It's well known now that schools in the UK have a statutory duty to provide independent career guidance – this became law in 2012. Schools' duty is to present guidance to their students in an impartial manner, inform them about the range of options available, and provide guidance that takes into account the pupil’s best interests. The government’s guidance document can be found here.
However, it’s widely accepted that many schools do not have the expertise to give a comprehensive view of the range of options available to their students. A typical shortcoming is that career guidance focuses on university access, leaving in the shade apprenticeships and other vocational options. An Ofsted report noted in 2012 that schools are generally poor at promoting vocational training. Only half of the schools visited had students progressing in apprenticeships and it was found that many senior staff and career guidance professionals were not well-informed about apprenticeships.
To help address this issue, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation has released a report on ‘Good Career Guidance’, analysing the best practices of career guidance in other countries, including the Netherlands, Canada, Hong Kong, Finland, Germany and Ireland.
The Gatsby report first establishes that there is no single ‘magic bullet’ for delivering good career guidance. But it does list a set of practices which it says are typical of schools that do it best.
Here is their list:
A stable careers programme
Rather than organising ad hoc events, and running discrete programmes for different year groups, schools should develop a coherent programme of career guidance which spans the school, and that is known and understood by pupils, parents and teachers.
Learning from labour market information
To make informed choices, pupils and parents should have access to good quality information about the national and regional labour market.
Linking curriculum to careers
Teachers should link the content of their lessons to careers. For instance, STEM subject teachers should highlight the importance of their subjects to popular careers such as those in medicine and engineering.
Encounters with employers and employees
Meeting employers and employees in real life is a great way for pupils to learn about work. This can be done through visiting speakers or mentoring schemes with companies.
Experiences of workplaces
Pupils should be familiar with what workplaces feel like. This particularly helps more disadvantaged students to be successful in accessing careers.
Encounters with further and higher education
Pupils need to understand the full range of options available to them, including both academic and vocational routes. Schools should be wary of the fact that 100% of teachers are graduates, so HE tends to be favoured when teachers are advising students.
Pupils should have access to 1:1 interviews with career advisers. The advisers could be internal or external to the school, provided they are appropriately trained. In the UK the Career Development Institute provides training and accreditation for careers guidance professionals.
For more information, you can download the full report here.
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