE sector than Baker’s clause and is not tainted by association of the accusation of only trying to save the struggling UTC brand so, perhaps, will gain wider support.
To further complicate matters, these competing acts of legislation coming on top of an already existing statutory duty will soon be joined by a new, overarching, Careers Strategy sometime in 2017.
As well as the complications arising from overlaying legislation, many Careers practitioners in schools will be raising their eyebrows at the problems this doesn’t solve. It doesn’t solve the funding issues, it doesn’t solve the capacity issues and, furthermore, the rhetoric around these Bills aligns access to vocational talks as the white knight, riding in to save school CEIAG provision.